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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Dog is a Jerk

I have a dog, whom I love very much. He's a schnauzer, and he's four-years-old. His name is Elroy Supradaze Bartokomous. This is what he looks like:

This is Elroy getting along with my cat Squeak

The problem with Elroy is that he's a jerk. I mean, he's good with people, my two cats, and my mom's dogs, but he's very aggressive with everything else. My friend Valerie is staying with us, and she has to keep her cat separate from Elroy because he wants to attack and eat it.

About eight months ago, Eric and I looked into getting another dog. We found a four-month-old terrier at a shelter that we really liked, so we took Elroy to meet the dog. The meeting did not go well. Elroy was very mean.

This is Elroy cuddling with a stuffed possum
But the thing is, I still want another dog. I feel bad that we don't have another dog. There's tons of dogs in shelters, and we have a fenced in yard, the time, the space, and the money to have at least one more dog. The only thing standing in our way is Elroy's attitude.

But even if I didn't want another dog, I don't like Elroy's aggressive nature. I'm afraid that it might get worse as he gets older, and even if it doesn't, I don't want him attacking other dogs or animals. That's just not nice.

I've gotten books and read up on some things about how to deal with bad behavior in dogs, but really, I'm at a loss. Does anybody know how to stop him from being so aggressive? Or any good obedience training type things in Southern Minnesota?


  1. Hey, Amanda!
    The dog whisperer? I'm not sure.... It really works to discipline the dog when they're puppies, but seeing as Elroy is no longer a wipper snapper.... Maybe if you start punishing him when he does something wrong. Dogs have a special memory, were if they do something wrong and you're there to correct it they'll remember and won't do it again because it produced unpleasant results.
    Hope this helped a little!

    Your biggest fan, Meredith.


  2. My dog is a jerk, too! We adopted her when she was four months old. She's a Lancashire Heeler and had been dumped at the local animal shelter.
    Oh, she was so adorable when we brought her home. I took her to obedience classes only twice, because she bit the two biggest dogs in the class, making one of them submit and roll over! She was so little and still did that! I love her soooo much, and I probably spoil her too much, and she's very protective of me. But, to be truthful, she's a jerk.
    Wish I had some advice for least you know you aren't alone! LOL!

  3. Carry a squirt bottle of water with a little vinegar mixed in. Squirt him in the face when he behaves badly. After a while, he'll get the clue. And the mixture can't hurt the dog.

    1. Why in the world would you spray vinegar & water in a dogs face? Maybe someone should spray you in the face with it and when it burns because it got in to your eyes don't worry it really won't hurt you....
      Even with just plain water this is not the best route for this behavior.

  4. Unfortunately, the Dog Whisperer is no longer taking show submissions. But maybe he could advise you re what to do:

  5. I would find a good dog trainer ora behaviorist if u can and focus on positive training technique.

  6. Hey Amanda, I am a Vet Tech in RI! There are these treats called composure chews that use natural aminoacids that occur in your pets brain and get rid of negative behavioral issues, aggression, inappropriate urination, ect. Here is a link on Amazon for exactly what I am talking about.
    You can email me directly if you have any questions, but we give them to our patients all the time for issues like this and it is as natural as you can possibly get! I hope this helps!

    1. THis is great info Bri. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to check them out as well.

    2. Your welcome, glad I could be of some help!

  7. Hi Amanda,
    I used to rescue Yorkies and house them until we found them homes. My oversized Yorkie, Kya, HATED the other dogs. And Yorkies can be every bit is vicious as Chihuaua's can. She would growl and attack and I would freak out. Interestingly, when we left them to their own devices (away from me), and the other dog understood who alpha was, she seemed to calm down. She gave our dog George a and older rescued Silkie, pretty hard time at first, but after a while they settled in and used to sleep together before George crossed the rainbow bridge.

    This is going to sound dorky but I take Kya to a local vet that has a dog day care occasionally so she has to hang out with other dogs. When we walk in she goes ballistic. When I come to pick her up she's happily playing with the other dogs. It reminds me of taking kids to daycare. Go figure . . . Turns out she's owner aggressive/protective.

    So, don't give up on the idea of ever having another dog. It can happen. Maybe he just needs more play dates and neutral territory where he can meet dogs and not feel like he is on "parent guard duty."

    P.S. I LOVE Schnauzers. My Schnauzer Scooter grew up with my kids and we had her for 16 years.

  8. I would write to Cesar Milan. Or, scope out reruns of aggressive dog behavior on his show The Dog Whisperer. (He has many episodes where he deals with this...) I watched one episode where Cesar helped a small apt. complex get their dogs to get along and quit trying to kill each other... He did it in one visit. Cesar might have clinicians/trainers who follow his method who might be able to help you if he is no longer taking new clients. It wouldn't hurt to ask. PS. Love your books... MJ.

  9. We have a border collie and mini schnauzer - for us it's the border collie who's showing aggression to dogs outside of our family. We live near an off leash park and our schnauzer happily goes in and plays with everyone, he's a mellow boy, but we can't let the border collie in because she might actually pick up a little dog and kill it. That's kinda embarrassing.
    We've hired a trainer to come once a fortnight and work with us. His training method is to teach Zoe to stay calm when other dogs pass and to not react. We're still at the on leash and only from a distance stage, but I'm seeing a lot of improvement.

    Training is expensive (more expensive than driving your dog out to the woods, tossing a ball and driving off before going and picking out a brand new puppy) but I figure it will be worth it to have a great dog. You can learn a lot online and in books but nothing beats one on one training.

    PS like the Cesar Milan idea - don't get me started on the cute way he wiggles his tail!

  10. Amanda,

    After my experiences with a very aggressive dog over a number of years I wish I would have consulted with a behaviorist sooner. This is probably beyond the realm of a normal obedience trainer. Research a true animal behaviorist with a PHD. Often, a combination of medications and re-training is used with a focus on behavior modification.

    Exercise is always a good start for any behavioral issues though. I would start with that while you're finding a behaviorist you like.


  11. Does he like walks? Because thats a great bonding experience for 2 dogs, they learn to tolerate each other while having fun, so maybe try again with another dog, or borrow a friends dog and take them on a walk together to see if it makes any difference to Elroy's behavior towards the other animal. I have two Chihuahuas, one is the sweetest dog ever, but the other is feisty towards males, particularly my Dad. Jango and Padme (yes, my dogs are named after star wars because my parents got naming rights) get along together great most of the time cuz theyre both Chihuahuas, but when we take family walks, the feisty female thinks of my Dad as pack leader, which she does not believe at home.

    Makayla A. <3

  12. Hi, I'd really like to be more helpful with an answer but there just isn't enough information given.

    What I can tell you as a pro dog handler is please don't do anything Cesar Millan-ish. He is pseudo science/pied piper leading people down the wrong path in relationships with their dogs.

    I think one of the posters above got it right when they suggested that a professional behavioural opinion would be useful but in my experience a lack of exercise and (early) socialisation can lead to problems and if you have a dog with issues then you need to address them before taking one from rescue.

    One of my dogs came from rescue where a previous home's dog had 'rejected' her.

    I'd point you in the way of Sophia Yin ( or her Facebook page as she's a very helpful expert

  13. At home, are you implementing a "Nothing in Life is Free" approach? Start there. After a couple of weeks of Nothing in Life is Free, then begin more formal training. As someone above suggested, do not try a dog trainer, but an Animal Behaviorist, which is a person with a PhD.

    Some dogs must remain on the Nothing in Life... program for their entire lives. Most dogs can return to something less strict after a while, with the occasional refresher. Before you start googling the term, it means that from now on, Elroy will have to work for every single thing he wants. No more free-feeding (leaving food in a bowl all day). Put food out in the morning, he must sit quietly (I start with three seconds, work my way up to ten, then eventually a minute), then he is allowed to eat. He's given fifteen minutes to eat. If he doesn't eat, take the bowl away, feed him again in the afternoon. Twice a day feedings, done in the same manner. Does Elroy want to go outside? Don't just open the door. He must sit quietly first, then you open the door. Elroy wants you to pet him? Ignore him. When you feel like petting him, he must sit quietly... You get the drift.

    An extremely easy way to reform your relationship and re-establish order within the "pack." Expect him to bark and act like an idiot at first. Be calm. Stick with it. Once he's on board with the new plan, get the behaviorist in for targeting specific issues. Good luck.

  14. I second R.S.'s recommendations, though if feasible I would start with the behaviorist, since he/she might be able to help you identify the source of the aggression (and better implement the NILIF approach).

    Patricia McConnell is a good behaviorist to read. She's located in Wisconsin and might be able to recommend someone in your area.

    Dogs also often have fewer aggression issues with the opposite sex, so you might have better luck matching him with females.

    Good luck!

  15. I have an aggressive terrier too. He was so bad 2 years ago, he tried to "take out" a Weimeraner at the park. He has bitten me, my kids, the vet, the groomer, other dogs. The list goes on. He is now much better behaved, because of my friends enormous German Shepherd. The German Shepherd is a pack leader, and his head is the size of my terrier. Essentially all it took was one big growl, and the terrier realized that he was NOT THE PACK LEADER. Your dog needs a companion that is the PACK LEADER, so he understands he must become submissive. It's the only thing that really works. My dog stopped biting people and other dogs. A complete 180.

  16. Part of the last post, my terrier also bit a cop, and a good samaritan that saved him when he tunneled his way out of the backyard.The county actually threatened to force me to have him put to sleep if he bit anyone else. The German Shepherd is a calm, and extremely assertive dog. He has a zero tolerance policy for "terrier shenigans" and he put an instant kabosh on the biting terrier with his "presence". Also, terriers are difficult to punish and will continue with their bad behavior fearlessly. The best thing about getting a companion dog that's alpha, is that it's easiest to deal with a behavioral issue with a dog, by using another dog to get through to the bad dog. If you watch the dog whisperer, he uses this technique. He usually brings a calm alpha dog with him to the home visit for the behaviorally challenged dog. The problem with your terrier is that he thinks he is in charge, of your entire family. lol. the only way to stop this is to use another dog.

  17. My best friend has 2 beagles who were very agressive, especially since she left for college and had to leave them behind. But recently she started taking them to those dog classes that are supposed to help train them, and it's working. We had talked about it and I told her I didn't think it would work very well due to them not being puppies anymore, but I was wrong. So that could be a suggestion.

    But also, it's going to take some time for Elroy to get used to anyone new. My cat Isabelle hisses at EVERYONE she doesn't. But if you're around long enough, she learns to love you.

  18. Amanda,

    It's actually very simple. Start obedience training, I opt more for the "positive training" which works with food and a clicker and start with the basics. Exercise, proper walking, you need to be in charge.

    YOU set the rules, not your dog. If he is aggressive it could be because he is anxious or fearful around things he's not familiar with. You begin feeding him in minor situations and slowly you ramp up to more major encounters. It is a long process but with correct training and lots of attention to this area, you can definitely make HUGE strides.

    The dog should ALWAYS look to you in every situation for guidance. This isn;t magic. Get the right information, get training that is positive and food motivated in nature.

    Best of luck!

  19. I've got a dog like that, Charlie... He's a huge a** hole, but I love the little guy. You can take your dog to training and stuff, but you can't change his nature. I'd donate some money to the pet shelter and learn to enjoy crazy a little. Schnauzer mixes are like living with tiny thunderstorms.

  20. I was super scared of dogs until I started watching the dog whisperer. I think Cesar could teach you a few tricks

  21. I have the same problem. I was told that you need to get the dogs growing up together or else with some spoilt dogs (I bet yours is just like mine) you are looking for a very sad ending. I love my dog and am really annoyed that I can not provide a home for an addittional dog as well but that is not his (Benji's) fault it is mine. I SHOULD HAVE DONE MY RESEARCH BEFORE GETTING HIM. Certain breeds just do not suit have other dogs around at best they must grow up with them. There are exceptions but this is very common and so it my problem as well as yours WE SHOULD HAVE DONE OUR HOMEWORK!
    So I personally have decided to concentrate on keeping the dog I have now my very spoilt Benji happy!

    Plenty of people just dump their dogs in the shelter or put it down when the pet concerned does not fit their plans. That is just plain cruel. Your first priority is the dog you own not the one in the shelter. Here is the logic, if you had a child at home it would be that child's happiness that would be your first concern not the child at the orphanage that you were hoping to adopt? Right? So therefore it makes sense that you provide a good home for the pets you have currently. I am not talking down to you just trying to make you see that your feeling bad is natural I did too but Elroy and my very spoilt Benji must be our first priorities! When their respective time on our Earth has passed (time sadly goes by all too quickly) we can both make sure we do not repeat the same mistake and get more than one dog next time round.

    Dogs have their own personalities just like people. Trying to force an issue is not a good idea, someone will just end up getting hurt! Next time we can both make sure we get two puppies or two dogs from the shelter that get along. Enjoy your time with Elroy his loving to you and the rest of the family that is what is important!

  22. I'm a Vet Tech in Boston and we have quite a few clients who have their pets on 'puppy prozac'. It seems to help a lot. I know going straight to medicating is not always on the top of everyone's lists but if training doesn't work it's worth a try. With dog training it's not just the dog being trained you're being trained as well. Also, please don't spray vinegar in your dog's face. Good lord, if you wouldn't do it to a person don't do it to an animal. Anyway, prozac aka fluoxetine comes in handy and works nicely.

  23. Walks in the park to get him used to being around other dogs. Always on a leash and treats when he is a gentleman. Sometimes dogs are better around dogs that aren't too young, too. Taking him to obedience school is also good--he'll be around other dogs and might learn to enjoy it. Socializing can be learned!!!

    Junior that cat would say hello, but he's hiding under the couch until it's safe!!!


  24. I currently have no pets. So all I can say is find a professional and best of luck. Elroy's looks like such a nice dog. Too bad about the attitude. The name Elroy has the cartoon theme song from The Jetsons playing in my head.

  25. Find a trainer that will work with you one and one in your own home. Start small, just try to get one thing improved at a time. I have been working with my German Shepherd for over a year and we finally had to put her on Prozac for dogs. It actually has made a significant improvement, but it is a last resort.

  26. The simplest reason to get a professional involved is that no matter how you describe the situation it won't be complete. A consult with a professional will ask the right questions and, hopefully for you, find the right answer.

    Pretty shocked so many people still harp on this 'pack leader' crap. I was in the twentieth century once too but I left it when it moved on!

    And that 'nothing in life for free' sounds fairly close to guff too.

    The truth is that if you use a consistent framework or structure in developing and managing your dog it will (eventually) get the hang of it but that still doesn't make it the right answer.

    Canine science has moved on a lot now and a lot of answers are out there, people don't want to hear them though, and usually they don't want to put in the effort required.

    So frack prozac, Cesar Millan, Nothing in life for free or any of that pop guff. Respect your dog by looking at the situation properly and win by having him respect you back and ultimately give another dog a good home.

  27. My wife and I have two dogs. A 60 pound Golden Retriever,Chief, and a 140 pound Lab/Rottweiler mix, Odie. We often have to watch my Mother-in-law's little 25 pound Lhasa apso. For a long time, we kept them seperated because the little dog was very aggressive. After several weekends of this, I thought,"this is crazy". I put Lexy in the back yard to see how long the fight would last. It lasted about 30 seconds. Odie was standing over Lexie, who was on his back, "surrendered". Now they play like old friends. Borrow a friends big dog and see how tough Elroy really is.

  28. Hi Amanda!
    I am a new fan of yours and an aspiring dog training and dog nutrition writer. Yes, I am a dog trainer and behavioral consultant. Once upon a time I was a newspaper editor and obsessive compulsive writer just like you (me from age 7 illustrating my own fantasy books.)
    I can solve your dog training problem in a heartbeat in addition to teaching how you can get Elroy to accept a new dog on the spot. It is not hard but for some reason even many trainers don't know the secret. I guess it is all the rescue work I have done including even with Schnauzers. I have been an animal lover since childhood. We grew up in the country with horses and all sorts of animals so I guess it just runs in my blood! :) I have a connection with animals that is much more than physical. I guess my ability to "read their minds" has taught me everything I need to know straight from a dog's point of view.

  29. My dog always seemed to have a problem with other dogs, but when we brought in a younger dog it turned out okay. The only downside was that the younger dog always wanted to play and he was just too tired for all that.

    So try bringing in a younger dog and see if maybe that will kick in his instincts for protecting/liking it!

  30. I'm not so sure my opinion would help but here goes. I grew up with dogs and we've had two schnauzers. One was a little B***h in her attitude. She loved running off and chewing on the Doberman down the road who seemed to adore her. My Mom was the only one who could control her and I think she did it by establishing the fact that SHE was the boss, not Misty. It's a little Cesar "Dog Whisperer" Millian-ish, but this worked way before he became popular.
    Our second schnauzer (the first one was killed in an accident) was a doll-baby. We had Chica and a black poodle mix getting along together just fine. We had Sugar (the poodle) first, then added Chica. Again, my mom established who was boss.
    Fast forward to just a few years ago--wait! It's been nearly 12 years ago!--and my neighbor, who is also a very good friend, got a schnauzer. She already had an outdoor dog, but she wanted an indoor dog and I convinced her that a schnauzer was a good choice. Precious was a spoiled rotten puppy--partly my fault--but she learned who was boss very quickly. She had troubles when the family later split up, but both owners have had to establish who is the boss at home.
    Precious lives with her "daddy" now, and he regularly takes her on walks. She's also a diabetic so walking is even more important. I credit the walks with helping her settling down after the divorce as I've seen her get "touchy" with the outdoor dog when she's with "mommy", who doesn't walk her as much as "daddy" does. Precious, as a puppy, learned to get along with two cats, the outdoor dog, and visiting animals by learning who was boss--and spending time shut up in her indoor kennel. She's great now, with neighborhood friends who come to visit. I miss her since I've moved....
    I'd still recomend Cesar Millan's techniques for establishing "boss-ness" and daily walks. I'd also take the new potential dog for a walk with my schnauzer as I did with Precious and Nakita, my neighbor's outdoor dog. They learned to get along together better when I walked them both together (but you might want to walk Elroy before you try him out with the "new" dog first.
    Loved the writing!!! You give ME hope of becoming a published author someday!

  31. I would recommend Neuman K9 Academy. They use to be out of St. Peter but looks like they moved a little north. Watch the videos of dogs they have trained. Crazy good!
    Another one out of Mankato is Not too far.

  32. I hope you will be cautious with trainers and training methods. A good rule is: Don't let anybody talk you into doing anything to or with your dog that you are not 100% comfortable with. I have definitely heard of and dealt with fallout from terrible, abusive trainers and it amazing me what people will do to their dog because a supposed expert tells them to.

    I will also say -- and I have been a trainer, btw -- that you could try muzzling your dog (just in case) and letting him loose with a quite young but large and confident puppy -- something like an 8 week old Golden or Lab mix. Normal adult dogs, even if aggressive, are VERY strongly inhibited from actually attacking and physically hurting a young puppy. Being snarly with and scaring the puppy might happen, but a confident puppy shouldn't be scarred for life by one snarly adult dog. And you should be able to quickly determine whether your dog will be able to adjust and include the newcomer in his pack, as he has clearly included his own family and cats.

  33. Amanda,

    I am a veterinarian in western Wisconsin. I read through a few of the posts on here, not all of them. Definitely don't do any punishment!!! We only want positive experiences. Also I agree with the poster that mentioned Dr. Yin. I went to some continuing education presentations by her at a veterinary conference (she's amazing!). Best recommendation would be a behaviorist, and better yet, one that can come to your home to work with you guys 1-on-1. I can't leave contact info, so I could private message you on facebook or goodreads and you could write back with further questions if you have any. Thanks! P.S. Love your books!


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  35. Hi Amanda - I also have a schnauzer - just the opposite to Elroy. His name is Zac and he just adores dogs. He lives for two things: 1. Fooooood 2. Dogs You might tell which is the winner though. I have found that being firm and letting him know who is boss has helped. He has improved on walks - used to nip at the heels of people passing by. I had to just be excessively firm with him about this. Maybe look at some information from Caesar Milan - if you go to you can see some info he has about why the aggression occurs and how to manage it. I know that having some background about what dogs were bred for helps to understand why they behave as they do. Schnauzers were bred to be ratters - so I guess the aggression is part of this. I have had two and both were aggressive - to different things. One was female and she was more timid. Zac is a male and will take on anything. He loves playing with large dogs - eg Malamutes and Irish setters and Alsatians. Hope you have success with Elroy and can get a new dog. Some of the ideas posted here may also have some results for you. SK

  36. May I suggest a BIG and good-natured dog. I had a cat that attacked any other animal we brought in the house, so I got a keeshond, who outweighed the cat by 2-3x. Sasha the Keeshond was so fluffy that whenever Pooster the Evil Cat attacked her, the dog didn't notice and the cat spat hairballs for a week. If the cat got too crazy, Sasha the dog laid on him, just pinned him down and laid on him. Within a month or two, they were friends, and the Evil Cat reformed into a Great Cat, and then we got more cats. It worked great. Get a BIG dog to train your little dog.

  37. nice work keep it up