Fear Aggression or another type of aggression?
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Thread: Fear Aggression or another type of aggression?

  1. #1
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    Fear Aggression or another type of aggression?

    Hi,

    We adopted a dog who was obviously abused in the past. When we got him, we realized he had a bad hip. He would consistently limp and so we opted for surgery in which he is no longer in pain. He is terrified of most men he encounters that try to give him attention so we assume that it was a male who abused him. He is also frightful around bigger dogs. He generally does fine with smaller dogs, but here's the problem:

    When he sees a dog, he's excited, whines, and eager to meet them. When he gets there, he raises his hackles up, which I've read that is just a sign of nervousness, so I usually try ease him into greeting another dog, walking slowly. Sometimes he starts to growl and rarely does he snap, and when he does, he never actually bites the dog.

    He generally doesn't like things up in front of his face, and when dogs are very excited or hyper around him, he tends to stiffen up, but still wag his tail. It seems he's very picky at who he "likes" and doesn't necessary know how to play with them, instead he tries to continually lick/sniff them. When he tries to ignore a dog that is dying for attention from him, running around, into him, and up in his face, he starts to growl.

    He could also be sniffing a bigger, calm dog, who isn't giving him the a single bit of attention and will start to growl or even jump at it. I'm assuming this is fear aggression? But I'm never sure because he's always eager to walk up to them and sniff them. I've also noticed, in some situations he will growl, and lunge, sticking his nose way into the dog, with his mouth closed, sniffing. One situation was a bigger dog, just on the side of him, minding his own business, peeing off onto the side. My dog would walk up to him, smell him, and then growl.

    Another instance, with my girlfriend's family's dog (who is about his size), he would consistently growl the whole time they were with each other, and when separated, he would whine to go back to the other dog. During his growling, he would chase, and what I assume to play with the other dog, although it seems a bit too aggressive. He seems to play bite with his mouth open, never biting down. We've put them in a kennel together, and they would be quiet and calm the whole time and as soon as we let them both out, he begins to growl.

    Why is he acting the way he is in these specific situations? What can I do? He always seems eager to say hi from a distance as he wags his tail or cry, but I never know how he'll react when we're next to the other dog.

    Another thing I would like to stop is his excessive licking, which I understand licking is apart of a dog's greeting, but he will chase a dog for a long amount of time and just try to lick, not wrestle, chase for fun, or play, although I would like to make him less aggressive over this matter first.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
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    Re: Fear Aggression or another type of aggression?

    It is really really hard to make a guess without observing a dog in a lot of situations, but one thing to keep in mind is that "growling" doesn't always mean aggression or a warning (like a "get away from me"). Some dogs are simply vocal when they play and will grumble, growl and bark while chasing or wrestling with another dog. The description of him playing with your girlfriend's family dog sounds like normal play behavior. Did they kind of take turns being the play biter and play bitee? Did the other dog yelp or squeal during the roughhousing?

    Regardless of how friendly they are though, I wouldn't kennel them together unsupervised.

    When he's out and about, he could be intimidated by the strange, bigger dogs and giving them "back off" warnings with air snaps. How do you introduce new dogs?

    When he tries to ignore a dog that is dying for attention from him, running around, into him, and up in his face, he starts to growl.
    Many dogs dislike other dogs getting up in their faces. It is very rude dog manners to go face-to-face and be pushy like that. A growl is used to tell the other dog to quit being a jerk.
    Are you at a dog park when these other dogs are bothering him? If so, I suggest that you quit going. Lots of dogs are not "dog park dogs" and it sounds like it isn't a calm, fun place for your dog to be.

    An organized basic training class would be a great way to give him mental exercise and to have positive encounters with other dogs. A Canine Good Citizen class is a nice 6-8 week starting point.

  4. #3
    Senior Member Amaryllis's Avatar
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    Re: Fear Aggression or another type of aggression?

    Shell has good advice, and I'd also like to point out 2 other things:

    1. Off leash and on leash can be two totally different things for dogs. Some dogs feel constrained on a leash, like they can't escape, and are fearful as a result. Off leash, they're fine. In that case, you need to counter condition/desensitize on leash. you can find good behaviorists at iaabc.org to teach you how to do this. You can learn how to do this from books and youtube videos, but if you can pay for a behaviorist, the in person help is invaluable.

    2. Dog aggression is a continuum, not an either/or. Some dogs are not DA at all. Some dogs want to kill every dog they see. Most dogs fall somewhere in between, which may be what's going on with your dog. DA is largely genetic and completely unrelated to human aggression. (A lot of people think "oh, what if that were a child!" which is totally off base. I had a severely DA dog who was so gentle and loving to children and loved people in general.) You can train such a dog to behave on a leash, but you can't make them like every dog.

    Also, you don't know how this dog was trained in the past. A lot of people recommend choke chains and prong collars for such behavior, which can often make the behavior worse. Think about it, if you're already nervous around bees, would someone hurting you every time you saw a bee make you like bees more? Yeah, me neither. So you may be in a position of cleaning up somebody else's mess. Fortunately, with enough patience and treats, good behavior is possible.
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  6. #4
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    Re: Fear Aggression or another type of aggression?

    Thank you both so much for your comments, I really appreciate it.

    @Shell
    He generally does fine at dog parks, although we had to stop going for a while now, due to a health issue, but he is all better now. The lack of dog park may have made his aggression slightly worse. As for my girlfriend's family dog, they did both play bite, but my dog seemed to be the one that was play biting more often but there was never yelping or squealing.

    When we meet new dogs, or even dogs he has met previously, he will tug towards that direction, I try to calm him down by waiting until he stops tugging and have him walk slowly towards the other dog. As he gets closer, his hackles start to come up when he sniffs whether or not it is a new dog. Some dogs, his hackles lower quicker than others. I let them sniff, say hi, and continue with our walk, depending how he reacts, I will stay a bit longer for him to be with the other dog.

    What should I do if he growls at the other dogs to back off? I understand it's normal for him to want to say "Back off." but he comes off too aggressive sometimes and it's hard to be around the other dog owners when he is too defensive. He generally zones out to one or two dogs in a group that he wants to play with.

    @Amaryllis
    I generally have him on leash around the apartment, although there is a giant grassy area where a lot of dogs are off-leash which may make him feel constrained, however I am worried about him snapping at others since there are both bigger dogs and smaller ones. I am in the process of trying to train him with loose leash training as he has started to tug a lot more than usual. Again, due to a health issue with his leg, we were forced to limit exercise, which may have increased his aggression and energy.

    I am also staying away from physical punishments, even petting him makes him flinch/blink, which makes me really upset wondering how the previous owners treated him. He still loves to cuddle/get petted, but he will flinch with a firm pat or petting every time you lift your hand to pet his head. He is terrified of adult males, okay with adult females, but loves children.



    Again, thank you both so much for your help.

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