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Our dog is aggressive with other dogs, help!

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Bagheera89, Sep 6, 2018.


  1. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi All,

    This is a first time post and hope someone will be able to help us or point us in the right direction

    We have a 5 year old German SheperdXMalamute. She is a lovely dog, great with people, house trained etc. We've had her 4 months. She was in the family before that so I know her history is good. We adopted her as she had become aggressive towards my Brother in laws cats and as we don't have any and wanted a dog agreed to have her. And we absolutely love her...BUT here lies the problem:

    She is aggressive with other dogs and it makes walking an absolute nightmare. Nothing seems to work. Walkies is fun for her and incredibly stressful for my wife and I. She caught my wife off guard and pulled her off the pavement into the path of an oncoming car today when she suddenly spotted another dog, thankfully though the car wasn't close enough to hit either of them and my wife yanked her back onto the pavement. As soon as she sees other dogs she barks and generally goes crazy.

    We went away recently and I left her with a pet sitter. The week before we went I took her over just to meet her two male dogs. All were off the lead and in an enclosed compound. The meeting went well; there was no fighting but our dog was visibly nervous which makes me think this behaviour and barking etc is because she has some fear towards other dogs. She did stay with the pet sitter two nights but the lady told me "She kept herself to herself".

    Sorry for the length but we are at a bit of a loss, any input/advice would be great. Thanks
     
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    She may well be anxious and taking the approach that attack is the best form of defence. And if that makes the perceived threat go away, it will be self re-inforcing. While she was with the pet sitter she may have felt that keeping her head down was the 'safest' thing for her to do.

    She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure . Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is relaxed. Reward this calm behaviour. Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance she was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

    Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration (your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15) and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

    Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.
     
  3. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for taking the time to reply. The only thing is it sounds quite diffcult to achieve to keep a set distance from other dog walkers, sometimes like yesterday they just pop out of nowhere! Anyhow we will give it a go. Do you think socialisation classes or getting another dog might help too?
     
  4. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Can you walk at quiet times or drive her to a park or similar where you can both sit at the edge and just watch from a distance?

    Socialisation classes to me would be like throwing someone who was afraid of snakes into a snake pit. You might be able to find a trainer who does a reactive dog class but that is more likely to one to one with you and your dog plus a very bomb proof stooge dog who is kept outside that critical distance I mentioned.

    I always would say fix the problems you already have before adding another dog.
     
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  5. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel PetForums VIP

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    Not really. Dogs are only open to socialisation up until the age of 16 weeks old. So a good class where puppies can meet without becoming overwhelmed is a really good idea for a young pup and then if that pup grows into a dog that regularly exercises in environments where different dogs go and has many positive experiences, it learns a good set of meet and greet skills and body language to set it up right through life.

    As your dog is well past the 16weeks, the opportunity for it to learn positive interactions aimply by mixing with other dogs is well past and @JoanneF offers great advice there.

    Work towards decreasing reactivity rather than socialising at this age.

    As this dog has been in your family since puppyhood, you might well know if the current difficulties are due to not mixing with a wide enough range of pups and dogs prior to 16 wks or perhaps caused by a frightening experience with another dog at a vulnerable age.
     
    #5 tabelmabel, Sep 7, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2018
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  6. bunnygeek

    bunnygeek PetForums Member

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  7. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Many thanks for all your replies. I think we'll go for the DIY decreasing reactivity option first before trying a trainer. To put put in my own words and to make sure I've understood how this works; Take the dog for a walk, and when i see any other dogs just keep them at a distance. Now, do I want zero reaction from my dog before moving away or should i let it get to the stage where her ears prick and she clocks another canine but BEFORE there's any negative reaction like barking etc. Is that essentially it? Will it matter if occasionally we do bump into a dog, will that ruin the whole work previously?
     
  8. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    Ideally you want her at a distance where she's noticing the other dog but not reacting, is able to focus on you, take treats etc. This can be INCREDIBLY difficult to do in real life situations unfortunately, especially if you live in a heavily populated area. You need to pick and choose your times and areas for walking very carefully to avoid her going over threshold too often. It's going to happen from time to time and while it may set you back a little it won't undo all the previous work as long as it is just now and then and not happening regularly. And don't push it. Better to take it a little more slowly than is really necessary than to try to rush it :) Us humans always seem to want to try for that little bit more. That one step closer. That one second longer. And we basically set ourselves and our dog up for failure at times with it.

    Personally I've found the Look At That game more effective than a watch me, my dogs have been more comfortable being able to keep an eye on the thing they're concerned about than they have being basically told "yes, it's there and it's scary but you're not allowed to look at it". Which I can fully understand. I wouldn't discount watch me completely as it is a useful thing to have but just be aware that it can actually increase anxiety with some dogs.
     
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  9. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    @Sarah1983 has really answered this but I wanted to say good catch on picking up how crucial the distance is.
     
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  10. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Lovely replies guys, thank you. I'll let you know how we get on!
     
  11. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Ok guys, just wanted to update the thread after two walks doing this. Firstly, the distance thing is more complicated when you think about it, i'm finding practically it's not that difficult to achieve. Less of a set route walk and more of a follow my nose (or her nose) walk which incorporates u turns, careful approach to bends i can't see around etc.

    Now, on to the dog's behaviour and so far so good. We've probably met/seen 10 + dogs in those two walks. The nearest we got was the other side of a residential street and actually walked past on the other side without incident (kept stopping and rewarding for look at me). I am actually pointing out the other dog and then saying to her 'look at me', I'm getting an immediate response and i give her a treat then she'll either naturally look back at the dog and i'll repeat several times or i'll point the dog out again to her then do look at me. Not once have i had any negative behaviour so I'm very encouraged; her attentiveness to me when i say look at me and reach for the back pocket is full face at me and ears pricked i.e completely distracted from the dog. We were able to walk past several times for the same two dogs (owners were standing on a street corner chatting for ages which was useful!).

    Is me pointing out the other dogs ok? Does it sound like I'm doing it correctly? Obviously it's early days and i realise this is long term but already i feel much better about walks so thank you!
     
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  12. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Hello again all.

    5 weeks on and I just wanted to update the thread with the positives and negatives and to see if you can give me any more pointers.

    For the first 3.5 weeks we avoided virtually ANY reactions to dogs (not accidently bumping into one too close etc). She has a different 'trigger range' to cats and squirrels and they have the habit of just popping out of anywhere. More recently we've had some more unfortunate incidents where other dogs off leads have charged up to her. We've also noticed that some days she gets out the door and is 'pumped' and really looking for trouble. Other times more docile. Today she was the former and unfortunately for my wife she saw a cat, followed by a dog in quick succession which led to a major reaction. I'm just worried we maybe taking a few steps back but am desperate to keep on the right track.

    If the dog reacts to a squirrel or cat , is that going to set us back with dogs? I'm honestly not so bothered about squirrels and cats as I feel that's more her predatory instinct; with dogs I suspect it's fear of them that is the root cause of her reaction but I don't the one to be detrimental to the other.

    I'd be grateful @JoanneF @Sarah1983 if you could give me your thoughts. Thanks in advance!
     
  13. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    It's not so much that it causes a set back, it's more that all these things raise her stress levels and having several happen one after the other makes it WAY more likely she's going to react or react more strongly. It's why giving them a day or two off of walks after a major incident can be so helpful, it gives their stress levels time to get back on an even keel.

    i like this article personally, does a better job than I can of explaining why sometimes they react massively to things that on other occasions they've barely noticed. And it sounds like it's relevant here.
    http://reactivechampion.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-stress-bathtub.html

    But it's never a straight line, it usually feels like one step forwards, two to the side, one back, big leap forwards, multiple steps back etc. Quite honestly, the most helpful piece of advice I was given when dealing with my stress head dog was to keep a journal. Nothing fancy, doesn't need to be massively detailed, just a brief log each day of what we did, what he encountered trigger wise, how he reacted etc. Looking back at it after a few months of feeling like we'd gotten nowhere made me realise just how far we had actually come.
     
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  14. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Just to add to Sarah's reply, I body block dogs that charge up to mine. He isn't keen on strange dogs doing that (and I don't blame him) so it helps his confidence knowing I will handle that for him.
     
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  15. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    Yup, this. I've found that a low "go away" or words to that effect can be incredibly effective when combined with simply stepping forwards between your dog and the loose one. Most dogs know some form of go away and when faced with an unwelcoming human as well they tend to get the message. Now and then you get one who's oblivious or so hell bent on getting to your dog that it doesn't work but I can send most dogs on their way easily enough now.
     
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  16. grace88

    grace88 PetForums Junior

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    Havent read the rest of the replies but for your wife's shoulders - get a halti!!!

    My 2 are both in them and both would pull my arms out without them - they know what they are doing but they are little gets....!!

    Wont comment on the aggression but it does sound nervous
     
  17. Bagheera89

    Bagheera89 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for the tips guys! We have a halti and that is a huge help but she can still muster some strength with that...but far more manageable. We will persevere!
     
  18. grace88

    grace88 PetForums Junior

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    ive just ordered a canny collar today after reading some reviews - that may help a bit more if the halti isnt working??

    I have a gentle leader which is fab but my littlest one (spaniel crossed with an elephant)... sticks his head to one side and pulls against it - the canny is mean tto give alot more stable control - just a thought short term for holding on

    :)
     
  19. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Sorry @Bagheera89 this is taking your thread in a different direction but @grace88, rather than battle with pulling, have you seen this?

     
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