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Have you ever had an aggressive dog?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
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Member Since
04/04/2012
 
 
Barked: Tue Apr 10, '12 10:42am PST 
I have just joined dogster and am looking forward to comparing notes with other dog moms and dads! I adopted my terrier/chihuahua mix when he was already 9 years old, from my friend who died. Tony the dog lived in the suburbs then, but he has lived with me in the city these past 2 years: he is now over 11. My neighbourhood is very green and quite quiet, however, with many other dogs around. Inside, Tony is a wonderful, sweet, cuddly dog, and he enjoys several good chewing toys. Outdoors, he was always barky and aggressive, and he continues that way even now, despite trying to train him in 2010. He simply hates other dogs! And small children rile him up, too: he barks at them and tries to chase them. Needless to say, Tony wears a muzzle at all times outdoors on our walks and any time we leave the apartment, and I have become more skilled with the leash, steering him around others, and, if I'm lucky, calming him down a bit. He gets 2 good walks a day, plus 3-5 more short pee outings. Being older now, he occasionally slows down, but his hostility to other dogs and kids is as sharp as ever. I confess that especially right after I adopted him, I thought that maybe the best thing would be to have him euthanized. I still have that thought from time to time, since although I love him a lot, I also feel a bit guilty inflicting him on my neighbourhood, and sometimes his lurching hurts my arm.

So I am writing to ask whether others here in dogster have ever struggled with their feelings about their dog, both loving him on the one hand, and, on the other hand, feeling very vexed at his aggressivity and knowing that at his advanced age, the dog is just not going to change. ***What did you do?*** I would be sooooo happy just to discuss this issue with a few others! Thanks!
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Kali earned- her wings- 10/21/14

She's game for- anything that's- fun.
 
 
Barked: Tue Apr 10, '12 6:11pm PST 
I've had 2 aggressive dogs. Both fear driven. The first one will never change, mostly because I was ignorant and didn't know how to handle her. Although, she is much better now than ever, but she can never be trusted with other people. The second, I knew better and trained the pants off her. Now, she can go to the dog park, walk through crowds at "Pet Fest" and stand in crowds at the Memorial Day parade. I'm really proud of her. I think whether you can change them depends on the dog and how committed you are to their training.
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Jackson Tan

Lad about town
 
 
Barked: Tue Apr 10, '12 10:45pm PST 
I used to walk my flatmate's Alaskan Malamute every day and he was extremely dog aggressive, I loved him very much but unfortunately walking him often made me very nervous, to the point I never walked him alone in case something bad happened. I also knew very little about dogs and training then and didn't know how to handle it other than just trying to avoid others. He would charge at fences where dogs were barking and go pretty crazy, and if he saw another dog on the walk he would pull like mad desperate to get to it and attack it. One day he was walking calmly at heel by my side on leash and all of a sudden with no warning he pulled the lead from my hand and rushed at a woman and two toy dogs all the way across the other side of the field, my husband ran and grabbed him and stopped him but it was really terrifying and he could have killed these little dogs easily. His owner did not own a muzzle nor want him to wear one and had me walk him on a check chain but it did very little to stop him and no matter who walked him they all had problems. It was a pity because he was so friendly to people, even had a male GSD that he stayed with sometimes who he liked, but he was just so reactive out and about I took to walking him in isolated places where there was no chance of meeting other dogs and always walked him wide around fences where other dogs lived.

On the other hand my dog Jackson has a little bit of same sex aggression but only with entire males, and not all entire males. On walks he is usually eager and friendly to meet others though. It's easily managed, I just don't take him places where there are lots of dogs, we only go to the dog park when it's quiet and I leave him on the lead and just walk around, and if he meets a dog he knows then I have no problem letting him off for a play. It doesn't effect me nearly as much as waking the malamute did, plus he just is not as strong and I can physically control him if something bad happens which I was just incapable of doing with Yorta. On the whole walking him is A LOT less stressful and even though I feel a bit guilty saying this, sometimes I am thankful I'm not walking the other dog anymore.

I have never had a dog that showed aggression to humans, however my mother had a terrier that used to hate men and bite them where it hurt, and I still remember seeing that little black ball of fluff lunge to this very day. As a result workmen stopped visiting my grandparents house, or would only enter when Cassius was chained up!!!! I can't blame them! That was a whole lot of dog for something that only weighed 10 lbs!
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Missy

Miss- Pig!
 
 
Barked: Wed Apr 11, '12 5:24am PST 
Training a dog aggressive/reactive dog is a long and on going process, so i'm not surprised you didn't see any improvements during the time you was training him in 2010. It took well over 2 1/2 years before i started seeing any significant improvements in Missy. Also learning to understand and even accept the behaviour is the first step in helping Tony too. I struggled for years with Missy's aggression, not knowing the exact reasons why she was behaving like she was and wanting her to be something that she's not. When i started to really understand her behaviour and accept certain aspects of it, i was able to give my all to training her. I knew that i wanted Missy to be able to ignore most on lead dogs and that was my goal. I originally worked with a behaviourist and a trainer at a training club but i didn't see big improvements really and i decided to go it alone and change up my training with her. Since then she has made massive improvements, can ignore most dogs passing her on lead and we even walk with a couple of regular dog walkers and their dogs and Missy even sniffs the dogs at times now! She still doesn't like dogs that get in her space and that's fine. That's a behaviour i can accept, some dogs just don't deal with their personal space being invaded.

If you're really wanting to train Tony to be less reactive than i suggest you get the help of a rewards based behaviourist who can assess you're situation and see Tony in the flesh.

Edited by author Wed Apr 11, '12 5:27am PST

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Member Since
04/04/2012
 
 
Barked: Wed Apr 11, '12 1:23pm PST 
Thank you, Kali, Jackson, and Missy, for chatting with me. Kali, I think Tony is both fear-driven and dominator-dog. As I said, I adopted him when he was already 9, and with his age now 11, I know he is just not going to change radically. We soldier on. If I ever have another dog, I will (A) choose a less barky, prey-oriented, and herding breed, and (2) train the pants off her, too! I will choose a female rather than a male, too. Tony came to me without my choice, really, owing to my friend's death, and as no one else wanted him.

Jackson, wow, that malamute sounds intimidating and dangerous. He probably weighed as much as I do now (about 99 pounds). I could never handle a dog that heavy! My dog does all those same things, charges fences, is desperate to attack other dogs (and kids), and since he is a terrier mix, his genes tell him to chase and kill prey. This is just the way he was bred to be! Even though he weighs only 17 pounds, it is quite nerve-wracking, as you understand, especially since he thinks toddlers are large squirrels. I definitely do what you did, try to walk in quiet areas to avoid meeting other living beings, but living in a city, this is a bit hard. Fortunately, we live right next to a huge park, where it is possible to get space at certain times of the day.


Missy, I have tried the rewards training methods, and Tony has improved a bit, but he is such a little King, stubborn and set in his ways. Plus 11 years old. Plus a prey-chasing terrier. It's basically deep in his genes and temperament and out of my hands. So being a really careful dog-walker, with muzzle, is the key.

I sometimes think I am crazy to put up with this situation day in and day out! Am I???? But I do love the dog. He is Jekyll and Hyde, for sure: a complete angel inside the home! I guess I will just soldier on, and he probably has no more than about 3 more years to live; the vet thinks fewer years: He is slim and very healthy and frisky, but the vet tells me he has heart and liver disease.
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Jax (earned- her wings- 5/30/12)

Give me your- toy.
 
 
Barked: Wed Apr 11, '12 5:12pm PST 
I don't think your crazy for giving a dog a second chance. Half the battle is won, with the fact that you know what your dealing with. When I first got Jax, everyone thought I was crazy. She was 4+ months old with no human contact. She was practically afraid of her own shadow. She's come a long way in her 11 years. Most people, I know, wouldn't have given her a chance. Most shelters would have put her down. I think I ended up with a great dog that would have been a throw away. My only regret with her is I didn't know enough when I got her and she's missed out on a lot in her life. But now she's very content going on walks where there are not a lot of people and being queen bee in our house. Good luck with your dog.
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Zephyr

1213425
 
 
Barked: Wed Apr 11, '12 5:45pm PST 
Short answer, yes though aggressive is really stretching it. As per usual in pet-bred animals it was fear aggression. As for the rest, personally I have a terrier who is 16 and another who is just a few years younger and still going strong. Unless you want to be held hostage for the rest of this dog's existence, and even a day of that behavior would drive me nuts, find a behaviorist and start working on it. It's not hopeless, you just need to find the fortitude to do it.

Secondly this: "will (A) choose a less barky, prey-oriented, and herding breed..." is odd to me. Most herders are prone to barky though not all, and many breeds are not happy go lucky with other dogs despite socialization. Really if you want a herder, deal with the issues in your current dog which are extremely likely to crop up in a herding breed as well just given their nature. I don't know how many issues I've seen started by herders who tried to herd the other dogs. A hint: Most other dogs hate it. Consider it good practice for the next dog.

Edited by author Wed Apr 11, '12 5:57pm PST

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Bruno CGC

Honorary Kelpie
 
 
Barked: Wed Apr 11, '12 6:55pm PST 
I know what you mean about the frustration sometimes... Bruno is only four, but he is very predatory and somewhat dog-aggressive (like Missy, he only reacts when a dog gets in his personal space, but then he flips out and has done damage). Back in our dark days (the first year I had him, I tried to rehome him, I was so upset with his behavior) a man came up when I was walking him, and told me, "Pretty dog! I had one that looked just like him, he lived to be 19" and all I could think was "17 more years of this!? Not sure I can take it" though of course I smiled and thanked him.

So, been there. Hang in there. For me, just making the decision that Bruno was going to stay with me, forever, was the clincher that I had to get a handle on him, because he was going to get killed or drive me insane otherwise.
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Missy

Miss- Pig!
 
 
Barked: Thu Apr 12, '12 8:21am PST 
Are you crazy? Not at all. Although, you might well ask yourself that many times i'm sure. Behaviour problems, especially any kind of aggression and/or reactivity can be really over whelming and especially harder to cope with and accept when you've just rescued a dog as you don't have an established strong bond with the dog. Being a terrier type though, 11 years old, really isn't old for Tony and doesn't mean he's "stuck in his ways" either. Change might be harder at his age, but it's certainly not impossible. Missy is 9 years old, 10 this year.
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Member Since
04/04/2012
 
 
Barked: Thu Apr 12, '12 8:54am PST 
Dear Jax, Zephyr, Bruno, and Missy,
I feel so much better just being able to share all this and get some feedback! You all are great, and I thank you. Jax-parent, true, at least I do know what I am dealing with. Right you are: dogs like these will be put down, ultimately, because people just cannot tolerate aggression, whether from fear, dominance, whatever. This is why I could never give up Tony: I know what would happen to him.

Zephyr-parent, ha ha! Yes, I am partly crazy, and thank you for saying so. Honesty is the best policy! It is somewhat crazy to put up with dangerous and bad behaviour. Ponder, ponder. I have tried all sorts of training methods, with some improvement, but Tony will never ever be trustworthy, and that is the bottom line. I really should not have called him a herder: he only herds ME when it is dinner time. Basically, he's an adorable little terrier attack dog.

Bruno-parent, thank you for acknowledging the frustration!! Tony totally flips out when he espies a dog 10 yards away, let alone a few feet away, sigh. Dark days were ours, too, that first year. As you say, I too made the decision that all I really could do is hang in there with him, as doing anything else would have pricked my conscience intolerably. Some people will say that if a dog is incorrigeably aggressive, one should not feel guilty to have him euthanized, but I just can't do this! I would have to live with that action the rest of my life.

Missy-parent, you're right, Tony may well have many more years ahead of him, but also possibly not. Actually, I do have a long bond with this dog, as he was my dear friend's dog for 5 years, and I saw him every weekend and for vacation weeks at a time. But when my friend died (of cancer, sadly), I became the sole parent. And I do feel like a single mother, somewhat held hostage, as you said, Zephyr!

So in short, as you all really have said, there is just one option: try to train him further to decrease all his attack behaviour. Seems impossible, given his age, his breed, his genes (-anyone see the amazing Nature program on Wolves and Foxes? Genes are really hard to fight). I feel a sort of despair when I think of all this. I will try, but in the end, I think careful management of Tony -- cum muzzle! -- is really the bottom line, and it is frustrating, embarrassing out there on the sidewalk, vexing, sometimes upsetting to others, and so forth. Maybe this is my karma, something I am burdened with and have to work off in this life!!
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