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"He's never normally aggressive..."


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My 14 month old (unneutered male) sprocker is still learning how to read other dogs' body language, and has a tendency to get up in their personal space even when they're sending indications that they don't want him to. He never approaches aggressively, usually very much the opposite, lying down when he's nearby and waiting for the other dog to come to him. The trouble is he hasn't quite got the hang of waiting with every dog we meet and sometimes he thinks they want to play when they don't. This is a big training challenge that we're working hard on, but it's mostly been a case of me apologising to other dog owners rather than being something we've worried about.

However, over the past few weeks the number of dogs that have become aggressive with him very quickly has rocketed. At least three walks this week alone he's been chased by a dog whose owner is behind yelling "he/she's never usually this aggressive". I'm not sure whether there's something in particular about my dog that provokes this sort of uncharacteristic aggression in other dogs, or whether it's just a case of keeping up with the training to reduce the likelihood of those situations occurring, but any advice from my fellow dog owners would be very, very welcome!
I'm sure the fact that he's unneutered is a big part of this - he's old enough that he's completely outgrown his puppy licence. Some dogs who are normally gentlemen hate unneutered males, and as there aren't that many adult unneutered males around, it can take their owner by surprise. The fact that he is probably a bit of a softie can lead some dogs to be bullying, too - they know they're not going to suddenly be confronted with a dog who gives as good as he gets. (My dog in his adolescent years was a prime example of a playground bully who hated a whiff of testosterone :oops:)

The best answer, really, is to keep on with his training, and not let him approach and play with other dogs without your permission. Though it's easier said than done, I know! I would try to make his default reaction when he sees a dog to come to you, or at least turn his attention to you - when he sees a dog, call him to you for a treat, then maybe pop him on lead while you find out whether the other dog will be happy to play.
As JudyN says - and also he is an adolescent, with all that brings, and many dogs don't like adolescent males on principle. Worry not - this is just another phase to work with and work on. No more running up to other dogs - you are taller and can see further, so get him back, on-lead in good time before he sees the other dog, reward, put him on the side of you furthest from the other dog, increase distance if necessary, and walk by. It is perfectly okay to turn back, turn aside, go wherever you need (we sometimes get fixated on going on, but nothing is lost and much is gained by not meeting other dogs head to head) to keep him away from other dogs.

There is no need for him to "make friends" with other dogs, and a proportion of dog owners will be VERY grateful that you have kept your dog away from theirs. I f someone wants your dog and theirs to play, it's up to you to assess if this is a good idea, because rambunctious play does not always teach your dog what you'd like him to know.

It DOES get better, but it takes time. They can only grow out of adolescence at their own pace. Then being entire or being neutered won't matter, so you can stick with your long-term plans regarding this. Neutering now will lock him into adolescence for life, and you don't want that either!

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