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What's the best way to handle mild (?) dog aggression?

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  • What's the best way to handle mild (?) dog aggression?

    This is my first time dealing with this and I don't want to make it worse.

    Dog is a 2-ish Basset/Pitbull/maybe JRT mix that I adopted last fall. Her temperament is mostly Basset with a little more get up and go. Not an aggressive thought in her head towards humans and she loves, loves, loves all familiar dogs. The first meeting and seeing strange dogs is always rough, though, and I believe it's fear related. I've run through all my friend and family dogs and we've had several good experiences with random dogs on walks.

    Now that the weather is nice and people are out with their dogs everywhere, it's becoming a daily issue where they want the dogs to meet. I always say she's not good with strange dogs but I'd be willing to give it a try. Most people are respectful and good at reading her and their own dog's body language but I'm running into more and more people who don't get it. She can be standing there with her tail under her legs, hair raised and growling non-stop and they keep letting their dog get in her face, even after I walk away. She has never tried to jump on another dog and I don't ever want it to go there!

    Distraction when passing dogs on the street or just having a conversation 10 feet apart before the dogs go nose to nose has worked very well for her, but not everyone gives her the space to "get over it". Knowing that she ultimately does like and want to please other dogs, I'm torn between being happy with what I have now and telling everyone no, or hoping that she'll get better with 100 more experiences. Even if some of them are bad. She loves to go places, meet people and play with dogs she knows so I'd hate to keep her in a bubble because of this.
  • Original Poster

    Ooops, I forgot to ask my main question...

    If a non-aggressive, goofy, overly friendly dog is in her face and she doesn't like it should I try to stick it out or walk away? I feel like leaving is reinforcing her negative behavior but I don't want to push too far.


    • #3
      i'm sure you'll get a lot of great advice, but one thing i want to say is protect your dog. don't be co-dependent about it. if someone doesn't give you and the dog the space you need, be assertive in demanding they do. i step of the sidewalk if necessary. i yell in advance to people to leash their dogs if i see the dog is unleashed when approaching. my dog has severe fear anxiety which causes her to react in aggression. i've learned that i have to take affirmative steps to protect her from stupid of the universe.

      good luck!
      TQ(Trail Queen) \"Learn How to Ride or Move Over!!\" Clique


      • #4
        I like how this owner handled her dog's issues (it's 2 parts).




        • #5
          I'm having a similar issue with a new-to-me border collie I brought home a week ago. He's my girl's littermate, owner couldn't keep him anymore (health related problems, she had to rehome all but one of her dogs) and I took him in for the breeder when he was surrendered.

          Nice dog. But very, very, very timid. He plays like crazy with my other dog (took a day for them to get over each other, though..her being put out and him being scared).. but overall he is woefully undersocialized..

          and his reaction, when scared, is to bark and snarl (and rush in a dog's face, with tail between legs).

          Truthfully, I could use advice too (as well as post to commiserate).

          Offleash at thedog park he's great.. BUT.. if he sights a dog, he will turn and race off barking ... he recalls back FABULOUSLY, though... so if I call him, he comes back and we go back to ball..he's never gotten very far away (nor will he - he sticks pretty close to me).. But then yesterday, an apparently ownerless husky type was the dog he raced towards, recalled back, and the husky happily bounded over to "Play" with a beagle also in tow. Seemed nice enough, played with my girl a bit, but my new guy just kept barking and freaking out..and, of course, they were in OUR space and following along when I tried to move the dogs away. He was actually relatively ok with the beagle - even ran a few feet with him contemplating play. But the husky...not so much. And I saw the other dog contemplate if he had to tolerate this "stupid black and white mutt barking in his face"...

          Then other owners with a pack of four showed up and the husky ran off to join them... didn't look like it was their dog though. He came back later, again, and I never did see an owner. (incidentally, the beagle turned out to have a girl owner who eventually - and I mean when the dog was halfway across the park and heading into the bush - got up off the bench where she was parked visiting and went and retrieved her dog, who wouldn't listen to her).

          This is the first time I've had to deal with dogs with no owner attached in the year I've been taking my girl there, so not sure what's up with that.

          But not sure how to begin to socialize Mr. Paranoid either. He's obviously woefully undersocialized and pretty darned timid... was very, very barky and freaked out when my dad came over to the house, but got comfortable with my mom relatively quickly (and ditto with the friends I had over the night before..got comfortable relatively quickly).

          On leash, he barks and snarls if there's so much as a dog in sight ... And he's completely innatentive to correction. Off leash, he's better until he thinks they're coming his way, or they are in his "space".

          This is new to me, as is the dog, so am interested in hearing any ideas to help socialize this guy, too. I want him to get comfortable, but without getting himself attacked in the process.

          For what it's worth, there are no tells. He will literally be playing fetch, and then just drop the ball racing off. Yesterday, the freaking husky showed up in the middle of our "down, wait" training.. and one second he was focussed on me, the next, racing 25 feet off barking, recalling, racing off barking, recalling... errrr..

          Thank god for good recall.

          Suggestions for this guy, too, would be greatly appreciated.
          "Show me the back of a thoroughbred horse, and I will show you my wings."


          • #6
            its okay to tell people to back off and give you and your dog some space, better to be seen as grumpy than with the "attack" dog

            my dobe is recently adoped (2 months) and she is shy/cautious but not afraid she likes to evaluate the situation and not bound in, unlike our gsp pup

            I guess due to her breed most ppl actually try to avoid her where they have no problems fawning on the gsp

            for you I would suggest be as relaxed and calm as possible but don't worry about being assertive for your pup, if she can have confidence in you to be a good leader meeting new dogs will be much less nerve wracking

            when I have taken her to popular locations for people and dogs when we see a group coming we just move off to the side and calmly let them pass, for many that is enough of a sign and most are busy on their walk/jog anyway


            • #7
              We have a yorkie mix who was unsocialized and fearful, but thankfully, not aggressive. We gave her time, lots of it, and it's been almost exactly 2 years and she's finally approaching other small dogs at the park and introducing herself. Maybe another two years and she'll actually play!? We very slowly and gradually took her to places where she'd see and interact with other dogs, so if we went to the dog park we went at off hours or in bad weather when there weren't many people there. We took her to the barn with us and played "pass the yorkie" with friends, so she got used to strangers with a good vibe. Our neighborhood dogs aren't much for visiting on leash, so she got to see them pass by but didn't have to interact. When we did invite someone into the yard to visit, it was a dog we knew had decent social skills. We tried dog school and it was an epic fail, because she wasn't ready yet and was totally overwhelmed. I'm actually thinking of going back now that she's come out of her shell, because she's getting a little bit of yorkie attitude and maybe a little structure would be good for her!


              • #8
                Google "Leash Aggression". It's very common. Best bet is to desensitize by walking your dog to the point where it can just see another dog and is on the edge of where it might react, and ask your dog to "Look at you", and treat, and turn and go the other way. (You may need to train him to a "look at me" command. Very easy to do.). Repeat, so eventually you will be able to get closer without him reacting.

                The other thing that can help, is to go for walks with a friend who has a friendly dog. Walk briskly not giving them a chance to stop and sniff. Letting the other dog be slightly ahead of the fearful one will help.

                Avoid people walking with other dogs, and don't let them get close to you. Yell at them that your dog is leash aggressive, and don't put your dog in a position of having another dog jump all over them.


                • Original Poster

                  I'm happy to commiserate and work through the issue with anyone who's dealing with it now or has in the past. All my other dogs have lived at the barn, gotten passive exercise/socialization and if there was a troublemaker, they weren't welcome to come back. This whole walking on a leash in the suburbs amongst random dogs and clueless people is new to me.

                  There are days I don't have the time or patience to deal with it so I avoid everything by making a big loop around other dogs and don't make eye contact. The dog owners that get it, understand and move on. That scenario has become a total non-issue. There have been times I pretend to be deaf or sooooo into my own dog (and kids), that people would have to be creepy to chase me down. Those are the ones I'm getting concerned about now. I say no when they get closer but they don't listen so my dog still has their dog in her face anyway. No doesn't really mean no to some dog owners, and that's the part I need to work through if I want to keep taking her out.

                  When I picked up the kids after school today we were hanging out in a neighbor's yard more than 20 feet off the sidewalk. My girl was fine until a big, happy, retractable leash dog we've never seen tried to join the party and the owner followed. The other parents, who know my dog well, had to laugh when I said "she's vicious, stay away!" Minutes later she was having a blast running around with the homeowner's dog that she hasn't seen in months and our combined 9 children.


                  • #10
                    unfortunately there is no sure remedy for stupid

                    i've been brought to tears by ignorance of other dog owners who feel that the world is their dog's playground. it makes me feel helpless and exasperated. be prepared. carry dog treats at all times. train your dog to make eye contact with you to distract her from the other dog. my dog responds to "cookie" or "go get that" (cookie) much better than to any other commands, even under pressure. i use those to distract her and keep walking. but it's not going to work 100% of the time, especially at first. it takes patience. it forces you to change your expectations of yourself, your dog, and other people. it's not easy.
                    TQ(Trail Queen) \"Learn How to Ride or Move Over!!\" Clique


                    • #11
                      I would muzzle your dog.Whether or not other people are "stupid", people expect to be able to walk their dogs on leashes, just like you. People expect other dog people to be sociable - it's like a dog club. If their dogs are friendy and yours is aggressive, it's you who have the problem. Then practice with your dog. Make each walk a learning session. Ini fact, taking obedience classes with other dogs working and ignoring your dog would probably be good.

                      I have a friend with two retired racing grayhounds. She and all her gray-buddies have a large field they get together on. Even though these dogs all know each other, when they get out in the pack, they are all muzzled with racing muzzles. And these are dogs that are friends.

                      For regular obedience work, I'd use somewhere like an empty tennis court, so you can work your dog off-lead without the other dogs in the dog park to distract him.



                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by marta View Post
                        it makes me feel helpless and exasperated. be prepared. carry dog treats at all times. train your dog to make eye contact with you to distract her from the other dog.
                        I think it's the helpless feeling that is starting to get to me. I would never think of letting her just run up to someone I don't know and especially not if they had a dog. Even if she didn't have this problem. Now I have strange dogs on retractable leashes coming up to me and my kids all.the.time, even in our own yard.

                        I will try treats tomorrow. I know that works at 20 feet but I've never tried it up close. I am confident she will be fine with most dogs one day but I'm kind of lost on how to get over the hump.

                        Originally posted by StGermain View Post
                        I would muzzle your dog.Whether or not other people are "stupid", people expect to be able to walk their dogs on leashes, just like you. People expect other dog people to be sociable - it's like a dog club. If their dogs are friendy and yours is aggressive, it's you who have the problem.
                        Are you serious? I should muzzle my (perfect in every other way) dog AND be social with people I don't know who trot their dog across the street to meet mine even after I say no? Guess I have to let them jump on my children, too, because it would be rude not to.

                        Yes. People have a right to walk their dogs all over my neighborhood or on the trails without my interference. I should be able to make a giant pass around them without Poopsy coming in contact with my dog, though.

                        ETA: I'm fostering a female dog and they are fine, although the foster is recovering from a back injury so they don't "play" together. She is great with my mother's 3 female purse dogs and the dog she played with today is kind of rowdy. It worried her when they first met but now she runs all over with him. There are a few other dogs on my street that she sees all the time and is fine with, and one she's only heard through the window but learned to walk by without reacting.


                        • #13
                          do you understand how/why the treats work? It should not just be luring your dog. What you have to do is open bar/closed bar (classic desensing)and you will have to protect your dog while doing it. If your dog is frightened (and I believe you when you say it is), then to lure her (?) to look away from the dog and then have the dog approach is not going to earn you trust points with the dog. edit: won't earn you trust points with YOUR dog.

                          the protecting part is what is going to be hard out in public.

                          What I did in the beginning was to duck into a driveway and let the dog sit beside, slightly behind me. It was obvious we were trying to avoid contact. This may or may not work for you....but it won't hurt to try it either.

                          I may have BitchFactorHigh written somewhere across my face, because I have not had leashed dogs approach me when I did that. It was the unleashed dogs who escaped from houses and the people walking their unleashed dogs that were a problem for me. Those two scenerios were what made me quit taking my dogs out for walks around town. Now we load up and go to a state owned gamelands if I want to let my dogs be dogs. If I'm working on attention or distractions, I do it right in front of my house where I can get back inside if needed.


                          • #14
                            If you were to go with a muzzle, be sure it doesn't make your dog feel even more vulnerable and unarmed. Being muzzled may increase his anxiety, and while no actual bite may happen, it won't cure the actual underlying problem, which is probably confidence around other dogs and trust in people and dogs. Those occur with positive interactions, a watchful owner who will be assertive with regards to rude dogs and stupid owners, and positive reinforcement of the right behavior.


                            • #15
                              one more thing: I would NOT muzzle a fearful dog. Muzzling your dog will not make her less fearful, it will probably increase her fear.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by threedogpack View Post
                                do you understand how/why the treats work? It should not just be luring your dog. What you have to do is open bar/closed bar (classic desensing)and you will have to protect your dog while doing it. If your dog is frightened (and I believe you when you say it is), then to lure her (?) to look away from the dog and then have the dog approach is not going to earn you trust points with the dog. edit: won't earn you trust points with YOUR dog.
                                sorry if i wasn't clear and caused confusion with my comment. i was not suggesting to lure the dog to look away so that a strange dog can approach. i use the various commands (go get it, lets go find it, sit and even touch) to draw my dog's attention from the dog so that we can walk away before she fixates and gets aggressive. this obviously doesn't work for situations where a dog is off leash, although i suppose you could use the cookie to distract the approaching loose dog so that you have time to get away

                                my dog will sometimes drop to the ground when she sees another dog approaching (in a sort of crouch) and then once the dog invades her space she lounges at it. so for me it's important to keep her moving away and keep her attention on me before she becomes a solid anchor

                                having shared all that, i realize your dog's issues are a lot less severe than my dogs. i'm sure with time and training you'll work it out.
                                TQ(Trail Queen) \"Learn How to Ride or Move Over!!\" Clique


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by marta View Post
                                  having shared all that, i realize your dog's issues are a lot less severe than my dogs. i'm sure with time and training you'll work it out.
                                  ummm, not my dog.

                                  but for what it's worth....I did have a foster that was a bark/lunge/run-through an e-fence to get 'em dog


                                  • #18
                                    I have a 6 yr old chow mix who does not like strange dogs to come up to his face when he is leashed- growls and snaps. At the dog park, unleashed, he is perfectly fine. Though we live in very dog-oriented town, I've had no trouble telling people NOT to let their dog in his face. I find it hard to believe that OP's neighbors, etc are so insensitive (or ignorant?) that they would just come on up anyway...

                                    Though its rare that we encounter a loose dog, when I do, I just drop the leash and there are no issues. My dog is not responding out of fear, I dont think; perhaps protective? We just got back from an outdoor restaurant; he and his "sister" laid quietly by our seats, while two small dogs were w/ their owners 8 feet away. No big deal. On the street, stop and talk w/ space in between - no problem.

                                    No expert dog trainer here, but the muzzle idea would make me quite concerned; I would think the dog would feel less secure even though the owner may worry less.
                                    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                                    • #19
                                      I'm a b!tch too about this. Dogs who approach with friendly, wagging tails and don't get right in my dog's face are just fine. Dogs who gallop up to him and get in his face with the tense little tail wags, not so much.

                                      Unfortunately, my dog is usually the first to growl and say "back off," and rude dog's owner is snottily telling me how *her* dog was just "being friendly." I mean, his tail's wagging, right? So obviously my dog is the only one with the problem here. I used to try and be nice about this, but not anymore. Now I put my dog behind me and tell people we aren't saying hello today.

                                      I am just super careful about which dogs we interact with. There are a handful I know he's fine with, and those we stop and greet. The rest we do not. When we have to pass the neighborhood Doberman, who is dragging his owner around and barking at us, I put my dog on my off side with me between the two of them. We pass them every night, just about ... thank God he's always leashed.

                                      Thankfully most of the dog owners in the neighborhood are pretty good; there are only a few who don't keep their dogs confined to their yards (county law requires this). We've been attacked once though, and once was enough. We've also had two loose Newfie crosses come galloping up to us at night, as we were finishing our walk. I hadn't seen them before and had no idea whose dogs they were. That scared *me* ... I can only imagine how my dog felt.
                                      Full-time bargain hunter.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by CrazyGuineaPigLady View Post
                                        She can be standing there with her tail under her legs, hair raised and growling non-stop and they keep letting their dog get in her face, even after I walk away.
                                        She is absolutely afraid, you need to work on making it a fun, positive experience for her when she meets new dogs.

                                        Don't let the other dogs get up in her face so she is forced to tuck tail up, growl and raise her hackles. She is saying that she feels stressed and trapped. Absolutely walk away, that is not a reward, you walk to a distance where you dog relaxes and work with her getting comfortable around the strange dog.

                                        Here is a great article that should help, just replace person with dog (article discusses dogs that are fearful of strange people): https://www.msu.edu/~silvar/fear.htm

                                        You might also enroll her in a GOOD (not Petsmart!) group training class, that way your dog can be around other dogs, in a positive and controlled atmosphere.

                                        Good luck!
                                        Proud Native Texan!
                                        owned by 3 Cardigan Corgi's + 3 wonderful horses!