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Aggressive bitch

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Anne Edwards, Apr 21, 2020.

  1. Anne Edwards

    Anne Edwards New Member Registered

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    Hi i have a 7 year old beagle bitch that i share with my partner. She is a well adjusted and happy dog who is in perfect health and a good weight. She is not territorial of her toys, food or us.


    The trouble we are encountering is that out on walks when another dog approaches particuarly if its a male dog, she will tend to growl, hackles will rise and she will react aggresively.

    She approaches dogs from a distance when on their own or a group of dogs and you can see she is desperate to join in with their play but as soon as they go round her back end to sniff her she sinks down, her tail clamps down under belly, she cowers, head up, growls and will react, although doesn't bite and has never bitten.

    She used to go to work everyday with my partner and was always a little bit unsure in the presence of other dogs (as a rescued 2 yr old we assummed she'd not been socialised properly) but one particular dog would continually try to hump her despite my partners protests, this dogs owner (his colleague) had no control over her dog. In the end he had to stop taking her to work with him. We think this is why she is like she is as she got fed up of being pestered by this male dog which has spoilt her forever.

    It doesn't help that when loose in the park every time another dog gets near my partner puts her on a lead in case she does go for it. However there have also been a number of ocassions when she has gotten on with other dogs, these have always been bitches and she has run round chasing them and they have chased her in play, tails wagging, thoroughly enjoying herself.

    Any advice? Anything we can do to eliminate the fear aggression (we believe this is what it is)?
     
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    I think you are right that it stems in fear or anxiety.

    One of the important things is not to force her into getting too close to other dogs, so she stays within her comfort zone. Pushing her too fast could make things worse - a person with a fear of snakes won't be cured by being thrown into a snake pit.

    She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure - it's called flight distance; anything closer will trigger the fight or flight stress response which you may have heard of. Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is aware but relaxed. Reward her for being calm.

    Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily. And be firm with other dog owners to keep them away while you work on this, you don't want somebody else's space invader to undo your hard work.

    Your partner putting her on lead - it could be argued that restricts her ability to get away, so she has to put on a bigger display of aggression to scare off the other dog. On the other hand, if her alternative behaviour could be to escape by running off, a lead might be safer.

    Be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance she was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

    Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration (your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15) and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

    Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.
     
  3. Anne Edwards

    Anne Edwards New Member Registered

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    Oh wow thank you for your quick reply! On reading some of the other posts i can see a nearly identical question was asked by someone with a Wheaten Terrier so i will read the replies on that as well. Sorry typical me leapingin head first lol.

    Thank you
     
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  4. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    The key is to keep her in her comfort zone, and then gradually work to expand her comfort zone. There's a lot of info about this approach here: Behavior Adjustment Training: A New Approach to Problem Behaviors

    So for now, you should find somewhere other than the dog park to walk her, even if it means she has to stay on a lead/long line the whole time. When she does see another dog, she gets a treat and isn't encouraged to approach. You're aiming for 'Woo hoo, I can see a dog, I get a treat.' Then you can work on this from a little closer, then closer... You might be able to persuade someone to use their dog as a 'stooge', walking them on lead nearish, but not letting them go up and sniff her.

    It might be that she's never going to be happy and relaxed in the dog park because it can be a bit of a free-for-all, encouraging some dogs to be bullies and other more sensitive ones to be fearful. That's OK - we can't all be party animals.
     
  5. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    No problem, we are all happy to help :)
     
  6. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    We cross-posted again, JoanneF!
     
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