Aggressive Behavior

by Hope
(Park City, UTAH)



Two months ago, I fostered and then adopted a very loyal 65 lb. about 2 yr old Great Pyr/ Border Collie mix from a shelter. At first he was skiddish and reserved. Now that he knows my kids and me, he seems to be very protective. He has attempted to bite men as they come into the house and barks at everyone who comes into the house or yard. I am trying to be alpha over him and telling him NO.... Any suggestions on how to curb this aggressive behavior? Thank you - Hope from Park City UT

Not sure how to get the pic to turn rightside... : } he is a sweet boy to me though...

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Nov 14, 2016
by: Donna

Never use 'alpha' training. This is a very archaic way of training.

Times have changed and positive-reinforcement (not positive-negative) is implemented, now.

He is reacting this way out of fear. To enforce this by yelling at him and being 'alpha' will only enhance this fear.

Sadly, he is this way because he was never socialized and handled by many, many different people in the first 3 months of his life because he was backyard bred or the result of an 'accidental' breeding. When doing this with Pyrs in the mix, this fear aggression is what will result.

I suspect this fear is why he was left at the shelter in the first place.

I will assume he hasn't bitten anyone, yet.
Bring in a positive-reinforcement trainer to assess the situation. She will then show you how to manage and work with him if she feels it is possible. Here is a link you can read until your trainer gets there:

Do you research on the Pyr. However, your dog is a mix so do your research on the Border Collie, as well. Here is a short summary on the Pyr:

They are beautiful dogs with great temperaments given the right breeding, socialization, care including diet and training.

They require a good weekly grooming to keep them mat free and their skin healthy (hence, pain free from the pulling of mats as they move), and cutting their nails including their dew claws every couple of weeks to a month. NEVER have their dew claws removed. This is a barbaric practice. Simply keep the dews trimmed.

They molt twice a year and all year round so your vacuum stays full. NEVER shave a Pyr. Their double coats keep them cool in summer and warm in winter. If you don't like grooming, take your dog to a master groomer. If you don't want to, this isn't the dog for you.

Their instinct it to wander. Therefore, they require at least a 5-foot secure fence in a large yard in which they can play, run and watch over. Some have been know to scale any height of fencing. No tie outs for these guys. It can lead to aggression since they cannot fully watch over their territory. If they are out all day, as they usually prefer, they need shelter from the elements. And, no electric collars or invisible fencing.

They bark more than most dogs and neighbours do complain. That is a common reason for people surrendering their Pyrs (they didn't do their research). Their bark is what deters predators and it is instinct to them. That and marking their territory. To take away their bark is to take away who they are. The barking can be managed but it takes time, patience and consistency with positive-reinforcement training. If you don't like barking, they are not the dog for you.

They dig holes in your garden to stay cool in summer.

They require a lot of socialization as pups onward with people and other dogs. They also require positive-reinforcement training (a trainer who shows you how to work with a clicker). Pyrs, nor any dogs, take kindly to any kind of punishment. It will lead to aggression. Always use positive-reinforcement training. Dr. Sophia Yin is a great website resource.

It's important to work with the dogs as if in a dance and you are leading. Rewards for good behaviour and redirect for unwanted behaviour. It's up to you to make them a good canine citizen. When engaging a trainer, ensure they use positive-reinforcement training to show you how to manage your dog. Never send a dog away for training. You are the one working with the dog, not a trainer. If you are not ready to train a dog, this is not the dog for you.

To train a Pyr is not like training some other dogs. They are not eager-to-please and just as soon walk away from you than do as you say. They were bred by man to be used as guardian livestock dogs because they do not require human intervention to tell them how to do their job. Lots of patience, consistency and time is required to work with them. If you want an obedient dog, this is not the dog for you.

They require regular walks, of course, so they get out and see the world. They must be leashed because they will wander. Again, they have been specifically bred to wander with sheep as they watch over them. It's suggested to use a front lead harness which will cut down on any damage to the spine should the dog pull although, with a little work from puppyhood, they should be good on a leash.

There are those in need of a home because someone didn't realize they would get so big, bark so much, leave so much hair in the house, wander, and require work.

It is very important to do your research on any breed before deciding if they are a good match for your family. Please start here:

Regarding dogs and children. We never want to see these dogs fail so it's important that children learn how to behave with dogs and that parents never leave their children alone with a dog. Here is a link on that subject:

Good for you for adopting. I hope things work out with the trainer.

Nov 14, 2016
Love is the answer
by: Ed A. From NJ

Donna is right on! I am now on my 7 and 8 giant breed dogs ( 3 of which were great pyreness). The real trick to possative training is not treats or clickers or collars. I it simply love and affection. Alpha can be taught without being alpha to the dog. All you want the dog to understand is you are the leader and he is to respond to you This is displayed with you kind even temprament. I only us treats when the puppy is very young and switch to love and affection as our bond grows. Any good trainer is training you as much as he is the dog. Above all remember yelling and violate only beats violate it is not even used as a last resort. If you get fustraited stop the training til you calm. Above all take your time. Love is the answer.

Nov 15, 2016
by: Hope

Thank you both for your suggestions. I am new at the rescue thing, but have raised several dogs from puppies to adult life, so this is been a new challenge for me. I will take your suggestion and use the love method - which Jasper gets a lot from me. My biggest fear is that he bites one of my kiddos or their friends. In fact this morning, getting ready for school, the neighbor kid came over and Jasper would not let him in through the front door without constantly barking at him.

He has bit two of my neighbors one more than the other. On separate occasions, each man were walking in and he nipped one on the back of the leg and the other reached down to throw a toy for him and got nipped in the face. So I am concerned with his behavior. So I will reach out to a positive reinforcement trainer that can help me to help him. Thank you !!!

Nov 15, 2016
Positive all the way
by: Nashville

After three trainers, the best one is me. Talking to Russell, praising him, exposing him to many people and rewarding him with petting and hugs is the best way. Alpha stuff didn't work. Wish I had all my money back. He gets rewarded for not barking. If Russell barks, I go and see what is the matter because it must be serious. Just keep talking over and over to him in stressful situations like meeting men or barking and it will eventually stop. He is not treat motivated so the only thing that worked is praise. If you are stressed with him, so is he --so stop the alpha dog stuff.

Nov 17, 2016
Bite history
by: Donna

I didn't realize he already had a couple of bites. This is not good news. No amount of training will stop this since it is unpredictable.

You do not want him biting children, either. If you are afraid he will, chances are he will. You know him best.

Sadly, muzzling him and locking him away is not a good life for any dog and this is what would need to be done with him to keep everyone safe.

I know. He is so sweet most of the time. It's the other part of the time that is dangerous. It's not his fault but the backyard breeder's fault.

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