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Random Aggression

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I say 'random' but in his head there is clearly a specific trigger. Ben has issues with two men in our village. He is wary of one of them but if the other comes anywhere near he will run towards him, barking and lunging to 'see him off'. I don't know what it is with this kindly old gent - except he keeps chickens and maybe Ben associates the smell with bad things that happened previously.

This happens while out on walks - ie not at home which would be more understandable. I get a lot of deliveries and he doesn't react at all to strange men in the yard or even in the house!

He is the same with dogs too - just two specific local dogs.

I thought of a 3 pronged attack

1) Reinforce the fact that I am in charge so he doesn't feel he has to react to protect either of us.

2) Make more effort to socialize him to new sounds and smells (it WILL take an effort as we live in an out of the way spot).

3) Practice just being in the vicinity when this man walks past (with Ben under control of course) and give rewards to distract him and so that he associates the man with good things - though presumably this has to be done before he actually displays aggression, otherwise I might end up just reinforcing that behaviour?

I've co-opted the gentleman concerned. We will be around when he goes to feed his chickens but he is to ignore us. We had our first 'run' today. As soon as Ben got a whiff of the man and started 'paying attention' to his presence, I got him to focus on me and take some treats. You could see there was a battle going on in his head though. Deal with the man threat or eat the treats? Tough call....


In a way it would be easier if it was an issue with all men/strangers or something that just happened at home rather than with one individual while out and about.

Am I missing anything?


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I would be very cautious with the "reinforce the fact that I am in charge" thing. I am not sure what you mean by that statement, so am wary of it.


I will highly recommend a book called CLICK TO CALM. Buy it, read it, make it your bible on dealing with this.


I took a few very dog-aggressive dogs and used the principles in that book and in no time turned them around. would work on people-aggression as well.


Basically, the main thing is that you do not have to wait for Good behavior in order to click and treat. You can start by clicking and treating even the very slightest tiny break in the Bad behavior. If a dog is snarling barking or growling, he has to stop long enough to take a breath. You gotta be really accurate with your click, but you click fast on that tiny second of Not-Growling. And treat that. And repeat as many times as necessary. But read the book to understand this fully.


In this case, it is also very important to start very far off, outside of the trigger zone, by which I mean the distance at which he becomes aware of the person and starts his growling or barking. You start there, and then very very slowly work into just barely being able to see/smell the man, and work there for a day or more without going closer. And so on.


I cannot emphasize enough the value and importance of taking this very slowly.
best of luck!

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Will this man cooperate and throw a few treats at Ben?


Associate the man with treats by having him throw super tasty treats towards Ben. But dependong on the distance at which Ben starts to react, he may be too far away to throw treats. So start with the Click to Calm method, and then maybe add treats originating from the scary man.

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Thanks folks. I think I found out why Ben reacts to THAT MAN in particular. That man owns THAT DOG - ie the one Ben doesn't like. I never realised that as when we encountered the dog he was with someone else. So it is not that random really and a little reassuring in that the cause of the behaviour is probably the smell of the other dog. Of course it still needs dealing with.

By reinforcing that I am in charge, I meant aspects of 'no free lunch' - like sitting before being fed etc - nothing dodgy like alpha rolls.


When we had our encounter with the man, he did try throwing some food in Ben's direction. Ben took it but was very guarded and on edge. I realised it was far too early for that and backed off.

Will do as suggested from now on. Just got the kindle edition of Click to Calm!


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Brilliant detective work in sorting out why he reacted to "that man." ;) There may be something about "that dog" that your dog regards as a good reason for reactivity: it could be anything from the dog's behavior to its breed or mannerisms. Border collies really can be breed snobs and may take a dislike to dogs that are very forward, boisterous, pushy or obnoxiously friendly. And they may take offense to dogs that come off very bossy or alpha-ish.

It sounds like you are already on a good road to solving your problems so I'll just say Good Luck! :)

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Hi thanks

The dog is actually a mild mannered labrador but in any case Ben can't see him or the man, so he is going by scent. I reckon it's because the labrador is an intact male - I've heard that sometimes dogs who have been 'fixed' can perceive that as a threat.

What we need is lots of intact males to practice with!

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