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Is assertiveness okay?!

419 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  CptJack
Chloe is a 4 year old Toller. We have had serious dog reactivity issues in the past, but I think we are over them. She has played nicely with several other dogs, and hasn't reacted to other dogs we pass on walks in several months. Just yesterday a lab in a store went berserk when we were 6' away. Chloe was interested, but quite calm. A year ago she might have been the one to start it, and she certainly couldn't have played with other dogs.

Two weeks ago I was at agility class and the instructor's dog came over to me. Chloe went off on it and chased it way snarling. A couple days later, while I was loading her in my car, there was a dog standing in our front yard. Chloe chased it away, again snarling. Naturally I was distressed, and we went back to the behaviorist who helped us get over the reactivity problem.

She said that Chloe is the most assertive dog, of any breed, that she has encountered. It is her personality, and not a behaviour that can be changed. Chloe simply didn't think a dog should be approaching her human or standing in her yard, and made her feelings clear. If she had touched the other dogs or pursued them, which she easily could have, it would have been aggression that needed to be dealt with, but she was just being Chloe.

I wondered what would happen if the other dog had stood his ground. She said that would be a serious problem, but it wasn't likely to happen. Dogs judge the toughness of their opponent by actions rather than by size. It was unlikely that any dog would stand up to Chloe if they didn't have to.

We do have some residual reactivity in Chloe not like liking it when dogs run right at her. The behaviorist said that was normal and it was poor behavior on the part of the approaching dog.

Okay, so if the behaviourist is right, it is just a matter of keeping her out of situations where she feels she has to be assertive. It has only happened twice (by coincidence days apart...) so I can do that.

I wonder what people think of the behaviorist's ideas?
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If I'm understanding what you're saying, it makes sense - if a behavior is driven by a genetic predisposition it can still be changed through training/conditioning, but the outcome may never be perfect or reliable. At that point it becomes more about management. In your shoes I would be working on things like a rock solid recall - ideally, so strong that she can be called off another dog she's pursuing - and "look at me" (as a command to pay attention to you, rather than an approaching dog). I'd also consider getting a leash or harness that clearly warn other dog owners off approaching her.
I agree that assertiveness can be genetically driven & managing her situations so that this never needs to come into play (with unfamiliar dogs) is best. I will, however, state that I disagree that other dogs won't ever stand their ground and/or challenge her 'assertiveness'. In my own household of three dogs, there is a very even balance of 'power' and (because we heavily manage situations that have the potential to become volatile) we very, very rarely have any dog-dog conflicts.
But! (there's always a 'but', isn't there? lol) Just the other day we had an altercation between two of our dogs who have lived together for over 10 years (Abby, 13.5 & Beckett, 11) They had just finished a high value chew on their individual mats. Both were finished, but Beckett was still licking his mat. Abby wandered into his space, started sniffing his mat & Beckett 'snarked' at her (IMO, this was a 'justifiable' snark, and I should have prevented it by redirecting Abby away before she was able to join B on his mat - my bad...) Abby, who is generally a placid, loves everyone & just wants to be a senior girl who still has fun, did NOT take kindly to the snark & went back at Beckett big time! We broke it up with one 'STOP' and nothing more than one little tooth puncture on B was had, but.... Yeah - even a benevolent Queen Bee must be carefully managed because IF they aren't immediately deferred to... trouble can and will ensue.
I guess what I'm saying is - Assertiveness is OK, just make sure to never put her in a situation that she feels the need to wield it.
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All of the above.

Your dog's personality is fine.

Don't make her employ it. Preventing these things as best you can and having tools to end them is your job. No big deal.
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