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Should I be concerned about the changing behaviour?

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Nelson is almost two years old now. He is a city dog, a BC mix that also has some Italian Maremma in him. He has always been a very friendly dog and loves to play with other dogs. He is quite picky about the dogs he likes to play with though. He loves other herding type dogs, hunting dogs, daschunds, puggles and poodles. He hates boxers, pitt bulls, dobermans and bull dogs.


Lately I noticed he is less patient with other dogs (not sure if I am describing it the right way). I still go on hikes with him in 'dog parks' and we usually play fetch for a while an he usually makes a friend that he will dig holes with, chase around etc. Often there is a third dog that want to join in, and Nelson won't have any of that. He will tell the dog right away that he 'already has a friend' and gives the other dog(s) a few warnings before he gets quite pissed of and will show his teeth. He never hurts another dog but I am just trying to figure out what this behaviour tells me and if I should do something to change it.


This morning he said 'hi' to three (big) dogs in the neighbourhood, ones that he knows. They were all on leash. At some point (i didn't notice exactly what set it off) Nelson just gets pissed of and goes for one of the dogs. I take him off, step aside and have him lay down away from the dogs. He keeps grawling and starring at the one dog. He basically wants to go back to it and do 'i don't know what'. Then, I found out this particular dog was unneutered - would that have something to do with it?


I know the opinions on dog parks here on the board are not always positive but living in the city, this is our lives. And fact is, he does absolutely LOVE it when he just isn't bothered by dog nr 3. I think I am also pretty good at knowing when he gets annoyed and I can often just call him back and we'll go into the quite part of the beach.


So since I am a first time dog owner, I just don't know what to do about this.
Is this behaviour 'normal'?
Or should I be concerned and correct him (how?) when he tells dog nr 3 or that dog he doesn't like to leave him alone?

Part of me thinks that he gives the right signals to other dogs....

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You might want to look into the Look at That Game from Control Unleashed. It's a game that essentially teaches the dog, "you can see it, but you need not be concerned with it". The ultimate goal of the game is that you won't need to play it. The dog's response to seeing the other dogs will be changed.


You can check out the Control Unleashed book (I recommend the puppy version, even for an older dog), or go on Youtube and search "Look at That" and you will probably find some basic information.


Based on what you describe, I would be doing this and getting it done as soon as possible.


Also, remember to maintain under threshold distance as much as possible while you are training. That threshold distance will eventually shrink.

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I've heard that book very highly recommended, so definitely check it out. :)

I'll just add that at 2 years old, it's not at all unusual for a young dog to show some changes in behavior. In my experience, that's an age when they are becoming adults, they are becoming who they really are, and they sometimes want to test or establish some boundaries. (Plus he may be more aware of neutered males and starting to feel a little uncomfortable around them.)

So, in itself, I don't think this change is alarming. He's simply growing up and developing adult opinions. But you do want to nip any aggressive tendencies, especially with that breeding, and some training and behavior modification should turn the trick. It's good that your noticing it now and looking to do something, instead of waiting until it's a bigger problem.

Get the book! And check back here to see what others have to advise. This is a good group of folks to learn from. :)

~ Gloria

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If Tess is playing with 1 dog and a second tries to join in, she gets mad...if its a dog she knows, shows her teeth, tries to drive them away by telling them off, if its an unknown dog, she gets nervous and may snap or simply get slinky and stop playing with any dog because she's nervous about what the third dog may do, even if its attention is on her playmate and not her. I think a lot of dogs find it hard to play with more than 2 of them at a time unless its just a game of chase.


My neutered male is a bit of a jerk to intact males. He started this behaviour once he became more mentally mature...around 3 years old. He is growly and stiff with them right from the get go even if everything I'm seeing from the intact dog seems friendly. He also does not like boxers or other very upright, forward type breeds, or adolescent hyper lab types. He will be growly and in their face, stiff, may snap at them or try to be pushy about where they can move...just general jerky/bully behaviour. He will not start a fight, and if one of these dogs gets upset with his behaviour he will generally back down and try to avoid a confrontation. I've learned what type of dogs set him off now so if I see one coming I just leash him so I have control over him and tell them people as they approach he can be a jerk to other dogs. I can get him to ignore them if I have treats and get him to sit or heel past them...or if I have no treats and tell him to leave it (which only works if the other dog does not come to greet him).

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Thank you for the responses - I've just bought the e-book so I am curious to try it out.


I do think I have to be concerned right now as for the past week he has shown aggressive behaviour twice, unprovoked. Twice with dogs he knows and has played with without problems. I am starting to wonder if he might feel the need to be protective of me or his toys (ball that I have with me) or treats (in my pocket). Since he does have some Maremma in him... He has never even shown any kind of bad behaviour towards humans.



For now I won't trust him off-leash an will read Control Unleashed and hopefully is has some answers.

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I do think I have to be concerned right now as for the past week he has shown aggressive behaviour twice, unprovoked.


It might be a good idea to have his thyroid checked. Aggression can be a symptom of low thyroid.


If it were me, I'd have he vet draw the sample and then send it to Dr. Jean Dodds for evaluation. Not all vets are competent to evaluate thyroid results, imo.

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