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)