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Old 23rd April 2004, 01:12 PM
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Question Boxer aggression towards other animals

Hello, I was wondering if anyone out there has a "non-social" Boxer and how they deal with it? I have a 3 year old female Boxer, who I took to puppy class as a puppy and she did fine, and who also lives with a 3 year old German Shepherd mix. Now Lucy (the Boxer) gets along fine with Archie (the Shepherd mix), probably because they grew up together and I had Archie about four months before Lucy came into the picture. However, as Lucy matures, she is increasingly aggressive towards any other dog. It is horrifying to take her on a walk because she gets so worked up when she sees another dog, especially female dogs, and she gives off this impression of being a mean dog. She is totally the opposite of mean and has never shown an ounce of aggression towards any other human being, child or adult. I am not sure how to cure her of this without exposing her to other dogs, which just seems like an endless cycle. Any help and advice would be appreciated!
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Old 24th April 2004, 07:23 AM
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Hi there,

I'm not to sure I can be of much help as i'm going thru the same thing with our female boxer Ally who is 2.5 years old. We adopted her when she was just over 1 and she didn't seem to have this problem then but has developed a case of fear and leash aggression. It's exactly like you have posted, she loves people and loves our other dog and is the sweetest little girl around the house. We have a group of 4 other dogs, my brother in-laws 2 dogs(boxer and pitbull) and my buddies 2 dogs(both boxers)that we can take her for walks with and she loves playing with them but other than that she always wants to get at the dogs around the neighbourhood and it looks mean and vicious by growling and snarling. I think she is okay with these four dogs because she met the 'people' first and got the scent of these dogs before meeting them so she wasn't as defensive. She has gotten in a few fights(scary) and it usually happens after about 20 seconds or so after she meets a dog. I have her enrolled in a training course now and my trainer has said that she might never be fully trusted with other females. I'm gonna try this training but i'm not sure it's the answer either but like you I want to get her fixed up as the way it is right now my fiancee can't even walk the dogs cause she can't control 2 dogs especially when one is a 70lbs boxer who wants to eat other dogs. The training i'm doing is suppose to get your dog to listen to your every command, if you find any solutions let me know.

Good Luck.

Old 24th April 2004, 08:10 AM
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Ask yourself what you want your dog to do when you see another dog and then go about training your dog to do just that when another dog is present.

If it is sit or down, then train the dog to do this each and every time you see another dog approaching.

You can't expect the dog to know what to do other than his/her instincts if you don't take the time to show the dog what TO DO and how to do it.

There are also Fiesty Fido classes available all over the U.S. Find one in your area or you can get a booklet called "Fiesty Fido" available at http://www.dogsbestfriendtraining.com

Good luck.

Old 24th April 2004, 03:49 PM
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Thumbs up Thank you!

Thank you both for your help and advice. Hudson78, it was nice to hear someone else having the same difficulties, even though I am not glad you have to deal with it, too! Let me know how the training goes and if it helps. Tulsa-Dan, thank you and I will work on training her better. Our neighbor has two female dogs and one of them managed to knock down a fence board and come in our yard. Both Lucy and Archie were out and I was immediately worried about Lucy attacking the other dog. However, Lucy did not show any aggressive behavior toward the dog, and went in her kennel on the first command. So maybe I can use the neighbor and her dogs to help Lucy know acceptable social dog behavior. I'll have to ask my neighbor and I'll let you know. Thanks again!

Old 26th April 2004, 08:28 AM
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Given that Lucy didn't attack your neighbors dog in your yard it could be just leash aggression, one of my dogs is leash agressive in certain situations but off leash he is great with other dogs. The same sort of training applies even if it is just leash agression. You can do a search on boxer world and you will find more threads that discuss leash agression.

Good luck

Adelle, Finn & Nessa
Adelle,Finnegan CGC & Nessa CGC

Old 26th April 2004, 08:51 AM
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Hi Barb

If you do happen to find out about classes like that in MA I would love to know about it also.


Old 27th April 2004, 02:29 PM
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Talking Thank you!

Barb and Adelle, thank you so much for your input and advice. I can't believe how sweet and helpful everyone is here, it is wonderful! I had not heard about leash agression before, but I will definitely be looking into that. It's just that I feel bad when I don't take her for walks very often, feel like I am letting her down as her owner. But the prospect of her scaring the heck out of nice, normal dogs who are out having fun with their owners is too overwhelming! I usually walk both Lucy and our other dog, Archie, at the same time (with help from family), and cannot bring myself to just walk Archie without Lucy. Both dogs hate it when one of them is gone, like to the vet, they cry, bark and carry on like there is no tomorrow (babies!). I keep hoping Lucy will learn from Archie because he is such a nice, socialable dog and is always willing to meet other dogs, but it does not appear to be working. Thanks again for the advice and I will look into the leash aggression!

Old 27th April 2004, 05:21 PM
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There are a few links to some good articles on leash aggression on this thread (third post down):
Aggression Issues

Here is an article that offers some insight as well (the website is appears on seems to be offline):
Classical Conditioning for Aggression

Does your dog bark aggressively at other dogs? At kids? At the mailman? Do you want to get him to stop?? Of course you do - who wouldn't? The problem with most training methods for these problems is that the dog never really stops wanting to be aggressive in those situations, he just learns that he had better not or else. In which case, he can never really be trusted not to revert to that behavior again - especially if the owner isn't around. How would you like, instead, to change the dog's entire outlook? Get him to no longer even want to act aggressively? This can be done with a little time & patience on your part.
What I am going to try to explain is Classical Conditioning. Remember Pavlov & his drooling dogs? Same concept.
Let's use, as an example, a 3 year old mixed breed dog who goes ballistic whenever he sees other dogs. A dog that is well-socialized & trained from puppyhood should never become like this, but hindsight is always 20/20 (and anyway, sometimes people rescue adult dogs & can't be blamed for their childhood at all). Let's call the dog Stormy and the owner John, and say that John rescued Stormy from a shelter recently.
I would advise John to realize from the outset that this process can be a slow one - each dog will progress at his/her own rate & he had better be willing to assume Stormy will take awhile. Now, let's try to understand what is going on in Stormy's little doggy mind when he sees another dog. We don't know his past so don't know what, if any, traumatic experiences he might have had as a youngster. Apparently now, however, Stormy views other dogs as something horrible - something to get very upset about. Maybe his previous owners misunderstood his natural puppy exuberance of leaping & barking with aggression & felt they should reprimand him severely for it. So here's Stormy as a young dog: he sees another dog, gets all excited, and gets yelled at & possibly hit. It won't take too long before Stormy sees another dog and now, instead of thinking "What fun! Let's play!" he thinks, "Hey! There's another dog! Bad things happen to me every time I see one of those! I HATE them! Grrrrr bark bark grrrrrr." Can you blame him?
So, what we need to do is change his view of other dogs back to what it originally was. We want Stormy to see another dog and think, "Wow! Another dog! Great! Wonderful things happen to me when I see those! Yay!"
Are you convinced? Great - let's get down to the nitty gritty on how to accomplish this. Once you get the concept, you can apply this to many other problems as well!
I would advise John to get a huge bunch of really super tasty treats. "Human food" is best - usually tastier & healthier than "dog food." Cut-up pieces of hot dog, cheese, chicken, steak, etc., all work very well. John wants a treat that is much better than what Stormy usually gets. Before getting out & finding other dogs, John will need to do some work at home. He & Stormy need to play the Name Game.
The Name Game: Say your dog's name. When he looks at you - toss or give him a treat and praise him. If saying his name doesn't get him to look at you you may wave at him or clap (or whatever) so he looks at you. (Then give the treat). Do this a zillion times. Do it until every time you say your dog's name he stops whatever he is doing & looks at you - knowing that he is about to get a wonderful treat! Start at first without other distractions & then build normal household distractions in as he gets better at it. There is NO CORRECTION if he ever doesn't look up at you - just no treat. You can turn away & say, "Oh! Too bad." Make it sound like he really missed out on something good. Then say his name again & hopefully you will get the desired response & will be able to give him the treat & praise. When he is 100% in looking at you then proceed outside. Have your dog on leash and have a hefty supply of the treats. Try really really hard not to come across the Bad Thing (whatever it is that sets your dog off - in Stormy's case other dogs). Your dog isn't ready for that yet. Continue to play the Name Game, only now using natural outdoor distractions like cars, kids on bikes, other people out walking, etc.
When your dog is doing fabulously at this (which shouldn't take too long ... dogs can be quite clever when food is involved!) the he is ready to face The Bad Thing.
Back to Stormy & John. John has practiced the Name Game religiously & feels Stormy is ready to face his Bad Thing - other dogs. So, with Stormy leashed & a big bag of the tastiest treats imaginable, they head out for the local park. Here is where I would advise John to take a big breath & swear to himself that he won't rush things! Stormy is NOT ready to join the doggie play group just yet.
Instead, John should walk Stormy far away from other dogs. Play a few rounds of the Name Game to warm him up. Then, allow Stormy to get a glimpse of another dog. John should instantly call "Stormy!" and hopefully all of that Name Game training (oops! and Stormy thought that was just a game!) will come through and Stormy will look away from the other dog and up at John - expecting a treat. If he does - WOW! John should give him a bunch of treats - a veritable jack-pot! John should, of course, respond with tons of verbal praise & petting, too! When doing this, John needs to work hard on his timing. He wants to say Stormy's name before Stormy has started to growl, etc., at the other dog. If he is too late, Stormy might be too intent on the other dog to respond to his name. In that case, just sigh & leave. Play the Name Game a few more times with no distractions then try again with another dog - being faster to say Stormy's name. REMEMBER - if this is to work, there must be NO punishment for the growling! We want Stormy to like other dogs.
When John gets the timing down he should look for as many opportunities of "dog sightings" from a distance as possible to reinforce this new & wonderful behavior of Stormy's. When Stormy consistently responds to his name John should start to get closer & closer to other dogs as they continue playing the game...being careful not to progress too quickly.
SETBACKS. They occur, so John shouldn't get too bummed out when they do. Setbacks (where Stormy is too distracted to respond to his name) are clear signals that John has progressed too quickly or the treat & praise weren't good enough. Or both. Either way - the cure is just to go back a few steps & proceed more slowly this time.
With slow, consistent work, Stormy's whole outlook on other dogs should change. After all....now whenever he sees other dogs he gets tons of happy praise & treats! Other dogs are GOOD! John will know Stormy is ready to try closer interaction with other dogs when he sees another dog....and immediately looks up at John, expecting his treat!
Ready for the Doggy Play Group? Not quite yet. This will also need to proceed slowly. Hopefully John has a friend who owns a really sweet, non-aggressive female Golden Retriever or something. John & Stormy should play a few rounds of the Name Game, on leash, then allow the other dog to come over. IMPORTANT! John must stay relaxed here. Stormy must not sense his apprehension! Keep a loose leash on Stormy & let him check her out. A tight leash tends to set off the aggression in dogs. When Stormy has had a few sniffs then say his name & give him a treat for looking. If Stormy is too distracted, then John should check (i.e. yank or snap) back on the leash (not harshly, just enough to do the job - being careful not to pull steadily & set him off). As soon as Stormy is turned back toward John (voluntarily or not) then John should lavish affection & treats on him. Continue with short visits for awhile then begin to lengthen them. Watch the dogs' interaction carefully - at the first sign of stiffness or lifted lips or growling by either dog, then call Stormy away to do something else. Before too long Stormy will be over his hatred/fear of his own species and will be truely ready for the doggy playgroup!
And John can congratulate himself for a job well done!
Copyright: Mary Woodward
You can also watch your girl for signs of stress and calming behaviour and reward her for the calming behaviours - more info here:
Calming Signals - The Art of Survival by Turid Rugaas

The Calming Signals booklet and video set is a wonderful resource for people who are trying to work through leash aggression with their dogs - details at:

All the best with this - it can get much, much better with some work and understanding