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thread: Does it get better? Dog with fear aggression

  1. #1
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jun 2008
    In snuggle land
    4,499

    Question Does it get better? Dog with fear aggression

    *Please be kind when replying. I am deeply distressed*

    We adopted a beautiful ACD x 2.5 months ago. He's adorable and has a loving, funny nature. He's 2-3 years old. All we know about his background was that he was surrendered to a pound by his female owner, who placed him in the overnight cage. Her boyfriend came to see him but didn't get him out, even though he was due to be euthanised, as per the pound policy (they only hold them for 8 days). Apparently, the girlfriend was a drug user, so from this, I have tried to extrapolate why she gave him up - economic reasons, landlord issues, whatever. He was desexed when he was surrendered, so i assume someone at sometime cared enough to look after him. I do believe he was loved and most likely not abused.

    However, he was not socialised at all. When he went into foster care, he was surprised by puddles and logs. The big, wide world is a strange place for him, filled with strange people and strange dogs. We thought he was doing really well. We took him to an off lead park where he'd play with other dogs, running around like a mad thing. He doesn't really have any manners, so has had to be put in his place by other dogs a few times when he gets in their face. Noone was hurt and he is generally submissive, rolling on his back, licking faces, etc.

    Every now and again, he'll meet a dog, usually male, who he dislikes on sight. I've been stupid and had him off lead when he's had a go, or both dogs have had a go at each other. My bad not being able to get him back once he's off after another dog. We've been working with a dog trainer and have pulled back on his off lead play time until we have better control over him. In addition, sometimes he'll growl at people. We think he may not like the way they walk. I suspect a lot of the problem is me - he must be sensing me tense up as someone walks towards us as i find him unpredictable.

    The dog trainer we were using recommended using a check collar and treats, so I'd walk him, giving him treats as he walked nicely and to distract him from joggers, other dogs, cats or whatever. However, once he fixes on something, nothing stops him. He'll flip himself in the air on the end of the check chain, so that's useless. I also have a problem with the use of them as i think it causes him pain and increases his frustration. It got so bad, we thought we'd have to give him back to the rescue organisation, as he obviously needs stronger people than us - I mean that in a leadership type way. We've also had people tell us to put him down



    I absolutely adore him though. He's a very beautiful dog when he feels safe. I realise I am probably a lot of the problem by not being assertive enough. I am probably projecting my maternal needs on him. We are starting with a new dog training organisation this week. They use a head halter and walking dogs around in circles for correction and praise only for positive reinforcement, rather than food. I am happier with this method, as I feel the food rewards are limiting, especially if I run out of treats just before another dog appears on a walk. We are willing to give this a good go, as he is part of our family and it would break my heart to lose him.

    I know he will never be "cured". He missed the key socialisation points in his youth. I just think I'm looking for stories of hope.


    ETA Dec 2012 - we've had an enormous improvement in behaviour. We're so thrilled and really enjoying life with our pooch
    Training makes a huge difference, in both dog and people.
    Last edited by LionsandBears; December 27th, 2012 at 07:54 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User

    May 2011
    Adelaide
    747

    I had a dog that sounds similar in some ways. Never abused or neglected as we got him as a puppy, but he had serious separation anxiety (when I had to leave for work he'd hide under the bed, roll on his back and if I tried to get him he would freak out and growl and snap), and would bark and growl at new people when they came over. After a few minutes, particularly if they paid him no attention, he'd settle down and then would want to be patted and cuddles and was quite happy to curl up on their lap and go to sleep. Taking him for walks, he'd again growl and bark at any passing people or dogs. It was really quite distressing for me because, like your boy, he had the sweetest nature when he felt safe.

    We got a trainer in who showed me some ways to deal with certain things, like the separation anxiety and how to distract him while out for walks. Because he was a little dog, treats on walks were hard as I couldn't just give them to him as we walked, I'd have to stop on bend down. So instead when I noticed someone or another dog, I would call his name and get his attention and give him verbal praise for behaving. He was very good with the sit command so while on walks and particularly at home when someone would come over, if he started to bark, I would tell him to sit and praise him for sitting and not barking. I would often have to do this multiple times, but he settled much quicker with people doing this.

    I don't think you need to be 'stronger' to be a good owner. It will be a long process and he may never be 'cured' as you say. But that doesn't mean he needs to be put down or given away, it just means staying consistent with your own behaviour and how you deal with him. Make sure you assert yourself as the 'pack leader' as this will help aswell. Be patient with him and be kind to yourself. I had my boy probably 3 years when my ex and I separated (he's still with my ex) and it was something we were still working on. It will take time, but it can definitely improve

  3. #3
    Registered User

    Jan 2012
    Western Suburbs Melbourne
    651

    Does it get better? Dog with fear aggression

    Sounds cliched, but watch Caesar Milan.
    Just some simple voice techniques can and will be able help.
    I would t recommend letting off the leash until he feels safe with you, not protective of you which sounds like his behavior, toward other dogs/people.
    Also using a small empty soft drink bottle filled half way with rocks helps as a tool to discipline.
    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    BellyBelly Member

    Oct 2004
    Cairns QLD
    5,471

    It sounds as though he is a dog that will need lots of work. But you sound willing to do it for him. I was going to suggest head halter so thats good. He is a working dog & will need lots of stimulation to keep his mind busy. I think if you work with him like you are & accept that he will always have limitations then there is no reason to get rid of him.

    We have a boxer & I would never let her go in an off lead park. She is terribly unpredictable with other dogs. She is also getting old though so running around isn't on her list of activities.

  5. #5

    Mar 2004
    Sparta
    12,662

    We did group lessons with our mutt. It was helpful to have other dogs and owners who were going through the same things.

  6. #6
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jun 2008
    In snuggle land
    4,499

    We're starting group lessons tonight. We've been to an intro class. It freaked him out a bit, but it will help him settle down seeing lots of other dogs.

    He's come a long way already. He had severe separation anxiety when we first got him, clawing at the door, howling the whole time we were gone. Pulling the blinds down. Now we knows we come back. He still doesnt like it but if he's tired, sometimes he doesnt even come to the door when we leave.

    We've increased his at home play and training time to 3 x 15-20min sssions a day plus a walk of 45-90min. We've found since we've increased the training, he tires out a lot more and is generally calmer. It's going for walks that can be a nightmare at the moment.

  7. #7
    Registered User

    Nov 2011
    Perth
    1,090

    Our Rotti is very similar - people have said we should have her put down :| the thing is, she is very sweet to us and people she knows. I know exactly what you're feeling. But I refuse to give up on this cute little animal that I carried outside to poop in the middle of the night, KWIM? She's never being abused or neglected by us, and we've had her since 8 weeks. She went to puppy schools and we did everything you're supposed to. But she is just anti-social..

    However, she was the runt and I think picked on by other dogs and I suspected treated badly by the huge bloke we got her off - she is terrified of men. It took her about a year to stop growling at my dad with her ears back - now she jumps on his lap for cuddles!

    It DOES get better. But with a lot of patience, consistency and frustration. I don't think our Rotti will ever be the perfect socialised dog you see off lead at the beach.. but I found Bark Busters really helped. It took about 6 months to see changes, and again, she's not perfect. She growls with her ears back and tail between her legs when she sees an unfamiliar dog or person. Thankfully she's not the 'attack' type, she warns people not to come close, then when she's ready she goes up (cautiously) for pats. We've concluded though, just in case, that she is to remain on lead at the park at all times (unless we literally are the only ones there).

    I highly recommend, if you have a friend with a dog, that you let them become buddies. My dogs socialised with my mums 2 dogs since 12 weeks old and see them weekly. When we go to the park with them, she is with her friends and plays happily, not getting distracted by other dogs. Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to play with other dogs very well, she jumps on their backs and growls playfully but the recipient dog sees this as an aggresive attack, so naturally archs up then start to fight her and she fights back. Even though I can truly tell she was trying to play - she does this with our Ridgeback and my mum's border collies - they've learnt that's how she plays and they happily go with it.

    The strangest thing is that she loves kids (not that I would EVER have any dog unsupervised with a child). It's just bizarre how well she is with small people given how she reacts to everything else with a heartbeat. I've accepted she will never be perfect and we have to be constantly vigilant.

    Anyway, what I'm saying is I know exactly how you feel. The hardest thing is defending your pet to people that say they need to be put down. You start to doubt yourself. Don't give up on your boy. You might just have to be like us, the people with the crazy growling dog that pees itself and spits when you come too close but I love coming home to her insessant licking, I really do

  8. #8
    Registered User

    Nov 2011
    Perth
    1,090

    Oh and the chicken frames I mentioned the other day - since she has being on that diet she isn't so hyperactive. She'll happily sleep next to me for 24 hours if that's what I was doing.

  9. #9
    Registered User

    Apr 2006
    Perth
    4,203

    I had a male boxer that I had from a pup. I took him to puppy socialisation classes and he was great. Unfortunately he was attacked by a rottweiler at the dog beach. He became a bit dodgy around other dogs but we continued training classes, socialising etc but I didn't trust him off lead with other dogs except my female anymore. I was then at a friend's rural property with the dogs one day and a stray dog attacked both my dogs. After that he became extremely aggressive. We saw a number of different trainers and behaviourists, and even a dog psych. Nothing worked so I resigned myself to walking him very early in the morning, always on a lead and muzzled. We had a few unpleasant moments when we came across dogs off the lead whose owners couldn't control them but generally it was a workable though not ideal situation. Unfortunately he never improved and one day finally turned on my other dog, and then me when I intervened. Both me and my female dog were injured. After long chats with my vet I made the heartbreaking decision to put him down. It broke my heart that because of other people's inability to control their animals mine had been terrified as a pup, and that then shaped his behaviour.

    My SIL is currently dealing with this problem with a portugese water dog she adopted as a 15 month old after falling in love with mine. Her guy and his past owner had been attacked while out walking one day, and as a result he is now very aggressive towards other dogs. The previous owners and now my SIL are trying all sorts of different methods, and SIL is devoting a heap of time but sadly nothing is working so far.

    I hope the group training and a bit of exposure in such a controlled environment makes a big difference for your guy,

  10. #10
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jun 2008
    In snuggle land
    4,499

    That's so sad Lulu. I really hope it doesn't come to that for us. Sadly, we don't know his history, so maybe something like that has happened. Maybe that's why he was surrendered We'll continue because we love him to bits and hope for continued improvement.

  11. #11
    Registered User

    Nov 2011
    Perth
    1,090

    Oh Lulu that sucks the poor thing.

  12. #12
    Registered User

    Jun 2007
    Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.
    5,673

    there's also a place called alpha dog where you can send your dog for some intensive work. a friend of a friend was nearly at the point of having to put her dog down because of behavioural issues and she sent her there for a couple of weeks and saw huge improvements from it.
    best of luck, keep persevering as he sounds sweet

  13. #13
    Registered User

    Oct 2006
    In a house, on a hill with a big fat welcome mat!
    6,772

    Our dog is like this. He will only socialize with our other dog. All other dogs he attacks. The vet said he has fear aggression. We have had him since he was a puppy and have loved him and never miss treated him. We now ensure he doesn't get into situations that spark the aggression, so we don't take him off the lead or out with other dogs. He's 9 this year and we just make things easy for him itms?

  14. #14
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jun 2008
    In snuggle land
    4,499

    Ginger - that's where we're going tonight for training. They recommended weekly classes for now. If we have to, we'll send him to their boarding school.

  15. #15
    Registered User

    Jul 2010
    Melbourne
    2,737

    Sounds cliched, but watch Caesar Milan.
    Just some simple voice techniques can and will be able help.
    I would t recommend letting off the leash until he feels safe with you, not protective of you which sounds like his behavior, toward other dogs/people.
    Also using a small empty soft drink bottle filled half way with rocks helps as a tool to discipline.
    Hope this helps.
    I have to agree with watching Ceasar Milan, he is fantastic. I know the show seems a bit corny, but I agree with everything he is about. He uses simple techniques that make sense. maybe google him or watch some on youtube.

  16. #16
    Registered User

    Oct 2003
    Forestville NSW
    8,944

    There is some good advice about. Fear aggression is hard work for both you and the dog. Gentle techniques are awesome, but there also has to be some consequences....

    First, work with both the vet and behaviouralists on this. Fear aggression can be reduced with anti anxiety drugs. Its very hard work. We had a dog with severe separation anxiety and OCD. We worked with him for 5 years, we trained him daily, 5-6 times a day, we walked him off lead for 30 minutes every afternoon and 30 minutes on lead every morning. We did training classes once a week. He was medicated and we worked very hard for him and us. Unfortunately after 5 years he developed severe arthritis and became fear aggressive. I was walking him and a child ran out to the fence to see the dog, he attacked the fence. It was one of the most devestating things to go through. The child was fine, it was just knowing... knowing that I had done everything possible and did not succeed. I was in love with this dog, and we spend thousands on him... but we had to put him to sleep. He was unpredictable and I couldn't have it on my head if he had actually gotten to the child. I realised that I couldn't be responsible for it.

    So saying that, I don't think you have to make the choice now, but give yourselves some guidelines and draw the line at the decision. Do it now because having to make that decision on the fly was the hardest thing I'd ever done.

  17. #17
    2013 BellyBelly RAK Recipient.

    Apr 2006
    Winter is coming
    5,000

    We did have a dog when I was growing up that would attack every other dog she saw. Raised from a pup, with our other dogs, no reason for it at all. I took her to obedience classes and she started off having to sit away from the other dogs, snapping at any that got close. I took her for a couple of years and by the end of it she was fine with other dogs. Sometimes she would even play with them. We were able to let her off lead at parks with no worries that she would attack any other dogs. So it can happen. Group classes are a great way to get him socialised.

  18. #18
    Registered User

    Jul 2008
    Home with my Son :)
    2,611

    I don't have any advice, but I am interested in seeing how you go. How did he go at training tonight?

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