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I have a 2.5 year old yellow lab that is starting to show some aggressive territorial behavior. This started about 6 months ago, and my vet suggested I just wait it out, but it only seem to be getting worse. He was neutered at a young age as well.

He is generally extremely friendly with people; he has never growled or nipped at a person in a public place. I also bring him to daycare twice a week where he has absolutely no aggression issues with other dogs. However, my daycare says he often mounts other dogs and gets a little rough with the playing, but again, never shows signs of aggression.

The issue is primarily around the house. Whenever someone comes to the door, he goes nuts with barking. His hair stands up on his shoulders and he is very hard to restrain. However, with people he does not show any aggression.

The problem is there are two dogs in adjacent back yards. Whenever one of these dogs comes outside, he goes absolutely nuts at the fence; he growls and is extremely aggressive, nipping at air and his hair stands up. A few weeks ago, one of the other dogs somehow got into our yard, and when we brought her into the house to return to the owners, my dog ran towards at her trying to bite, in a blind rage. I was able to hold him back, but I have never seen him act like this towards another dog before. He is extremely friendly when he meets dogs in public, like on walks, but it’s just when he is at home is there a problem.

I am starting some dog training this week to tackle some other issues as well (mounting, barking, jumping up, bad recall), but I wanted to also ask here for some advice. I want to nip this behavior in the bud as soon as I can. My question is, when I catch him in this rage in the back yard, what exactly should I do? Go immediately grab him and drag him into the house, yell at him? Grab him, don’t yell and put him in his crate? Bribe him out of the situation with a treat? Spray him with water? Ignore him completely?
 

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Once the dog is enraged, it's too late to do anything. The dog is "above threshhold" and there is nothing you can do. You have to work below threshhold, i.e., before the dog reacts. Once the dog reacts, bring him inside. Do NOT punish, spray with water, yell, etc. It's worthless and damaging to your relationship.

From your description, the dog sounds dog aggressive, barrier aggressive, or both. If the dog is DA, you can't cure that. You can reduce his reaction to other dogs, I did it with my old dog, but you'll never make him like other dogs.

If you are getting training, anyway, I'd ask the trainer. (Make sure the trainer uses positive methods. Violence begets violence. Don't try to solve this problem with choke chains or shock collars.) This is complicated stuff and it takes a long time to deal with. You can deal with it, but not in an afternoon.

As to the barking at people at the door, that's normal dog behavior. Train a quiet command. Any time your dog stops barking, say "quiet" and treat. (Just carry treats around all the time.) Eventually, the dog gets the idea that a.) not barking means yummy treats, and b.) quiet means not barking.
 

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Thank you very much for your helpful advice, it is really appreciated. I will definitely ask my trainer what she thinks.

Do you believe he could be dog aggressive even though he’s fine with other dogs in public places? Again, he is very friendly with dogs at daycare and in dog parks, but it’s just at the house that there is a problem. I think you are also right that he’s barrier aggressive, because he cannot see the dogs in the other yards. Do you think it might be wise to ask the owners of the other dogs to bring him over to their yard so that they can become familiar? Or do you think this might just exacerbate the problem?

Thanks for the advice about barking, I will start this technique today!
 

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Oh, I missed that, I'm sorry! He's not dog aggressive if he's fine with dogs in parks*. He's very likely barrier aggressive. A dog's natural instinct when they hear or smell or see something is to investigate it or play with it or greet it. The fence prevents that and the dog gets frustrated. Eventually, the dog comes to associate the thing he sees/smells/hears (the other dogs in this case) with his frustration and hates them instead of the fence. That's how dogs think. You see this A LOT at shelters where dogs are kept in rows of small kennels all day every day.

This is absolutely treatable with positive methods. (Don't listen to anyone who says giving the dog a treat teaches him to be hateful. Dogs can feel anger at being frustrated or happy at being treated, but not both simultaneously.) I'd ask the trainer for some tips. Basically, you're looking to get the dog to form a new association: fence = calm behavior = treats and praise. You cannot allow the dog outside unattended during this training. Every time he is allowed to engage in his current behavior, you are reinforcing the behavior. You must stay out there with him and work with him, or take him inside if he gets over threshhold.

Consistently praise and treat calm behavior outside for right now. It doesn't matter if the other dogs aren't around, if he's calm outside, he gets a reward. Work on recall. You should be able to call him to you no matter what else is going on. Start small, inside the house with no distractions, and work your way up.


*There's nothing unusual about a dog attacking another dog that invades its territory, such as when you suddenly bring another dog in the house. That's why there are protocols for introducing a new dog to the household.
 
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