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Thread: Small dog aggression

  1. #1

    Default Small dog aggression

    Please forgive the long post. I have a tough situation, so I want to lay the ground.

    We have taken on two dogs, due to the death of a relative. At this stage we have been quite strong about having them only as an interim measure, seeing how it all worked. They are mother and son. The mother is a West Highland terrier, and the son a cross with Maltese and Shih Tzu. Mum is about 8 and the son I assume 5-7. They are both now sterilised.

    Their history I am afraid is of not being taken out and socialised. They also simply got snapped at if they growl or bark at each other, and a rolled up newspaper is waved. It all looked like a bit of a game to me. Dogs bark or growl, they are told to shut up, the paper gets waved, the dogs scatter and there is nothing else until it's repeated some time later. They were not hit with the paper, it was just used to make a loud noise. I know they were cuddled a lot, being very much lap-dogs at heart.

    They are very affectionate to people. They crave affection.

    They are often aggressive to each other. No real fights but sudden snaps growls and lunges, for no apparent reason. I have actually seen both of them wake from sleep and attack the other sleeping dog!

    Our own dog, a female BC/staffy cross, has had several fights with the male, which he has started if she gets too close, on again totally unpredictable occasions, probably tied in with competition for affection. She has won easily and it will settle down for a while. That has improved, but there is still a lot of unease. Against all the advice that I have had recently (against my own beliefs, having had several pairs of female dogs over the years) the two females get on pretty well. Although the mother has had a couple of snaps, our girl Tess seems to ignore her, simply turning her head away archly.

    When we go out, to a lesser and lesser extent they will actually ask to be put on the lead even after we have freed them. They have _never_ walked off lead as far as I can tell. All people involved with them were afraid they would not come back if called. They do, as well as any dog will.

    However, the trouble really starts when out walking. on or off lead, the boy is extremely aggressive, again unpredictably. His predictable approach to all dogs is to rush up growling, but some dogs he just stops and sniffs, while others he will really have a go at. So far only one dog has had a go back, but just about any of the dogs he has seen to could take him to bits.

    We have been using calming techniques, and distracting him by calling him and making a fuss, while trying to keep a moderate distance between him and the other dog. He has been getting better and better: easier to calm and distract, responding to a "good boy" and a pat by ignoring the other dog and relaxing. Sometimes, though the other dog gets too close too fast, and that gets really tough.

    We try waiting until there are no dogs in sight (flat park of large proportions) and then letting them off the lead and having all three dogs run back and forth between us. They love this. However if we are not watching like hawks, suddenly another dog will appear, and off we go. However we have noticed if we get it fast enough, we can control by sharp command. but the tensions just stays there. Calming works, but only lowers the level.

    Yesterday, we had a good interaction between the boy (Scruffy) and a couple of other nice, calm accepting dogs. Scruff was off lead and all was fine. However a few minutes later he went a couple of dogs. He then chased and bit at an Alsation! Luckily this other dog is superbly trained, and we suspect the owner is either Army or Police Dog squad. It basically ignored Scruff's (rather foolish) attempts. After that I pout Scruff on his extender lead and we stayed away from the other dogs in the area.

    But then a dog came within maybe 20m and Scruffy just went berserk. He shot away and I stopped the lead from extending, at maybe 3-4 m length. The lead then wrapped around his hind leg. At that stage he was biting at the lead and lunging everywhere...but still trying to attack the other dog. I managed to get to him and tried to release the lead from his leg, but when I grabbed his collar to keep him still (not to drag him around AT ALL: I already had him back with us) he just struggled and screamed...but _still_ wanted to have a go at the other (by now) dogs. I probably could have handled it better, but it was all so quick, and I was somewhat lulled by the lead, and the other dogs' distance. It was so outlandishly violent that I guess I panicked. I have never seen anything like this.

    At that stage we left the scene. It was downright embarrassing.

    I think I know the answer, but do these dogs need serious controlled (school) training? At this stage I am going to leave them at home when we take out Tess out, as all this is not nice for her at all. I will take them, on their own, to non-dog parks, because I feel that all dogs need exercise. We are not going to keep them, as they simply do not suit a home with other dogs (this is one reason we took them: nobody else in the family would!), all this is stressing our girl, and they do not suit her at all as play companions.
    Nick Peg n Benny (or is it Peg n Benny n Nick?)

    (nTess, forever in my heart)

  2. #2
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    They definitely need some training. Sounds like they also need to learn a little lesson of consequence at not listening too, but it depends on the motives of the dogs behaviors how it is handled.

    What area are you in I can make a recommendation.

  3. #3
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    Sounds like typical spoilt confused lapdogs who have been taught that other dogs are evil by their owners being overprotective. I meet so many little dogs who think that attack is the best defence. And because the vast majority of dogs will let them get away with it because of their size and puppy-like appearance the little dogs don't learn anything from these interactions either.

    I wouldn't use an extension lead. I would put him on a short leash if he misbehaves and ignore him completely while he carries on. Some sort of time out. But it probably will not be enough at all to fix the issue which sounds like it's well engrained by now.

    I don't think you can try to fix an issue like that off the leash either as he will get too overexited to hear you. But you could try greetings on leash? Start walking up to a dog, praising him for calm behaviour, but as soon as he starts barking or growling or lunging, turn around and walk a few steps back and try again.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nekhbet View Post
    They definitely need some training. Sounds like they also need to learn a little lesson of consequence at not listening too, but it depends on the motives of the dogs behaviors how it is handled.

    What area are you in I can make a recommendation.
    Thanks for the reply.

    Yeah we follow up on any command, and praise the good result even if it takes a bit. That has seen them improve a heap. For instance when trying to put leads on they were insane. It was amazingly easy to get them to calm down, in the end by simply stopping and waiting for them to stop before trying again, then praising the result.

    The funny thing is they are very easy to teach, in all things but this aggression. As I said they love attention so it goes a long way.

    I live in Perth. I am torn about going with them to training, as I am not sure about how much good it will do if they are then given to somebody else. I do realise that they will be easier to rehome if they are better.....and of course it will all be a lot more peaceful.
    Nick Peg n Benny (or is it Peg n Benny n Nick?)

    (nTess, forever in my heart)

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloz View Post
    Sounds like typical spoilt confused lapdogs who have been taught that other dogs are evil by their owners being overprotective. I meet so many little dogs who think that attack is the best defence. And because the vast majority of dogs will let them get away with it because of their size and puppy-like appearance the little dogs don't learn anything from these interactions either.

    I wouldn't use an extension lead. I would put him on a short leash if he misbehaves and ignore him completely while he carries on. Some sort of time out. But it probably will not be enough at all to fix the issue which sounds like it's well engrained by now.

    I don't think you can try to fix an issue like that off the leash either as he will get too overexited to hear you. But you could try greetings on leash? Start walking up to a dog, praising him for calm behaviour, but as soon as he starts barking or growling or lunging, turn around and walk a few steps back and try again.
    All good advice.

    I have certainly learned to abandon the extended lead for now. I just got caught out. I have used the time out idea. It can be tough in a park, though, as other people always seem to think that "their dog is OK" so it can come as close it likes. It's hard to tell people to keep their dogs at a distance. It's amazing! We quite openly say that the dogs are not socialised and need care, but for whatever reason people still let their dogs get closer and closer. I always "respect the lead" if I see a dog on leash in a dog park I will keep Tess away at a reasonable distance, because I realise the lead may be for a reason, and can cause extra tension anyway . If the owner says it's OK, then I will allow a hello.......that was when we only had Tess. Now we have to be the ones _with_ the lead.

    Off leash I agree. It's just that we have tried to let them off, but again get caught out when other dogs pop up. They can move pretty fast even when just sniffing about.

    We want to give the guys freedom, as they are obviously enjoying it much more, and are actually starting to interact in exploration with Tess. But it's a tense situation most of the time, looking for other dogs.
    Nick Peg n Benny (or is it Peg n Benny n Nick?)

    (nTess, forever in my heart)

  6. #6
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    I don't let my dog go up to dogs on lead either. Though this morning I got distracted and saw my dog saying hello to a little chihuahua. The chi looked ok, but the owner got into full panic mode and pulled the dog up into her arms by his leash. The leash was only attached to a flat collar!! I felt guilty because I wasn't paying attention, but oh that poor dog. Sorry, OT!

    It sounds like you are making heaps of progress and maybe you will get there with the aggression once they have learnt some basic manners and to trust you.

    And I love it when dogs enjoy exploring together. I've actually seen dog aggressive dogs forget all about their "issues" when they were allowed to do that.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the reply. Yes. yanking the dog up by its collar is awful, and guaranteed to teach the little guy that other dogs are evil (as was said before) I find that holding a dog up also simply makes other dogs want to stand up and sniff, thereby scaring said dog, owner etc and creating indignation all over the place.

    We have progressed, but yesterday was a huge back-flip and although I know that will happen, it was a shock.

    Yes dogs exploring is only beaten, for me, by dogs playing. You could see that Tess and the other two, at least, were getting along much better when "busy". And encouragingly, they would all come to a call, except that Mum, Pearl, can be a little "deaf" sometimes.
    Nick Peg n Benny (or is it Peg n Benny n Nick?)

    (nTess, forever in my heart)

  8. #8
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    Dog Training Perth | Western Australia start with this lady at least to help you curb his tendencies. At least if you want to rehome them too you will know what kind of person should be owning them and not just to whoever thinks they can handle his behavior

  9. #9

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    OK. Thanks for that. As you say I can ask about re-homing, at the least.

    Question. What should I do?

    I was thinking of using the Dog Refuge Home, or one of those, to rehome. My thoughts are this:
    - they know far more than I do about training a really difficult/actively aggressive dog.
    - they also are very experienced and thorough about rehoming.
    - however it will be harder on Scruff and Pearl. For all their good intentions those places are gaols for dogs.

    I obviously also thought about fostering, using the Home (etc) to regulate it. The trouble is I have seen the fostering agreements they ask and they are _stringent_ and to my mid a bit unfair. They seem very inflexible about allowing for stuff and a bit institutionalised and minimalist. For instance I wanted to _adopt_ a dog and I was asked to fill out the _foster_ form, which had me signing that I would pay Vet bills, allow inspections...that the dog remained the property of the organisation etc. I was going "Wha????" I kept saying "why not a different form?" and they just did not get it. So I am at loggerheads with them right from the get-go.

    As I mentioned before, I was under a huge pressure not to have two female dogs, from several organisations on the Pet rescue site. I have had several sets of females, introduced to an "existing" companion with a new one, and I have never had trouble. but two groups simply refused.

    However the idea of farming these guys out myself is a huge task. I myself would become ultra-cautious.

    There is of course the family's opinion to consider. They may take them back if offered no other choice than adoption. Hard to tell.

    Like I said. A tough situation.
    Nick Peg n Benny (or is it Peg n Benny n Nick?)

    (nTess, forever in my heart)

  10. #10
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    I'm afraid I don't really follow the part of your post about the foster/adopt agreement and forms, etc, but I was pleased to see that the Refuge is a no kill shelter, at least.

    I personally think that the right think to do is at least get a behavioural assessment done before you make any decisions.

    It's true that a shelter like that would have experience with difficult dogs, but it is also true that difficult/aggressive dogs are often "long term" residents, and can be very hard to re-home. I guess they do try to keep their shelters less "jail like", but at the end of the day, they can be distressing places for dogs to be.
    If the family are still "in the loop" maybe you could talk to them about helping with the cost of assessment/training for them? Even if you could get some really basic ground work completed, that would much improve their chance of being re-homed.

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