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Aggressive behaviour - desperate!


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I'm at a total loss right now. Nelson has been an absolute sweetheart most of his life - he is almost 2 now. He has always been quite social and preferred playing with dogs much over toys in the parks. He has never been a dog that is afraid. I have never seen him with his tail between the legs or anything outside. If a dog would grawl at him or would pick a fight, he never backed off but always went back for it. Until last month, if he'd meet a few dogs he didnt like, there would be some grawls and thats it. The past little while, especially the past 3 weeks have been horrible. Even with dogs he knows (except females, i think) he can play nicely for a bit, and all at once - possibly when a dog hurt him - he just keeps on going for this other dog. This has happened with different dogs in different situations. I have had to pull him of multiple times, like... Really pull him off. I thought i used to be able to read him, but I guess I was wrong.

 

I will be going to the vet as soon as I can (2nd week of january) and I am working with Control Unleashed excersizes. I am just so so sad about this situations as this dog means the absolute world to me and m partner has suggested we'd put him down if this evolves. (Though i'd go live n a cabin alone in the woods before this would happen).

 

This aggression is ONLY towards other dogs and he has never ever shown any of this to humans. There are a lot of other dogs in our lives and this is somethng i want to understand and i'd like to hear from people who have actually experiences something like this. The biggest 'odd' thing is that he always loves other dogs at first. He actually always tries to play with every other dog (bow down, paw the other dog etc) and he only shows this behaviour after a play or something like that and it also seems to only happen around bigger dogs...... But he has never been one to slow down and always 'comes up for himself'. So far, i haven't physically punished him. My reaction is to pull him off when needed and leash him/ take him away from the situation/ do not gve him any possitive attention.

 

Could this be a possesive thing about me? About space? Establishng his place in the pack? Could this be just a phase that might pass?

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Around 2-3 years old I find a lot of dogs startsettling into their adult temperaments. It is very very common in my experience for dogs to lose some of their tolerance/love for other dogs as they mature.

 

There are many reasons dogs would fight with other dogs- reactivity, defensiveness, pure dog aggression. I don't think any of it is abnormal. Just some dogs do not like strange dogs. Don't want anything to do with them. Don't want to play with them. Or are territorial/aggressive around them. And I've come across quite a few BCs who are snarky or intolerant of other dogs in their space.

 

Are these issues happening at dog parks and situations like that where lots of dogs are running and playing with each other?

 

I don't see why you'd even want to start thinking about putting him down for this kind of thing.

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We have the same problem with our 2 yo rescue. She approaches a dog in a seemingly friendly and submissive manner, only to snap at it after the initial greeting ceremony. There's only a couple of dogs in the neighborhood that she accepts: A spunky little yorkshire terrier (her best friend) and a mellow Lassie Collie. She also gets along with the sheep herding instructor's Border Collies, but it almost seems more like a "work relationship". It's very different from the encounters with the neighborhood dogs.

 

I finally came to the following conclusion: There's just something with the neighborhood dogs that irks her. Maybe she was attacked in her past life. So why even encourage an encounter? Instead, I'm working on the "leave it" command to try to make her ignore them. I don't like dog parks anyway and she gets enough dog-to-dog interaction with our three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and the few neighborhood dogs she likes.

 

Am I sweeping the problem under the rug? I don't see any other solution and I don't think I can force her to like certain dogs.

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Is Nelson intact? If so, and since you have observed that male dogs seem to be the target of his aggression, I'd wonder if he just isn't trying to establish his dominance over other males. I would certainly not put him in situations that trigger his behavior (you'll be liable if he hurts someone else's dog or another person, and breaking up dog fights is when many dog to human bites occur), but I'd also work on desensitization.

 

If you know certain dogs set him off, then watch him very closely around those dogs, figure out his signals, and correct him when he first has a thought of doing something ugly. That is, you need to be proactive to nip the behavior in the bud before he even has a chance to engage in it.

 

I certainly wouldn't allow him off leash in areas or around dogs who have been triggers already. Doing so sets him up for failure and also allows him to engage in self-rewarding behavior (i.e., establish a habit).

 

Since this is recent, I think talking to your vet and doing some basic bloodwork to rule out any organic issues is a good idea. I'm not sure what you mean about scuffles in the past, except that you seem to be saying that although he didn't start a fight he was perfectly willing to engage in one. If it had been me, I would have started back then teaching him that fighting is not acceptable, period.

 

But that's the past. Now you will have to manage him and make sure he doesn't have the opportunity to either pick fights or engage in fights when someone else is trying to start something.

 

NJSwede,

Many females behave the way you describe (that how's bitch got the human connotation). They will allow other dogs to greet them and if the dog then becomes overly friendly (in the eyes of the bitch) the female says "Enough!" very clearly. If there are certain dogs she absolutely doesn't like, I see nothing wrong with limiting or eliminating her opportunities to interact with those dogs. I'm a human and I meet people I don't like. If the situation (e.g., work) requires me to interact, then I will, and with civility. But if it's purely social, then I simply don't involve myself with this people, so obviously I wouldn't expect my dogs to have to be best buds with every dog that comes along.

J.

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I agree that this may be a maturity related issue. And it's also true that border collies often don't appreciate the play styles of other types of dogs and aren't always very, um, diplomatic about communicating their feelings.

 

You might want to look around for a positive trainer who has experience working with aggressive dogs. Some classes are called "Feisty Fido".

 

You may be interested in the Aggressive Behaviors (AGBEH) Yahoo Group. http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/agbeh/info

 

To subscribe: agbeh-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

 

There are some very excellent trainers with lots of experience with aggressive dogs who might be able to help.

 

As far as you last question, I seriously doubt this has anything to do with possessiveness of you. If he's engaged in play with another dog, then he's not focusing on you in that moment.

 

I agree that a good vet workup is in order. Be sure to have his thyroid checked, and preferably have the sample sent to Dr. Jean Dodds at HemoPet. Unfortunately, not all vets know how to properly evaluate the results, and she specializes in this area.

 

In the meantime, take Julie's advice for managing him in the situations where he's having trouble. Preventing repetitions of this is going to be a crucial part of successfully managing him.

 

Good luck.

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Nelson is a Border Collie/Guardian dog cross, isn't he? Territorial agression happens with the guardian breeds especially as they mature. You should be able to manage it just fine with training and prevention - you just need to be aware of it and get a plan/training in place to deal with it.

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NJSwede,

Many females behave the way you describe (that how's bitch got the human connotation). They will allow other dogs to greet them and if the dog then becomes overly friendly (in the eyes of the bitch) the female says "Enough!" very clearly. If there are certain dogs she absolutely doesn't like, I see nothing wrong with limiting or eliminating her opportunities to interact with those dogs. I'm a human and I meet people I don't like. If the situation (e.g., work) requires me to interact, then I will, and with civility. But if it's purely social, then I simply don't involve myself with this people, so obviously I wouldn't expect my dogs to have to be best buds with every dog that comes along.

J.

 

Indeed, I think that's exactly what it is in our case: When a dog is too much in her face, she gets upset. I observed her during our walk this morning. The Yorkshire Terrier (whom she likes) greeted her, then took a few steps back and tried to engage her in play. The result? Nice, cute doggie play.

 

Then we met a young lab puppy. He was constantly right in her face and never backed off to give her space. The result? Growling and snipping and I had to pull her away.

 

Both dogs were perfectly friendly but engaged her in different ways. I think I need to learn to read dogs better so I can determine who would make a good playmate and who wouldn't.

 

I love this board. I kind of knew all these things from before, but you guys make me think about them in a different way and apply them better.

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Both dogs were perfectly friendly but engaged her in different ways.

 

I think what you describe is pretty typical of BCs in general, not just females, though some females may be more apt to display their displeasure in a snarky way. :rolleyes:

 

But I've noticed this difference in play styles and the reactions my BCs have had to it since my first one over 30 years ago. They just seem not to like the in-your-face approach of some dogs.

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...Then we met a young lab puppy. He was constantly right in her face and never backed off to give her space. The result? Growling and snipping and I had to pull her away..

I have heard that water retrievers, like Labradors, have little or no personal spaces/bubbles due to having been bred to remain quiet and unreactive when placed close together in duck blinds, and small boats such as skiffs and dories. Wikipedia seems to confirm this with:

 

Their ability to work quietly alongside hunters while watching for birds to fall from the sky, marking where they land, and then using their outstanding nose to find and retrieve dead or wounded birds has made them the king of waterfowl retrievers.

 

Have to look to Buccleuch Avon, one of the foundation Labradors, for those traits. Love how those birds simply, "fall from the sky". Guess my aim doesn't have to improve :mellow: .

 

Volunteer dog club dog trainers, where my BC puppy obtained basic obedience, perhaps had it right. I asked why no social interaction among dogs and puppies was allowed during class/recess, and they had no answer. Evidently, they simply knew through experience or intuition that no matter how well trained and socialized, certain breed combinations tend to not get along with one another, and they didn't want any problems.

 

I located trainers who allowed socialization in controlled environments. Since most of the dogs in my neighborhood were inappropriate breeds, I made use of them, and found it quite beneficial. -- TEC

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Thank you for your responses. My post sounded extra desperately I think because another incident had happend. It is good to hear that it isn't behaviour that is completely out of this world. Owning and bringin up a dog seems much like a child - there is so much to learn.

 

The odd thing is that he will meet a dog and not turn on it right away, they can play lovely for days, before it happens. He is also a dog who, unless he has toys to play with, will find a dog to play with. Our neigbours dog is an aussie/bc dog and she can do absolutely anything to him without it setting him off - but they've know each other since they were tiny.

 

After reading the first few chapters of Control Unleashed, I think the excersizes such as 'leave it' should help. I also think that he might need even more (mental) stimulation as I believe these situations often happen when he is very hyper (for example, after he hadnt had excersize for a few hours). It will be important to teach him how to relax, and make him relax before he starts playing, so he won't go into play overly excited.

 

He has always been so good beside the play/fighting thing that I think I have made some training mistakes with his behaviour.

 

---

 

Btw - what do you do when 2 dogs get into a fight? Often it starts with some grawling etc, and the dogs I grew up with, would usually just stop. What is the point that you break them up? And what do you do? If they are both yours, do you send them to your beds? Do you give them any verbal commands / punishments?

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I hope, in addition to your efforts here, you are seeking out professional help. We work with reactive, human, and dog aggressive dogs on a regular basis. We have a class called Reactive Rover. I'm sure there is someone in your area that provides the same services.

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Btw - what do you do when 2 dogs get into a fight? Often it starts with some grawling etc, and the dogs I grew up with, would usually just stop. What is the point that you break them up? And what do you do? If they are both yours, do you send them to your beds? Do you give them any verbal commands / punishments?

 

Hi there!

 

From your recent posts, it sounds like you've had a bit of a breakthrough. Given his age and the dogs you describe, I think you've hit on a very important thing. He's old enough now to have his own opinions, and he's of the opinion that he only tolerates certain behaviors from certain other dogs. Most border collies that I know are very "space conscious" and have limited patience for dogs who are very forward, like labs, goldens, rotties and bully breeds. My girl, Gael, is very non-political but if an overly friendly dog bounces right up in her face, ready to play, she turns into a little mouse trap: snap-snap-snap, gettouttamyface.

 

So, your homework may be to learn the kinds of dogs your boy tolerates and learn to read his cues and indicators that he's becoming upset. His body language will change, however subtly, so if you learn to understand the situations and dogs that will set him off, that should be a big help for you.

 

As for fights ... my boy, Nick, is kind of a jerk around some other males, particularly the very masculine, dominant-seeming types. So, my rule for him is, no growls, no glares or hard looks, no stiff legs, no posturing at all. I don't let him even get started with any sort of macho act. Nip the fight before he can get past the point of thinking, "I don't like that guy." Prevention is the best measure, always. "Leave it" has become a very useful command for us. ^_^

 

Best of luck!

 

~ Gloria

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If Nelson is anything like my Orbit, it might just be something that you will have to manage. I will admit that I have not sought out professional assistance as I find that I can read him pretty well and do a pretty good job of avoiding altercations. But they do happen and they don't always end well.

 

One thing that I did wrong when my guy was little was discourage the lead-up behaviours - the growling etc. Now his responses are lightning quick and while I can see them coming, often the other dog can't. Orbit is never the aggressor as it sounds like Nelson might be (but that might be something to watch closely - I bet he is reacting to something), he just doesn't like dogs around him when he is playing with toys or dogs bounding up to his face. Most of our incidences happen in off leash areas because that is where we encounter such dogs. I walk Orbit off-leash most of the time and only leash him at busy roads. We rarely never have problems here because the dogs that would cause a reaction are on leash themselves and orbit is very responsive to voice commands.

 

My advice to you (assuming medical issues are ruled out and he is already neutered) is to watch his interactions very closely and see if you can pick up on what sets him off. While you are doing this, it might be a good idea to limit his play to dogs that are not too reactive themselves so that the situation does not escalate too much. Also, try to remain calm (hard I know when you are waiting for your dog to fly off the handle) because if he senses that you are anxious/apprehensive, it could make the situation worse.

 

As far as altercations go, I try to intervene right away.

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