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Fear Aggression, please help.

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Brad Maden, Jul 24, 2018.


  1. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Hi, im new to this forum so apologies if im posting in the wrong place, i will keep this as short as possible. I have an American Bulldog cross Boxer who has fear aggression (mainly just with other dogs) but is also nervous around people, i rescued him about 4 months ago, and ive been informed hes had a rough life (with little to no stability) and no training, i had to start taking him to puppy classes first even though he is 2 as he knew nothing, ive now worked him up to his bronze award in adult training, hes an amazing dog but i need help with his aggression towards other dogs, last night he slipped out his harness somehow, ran over to another large dog and basically squared off with it, showing his teeth, growling and snapping at the air, i had just got close to him when he lunged in to bite this other dog so i was able to body block him and pull him away with his collar, ive had dogs all my life, however this is my first large, dominant and head strong breed (hes 80 pounds) i just really need some advise from any dog owners who have experience with larger, head strong breeds, im doing everything i can in the mean time but this really needs nipping in the bud, i take him to training classes, i set boundaries and have done a lot of research before deciding on getting him, however no amount of research will give me the know how as much as somebody who has had real experience with simular dog breeds, if anybody could give me advise on how to handle this i would very much appreciate it, im currently trying to keep him at a safe distance from other dogs, rewarding him for calm behaviour, slowly moving closer and just getting him used to being around other dogs (obviously never too close) it is definitely fear related as he sometime shakes and just shows general nervous signals when close to other dogs, thankyou in advance for any help and advice.
     
  2. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

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    Ok, I don't have experience of fear aggression in large dogs, but I do know that what you have to do is change his perception of other dogs. How you normally go about this is sit with him on a bench in a park for instance, at a distance other dogs will be passing but not closely. When a dog comes into view, get his attention on to you - the "watch me" you will probably have done at training class - and reward with food. Over time he should come to associate dog=reward. It will take time, and expect setbacks. You could also try one of the many non-drug calming agents (Dorwest hops and Valerian, Zylkene, Calmex for example) to take the edge off and put your dog in a better frame of mind for learning.
     
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  3. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Thankyou for the reply and advise :) and yes thats pretty much what ive been doing so far, trying my best to get him to associate other dogs with good things by rewarding him for being calm, i find hes better after hes had a long walk and burned off some energy, thanks again for your input its good to know im on the right tracks with what im doing, and yes im prepared for this to take a long time i know there is no easy fix
     
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  4. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Carry on with what you’re doing but work at avoiding any close contact with dogs/people until he has truly dropped his anxiety down a notch. This will, as you say, be a long process.

    Only move him on when you know he can settle well at a particular distance and don’t be in a hurry to reduce his “safe” distance.

    Stress causes the body to flood with a hormone called Cortisol which is accumulative and a few quiet days at home with you will allow that to dissipate so you can start again on “empty”.

    Maybe use that time to get him happy in a muzzle for peace of mind too?

    So long as they are introduced gradually and in a positive way (look at Kikopup for training tips) they should not bother him.

    He can only learn to stop seeing other dogs/people as a threat when he can be truly relaxed so vigilance and avoidance is the key.

    Perhaps training classes are too much for him to handle, being shut in in close proximity to people/dogs? One to one training sessions might suit him better until he is less anxious?

    He may never be completely happy around other dogs though so I would be more concerned to just get him less anxious, rather than sociable.

    What do you mean by “setting boundaries”?
     
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  5. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Thankyou for the advice :) when i say that i set boundaries, i just mean that in general i dont allow him to do whatever he wants and he knows to listen to me, in other aspects he is a very good dog it just seems to be this one issue. Ive been wondering myself if training classes may be too much for him, but as he is okay with dogs that are at a certain distance and is still listening to my commands at training my trainer thinks that the classes will help him associate other dogs with good things as he is getting rewarded for his calm behaviour and focusing on me while around other dogs, but tbh im not sure how correct the trainer is with that after all they get paid by having me there so i dont know wether to go off of what they said about it or not, im going to have a good think about wether to put a stop to them for the time being. And i just hate the thought of him being in a muzzle, i suppose if i have to then i will but that would be a last resort for me, he already gets judged by the way he looks and i feel like a muzzle will make him look more intimidating to people, but i understand the safety of other dogs come before my feelings on that matter so i get what you are saying, i have been looking into getting a dog behaviourist to do some one on one work with me and my dog but unfortunately i cant afford it, thanks again for your suggestions
     
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  6. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    If you have insurance a vet referred behaviourist might be covered.

    With regard to the muzzle I’d say think of it as protecting him from falling foul of the Dog Law perhaps?
     
  7. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Yes i definitely agree a muzzle is probably best, i just wish it didnt have to come to that, ive only just managed to find affordable insurance for him as most insurance refuse to cover an American bulldog (they say its a dangerous breed) and the ones that will insure him have been trying to charge way too much, ive had a few asking for £80 a month, ive finally found some that i can afford but if i claim on anything my monthly payments will go up and im worried if i use it to get a trainer then my insurance may become unaffordable, im not really sure how it works with stuff like that but if it wont affect my insurance too much i will definitely look into doing that.
     
  8. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    I understand ;)
     
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  9. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Hi, I have a big bull-breed mix :)
    I would start by saying that it's very much worth it to get him acclimated to a muzzle and enjoying wearing it. There are some excellent videos on-line that show how to introduce a muzzle. @StormyThai will probably be along shortly with one :)

    As you mentioned with him "squaring off" bull breeds and boxers in particular have a tendency to stand up and on their shoulders in a very intimidating way that many dogs object to. I would imagine if your dog has had one too many negative experiences with other dogs objecting to his approach he has now decided to go on the offensive and make the scary thing (other dogs) go away.

    First you need to give him a chance to feel safe, and in particular, feel safe with you. So I would start by avoiding contact/exposure to other dogs as much as humanly possible. Always keep them at the distance he is comfortable with or even further away. Anything you can do to keep him comfortable, he will notice and start associating you with safety and that will go a long way towards assuaging his anxiety.

    Next I would work on impulse control. Again, there are a ton of videos online, and a very excellent book called "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt with really good exercises to help him learn and practice impulse control. Bear in mind there is a subtle but extremely important difference between you controlling his behavior and that control coming from him where he chooses to control himself. Impulse control is internal, not external.

    However, speaking of external control, definitely work on improving or tweaking his equipment. If he can slip out of his harness, try a different one, or use a back-up martingale collar attached with a coupler to the leash to prevent him getting away from you even if he does get out of his harness.

    A good behaviorist might not be a bad idea honestly. They can help you figure out if you're helping desensitize him to other dogs or simply sensitizing him with too much exposure. Desensitization works, and works very well, but there are pieces you have to make sure are in place for it to work, otherwise you'll spend a lot of time spinning your wheels.

    Start by doing whatever you need to do to help him feel safe, and that's more than half your battle :)
     
  10. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Thankyou:) yes i asked one of the trainers why he would purposely rush towards another dog if he was so scared of them, as before i would have pressumed a scared dog would do the opposite and just back away (ive never dealt with a fearful dog) but she said the same thing as you, she said hes trying to get in there first in order to make the "scary thing go away", just out of curiosity, have you ever had aggression issues with your bull breed? Im definitely going to work on some impulse control with him, the problem is before i got him he had no training at all and ive only had him for 4 months so i suppose some issues are expected
     
  11. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    Muzzle training is a must, my boy has to wear a muzzle in certain situations still.
    37600738_10156433583191163_3071684980020084736_n.jpg

    With careful conditioning wearing a muzzle isn't a bad thing, it's much better to be judged for having a muzzled dog than risk ending up with a dog that has a bite history and risks PTS :)
    This is the method that I used, my dog loves his muzzle :)


    Next I would implement CARE http://careforreactivedogs.com/

    I can't stress enough how important impulse control exercises are, they really help your dog to "think" before he acts, giving him the chance to defer to you rather than being obnoxious (that's not an insult btw, my dog can be pretty obnoxious if l don't manage him appropriately :) ), as @O2.0 said there are plenty of resources online for games.

    Get yourself a double ended leash so that you can attach it to his collar and harness (I found custom fit harnesses a much better fit for my boy, so that might be worth looking into).

    Have a look at your insurance too, I know mine (Petplan) covers a vet referred behaviourist so it's worth checking :)
     
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  12. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Aggression in itself is not really an "issue" because there is not such thing as a non-aggressive dog, they don't exist. Aggression is on a spectrum, and again that impulse control plays a role as well. All dogs can be pushed to bite, and all dogs can do damage. The range of where that point of biting comes and the amount of damage done is what is more important - triggers, thresholds, and bite inhibition.
    Your dog being triggered by other dogs is not at all unusual, many dogs are, and many dogs overcome this.
    That he hasn't bitten and caused damage points to decent bite inhibition. So you have a lot of things going in your favor.

    Yes, my boy has had his moments. He came to us because he was killing chickens at the farm where he lived (arguably not "aggression" but prey drive), as well as generally getting himself in trouble in other ways. He has gotten in to altercations with other dogs, but over the years as I got better at reading him, and worked very hard on his training, he is now a model citizen :) They do mature eventually too.
    For us, impulse control was the single most important thing to work on. I can't even begin to express what a great tool it is because it bleeds over in to all sorts of other areas. That and building your relationship with the dog. Bull breeds love their humans and make it easy to forge that tight dog/human bond. If you can get to where he looks to you for guidance and has the impulse control to listen to you even when excited/aroused, you're set. And that will only build over the years.
     
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  13. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Im not actually sure how good his bite inhibition is tbh because hes never actually been able to get his teeth around another dog, it was a very close call when he slipped his harness and he definitely would have done if i wasnt able to get in the way, before he lunged he was just snapping at the air very close to the dog but not quite touching it and basically banging into the dog with his chest pushing it around, luckily the other dog didnt really try fighting back it just stood its ground without actually trying to bite him back and growled, im never letting my gaurd down for a second from now on as i imagine with his size he could do a lot of damage in a very short amount of time which is the scary part and i would feel so guilty if another dog got hurt, do you have any impulse control exercises in particular that you recommend starting out with? Should i start with getting him to ignore the impulse to chase his ball when i throw it till i give the comnand and then work my way up from there? I very much appreciate the help everybody has given me so much useful info and advice so far, and yes you are right about them loving their humans, 4 months later and hes the most loyal and loving dog towards his family that ive ever had, he just needs to get over these fears and i need to practice getting him to look to me whenever hes unsure because at the moment i dont think he really knows how to react when in certain situations
     
  14. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Stormythai: it wont let me reply to you properly it keeps saying error, Yes he definitely does act in an obnoxious manner at times haha, im new to bull breeds so im pretty inexperienced with such head strong dogs but im more than willing to put in the work, i do have a double end lead so i shall give that a go, do you recommend any impulse control exercise in particular that i can begin with?
     
  15. leashedForLife

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    QUOTE, Brad Maden:

    ... I've only just managed to find affordable insurance ... most insurance refuse to cover an AmBull (they say it's a dangerous breed)

    those that will insure him have been trying to charge way too much, I've had a few ask for £80 a month,
    I've finally found insurance i can afford, but if i [make a] claim, my monthly payments will go up, & 'im worried that if i use it to get a trainer, my insurance may become unaffordable.

    ... if it won't affect my insurance too much, i will definitely look into doing that.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    .


    I think we're discussing 2 different forms of insurance - @brad, I think U are talking about liability, which covers damage done by the dog to property or persons.

    The forum members are talking about VET insurance - medical ins for pets - which may or may not cover B-Mod / a veterinary behaviorist / a trainer.
    I hope that clarifies. :)

    - terry

    .
     
  16. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Ha ha! What you describe here is exactly what bite inhibition is :)
    Air snapping is an inhibited bite. It's not a "missed" bite. It's a deliberate snap of air instead of flesh as a warning. Yes, it can escalate to a real bite if the other dog doesn't heed the warning, but it is intentionally not meant to cause damage.
    The chest banging in to the other dog is also inhibited aggression.
     
  17. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    I know it doesn't seem it but this is good, it shows he has great bite inhibition...believe me he would have upped the anti if he wanted to.


    Engage - disengage game https://www.clickertraining.com/reducing-leash-reactivity-the-engage-disengage-game
    Teaching a solid leave around stationary and moving stimuli (food, toys, other dogs etc...etc)
    Settle on a mat https://www.clickertraining.com/teach-settle-on-a-mat

    those are just a few suggestions, the list is endless really get creative :)
    Try doing some trick training with him to engage his brain and build on your relationship, there are loads on threads on here for ideas, or groups on fb that have tutorials :)
     
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  18. Brad Maden

    Brad Maden PetForums Junior

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    Ah yes thankyou for the correction im with you now haha, in that case i will definitely look into it
     
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  19. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

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    Loads of brilliant advice..... just want to say, training a dog to wear a muzzle has the added bonus that YOU can relax, and sometimes that is another little thing that will help.
     
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  20. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    While out walking Doofus I remembered something that helped him immensely...teach him to give to leash pressure on his collar and harness
     
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