My 8 week old Boxpuppy barks/growls at me when I correct her. Does this mean she thinks she's "Alpha"?

My female Boxer pup will be 9 weeks old Tuesday. Every once in awhile when I correct her she will bark/growl at me almost like she thinks I'm playing with her. I'm very firm in my corrections but do not yell at her. We are getting her into puppy training classes next month but I don't want to mess things up in the meantime. Does my puppy think she's "Alpha" by doing this to me? If so, how do I correct it?

Asked by Member 899376 on Oct 30th 2009 in Behavior & Training
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Cookies 'n' Creme (1998-2011)

Some may some she thinks she's Alpha, but I personally think though the dominance theory does exist, it's hyped up quite a bit. Sometimes it seems almost as though it's used to explain away a behavior that one does not understand.

As a puppy, she's trying to figure out how things work. Just like a child, she will test her limits and try to find what she can and cannot get away with. How exactly do your correct her? Just asking, because fear may have something to do with her reactions too, especially if you strike her in any way.

A strong possibility is that she thinks you are playing with her. You need to reward her for obeying. Rewards do not have to be food, they can be anything the dog likes and is willing to work for. The rewards are to be faded out over time.
Corrections. I prefer just verbal corrections, said in a low voice seems to be the most effective. Make it clear that you won't accept foolishness, but don't react angrily. Be firm but gentle.
Here's a site about training:

Cookies 'n' Creme (1998-2011) answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


When you were a kid, did you ever talk back to your parents? It didn't mean you thought YOU were the grown up, it just meant that you thought they were going a little over the top on that particular issue. Same thing with your dog.

One thing you don't mention in your question is what you mean by being "firm in your corrections." At her age, she would probably benefit more from re-direction, rather than correction. This could be part of the reason for her reaction. What I mean is, it is more important for her to understand what she SHOULD do, than to be told what she shouldn't do. If she doesn't know what the acceptable alternative is, that could also contribute to the bark/growl.

Rusty answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


I agree with Cookies. I think the Alpha dog theory is really a bit blown out of proportion. It's *possible* you have an Alpha dog, but it's more likely that she's just talking back like puppies do sometimes and it could be for any number of reasons.

From your description, it sounds to me like she gets really excited and wants to play.

I wouldn't worry too much about the Alpha thing. Just keep doing what you are doing, correcting her firmly and calmly. You're doing a great job with that, from the info you have given in your other questions.

I don't think you're going to "mess things up" and you'll be able to get more, in person guidance at your puppy class in a few weeks.

Jack answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Dominance and pack rank have a very long, successful history in explaining and controlling behaviors. I am waiting for the newer theories to demonstrate they work better.

Leadership is very important, but doesn't mean being harsh or punitive. You are top dog. You eat first, you go through doorways first, you get the best sleeping place and all that. When you feed her. you tell her sit and stay and then lower the food to the floor. If she jumps up, the food goes back up. Most dogs catch on in a day or 2, sitting until you say free dog. Puppy class should help a lot. Make sure the instructor is using positive methods.

Aster answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Yep, keep yelping when she bites you, that will really convince her she's the alpha dog.
Get a BOOK and read some GOOD advice on dog training. You need to turn things around fast.
Just to let you know, when a pup bites the mother dog, she puts the pups entire head in her mouth and growls. She NEVER yelps and turns away...I have raised dogs for 30 years and have NEVER seen an adult dog yelp and turn away from a nipping puppy.
Get a book, sounds like you're gonna lose the dominance challenge otherwise.
Pups, just like kids NEED DISICIPLINE, instill it now or you may be bringing a full grown misbehaving dog to the shelter who will end up euthanized.
The last thing you want to do is let your dog think that he/she can hurt you and you will turn (run) away...Trust me it's a bad move.

Member 901737 answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


I told you you're spoiling her!

Here's a link to dog behavior info.

How many of the dominant dog signs does she have? and how many submissive behaviors are you using? You are confusing the puppy. She at 9 weeks is not leadership material, but someone has to be and you are not doing the job. This dog has the potential to be a disaster because she has dominant tendancies. If you don't start shaping her correctly, she will be running the house.

Pepper answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


My boxer used to do this to me too. When she was younger she would bark and growl with correction b/c I think she would get over excited. Try to be calm but very firm. Boxers can be very strong willed and hard to train. They also tend to not grow out of puppy stage until around age 3 or 4 so you will be dealing with puppy behavior for quite some time. My boxer is 10 now and, just started slowing down in the last few years due to arthritis, but she played catch me if you can for YEARS!Good luck!

Madison answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Dogs only think in terms of pack hierarchy. Each wolf in the wild has an exact rank in the pack. Dogs still think in this mentality. The only way they get confused if when humans disrupt this thinking or are not clear about the rank.
Your pup is testing the rank order! She is probably dominant in personality.
So many dog issues stem from them not being absolutely made to understand who the "pack" leader is.
Jump on this asap! Correct the growling and over-praise when she submits. Time spent now will make life easier for the next 10+ years!
Classes will help a lot. But don't wait for them or you'll be stuck in a class with a puppy growling at your commands. Make it clear that you are NOT playing. Attention is heaven to puppies. Growling should result in "time out" away from you for a couple of minutes (only!).
Start your walking on a leash asap, too. This is not so much teaching how to walk as it is who the boss is. She sounds like a character! Lots of patience needed!

Member 906514 answered on 10/30/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


What exactly are you correcting her for? I think rather than correcting her for what you don't want, create a picture in your mind of what you do want and train it. Correcting a dog only teaches the dog what not to do, but leaves open a world of possible substitutions. Teaching a dog what to do is much easier and creates a positive relationship with the dog.

Member 272716 answered on 10/31/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


The old dominance theory is vastly misunderstood and misused. A lot of the theory has been proved wrong as well.
1st, you have an 8 week old puppy, she has puppy license. In a wolf or dog pack she wouldn’t be corrected until about four months old.
Correct your puppy by redirection and pets/praise after the redirection. For instance, if your puppy starts to pee in the house, rush her out the door and then pet and praise for finishing outside. If she is too rough, put her on the floor or in her crate for a few seconds, when she calms down, get her out and pet/praise. If she is nipping a firm, No will suffice. Remove your hands wait ten seconds, give her a toy and show her how to play.
Hopefully your puppy is trying to play, if not you have terrorized her with you firm corrections and she is scared of you. Puppy class is a good idea as long as it is based on positive reinforcement.

Fritz answered on 10/31/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


I don't know what you use for corrections. During puppy hood I don't use any corrections, they are too little, too immature physically and mentally. They are pups so I usually puppy proof entire house and use the crate to when I can not watch them.
If you get a growl you may be hurting the puppy. Growls are verbal signals that the dog is using to tell you something is unpleasant. There is alpha and beta postures in all litters and there can be one alpha in a litter.
But, that would not be a concern for me I don't use corrections at this age. I use positive corrections when the pup is older like maybe around 9-10 months.
You would benefit from buying some positive reinforcement books. Some dogsters can give you great tips on which ones to buy. I love Sheila booth's.

Dieta answered on 11/1/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


I don't believe in the whole dominance thing. Not with humans.
Do you people honestly think that you need to have a "power" struggle to get your dog to listen to you? YOUR turning normal puppy/dog behaviours and turning it into dominance. Believe it or not, dogs DO NOT want to control your life. They won't take over your house if you let them sleep in your bed. They WON'T steal your credit card if you let them out the door before you. It's very unfortunate and sad that people are making dogs out to be power hungry monsters.
Your puppy is not trying to be "alpha" over you. Your puppy is either trying to play, protesting (not dominance), or is afraid.
You can eliminate unwanted behaviors without correcting your dog. Cookie gave a good link.
Be warned, if you DO use physical corrections and "alpha rolls", you will create a fearful and dangerous dog.
Pick up "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson to give you a REAL sense of how dogs think.

Member 762235 answered on 1/28/10. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer