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Help with 'aggressive' dog please!

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by samlf, Apr 13, 2011.


  1. samlf

    samlf PetForums Junior

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    I've had my new dog since the end of september 2010, she is just about 2 years old now. Border collie.
    She had a lot of issues when we first got her which we have overcome 90% of (chasing cars, running off etc).
    She was very well socialised with people and dogs OFF the lead but the second she was on the lead she would bark and growl at other dogs, it has taken us several months but she is now very good with this and will only growl if they get right into her personal space.

    Now the problem we have, is she does agility and has done since not long after we got her. She gets so wound up and excited when she is there that she runs at the other dogs and 'attacks' them. I say 'attacks' because she doesnt bite etc them, she just literally runs at them and barks, she does the same to our other dog when she is excited, but he knows to just tell her to go away and she does. Also when she is doing this she ALWAYS returns to me straight after. Obviously I cant let her continue doing this, as she caught someones trouser leg yesterday and ripped it. Again she didnt bite, and my instructor with many years experiences agrees she would never bite. The problem is what to do? They already spray her with water when she does it (I know its an aversive technique but theres not much other option!), and I'm always the 'good guy', she always returns to me straight away for lots of praise for coming back!!
    So what can we do when she runs back to the other dogs??
    Thanks
     
  2. astraldream

    astraldream PetForums Member

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    Border collies are SO intelligent and SO active most owners struggle unless they are getting hours of stimulation daily.

    Agility is a great way for her to exercise, how much other exercise does she get daily? Is she letting off steam at her classes?

    The things i would suggest are, work on obedience, heelwork and recall daily. Get her to realise that she should focus on you, and you only. Even if its you and a treat or you and a squeeker.

    I would give her a good on lead walk before agility with lots of obedience training, i say on lead so she doesnt over tire herself but her mind is working with the training.

    With regards to squirting her in her face, as i have said Collies are very intelligent so she will soon realise that whoever is doing it is being aggressive. its not a nice way to do things. She will soon become fear aggressive again. If the other people in the class continue to use these methods i would give the class a wide birth.

    No doubt sir zapalot will come along and tell you some methods which are completely aversive but this is your dog and you know she has issues dont make them worse.
     
    RobD-BCactive likes this.
  3. samlf

    samlf PetForums Junior

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    Hi thanks for the reply
    She gets at LEAST 2 hours exercise daily, plus playing in the garden and with the other dog as much as she likes. She really seems to enjoy the classes and is a very good dog when she isnt distracted. Her recall is perfect apart from in this scenario, there literally is no more work i can do with her recall, because it is only this situation she does it in!
    She is ball obsessed and VERY treat orientated, so i always have these out and with me, and she has recently started to look at the other dogs and i'll call her and she WILL come back and not run at them, but this is vary rare.
    She gets an on lead walk before agility, only a 20 minute walk though, not sure if this is long enough but she doesnt work as well if it is longer as she is tired.

    In general circumstances I ALWAYS opt for positive reinforcement, and I completely understand what you are saying about her being squirted in the face but she needs to understand she cant do this, and although its not working very well, it is working to some extent and we must do something. The thing I am worried about is it turning to fear aggression which obviously will be much harder to sort out, people have been suggesting corrector sprays etc which I just do not agree with but I cant for the life of me think of what TO do, as i said i always praise her for coming back etc but its just like she cant help herself doing it!
     
  4. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    It doesn't sound like aggression to me, its excitement.

    When you say she runs at the other dogs do you mean whilst she is off the lead actually going round the course or when you are waiting your turn?

    If its when you are waiting your turn then surely you can keep her on the lead?

    If its when you are actually on the course, then you need to do even more work on your general obedience particularly the recall - in other words you need to be so motivating that she is focused on you and not the other dogs.
     
  5. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Come on, it's not really working and the slippery slope is when someone decides a more intense aversive method is required.

    In fact you actually know the answer yourself. Read what you posted :
    The lunging sounds very likely similar to the young dog I observed at agility class, not aggressive but most likely a herding based chase related behaviour; that sparked off when she was allowed to go above a certain threshold.

    How is squirting water at her, going to calm her down? Are they accompanying it with "reprimands"? It's pointless. If you watch a documentary like "Year in life of Working Sheepdogs" you'll see them tangling with Rams trying to butt them etc and not losing focus and sticking at the job till it's done.

    What you likely need to do instead, is just work on keeping her calm!

    Avoid her fixating, have her look at calm scenes away from the movement, build a positive interruptor, give her a break, play calm tug with her, whatever, just do what you can to avoid the over arousal.

    Can you practice breaking her focus and getting her attention back on you, whilst the dogs are dashing about, perhaps at a distance? Reward calmness, probably food treats won't work, I avoided Freddie getting involved in the over-excitement by walking about away from action and also an occasional gentle game of tug, like I do, when rewarding heel work.

    tripod's site has additional tips on things you can try for a stressed dog, though I guess what you have is pretty much expected normal Collie behaviour, especially given the history - Calming Your Cerrrrraaaazzzzzy Canine and Aversives and Calmness do not mix
     
    #5 RobD-BCactive, Apr 13, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
    portiaa likes this.
  6. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

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    Collies arent my breed, but reading your post and thinking about it, at a guess it might be that when she gets so over excited, she reverts to her instinctive, rounding up by running at other dogs and barking at them to move them, Ive noticed some collies get really mouthy too when they get over stimulated which could also be from the instinctive nipping behaviour to move the sheep about. (Dont know if Ive explained this very well or if you think it makes any sense) its just a thought.

    As you said she is ball obsessive, just a suggestion but Im wondering if flyball might be a good option for her. That might ensure her total focus is kept on the exercise of going for the ball, and then returning it, something in her mouth too would mean she cant nip either and might stop her getting distracted.
     
  7. samlf

    samlf PetForums Junior

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    Thanks for your replies. She is on the lead, it is when she is running around she runs at them.
    I completely agree that it is 'extreme' herding behaviour (she has a strong herding instinct anyway), we do calm her down whilst she is watching the other dogs (if she barks or gets too excited we 'block' her and distract her, lots of praise when is calming down).
    I also agree with everyone about aversive methods!! The problem is, i cannot think what else to do... we have been trying to calm her etc for the past 4 or 5 months, and we dont want it to to get to the point where she gets worse (yes i know thats what extreme aversive methods cause...).
    As I said, her recall everywhere else is perfect, its only there that she displays the behaviour. She has been to dog shows, boot fairs etc, and although she gets herself very over-excited, she is definitely getting better.
     
  8. Blitz

    Blitz PetForums VIP

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    If it is when she is running round the course how about doing each obstacle individually so she sits or goes down after each one, you pick her up at heel to the next one etc so she is never out of your immediate control. It might help to focus her on the job in hand and ignore the other dogs. Your trainer is the one that can see what is happening and who would have to let you have the extra time when it is your turn but might be worth suggesting to him/her.
     
  9. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    That can rev my guy up! I just talk low and slow to reward the calm, or if resting slow calming massaging strokes. The worst thing is when he's excited and ppl do the squealy babbling, then be surprised that he jumps up say.

    If she's on the lead, can you take it slower?

    When you teach a Collie to trot with you on a cycle, you start slowly and they begin herding if you go to fast. Gradually you speed up without them going over threshold and they get used to the situation. But if they are wound up, they'll revert unless you go slower for a while.

    You can't have simultaneously been really calming her and putting her in a situation where she gets sprayed. Your dog is not stupid! She must be anticipating it by now and is doing it anyway, because it's compelling.
     
    #9 RobD-BCactive, Apr 13, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  10. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    I agree with Blitz, or even keep her on the lead whilst you are on the course for the time being. I know you can't do weaving poles or tunnels but, providing the wings aren't too high, you could do some jumps and the contacts.
    For instance; do a couple of jumps then call her to you and reward with a juicy tit-bit or play with her with a tuggy type ball, then do the see-saw and reward, etc. until she is totally focused on you because currently she is finding running at the other dogs far more of an exciting game than you or the agility equipment.
     
  11. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    In our agility class, we are leading dog into the tunnel, then letting go, running and encouraging dog through and collecting lead on outher side.
     
  12. samlf

    samlf PetForums Junior

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    Hi thanks for replies.
    What I meant by her being on the lead, is that she is on the lead whilst others take their turns and then she is off the lead when it our go.

    Not sure if it's relevant but she also gets very over-excited when they are having their go, although we have pretty much sorted this out by blocking her when she gets excited and she immediately calms down, we praise her (pat/treat) then let her watch again. She now doesnt show this behaviour anymore.
    She also is a lot better now that we keep our other dog in the car whilst its her class, he seems to wind her up when she is training.

    She loves balls but my trainer recommends tug type toys to 'keep her with me', so thinking of using a toy with tennis balls each end and rope in the middle (which she has had before and loved), but im just now concerned that she might be too over-stimulated by this?
     
  13. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    You can play tug calmly, by focussing on the take it and give it parts, and minimal pulling about.

    Are you trying to help her calm, by not watching the dogs dash about when it's not her turn? If it's after the excitement of her run, I'm wondering if you can't find a way to finish, that avoids her lunging at the group and keeps things calmer and quieter?
     
  14. samlf

    samlf PetForums Junior

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    I see, ok I will try with the calm play, she doesnt get too rough anyway.
    Well she will only run off to the other dogs if she is facing them on our run, if she is running in the opposite direction she is foot perfect, but the second we turn that way she runs to them, she just cant control herself!

    When she does run to them, we go back to where she started to run off and go again and after around 2 tries she will do it well, its just as shes running around she gets wound up and then obviously having a few seconds to calm herself down shes a bit easier to control.

    Since she first displayed this (and an obsession with footballs) I've been teaching her impulse control (leave command) which she is very good at, its still work in progress as she is SO focused but shes fine with that leave command with food etc, is it worth trying this when she runs off? or purely concentrate on calling her back?

    She sounds like such a nightmare but she really is a very good dog, and we have overcome a lot of issues with her!
     
  15. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    So it's predictable. Could you have her pause and hopefully calm down, only then give her a chance to take in the other dogs (are they in a leashed waiting group?).

    If they're running about playing it sounds very similar to another rescue BC thread Dog 'attacks' other dogs out on a walk
     
  16. samlf

    samlf PetForums Junior

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    Yes they are on leads waiting, it would be possible to have her pause as long as i catch it early enough i think (she 'locks' on to them and then theres no hope).

    I did read that thread and thought they sounded very similar! The difference with her is she doesnt bite or anything, she just... runs at them? She was very very well socialised with other dogs (off lead only though) when i got her, she very much understood how to associate with other dogs, just cant control herself when excited. I will have to try and film it, she does the same to my other dog when im calling him for breakfast etc and he doesnt come fast enough, when shes too excited.
     
  17. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    That locking on is exactly how I think of it :D
     
  18. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Had another dog in Agility that due to the heavy distraction environment was lunging at another dog, probably due to over-anxiousness.

    Kept at just enough distance, a nice calm "sounded like I found something very very interesting, turned her round and she actually came to me to be petted and did self calming things". Once she faced the other way, she was back to normal sweet self. I would really shudder to think how that bitch would react, should her "aggression" have been attempted to be punished by adversive water spray.
     
  19. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    It sounds to me as if she is so worked up watching the other dogs that when its her turn she is still focussing on them. Is it a large enough area that you could take her out of the way and do something like play ball with her until its her turn? Then try throwing the ball in between the agility equipment and see if she will play with you and the ball instead.

    Its typical collie behaviour. I have 25+ here every week that get very, very animated particularly on sendaway and retrieve.
     
  20. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

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    How about putting her in a covered crate when it's not her turn? I've seen this work well with similar dogs. It won't stop her seeing other dogs and being able to run towards them, but should keep the excitement below a threshold where she feels the impulse to do that. It's a very common issue at agility classes, particularly with collies.
     
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