Note: This inquiry originally came as a comment for another article: Aggressive Rottweiler Bites – Owner Shocked
I stumbled upon your website during my desperate search looking for answers to our recent problem. Our (very sweet) 13 month old female Rottweiler has recently started jumping/lunging and mouthing/biting me. It is most often after a round of what I feel was adequate exercise (hour long, brisk walking up and down hills, her running and jumping, even occasionally swimming) when she seems quite calm and docile.
In the most recent instance, she was leashed and walking calmly at my side and then saw a squirrel. She isn’t one to chase but she perked up, proceeded forward a bit and when I called her name and tugged the leash a bit to redirect her, she turned and jumped up on me and then started playfully but ROUGHLY biting and jumping at me.
I typically tell her calmly and firmly “no bite”, “down”, etc. She was being SO rough this time that I grabbed her snout to prevent her from biting any further she gave a small yelp (this is the first time I have resorted to this method to this extent) but then continued to bite at, and wriggled away from my control and then began racing around me in circles, until I finally got her under control by sort of ‘hugging’ her to the ground, rubbing her feet and soothingly speaking to her.
After she had calmed down, she went back to her sweet and relaxed self. I was left with a massive bruise on my arm where she had clamped down quite hard mid-jump.
We have several young children and I am worried not only about the unpredictability of these encounters but also that she seems to be ramping up the intensity of her force.
I have reared her in a way that was intentionally gentle but boundary enforcing and out of love and respect.
She has been extensively exposed to all sorts of people, animals, situations very deliberately and has NEVER been played with “roughly”. She only plays outside and does not typically have unsupervised time outdoors alone, and she prefers to be near us at all times.
Any insight you can offer would be SO appreciated. She’s an exceptional dog and I want to support her in the best way I can.
Keeping in mind, I haven’t had the opportunity to ask you the questions I normally ask in an assessment session, the following is speculation (so take it with a grain of salt) is solely based on more than a few hints in your inquiry. However, also keep in mind that it is based on having worked with far more Rottweilers over the last 30+ years than the average trainer.
I suspect your Rottweiler’s behavior has been far more influenced predominantly by hormones, evolutionary programs, breed ‘programs’, and the strengths and weaknesses of her specific bloodline. You’ll need to learn how to become her loving authority figure (as opposed to roommate) and add that to the mix
The hints I am speaking of are where you mention:
- (very sweet)
- 13-month-old female Rottweiler
- has recently started jumping/lunging and mouthing/biting me.
- Tell her calmly and firmly, “no bite,” “down,” etc.
- ‘Hugging’ her to the ground, rubbing her feet and soothingly speaking to her.
- I have reared her in a way that was intentionally gentle…
- … boundary enforcing…
- …out of love and respect.
- NEVER been played with “roughly.”
If I had to guess (which I sort of do), I’d say you’ve fallen into the trap that is the unregulated world of companion dog training.
The majority of dog “trainers” companion dog owners run across are well-meaning but still, ill-informed amateurs that parrot concepts they have been fed by other amateur dog trainers, silly seminars, bizarre self-serving ‘associations,’ quick fix, click-hungry Internet ‘gurus’ that have (at best) mistaken the methodology used to teach tricks for that used to teach life skills.
In other words, they encourage their clients to embrace what they misleadingly refer to as a ‘science-based approach (‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’, treat, treat, treat). They promote an ideology, as opposed to a methodology. What they promote bears little resemblance to the actual science-based reality seen in how all higher-order social species (dogs, humans, wolves, apes, etc.) teach life skills from birth to young adulthood.
Here’s some input regarding some of what you wrote that has led me to perhaps jump incorrectly to the above conclusion.
1. (very sweet)
Evidence (jumping/lunging and mouthing/biting me) suggests otherwise, or we have a very different definition of ‘very sweet.’
2. 13-month-old female Rottweiler
She’s moving into adolescence, and this is typically when the chickens come home to roost for people that have embraced the pseudo-science nonsense they’ve been told is companion dog training.
3. has recently started jumping/lunging and mouthing/biting me.
These are the chickens, and based on my own past experience with Rottweilers reared similarly (again, guesswork on my part), “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Which species redirects as opposed to addresses? The only time redirection occurs is if you are an amateur dog trainer or you’re a real companion dog trainer( or owner) and in the moment you’re too busy to actually teach a dog that the dog isn’t bad, you’re not bad, but the behavior is undesired.
5. Tell her calmly and firmly, “no bite,” “down,” etc.
This is another bit of nonsense that amateur companion dog trainers teach their unsuspecting clients to regurgitate to their dogs.
Keeping in mind even if dogs did speak English, the meaning (impact) attached to these words is dependent on a variety of factors. A few of which are; roommate vs. loving authority figure, whether one has the attention of the dog in the first place, and the clarity in the associated tone and body language, etc.
6. ‘Hugging’ her to the ground, rubbing her feet, and soothingly speaking to her.
Good luck with that. If you stay on this path I’m guessing that before your Rottweiler is 3 years of age, you’re going to get hurt, or someone else is going to get hurt.
7. I have reared her in a way that was intentionally gentle…
Typically ideological catch-phraseology where amateur companion dog trainers define what they do without understanding behavioral sciences at all, and then tell their clients that’s what they’re doing “Being Gentle”, as opposed to setting both their client and their client’s dog up to fail.
What does “gentle” even mean? Mothers of all higher-order social species are naturally ‘gentle’, until they are not. From time to time there’s an, “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you!”, exchange as well. It rarely involves, sitting down and talking about feelings, use your words, time-outs, etc. Most of us would be either dead or in jail without having benefited from these ‘moments’. No different in the dog world.
I’m betting what you thought was being gentle was to your dog, often, a lack of clarity. You don’t have to be cruel to be clear, but you do have to be clear.
8. … boundary enforcing…
9. … out of love and respect
I suspect our definition of these words, not to mention the path leading up to and how that path is maintained, would differ.
Due to a plethora of cognitive dissonance, the amateur dog training world typically has a bizarre definition of what constitutes ‘love’, and certainly ‘respect.
Far too many amateur dog trainers tell you what loving a dog means with a subtext that often says, “You may love dogs, but not as much as I love dogs, so do what I say, or it’s not real love.” This is a huge red flag indicating ideology as opposed to science.
As to ‘respect,’ your experience makes it pretty clear that the amateurs you have accepted guidance from have forgotten that respect is a two-way street.
For what it’s worth, dogs are bred to love you but learn to respect you, and yours clearly does not.
10. NEVER been played with “roughly.”
This recommendation is a common one made by the priests and priestesses of the ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’ treat, treat, treat companion dog training world. No rough play, no tug of war, etc. In other words, don’t do anything with your dog that might reveal the lack of real (useful) influence you might actually need at some point in your dog’s life.
FWIW, to solve this problem you don’t need to embrace the other ridiculous ideology offered by the other side of the amateur dog training world’ ‘Might Is Right,’ Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank).
I’m reasonably certain there is nothing the matter with your Rottweiler, and there’s nothing the matter with you. What is the matter is what you have been led to believe and put into practice regarding how dogs see the world, learn life skills, etc.
– John Wade 🐾 (www.askthedogguy.com)