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wildpotato's avatar

How can I help my dog-aggressive dog?

Asked by wildpotato (15011points) May 20th, 2009

Tailbiter of an expression, I know, but that is the term. Specifically, her aggression is caused by being afraid of the other dog. They will try to play or sniff and her tail will drop and she’ll start snarling. This is new; she was well socialized as a pup, loved other dogs and never showed signs of aggression until about four months ago (she is now 3). She is trained, engaged mentally on a daily basis, and well-exercised. She is never aggressive to humans. I have been told that a slow process of desensitization with the help of a trainer is my only option – is this the case; has anyone here had experience with this issue? She is a Chow/Lab mix.

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9 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

There are all manner of methods, but once when I had to mind our daughter’s Rottie while she was overseas we had a problem. He didn’t like our Rottie and the feeling was reciprocated.Once in sight of each other it sound like a war was about to break out. After a little thought, I tried something – and it worked. I muzzled them both and put them on a dual lead (tethered at the collars). I then ran them for a couple of kilometres until they were winded, then walked them for an hour. After an hour of shared experience, sniffing out the neighbourhood together, barking in unison at strange dogs etc,. , they became best buddies.

mcbealer's avatar

In my experience, fear aggressive dogs are the most volatile and most likely to bite. Staying your dog’s alpha leader is key in squashing this behavior. Also very important is to project a calm vibe, as your dog will feed off of your energy. So, if in anticipation you are not relaxed, your dog will sense this, and react with her instincts.

I am currently training a spayed 5 year old weimaraner who is a rescue dog. She has responded well to desensitization training, although her progress was slow at first. I find it helpful to take her for short walks purposely along routes where we are likely to walk past dogs in fenced in yards, and over time she slowly learned the threat was contained and not an imminent danger to us. From there I up’d the ante and placed in situations where face to face encounters with other dogs were likely. Each time you increase the exposure level remember to always stay relaxed and in control. Slow progress is best, and over time she will make you proud.

During this process I have taught her a command which when she hears it she knows it’s off limits. You’ll have to find a command that works for you, and use it only in this type of situation to guarantee quick recognition and follow through.

It may also be helpful to as @Darkscribe mentions, find a buddy for her to explore the world with. I
usually try to introduce dogs this way, by taking them for walks and hikes together. I would however, not recommend tethering your dog with another one until they have spent some peaceable time together, and if they are of somewhat equal stamina and character.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

If you are with her observing this behavior, it seems that she does not trust you enough to know that you will control the situation. If she did, she wouldn’t be scared and could relax. You need to assert your dominance daily and make sure she knows you have everything handled. Little things, like making her sit calmly before allowing her to come inside, not allowing her on any furniture, etc. You need to show her you are the alpha, and she will stay calm when other dogs, or anyone for that matter, approaches because she’ll trust you to protect her if need be.

wildpotato's avatar

Sorry, forgot to mention about the alpha aspect; I know that this is commonly a factor, and thanks for bringing it up. However, I think it unlikely in our situation, since she is already trained to do the things that @BBSDTfamily described as well as to never precede humans through doors. She has always been submissive, but not neurotically so, like dogs I know that will pee if you look at them crosseyed. I just mean that being told “no” is a big deal to her, as I think it ought to be – she gets squirmy and apologetic. I think she knows I will protect her, because she always runs behind my legs if she is scared of another dog, and there have been a few times where I have physically protected her from an attacking dog. I thought those attacks would traumatize her at the time, but she was fine with other dogs even then. It has been years without anything like that happening, so this aggression seems to be happening without any connection to those experiences. I am perplexed.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@wildpotato Has anything at all in her daily routine changed around the time she started showing aggression?

wildpotato's avatar

Yes, we moved across the country, and she lost her yard. She gets walked more now.

Kayak8's avatar

Since Kohler (Koehler?) published his book on dog training many, many years ago, the dog training world has been replete with admonitions to be the Alpha dog. TV trainers, people who write dog training books, and neighborhood busy bodies all assure us that we just have to demonstrate to our dog that we are the Alpha Dog.

If we were dogs, this would come to us easily. But we are not dogs and the many suggestions to do or be something is great (if someone would just explain how). I stumbled across a guy named Ed Frawley who does a great job of explaining the “how to” of all this. He has a website:

You can buy his videos/books, but he has free videos on the website that are very helpful as well (there is one on dominance in puppies wherein he stops the video and replays segments to let you see exactly what the dog’s ears did when x or y happened, etc).

If you are not a dog but would like to learn HOW to become the leader that your dog needs, I highly recommend this site. My concern about this stems from watching new handlers who demonstrate dominating HUMAN behavior with little positive result for the dog.

wildpotato's avatar

Thanks, @Kayak8. I have been using the Koehler method. I agree, Frawley’s site is definitely one of the best out there, but his staff is not at all helpful when it comes to explaining details of the videos. I sent them a long email a few months ago, and got back a response that said basically, keep your dog away from other dogs and buy our videos. Not what I expected, given the depth of the subject’s treatment on the webpage.

loser's avatar

Have you spoken to a professional dog trainer or behaviorist?

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