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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
In the three weeks I've had Quinn (2yr old Golden Retriever Mix, 50#, spayed female), she has mostly been great with other dogs - but has suddenly attacked two dogs for reasons we couldn't tell. Quinn is a rescue through a GR club in Los Angeles, originally picked up by them the day after being surrendered at a shelter (reason unknown). The club had her kenneled at a vet for about 6 months before we adopted her.

Anyway - we've happily met lots of dogs on walks, and she plays off-leash at the park very well. She's also been great with all humans so far, including children.

Twice, however, she's suddenly attacked other dogs. Once was in the lobby at the vet, another was at a friend's house. Here are the things that were consistent about those two cases:

1) Both dogs she attacked were elderly Golden Retrievers.
2) In both cases, she was on-leash in an indoor, noisy environment, with people and other animals around.

At the vet, we had been there for an hour or so, and were waiting to pay our bill. She'd met/sniffed about ten other dogs, and been fine. There was an agitating/exciting moment (two very energetic GSDs were led down the hallway making a huge ruckus), and a minute later someone came in the front door with a placid, elderly Golden. Thinking Quinn would like to meet and sniff him, I started leading her towards him. About three feet away, she suddenly started snarling aggressively and lunging towards him. I was pretty shocked since there was no provocation that I could see, and she'd been fine with so many other dogs before then.

The second time, we introduced her to a friend's GR mix, Koa. They sniffed and made friends in the front yard, on leash. We took her into their back yard, and let her hang out there for over an hour, with one of us keeping her company. Koa was in the backyard with her at least half of that time, and they continued to get along fine. Later on, we brought her inside on-leash for a bit because we did not know if she'd been socialized to cats, and they have two, so we wanted to test. So she sat by us and watched their kitten - she was obviously very interested in the kitten - until the other dog, Koa, wandered up to her. Despite having been fine with him for two hours up to that point, she suddenly snarled and pounced, this time actually jumping on him and wrestling him to the ground before I could pull her off. We decided to try them in the backyard a few minutes later, off-leash, in case leash tension was the trigger. But as soon as she saw him, she attacked and pounced again ... she kept this up even after he had rolled onto his back and I had to physically pull her off him again.

Obviously I'm going to try to keep her carefully controlled in noisy/agitating environments from now on, but is there anything else I should watch for? What should my response be if/when this sort of thing happens again?
 

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Each case of dog aggression is special, and I think it'd be worthwhile to get the help from a professional dog behaviouralist so you can pinpoint where this aggression is stemming from..Maybe she had a traumatic experience in the past with elderly golden retrievers, but it's definitely worth getting professional help as you don't want this to get worse, and more difficult to resolve
 

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If you're not certain of the cause, then I would suggest being very alert to your dog's body language when in an uncontrolled environment (like the park or at the vet's). Dogs always do certain things before they attack. Whenever your dog 'attacks without warning', the warning was there - you just missed it. I've been through the same situation with one of my dogs. He seemed to take a sudden and rather extreme dislike of certain dogs, and I was nervous taking him into public, because he's very strong and quick. I used a combination of awareness and LAT (Look at that) training to get around this. There are many resources for reading dog body language online, perfectly free. Read them. Then read them again. Pay particular attention to the ways dogs greet each other. There are distinct warning signs you'd normally miss, like the "T-Bone" approach, where one dog directly faces another dog's side. Most people know to be wary of dogs that square off facing each other, but many miss the T-Bone. If one of the dogs puts a paw over the other's shoulder, separate them immediately. A fight will often follow within a second or two. If your dog has a tail, that also yields a wealth of info on your dog's state of mind.

The idea to contact a behavioralist isn't a bad idea at all. If you can't pinpoint the times where the issues arise, I'd definitely go that route.

My confrontational dog developed an issue with another one of my dogs when he was just under 2 years old. A couple of rather frightening fights occurred, and I kept them separated for awhile. I was afraid I'd have to give one of them up, which broke my heart. I'd have done it if I wasn't able to rehabilitate them together, but I'm glad I didn't have to. I started bringing them together in a controlled manner, with my wife helping to block or restrain them if the need arose, and praised them and gave treats for being around each other. If one started to growl I'd back them away calmly. To be useful, this kind of training has to occur while your dog(s) is beneath their arousal threshold. If your dog goes into a frenzy, you've waited too long to separate him from the cause of his ire, and pushed back your progress. This wasn't an overnight success. It took several months, and I still monitor them when they're in the same room, but now they're friendly and can hang out with us while we watch TV and there's no issue. I still don't allow too much excitement in the room when they're together, nor do I let them outside together. Maybe in another 6-12 months after there's been no issue.
 
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