(Closed) NWR: Frustrated with my dog's increased aggression

posted 7 years ago in Pets
Post # 4
11163 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

@HourThyme:  A few questions first.

-Do you walk the dogs? A dog park doesn’t count. Do you walk the dogs together?

-How do you reprimand the dog when he acts out? How do you “reign him in?”

To me it sounds like this dog things he is top dog both at your home and away from it. He needs to learn to be part of the “pack” as Ceasar Milan would say and learn his place which is below both you and your DH. From the way it stands now with him lashing out at your when you attempt to deal with his aggression it does not sound like he sees you at the top dog.

A few things to get you started and then I would highly recommend obedience school. This will not only establish his place with you but will teach you both tools you need to train him and for him to behave.

-Do not allow him on ANY furniture. Anything that elevates him or places him at a higher level only reiterates how he already feels, like he is king.

-When feeding the dogs if you feed them at the same time, don’t. Feed your Frenchie first. We had to do this with our foster dog to eliminate food aggression and food issues.

-Walk your dog. YOU walk the dog. This establishes a trust and helps to cement the owner/dog relationship.

-Find something works to correct behavior. For our dogs pennies in a jar drives them nuts and stops their behavior immediately. For other dogs a spray bottle, clicker, plastic bag (makes noise) etc will work. You need something that will take his attention away from the aggression itself and put it back on YOU.

Best of luck! Definitely do some online reseach and keep an eye out for classes in your area. Check out Petsmart/Petco too.


Post # 5
850 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@HourThyme:  I think it’s definitely time to get professional advice from a behaviorist. My dog had some more mild issues with unfamiliar dogs and with a single one on one session and a list of “homework” activites for us to complete, she improved dramatically. It took time and effort, but it was obviously well worth it because we were no longer stressed every time we walked her. The trainer we saw was a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT). 

Post # 6
9819 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

I’d definitely recommend a private trainer and/or an obedience class.

Is he food motivated? If so, I’d get a little treat pouch you can wear on your belt during walks. When you see someone in the distance (this must be BEFORE he has gotten too excited) call his name and say “watch me” and then immediately treat. Continue treating and talking in a happy voice until the person has passed. I’d practice the “watch me” at home if you’ve never taught him that command. You can also try this for the gate issue. You can google counter conditioning and desensitization for more info too.

Do you use NILF at home (nothing in life is free)? If not, I’d definitely implement it immediately.

What kind of collar do you use? I’d maybe try one of the easy-walk harnesses, that should prevent him from standing up and lunging until you have better control over him.

Post # 7
480 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

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@Westwood:  +1 to NILF

Post # 8
1812 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013 - Pavilion overlooking golf course scenery, reception at banquet hall

We are working through a similar issue (barrier aggression to door-knockers and doorbell-ringers) in our dog and we hired a professional trainer, found through here: http://positively.com/dog-training/trainersearch/

I can give you a run-down of our basic techniques but I highly recommend having a professional trainer guide you through the actual practice. I also recommend avoiding anyone preaching dominance theory consisting of intimidation and shocking/hitting/kicking even slightly; positive reinforcement is the correct direction to take according to modern veterinary and animal behaviorist studies. This is especially important with an aggressive dog!

Firstly, if you haven’t already, clicker-train him some basic commands. Sit, stay, shake, roll over, and my most important ones: “On your mat” (sit on your living room bed) and stay. These are not just party tricks, but a way of communicating with your dog exactly what you want him to do since he doesn’t speak English or use our body language. The trick communicates what you want, the click communicates that he did it correctly.

Secondly, take the “Nothing In Life Is Free” approach. In order to go outside he must sit down. In order to receive breakfast he must lay down. In order to have his leash clipped to him he must shake. Switch up which trick gets which result so that he doesn’t learn “Sit gets outside”, he learns “Look to HourThyme, then get outside” Google has a lot of good websites, but it basically teaches the dog to look to you when he needs something. You are the bringer of good things, and he has to listen to you in order to get them.

Thirdly, this is kind of specific to my dog’s issue but the theory is still there. We first had one person outside, and one person inside. Outside person rings doorbell, inside person gives dog a yummy treat (hot dog chunks) immediately. Repeat for several minutes. Also introduce knocking, and do the same.

Now that the doorbell is “loaded” with good feelings, it’s time to introduce what we want him to do when he hears the doorbell. Dingdong -> “Sit” -> *sits* -> [CLICK] -> treat. This is an easier stepping-stone of teaching him what we will eventually want him to do, which is to go to his mat when he hears the doorbell.

It took me a while to type this out, but in practice it takes so much longer – months. These methods are intended to recondition his entire feelings toward something he previously thought of as Scary! And with all dog training, you kind of have to wing some parts. We have to physically step between our dog and the door because he usually goes up to the door to look, even if he isn’t barking. So we have to remind him “oops, nope, back up and sit”.

I have to leave the computer now, but I hope I at least gave a helpful glimpse into the world of reactive dog training! 

Post # 10
125 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: May 2006

+1 to everything that has been suggested. In the mean time, you obviously still has to get walked so I’d suggest a muzzle so that he can’t seriously harm anyone. 

Post # 11
1812 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013 - Pavilion overlooking golf course scenery, reception at banquet hall

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@Treejewel19:  I do not agree with a couple of things you said. The furniture thing sounds like anthropomorphization – dogs do not have kings, nor even alphas. (Article) But that is a personal choice whether you allow your pet on furniture, so it’s not really a harmful training method.

I also disagree that a can of pennies or other startling noises will help (PLEASE don’t use a clicker this way). It is a bandage solution that may stop the behavior but will not help the dog to understand that the scary person or dog across the street is not actually scary. The noise will reinforce that strange things (people/dogs) he sees also bring startling noises (pennies), keeping the things scary and startling to him. Even if it leads to him no longer barking through suppression, it could lead to a dangerous situation where he is no longer “allowed” to tell you how afraid he is, and if a strange dog/child runs up to him he could panic and bite it simply because the root feelings were never addressed.

OP: I have heard this book praised to be helpful, and I would also look into googling or buying books on “leash reactivity”. The tether of a leash makes some dogs very insecure in situations that they would be fine in off-leash. Most of your situations seem to be while he is on-leash so it makes me think that would be a good direction to look.

Post # 12
3139 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

Talk to your vet and look into a dog obedience trainer. Has your dog been fixed sometimes that can help w aggressive dogs too. Sorry he is not doing well

Post # 13
292 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2014

+1 to what aggie2010 said. The research that caused people to think dogs and wolves operate in packs with an “alpha” and “betas” and so on, with the alpha violently remaining in control through physical and other dominance, has been repeatedly refuted. (see: http://io9.com/why-everything-you-know-about-wolf-packs-is-wrong-502754629, http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/247Leadership.pdf, http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf)

And, not so coincidentally, there’s a huge movement away from negative-reinforcement dog training (aka, anything that punishes the dog by scaring, hurting, etc – and which is based on the idea of controlling your dog like an alpha wolf would control the pack under that theory). You can read about it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-jane-grossman/the-dog-whisperer-technique_b_1406337.html, http://beyondcesarmillan.weebly.com/ehowcom.html, http://www.urbandawgs.com/divided_profession.html and lots of other places.

Basically, negative reinforcement is considered bad for dogs for the same reason it’s bad for kids. I mean, if your child was incomprehensibly terrified of something (like, I dunno, the lunch lady or a clown) and screamed and cried hysterically around it, you wouldn’t scare the kid by making terrifying OOGGIE BOOGIE or whatever noises until they stop crying from sheer terror of whatever new stimulus you’ve introduced, would you? What could you possibly expect that to accomplish except for making your child even MORE scared of the dark and you, too? No, you try and help them see that the lunch lady really isn’t scary. Same with your dog. It just takes longer with dogs because they have lower cognitive ability and we can’t communicate like you can with your child.

Post # 14
3657 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: January 2000


I can tell that you are taking this seriously and I wish you well, OP. NoO real words of wisdo, but I greatly admire Boxers for their Brains and people love. (I have 3 Frenchies and I tell you, they have few brains.)

I will offer an opinion that he may not be lunging at black kids so much as lunging at kids.

I live in a urban core and kids are known to walk down the streed and sidewalk, teasing dogs in the neighborhood. It’s a kid thing here and since all of the kids walking out and about are black, the dogs see kids.


Kids have weird walks, they are jangly and noisy and not-adult and to a dog they are weird.


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