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> Some Dog Aggression Help..., Seemingly random occurrences...
Susieh
post 6th Apr 2012, 7:02 pm
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Apologies for the long and slightly babbling post... I'm just after the thoughts of some dog owners more experienced with aggression or reactivity than I am.

In the 4 months I've had Diz, she has always had a tendency to have a little grumble at other dogs on occasion - but these instances have been increasing over time. I would have said that back when I first got her - she might have a little growl at maybe 1 in 30 dogs she would meet. Now it's more like 4-5 out of every 10 dogs she meets sad.gif and it isn't just a growl. She will go for a lunge, air snap and pin pretty much out of the blue if she feels that they are looking/sniffing at her the wrong way - and it definitely isn't the other dogs starting it or them showing a negative body language or being rude - she seems to get narky at lovely, friendly, waggy dogs who greet her very politely. She's actually fairly patient with the very rude bouncy ones who get in her face - giving them way more respect than she does the well-behaved ones! She hasn't bitten another dog in the time I've had her - it's all noise and no teeth connecting - but it's not much fun for the dog (or its watching owner) on the receiving end! I also worry what would happen if she did it to a dog who wouldn't back down! There seem to be no particular factors such as size, breed, colour, age or the location where we are walking - it seems to be completely at random!

She doesn't go out of her way to meet other dogs usually on walks, often showing quite wary body language, sometimes lying down when they approach etc but when we walk past them on a path in the park for example, she doesn't go out of her way to avoid them either - she generally has a waggy tail (not held particularly low or high) and seems happy to meet them - but that can change in an instant. If an off-lead dog approaches her and obviously wants to play, she's definitely up for that and will happily play really nicely for as long as I let her - which is lovely and she really has a great time with them. If the other dog ignores her completely then she will ignore it too. A quick sniff from another dog is usually acceptable to her - but more than a couple of seconds and that's when her switch seems to be flipped. Occasionally she makes her mind up about them before they even get to her and warns them off before they even get chance to sniff.

It doesn't seem to make a difference whether she is on or off lead - she responds in the same way when she decides she doesn't like the other dog. I now try and always have her on the lead around dogs we don't know or around dogs she has grumbled at in the past. It doesn't stop them approaching (unless their owners are savvy and get them on the lead when they see me put her on) and it doesn't stop her grouching at them sometimes, but it does mean I have a little more control.

Diz has a dogwalker 4 days a week (who she is still a little wary of, but she will go with him fairly happily now), who walks 2-3 other dogs at the same time, and he has no problems with her and the other dogs he walks (not always the same ones) or any other dogs they meet on walks, apart from if Diz is in a confined space with them - such as the dogwalker's van - in which case she will have a go. So Diz always travels in the front of the van apart from the other dogs and all is fine.

This makes me wonder if her issues when out walking are more related to me and what I'm doing (or not doing) when I walk her?

After her first couple of grumps at other dogs when I first got her - I made a concerted effort to try and socialise her more with lots of different dogs as I assumed the issue was a lack of socialisation - but this actually seems to have made her worse if anything - unless it's unrelated to that and more to do with the fact she is more settled and feeling secure now and this behaviour is 'normal' for her and has taken this long to come out? That's why she doesn't show it with the dogwalker - because she still isn't sure of him and so doesn't show her true colours?

Any ideas about how I can encourage her to behave more positively towards these other dogs? I've not really managed to work out what the triggers are yet - it all seems very inconsistent - and she often gives no visible/audible warning that I can see before it changes from a wagging tail greeting to a snarling, pinning scary dog!

Thanks in advance for any of your thoughts...
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Bunter1
post 6th Apr 2012, 7:42 pm
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Hello wave.gif

It's tricky to say for definite without seeing it, but my guess is that her behaviour is based in insecurity/fear. Most displays of 'aggression' are usually based in fear and from what you have said about her body language it would seem that is the case.

When any dog goes into a new home, she will feel insecure as she doesn't know you and everything will be new to her. A lot of dogs will therefore show some display of aggression until they know and trust you, especially when on the lead as the 'flight' option of fight or flight has been removed. I'm guessing that over time it has become worse for maybe a few reasons:

* One is that it has become learned behaviour and has been reinforced as it works! She shows aggression and the other dog goes away! Tada!

* Another reason may be that she has been unable to cope very well, yet has still been put in positions where she feels a bit worried, her more subtle signals have been ignored and so she has upped them in order for them to be noticed. Signals can be very subtle and are very easy for us to miss flowers.gif

* Another reason may be as you say - she is more comfortable with you now and so feels able to say how she feels. This may be the reason why she doesn't show it with the dog walker as she doesn't feel comfortable enough to. However, it may also be because she is in among a load of other dogs. She may feel brave enough to take one on, but not silly enough to take more on!

The reason why it seems to be random is probably due to the other dog's signals, but also you mention about being able to cope for with a short sniff and then being tipped over threshold. I don't think this is unusual smile.gif. Face to face greetings are very difficult for dogs to deal with. It's really good that she can play with dogs, ignore them and sniff for a short time smile.gif

I would start by managing her so that she is unable to practise the behaviour, which I think you are doing already ok.gif . The more she practises the behaviour, the more ingrained it will become. That means popping her back on the lead and walking away from the other dog - turning around and going the other way or whatever it takes, hiding behind a tree, etc. If you really can't get away, then it would be best if you can put her behind you and block the other dog. Doing this will show her that she can trust you not to put her in a position where she feels the need to defend herself as you will deal with it. It will also allow her stress/adrenalin levels to drop and so she will be able to cope better with things in the future.

From there I would go onto controlled intros with known dogs. It would be a shame to stop her playing with other dogs if she enjoys it and it's good to keep up contact with other dogs as long as you are sure she will be OK with them. Parallel walking on leads with you between them is often a good intro, then you would be able to get closer and hopefully let them off lead together. Also walking in the same direction as other dogs and keeping them moving usually negates any face to face scary stuff.

Hope that helps!

Got any piccies ? grin.gif

PS - been there with the snarling, pinning dog sad.gif
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nikirushka
post 6th Apr 2012, 7:46 pm
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It sounds like she finds other dogs stressful, and her levels are being gradually pushed higher and higher without time to drop inbetween meetings.

Stress takes a few days at least to drop. So if she reacts to a dog one day, the stress/adrenalin of that reaction will hang around for a few days.

However, she's meeting other dogs 4 times a week, and then also on walks with you. So each time she meets a dog her stress is pushed slightly higher; and there's no time for it to drop before the next dog. And walking with several dogs with the dog walker could be pushing it quite a bit higher.

This cumulative effect tends to result in a dog that won't react to every dog, but the more they meet the more likely it is - it is a pattern but not an obvious one unless you know to look for it. The dogs themselves might be random types, it's just numbers - e.g. dog can cope with 1, 2 is a bit worrying, 3 is getting a bit much, 4 is too much and the dog reacts.

That would explain why your initial attempts at socialising her have made her worse - too much, too fast.

If she's not reacting around the dog walker than honestly, I would want to see how he is with her - I have seen a dog walker verbally correct an aggressive JRT for his reactions, and he did stop - she thought he was fine and happy because he wasn't reacting but he was anything but. He was just hiding it so he didn't get punished. It culminated in him panicking and bolting for home over several roads, which was finally the tipping point needed for me to be called in to help and he is now genuinely happy. But it took careful, controlled, gradual work at his pace. You say that she will 'have a go' in the van with the other dogs - this also suggests to me that she is hugely stressed out by them. Walking different dogs with her will be adding to the problem too by keeping things unpredictable (so less safe, to her mind).

Also, how do you react when she does? Or when you see dogs coming? It can all make a big difference.

Also worth having her checked out medically (including thyroid) just to be sure; I have a dog now who has been aggressive a few times lately, totally the opposite of her normal character and she is hypothyroid; likewise I had a bitch with extensive aggression problems which were contributed to by major spinal/pelvic misalignment (vet missed it, chiropractor sorted it).

But my hunch is that dogs stress her out and she is meeting far too many too often at the moment. Could the dog walker walk her alone for a while? Or if not, can she have at least a couple of weeks without the walks? If she is that stressed then honestly, having no extra walks with him would be far better than having them but being stressed by them. Ideally I would give her a couple of weeks at least without meeting other dogs, allow her stress levels to drop, and then start to introduce them again but slowly, at her pace.

You say she switches in a second with no warning - not so. Google 'calming signals' (Turid Rugaas is the person to look for for those) - dogs have a huge range of signals, gestures, movements and behaviours that show how they are feeling, and if you can learn these, you will be able to see very early when she is starting to get stressed, and you can then take her out of the situation before she reacts. The walker I mentioned above can't read them - she guaged a dog as being too stressed by other dogs at about 8ft away; in reality, that dog's body language told me that she was too stressed well over 100ft away. Learn that 'code' and it'll be your best tool.

This post has been edited by nikirushka: 6th Apr 2012, 7:48 pm
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Susieh
post 6th Apr 2012, 9:23 pm
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Thank you both - lots to think about there.

I agree that whilst she loves her walks, she definitely sometimes finds other dogs stressful and despite trying to take my time with her - too much, too fast seems to be about the size of it! It's like she can only understand a couple of kinds of the other dog's body language (i.e. other dog doesn't even look or sniff at her = ok and play bowing in front of her = ok but anything else is scary) so I suppose the key is to try and control the kinds of encounters she has so that she doesn't have to deal with the stressful ones - which sounds simple - but in reality it isn't quite that easy.

There isn't really any other way of walking her where she won't come in contact with other dogs when I walk her - just because of the area I live in and the fact I don't drive - and the dogwalker isn't able to do separate walks. As Diz takes a looooooong time to trust new people, I'd rather not change dogwalkers unless it's absolutely necessary as she would find that very stressful too and she's already on her second one as the first was scared of her and Diz just didn't warm to her. If he were to stop walking her altogether then I would have to find someone to come in and let Diz out to the loo etc as I work too far away from home to pop home at lunchtime but that isn't beyond the realms of possibility. There is the trust issue again though as she probably wouldn't feel relaxed enough going to the toilet in the garden with someone she didn't trust loitering in the house. I'll have a think about that whole thing and have a chat with my dogwalker too. He hasn't told me about any incidents recently but what doesn't seem important to him could be to me and Diz!

On walks when I see other dogs coming (and we can't avoid them - which I usually try and do if possible) and know that Diz hasn't met them before (usually before Diz appears to notice them) then I recall her and pop her on the lead, then just walk on at a normal pace. I don't do this only when other dogs are around by the way - I do it randomly at other times too just to keep her on her toes lol.gif I try not to react much if she does have a bit of a go at the other dog - just call her away and walk off calmly. I always try and explain to every other owner as the dogs meet that mine isn't always friendly. They usually respond with "it'll do mine good to be told off" which obviously isn't that helpful sad.gif

She is perfectly happy walking in the park and ignoring other dogs that has met before and she knows won't approach her - like in our weekday morning 6am walk. And she doesn't seem massively stressed on walks even when we do meet unknown dogs to be honest - and seems happy to walk with other dogs and owners without showing lots of calming signals once she knows they aren't that interested in her. She isn't fixated by other dogs on sight or anything - she just gets a little nervy for the few seconds that they approach her until she has decided if they are friend or foe or indifferent. She can often go for several walks in a row without reacting badly to another dog. I generally don't take her for walks at peak times anyway, but even at anti-social hours there is always someone around!

I read the Calming signals book by Turid Rugaas a couple of months ago and try to keep an eye out for these but Diz often doesn't seem to notice other dogs until the last minute - too busy sniffing around or trying to find food on the floor to scavenge - so it's difficult to spot many signals in these cases before the other dog is right there. I'll read it again though and see what I missed the first time smile.gif

Plenty to be thinking about over the next couple of days anyway! Thanks again.
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celia
post 7th Apr 2012, 10:06 am
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What I have done with Barney is pretty much what Bunterjo describes.

We never ever walk directly into the path of another dog, we do wide arcs around and then either follow behind the other dog at some distance, or change direction entirely and walk in the opposite direction.
Our walks in the park are a series of bizarre angles and crisscrossing compared to most peoples perimeter amble.
Personally I prefer arcs and circles rather than parrallel lines for this as the distance varies more and the opportunities for sharing scents and so information are better.
I basically limit his dog interactions so that most of them are always at a distance, where they are not worrying him ,unless they are proven dog friends that he is pleased to see.
I use treats , games, voice and lead to keep him in the wide arcs so that he is learning ways of avoiding conflict all the time.
If a dog does bother him I remove him quickly, ask the owner to remove their dog too and try to maintain a reasonably calm voice .
If he kicks off barking lunging or tense body then I walk him away till he is calm enough to accept a treat and do a sit.
He is now opting to find his own ways of defusing meetings by sniffing, timing his speed so as not to bump into another dog etcetc
Most importantly for an unsure dog he has learnt to trust me to keep him safe and not to be constantly worried about what or who might pop up.
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Lamington
post 7th Apr 2012, 10:22 am
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QUOTE(Bunter1 @ 6th Apr 2012, 8:42 pm) *

The reason why it seems to be random is probably due to the other dog's signals, but also you mention about being able to cope for with a short sniff and then being tipped over threshold. I don't think this is unusual smile.gif. Face to face greetings are very difficult for dogs to deal with.


This is very true. When we first had Devon he was quite insecure around dogs the same size as him or bigger. He would sniff them nicely for a few seconds then he didn't seem to know how to progress polite greetings any further and would usually start growling. In his case, I think it was a combination of being in a new environment and having got out of the habit of socialising with other dogs during his time in kennels. We read some advice somewhere to count One thousand, Two thousand, Three thousand when he met another dog, then move him on quickly even if things were going well. That way he was socialising but didn't have enought time to start stressing out. Fortunately, once he settled down with us he relaxed and this behaviou stopped, but I would say it took a couple of months.
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Bunter1
post 7th Apr 2012, 12:08 pm
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QUOTE(celia @ 7th Apr 2012, 11:06 am) *

We never ever walk directly into the path of another dog, we do wide arcs around and then either follow behind the other dog at some distance, or change direction entirely and walk in the opposite direction.
Our walks in the park are a series of bizarre angles and crisscrossing compared to most peoples perimeter amble.
Personally I prefer arcs and circles rather than parrallel lines for this as the distance varies more and the opportunities for sharing scents and so information are better.
I basically limit his dog interactions so that most of them are always at a distance, where they are not worrying him ,unless they are proven dog friends that he is pleased to see.
I use treats , games, voice and lead to keep him in the wide arcs so that he is learning ways of avoiding conflict all the time.
If a dog does bother him I remove him quickly, ask the owner to remove their dog too and try to maintain a reasonably calm voice .
If he kicks off barking lunging or tense body then I walk him away till he is calm enough to accept a treat and do a sit.
He is now opting to find his own ways of defusing meetings by sniffing, timing his speed so as not to bump into another dog etcetc
Most importantly for an unsure dog he has learnt to trust me to keep him safe and not to be constantly worried about what or who might pop up.

This seems a really good strategy ok.gif I forgot about circles and arcs rolleyes.gif Polite dogs rarely meet head on in a straight line, they arc around each other. You'll see this sometimes during a recall if a dog is a little unsure of his owner, especially if they are being yelled at err.gif

How great that he is learning to diffuse things himself smile.gif I wish Taffy would err.gif He insists on the other dog having impeccable manners, but has none himself!

QUOTE(Lamington @ 7th Apr 2012, 11:22 am) *

We read some advice somewhere to count One thousand, Two thousand, Three thousand when he met another dog, then move him on quickly even if things were going well. That way he was socialising but didn't have enought time to start stressing out. Fortunately, once he settled down with us he relaxed and this behaviou stopped, but I would say it took a couple of months.

Another great idea about the greeting ok.gif It's so easy to be tempted into allowing things to go on for longer - and then the wheel comes off :oops: Restricting the greeting time to a duration your dog can cope with sets them up for success and ensures as far as possible that all meetings are a positive one smile.gif
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Lindsay
post 8th Apr 2012, 7:08 am
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QUOTE(Susieh @ 6th Apr 2012, 10:23 pm) *

........

I read the Calming signals book by Turid Rugaas a couple of months ago and try to keep an eye out for these but Diz often doesn't seem to notice other dogs until the last minute - too busy sniffing around or trying to find food on the floor to scavenge - so it's difficult to spot many signals in these cases before the other dog is right there. I'll read it again though and see what I missed the first time smile.gif

...



I've only had time to look at this thread quickly, so apologies if I've missed something, but it may be that the sniffiing about behaviour is a kind of "displacement behaviour" smile.gif Dogs sometimes do this when they are a bit unsure as to what else to do ... it kind of gives them a bit of thinking time .... is how I tend to see it.

You can spot it easily when you know what it is, but you have to take context into account, as of course not every sniffing behaviour is due to displacement smile.gif

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Susieh
post 8th Apr 2012, 7:25 am
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Some great advice again. I will definitely start putting some of it into practice today and keep greetings short if they are unavoidable. Limits our possible walking areas but that's probably no bad thing at this point.

Thanks all!
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Susieh
post 20th Apr 2012, 1:18 pm
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Just a bit of follow-up on this...

I've cut back on walking in places where we were pretty much guaranteed to meet dogs that Diz doesn't know. Not possible to cut this out completely but minimising the number of 'strange dog' interactions has definitely helped. Sadly it means our favourite walking place is out of action at weekends (Diz loves the woods more than anything) but should still be possible not at peak times.

I've also been limiting her on-lead meetings to a couple of seconds - keeping them positive and very short - so she doesn't have time to think about grumping.

She's actually not had a negative meeting in a few weeks now (since before I started this thread in fact) - and she's started to want to greet friendly looking dogs rather than just ignoring them or keeping her distance - so things are definitely changing.

Today I planned to take her to the country park at lunchtime rather than the smaller park behind my house but changed my mind at the last minute as I'm not feeling too well and thought I'd made a mistake as soon as I walked in - seeing several dogs she's never met before, including a couple of collies which she seems to grump at more than any other breed. She was absolutely brilliant though - met a couple of dogs that we couldn't avoid on the lead and she was fine - no obvious calming/I'm not happy signals and friendly posture, then when the dogs thinned out a bit I let her off the lead and threw her ball for a bit. She then approached and had a play with 2 lovely young dogs, one of which she's actually grumped at in the past so I was unsure how it would go. Then she went up to one of the collies of her own volition and I thought I'd pushed my luck - but she was very very polite with him and happily came back after a few seconds sniffing.

I know this was just one walk - and I'm going to be careful and not push her, but it gave me hope that she can be sociable and friendly with friendly dogs one day smile.gif
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jackied
post 20th Apr 2012, 1:42 pm
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That's lovely smile.gif

I like the 'one thousand.....' tip, I shall remember that one.


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Bunter1
post 20th Apr 2012, 2:05 pm
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yay.gif that sounds very good smile.gif
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celia
post 20th Apr 2012, 3:13 pm
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That sounds really good smile.gif
It is especially nice when they greet a dog well that previously they had problems with I reckon. Dogs seem to be excellent at not bearing grudges and giving each other another chance .
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Lindsay
post 21st Apr 2012, 6:41 am
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That's good, sounds as if things are improving and as if Dizi is more relaxed ok.gif

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