New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?
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Thread: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

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    New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Hi! I'm brand new to this forum. I adopted a 45 lb 1.5 yr female lab/shephard mix a few days ago. She was a stray, a family adopted her, and gave her up because she wouldn't stop herding their children.

    She is an excellent dog. Crate trained, very friendly with people and strangers, is doing well with my two ferrets, and listens to me very well. She is submissive to people (especially me). I make her sit and wait before putting on the leash, letting her inside or outside the house and car, before I throw the ball, before I give her attention etc. She acts entirely submissive around people (rolls on her back, ears back, licking, etc.)

    Unfortunately, she is not ok with other dogs. I have since learned that she was taken to a busy dog park and was beat up by the dogs there. What she now does is acting entirely dominant. We took her to a off leash park where nobody was (it's been snowy and rainy so not many people are out). A dog appeared from the other side of the park after a while and she ran after him, hackles raised, tail and head high, ears forward, overall entirely dominant stance. We went to a diff. area, but the dog followed us, got too close and personal with her, and she snapped. She bit his haunch and was VERY aggressive (he was aggressive in return and this turned into a fight).

    Needless to say, we left the park and I will not be taking her anywhere for a while until I figure this out.

    What can I do? I believe she was scared of other dogs, then realized that she can act dominant and push them away. I'm not really sure how to proceed... she's such a good, patient, seemingly submissive dog in all other situations.

    Please help! I consider myself a decent dog trainer, and want to do agility with her, but can't if she won't tolerate other dogs.

    Thanks....

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    Senior Member Cracker's Avatar
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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Quote Originally Posted by MyFireBandit View Post
    She acts entirely submissive around people (rolls on her back, ears back, licking, etc.)
    Welcome to the forums.

    These are calming signals and distance creating signals from an unsure and insecure dog..not a calm submissive personality. They are appeasement signals done because she is frightened. You've had her only a couple of days so do not fall into the trap that THIS calm appearance is her true personality. She could be partially shut down and still has the capacity to go after your ferrets if you are not watching. A rollover that is not LOOSE is a stressed out dog wanting you to back off, it's called a "tap out" and people often misconstrue this as a trusting behaviour, it is not.

    Unfortunately, she is not ok with other dogs. I have since learned that she was taken to a busy dog park and was beat up by the dogs there. What she now does is acting entirely dominant. We took her to a off leash park where nobody was (it's been snowy and rainy so not many people are out). A dog appeared from the other side of the park after a while and she ran after him, hackles raised, tail and head high, ears forward, overall entirely dominant stance. We went to a diff. area, but the dog followed us, got too close and personal with her, and she snapped. She bit his haunch and was VERY aggressive (he was aggressive in return and this turned into a fight).

    Needless to say, we left the park and I will not be taking her anywhere for a while until I figure this out.
    It was far too soon to take her unleashed to an area, busy or not, as unfortunately you discovered. Did she draw blood on the other dog? If not then that is a good sign (bite inhibition and control). Interesting that no blame is put on the pushy rude dog...But the body language you describe is STILL a distance creating behaviour..many dogs if they have been attacked or bullied do not go into fearful submission when they see another dog but instead adopt a kill or be killed attitude, making themselves LARGE and moving toward the object of fear...it is still fear, but triggers fight instead of flight.

    This type of problem is not about "training" per se, though basic obedience behaviours trained really well can go a long way and should also be a huge part of the rehabilitation of the dog...this is a behaviour modification situation.

    So, please give up the dominance and submission mindset. Neither of these are "fixed" personalities in dogs and are simply different parts of the same set of dog dog communications.

    Give her time to settle in to the new routine which you have set up. Set her up to succeed and to develop a positive and trusting relationship with you and do not put her in any situations where she may feel the need to defend herself (to anyone, dog or human).

    Go to www.fearfuldogs.com for some great info on CC and OC and getting over fears.

    Order yourself a copy of Control Unleashed (dvd or book) for exercises to work with a reactive/distracted dog in an agility context. It can be done. But it takes work.

    You may need to get a behaviourist in to help you assess the dog once she's settled in. A certified, educated behaviourist..not a basic trainer. Go through the IAABC to find one near you.
    Maggi and Cracker, Dog about Rosedale


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    Senior Member GypsyJazmine's Avatar
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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Excellent advise Cracker!...You are so good at understanding dog body language!
    I can't think of a thing to add but to have to o.p. think carefully about what you've said!

    Chelle

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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    I'm sorry if my language isn't correct. I understand everything you are telling me and it fits with my knowledge of dog behavior, training, conditioning etc. I have done extensive reading on positive training and clicker training and am a strong advocate for it.

    When she rolls on her back it IS loose. She comes to people of her own accord and always sits and downs in order to get attention. I understand that it will take her some time to settle and get back to her normal self, but I spent a decent amount of time with her and her previous family before I adopted her. I have been working hard with her on basics, getting her to listen and respond, and she responds very well and happily to me.

    I am keeping her on a leash and training her to lay down when ferrets are out and not to chase them. I am going to keep this process up for several weeks until I am more sure of her actions - so no, I am not entirely trusting her with them, but the gradual process of acclimating her to them is going fabulously (she desperately wants to play with them, but I'm still teaching her that she has to be super gentle and NO TEETH!)

    I also understand that the dog on dog aggression is fear based... I guess I'm having a difficult time wording her actions without reverting to a more traditional description.

    Thank you for the resources. I am trying to find all information possible to read and analyze before taking additional steps. For now I am planning on giving her treats when we see other dogs and getting her to focus on me rather than them. I am teaching her the "look" command, but so far she just looks at the treat, or the hand where she assumes a treat will be ^_^. It's a start!

    Any other advice or recommended resources would be appreciated... I talked to the previous owner and they have previously consulted a professional behaviorist. The behaviorist suggested the same as I plan to do - treats when other dogs are present at a distance.

    Thank you!

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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    BTW, she bit the dog on the haunch, but did NOT draw blood. She has very good bite inhibition (even though she still mouths like a puppy - no pressure). Not sure how hard she actually bit though because it was so fast.

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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    What would you do if she killed one of your ferrets? If you would get rid of her, then please keep her separated from them now. It isn't fair to expect a dog to never have their prey drive activated, and risk losing their home over it. Dogs naturally have some sort of prey drive. It could be triggered by something you don't even notice. You could put a dog with a ferret 100 times and have them behave perfect, but that one time the ferret moves too quickly/makes a noise, etc, they could get attacked. Plus it isn't fair to your ferret to be put in a position where it's life is at risk.
    Spay or neuter your pet! Founding President Of Thread Killers Anonymous.

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    Senior Member Cracker's Avatar
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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Hi.
    Yes, I would definitely use CC (treats when she sees other dogs) to start. You will find some great exercises in Control Unleashed, especially the Look at That exercise.

    And yes, it is hard to sometimes get the descriptions in without reverting to certain words and as long as you understand that it is simply a description of the "moment" and not a description of the dog's overall character then you are on target.

    As for the ferrets.
    I second SN's opinion. Keep working with her on leave it for the ferrets but please never assume they will be one hundred percent safe with her. Even dogs that have been raised with cats or other small animals have been known to drift and injure or kill new ones to the family.
    Maggi and Cracker, Dog about Rosedale


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    Senior Member KBLover's Avatar
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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Quote Originally Posted by MyFireBandit View Post
    What can I do? I believe she was scared of other dogs, then realized that she can act dominant and push them away. I'm not really sure how to proceed... she's such a good, patient, seemingly submissive dog in all other situations.
    Not dominant. Scared.

    Dominance and submission, even if they were 100% true can't exist in a fearful mindset.

    Fear overrides everything, the dog is in a fight or flight mode (defense drive as it's sometimes called) and it looks like you have a fighter. Mine is a runner. I know the feeling. Wally isn't so much of a runner anymore, but he's too often wanting to control the interaction - now that would be more along the lines of dominance in a social context, but even then I think it's just a lack of discipline. It's just that the energy has gone from fear to OMG NEW PLAYMATE AND HE BETTER WANT TO PLAY WITH ME OR I'LL MAKE HIM PLAY.

    Dominance/Submission would exist more in pack drive - where the dog is attempting to make social sense of the situation. It's more of a stable mindset where the dogs read each others social signals and attempt to have a peaceful interaction.

    Since she is typically good and patient, you have a lot of possibilities. The most typical would be classical conditioning when you present a dog at a distance where she is comfortable (i.e. not going into fight/flight mode) and mark and reward her for being calm and stable.

    Another thing to try is the "Look at That" game where you reward any casual interest in something. You can focus in on dogs so everytime she looks at a dog, you give her a reward. She just has to look. Eventually, she'll look at a dog, then to YOU because she's looking for the reward - you have her attention and can direct her (and reward her) accordingly.

    You can also try training an alternate behavior, the one you'd rather her do in the situation. This one might not work for all personalities. It worked for Wally, but he's a runner not a fighter so that may change things.

    Anyway, what I did was everytime he started to run, I'd direct him to sit and made sure he did it (leash helped). Then when he sat, I rewarded him. If he was too wound up for food (dogs won't eat if they are overly stressed) then the reward was moving away from whatever.

    When he started getting crazy - I'd stop, have him sit. Then do the same thing. He learned that if he's scared and wanted to get away, come and sit by me and we'll move.

    Then eventually, I'd wait longer and longer to move. He had to take in the situation and see it wasn't going to kill him. All the while, getting rewarded.

    Hopefully some of that helped, but I understand if not. That's the thing with fear behaviors, they are often manifested in similar ways but personalities can make things work or not work really differently.

    Wally's latent learning position.

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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Thank you KB - those were some excellent suggestions. More options to try to find the best method, or methods.

    I am trying to find some good books on this issue, but unfortunately our library selection is limited in this department. I will purchase some on Amazon and get them in several days. For now I will work on the trust and CC.

    As for the ferrets, I would never get rid of an animal for acting on instinct. It would be tragic, but I would never blame the dog (just as I would never blame the ferrets if they did similarly). The ferrets are ALWAYS supervised when out of the cage, and I will always similarly supervise Kaiya (dog). I entirely understand the inherent risks and am taking all the precautions to avoid disaster, now and in the future. Anyways, that is besides the topic of this post.

    Thank you for all your help, advice and recommended resources. I truly appreciate it. I am in this for the long haul - Kaiya is part of my family and I would never put her out on the street or into another home.

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    Senior Member Cracker's Avatar
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    Re: New Dog - Dog on dog aggression... fear aggression becoming dominance?

    Click treat to you and to Kaiya.
    A very good resource for dog books, videos etc is www.dogwise.com
    Maggi and Cracker, Dog about Rosedale


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