Zico, my dog is so loving normally, listens really well, is really clever, and fast learning, he’s not good aggressive or aggressive at all, but recently since around the 6months of age mark, if I’m playing ball or fetch, or once or twice he’s done it on a walk he will randomly jump up and try to hump my leg, it seems as though it’s when he’s over excited or overtired, but when I try to stop him and say NO and DOWN he gets worse and becomes aggressive bites my arms and legs, I’m not sure what’s best to do in this situation, I have tried holding his collar because in my head it’ll stop him from getting at my arms but he becomes like a different dog and persists even harder to bite me, then when he’s stopped after a few minutes he seems like he knows he’s done wrong. I’m just wondering what I do in that situation, he’s strong now at 6 months, and I love him to bits so could never dream of letting that get in the way of being my dog, but obviously I can’t let him carry on this way.
M. T., Wales
If I were answering from the majority perspective of what currently passes for dog training, I’d be making recommendations that stem one way or another from the ideology of ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’, treat, treat, treat and in the end you’d be no further ahead (all peripherally related to B.F. Skinner and operant conditioning. In fact, the problem you are having may very well escalate as a result of this misguided approach to behavior modification. Nor should you look for your answers in the segment of the dog training world that embraces, ‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank).
The ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’, treat, treat, treat approach has its place, however, that place is more appropriate for teaching tricks than developing a loving authority-figure relationship so as to teach self-control and age-appropriate life skills. In order to achieve the latter, we will have to move beyond Skinner and draw on behavior disciplines as they pertain to ethology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, socio-biology, etc. Unfortunately, in North America or to the best of my knowledge, Great Britain you’ll find companion dog training gives this enormous reservoir of knowledge little to no weight.
You describe your American Bulldog as loving, and clever. Of this, I have no doubt. However, I suspect if asked how he (Zico) felt about you, he’d respond, “I’ve won the lottery for dogs, I love Tia, she’s a great roommate.” As a result, lacking your fulfilling the role of loving authority figure (vs great roommate) you’ll find that when it counts you have little to no influence over impacting Zico’s agenda, or level of agitation. I suspect that once his level of excitement reaches a certain point, when you say, “No!”, he’s hearing “Go!”
There are ways you can and should respond to him when he starts to get overly stimulated, but you should first begin concentrating on learning how to gently transition into becoming his loving authority figure so that when you’re trying to discourage (or encourage) a behavior he’s able to understand, that you’re not saying he’s bad, or you’re bad, but the behavior is undesirable.
An email such as this isn’t the right vehicle for covering all the bases required to help you become a loving authority figure to Zico. Instead, I’d suggest reading one of my books, like The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template – by John Wade. Additionally, if you want to learn how working with me virtually can get you on the right track, send me an email (), and I’ll send a ton of information on how the program works.
– John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade – 🐾Embracing Science and Common Sense🐾