Fear aggression
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Thread: Fear aggression

  1. #1
    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Fear aggression

    There is a little white bichon/poodle mix of some sort at the shelter where I work. He's super cute, and seemed friendly when I first saw him earlier this week. I was warned that he could get 'snappy' though. Tonight I went in to let all the dogs out for their last potty break before morning, and actually got to meet this little guy.

    When I approached his kennel he wagged his tail and seemed quite happy to see me, and even when I opened the door he seemed fine. I tried to get him to follow me out but he just kinda stood there, looking perfectly content mind you, not fearful or anything. So I did what I always do when they don't follow and took the leash and went to slip it over his head and he freaked, I was crouching next to him when I did this, so I don't think he was afraid of me leaning over him.. Anyway he jumped back as soon as it touched his head, and bared his teeth and started snarling, growling and barking furiously at me. I haven't worked there long enough to have encountered any other dogs that I thought would actually bite me.. so I wasn't quite sure what to do. I tried crouching down again and talking in a calm tone, then a happy 'come and play' type of tone.. neither worked.. he just kept snarling away.

    Eventually I made the loop on the leash big enough that I could just toss it over him, and as soon as it looped up on his neck he stopped growling. He went back to being a normal dog and followed me out. When I got him outside into a potty kennel, he let me take off the leash and I pet him a little behind the ears and told him that 'see it wasn't so bad ' and he started to growl at me again and ran away

    Anyway, after I was all done I went to check the book we keep.. it's a log kind of, of everything that happens that other people working there might need to know about.. I saw that they are planning to put this poor boy down because of his aggression issue.. He's not adoptable as he is. If they do, it won't happen until next Friday (the 19th). Do you guys who have worked with aggressive/fear aggressive type dogs think that this is something that could be solved? How would I go about solving it to make him adoptable? I was thinking I -could- bring him home to foster if I can just get him to NOT want to kill me... He's just the cutest little thing.... Any suggestions?

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  3. #2
    Senior Member ThoseWordsAtBest's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    As a fearful dog owner with a dog making very slow progress/largely at a standstill I still have a lot of faith in rehabilitation. Pamela Dennison is my training idol in fear aspects. Every dog is different, and some of my fosters have started out this way and became new dogs. The way Magpie was when she came to me and the way she is now tells me every thing I need to know about redemption.

    For one thing, he's probably incredibly terrified of the shelter, and you moved too quickly for his comfort level. I don't know where he came from, but it gave him a reason to not trust people, and his not being out right aggressive largely points to fear. He is scared as you know and just trying to tell you to get away from him. He was either not socilalized with people in any manner, or out right hurt by them, and he has no reason to believe you'll be any different. If you're going to foster this boy, the first step is completely ignoring him. No talking to him, no looking at him, and definitely no touching him while having short sessions every day where you simply toss treats in silence with no eye contact. The more people you can bring to do this, the better, because as I've learned with Jonas I could turn him around to completely bond with me, but not other people. I had left out OTHER people as a factor when we first adopted him.

    We had a fearful aggressive Pom mix we had to ignore for over a month before he finally one day came out of a corner he picked and actually approached me and I could look at him. Then we started touch training and slowly ventured into reintroducing him to every thing in an incredibly positive manner.




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    Junior Member Greyhound's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    I'm sure a lot of people can tell you the same things I would, so I'm thinking I'll just add some 2 cents about what I've personally learned about fearful and aggressive dogs. I'm a ranch worker, so I deal with a lot of feral/rescued/high maintenance animals, so that's where my experience comes from (as well as rescuing dogs.) One thing I can think to add is that an absence of visible fear is important. In a similar case in my life, the difference between me befriending a dog and this dog attacking everyone else was that I'm not afraid of being bitten. The thing about dogs, especially fearful dogs that are putting on a show of froth and ferociousness is that it's a front. A facade, or defensive barrier- and it takes up a LOT of energy. If he meets someone or multiple people that aren't going to recoil from this defense display, it ceases to be worth it, and it DOES burn out 99% of the time. After that you're left with a tired, but really receptive dog with a new sense of respect for you. It's then I find that you can bond with them and earn their trust when you've passed the barrier, and all you do care about them. He basically needs to kow he doesn't have to defend himself, but he may have to figure that out by working through it with someone that can take it. ALSO- I'm not saying that's the case for every dog, I simply find that is usually the worst case, but at any rate a dog will be more willing to work with you if they know they can't drive you back with a snap. Just think calm, patient, and relaxed. The BEST of luck! <3
    Last edited by Greyhound; 03-14-2010 at 01:19 AM. Reason: Adding

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    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Well I went in again today.. I'm just really not sure what it is that scares him... or even if he's really scared at all. I approached his kennel today with the same leash from yesterday, and he wagged his tail, happy to see me like any of the other dogs. I opened the door, slipped the leash over his head and walked him out to potty, brought him back in and all was fine. I took up his food bowl, changed his water. Talked to him a bit. Normal.

    Then I went and did the rest of the dogs, and came back a while later with a few treats. I walked up to the door and as soon as I got there he came RACING forward, Leaped up against the cage door barking and snarling, then he stood there, bouncing with every bark, teeth bared, he just wanted to kill me. I didn't move, I just stood there and waited.. almost five minutes later he started to forget why he was barking and his barks got less ferocious, so I held out the treat, he stopped barking, sniffed of it, took it and ate it. A few moments later he came racing back at the door of the kennel barking and snarling again, with renewed vigor.

    He didn't -seem- afraid and I just don't understand what I could have done to make him freak out like that when he had let me in to take him out/change his food/water and didn't do anything then. What is going on with him do you think?

  7. #5
    Junior Member Greyhound's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Even if he's not visibly afraid, it's clear it's some kind of trust issue, he would be more aggressive all the time if he were being genuinely aggressive (I think anyway.) What you did was AWESOME. I have no idea if you have the time- but if you can do that a few times with him, the more likely it is he'll learn that it's not worth it to do that to you. It's a learned behavior that is triggered, however if you really can't figure out what the trigger is, you can still address that he doesn't need to be triggered that way. Also, when you're in the cage with him, (since he's a little dog this should be fine) taking hold of the back of the collar and keeping it up by his head so he can't whip around and snap at you can help if he flips out when you're in there with him.

    Also when you're working with him, walking him, whatever- if you start to see him tense up/go really quiet/or his eyes start bugging out or any of those warning signs of a hissy fit, giving him a VERY light poke or tug to stop the escalation goes a long way. If you can actually stop him before he starts, that's huge.

    I really wish I could see what he was doing. XD

  8. #6
    Senior Member TxRider's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    I agree with greyhound.

    Sounds like fear trust issues to me.

    My fearful little GSD Kaya was like that in the rescue kennel. She was so fierce acting with the fear based barrier aggression that you would think if you stuck your fingers in there you wouldn't get them back.

    A few days at my house and she's the sweetest dog you could hope for.

    I would bet with little time and patience you could get past this. I wouldn't hesitate to.

    Approaching him at the same time daily with treat or food so he look forwar to your visit, try different non threatening methods like moving slower and smoother, squatting down and presenting him your side or back instead of facing him, less eye contact and sound as you approach, or visibly yawning and staying calm, take time getting the leash on him and treat him for sniffing and taking the leash etc. and be calm and never flinch, move fast or get exited when gets aggressive.

  9. #7
    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Quote Originally Posted by TxRider View Post
    I agree with greyhound.

    Sounds like fear trust issues to me.

    My fearful little GSD Kaya was like that in the rescue kennel. She was so fierce acting with the fear based barrier aggression that you would think if you stuck your fingers in there you wouldn't get them back.

    A few days at my house and she's the sweetest dog you could hope for.

    I would bet with little time and patience you could get past this. I wouldn't hesitate to.

    Approaching him at the same time daily with treat or food so he look forwar to your visit, try different non threatening methods like moving slower and smoother, squatting down and presenting him your side or back instead of facing him, less eye contact and sound as you approach, or visibly yawning and staying calm, take time getting the leash on him and treat him for sniffing and taking the leash etc. and be calm and never flinch, move fast or get exited when gets aggressive.
    I did this with a tibetian mastiff who wanted to eat my nose. Even if he was barking, I tossed treats into his pen anyways. Eventually he skipped all the barking/snarling/teeth showing front stuff, and awaited my visits with perked ears and a slightly wagging (hopeful?) tail.
    I can remember boarding dogs that I couldn't actually believed lived in a HOUSE...with PEOPLE...and that all the people were still living. Put them in a different and stressful scenario(a shelter or kennel, no matter how clean/homelike/well ran, is still somewhat stressful) and you can get a multitude of reactions. Some dogs acted like they wanted to kill any living thing in their general vicinity, some dogs completely shut down, and others went about their lives like nothing was wrong. It would be interesting to see how this dog you're describing does in a home-like setting. My biggest (and actually most selfish) fear would be to foster him, work with him, and find out he's NOT responding to the rehabilitation and be faced with the options of either adopting him myself and managing the problems, or having him put to sleep. I have an amazing amount of respect for people who foster and rescue, and don't envy the ones who wind up with a dog who can't be safely rehabilitated enough to be adopted out to JQP. It's a tough decision.
    Sitting with him and yawning will help. I've done this, and it really does work. Another thing I've found with extremely edgy and (for lack of a better term) "paranoid" dogs was greeting their ballistic barking/growling with a simple cock of my head. You NEVER see a tense dog cock their head, and dogs seem to understand it when humans do it as well. It has literally diffused dogs who were jumpy and edgy to the point of being a possible danger, and I can remember one lab in particular who looked completely 100% RELIEVED when she saw me tilt my head at her. Very cool.
    We did a test run on a boarding dog a year or so ago who was banned from other kennels for being "too aggressive". We don't usually board aggressive dogs, but we'll give it a shot. The dog in question crammed herself into a corner and bared her teeth. I sat far enough away from her that I didn't feel vulnerable but close enough that I was easy to see/hear/smell, and brought my lunch and my cell phone with me. I sat down, ignored the dog, and called one of my friends for a friendly afternoon talk. A few seconds later the dog was curiously sniffing the air, so I (still not looking at her/talking to her) gently tossed her a piece of my lunch (a cheeseburger). I kept yakking to my friend, and the dog inched closer and closer to me. I still ignored her and refused to interact with her. Within a half hour I had a very relieved, soft eyed dog laying by my side with her head in my lap. Eventually she nudged my hand and I started petting her, and to this day, she's a dog I can do pretty much anything with, and some of my other staff members can not.
    My point to all this is as vicious and scary as she looked, she didn't WANT to attack or bite or kill anyone, but I honestly think she had learned that baring teeth and growling worked to keep scary people away.
    And as much as I say I don't agree with Cesar Milan much, I will say that taking a dog for a nice, long, silent walk can do wonders for creating/maintaining a bond. Not just a jaunt around the block, and not talking to the dog, nagging with a 4 foot leash, not asking for sits, heels, or anything fancy or pretty. I walk a lot slower than CM, and unlike him I let the dog(s) take as long as they want to sniff, investigate, etc. It's a good way to learn that dogs language. We board a malamute who isn't exactly your best friend--UNTIL you pull out her harness and leash and promise her a nice long stroll around the property.
    Last edited by LazyGRanch713; 03-15-2010 at 12:17 PM.

  10. #8
    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Well I went in again today solely to take him for a walk and see how he did. When I first walked up to his kennel he did the freak out snarly thing, so I went and got a leash and collar and came back, and he was still barking, but when he saw the leash he became visibly more relaxed, he stopped barking and wagged his tail, knowing he was going out. He was great when I opened the door, let me put the collar and leash on just fine and we went for a walk! He was wonderful! Great leash manners, he didn't pull or anything. I stopped him part way through our walk and decided to see if he would let me touch him. He did, he let me pet his head, touch his nose, his paws, tail, back and tummy. He did not want to be picked up though. I had heard he didn't like being picked up so I decided to see.. he didn't snap or anything when I lifted him, but he turned and made a "Hey don't do that" noise. As soon as I set him down he was fine again.

    Apparently he's been getting worse and worse at his kennel the longer he has been at the shelter. He is 7-10 years old they think (I thought he was much younger, his teeth were very white, he must have been well cared for.) I guess his owner died and he was sent to live with her niece who didn't have any time for him.

    Anyway I'm taking my husband down there tonight to meet him, and then we are probably going to bring him home and see how he does here. I'm going to let him have the ex-pen and crate to himself for a while and see how he does with that. I'm hoping that once he is out of the shelter situation he will stop being so aggressive. He has been labeled "Bites with out warning", but I think so far he has given plenty of warning. When they groomed him he had to be sedated I guess. I am going to try and give him a bath either tonight or tomorrow with out sedation (he's filthy!).. I'm going to try bribing him with a package of hot dogs.


    So.. Wish us luck. Hopefully we will be able to find someone to adopt him when he's out of there and not so stressed and crazy. While he's there I don't think anyone is going to give him a second look after he leaps, barking and snarling at them.

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    Re: Fear aggression

    Good luck! Bless you! Wishing you the very, very best!

  12. #10
    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Quote Originally Posted by Binkalette View Post
    Well I went in again today solely to take him for a walk and see how he did. When I first walked up to his kennel he did the freak out snarly thing, so I went and got a leash and collar and came back, and he was still barking, but when he saw the leash he became visibly more relaxed, he stopped barking and wagged his tail, knowing he was going out. He was great when I opened the door, let me put the collar and leash on just fine and we went for a walk! He was wonderful! Great leash manners, he didn't pull or anything. I stopped him part way through our walk and decided to see if he would let me touch him. He did, he let me pet his head, touch his nose, his paws, tail, back and tummy. He did not want to be picked up though. I had heard he didn't like being picked up so I decided to see.. he didn't snap or anything when I lifted him, but he turned and made a "Hey don't do that" noise. As soon as I set him down he was fine again.

    Apparently he's been getting worse and worse at his kennel the longer he has been at the shelter. He is 7-10 years old they think (I thought he was much younger, his teeth were very white, he must have been well cared for.) I guess his owner died and he was sent to live with her niece who didn't have any time for him.

    Anyway I'm taking my husband down there tonight to meet him, and then we are probably going to bring him home and see how he does here. I'm going to let him have the ex-pen and crate to himself for a while and see how he does with that. I'm hoping that once he is out of the shelter situation he will stop being so aggressive. He has been labeled "Bites with out warning", but I think so far he has given plenty of warning. When they groomed him he had to be sedated I guess. I am going to try and give him a bath either tonight or tomorrow with out sedation (he's filthy!).. I'm going to try bribing him with a package of hot dogs.


    So.. Wish us luck. Hopefully we will be able to find someone to adopt him when he's out of there and not so stressed and crazy. While he's there I don't think anyone is going to give him a second look after he leaps, barking and snarling at them.
    Good luck!!! It might be interesting to take him to a vet and get a good CBC and check up done on him and make sure there's nothing physically wrong with him that made him aversive to being picked up/handled (at the groomers). Does he have a name yet?

  13. #11
    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Yes, his name is Chipper. I don't know if that is the name he has had his whole life or if he was just deemed 'chipper' at the humane society, but he seems to respond to it. It could just be my tone of voice though.

    Anyway! I think he has GREAT potential for finding a new home! We went to pick him up tonight, and I had a leash with me, so he didn't do the bark snarl thing he usually does. He just wanted to go for a walk. We hooked him up and brought him out to the car and he hopped right into the carrier all by himself. When we got home I carried the crate into the ex pen and opened it up. He came out, happy to see me, wanting to be pet and such. We left him in there to settle in a bit. Zoey and Maggie have been sniffing at him like vultures.

    He has settled in well and we haven't seen a SINGLE sign of aggression out of him. Not one. He just wants to see us and to have us pet him. After he settled down and laid down in the ex pen, I decided we should try to give him a bath, since he was very stinky and muddy. I was a little nervous about how he would react to it, but decided to just be firm and let him know, this is what we are doing now. I brought him into the bathroom and he didn't want to get in the tub by himself, so I had to lift him. He didn't do a THING when I lifted him. I just sat him in the tub like I would my own dogs. My co-worker said he tried to bite her when she picked him up earlier and the other said she got growled at. Odd.

    I left his collar on but loose so I could suds under it, and tied it to the towel bar in the tub so he wouldn't jump out. He was VERY good. No sedation needed! I don't get it! Why did they need to sedate him at the groomers???? He was great for me! He didn't jump or try to get out.. he just stood there and whined a little. Let me scrub his head, his face, the bridge of his nose, lift his feet, scrub his butt.. didn't do anything! Not a growl or anything. He was just.. Normal.

    Now he's in the ex pen again drying off. He's curled up on a pile of blankets. He hasn't been here long, but I really thing that maybe it was just the humane society?? I just think it's so odd that he can be nick named "Bitey little Jerk" and have a "bites with out warning" sticker, need to be sedated at the groomers etc.. and then he comes here and is normal. :-/ I guess we'll see...

  14. #12
    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    I took some pictures of him.. these are from before his bath. He's like a giant Maggie. :P








    and after his bath.. he's still wet.

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    Senior Member ThoseWordsAtBest's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Haha. Jeez. It was probably a case of shelter skitters. Some dogs are kennel shy and he probably was terrified to be in there.




  16. #14
    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Quote Originally Posted by ThoseWordsAtBest View Post
    Haha. Jeez. It was probably a case of shelter skitters. Some dogs are kennel shy and he probably was terrified to be in there.
    I sure hope so. It's awful though, I wonder how many other great dogs have been put down at shelters because they were deemed aggressive because they were scared.

    I don't want to jinx this however... He could still have some issue I haven't discovered the trigger for yet.

  17. #15
    Senior Member BooLette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Good for you Binkalette! I really hope that he keeps on being a sweetie for you! We definitely need more pictures!

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    Senior Member Binkalette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression


  19. #17
    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Quote Originally Posted by ThoseWordsAtBest View Post
    Haha. Jeez. It was probably a case of shelter skitters. Some dogs are kennel shy and he probably was terrified to be in there.
    Some dogs (from my understanding) start out fine in shelter situations, even if a little shy, and will literally go "kennel crazy". A friend of mine pulled a pyr that was at the humane society for months, and had "got aggressive". The dog was kennel crazy. He was pulled almost 2 years ago and from the day he walked out of the shelter, he's been nothing but a puddle of absolute love-mush for the new owners. It might be the case with binkalettes dog, since she said the staff said he was getting progressively worse the longer he was at the shelter. Either way, I'm glad the little guy is being good I would start basic training with this little fella ASAP so he learns right off the bat that people in all shapes, sizes, and forms mean GOOD things, to make him more outgoing, confident, and hence adoptable. I wish you the best with this little guy and God bless you for helping him!

  20. #18
    Senior Member ThoseWordsAtBest's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Quote Originally Posted by Binkalette View Post
    I sure hope so. It's awful though, I wonder how many other great dogs have been put down at shelters because they were deemed aggressive because they were scared.

    I don't want to jinx this however... He could still have some issue I haven't discovered the trigger for yet.
    I would not doubt it at all. Think about how a lot of the strays come in to the shelter. Catch poles. Car rides. Scary shelter filled with noise. Smalls is by no means an aggressive dog, but she IS kennel shy. Put her in a kennel and she'll look like she's going to tear you apart. Get her out and she's a happy dope. Every time I go down to AC and there is a dog with a big red "BITE" sign on the cage, most of them show me no signs of aggression and are either just plain shut down or sweet. Sure, there are some that are blatantly aggressive and that is sad, but I really believe you can pick out the fearful ones from the actually human aggressive ones.




  21. #19
    Senior Member BooLette's Avatar
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    Re: Fear aggression

    Quote Originally Posted by ThoseWordsAtBest View Post
    I would not doubt it at all. Think about how a lot of the strays come in to the shelter. Catch poles. Car rides. Scary shelter filled with noise. Smalls is by no means an aggressive dog, but she IS kennel shy. Put her in a kennel and she'll look like she's going to tear you apart. Get her out and she's a happy dope. Every time I go down to AC and there is a dog with a big red "BITE" sign on the cage, most of them show me no signs of aggression and are either just plain shut down or sweet. Sure, there are some that are blatantly aggressive and that is sad, but I really believe you can pick out the fearful ones from the actually human aggressive ones.
    I completely agree with you.

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