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Thread: Barky Dog-Aggressive Terrier

  1. #1
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    Default Barky Dog-Aggressive Terrier

    Hi everyone,

    I have a 4 year old Border Terrier who has issues around other dogs. He is generally a bit hyperactive (barks loudly when people come to door or walk past house, jumps up at people etc) but loves people and is a very gentle and affectionate dog when in the house. He is good with children and has generally good manners in the house - he knows basic commands sit, stay, wait, lie down etc and leanred these easily from a young age. Basically, when at home he is the perfect dog but when we go out for a walk he turns into a bit of a horror.

    If we see another dog when walking on the lead, he will strain until he gets to a certain distance, then bark and lunge. If a dog comes too close to him, he will continue to bark and sometimes bare his teeth. Occasionally, he also barks at people (though doesn't bare teeth at people) particularly if we are walking in the dark and they come too close. We used to let him off the lead in the park when he was younger and his recall was good but he will only come back if there isn't something more interesting around. As he got older, this got worse and worse. If we let him off the lead now and he sees another dog, he will charge at it whilst barking. He can clear the full distance of the park very quickly whilst doing this and we have no control over him as he is soon miles away. This is obviously quite scary for other people he is running at, even though he is only a small dog. We now only let him off the lead when there is nobody else around because we are too afraid to let him off around other dogs. To be honest I'm not even sure what he would do if he caught up to the other dogs, but on the few instances he has in the past, he has barked aggressively and attempted to bite them. This is only exacerbated the problem because now he isnt used to being around other dogs so when he sees them he's worse.

    We have now decided that our own stress is quite possibly making this worse. When I see other dogs I tense up and cross the road to avoid them and I think he's picking up on this and is now trying to protect me - does this sound plausible? Our new regime involves giving him half his food in the evening and half throughout the day as reward. When walking him, I ocasionally call his name, wait for him to look at me, then reward. We also stop and sit to cross the road for a reward and if he is quiet when passing someone close by he is rewarded too. I think this is already making a difference and I even managed to walk past a dog yesterday without fuss. This morning though, he went crazy barking at the sight of another dog and I hadn't even noticed it myself until he did.

    Does anyone have any practical tips that may help me? Has anyone had a similar problem? And do you think we are making it worse by keeping him on the lead? He does get two good walks a day. It really upsets me when he gets like this because other prople look at him like he's a savage and he's really such a friendly dog the rest of the time! If anyone can help us that would be great. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    his recall was good but he will only come back if there isn't something more interesting around.
    This is not "good recall".
    If a dog knows they can get away with ignoring a recall sometimes, they assume that means anytime.

    He is a terrier. He will attack and bite given the atttitude and opportunity you describe. They (espeically borders) will kill small creatures like rats and mice easily. If they've decided bigger critters (other dogs) deserve to be attacked - they will attack. They don't bluff much. In my opinion.

    If he was protective - he'd stay with you not go charging away.

    Whatever it is you do when he notices another dog - is making it worse. Do you scold or yell at him or jerk him around by the neck when he does this? This would make it worse because he's likely to blame the other dog for his discomfort and assume you're approving and joining in attacking the other dog if you're yelling and barking too.

    We now only let him off the lead when there is nobody else around
    I wouldn't let him off at all until you're prepared to bet his life on his recall. Because that's what you're doing. You admit you don't always spot other dogs or people before he does let alone smaller critters like snakes.

    When walking him, I ocasionally call his name, wait for him to look at me, then reward. We also stop and sit to cross the road for a reward and if he is quiet when passing someone close by he is rewarded too.
    This is a fairly good plan but won't help with his attitude to other dogs. You need to be well aware of the "Threshold distance" where he goes over the top and stops listening to you. This will be some way further than when he starts barking and lunging. You also need to notice when he starts becoming anxious or distracted on your walks, ie fixated looking, or looking away and calming signals (licking lips, yawning, suddenly stopping to scratch).

    A book called "Control unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt has some good methods for dealing with this specifically "Look at That" technique - where you actually reward him for looking at his trigger (eg another dog). But you have to be far enough away that he can still pay attention to you and has not become too excited to respond.

    You also need the very best treats - the things he goes nutty for - when rewarding for looking at another dog. Dinner kibble is not going to be strong enough incentive to balance such a strong distraction.

    There is a related method called "behaviour adjustment technique" or BAT. It's similar.

    Rewarding for looking at another dog - may seem counter intuitive. but it gives the dog something else to associate with seeing other dogs - ie I get good things when other dogs are around. But it's really important you cue "look at that" and reward - while he's still far enough away to pay attention to you. If he's barking and lunging, get further away until he can do basic things he knows well - like a sit. Then ask him to "look at that" and reward - with your very best treats.

    I think you may also need help from an experienced behaviourist who can see what you do when you're out walking with him and help you manage to calm him down instead of helping wind him up when he spots another dog (or other trigger).

    It would help to know roughly where you are so we can recommend someone in your area.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 07-30-2012 at 01:02 PM.

  3. #3
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    Hyacinth, thanks for some really great advice... there are definitely some things I can use in your post with regards to Soph, who has the opposite problem!

    sopho, thank you for being honest with your post... this may sound really weird, but I'm glad you are scared of the consequences of what might happen to the dog on the receiving end of his agression, because the reality is that your dog's actions could very well cost him his life, as well as your wallet a massive fine.

    I was recently on the receiving end of a dog aggressive terrier who launched at my dog Soph across a park, and ultimately I had to resort to physical violence to that dog to get it away. It was him or me/my dog - and let me tell you, it wasn't going to be me or Sophie. That dog's owner didn't care. I'm glad that you do. If a drop of Soph's blood had been spilled, as much as I love dogs, I would not have resetd until that terrier {and the owner} was punished to the fullest extent possible - and for the dog, that is PTS.

    Your reward method seems like a great place to start, and I do agree with Hyacinth that a dog behaviour specialist will be able to give you more tools to use to get your dog up to par and on his best behaviour.

    I'm not sure whether or not you are aware {and not sure what State you're in} - in Vic at least, if you allow your dog off leash in an area that is not a designated dog-friendly area, you put yourself and your dog at serious legal risk. The old argument of "in effective control" carries no legal weight whatsoever after recent fatal maulings by supposed "good" dogs. Do yourself an immediate favour and do not ever let your dog off leash anywhere other than a dog park unless you and he are prepared for the consequences.

  4. #4
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    Hyacinth, thank you so much for that detailed response.

    When he first began to display this behaviour towards other dogs, we did jerk the lead and tell him firmly to stop. We don't yell at him but I do think that my voice gets high and stressy (because it is such a stressful situation) which winds him up more. We came to the same conclusion that jerking/ telling him to stop wasn't working so now when it happens I completely ignore the behaviour. He ends up jerking himself though because he strains as far as he ca go on the lead.

    I see what you're saying about the protection thing - charging doesn't add up to that. We've had so many conflicting opinions and bits of advice about this its hard to know what to think anymore.

    I read somewhere else on here that the bigger the distraction the bigger the treat needs to be (makes sense). So to ignore his biggest triggers like dogs he will need something amazing. The other day I took him out with bacon cut into cubes which worked well. I can definitely see the logic in asking him to look at dogs and then rewarding that. Dogs have become such a negative thing and we need to turn that into a positive experience.

    The strange thing about him is that when he is introduced to a dog we know (a friends dog for example) he will bark at it upon meeting it, then calm down and be fine around it. This happened the other day when we went to visit friends that have a dog. They were lying by the fire together in the evening and I couldn't help thinking how strange it was that he can do that but then be so aggressive when meeting dogs outside?

    I think that working with a behaviourist would be really good for us. I just really feel like I need to put a serious plan into action so that I can improve life for him - he should be able to enjoy his walks without his anxiety spiking like this every time we meet a dog and I want us to get pleasure from walking him too. I know Borders can be difficult and I've been disheartened before by someone telling me that they are just 'like' that and that there isn't any hope. I don't want to believe that and I don't want to give up on him, he's such a young dog.

    I'm in Perth WA by the way. Thanks for all your help.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinkest View Post
    Hyacinth, thanks for some really great advice... there are definitely some things I can use in your post with regards to Soph, who has the opposite problem!

    sopho, thank you for being honest with your post... this may sound really weird, but I'm glad you are scared of the consequences of what might happen to the dog on the receiving end of his agression, because the reality is that your dog's actions could very well cost him his life, as well as your wallet a massive fine.

    I was recently on the receiving end of a dog aggressive terrier who launched at my dog Soph across a park, and ultimately I had to resort to physical violence to that dog to get it away. It was him or me/my dog - and let me tell you, it wasn't going to be me or Sophie. That dog's owner didn't care. I'm glad that you do. If a drop of Soph's blood had been spilled, as much as I love dogs, I would not have resetd until that terrier {and the owner} was punished to the fullest extent possible - and for the dog, that is PTS.

    Your reward method seems like a great place to start, and I do agree with Hyacinth that a dog behaviour specialist will be able to give you more tools to use to get your dog up to par and on his best behaviour.

    I'm not sure whether or not you are aware {and not sure what State you're in} - in Vic at least, if you allow your dog off leash in an area that is not a designated dog-friendly area, you put yourself and your dog at serious legal risk. The old argument of "in effective control" carries no legal weight whatsoever after recent fatal maulings by supposed "good" dogs. Do yourself an immediate favour and do not ever let your dog off leash anywhere other than a dog park unless you and he are prepared for the consequences.
    Hi Pinkest. I absolutely do care and reading your post almost made me cry! I don't want to put anyones dog at risk and I dont want to scare people. If the tables were turned and another dog bit him I would be just as angry as you would be if someone bit your Sophie (great name by the way ). I would never let him off in an area that wasn't a designated dog beach or park and I won't be letting him off until I can trust him. I just hope that there is hope for him. I find it so hard because I don't want people to think I'm a bad owner who doesn't care about my dog and has let him get this way. We care about him so much and we trained him from an 8 week old pup. We are such dog people and he is so loving and affectionate towards us, and all our friends and family, in return. People don't believe us when we tell them how he can be with other dogs. Please let there be hope! Thanks very much for your post.

  6. #6
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    Sounds like you are open to help and honest about the behaviour, hard to do when you love them to bits. Best wishes for a plan that works.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by farrview View Post
    Sounds like you are open to help and honest about the behaviour, hard to do when you love them to bits. Best wishes for a plan that works.
    Thank you Farrview

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    The strange thing about him is that when he is introduced to a dog we know (a friends dog for example) he will bark at it upon meeting it, then calm down and be fine around it. This happened the other day when we went to visit friends that have a dog. They were lying by the fire together in the evening and I couldn't help thinking how strange it was that he can do that but then be so aggressive when meeting dogs outside?
    I don't see anything strange about this. Even you are more comfortable with your friends than with scary looking strangers. And it may take you a little while to get used to a new person who is scary looking - and they'd have to do all the right things and make no scary moves and not be pushy at all. Meeting lots of well behaved dogs - ones that can give all the right signals - despite your dog's rude behaviour - in a controlled environment ie where there are just dogs you know there - and not random unknown dogs - can be a help. But you would need a big space so you can still start working from far enough away - your dog can still respond to you. And then you can work on going closer and further away while the other dogs act politely, calmy and pretty much ignore your dog. A behaviourist should be able to help set this up - starting with one calm dog and then building up.

    Dogs are very good at knowing who their friends are and being completely different with unknown dogs (and people). And some dogs make friends more easily than others.

    He ends up jerking himself though because he strains as far as he can go on the lead.
    With my dog - and random cats - If I spot it or signs that she's spotted it, I would shorten up the lead and bring her right back to me - so she couldn't lunge to the end of the lead. Ie if you have a 10cm run up, you gather much less speed and do much less damage than if you have a 2m run up and come to a sudden halt (by the neck). We've gotten to the point that if she spots the cat first - she sits and looks at it (called "indicating" by the sniffer dog trainers). Which saves us both a lot of grief. And helps the cat calm down too. She gets treats for this. And a tonne of my best treats if the cat decides to come up and check us out. And then I hold by my dog by the collar.

    I don't know anything personally about this trainer - but I've seen her recommended many times.
    Kathy Kopellis McLeod
    Dog Training Perth | Western Australia

    There's a link to a pdf of an article she wrote in the newspaper about how to train your dog to be polite when it sees another dog - on this page.
    http://kathysdogtraining.com.au/sund...y_articles.php

    I was going to link the "how to choose a dog trainer/behavourist" from K9 Pro The K9 Professionals; Online Dog Shop - they're Sydney/Hawksbury based - but I can't find it. You could email them and ask them to recommend someone in Perth. It's important you choose someone who will train you how to train the dog and be open about all their methods and reasons behind using them. Avoid anyone who wants to take your dog away, or wants to use lots of aversives (eg yelling at the dog or other things the dog doesn't like) because your dog is likely to get worse... as you've already found out.

    Border Terriers are extremely bright - as a breed - they're one of my favourite terriers and they can be extremely easy to train - you just need to pay attention to what they love doing, from food to chasing a ratlike toy on a rope, and use those for rewards.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 07-30-2012 at 01:55 PM.

  9. #9
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    sopho, because you care, there is always hope.

    Hyacinth and Newfsie are generally absolutely 11/10 spot on with their advice, so do get some recommendations from them for any behaviouralists that they may know of in WA to help... I am sure that there is light at the end of tunnel for you, and the most important this is that you care enough about your doglet to want to get his personality back to the way it should be when out and about.

    Best of luck to you!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinkest View Post
    sopho, because you care, there is always hope.

    Hyacinth and Newfsie are generally absolutely 11/10 spot on with their advice, so do get some recommendations from them for any behaviouralists that they may know of in WA to help... I am sure that there is light at the end of tunnel for you, and the most important this is that you care enough about your doglet to want to get his personality back to the way it should be when out and about.

    Best of luck to you!
    Thanks Pinkest that's lovely. We will follow the advice given and I'll let you all know how we get on

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