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Dr. John
Dr. John, Texas Veterinarian
Category: Dog
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Experience:  Over 14 years of clinical veterinary experience
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Tonight my dog was asleep on my bed and I went to get up and

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Tonight my dog was asleep on my bed and I went to get up and he bit me, he is normally a very loving dog who always wants to be touched, he loves having his front legs rubbed. In the past I have tried to waken him from what seems like a dream and he gets aggressive and tries to snap at me also he has done it when he is asleep and I try to pull his blanket out from under him to cover him, I know longer do that. Once when I gave him a rawhide chew I reached from behind him to take it and he did bite my hand. If he is asleep on our bed and we accidentally touch him with our foot he responds by getting aggressive and tries to bite. I don't understand this he is very well cared for and loved very spoiled. We adopted him almost three years ago from the shelter he was about six weeks old and had been found in a trash bin, he is a shepherd doberman mix. He had a real problem at wanting to bite or gaw at us when he was very young and sometimes when playing he wants to do that he stops as soon we tell him no biting. Any advise is appreciated.
Anna Holness
Hello. My name isXXXXX will be happy to help you. It sounds like you are dealing with a little bit of dominance and possession aggression. He is trying to assert his authority as the "pack" leader. You have to stop that ASAP. You are going to have to give him some very tough love. First and foremost, he needs to stay off the bed (and any furniture for that matter). That is where he seems to be most aggressive. He needs to realize that he is not the pack master and does not get the luxury of sleeping up higher and on your level. It sounds mean, but it is essential. You will not hurt his feelings. Dogs don't think like that. They may challenge the pack leader at times, but they understand and accept their role when it is forced on them. He must have his own bed to sleep on the ground. If he is possessive with rawhides or other toys, those need to go as well. You can try getting a dog biscuit and break it into parts. Offer him a small piece after he sits and stays for you. He has to realize you are giving him the reward. He has to earn it. Same goes if you notice any aggression with food. Some trainers will have you stand over the empty food bowl and drop food into the bowl after making him sit. Gradually, you move your hand closer to the bowl. If it is just to a certain object, like rawhides, then he should no longer get them. Just avoid the situation completely. Dealing with aggressive behaviors in dogs is never an easy task, especially when they are adults and have been allowed this behavior for some time. It is highly recommended to get the help of a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist (better choice but more expensive - very few of them around). The websites below have some very good information on aggressive behaviors in dogs. The first one is a great article. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns. Hope this helps.

My goal is to make sure that you get all your question answered and all the information you need. If you are satisfied with my answer, please rate it. If you feel like it is not helpful to you, or if there is more information you need, please respond back to me before rating. Realize that our conversation is not intended to diagnose or treat a condition. There has to be a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship established with an exam, according to law. You should always follow up with your vet.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I don't understand what yiu mean that dogs don't get their feelings hurt Woody is very sensitive. I have never given him a rawhide again since my trying to take it from him and getting bite. He does have his own bed and sleeps on it 85% of the time, sometimes he seems sad or insecure and at those times he wants to be close to my husband and me and that is usually when he gets on the bed. If he sees our smaller dog on the bed it seems to make him sad. He has never been aggresive any other time then the one time with the rawhide all other times have been when he is disturbed while sleeping

It is not so much that they don't get their feelings hurt, but that they understand their hierarchy in a pack. It doesn't hurt their feelings to be one of the middle or lower levels of the pack. When dealing with behavioral issues in dogs, one of the first things you have to do it understand that dogs do not think like humans. The way you would discipline a dog is very different then how you would a human kid. If he wants on the bed, he has to understand that he doesn't own the bed. If their is any sign of aggression towards you when on the bed or other furniture, the first thing any trainer or behaviorist will tell you is that access to the bed or furniture has to be stopped until the under behavioral problem as a whole can be corrected. They have to earn that privilege. Dogs with any type of dominance aggression problem have to be trained to understand that nothing in life comes from free. It is all a reward for good behavior, even things like meals and treats. Like I said, it would be very prudent to get some one on one training with a certified trainer or behaviorist. When dealing with these issues, there are many bumps in the road that will require someone to lead you through step by step. Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

This aggresive behavior is when he is asleep and then is abruptly woken I would like to understand why he gets this way.

Some of it has to do with him startling him, but he is also trying to tell you to not mess with him and bother him. It is all part of dominance aggression and him trying to assert himself as the alpha. Whether he is sleeping or not, it all stems from that. I can understand a dog snapping if you abruptly wake them up from a deep sleep with shaking them and a loud noise. Some people will start swinging fists if this happens to them. If the growling occurs after he has been woken up, such as then you try to move him with your leg, that is a dominance aggression problem. That is what needs to be corrected before it gets worse or he does some real damage with a bite.
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