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Dog aggression

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by stburns04, Feb 1, 2020.

  1. stburns04

    stburns04 New Member Registered

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    Hello

    Due my parents not being able to look after their dog anymore due to old age I have taken in the family soft coated wheaten terrier. They are around 4 years old now. She is a very friendly dog to humans however she is uncontrollable off the lead when there are other dogs around and unfortunately she starts fights, especially with dogs smaller then her. I recently invited some friends round with their dog (a big breed) and the whole time I had to hold my dog back to stop her attacking theirdog.

    I think growing up my parents gave her poor training and she did not socialise enough with other dogs. Unfortunately they also hired a dog trainer who convinced them she was a lost cause and advised to get a shock collar. I am aware these are now illegal as they are cruel, and have read they are even worse for wheaten terriers who do not do well with negative reinforcement.

    I really want to try and train her to be less aggressive and be able to walk her off the lead. I don't really know where to start with dog training apart from rewarding good behaviour. Anybody god any advice about where to start?
     
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  3. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    This may take a long time and she may never be comfortable with other dogs. However there are things you can do to help. Well done on recognising the shock collar was a poor choice, that's a good start.

    Aggression like this almost always comes out of fear so she has to put on a big display of aggression to frighten off the scary other dog. And it generally works for dogs, the scary thing often does retreat so it becomes a reinforced behaviour.

    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 response. Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is aware but relaxed. Reward this calm behaviour. 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.

    But - 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.

    For general training I like Kikopup on YouTube. She has loads of short training videos on everything from basic good manners to tricks.
     
  4. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    The approach JoanneF has detailed above is called behaviour adjustment training so you might want to look that up on the internet to find more details. Avoiding getting her out of her comfort zone is crucial, so you may need to walk her in different places and at different times of day. The important thing to bear in mind is you're not aiming primarily to change her behaviour, but to change her emotions. So you're not so much rewarding good behaviour as building new associations (other dog = yay, treat! rather than other dog = scary).

    You also need to stop her attacking other dogs not just because the adrenaline released will be reinforcing for her, but because of the possible effect on the other dogs - one attack on a weaker/sensitive dog could cause that dog to develop fear aggression too.
     
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  5. Finsky

    Finsky Well-Known Member Registered

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    You've already had good advice there..
    What I wanted to say as an addition...when ever you are out and about and see another dog approaching, try not to tense up and pull the lead to keep your dog closer to you. It is sure sign for her to get ready for negative reaction.
    And if there is more than just you, let somebody else hold the dog lead so she can see you approaching other dog owners and their dogs (even if it from fair distance). Let her see you are very happy to meet and greet other dogs, talk friendly tone and make fuss of them. I always start the approach with other dogs when other dog owners allow it saying something like 'Hello you....ooooh you are lovely little doggy..etc etc . It is to prove to my dogs that it is nice to meet and greet. Works well when puppy training but it helps with older dogs too, it is to show an example.
    One of my past terriers was not 'other dog friendly' and there was particular breeds that she would really really 'hate'.
    Her comfort zone before taking action was to start with more than big field wide. It took only one mistake from our behalf to realize this:rolleyes: But I managed grow her tolerance that we could pass other dog within street wide distance without getting reaction from her and occasionally even being conversation distance, but that would be with particular dogs and their owners.
    That was best we could do and even that made the outdoor walks so much comfortable for all of us. Of course there was never ever any possibility to let her off lead without doing it inside security fenced area. But terriers are generally not very trustworthy off lead anyway, so you might as well settle to the idea of not allowing free roaming at all..it doesn't make the dog any less happier. The main thing is that she is taken out and enough of it.
    But as for the aggression training...it will take time and level of success cannot be predicted.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2020
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  6. DixD

    DixD Guest

    Has she always been aggressive, or do you think it’s a new behaviour. If your parents were getting on, she would have been a real handful. I know nothing pf the wheaten’s temperament. Could the change of situation, environment, owners make her feel insecure. On the practical side, If you’re in the UK, I’d definitely keep her on some sort of lead unless she’s in an enclosed area by herself. Although dog owners can’t actually be prosecuted for their dogs attacking other dogs, other owners can take you to court if they feel under threat from your dog. Also, I imagine you may be responsible for vets’ bills for any injuries your dog may inflict.

    I’ve never had an aggressive bitch, but I’ve read somewhere that male dogs fight in a more ritualised manner usually, neither really wants injured. But bitches are usualky very serious about their intentions.

    I’d also, it may already have been mentioned, look at pain factors. The lurcher in my avatar, who is one cool hound, went through a period of reactivity. He’s not a fighter, it was all bark. Turned out he had a very sore muscle problem, and we assume was kind of protecting himself from the rough and tumble of dog interaction. He’s now back to his chilled self. So, might be worth a vet visit to check she’s not in discomfort.
     
  7. Rinkydinkydo

    Rinkydinkydo Active Member Registered

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    I had a border terrier who would have ago at any dog. She was 4 months old when I greyhound had ago at her. Until that day she was fine with other dogs,after that experience she totally changed. Honestly it effected her for the rest of her life,bless her. In the end I had to learn how to manage her around other dogs. In the later years of her life she did calm down but the problem was always there.
    To get her in a good place with my friends dogs we had to lead walk them together. Once she realized there was no threat she was fine. It literally took 10 mins sometimes before they were running around off lead together and becoming life long friends.
     
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  8. Caro Perry

    Caro Perry Well-Known Member Registered

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    Terriers are a bit inclined to be like that - Harri unfortunately learnt similar behaviour at his training classes. They back fired on us terribly. There was one rottie who took a dislike to him although he was never able to get anywhere close to attacking Harri

    He is generally perfectly fine with girls ( always hoping one will say yes I think!) but with other males it's a complete lottery. Neutered or entire makes no difference, neither does size or breed. Some he just dislikes on sight. Others he loves.

    We manage the behaviour by not allowing any spontaneous socialisation when out on walks so he gets no chance to have a go. If a dog approaches us I put him on my other side away from the dog and march him smartly forwards whether he likes it or not! If he growls then he gets no reward once we are safely past. He's getting better but some dogs really do trigger him. It was some small white fluffy one yesterday as far removed from a Rottie as you could get
     
  9. stburns04

    stburns04 New Member Registered

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    Thanks everyone for the replies. I don't trust her off the lead at all at the moment. I have started using a small lead and trying to treat her when she listens and keeps her attention on me. Other then that I wasn't sure what else to do. I will use the advice above and try behaviour adjustment training and look at the kikopup videos.
    She was great with other dogs as a puppy, loved playing with them, and wheatens are generally described as being very friendly with other dogs and children. My parents started well with her but due to a few issues didn't continue the good training and she had less interaction with other dogs. It was then I noticed she would fight with some dogs. Then I think the major turning point was when this dog trainer recommended the shock collar. I am quite annoyed with this, he was an expensive trainer and it doesn't seem correct to recommend it. And i think the negative reinforcement has worsened her aggression.
    Any good training products anyone recommends? I was thinking of a long lead for training and a clicker, from my very amateur research!
    She is a lovely dog and I really want to try my best to train her correctly even if she will never be off the lead.
     
  10. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Both a long line and a clicker are good. A long line should only be attached to a harness, never a collar, because if the dog is running she won't know when she is about to reach the end and the sudden stop can injure her.

    The clicker is great, it's a sound marker that you use to click/mark the exact moment she does what you ask - like a snapshot - and also promises a reward for doing that good thing. For training yourself in the timing, watch a tv programme and every time a character uses a particular word, click the clicker. This will train you to react fast. Then charge the clicker for her. Like I said, it marks the moment in time that she does something you want. It also promises her a reward. So simultaneously click and give a treat. Do that five times then have a break. Then repeat that five times over the day (so five times five). Now she knows that click = reward.

    Now putting the two together - teach something, like a nose touch (at home, away from distractions; that can come later). Sit down and hold the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other closed hand, at her nose level. She will nudge the treat hand, as soon as she makes contact, click, then release the treat. Do the five times five, or more repetitions if necessary. Then (and this is after a few days of practice) hold your closed hand without a treat. When she nose touches it, click and reward with a treat from a table, your pocket or wherever. Again do your five times five repetitions. Now she has learned to nudge your hand for a reward. Then you can start to put a word to it, to later ask for this behaviour when you want it - like ”touch” - and you can practice at least five times five with that.
    The clicker is good because it is immediate and the sound is consistent - your dog knows straight away she has done the right thing and a reward will follow.
     
  11. stburns04

    stburns04 New Member Registered

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    Thanks for the excellent advice, I will give it a go!
     
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  12. DixD

    DixD Guest

    very true. This happened to a pup we had, years ago, got attacked by a black lab, which came out of nowhere. Affected him his whole life. :(
     
  13. Dibbythedog

    Dibbythedog Active Member Registered

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  14. john allen

    john allen New Member Registered

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    Out of interest, we look after the families' border terrier and have no major behavioural problems. She is only growling aggressive to other dogs if she thinks that they are going to steal her ball, but this is more of letting the other dog know that this is her property. When no ball is involved she is fine.
    A lot of very good advice has been given already so I will not attempt to provide anymore. However if your problem continues you might like to check out topcatsanddogs.home.blog. This guy Dan is a top trainer and offers some excellent online free advice, dog aggression included.
     
  15. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    There's some very outmoded advice in that blog. Dogs are not pack animals, and pack theory has been thoroughly debunked. I suggest you read this: Do You Really Need to Be a Pack Leader?
     
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  16. Finsky

    Finsky Well-Known Member Registered

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    If you have time...do give us a update how you get on. We try to give help and advise when ever we can but often the 'what happens next' or 'how it all ended' gets missed. It is good to hear how people problem solve and it can teach everybody some lessons..experience dog owner or not. Not all the tested methods work with our pets, they are all individuals and sometimes it is in the minute detail or some 'funny'/'weird' little thing we do that does the trick..one that may prove to be useful information for somebody else too!
     
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  17. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    I'm with @JudyN.

    This is Doggy Dan, who as Judy says, hasn't kept up to date with his methods. Especially as her aggression may well be rooted in anxiety, harsh methods are really not recommended.

    For some great, force free training tips, Kikopup on YouTube has some excellent short videos.
     
  18. john allen

    john allen New Member Registered

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    I have read the article Judy recommended and have no issue with it. Maybe Dan needs to move away from the term, Pack Leader. Reading between the lines what he appears to be saying is that all domestic dogs require guidance and leadership, which is inline with the article. Certainly my own experience with the basic training of 9 dogs over my life, I have found that with everyone of them they looked up to one member of the family as the main leader. I earned the love,respect, trust and loyalty from all of them, through kindness, patience and tolerance, and being firm and assertive when the need arose. Doggy Dan bases his training on the same premise. He does not advocate or promote harsh methods. I was interested to see that when researching online the characteristics of a Black, Russian, Terrier that I came across for the first time ( a lovely friendly dog) that The Kennel Club referred to the importance of this particular breed knowing who was the Alpha Dog/leader in the family.
     
  19. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    I think there is a difference between our normal concept of leadership and the way the term is sometimes applied to dog training.

    We look to good leaders in life as those who earn respect, empower and encourage us, and inspire us to follow them - the people who try to lead through being overbearing and domineering don't get respect; in fact the opposite occurs. People either openly or covertly try to undermine them.

    To quote Nicole Silvers ”Leadership is a role that requires the earning of trust from followers. Trust cannot be demanded. Force (the tool of the Dominator) creates resistance. Trust can only be given, not taken. Leadership, unlike "dominance", requires followers to CHOOSE to follow.”

    And this is why I have a bit of an issue with DD. Yes, the dog will look to me for guidance and leadership as defined above. But I don't believe someone in the house is the ”Alpha” leader. It's much more fluid, there are things I lead on, things Mr F leads on and sometimes, even things the dog leads on. His hearing, for example, is much sharper than mine so if he alerts me to a noise in the garden at night then yes, I'm going to pay attention. But until he develops oppositional thumbs, asks for the car keys and pinches cash out of my purse, I won't imagine he is trying to dominate me!

    Incidentally, I had a look on the KC website for the BRT theory and couldn't find it, could you link it?
     
  20. DixD

    DixD Guest

    That’s an interesting theory about leadership, JoanneF. I’m not sure if all people like the same type of leaders. I am sure people who have chosen a military career wouldn’t respect the same type of leader as, say, a contemplative one in a religious order. And I’m sure the leader of a high power sales team wouldn’t want either. And, so on... which got me to thinking that, when it comes to leadership/guidance in the canine world, perhaps different dogs look for different leadership qualities. My dogs are so lowkey, especially Hugo, they might fall over, they’re very much easygoing followers, and need very little guidance at all. Wolf, the neurotic one, needed reassurance that comes with simple, direct commands. Treating him for a job well done just confused the issue. Being asked to do something was his reward. Even if you asked one of the other dogs to do something, he had done it first. He was on alert all the time. It seems to me maybe we have to look at the specific dog(s) we have and offer guidance and leadership accordingly.

    What I fo look for in the dogs, which Cesar Milan mentions, but I don’t hear mentioned much elsewhere to the same extent, is that they have calm eyes. He adds “sunmissive” but it’s not something I consider. If their eyes are calm, that dark, clear soft look they display, then they are in the moment with me. Most of the dogs taking their ownersfir a walk in the park have minds and eyes all over the place, a bit like their owners!;)
     
  21. Finsky

    Finsky Well-Known Member Registered

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    I do understand what you are saying and agree too. But what you mentioned first about 'each dog looking for different leadership qualities' theory..absolutely! It is not just about breed thing that they need to be handled differently but each dog individually is different too.
    I keep on mentioning my current younsters and being terriers etc....yes, they are at times very hyper active, one more than other and I do have to handle their urges differently, not only because of their age differences, but their personalities.
    I rarely get the 'calm eyes' with them outside..that's their 'high alert/ on the job' mode where they are they are very different dogs than in other situations. And yes, I have to have my eyes all over the place, but the mind no, that one has to be on the job! ;) Working type 'Terror's' are not easy by all means for first few years, that pleasure will come on much later on :rolleyes:
    If I would not step up and put myself into 'being in charge' position, they would quite likely end up injuring themselves in their frenzy. Being youngsters, this kind of behaviour is quite likely to change in a few years time when their brains eventually mature..but until then I will have be the leader who keep eye on the 'good enough behaviour' boundaries. Even there is a dislike to the use of word 'dominance', that is what it basically comes to. I don't dominate their behaviour with whips and belts or nasty attitude, but if I'm to guide them..it is because I am taking that decision for their own good, hence being dominant...I don't accept certain kind of behaviour.
    In the end we are talking about different meanings behind similar words of our human language. I'm not too hook up how we express ourselves. What is the main thing is that how ever our human-canine familyship goes on, and what ever words we use to describe how to achieve it, it should not be based on cruelty from humans behalf. When push comes to shove...the dogs should like to be with us and willing to follow or it does take the negative side of the meaning 'dominance'.
    My 'dominance' is not constant, in fact some probably would say I'm quite laid back with my dogs. As long as they behave without causing problems to themselves, our household (humans included) or others outside our 'pack'...I'll let them be terriers..they are allowed to be their own dogs as that is only way they can develop their own distinctive personalities. And that works with the constant training of OH as well..but I ain't calling myself Mrs. Dominatrix! :eek::D;):rolleyes:
     
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