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Thread: Aggressive Wheaton Terrier

  1. #1

    Default Aggressive Wheaton Terrier

    Hay guise,

    I've recently taken on 2 wheaton terriers to exercise and socialize with my dog pack. One is fantastic - she's a little shy, but very good natured and obedient. She sticks close to my leg and leans against me in a chummy way. The other is ok as long as the conditions are correct, but certain things trigger extremely aggressive behaviour. One trigger is possessiveness, he will see a dog playing with a ball, stand over the ball and fixate on it, then attack the dog with a very loud screaming/roaring noise. He will continue to attack even if the other dog is on its back yelping in pain and fear. He's injured other dogs before (before I took him on), causing bleeding and torn ears. Needless to say this is disgusting and abnormal for a dog, and I'd really like to eliminate this behaviour so he can lead a happy and well balanced life. It would also make my life a lot easier, since I have to take him out every day and his aggressive crap really messes with the dynamics and mood of the pack. It's not fair to the other dogs that there is a crazy one who brings tension and unpleasantness to their daily walk.

    I'm dealing with the aggression as it happens, and keeping him on lead most of the time, but I'd like to be able to eventually let him run with the well balanced dogs. When he attacks another dog I make a pincer shape with my hand and "bite" his neck hard, forcing him to lie on the ground until he calms down. My reflexes are good so I am always able to do it instantly. When I do this he becomes hysterical and kicks up a huge fuss, tries to bite me and screams at the top of his lungs, before eventually winding down and lying still when I say "No! Bad!" and "Hey! Calm down!".

    The weird thing is, their owner seems like a sensible person who seemingly does all the right things and apparently disciplines them both reasonably well. Could this be some kind of mental illness caused by bad breeding or a neurological disorder? Like I said, his female friend is fine, a very gentle soul and I've never had any problems with her at all.

    I give him treats and praise when he is friendly, and when he does not act aggressively in situations where he normally would. Does anyone know any other strategies to deal with this kind of thing? Is it fixable or will he be like this forever? I've dealt with this kind of thing before but not with this level of sheer insanity.

  2. #2
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    When he attacks another dog I make a pincer shape with my hand and "bite" his neck hard, forcing him to lie on the ground until he calms down. My reflexes are good so I am always able to do it instantly. When I do this he becomes hysterical and kicks up a huge fuss, tries to bite me and screams at the top of his lungs, before eventually winding down and lying still when I say "No! Bad!" and "Hey! Calm down!".
    This, I think, would make the behaviour worse. He's upset by the other dog, and he thinks the other dog is going to do something bad to him or his toy or whatever - and suddenly the really bad thing happens.

    He's going to blame the other dog for your assault. He's not necessarily going to connect it with his bad behaviour. You'd have to distract/interrupt him as soon as he notices the other dog and before he starts his assault for you to have any affect with an aversive like this.

    And given he will blame the other dog - he's likely to escalate - start sooner and hit harder when he perceives a threat.

    If I was going to try to deal with this - first I'd get some help from someone like Nekhbet because clearly the strategy currently employed is not working and I need some new ideas.

    But if it was me trying to sort it - I would set up the trigger in a controlled environment - I'd work out what his threshold distance was ie how close can he be until he starts his possessiveness - can the other dog play with their ball on the far side of a football oval? Two football ovals? Half a football oval? I'd keep Mr Grumpy dog on lead the whole time until he can watch another dog play with a ball without feeling the need to join in at all.

    By controlled environment - no other dogs around ie a large area that is on lead and not popular with dog walkers at the time of day you try this. And Grumpy stays on lead. And you are in communication wih the dog playing with the ball and that owner/handler. Ie you can signal from a distance to play or stop as you need.

    work at the edge of the threshhold distance with lots of yummy treats.

    For more details look up LAT (look at that) and BAT (Behaviour Adjustment? training) I and Newfsie have posted lots of links. And I really ought to gather them up into a sticky or blog post.

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    I don't treat any sort of aggression with aggressive measures at all. I used to a long time ago, but have changed because it doesn't benefit many dogs.

    If you've got good dog reading skills, perhaps he'd benefit from learning leave it if you can cut him off before he reaches critical point? But for the time being I'd eliminate all triggers from his environment when he's around other dogs. Easier said than done I know but...

    Yes it could be breeding, he is also a wheaten, tenacious little guys. Was he late to desexing?

    I also find steeling or taking toys off other dogs is typical in a new pack (though generally it's just steeling from a lower ranking dog even though they don't really want to play with the toy, just show the other dog they rank higher and can take it away). How long has he been with his new pack?

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    If I was going to try to deal with this - first I'd get some help from someone like Nekhbet because clearly the strategy currently employed is not working and I need some new ideas.
    I don't actually know whether it will work with this particular dog or not because I've only had him a couple of days. In the past this strategy has worked, and I've actually observed the dog getting ready to pounce, looking at me, remembering the consequences of that action, and disengaging - upon which they recieve a reward. I am asking the question because it's at a higher level of aggression than anything I've ever seen before - he's not just possessive, he's totally hyperkinetic and insane. It's such a massive overreaction that I'm half convinced he has something badly wrong with his brain.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    But if it was me trying to sort it - I would set up the trigger in a controlled environment - I'd work out what his threshold distance was ie how close can he be until he starts his possessiveness - can the other dog play with their ball on the far side of a football oval? Two football ovals? Half a football oval? I'd keep Mr Grumpy dog on lead the whole time until he can watch another dog play with a ball without feeling the need to join in at all.

    By controlled environment - no other dogs around ie a large area that is on lead and not popular with dog walkers at the time of day you try this. And Grumpy stays on lead. And you are in communication wih the dog playing with the ball and that owner/handler. Ie you can signal from a distance to play or stop as you need.

    work at the edge of the threshhold distance with lots of yummy treats.
    That's a good idea, I will have a go at using your method to analyze his triggers and find out more about what sets him off. I'll keep you posted with what I find.

    Quote Originally Posted by MAC
    I don't treat any sort of aggression with aggressive measures at all. I used to a long time ago, but have changed because it doesn't benefit many dogs.

    If you've got good dog reading skills, perhaps he'd benefit from learning leave it if you can cut him off before he reaches critical point? But for the time being I'd eliminate all triggers from his environment when he's around other dogs. Easier said than done I know but...

    Yes it could be breeding, he is also a wheaten, tenacious little guys. Was he late to desexing?

    I also find steeling or taking toys off other dogs is typical in a new pack (though generally it's just steeling from a lower ranking dog even though they don't really want to play with the toy, just show the other dog they rank higher and can take it away). How long has he been with his new pack?
    I wouldn't call my countermeasure aggression, it's pretty much the only thing it's possible to do when the dog is in that state. I don't yell or hurt the dog, just physically subdue it so it can't move. As you know, other dogs tend to gather in a circle when one of them is being unbalanced, and holding him down is designed to prevent him from biting someone and exacerbating the situation further.

    He's been with the new pack 3 days, and every time he's flown into a gnashing, snarling rage at least once as a response to various stimuli such as flat-nosed breeds, the pack returning to me and gathering for treats, another dog playing with a ball, another dog getting too close at the wrong time, etc etc etc. I'm still discovering what sets him off, there are so many things. There is little to no warning before he displays this behaviour - his tensing up and growling stage lasts a split second before he moves onto the full-on aggressive stage. He can literally be walking relaxed with his eyes squinty and tongue out, to a dervish of teeth and noise and spittle within 0.5 seconds.

    He wasn't desexed late that I know of, from what I've gleaned from his owners this behaviour started soon after they aquired their second dog. He was 2 years old at the time I believe. They told me how he has mauled a puppy and picked fights with powerful breeds like boxers and american staffies. He does display some other odd traits such as twitching and leg-shaking, and suddenly looking intently at thin air.

    It's nothing I can't physically or mentally handle, I've had to subdue dobermans and rottweilers as part of my work, but it's only been 3 days and I'm already getting tired of him. The unpredictable nature of his moods mean everyone is on edge and less open to commands and instructions. I run a tight ship and this dog is buggering it up somewhat.

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    suddenly looking intently at thin air.
    Does he maybe have an eye sight problem? This can aggravate fear or aggression because the dog cannot properly interpret his environment and if there has been previous bad experiences - this may lead to his current strategy for dealing with stuff he can't figure out.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Does he maybe have an eye sight problem? This can aggravate fear or aggression because the dog cannot properly interpret his environment and if there has been previous bad experiences - this may lead to his current strategy for dealing with stuff he can't figure out.
    I don't think he's got an eyesight problem - he seems to see just fine, and his eyes don't look like they have cataracts or glaucoma.

    I've been testing his thresholds and so far the things that set him off are other dogs playing with a ball or stick, powerful breeds that are bigger than him, other dogs eating, and unknown dogs approaching him from both the front and the sides. It seems to me like he's got some heavy insecurity issues maybe coupled with a few neurological quirks.

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    That's quite a list of things to work on...

    I guess - start with whatever he's likely to encounter most often. What is his current threshold distance - ie how far away are these things before he starts to show signs of upset or discomfort? And I'm talking before lunging and barking or growling, but more like looking at, looking away, yawning, scratching, lip licking, ear flicks, sniffing excessively... stuff that comes before the hackles go up.

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