Merlin, the Great Dane, is a powerful thirteen-month-old adolescent. He is a bit of a canine hoodie, ambushing and going for poor Red Setter Blue and wanting to control everything around him.
More worryingly, he has started to bully other dogs on walks. He will body slam into them, knock them over, stand over them and even pin them down, but he chooses his victims wisely. They are usually older or more timid dogs. A typical teenage bully!
Don’t get me wrong – he is a gorgeous, intelligent dog with great potential, but he has an attitude problem – some of the time. He is supremely confident and fearless. ‘Brought up’ right by consistent and firm humans, he will be a wonderful adult dog.
Another area that is creating difficulties is that, like many people, Merlin and Blue’s owners believe the best life for dogs is to have lots of freedom and uncontrolled access to a large garden. Whilst they have their own area indoors, the door is open most of the time, all the year round. As Merlin has got older, guarding tendencies have kicked in. Visitors sometimes have to run the gauntlet of the dogs when they open the gate; Merlin has pinned someone to the fence. I have found in many cases that dogs can become a bit wild, uncontrolled and territorial when given open space and lack of boundaries.
Setter Blue can be an agitated and restless dog, and this stirs Merlin up. When Blue is able to relax and settle down it should help the whole situation.
‘Training’ as such is lost on Merlin, because although he understand the commands perfectly well, if he doesn’t feel like cooperating there is little anyone can do! He’s huge. He ignores his owners because he believes what he wants is more important, especially when he is engaged in putting another dog in its place. So, they need to work on becoming MORE IMPORTANT in the eyes of Merlin – through leadership and using more of a psychological approach. There are, after all, ways of getting a teenager to tidy his room – but commanding him to go and do it straight away probably invites refusal! Then what? So it is with wilful dogs. There are ways!