Post # 1
We adopted a dog from the pound exactly a week ago. She’s a 4-year old Rottweiler mix… In that time, I’ve learned she’s aggressive towards other animals. Barking at/growling/lunging.
This happens mostly on walks and a stern ‘no’s’ and keeping her as close as possible seems to be helping … but it’s always a challenge.
Tonight will be her first obedience class (at the same shelter we adopted her from) and I’m hoping the trainer will have some tips for me… but, I’m also dreading the interaction with the other dogs.
Anyone else out there have this issue and/or any tips for me???
We took her to the Vet over the weekend, and she wanted to lunge at every dog she saw….
Post # 3
I know the damage has already been done, but try not to dread or get tense when you see the ‘other dog(s) ” comming!
My best advice is lots of exercise and discipline! Right now she is just alerting you about every dog and sounds very insecure , so shes feeding off of every energy coming from other dogs, and yours.
Obedience will be great! Every dog has its issues, and the more socialization the better!
Also what type of collar , leash are you using?
Post # 4
I’m going to 2nd what Mrs.Argentina said about the exercise and discipline, especially since you just got her. A proper fitting collar makes a huge difference too. So make sure you have the right kind and size for your dog. For instance, we learned that if you use a slip chain, it should *just* fit over the head and you have to slip it over one ear at a time to get it off. We had the wrong size for our dog, and getting the correct size/kind really helped.
Our dog is not dog-aggressive, but she is reactive towards them, in a rude way. We found a trainer in our area that specializes in “misunderstood dogs” and she has been a God-send! We took a “reactive dog” class, as well as basic obedience and it has helped tremendously. We are planning on taking her to intermediate obedience as well.
Your dog is probably still learning to trust you as the “pack leader” so she might be reactive because of that too.
Post # 5
We have a SEVERELY leash aggressive dog. Dealing with it will first depend on if your dog is only aggressive on leash or if it is off leash too. Our dog is only reactive on leash, off leash she asserts her dominance with another dog but is not violent like she is on leash.
There are lots of different theories on why dogs do this or how to deal with it. The most common training technique with this is replacing the aggressive behavior with an appropriate behavior – like sit or down. So when you are with your dog, have it sit or go down BEFORE it starts reacting. Reward this behavior as the other dog approaches. Don’t reward when the reaction starts. Our dog was so reactive and anxious in general that only just became a possibilty (we’ve had her 1.5 yrs)
The most valuable thing we have taught our dog is ‘look’ and ‘turn’. When we say look our dog turns and looks at us. This gets her to focus on us and not the approaching dog. This only works at a certain distance but over time that distance should decrease. When we say turn she immediately turns around and we walk the other direction. This increases the distance between her and the other dog and therefore decreases her anxiety and allows us to work with her.
What happens with most dogs in these situations is that they get so anxious/excited/hyped up that their brain chemistry is going crazy and they can’t listen to commands or even feel mild pain (like with a choke or prong – which is what we use for her).
Another trick is throwing treats on the ground. Dogs are hard wired to where they can’t be anxious and aggressive (think hair up on neck) when they are searching for food.
For some dogs, a change in collar or harness will help tremendously. Our dog definitely reacts differently with the many different collars we have gone through. We’ve used the gentle leader and it almost broke her neck with her lunging and flailing. If you want to try a harness that goes across the chest, get one where the leash attaches on the cross chest part – not the back. If it attaches to the back it encourages pulling. Alot of people don’t like prongs or chokes because they think they are cruel. If used properly they are an great training tool. They do use negative reinforcement which some people don’t like but for our dog that quick pull on the leash that tightens the prong snaps her out of her lock on a dog and allows us to remove ourselves from the situation and keep everyone safe.
If you’ve made it this far in this post, I hope I’ve helped. We’ve been working with our pitt-mix for 1.5 yrs and she’s made HUGE improvements but we are no where near done with our progress. It’s going to take time and commitment but progress will happen.
Post # 6
I guess it feels like she’s always going to be like this… but, you guys are giving me hope! I try to talk reassuringly and also sternly to both get her attention and calm her down.
@Eva Peron: we bought a choke collar – not the kind that has spikes but, something with a band that has a chain type part attached –
I wanted to get a harness for her, but she was not having it (when we were trying to figure them out the first day we got her).
Do you have any recommendations??
Her leash is nylon with an extra handle close to her body, so we can rein her in tight.
Post # 7
@awagy86: Thank you for the tips and the hope! I did read your post the whole way through 🙂 and will continue to re-read it. Thanks also for the harness idea. I definitely think that’s the way I need to go -because we had on incident (I walked by a house with her and I didn’t realize there was a dog, and she went crazy and was literally flying up IN the air and i pulled her down hard and she twisted mid air and I thought I was seriously going to hurt her).
Post # 8
If shes a big girl, I wouldn’t look past a properly fitted prong collar! If you can give the “pop” before she escalates, you can nip the problem in a budd. Its not a permanent fix and doesn’t have to be forever but a great training tool.
We have German Shepherds and they are extremely smart and have high energy/drive. They also need corrections that match their intensity when they get going .
One of the problems than can come with a choke is that it slides down the neck, causing it to be ineffective. Any collar should be placed right under the ears, so the pressure hits the sensitive part of the neck, sending the message and getting a reaction.
Give it some time and try to enjoy obedience class 🙂 If it gets worse, and you think you can’t handle it, call up a professional, or get in a reactive dog class! It will make you feel less alone and more in control!
Post # 9
How about a halti or gentle leader? What you have there is a martingale which is excellent for when she’s better behaved, but a head collar will give you better control. It may also be fear aggression after being in a shelter, so I would start with creating a positive association between dogs on walks and cookies. With our dog, our trainer had us immediately start giving her cookies whenever we saw another dog on the walk. In the beginning you really have to give a lot of cookies, we walked with our pockets full and as soon as we saw a dog it was cookie cookie cookie. Same thing for dogs behind fences that are barking. You want to catch her right before she barks, if she’s super focused you may have to kind of stuff the cookie in her mouth so she realizes it’s there. Obviously be gentle, our trainer just had us do that for the first couple times when she was too focused to take the cookie herself. This rewards her for looking but not reacting. Now when we see a dog on a walk, she doesn’t bark and looks to us for her cookie.
Post # 10
Our trainer had us read Feisty Fido by Patricia B. McConnell & Karen B. London. It’s a quick read but has great tips!
@saraja87: Creating the positive association with dogs is great. The trick is to stop BEFORE the reaction. If they are ignoring the food, the dog is already lock in on the other dog. If you can get a sit at that point more treats are allowed but no more rewards until your dog is focused on something else (ideally you!)
Post # 11
I would suggest a Gentle Leader or a prong collar. I HATE HATE HATE choke chains. Prong collars, though they look brutal, are actually a lot more humane than a choke collar. They also loosen a lot better than a choke collar, which makes for a much more effective and less dangerous correction.
I try to talk reassuringly and also sternly to both get her attention and calm her down.
Also, make sure you keep your voice either even-toned or slightly stern. NO BABY TALK! Soothing, “It’s okay!” in the voice you would use to soothe a baby or a toddler can backfire with dogs. As pack animals, they look to you to be their leader. Using your goo-goo-ga-ga voice just send the message that what they are doing is right, (“YES, you should be afraid of the thunder! I am too!” or “YES, you should keep barking at that dog, I’m afraid of him, too!”).
awagy86 gave you some great tips. I would add to it that, if the shelter trainer isn’t experienced in handling this issue, you should seek out a trainer who is experienced with this kind of aggression either instead of, or better yet, in addition to these classes.
Post # 12
I agree with the posters suggesting distracting your dog with treats when you see another dog coming. I had a similar problem with our adopted pit mix in the beginning. She is also big and strong and hard to control – I definitely recommend a harness called EZ Walk. The leash clips to the front of the chest so when you pull, the dog is turned toward you.
But regarding the treats, once she had a little practice in her class with sitting in different environments, I brought lots of high-value treats on our walks and would pull her to the side and have her sit and focus and treat her, when another dog was coming. A. it helped her learn to focus on me through distractions and B. it gave her a positive association towards other dogs passing her. Still though, once she sets her sights on another dog that she wants to meet, it is very hard to get her attention. She goes into a trance-like state. So I try to catch her before she gets to that point.
Now she no longer barks or growls, even when others do it to her, but she is still very interested and runs up to people or dogs passing by to sniff and greet. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but she goes about it in an aggressive way and I don’t think it’s appropriate behavior. I’ve noticed that it tends to scare people and other dogs, even though I know she doesn’t mean any harm. I try to keep myself between her and people passing and nudge her with my leg if she tries to cross in front of me. Every time she successfully ignores a passing person I give her lots of praise and sometimes a treat. That seems to be helping too.
Part of it is that it’s only been a week which is really nothing. As you get more training into her, I think she will put more trust in you and won’t feel the need to react to every dog going by.
Post # 13
I agree with what PP said, but I think you need to give her some room to get comfortable with you. The obedience class may be a stressful environment for her- that happened with my first dog. It may have been better if I had waited until we had bonded more.
My current dog gets weird with some dogs & making him sit really works.
Post # 14
Hi there- As a Veterinary Surgeon who deals with this issue all the time- please take my advice and invest in a consultation with a veterinary behaviourist. This is a veterinary surgeon with advanced training with animals with behavioural issues.
As I said in another post a little bit of behaviour modification is a very dangerous thing.
Post # 15
Hi everyone – thanks for your feedback and advice.
I wanted to report back that last night went great!
They had a couple areas in the room closed off for dogs that have issues with other dogs, so we could take her back there away from the sight of other dogs and have her focus on us. It worked like a charm and the time together was extremely beneficial.
I also learned the wonders of high value treats: peanut butter, jerky, and hot dogs (boy, that’s like crack for my dog!) 😉
When we first adodpted her, they had encouraged us to get her in a class right away and I was thankful that we did.
Afterwards, we both noticed a great deal of improvement in her ability to focus on us. Her walk this morning was a dream and I got her to focus on me when we walked by the dog she usually lunges at.
I know it will take continual training and practice, but I’m amazed at how well she’s done so far!!
Post # 16
@awagy86: they made the exact same harness recs to us last night! And had a stuffed dog, so I could figure out how to get the thing on! That’s been the hardest part (figuring out how they fit!). I’m definitely going to invest in one of those body ones with the front clip…. and hopefully get very suave putting it on! 🙂