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Thread: Training to cure dog aggression

  1. #1
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    Default Training to cure dog aggression

    I need your input. Banjo's issue with other dogs is getting noticeably worse. It's still manageable. For example, I am still able to take her to the dog park and distract her with a ball or some trick training when another dog approaches her to avoid trouble. And she doesn't usually go up to other dogs.

    But she does quite consistently growl and snap when another dog approaches her and what's worse, she has started a fight a few times when another dog growled at her.

    I'm really quite upset about this because she used to have impeccable body language around other dogs. She used to calm and attract even the antisocial dogs we met on walks and on the rare occasions she was met with a negative reaction, she would display all the appropriate calming signals and retreat without fuss.

    My previous dog was very antisocial so I'm quite convinced that it is something I'm doing wrong. And I want to know what and fix it. I am not happy with just managing it. I want to get to the stage where I can have other dogs visiting our house without having to worry about fights.

    I have done some reading and I think my strategy of taking her to the dog park and keeping her busy with games and training alongside other dogs is a good start. As long as we leave if there are dogs that won't react to her "get away from me" cues.

    But I probably will have to dig deeper than that. I must admit that I've been lazy with training. She has almost perfect recall and does the basic stuff, like sit, stay, etc. But that's it. I noticed it's been so long since I have asked her to learn anything new, that she now struggles to get simple stuff, like that our foster pup gets treats when he lies down just outside the kitchen area - something he got without prompting after being rewarded twice. I had never felt a need to teach Banjo this but will now treat her off she does it too, but she's so slow.

    So I need to device a new training regime to make her think more and work for my attention. Which is where I need your advice. Is daily trick training going to be sufficient to achieve this? Or do I need to go further and implement a strict NILF? I just feel a bit stuck, thinking about this and trying to device a plan.

  2. #2
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    As a newbie I would not know where to begin.
    So i will leave the advice for others to offer.

    For myself, I would draw a time line starting with the good old days
    *when she did off leash walking/training with you and was social with all other dogs (and humans)
    *then you moved to your friends house - where she had one LAB friend (so no more off leash after this?)
    what else was different in this 6 month timeframe? everything I suppose.
    *move to your new home but other side of the city ? no off leash areas (also no LAB friend)
    *visits crowded dog parks , confined area populated by idiots

    Is it at all possible, maybe on Sundays to drive her to the other side of town (with the walking trails and such)
    where she used to feel safe and happy?
    I think that she may really enjoy this if it can be done.

    I would never take Snoopy to a dog park. He needs wide open spaces, in a confined area he would feel stressed.
    At the big dog beach he is fine, happy to meet and greet and then keep walking/running with me.

  3. #3
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    Our old dog walking spot was great because it did offer that choice of whether to interact with a dog or not and interactions were fairly short because people walked to the end and back. I can take her there on weekends, but a 40 min drive is too much during the week. And I don't think it will make a difference to how she now feels about strange dogs. She'll just avoid most of them and react negatively if they approach her too.

    It is totally possible that this was caused by the context of moving and changing routines. But the fact that my old dog was a bully and never backed away from the opportunity to get involved in a good scuffle makes me think I am doing something subconsciously that triggers this behaviour.

  4. #4
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    Sounds like the issue has escalated now because where you exercise her is a more pressured situation than your old spot. Sometimes when a dog gets older it may also have some areas of pain that make it grumpier because it is afraid another dog may hurt it.

    It may or may not be you having an influence. I have had dogs that are generally great but I have also had a couple that really didnt like other dogs running up to them and getting in their face.

    Perhaps you need to have a routine so when another dog visits she has a safe place to retreat to if she doesnt want to ineract, like a crate or something. Also only have dogs visit that respect her space. With your new foster pup, does it get in her face a lot? might be putting pressure on her.

    I would respect her get away cues at the dog park and make her feel like you will protect her by not forcing an interaction. How old is she now?

  5. #5
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    I don't know why I didn't listen to all the advice to keep her away from the frigging dog park. I took her this morning and she reacted so badly - and I reacted so badly to her reactions - that I haven't been able to stop crying since. Makes me feel very silly writing that but I feel like a complete failure and I feel sorry for the dog that I pushed her into reacting like that. Such a far cry from how confident she used to be around other dogs.

    But I need somewhere to train around other dogs. And I need her to learn appropriate strategies to deal with dogs approaching her.

    I've just written to a dog trainer. Haven't sent it yet. What we really need is "growl classes" . And I thought our rspca did have something like that a while back, though I could be wrong. I might call them first to see if they have any suggestions for training in a controlled environment. Would going to obedience classes make a difference?

    I'm really out of my depth here and just feel very stupid because I don't know what to do.

  6. #6
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    It is odd that you say that she used to be very good with approaching dogs and have good body language. I would be really thinking about what has changed.

    I found obedience classes worked well with my reactive dog. I did however make sure that I was right on the outer edge and made sure I was at a distance that she was comfortable. A few people were doing the same thing, working on their reactive dogs. I know they have classes over here where the classes are small and they work on the dogs' reactivity. The trainer has several of her own dogs as well that are bomb proof and well used to dealing with reactive dogs. I wouldnt feel stupid, reactivity is not always easy, but it is helpful to find advice from a trainer who has a good reputation and results for working with reactive dogs and trains in a fashion that fits with you.

  7. #7
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    I really like the sound of this trainer I am considering. I think Newfsie knew her or at least of her. She comes recommended by the local rescue org too.

    Obedience classes would be a bit hit and miss. But I will give the local club a call to discuss.

    Banjo is only reactive if a dog gets in her space. I can walk her right past a dog on leash when she is off leash, with a 'leave' and 'close'. She chooses to avoid other dogs when she can. Which is fine in most situations. I've long given up on the idea that I want her to play with every dog she meets (which she pretty much used to). But it doesn't work when other dogs approach her and I don't want to have to keep her away from those situations.

    I have hope that we can turn it around again but just feel very frustrated that I cannot work out where I went wrong. But of course the positive is that if I can get to the bottom of this and find a training regime that results in a fix of some sort, I'll be a much better dog owner and carer.

  8. #8
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    Stupid tablet. Double post...

  9. #9
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    Hey Beloz.

    I'm glad you are really considering not going to the dog park now. It really has been stressful for both you and Banjo. If you keep taking Banjo, she may feel like you are taking her somewhere she isn't comfortable and this can lead to other trust related issues to you.

    In regards to exercising her, have you considered bikes? Having a dog run alongside a bike it great exercise for you and the dog. They don't have time to stop and interact with other dogs and it's a focused run for them as they have to match your speed and stay away from the tyres.

    How does she react to dogs behind fences? if she reacts, could you work on this with neighbourhood dogs?

    If she is reacting when she is out of her depth, I think getting better at predicting a possible problem and intervening early will help you. When I am at our local enclosed park I ALWAYS put my boy on lead when another dog arrives regardless of how friendly the dog may seem or what the owner says. If he is on lead, I can control everything that happens. I can move away if it is looking bad and reward when everything is good.

    I also think obedience clubs are a good idea if you know what you want out of them. Not all classes offer the same thing and some trainers are more experienced in problem behaviours than others. You would need to find which place offers what you need for Banjo.

    Good Luck.

  10. #10
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    I do usually exercise her with the bike. As mentioned, she only reacts when dogs invade her space. I find having her on leash makes things worse when the other dog is determined to make contact because then I'm stuck in the middle and get very tense. And turning her away from an approaching dog seems to make her more tense too. That's what happened this morning at the dog park with one dog who just continued to jump up at me while Banjo was trying to attack him and another who decided to ignore her growling and snapping because he absolutely had to have a good sniff. That's when I left in tears. And poor Banjo knew I was upset with her and immediately crawled under the bed after we got home. But I was only upset with myself, not with her. It was just heart wrenching to see her like that.

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