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Discussion Starter #1
Lately there's been a lot of really interesting and thoughtful training conversations on this site. Anyone have ideas about re-training/desensitizing/managing a dog who loves other dogs but spills into real aggression when she gets over-stimulated or miffed?

I have a 4 year old spayed staffybull. She's awesome. She is very well trained. Her recall is amazing. She loves to play with dogs. However, if she gets too amped or something offends her, she goes nutty. She starts "fighting" and gets wild-eyed. I immediately pull her off. It takes about a minute or two for her to calm down. If allowed access during that time, she would attack the other dog. If given time to calm down, she will happily play with the dog again. When she "fights" she has never drawn blood. However, I think she would build to that if I didn't stop her. I can call her out of play and to me at any point UNTIL the fight breaks out. Once she's rolling, she's deaf. It's almost like she's having a siezure. Because I can call her back to me when she is getting worked up, I can let her play with other dogs. She hasn't gone off on another dog for a year and a half due to my management. I am quick to interupt play.

I have always thought that management was pretty much the only way to go with this problem. Management is working out well. However, it would be great if there was a training solution.

Before anyone panics, I don't take her to dog parks. I supervise all play. Any owner of a dog that she plays with knows about her issues. She has never gotten in any altercation of any kind outside of my own pack. It's been a year and a half since I've had trouble. However, I watch her like a freaking hawk.

Any ideas? Any way to stretch threshold? Can dogs be re-wired in this manner or is too much of it hard-wired in genetics?

FWIW- she was pulled from her litter and mother at 3 weeks. I got her when she was 14 weeks.
 

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DA is generally genetic, and some breeds are more prone to it than others, though any breed can be DA. DA usually shows up after maturity, so the same dog that was dog friendly at 6 months is trying to kill every dog it sees at 3 years. DA also exists on a continuum where the dog may only be aggressive to a few dogs, to most dogs, to all dogs, or just to the same sex.

You can't train out DA, though you can train a dog to walk nicely on a leash or even compete at sporting events off leash without attacking other dogs. I think management is really the way to go here. I'm glad that you're aware of this and self honest rather than trying to blame other dogs or pretend that if you just take her to the dog park enough, it'll all go away.

It's odd that she's not drawing blood, though. I've seen dog fights. They're scary and blood flies. Is she just maybe playing really, really rough? Do staffybulls play like that? I dunno. I'm not questioning your judgment, just that I saw the results of Muggsy getting one bite in on a lab- one bite- and it was a lot of blood and 7 stitches. (I paid, of course.) That's how I found out he was DA.
 

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I also wonder if this is truly 'fighting'. If a dog is really trying to do damage, there will be blood. I have an APBT X, and he plays very physically and rough. However, it is immediately apparent when he is no longer just playing. He has never truly been aggressive towards any other dogs (no blood) but has gotten into lesser altercations that involved a lot of posturing and noise. I interrupt that behavior before it happens and put distance between myself and the other dog. I think management is really the key but you can also train a dog to self-interrupt. The process is pretty simple; interrupt the dog well before threshold and reward heavily. With heavy repetition the dog will start to self interrupt. I still think management is going to be the key to your continued success.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you for the input guys!

Just to clarify, I have owned multiple dogs for 20 years and fostered maybe 50 dogs. I am not mistaking rough play for fighting. The reason there hasn't been bloodshed is due to hyper-vigilance. My dog in question was once attacked by a dog and it was all I could do to save their lives. I have seen true fights. (In that incident, both dogs were badly injured and mine required surgery.) Since then, I have been super-super vigilant. My dog, by the way, did not hold a grudge against the dog that attacked her. When they saw each other a few days later, she tried to initiate play. The other dog wasn't having any of that. (Obviously, both were leashed and we didn't let them make contact. Mine whined and play-bowed, the other lunged.)

With my mutt, it seems to be over-stimulation that tips play into fighting. I have been injured pulling her off of dogs when she is in that state. It's the real deal. The lack of blood is probably about speed of intervention and the fact that she latches on tight and holds on rather than repeatedly biting. If you pick her up, the other dog is lifted off the ground in her mouth. She will let you pry her off though.

Obviously, there are no videos of any of this, but I would ask that you trust my call on this one.
 

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Also, she is nearly constantly around other dogs. She competes in three dog sports, attends classes, and gets used as the "neutral dog" in CGC tests and therapy dog tests. On a leash, she is absolutely stellar. She is also excellent in play until she gets too worked up. This weirdness is all about tipping in play. Otherwise, she is not DA in the least. Perhaps this is more about lack of control in an over-aroused state than it is about DA.

She is horribly/terribly resource aggressive towards DOGS. And dogs only. Not even an eye-bat about people, but with dogs, she will guard food, toys, locations, scents... But only on certain days. She simply can't be around other dogs when she has stuff she values. In the home, she in on crate-and-rotate. In the yard and out in the world, she is fabulous.

She is the quirkiest dog I have ever met.
 
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