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Behavioral Issues Why does he do that?


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  #1  
Old 20th August 2010, 08:41 PM
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Starting to see signs of dog aggression :(

I've said this before, so if you've already read about my boxer you can skip this part: about a month ago, my family adopted an approximately 3 y/o boxer girl, Sasha. Because of her teats and health, the vet said that she has probably already had two litters of puppies. She came to us 15 pounds underweight, recently spayed, and completely ignorant; she didn't know her name or a single command. She now knows a few basics, but none of them with great reliability.

At her last trip to the vet, about 2 weeks ago, I did something stupid: I let her walk ahead of me on the leash into the vet's office without going first. Another dog was in there with her owner, a large pit bull mix. The owner said that her dog doesn't like other dogs, and they were growling at each other and I had to pull Sasha away. Luckily, she is a small girl and not very strong, so I can easily pull her away from a bad situation when she is on her leash. I had to stand between her and the other dog, as Sasha was staring her down and growling now and then. Before that time, her impolite staring has been a problem. When confronted with a strange dog, she will plant her feet and fix the dog with an intense stare that scares most other dogs. She becomes intently focused on the dog; she will rarely eat in front of strange dogs, and mostly my commands fall on deaf ears.

I should also mention that we have a bossy 10-year-old Chihuahua at home who is used to sharing her home, but isn't thrilled about it. Once or twice Bambi has been her bossy self and growled at Sasha, and Sasha growled back, but has never, ever tried to hurt her. Now she likes Bambi and will try to play with her, and Bambi in turn tolerates Sasha. We have no problems with them.

Since the vet incident, I've really been worried about her potential aggression issues. I take her to Petsmart a few times a week (she cannot handle Texas summers, so walking her usually doesn't work out well.) She occasionally gives a very low, quiet growl to other dogs. She does not hide or pull away from them; she instead pulls on her leash and tries to get to other dogs. We let her meet a male Shar Pei face to face, and Sasha stood very still while the strange dog sniffed all over her face. She tolerated it for a few seconds before she began to growl and I pulled her away.

Then we had a breakthrough, in the form of a small male dog about half her size. I got down on my knees and wrapped an arm around Sasha so that I could pull her back if I needed, and I let the dog approach. Sasha stood stock still as the little dog licked all over her face, her ears, etc. After a while of tense tolerance, she bent down and licked the dog on the face. I nearly died.

But things got worse later on: I let a 6-month-old bouncy, exuberant Boxer puppy (female) approach her, and she gave a loud, snarling bark and started to lunge at the other dog until I pulled her back. I'd never heard her make that sound or seen her react that way.

She's a perfectly behaved lady with people: she politely stands back and lets people approach her first, then soaks up the love. I have some offers from friends to help with socialization, but I need pointers. How do I reduce her anxiety and eliminate this aggression? Does it sound fear or dominance-motivated? Thanks in advance for any tips.
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  #2  
Old 21st August 2010, 12:35 PM
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Dominance, no. I would say this has more to do with fear aggression than anything. And for the moment, I would cease the attempts she has to meet new dogs, especially at places like Petsmart. You can actually be making problems worse. The more times a dog is given the opportunity to repeat a behavior the more times it's going to become a habit.
Since you don't really know the history of this dog, my suggestion is to get a professional involved who is experienced in behavior modification - not a trainer - but a behaviorist or behavior consultant. This should be your FIRST stop.
Secondly, I would get the book "Aggression In Dogs" by Brenda Aloff - it's an awesome book.
Then lastly, I would check out:
Working with a fearful , scared or shy dog

In dealing with my own fear aggressive dog, I can tell you first hand you shouldn't do this alone - while you may get some good suggestions on a message board, you really want some one on hand to help you work through this step by step.

Good luck...In my situation it was a little bit of a rough road, but it was well worth the investment and the happiness/confidence of my dog.

Good luck.
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  #3  
Old 22nd August 2010, 01:03 PM
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Thank you so much for your suggestions. We are already paying for training at Petsmart, which is helping her with obedience, and I don't think--okay, I'm almost positive--we can afford a behaviorist.
I thought we were making progress when Sasha met a basset hound; she sniffed her butt instead of confronting face-to-face, and I thought things were going very well. But I was stupid: we walked the dogs side by side, and all of a sudden Sasha lunged at the basset hound and tried to mount her, snarling the whole time. We yanked her back immediately. Luckily the owner was very understanding, even though I was mortified.
When she sees another dog, everything else fades from her consciousness. She pulls as hard as she can to get to the dog, and when they approach she stands up straight and tall with her tail erect, her feet planted wide, and stares down the other dog. She never cowers, hides, or tries to get away, and she rarely barks.
I am exhausted right now, because I took her outside last night, and she had to deal with the incessant barking of the chihuahua on the other side of our fence. Usually she ignores this, but last night she tried to dig under the fence and refused to come inside. I had to pull her by the harness all the way in the house. She threw a tantrum and kept me up much of the night trying to get back outside.

I know it's only been a month and she's experienced huge environmental changes and lots of stress with her surgery, move, etc., but I hate, hate having an aggressive dog. I want to take her to dog parks, relax on walks, and let her experience the fun of meeting and playing with new dogs. I don't want her to hurt anybody else's baby.

 
  #4  
Old 23rd August 2010, 08:46 AM
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My first thought is to slow down some. I certainly agree with ehayes21 thoughts and suggestions for fear aggression. Who knows what Sasha has or has not experienced in the past?

Saying that, many dogs have anxiety of different levels. Some are "leash reactive", yet are otherwise not aggressive. Think of the fight/flight reaction to fear. When tied down or confined dogs cannot flee so the lunge, growl, etc, basically manifest a fight response.

Layla is leash reactive and will behave very much like yours, perhaps worse. However, off leash she is fine. We go to dog parks, day care, friends, and do off leash agility. She plays with many dogs and has a great time. Yes if a dog gets rude, it will get a warning, but that is the extent of it. However, we don't ever introduce dogs the way you have been trying, ie restrained. Perhaps one day, but not now. Thanks to "Control Unleashed" we realize how the leash reactivity is anxiety driven. We have been working on it and making progress.

Leash reactivity is not that uncommon. Very frequently dogs brought into a dog park on leash will show all sorts of aggressive display. Yet the same dog will play fine once off leash. You'll also see dogs "fence fighting" which is similar.

You may have a more serious situation with fear aggression. However, it may also be high anxiety. Similar and omething to deal with, but not as quite as troublesome.

Good luck.
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  #5  
Old 23rd August 2010, 03:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larrygs View Post
My first thought is to slow down some. I certainly agree with ehayes21 thoughts and suggestions for fear aggression. Who knows what Sasha has or has not experienced in the past?

Saying that, many dogs have anxiety of different levels. Some are "leash reactive", yet are otherwise not aggressive. Think of the fight/flight reaction to fear. When tied down or confined dogs cannot flee so the lunge, growl, etc, basically manifest a fight response.

Layla is leash reactive and will behave very much like yours, perhaps worse. However, off leash she is fine. We go to dog parks, day care, friends, and do off leash agility. She plays with many dogs and has a great time. Yes if a dog gets rude, it will get a warning, but that is the extent of it. However, we don't ever introduce dogs the way you have been trying, ie restrained. Perhaps one day, but not now. Thanks to "Control Unleashed" we realize how the leash reactivity is anxiety driven. We have been working on it and making progress.

Leash reactivity is not that uncommon. Very frequently dogs brought into a dog park on leash will show all sorts of aggressive display. Yet the same dog will play fine once off leash. You'll also see dogs "fence fighting" which is similar.

You may have a more serious situation with fear aggression. However, it may also be high anxiety. Similar and omething to deal with, but not as quite as troublesome.

Good luck.
Thank you! I will definitely slow things down. I think you are both right, and I am asking too much of her too quickly.

About your off-leash introduction: it sounds really scary to me. I am so afraid of what might happen to another dog if this is not leash-reactive and she is around a dog off-leash. I may be bigger and stronger than her, but she's definitely faster than me.

I guess I really need to read this book!

 
  #6  
Old 24th August 2010, 06:12 AM
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Kona was REALLY dog aggressive to the point she was banned from being off leash at puppy school Even having Kilby (who was 2.5yrs when we got Kona) made no difference to how she reacted around other dogs. The smaller or quicker the other dogs were, the crazier Kona went - she would growl, bear teeth, hackles up, quite scary and she meant business!!

So, we started slowly by walking her around the outside of the group while the other puppies were playing and at a pretty quick pace until she finally gave up her focus on the other dogs. The next time we picked a slow, gentle puppy and had them both on leash, we took them away from the group and then walked toward eachother. But if Kona pulled, we turned around and walked away and repeated until she could approach nicely. The next step was letting the other puppy have a very quick sniff then walk off while all was still good. Gradually we increased the time we stopped with the other puppies, just always making sure to leave before things escalated. We didn't let her meet more than one dog at a time and now, almost 2yrs later, we still have to be slow on approaching other dogs, especially when she's on leash.

If you have some patient friends with calm dogs who could help you out that would REALLY help.
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  #7  
Old 24th August 2010, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Tairourou View Post
Thank you! I will definitely slow things down. I think you are both right, and I am asking too much of her too quickly.

About your off-leash introduction: it sounds really scary to me. I am so afraid of what might happen to another dog if this is not leash-reactive and she is around a dog off-leash. I may be bigger and stronger than her, but she's definitely faster than me.

I guess I really need to read this book!
Perhaps a well run day care might help to learn her behavior when off leash. The ones we have used do an evaluation before accepting a dog. They certainly do not want dog fights of any kind. The evaluation can be off leash introduction to a known calm dog, with skilled people monitoring. Then introduction to more dogs, all under watchful eyes. Just be sure to discuss their skill and approaches with you. I have seen some actually with dog behaviorist and trainers on staff, and others using nice people who are clueless about dogs.

 
  #8  
Old 21st September 2010, 04:57 PM
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My white Boxer female, Scarlett, is very dog aggressive. We finally had to discuss with our vet, who referred us to a animal behaviorist. The appointment was yesterday--she was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. After some blood tests she goes on Prozac and some training exercises. I can't afford the behaviorist, but I can't afford paying for another vet bill or the liability when she hurts another dog. She's the sweetest dog to people, but holy-moly when she sees a dog, she has to pin them, unless she trusts them completely. If you want, I'll keep you posted on her progress.
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  #9  
Old 22nd September 2010, 12:49 AM
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Dog aggression (whether on leash or off) is extremely hard to break. Everything you are currently doing is going to make her worse. Each time you allow these introductions & that end up with her misbehaving you are creating a pattern of behavior. Like ehayes explained the more times a dog is given the opportunity to repeat a behavior the more times it's going to become a habit. And while some petsmart classes are good for basic commands the trainers there are NOT qualified enough to solve aggression issues.

Quote:
I know it's only been a month and she's experienced huge environmental changes and lots of stress with her surgery, move, etc., but I hate, hate having an aggressive dog. I want to take her to dog parks, relax on walks, and let her experience the fun of meeting and playing with new dogs. I don't want her to hurt anybody else's baby.
What you want & what she is capable of may be two totally different things. You aren't going to change her over night. It will take working with a professional & a lot of hard work. Relaxing on walks is a totally do-able/ reasonable goal but even with intense training she may NEVER be a "dog park dog". Her history, lack of socialization, the fact that she may have been forced bred, her fears, etc, etc is a lot to contend with. You really need to know what you are doing to over come these types of issues. There are some great boxer rescues in TX maybe you can contact the one closest to you and see if they can refer you to a trainer that gives a rescue discount.

And in regards to the mention of Prozac by Super Boo above. The drug can sometimes help with separation anxieties, ocd, and a few other things but it usually has very little effect on dog aggression. And its not recommended to use Prozac unless you are also working with a professional on an intensive behavioral modification program. It sounds like Super Boo is doing all the right things but I dont want others to think there is a "magic pill". The training & behavior modification is the most important part.
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Last edited by EAO76; 22nd September 2010 at 12:52 AM.
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  #10  
Old 22nd September 2010, 09:40 AM
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Seeing you are in CA, try to google Trish King. She is a superior behaviorist! She actually works with the dogs that "The TV Guy" screws up, but you don't hear about that in his disclaimer. She works with a lot of bully's and aggression issues. She may not be cheap, but she has helped a lot of owners with one visit and lots of support.

I spent $400 on another top-notch behaviorist and within 4 hours we had Lily non-reactive. I still train hard every day, and she may never be a social dog, but with all the "practice" she has had over the past 2 years, the results are amazing!

Some dogs once the aggression is instilled in their behavior, won't ever be social with other dogs again. If only I knew in the beginning what I know now.....Lily wouldn't be the way she is today.

Try finding her. She also has training videos that you can get on her site. It's an eye opener I tell ya!
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  #11  
Old 22nd September 2010, 02:10 PM
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And in regards to the mention of Prozac by Super Boo above. The drug can sometimes help with separation anxieties, ocd, and a few other things but it usually has very little effect on dog aggression. And its not recommended to use Prozac unless you are also working with a professional on an intensive behavioral modification program. It sounds like Super Boo is doing all the right things but I dont want others to think there is a "magic pill". The training & behavior modification is the most important part.[/QUOTE]

I agree and my vet made sure that we comply with the training along with the medication. We have to keep her posted with weekly emails and 2 90 minute training sessions. So many of these issues are actually training issues and not medical ones. The medication is only for a short time and allows for us to make the training actually work. We are only using it as a last resort.

 
  #12  
Old 25th September 2010, 12:56 PM
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Thank you all for the help. If my financial situation allows, I'll get help from a behaviorist.

It's been about 3 months now, and Sasha's improving. She's put on weight and gained energy; she can now go on short walks without flopping on the ground from exhaustion halfway through. She shows no signs of anxiety and seems completely at ease with dogs we walk by in our neighborhood, even when they bark and growl at her. She pays no attention to them and keeps walking without any body language cues of anxiety that I can see. Something about them being on the other side of the fence seems to make her feel better.

I did take her to the park, and we walked all the way around the outside of the dog park on the leash. She did so well I took her into the dog park. I kept her on leash and kept distance between her and the other dogs. A few did come up and smell her. She stood very still and allowed this, even sniffed a few back. One dog did try to jump up on her and she growled; when that happened we went home. Before that, though, she saw a young boxer puppy, and it must have triggered that maternal instinct, because she loved that dog. She let it play and jump on her, licked its face, and tried to follow it around. We haven't been back to the dog park yet. That growl at another dog made me think she's not ready and it may make things worse, as you guys have said.

Just today we took a baby step with another anxiety issue: she went outside in the rain of her own will for the first time. I lured her and my chihuahua, who hates rain too, out with some boiled chicken. We made a game in the backyard of me throwing chicken pieces and the two of them running to get it. She seemed much more at ease; she finally did her business outside in the rain.

She and my chihuahua continue to get on perfectly. Sometimes I'll catch them lying really near one another when they think no one's looking.