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Discussion Starter #1
Some of you may remember my recent thread where I was concerned that Rocko was playing to rough with Jinx. (in sig)

Well, I'm starting to notice it more and more. Particularly when he's chasing her around.. He can't catch her if she doesn't want him to... and it almost seems like he gets frustrated to the point of growling and biting. At which point Jinx will stop playing and get aggressive.

I've also noticed that Rocko is much more of a natural guard dog or what have you than Jinx. This is only my 2nd dog mind you. Now Rocko isn't unfriendly in the slightest. But tonight I was working on some recall training in the parking lot when my upstairs neighbor came home.. Who I happen to dislike greatly. Well as soon as Rocko saw him/caught his sent he fixated on him and started growling/barking. I corrected him, made him sit and stay until my neighbor got inside. Then I just kind of watched... He sat there, staring in the direction my neighbor went just growling.... :confused:

Should I be concerned? Does this sound like aggressive behavior? Or maybe something about the guy creeped him out... Because the guy is a complete jackass...

and what about his play with Jinx? Is it going to take her putting him in place for him to learn? I'm seriously afraid she's going to snap and hurt him.
 

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When he's being too much and Jinx is getting frustrated you can allow HER ONE correction and then go get the pup and remove him/leash him/crate him with something to chew on. IF you are SURE she won't hurt him you can allow more, but I really don't think it is fair for her to be harassed by the pup.

As for your neighbour..I understand YOU don't like him, but it is important from a behavioural standpoint that Rocko not be allowed to fixate that way. He may be going through a fear period, remember he is still becoming accustomed to the world. Anything he shows discomfort with (growling at) needs to be taught to be "Safe". Use treats to reward calm behaviour, don't correct the growl itself..a dog who loses his growl is unsafe, what you need to do is have him learn that scary things are NOT that scary. Good treats for these moments help him to learn that things he's not sure of (that are NOT a threat to him personally) are signs of GOOD things happening, not bad things..or you could escalate the behaviour..then you WILL have a problem.
 

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When he's being too much and Jinx is getting frustrated you can allow HER ONE correction and then go get the pup and remove him/leash him/crate him with something to chew on. IF you are SURE she won't hurt him you can allow more, but I really don't think it is fair for her to be harassed by the pup.

As for your neighbour..I understand YOU don't like him, but it is important from a behavioural standpoint that Rocko not be allowed to fixate that way. He may be going through a fear period, remember he is still becoming accustomed to the world. Anything he shows discomfort with (growling at) needs to be taught to be "Safe". Use treats to reward calm behaviour, don't correct the growl itself..a dog who loses his growl is unsafe, what you need to do is have him learn that scary things are NOT that scary. Good treats for these moments help him to learn that things he's not sure of (that are NOT a threat to him personally) are signs of GOOD things happening, not bad things..or you could escalate the behaviour..then you WILL have a problem.
Oh don't get me wrong.. I don't allow him to harass Jinx at all because I don't want it to get to that point.

As far as the neighbor, I wouldn't say that he was barking out of fear. At least I don't think so. The few times he's barked at something/someone, he's squared off in a kind of stance. Like a guard dog.. If he's near me he'll square off right in between whatever he's barking at and me.
 

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If he thinks he or you are in danger that is fear BASED behaviour. Not all fear is literal, and his decision to protect rather than flee is most likely in his genes. When I stand up to something I'm uncomfortable with I still feel fear or discomfort, if nothing more than due to the element of the unknown..what's going to happen? Will I need to protect myself or others?

Regardless of his motivation, his response to threat (real or percieved) needs to mitigated so that YOU can ensure you have control and that he doesn't feel the need to protect you when someone unknown approaches. He needs to learn to discern what is a threat and what is not..and that is based on YOUR reaction. If you teach him your neighbour is not a threat to you or him, he will not feel the need to AGGRESS towards your neighbour. A dog that aggresses is a dog that gets in trouble. This is about protecting your dog from legal issues. My dog has fear issues where she will bark and growl at what frightens her, she does not run away either. If she bites someone SHE will pay. So I work consistently on her socialization (and had to redo it at six months and again at one year ...due to "fear periods" in her development). This makes her a safe dog. We worked diligently on recall so I can call her off if something spooks her when she's off lead and she has learned to come to ME when she is feeling threatened.

All done with classical conditioning (food rewards).
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
If he thinks he or you are in danger that is fear BASED behaviour. Not all fear is literal, and his decision to protect rather than flee is most likely in his genes. When I stand up to something I'm uncomfortable with I still feel fear or discomfort, if nothing more than due to the element of the unknown..what's going to happen? Will I need to protect myself or others?

Regardless of his motivation, his response to threat (real or percieved) needs to mitigated so that YOU can ensure you have control and that he doesn't feel the need to protect you when someone unknown approaches. He needs to learn to discern what is a threat and what is not..and that is based on YOUR reaction. If you teach him your neighbour is not a threat to you or him, he will not feel the need to AGGRESS towards your neighbour. A dog that aggresses is a dog that gets in trouble. This is about protecting your dog from legal issues. My dog has fear issues where she will bark and growl at what frightens her, she does not run away either. If she bites someone SHE will pay. So I work consistently on her socialization (and had to redo it at six months and again at one year ...due to "fear periods" in her development). This makes her a safe dog. We worked diligently on recall so I can call her off if something spooks her when she's off lead and she has learned to come to ME when she is feeling threatened.

All done with classical conditioning (food rewards).
How do I show him it's safe without nurturing his fearful state of mind? Aside from striking up a convo with and being friendly with my neighbor...
 

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My pooch (despite being all of 5 lbs) used to react in this way sometimes too. I taught her the "quiet" command-- in our basement (where there are few distractions). Next, we worked on the command outside in the backyard. Lastly, I applied it to what I do believe is fear based aggression. It works really well. I let her bark once or twice (because I think that is a normal, healthy response). Next, I thank her for alerting me-- sounds silly but it really works. After, I tell her "quiet" and then treat her when she complies. Lastly, and equally important, I redirect her attention. You can do this with toys or commands.

Extremely important, and something I forgot to mention, is making sure your dog always listens to the "come" command so you can always call him to you if you need to.

Just out of curiosity, do you take your pup to the dog park? And if so, how does he respond to the people/dogs there?
 

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How do I show him it's safe without nurturing his fearful state of mind? Aside from striking up a convo with and being friendly with my neighbor...
That's what the food rewards are for. You're pairing something the dog deems safe and pleasurable (food) with your neighbor. If you pair these often enough the dog may learn neighbor = food = good. You can't nurture fear (respondent behavior) like you can sit (operant behavior); fear is a reflex that is a condition of the antecedent (your neighbor). You can only nurture this fear by increasing the threat perceived in the neighbor. A leash jerk for barking at the neighbor, for example, could add a threatening condition upon the presence of the neighbor.

The food rewards aim to change the condition of the antecedent. Once you've done that, then you can ask for an operant behavior, like sit and look at you, when you see the neighbor (safe).
 

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That's what the food rewards are for. You're pairing something the dog deems safe and pleasurable (food) with your neighbor. If you pair these often enough the dog may learn neighbor = food = good. You can't nurture fear (respondent behavior) like you can sit (operant behavior); fear is a reflex that is a condition of the antecedent (your neighbor). You can only nurture this fear by increasing the threat perceived in the neighbor. A leash jerk for barking at the neighbor, for example, could add a threatening condition upon the presence of the neighbor.

The food rewards aim to change the condition of the antecedent. Once you've done that, then you can ask for an operant behavior, like sit and look at you, when you see the neighbor (safe).
Wouldn't Rocko just learn that barking at the neighbor will get him a treat?
 

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Wouldn't Rocko just learn that barking at the neighbor will get him a treat?
Barking is one expression of fear. Like screaming or muttering holy friholies may be one of our expressions of fear. Fear being a respondent behavior (a reflex) does not follow the rules of operant conditioning or reinforcement. Operant behaviors are voluntary - sitting upon the cue "sit" is an example of an operant behavior. Respondent behaviors are involuntary, and as I stated earlier, they are conditions of the antecedent or event that is causing the fear. A spider dropping from the ceiling and landing on your nose is an example of one antecedent that may lead you to scream in fear. So can you reinforce involuntary behavior? This is your question, and the answer is no. You're already scared and no amount of bribing will make you more scared.

What do we want to achieve instead? Let's put it in perspective using the spider example. If a spider fell from the ceiling, landed on your nose, and you screamed, but I gave you a hudred dollar bill, how might you feel about a second spider landing on your nose? Would you be more scared of the second spider, or is it possible that you would hope for more spiders to fall? In this economy I would presume raining spiders would be desired.

The aim of classical conditioning is to effect this emotional change by associating something good with something scary. Pairing the scary thing with a high valued reward, often enough, can effect this change.

Now one thing to note: sometimes the thing the dog is afraid of can be so overwhelming that he might not accept your offer. If, for example, your dog continues to bark at your neighbor and refuses something he loves, maybe that's food, he's over threshhold. He's at a point where his emoptions are so strong he can't be influenced by anything other than what he is reacting to. This is not a very good training scenario. Adding distance from that thing often resolves this, and as the dog calms, progress can be made. With progress you can try decreasing the distance; but you must always work at a distance the dog is willing to.
 
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