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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I've been lurking in this forum for a while now and it has been very useful, so I appreciate any of your thoughts/onions on this. I have a 23 week old Rottweiler pup named Leo. He is a very good boy. He is very calm and confident with other dogs and strangers. He is very loving with both of our kids. We've had a couple instances of mild aggression from him. Both happened when we first brought him home. The first was him snarling at me when I got close to his food bowl. We do down/stays now when feeding and haven't had food aggression problems since. The other was when he snarled at my wife after she startled him awake from a nap. Both happened when he was about 12-13 weeks old and was brand new in our home. We've had no problems until this recent incident.

Essentially what happened was that we were attending our first puppy kindergarten class at our local dog training club. . The teacher told the class to do this thing where we get the dog on your lap and arrange him so his rump is on the ground and his back is against your chest. If I remember correctly, the idea that he it would help the dog learn to be submissive and trust you. Of course during this all four of his legs are dangling in the air and his belly is exposed in front of strange people and strange dogs. Well Leo did not like this and growled and snapped at my wife (who was handling him). I came in and did the same thing with him. He did not like me doing it either but was mostly just growling under his breath. As soon as this was done, he was back to normal self.

The teacher didn't sound concerned and admitted that was probably stressful situation for Leo. She said to continue to work on it through the week. Do you think this is something that we should worried about?. Should I continue to do this with exercise with him? Would it have any positive benefit? I kind of feel like I'm setting him up for failure. I think obviously we're putting him in a very vulnerable position and doing it in a new place in front of strangers.. I also wonder if it's just physically uncomfortable for him as well. I can see doing this with a little pup, but he is over 60lbs at this point.
 

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Keep in mind I am not a dog expert, but...

Forcing a dog into that position is likely to have the opposite impact from trust. You are, for no reason, forcing Leo into a submissive pose. I hold my beagle in my lap sometimes like a baby (heh), but he'll also fall back into that position on his own. I don't do it to make him submissive to me, it's just something we do.

I've tried holding Agis the same way. He does NOT like it. That does not mean Agis is dominant over me or doesn't respect me. To me, it's disrespectful of Agis's person (dogson?) to force him into a submissive position.

It's almost like a friendlier alpha roll.

I dunno, personally, I think the whole dominance/alpha is overblown. I had a female German Shepherd who'd probably be described as dominant where other dogs were concerned - I remember being in a park with her and seeing an off-leash dog approaching ahead of it's owner on the sidewalk - she just watched it and it crossed the road once it met her eyes. With that said, she knew I was to be listened to her, because I trained her to do so. With our bond, she listened to me. When I first adopted her, I thought she hadn't learned any commands in her previous life. Until one day, when I said 'sit', she cocked her head and sat. Had flawless obedience from that day forward.

But I didn't reach that by alpha rolling her. If anything, I think forcing dogs into submissive positions damages your relationship and sets up needless antagonism.

I mean, realistically, while there is likely some dogs that are more dominant than others in dog-dog dynamics...my dogs know I'm not a dog. They form a pack, and I am the person on the outside...administering?...the pack.

It's not to say there aren't handler-aggressive or pushy dogs - there are - and I've likely been lucky to never have one and that's why I say what I say - but in the vast majority of dogs, you don't need to force them into submissive positions, and you're more likely to damage your relationship doing so.
 

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At 5 + months of age, and 60 lbs he is a bit too old going to Puppy K classes...those are usually done with 9-14 week old puppies. I agree with Agis, this is a very vulnerable position for an older pup to be in....it puts them in a 'fight or flight' position. Your pup chose fight...and very normal for a dominant breed.

Honestly, I would finish up this set of classes...and if any exercise makes you, or your pup uncomfortable...just do something else. I would find a trainer that works with working breeds such as German Shepherds, Dobs, Rotts,etc. and get some help with your pup if needed with training.

I've taken all sorts of Puppy K classes with all of my pups with different trainers...and have never done an exercise of a version of the 'alpha roll'. Puppy K classes are for socializing and simple stuff like "sit, down, stay, come,etc"
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the feedback! You guys basically reinforced what I was already thinking. I won't be doing this exercise with him anymore. This dog training club has pretty good rep though, and I've seen all sorts of different breeds there. I've seen everything from Corgi's to Corso's (and Rottwielers) and they do AKC Obedience trials, which I'm thinking of trying out with him.

I was thinking he may be too old for Puppy K, but I wanted to get him used to the class before starting their Novice Obedience class. When we got him it was right at the cut off of their session sign up, so I had to wait a couple months until the next session. Turns out most of the dogs in the class were around his age.
 
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