What should I do with my aggressive older dog?

Share advice for keeping your aging dog happy and healthy

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Member Since
Barked: Wed Apr 4, '12 1:09pm 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 3-4 more short pee outings. Being older now, he occasionally slows down, seems under the weather, 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.
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!

I live to dig
Barked: Mon Apr 23, '12 9:14pm PST 
You are right that he probably won't change. You have to look at his breed. Terriers are territorial and often act aggressively. Chihuahuas like to try and dominate the people and pets in their surroundings. Even though he is older, try using positive reinforcement training.

Barked: Mon Jul 23, '12 2:36am PST 
just do something positive and encourage him.be patient..lol


Akita Pals- Always.
Barked: Mon Jul 23, '12 4:44am PST 
Just a note but cross-posting this in the small dog forum might help as well,since not everyone reads through all of the forums. People more familiar with small dogs and their personalities might be able to help you more than the rest of us.hugwishes

Will Take you- On!
Barked: Mon Jul 30, '12 9:29am PST 
It's not too late to train him! You need a positive trainer who can teach you how to get his focus on you and keep it there, even when he wants to lash out at the world. You're correct that there is little to no chance of ever loving or even tolerating other dogs and children, but you can stop the outbursts.

Other than the outbursts, it doesn't sound like there is truly any issue. He's alone at home with you and well managed when you are outside. He doesn't deserve to die because your neighbors don't like him. They can get over it. Dogs who need space deserve a happy, safe life too.

Barked: Mon Jul 30, '12 9:45am PST 
First off, I'd like to say thank you for taking in an older dog. You did a great thing, and your work with him makes it even more wonderful.

It seems his only real issue is with leash reactivity?

Does he act like this if he is off the leash? (permitting you have a safe fenced area that he can be off leash that is) If the behaviour is displayed only while he is attached to a leash, then this is quite a common issue with many dogs.

Even in old age, dogs are still very capable of learning new behaviours. If it's in the budget, I would suggest speaking with a local trainer - either for one-on-one lessons or a group class. Constant exposure in a positive environment may be the ticket to combating his issues.

Barked: Mon Jul 30, '12 2:16pm PST 
I really don't think you should put him down because he's not dangerous. What is he like when people come over to the house? I doubt training will help very much at his age. He obviously can't bite with a muzzle, but has he ever gone after anybody or dogs? I wouldn't worry about it too much since he's tiny and can't do much dammage. Just continue making the remainder of his life comfortable. smile
(retired)min- ister misty

be calm, dont- worry!
Barked: Tue Jul 31, '12 2:57am PST 
he is not a big dog and i guess he is a bit like me when i was alive
a dominand dog..i never liked domininad dogs..i did like dogs,but as long as they were meloow minded and would not challenge me
if i met a dog that had issues like mine...mom had to act soon and fast to prefent fights...and she trained me so well that if she snapped her vinger i would sit next to her,givng a faul look
but if she would not look,just for a secont...man me would go right into it...

Pocket Wolf
Barked: Tue Jul 31, '12 9:08pm PST 
I am going to stop youwith the phrase you used "tried to train him in 2010"

Why did you stop?

Training is a lifelong venture. The reason dogs seem untrainable is because people are not consistent with it. Let me tell you about Foxxy. She loves everyone, she gets along with other dogs, she's safe with children, not food aggressive. She is very much like you describe, calm, happy, and loving in her territory, and a neurotic mess on lead.

Why? Because she is very anxious! Every time we have had a bad experience we have been walking on leash. We live in a dog friendly apartment complex, and unfortunately, people take too many liberties with their dogs, and the complex does not crack down in a way that trains people to obey the leash laws. We've now been attacked or harrassed by a pair of boston terriers, 2 different pairs of german shepherds, a mutt that an older lady could not control, and an amstaff that someone was keeping despite restrictions.

It is hard enough for me to remain calm while walking my dogs. I have to be hypervigilant. Feral cats are everywhere, opossums and raccoons roam the night, hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls hunt the epidemic levels of rabbits that live on the property. Bats flutter in the trees. I have to watch for the rabbits because of prey drive. Foxxy will do anything to catch and kill them. She has lived feral in her life, and she knows how to dispatch vermin with a ruthless efficiency, but on leash, her frustration at being prevented from her prey is released in a fit of barking and straining that we would rather avoid. More than once big black dogs have melted out of the darkness, their owners calling for them in the distance.

But I have to remain calm for my dogs. That is my own challenge. It's part of the responsibility of living with Foxxy that she and I must learn to be calm despite bad experiences. She is not as good about it as I am so I have to help her with tools and tricks.

The world is a big and scary place when you are under 10 pounds. It is even more scary when your mind has all sorts of instincts that are developed for the survival of a creature 10 times your actual size. Chihuahuas belong to the pariah clan of dog breeds. The thing to remember about that clan is "survivor." They have strong primitive instincts, and they will readily act on them. They are smart, agile, creative, adaptable and usually loyal to their families. They are greatly affected by their environment. This means for you that you have to give your chihuahua or chi mix structure. It needs to be assured that you, as its family, can protect it. Chihuahuas crave rules and structure, even though they can seem stubborn about them. They are stubborn about them because they need to be absolutely sure that events are in their best interest.

Anyway, if the dog is old, and you got him when he was 9, there is a good chance that he has developed his own rules, and he is trying to survive with them. To make him let go of his own rules and accept yours you need to be firm, loving and gentle with the Chihuahua. Muzzles are not a long term solution for them. You are removing it's ability to defend, and that will make it more anxious. If you have it on a leash, and it does not bite you then don't use one. Just tell people no, you can't pet your dog. No, you can't come close with another dog. No, your dog is afraid of children. That's OK to say. Other people need to Respect your boundaries. Treat your dog around others the way people with service animals treat theirs. When the dog is on leash, it is doing it's job. Nobody is to handle it, pay attention to it, and it is not to interact with anything other than you. Assert that. Who cares if they think you're being rude and snobbish. your dog is not here to amuse their every whim. It is here for your pleasure.

I would reccomend a thundershirt and a halti. I would also use calming oils on the collar, like lavender oil, chamomile, and valerian. The halti alone does wonders for pulling, straining, and barking. essential oils and the thundershirt help with anxiety. The idea is to prevent extreme emotions from being trggered. Exxtreme emotions provoke fight, flight, or prey drive instincts. The big ones for a dog are Fear, excitement, and anger.

This starts in the home. don't let your dog gaze out the windows. Don't let it bark at the door. Don't let it greet people at the door either. Don't let the dog charge out the door. Make a ritual out of pre walk. Sit calm, put on the halti, stay seated at the door, wait until you go through, then allow the dog to come. Pause at the top of every staircase and make the dog sit. Never yell at your dog. Trust your dog and be worthy of your dog's trust.

Walks should be calm, orderly, happy outings. If you don't feel safe, the dog will feel exposed. With Chihuahuas, this means time to look for the threat and fight it. It will go for kill more often because it knows that it cannot run faster than a threat that a human is worried about. If you are always worried about what the dog is going to do, you will wind up making a neurotic mess out of your dog.

Consider finding a behaviorist if you just feel that you can't trust your dog. Chis and chi mixes have a 16-20 year lifespan. There is no reason to put it down because it is anxious and reactive about the outside walk.

Edited by author Tue Jul 31, '12 9:14pm PST


When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Tue Jul 31, '12 9:50pm PST 
first the idea that he should be allowed to be a snot because he is little is a joke, And the reason smaller dogs annoy the crap out of people Yoshi.
Like Foxxy said you don't stop training, ever. My 11 year old GSD is still required to listen and to do periodic 'tune ups' with her training. At 11 she is an old dog. If he dislikes dogs and children keep him away from dogs and children. And no I never dislike my dogs. If they misbehave the failure is mine not theirs.
It was wonderfully kind of you to give him a home, perhaps if you don't feel up to the challenge another home could be found.

Edited by author Tue Jul 31, '12 9:53pm PST

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