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  1. #1
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    Default How to help large dog be more comfortable/less aggressive toward other large dogs?

    I have a dog, Bella, she's a 4 year old Boxer/Lab mix (I think) she's about 65lbs. I got her from Animal Control 3 years ago.

    When I got her I lived in Annapolis on a farm and she was happy as can be. There was another farm dog (German Shep) that she loved to play with, and I'd take her to Quiet Waters dog park and beach and she'd play for hours with any dog.

    I moved back home to Elkton (Fair Hill for any horse people..) and I was visiting a friend who fostered Great Danes. Bella had always gotten along with her 2 original Danes, but one day we were there and a new one came out of the house. It came running at us (Bella was between me and it) and they went crazy on each other. Bella had her pinned to the ground and we had to pull them apart, resulting in stitches for the other day.

    Ever since then she has been very uncomfortable/aggressive toward big dogs.

    She's totally fine with small/medium dogs. My parents have an English Bulldog that can be quite grumbly, and Bella just ignores her. But if she even sees a large dog she gets all worked up and will bark or lunge. If the other dog is mello and not confrontational, she's usually fine and they'll be friends (her best friend is a large pitbull my friend owns), but if they try to show dominance, or growl she goes nuts.

    I know some of it is my fears that she's feeding on, but I'm afraid to take her in public places now. I even carry dog mace on her leash when I walk her in case we'd come upon a stray.

    Is there anyway I can get her back to the happy dog I once had?

    I'm willing to do anything, obedience class, etc.



  2. #2
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    Jan. 25, 2009
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    Obedience classes are probably a good idea, as long as the instructor has worked with dogs with this type of issue and knows about beforehand.
    If I were walking a dog like this, I'd ask the dog to do tricks or obedience exercises around other dogs (at first a greater distance away, and gradually shortening that distance). I would use food, a high voice, toys, and whatever else worked to try to keep the dog focused on me and not on the other dogs. I would also work on teaching the dog to "leave it," and I am not a professional so I'd certainly get professional help as well.
    Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a good dog, and mine isn't necessarily the same as what other people consider a good dog. My own goal would be to get her to the point that you can take her, on a leash, to public places with other leashed dogs. I wouldn't necessarily ever turn her loose in a dog park because I would be afraid that she might get into it with another female dog. It can be very bad when female dogs fight with each other.



  3. #3
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    Jul. 26, 2001
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    I think re-meeting a calm, confident large dog is going to help. I dont blame any dog for getting scared when a giant dane comes at them full speed.

    She does need to learn commands, incase a situation like that arises again, but I would think "fear" was probably the start.

    I have a medium sized dog who is great with all dogs...but she had a leonburger(sp?) run and jump on her full speed. She yelped and snapped,not to start a fight but because she was terrified. Once the leonburger chilled out, they got along great.



  4. #4
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    First, I have to mention that any time you get a lab/boxer mix from a public shelter, the odds are pretty good you're really getting a pit bull. The odds are therefore pretty good, at the very least, that your dog has heightened potential for dog-aggression. So that's a factor. The specific triggering incident was a little vague - did the Dane actually attack, or did Bella react with defensive over-reaction that sparked the meeting into a fight? If the former, Bella's being defensive around potential threat dogs could be like a new, learned wariness from being unexpectedly jumped. If the latter, however, it may be that the other dog's approach and the resulting fight flipped a switch in her genetic package.

    If the latter, you may not be able to return to the same situation of trusting her with other dogs. That's difficult for you to manage, but she will still be happy. Obedience training will not change dog-aggressive behavior, any more than it can make a lab hate water or a collie disdain chasing moving objects. It will make it possible to handle her more reliably when you're there, but it will not keep her from behaving in X way when you're not actually monitoring her.


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  5. #5
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    I don't really want this to become a pit bulls are aggressive by nature/ nurture type discussion.

    Even if she does have pit in her (if you look at her she's MUCH taller than a pitbull, MUCH leaner, and her head is not the same shape), I had her for quite sometime, in many dog social situations, and there was never an issue.

    Am I understanding that you think any type of potential treat could "flip a switch" and make a dog aggressive for life, or just a pitbull?



  6. #6
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    Personally, I think that any dog can develop fear aggression, which may be what you are dealing with. It's always best to have someone knowledgeable who can see the dog in person make a judgment as to what is going on. "Permanently aggressive" may be an overstatement if she is still okay with some dogs. A lot of dogs aren't necessarily good with every dog. You stated that you have mace on your leash in case you encounter a stray. Encountering a stray with a leashed dog can be a dicey situation anyways. Sometimes two dogs just take a dislike to each other, and there are problems. If you can improve her leash manners and her focus, I think it will be time well spent even if she can't do the things she used to do.



  7. #7
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    I'd highly suggest looking into the training program called "Control Unleashed". Since it sounds like you are perfectly willing to put in the work, it might be exactly what you are looking for. It does a wonderful job explaining exercises to teach dogs to relax and focus on you in situations they find stressful. I only have the original book myself; there's a newer "Control Unleashed for Puppies" that I've been told is written in a way that is easier to follow, but I haven't had a chance to look at it. There is also (or at least used to be) a great Control Unleashed Yahoo group where the woman who originated the program and a lot of other great trainers would answer questions and offer support.



  8. #8
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    I don't blame her for getting upset, honestly. Doesn't sound like they were introduced in the most appropriate of ways, and 65lb Boxer mix is going to getting mowed down by a Great Dane, whether sweet and exuberant or aggressive.

    I thinking seeking out some pro help and introducing her to lots of calm large dogs in well set up meet and greets will help. She DOES need to learn that acting out at the sight of a dog she finds frightening is not appropriate, which is a good reason to maybe enroll in some obedience classes. And when you walk her, redirect her attention you with a few cues and maybe a particularly yummy treat when she focuses on you. This may be a good time to teach her a "Look" or "Watch me" type command.

    I have a similar but different issue with my dog. She was attacked by a mastiff a few years ago and is now very wary of large dogs, particularly big, meaty dogs (like mastiffs and rotties). She does not act out, but is very put off and fearful, especially on her leash (she was on a leash when she was attacked), which CAN make her an easy target for an aggressive dog. I am extremely mindful of her and her comfort level when in public and will keep her close to me in an uncomfortable situation and do my best to put myself between her and a dog that she's giving the stink eye. I also watch other dogs carefully for bad body language, and will try to reroute or make a quiet exit from a situation before it can escalate into something bad. Since a lot of dog owners are oblivious, I take it upon myself to be the proactive one (a little like driving a car!). We do live on a farm, but she travels with me a lot and we often end up in very doggy situations. 98% of the time she is quite happy and content, in large part because I work hard to never get us in a situation where she's NOT happy and content.

    Even though your dog is fear aggressive instead of just fearful, you may need to employ some of the same tactics. Learn to get really good at reading dog body language so you can see a dominant dog that might upset her before it gets to that point. Keep her close in hectic situations (she'll gain some courage and security by being at your side), and keep yourself between her and dogs that may be issues. And, yes, try to be cool and calm....much like handling a fearful horse, being fearful yourself can make it worse.



  9. #9
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    That you yellowbritches, you seem to understand my situation.

    I contacted 2 dog training schools in my area. I think one will work out better than the other because on their webpage it says they have a specific "fear aggression" program.

    We could use some regular obedience as well....



  10. #10
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    Default

    Clicker training.
    "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant



  11. #11
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    Apr. 9, 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    I work hard to never get us in a situation where she's NOT happy and content.

    Even though your dog is fear aggressive instead of just fearful, you may need to employ some of the same tactics. Learn to get really good at reading dog body language so you can see a dominant dog that might upset her before it gets to that point. Keep her close in hectic situations (she'll gain some courage and security by being at your side), and keep yourself between her and dogs that may be issues.
    I think these are all key points. It will be very important for you to manage your dog's experiences with other dogs to prevent her from ever getting fearful/aggressive.

    A good behaviorist can help with this. I would suggest you research a person's certifications/experience very carefully before you go to someone for training.



  12. #12
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    I'd go with some training and desensitization. Also consider muzzling around other dogs. Boxers/pit bulls/whatever fits do display aggression towards other dogs and with Boxers, it's often same-sex aggression. My dog is always getting attacked or harassed by male Boxers at the dog park and it's gotten to the point where I won't keep him in the main play area with any of the larger bully-type dogs running around.
    Thus do we growl that our big toes have,
    at this moment, been thrown up from below!



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by LexInVA View Post
    I'd go with some training and desensitization. Also consider muzzling around other dogs. Boxers/pit bulls/whatever fits do display aggression towards other dogs and with Boxers, it's often same-sex aggression. My dog is always getting attacked or harassed by male Boxers at the dog park and it's gotten to the point where I won't keep him in the main play area with any of the larger bully-type dogs running around.
    Whoa. Rein in the breed bashing, please.

    Meredith's dog was charged (whether in sheer enthusiasm or aggression, I don't know) by a dog much, much larger than her. Have you ever been mowed down by a Great Dane? I've been run over by ponies and been less bashed up. We don't know who made the first aggressive move, but even if Bella snarked because she just got mowed down by a canine freight train, I would not blame her. I think there is a certain level of "hey! You asshole! Watch it every dog is entitled to." It just gets tricky if they other dog is aggressive, dominant, or plain ass stupid.

    This dog went from being (what sounds like) very friendly and social to aggressive toward a very specific type of dog (big ones). Sounds like classic "that scared the crap out of me! I never want to live through that again, so I'm gonna be a bitch right off the bat!" fear aggression.

    Get pro help with obedience and guided, well set up meet and greets. Be VERY proactive in situations you have no control over (as in walking on busy streets). Keep her out of situations that will stress her (like dog parks, which I think are often just fenced in fight clubs for dogs...ill behaved dogs + ill behaved, oblivious owners = lots of dog aggression), and give her lots of confidence in YOU.

    I don't think this is a breed thing. I rarely think stuff like this is a breed thing. I think she got scared and now needs to learn not to be scared or to at least change her reaction to fear. Stella loved every dog before she got a hole ripped in her shoulder that required 10 staples and a whole heap of trauma for both of us. I don't blame her for being wary now.


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  14. #14
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    Yes, I'm not exaggerating, I took her to very busy dog parks and dog beaches. She would come to work with me at a tack shop often, she had tons of "friends".

    I completely think that she needs some intensive obedience training, which I'm hoping will help if we get into that situation.

    I don't however, think that because she was adopted from a shelter.. and dogs in shelters are usually pits... and pits are dangerous... means that she is dangerous and was always just "waiting" for her switch to be flipped.

    Concerning a muzzle: From what I've researched it seems like it can be more detrimental to muzzle a dog with aggression. She will realize she can't defend herself and become more reactive.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meredith Clark View Post
    Am I understanding that you think any type of potential treat could "flip a switch" and make a dog aggressive for life, or just a pitbull?
    Just a dog that carries a genetic capacity to go beyond normal dog behavior and become aggressive to the point of maiming or killing other dogs. It can be any breed but it's obviously present in all the breeds that were purpose-bred to maul each other. You obviously are more familiar with your dog, but when the mix is as classic a shelter evasion as "lab/boxer" and the scenario being presented is one of dog-aggression, it's impossible not to suggest the possibility.

    And two things about the OP also contributed to my comments:

    1) You did not specify how the Dane and your dog went from 1 dog running at the other to the two dogs actually coming to physical contact. "They went crazy on each other" is a little vague as to whether the Dane actually jumped your dog, or just rushed up up to her and she overreacted. I do realize "charging" is an attack behavior, but it is possible for a dog to run up on another without real malice. It's annoying as hell, but it happens a lot, so it's unclear what started the fight.

    2) Your dog's very first violent interaction with another dog ended with her pinning the other, larger dog to the ground with enough force that the Dane required stitches. That's an unusual outcome for a dog who's never had been in a fight, if the larger, heavier dog was actually fighting back.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    Whoa. Rein in the breed bashing, please.
    Whoa, rein in the ridiculous criticism. Commenting that a breed/type has known tendencies is just common sense. "Breed bashing" is a ridiculous concept. Unlike humans, dogs actually were specifically designed to have X skills, tendencies, body types, etc., so it's ludicrous to cry foul at people for bringing up breed or type to explain behavior.



  17. #17
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    She will probably never be the happy-go-lucky dog she was prior to this encounter.

    However, she can become more comfortable around dogs that trigger her.

    1. do not take her out where you don't have control of the environment till you have some auto responses in place. That means walk her somewhere other dogs are not, at times when other dogs are not likely to be out and no dog parks.

    2. Listen to those who suggested clicker training and Control Unleashed. I could not finish the original book, but I also have heard the new puppy book is much better.

    Does she sit when asked? Does she come when called? If the answer is yes, then it's not an obedience issue, it is a fear/reactive issue. An obedience class will not help with fear issues and might, in fact, make her issues worse. You need a specialized class for that, and more importantly, an instructor who understands and has a successful history with +R based reactive dogs.



  18. #18
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    delete, antagonistic.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meredith Clark View Post
    Am I understanding that you think any type of potential threat could "flip a switch" and make a dog aggressive for life, or just a pitbull?
    Yes. If a dog has a traumatizing experience or an experience so negative that it "flips a switch", it will require re-adjustment, usually in the form of training or desensitization over time. I saw it all the time with the rescue dogs I worked with and even dogs I've encountered at the dog park who get defensive because someone is wearing a hat or sunglasses or balaclava or looks like someone they had a bad interaction with ages ago.
    Thus do we growl that our big toes have,
    at this moment, been thrown up from below!



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by vacation1 View Post

    And two things about the OP also contributed to my comments:

    1) You did not specify how the Dane and your dog went from 1 dog running at the other to the two dogs actually coming to physical contact. "They went crazy on each other" is a little vague as to whether the Dane actually jumped your dog, or just rushed up up to her and she overreacted. I do realize "charging" is an attack behavior, but it is possible for a dog to run up on another without real malice. It's annoying as hell, but it happens a lot, so it's unclear what started the fight.

    2) Your dog's very first violent interaction with another dog ended with her pinning the other, larger dog to the ground with enough force that the Dane required stitches. That's an unusual outcome for a dog who's never had been in a fight, if the larger, heavier dog was actually fighting back.
    To answer your concerns:
    1) It was a few years ago, and all sort of a crazy blur. But Bella was with me and 2 other Danes she was friends with. The other Dane (a new foster) was let out of the house and come running down barking and growling toward us.

    2)They did get into a fight but there was never any "latching down and locking" like some people have described in pit bull fights. They were just wrestling around and around and growling and knocking each other over. Bella did not walk away unharmed either, but she didn't require stitches. The Dane was obviously larger than her, but Bella is very quick and agile.

    3) Thankfully the other Danes were restrained so that they didn't get involved.



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