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Over the years it has been our experience that most behavior problems start by allowing young animals to dominate the owner or allowing the puppy to think it is a human. Though in a perfect world I would love for all of my dogs to never need discipline, but just like children, a childhood with out discipline leads to a life time of problems.
Please realize that I am not a professional behaviorist.I have had training in several behavior subjects and use this training on a daily basis at work and at home. Not all behavior can be easily changed. This page is based on my working with Great Danes, Pembroke Welsh Corgi's and through Rescues I have brought in to my home, with breeds ranging from Chihuahua to Rottweiler.
Using some of the methods I have described here may help you work out daily problems when raising a puppy. These methods are all intended for dogs under the age of 6 months. Once you get over the age of 6 months sexual maturity starts to set in. I would also say that if you are having these problems to a greater degree when your pup is over 6 months then you do need to seek an animal behaviorist advise. Trying to dominate an openly aggressive dog WILL result in your getting hurt. Please do not attempt to use these methods with behavior of that kind.
After several years of trouble shooting, watching people come in with other breeders danes, I have decided this is a topic many breeders neglect. Many of these dogs are VERY well bred. I know they were raised correctly. At the tender age of 8 weeks they already are exhibiting behavior problems that could lead to euthanasia.
DO I think that Danes have behavior problems? No I do not.
Do I think owners precipitate problems: yes to some existent.
What I really think: Canine behavior is poorly understood by many people and knowing what YOU need to do to correct behavior problems is essential to having a well behaved dog.
I (in jest) have come up with these three descriptions of the typical dane that I see.Problems seen in danes: Chicken Dane, Aggressive Dane, Loopy Dane.
Chicken Danes are the most common. They are apprehensive and reserved. If you push them too hard they hide behind you, or walk away from strangers. This is normal behavior for a guard dog. Working through the reserve and in to out going is a long process. This is the true dane behavior just intensified.
SOCIALIZE SOCIALIZE SOCIALIZE SOCIALIZE
Here are a couple great articles on socialization:
This is the key to bringing your dog up to be all he/she can be.
Work through any anxiety.
There is every level imaginable, from just stepping back when approached, to actively trying to get away. The best way I have seen to help train out of this is to have a person approach the dog, turn side ways ( not facing) and palm a treat for the pup. Most puppies just can't help themselves and they have to take it. Keep doing this until the person can turn around. Always praising the pup.
Aggression is defined by this breeder as a puppy with a forthcoming personality. One that does not back down when challenged.
I believe that young dogs with this personality can act out when pushed into situations that they should not have been pushed into. A chicken will move away or try to get away, roll over or just drop to the ground, some will literally just turn there back on you. The aggressive personality will actively try to bite you instead.
There is a fine line here.
They have to learn to submit.
There are only so many options a pup has.
A puppies only protection is to run or bite.
If the dog is scared and has backed up and you corner him on the lead, and try to bring him out his option is to run, shrink to the ground, roll over, or bite you. The aggressive will try to run and if that does not work: they will bite you. I have seen chickens forced to be aggressive. This is were the owner has made a situation worse.
Owners that coddle this behavior : "oh you are scaring him, its ok baby" are just telling the dog the behavior is correct. In my house the word is " no big deal" . When I have a reaction " no big deal" we work through it with treats and appropriate praise, and then on to the next thing. Not socializing and working through this as a young puppy will likely result in an adult dog that is uncontrollable and very dangerous. There is no reason for these dogs to exist in our world.
Loopy Danes. Out going, vivacious. In to every thing, great personality, they never have an off switch. They will still have triggers ( balloons on mail box's scares the dickens out of one dane , why I do not know) These are the easiest to train but also the most frustrating with the amount of energy they have and the very short attention span. Food works wonders. I think that these danes are just starving for attention and will get it any way they can. This does not mean you are not paying them enough attention either, it just means they may need a "job". These are also the danes that do the most damage to a house, get board the fastest and with the correct training and time to grow up they make the best pets.
WHAT WE DO WRONG:
Our sending the wrong messages.
Your Voice and dog training
Your voice is a magical tool. When training you must learn how to change your pitch in an attempt to imitate what dogs do to each other. High pitch (baby talk) is a comfort. Too high and it is seen as fear whining. Normal pitch is instructive (most) on men, WOMEN need to power their voice and octave to bring the same message across. The deeper and louder: the more like a growl.
Many people make the mistake of "codling" at the wrong moment. If you go to the vet for vaccinations and your pup screams and acts like he is being killed and then gets mouthy with you or the vet and you raise the pitch of your voice and say: "oh baby it is all right" your pup thinks you are encouraging that behavior. (why else would you be whining too?) If you pick the pup up, pat him on the head, use a measured voice: " your all right " and place him on the ground. He will then know that this is not a big deal and I do not need to act this way. Same goes for toe nail trims and anything else they are not going to appreciate.
YOU need to tell them it is ok but DO NOT raise your voice to that high pitched comfort talk that people use so often with children. Praise the dog in that voice ONLY when it is behaving and doing what it is asked to do. If the next time you go in for shots the pup does not cry, then you praise him by raising your voice and petting his head. Then you give the message: THIS is how you behave.
The same thing goes for walks, if you come to something that scares the dog, lets say a mailbox with a ton of balloons tied to it for a kids birthday party . (He HE) YOU need to look at him, get his attention and say something like: "no big deal "( pull on the leash and then give it a "pop" if he does not respond). Say this in your normal voice. If you give all you commands in a normal voice, your praises in a higher voice and your scolding in a lower toned ( but loud) voice your pup will start to react the minute you open your mouth. ALSO when giving commands or correcting, shorten the length of the word you are saying, when giving praise, lengthen the way you say the word.
GREAT DANES IN GENERAL:
Danes were bred for hundreds of years to be Boar hunting dogs and then to guard large dwellings ( castles and estates and such) Only in resent times have we attempted to change them and mold them in to the perfect family pet. When they were first adapted to "domestic life" (lying on your sofa vs. hunting and guarding)
There were many problems with aggression in the breed. Some saw the way to fix it to "cull" the aggressive dogs and breed only the submissive. When you look at what a guard dog does, you realize were some of the problem lies. We have bred dogs that notice change and react to this change. What we have done is make a breed that does two things when change is presented: they either act submissive or they want to attack it. This is where socialization is the key to having a dane that does not do either. You need to present every situation you will ever have in your life to this dog when it is young. If you are young or old you will have children in your life at one point or another. Your puppy needs to know how to react to children, noise, balloons, motorcycles, cats, cars that make a lot of noise, people on bicycles, anything that will make them react to change.
Please visit this wonderful sight Great Danes in History
ANYTHING that you want in your life needs to be presented to them. Learning how to ride in a car, how to get into a car, acceptable behavior while in a car. Waiting for you to put the lead on BEFORE they get out of the car. If you are a single woman and are planning on having male company you need to make sure you invite your brother over and have him play with the pup, have him give him treats and such so he knows that it is "ok" for a man to come in to the house. NOW this will not stop your dog from protecting you. It will only make him more manageable when company comes over. Same for a single man who would like to have female company. The difference is most danes will see a smaller human as something to dominate. So you need to encourage your female friends and relatives to make the dog DO something for them. Sit for a treat, down for a treat, things of this nature that will let them know that they need to behave for this person.
One of the first things I teach my dogs is to sit in front of the door when some one knocks. They know that when I open the door the person that enters will give them a treat. If am receiving a package I teach them that I will give them a treat for sitting there quietly while I conduct my business. When all is done I give them a treat. As they mature they may not even get up to investigate, but if you look at them they are watching to make sure everything goes the way it is supposed to go!
First and foremost: I do not believe in puppy socialization class ( under 20 weeks of age) .
When I first wrote this I received many e-mail about this: you preach socialization and then say don't go to class.
It is a calculated risk. When you send your kids off to day care, they get sick, if you do this with a very young puppy, they get sick also, unfortunately most of the things puppies get sick with kill them. Waiting until your pup is fully vaccinated ( please click on link for vaccination schedule) will keep the heart ache of these diseases out of your home. If you are having behavior problems that are bad enough to overlook the risk, then you make the chose, and there for assume the risk.
Once your pup has finished it's series of vaccinations you need to concentrate on socialization. This is a great time to enroll him in obedience classes. But this is not enough. You need to take him to parks and have him sit for a treat for ANYONE that you meet. He needs to allow children to pull and kiss and hang on them. He needs to see strollers and realize they will not kill him or you. Take them to your kids games and let him see kids with helmets on, or to a horse stable and smell all of the horses and see people riding on them. Take him with you on short trips to the bank ( many of these have dog bones to give out to drive through clients!) Take him with you to drop mail off or to get a tune up ( gives you something to do while you are waiting for your oil to be changed!) Take him to your vet JUST to get weighed and have the receptionist give him some treats for the effort. Try and get him on as many different substrate (floorings) as you can. They need to know how to walk on carpet, tile, grass, concrete, asphalt and linoleum.
RULES: no treat if she does not look IMMEDIATELY.
DO NOT let her have a treat you have dropped .
Once you dane does this in relaxed situations, take it to other places. (places with distractions) when she is distracted try it then. IF she does not pay attention give her a poke on the side: when she startles ( and I am sure she will ;-) ) then treat. This will start the foundation for obedience later in life.
Puppy biting and other puppy problems:
In a group ( pack) they play and learn and communicate through trial and error. Pups will tumble and fight and pull, yipping, barking and playing "tag" with one another. When taken from this group and placed in human homes we don't approve of much of this behavior.
I don't want my 30 pound pup jumping on me. So I tell him NO! I then gently push him down with my hand ( on top of his head) and say NO again. ( NO is always SHARP and SHORT, with a deeper voice then you usually use) Now this rarely works but you have to start some where. The next method is to grab your puppies toes every time he jumps up, say NO, OFF and make the puppy pull the toes from your hand. This works bast on your pups. The next is to have a leash on your pup, step on it so that there is just a little slack, and then show the pup a treat at chest height, this will usually elicit the jump response. The leash keeps the puppy from jumping and praise the pup when it gives up and waits, then give the treat and the praise.
Use a combination on these methods and most will work with in three times. Repetition and consistency are the key.
PULLING ON CLOTHING ( mouth play): All Physical corrections are accompanied by NO!
Puppies play with there mouths, that is why you have 50 toys for them to chew on! But you are not one of them. When a pup wants to play by chewing on you the best way to get them to stop is to gently press there lips ( top) in to there teeth. They may even make them squall and yell. This is normal. If they associate mouthing and biting on you with a little pain in there mouth they will soon learn that "hey, every time I do that my mouth hurts!" and they do stop. Then give them something they can chew on.
Something to think about:
Every once in a while you will get a pup that will back up and bark at you. At this point you have been challenged.
This is a "child" that you have told NO to, slapped there hand when they did it any way and they looked at you: and are now telling you off with four letter words ( this is the the equivalent of a 2 year old child!) Many disagree with the more stern repercussions that have been used through the years and much like spanking your child, there are many different opinions out there. I personally do not put up with ANY aggressive actions from my dogs. Not ever. If your dog is upping the ante I suggest you contact a behaviorist or read the "Monks Of Newskeet Books", or "Mother knows best". I have had some many emails telling me just how wrong I am I no longer will offer advise on this.
Grabbing cloths is a little different, this is pure play.
YOU need to grab the pup up in one swoop, hold him arms length from you and say NO! then kennel the little guy or put him out. They very quickly learn that you do not pull on skirts and dresses or you go out or in the kennel and then mommy is mad at you!
Teaching your pup to take a treat from your hand and not your fingers! What you need to do is present the treat in your hand with your knuckles towards the dog and the top of your hand is up ( like a fist) then slowly move the treat from your hand to the tips of your finger, the pup is going to try and eat your hand to get the treat. As soon as he tries flip your whole fist up and forward in to his teeth and say "soft" or "nice" and then keep doing this until he takes it gently from your fingers. They usually get the idea with in two times of being shown.
Walking on a leash:
You should train your dog to BEHAVE on a leash.
First of all you set ground rules:
When I first get a pup to walk on a lead I use a "slip" lead. One that usually has an "o" ring on one end and the lead goes through it to make a loop. I also have a soft treat to use to get the pup going. I pick the pup up and walk out to the front yard, with out any other dogs around, then I place the lead on the pup and we just sit there for a little while. I then show him the food treat and walk to the end of the lead and give it a little pull. If the pup comes to me I give him a little piece of the treat.
USUALLY what happens the first time is they suddenly realize that they are "trapped" that they can not go were they want to and they do not like this. Most will act like a bucking bronco, if you think about it, it is the same type of thing you are trying to get them to do. I ignore this behavior and wait for the pup to calm down.
Once you can get his attention again, walk a little forward, put the bait out to him and he will fallow the bait towards you. Do not give it to him until he comes all the way to you. THEN only give him a little. Now you repeat this process, go to the end of your lead, this time turn your back to him and bend down with the treat on your left side. By now when you give the little tug he will think TREAT! and you have him hooked!
Do it again, this time stand and present the treat on your left side, tug a little and he should come to you, now just start walking. Every few steps give him a little piece of the treat
REMEMBER: no praise or treat unless he is doing what you want him to do!!!!
Once you get him going and responding to the treat, you can quit using it and use only praise and then maybe a treat when you get home. In a very short while he will become more interested in his surroundings and will forget about the leash and just enjoy the walk. NOW you will start to have the other mentioned problems. The best way to stop this is to never let it start. As soon as he strains on the lead, pop it, tell him NO and STOP walking. When you resume he needs to behave or you do is again.
CONSISTENCY is the key. The dog starts to strain in to the collar, you pop the leash, this is done using your right hand to hold the leash and your left hand to grab and give a quick snap of the leash. If done correctly you WILL get there attention. Follow it with "heel" and make him stop the behavior as soon as it starts. If you do this every time a behavior is presented you will quickly have a well trained dog.
Some dogs are easy to train, others are harder.
They will tell you the degree of reprimand and training method that needs to be used.
Choke chains are NOT an effective training tool, all they do is harm the dog.
Body Harness systems are also not effective. The whole point is control. If you want him to drag you around the block then a harness is for you. With a harness he has his complete body to pull you with ( this is why they fit draft horses with similar rigging)
Pinch collars are for bounding dogs that will not pay attention to you. These are to be used with a leash and you need to never let them strain in to it. YOU also should NEVER leave these collars on when they are alone! ANY choking type lead could get caught in something and kill your dog.
Some times dogs are even harder to train!
So then you can go to a "promise" or "gentle leader" this is a "harness" and lead system that goes over there muzzle, the whole point is to keep the dogs attention. This gives you more control over the dog and you can MAKE him look at you and pay attention. These are a last resort type item. They do work when used properly and consistently.
Once he/she gets the Idea, go back to a flat collar or loop lead. You need to use the same methods as with any of the previously mentioned leads.
I have 4 children. They have all grown up with Corgis and Danes. Though the danes are far more tolerant of my kids then my corgi's are, we do have rules.
No child under 8 is left unattended with more then one dane.
This is just a general rule that I instituted when Morgan and Tyler were young. I think children under eight just do not have it together enough to not put them selves in a bad situation. I never leave my kids alone with more then one dane out.
WHY: fights happen. I never want my kids to be caught in the middle. I have on occasion had fights between dogs. When it is a little dog it is not such a bad thing, Large breed dog fights are a force to be reckoned with. They are scary, loud and can be viscous. We have learned what certain triggers are and over the years have made it so there are almost no occurrences of fighting. Having said this I still would not want my kids trying to break up a fight. Two dogs fighting will rarely hurt each other, but you can get bit BADLY trying to stop a fight. Not worth the risk.
No feeding the danes with out permission.Food is one of the mentioned fight triggers.
No treats or food with out supervision
All dogs eat in a crate OR away from the family.This has stopped any problems with food aggression.
They eat there food and they get to come be with us.
We do not get on the ground and roll around with our dogs.Rough play leads to problems. Dogs understand only dog behavior. If you ever watch them play EVERYTHING is about dominance. Who is the king of the mountain and who is not. If you play with a dog the way dogs play: you will be treated like a dog. This is not a situation you want.
Danes do not sleep on our bed.Again, allowing a dog to sleep in your bed lets them think they are equal. Dogs will get possessive of what they believe is theirs. Better to never start the behavior then trying to stop it.
Danes do not stand over you or sit in your lap.This is also a dominance behavior. Do not start it. Dogs that stand over you are saying: I own you.
From a very young age my dogs and my children are taught were they belong in the scheme of things. We all handle, groom and train to assert our dominance over our dogs. Training, attention games, reward systems instill in both our kids and our dogs who the boss is.
Prey Drive and Great Danes
Great Danes have a natural prey drive. Some more then others. I have owned adult danes that I knew I could not leave alone with my cats. All of my puppies are corrected and taught at a very young age to not "Chase" other animals. Through corrections in the house we have not ad a problem. Unfortunately we have been unable to teach this successfully out side of the home with animals other then cats. Rabbits, birds, deer, skunks: all have been chased. My better trained danes will come when called, the young ones can not be trusted to do so. I suggest you keep this in mind and not place your dane in a situation were chase is an option.