Hey everyone. I'm new to this forum so you'll have to bear with me! I've got a dog with some dog aggression problems. Wondering if anyone can give me some advice.
I have a 2 year old lab x staffy. Ever since she was a puppy she has been very anxious and nervous around other dogs. She went to 3 different puppy schools when she was young, all 6 weeks each. I also used to walk her in an area where there were constantly other dogs around twice a day for one hour each.
When I was walking her when she was young (I can't remember how old, but she'd had her immunisations), a woman approached us with her dog off lead (we were not in an off lead area, we were on my street). She asked if they could play and I told her I'd rather not, she replied with 'my dog isn't aggressive!' and before I could say anything else, she was right there and her dog attacked mine. Talk about a bad experience from the start.
In the first puppy class she was about 8-10 weeks old. She would just run and hide anywhere she could find from the other puppies, she would even find places to hide in between bags of dog food at the vet! The vet nurse running the course got to the point where she would just carry her around the whole time and wouldn't let her interact with the other puppies.
The second one had a small amount of interaction, but not a whole lot as there were a lot of dogs at this puppy class. Again my dog would just run and hide, and the vet nurses never told us anything about it.
The third one was a puppy to dog class. She was probably 4 or 5 months old when she went to this. This was held outside and although there were other dogs around, our dogs were always required to be on lead and not to interact.
One day at about 6 months we were walking in a park where dogs were required to be on lead. Someone had their dog off lead and it ran up to our dog and attacked her. I pulled it off of her but ever since this point she has been dog aggressive when on lead. Prior to this she wasn't aggressive, just anxious, she would just pull in the opposite direction to other dogs and she was also starting to get used to familiar dogs, walking up to them and even playing with them. But after this incident there was only aggression. The irony is that it was a small dog that attacked her, and she was a biggish dog at this point. When I asked the owner to put her dog on lead as her dog was attacking mine, she said that I should put a muzzle on my dog if she couldn't interact with other dogs, when her dog was biting my dog and my dog was cowering and trying to get away!
At one year I moved in with a friend who has a German shepherd (female) about the same age. At first they were a bit snarly at each other and my dog would be aggressive toward the other dog if they were on lead. However, after a while, in the backyard and off lead the dogs interacted well with each other, playing and etc. to the point where we could leave them outside all day together.
At this point (one year old) we took our dog to a dog training 'retreat' where we left her for 10 days and they were supposed to socialise her with other dogs. My dog didn't really have any other problems at this point except lead pulling (she also jumps on people to greet them in our house, but that's our fault because we chose not to train this out of her). She wasn't aggressive towards people or anything. $1200 later we picked her up and found she had had no interaction with other dogs and they hadn't even managed anything at all with her lead training. Apparently when she walks on lead with anyone except me she just drops and won't move! My partner included!
I also found out after we picked her up that they used negative reinforcement at this place, which needless to say we weren't particularly happy about as she already had anxiety issues.
She also got desexed just after this time, where she had a bad incident at the vet as she was pulling away not wanting to cooperate. The vet told us that due to this she 'may have been hit on the head' when they were trying to sedate her. For the next 2 weeks the whites of her eyes were filled with blood and she needed steroidal eye drops.
After that we changed vets. She is now aggressive around any vet. She will not do anything until the vet comes near her. She doesn't care if they're in the room and will accept treats off of them. But as soon as the vet tries to get a look at her she becomes aggressive, snapping, snarling and growling. We have to muzzle her every time she goes to the vet now which doesn't help her anxiety, and as she is such a large dog (40kg) she still thrashes and we often need two people (usually me and my partner or a friend) to pin her down so the vet can look at her.. Again not really helping her anxiety! She has skin allergies so we are constantly at the vet as well.
This also becomes a problem that we always have to let the vet know about before coming in, and we have to go to a consult room straight away so she can't see other dogs.
She recently got sick with pancreatitis, in which we had two trips to the vet and also ended up at waves emergency vet in the same day, where she stayed over night and the vets found it very hard to assess her due to her aggressive nature.
This nature occurs especially when she is locked in a confined space or on lead in a confined space with people she doesn't know. We keep her in the laundry at home with a run outside which she is fine in. We use a baby gate on the laundry door. If someone she doesn't know goes up to her or passes the gate she will lunge and bite.
If I'm with her she will happily accept pats from the person, until the person tries to remove her hand and she snaps.
She will be fine if she is off lead in the house or in the back yard with the person, will be excited to see them, jump on them and lick them etc. It seems to just happen when she's restricted.
Recently my brother came to visit from Victoria, in which she acted as above. He stayed over for a week, and in this time he continually walked passed the door and basically trained her not to act in an aggressive manner toward him. So I'm convinced that I will be able to train this out of her if I can get a few people to come be my passers by!
I get my license next week, in which case I will be going to the vet every one to two weeks to help socialise her with the vet.
I'm sorry that this post is so long.. I didn't expect to go into half of my dogs life, but I thought it would help get an idea of her case.
Anyway, since she is so dog aggressive I only walk her very early in the morning and during the middle of the day when I know there won't be any dogs around. I know that this isn't helping with her socialisation at all, which is why I'm posting here.
I should also add that she walks fine with a halti on, doesn't pull at all.
My major issue at this point is that I want to fix is the dog aggression. Hopefully the upcoming trips to the vet will desensitise her toward them.
As I'm getting my license I would like to bring her to different areas, such as the beach and hiking/walking trails, but I feel like before I do this I definitely have to get rid of that dog aggression. I also know that if we can manage that every walk we go on will be much more pleasant for her.
I sent the above information to a professional dog trainer, who was really nice but basically said our dog has a severe problem that can only be helped by going to a behavioural vet, if it can be helped at all. I disagree. I know my dog has bad anxiety around other dogs and people when on lead/restricted, but in other situations she doesn't have this problem. A good example is that currently we only ever get in the car to go the vet. She knows where she's going, and she's happy from getting into the car to getting into the exam room, wagging tail and all. She's fine with the vet if they kneel down and is happy to take treats off them. It's only when the vet tries to come near her she gets aggressive. She will not lunge at the vet, but she will snap and growl if they try to get near her.
I believe that this is because she feels she can't get away - she's not acting out of aggression, she's more giving a sign not to come near her as she is unhappy with the situation.
She also said that we should never have taken her to puppy class. She believes my dog inherited her fear from the Mother (I met the Mother, who let us pick up her babies and even pet her with a wagging tail so I'm not sure I believe this). I understand how putting her in puppy classes if she did have anxiety all along was the wrong thing to do, but no one told us this. And no one at any of the three puppy schools said anything about it. I thought taking her to puppy classes was the responsible thing to do.
I don't think it's fair to say that there's a chance that she's too far gone to be treated at all. Her dog aggression is quite bad on lead, she will bark, pull and growl.
My other problem is that this dog trainer said the initial consult will be $380 with her. I know from past experience that this is around the same amount of other accredited trainers. The behavioural vets BEGIN at $500 for the initial consult, with half hour phone consults being $75 and followups being more! I just graduated from a 3 and a half year degree at Uni and my job doesn't start until August - I can't afford anywhere near this for training.
On top of that my dog has bad skin allergies which we've been struggling with for the last year. She's currently undergoing a food trial of kangaroo & sweet potato which we're spending roughly $100 a week on. It's a long process, and if that fails she will have to go in for allergy testing which is expensive, and she will need to be sedated for it due to her nature which will cost even more. We've also been in and out of the vet due to flare ups and the need for medication for months which has been expensive.
This ontop of her recent pancreatitis and trip to the emergency vet which cost $2000, I just can't afford training in any form at the moment.
I know the longer I leave it the harder it will be to fix.. I guess what I'm asking is: does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this? How to desensitise her?
I've read about getting someone with a dog at a distance to walk passed her and by distracting her with treats/positive reinforcement and slowly decreasing the distance. This is about all I've found.
Also I realise that from the beginning everything has been done wrong/everything bad has happened! From the puppy classes to her bad experiences at the vet and with the other dog. I understand this and my poor dog has suffered. I want to rectify this!
Sorry this post is ridiculously long.. And thanks in advance for any advice.