Aggression: An incurable problem?

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Aggression: An incurable problem?

This is a discussion on Aggression: An incurable problem? within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; My husband and I rescued our little Keeshond-Pomeranian mix, Friederik, just over three months ago. We drove from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles because ...

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Old 12-01-2017, 09:28 PM
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Aggression: An incurable problem?

My husband and I rescued our little Keeshond-Pomeranian mix, Friederik, just over three months ago. We drove from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles because I fell in love with him when I saw his picture online. He was described as being 2 years old, housebroken, good with people, cats and other dogs. Perfect.

When we arrived in L.A. and met the woman who had previously "rescued" him (I use the term loosely), she casually mentioned that he'd been attacked by a Doberman the night before, at her house, in her care. She wasn't planning on taking him to see a vet because, "that's not in my budget." To make a long story short, it required surgery and a $971 vet bill which we had to pay in full before returning to Salt Lake. We also learned from the vet in L.A., as well as from our vet here in Salt Lake, that Friederik was more likely between 3 and 4 years old than just 2.

Once home, we were excited to walk Friederik in our neighborhood and in the nearby park. It wasn't long before we saw another dog in the park -- also on leash. We approached the dog and his owner. Initially, Friederik seemed excited to get to know the other dog (who was slightly smaller than he is). But then, almost immediately, their leashes got tangled and a Friederik went after the other dog. No one was hurt, and I figured he probably just got scared when he discovered he was practically attached to the other dog and couldn't get away. At the time, I didn't see it as anything more than that.

Before we ever got Friederik, we had made plans to go out of town for a 3-day weekend with my sister-in-law and her husband. My own sister, who has three dogs, had said Friederik could spend the three days at her house. I was a little bit concerned because of the incident in the park and because he always seemed sort of aggressive while on the leash. My sister and her husband (who is a former zookeeper) assured us that everything would be fine. And it was. Friederik got along marvelously from the start with all three dogs, although the oldest, a female Border Collie, is old and arthritic and was kind of annoyed by his over-the-top energy. The other two dogs, both more or less Friederik's age, are both females. One is a German Shepherd mix and the other a Husky. My sister said that Friederik and the Husky played together until they were both absolutely exhausted.

As I already mentioned, we've had him for three months now. When we took him to a leash-free dog park a couple of weeks after his successful stay with my sister, he did reasonably well, although he kind of bullied another couple of dogs, just by nipping at their heels as they were running. No actual fights broke out, and none of the other dog parents seemed to be alarmed or nervous about his behavior, so we didn't think a great deal of it.

Still, though, whenever we're walking him (always on leash), and he sees another dog, he becomes extremely excited. He starts wagging his tail and pulling on the leash to approach the other dog. As soon as the other dog is near, though, he immediately starts barking and, if we don't control him, will try to attack.

I'm really baffled by these conflicting behaviors. I want so much to get a second dog, probably sometime next spring, but I obviously can't if this keeps up. We've had dogs for twenty or more years, and much of the time we've had two at once. Because they are pack animals, I think that, in general, it's a good idea to have more than one at a time. I also know that there are a few dogs who simply do not like other dogs at all.

I really could use some advise. Specifically...

1. Could the Doberman attack have brought this aggression on, or was his first rescue mom just lying to me when she said he was dog-friendly?

2. What could account for the excellent experience we had when leaving him at my sister's house, when most of our other experiences with other dogs have been so negative?

3. Can aggression be resolved, or should I just give up and accept the fact that I can't ever bring a second dog into our household?

4. Would a private trainer -- someone who really knows what he or she is doing -- be worth what it might cost? I'd rather spend the money if I could ensure some success than attempt to deal with the problem myself when I don't feel fully capable.

Last edited by Katzpur; 12-01-2017 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:54 PM
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It sounds like pretty run of the mill leash reactivity to me. It could be fear based, who knows if it has something to do with the Doberman attack.

Absolutely get a positive trainer on board. I promise you, they have seen this before and from the sound of things, how prognosis is pretty good.

I donít see why you couldnít get another dog, but youíll for sure want this to be reasonably controlled before taking another one on.
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Old 12-01-2017, 10:10 PM
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He could be good with other dogs loose but not leashed. Lots of dogs feel threatened and vulnerable while leashed because they can't escape whereas loose they can. My current dog is friendly with most other dogs loose and won't usually fight. On the leash he's usually friendly as well. If another dog barks or growls or is aggressive towards him on the leash hell act aggressive and sometimes try to charge right back. Usually he'll listen to me and walk away but if we're both surprised and very close it's tough to drag him away.
Your dog could be better with females and/or larger dogs. You can observe dogs he gets along better with. But a good trainer is a good idea. And getting a second dog should wait until you've figured out his issues and how to work with him and which dogs he gets along best with. If he gets along best with female dogs the same age and breed as your sister's dogs that might be the best kind of second dog to get eventually.
Good luck, one dog and a few cats is plenty for me!!!
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Old 12-02-2017, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Katzpur View Post
1. Could the Doberman attack have brought this aggression on, or was his first rescue mom just lying to me when she said he was dog-friendly?
Yes, an attack that produced injuries requiring veterinary attention could absolutely have cause a dog to escalate faster to aggressive behaviors. Form the sound of it, the only aggressive encounter you've seen from his was the on-leash incident with another dog. Leashed greeting result in more tense behavior even in stable dogs. Very possible that had he met the same dog off-leash he wouldn't have shown aggressive behavior.

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2. What could account for the excellent experience we had when leaving him at my sister's house, when most of our other experiences with other dogs have been so negative?
Interacting with a dog on-leash versus off-leash is very different for most dogs. It is not uncommon to see dogs who display reactive/aggressive behavior only when engaging in on-leash greetings. The leash restricts movement, and can make an already slightly anxious dog much more defensive.

It likely also has to do with the situation. The first aggressive encounter you describe happened when he was still very new to the area and your home, and from the sound of it still injured, so likely under an incredible amount of stress. A more stressed dog is going to be quicker to escalate to aggression in situations they otherwise wouldn't. Likewise, the dog park is a pretty stressful environment. Lots of unknown dogs of varying levels of social skills running around in a very high aroused situation.

Compare this with interacting with 3 dogs, one of which is uninterested in him (thus removing social pressure), in a house where he has time to get used to them.

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3. Can aggression be resolved, or should I just give up and accept the fact that I can't ever bring a second dog into our household?
All behavior is a reflection of internal emotional states. Aggressive behavior is no different. Treatment for this kind of behavior involves teaching the dog alternative coping behaviors, increasing obedience to increase owner control + build cooperation between dog and handler(s), and systematic desensitization and counter conditioning to change the emotion response the dog has to the trigger (other dogs) from a negative/conflicted response to a neutral/excited response. A professional will be able to examine the dog and give you some kind of prognosis for recovery, but it's impossible from a written description to make any claims about to what extent you're likely to have to deal with this behavior for the remainder of the dog's life. Sometimes you can work through it, sometimes there is some level of management involved until the dog dies.

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4. Would a private trainer -- someone who really knows what he or she is doing -- be worth what it might cost? I'd rather spend the money if I could ensure some success than attempt to deal with the problem myself when I don't feel fully capable.
Absolutely. I would highly recommend finding a professional with accredidation through either the CCPDT (certification council for professional dog trainers) or IABC (international association for behavior consultants). Those tend to be good certifications to start with.
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Old 12-02-2017, 12:32 PM
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Hey, thank you all for posting. I don't have time to reply right now, but I really, really appreciate the input.
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Old 12-03-2017, 04:43 PM
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It sounds like pretty run of the mill leash reactivity to me. It could be fear based, who knows if it has something to do with the Doberman attack.

Absolutely get a positive trainer on board. I promise you, they have seen this before and from the sound of things, how prognosis is pretty good.

I donít see why you couldnít get another dog, but youíll for sure want this to be reasonably controlled before taking another one on.
Thanks for the encouragement. I definitely won't be bringing in another dog until I can trust Friederik to be friendly. I mostly just wanted to hear that there's hope. I really want another dog, and I feel like another dog would be good for Friederik, too. He's so playful; he seriously has the energy and enthusiasm of a puppy. The trainer we went to for level 1 obedience training said that she and another trainer are strongly considering doing an adult dog socialization class in January, and she thinks Friederik would be a good candidate for it. She seemed to be extremely capable at training and Friederik liked her. I might ask her if she'd be interested in doing some one-on-one training with him to eliminate his aggressiveness.
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Old 12-03-2017, 04:54 PM
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He could be good with other dogs loose but not leashed. Lots of dogs feel threatened and vulnerable while leashed because they can't escape whereas loose they can. My current dog is friendly with most other dogs loose and won't usually fight. On the leash he's usually friendly as well. If another dog barks or growls or is aggressive towards him on the leash hell act aggressive and sometimes try to charge right back. Usually he'll listen to me and walk away but if we're both surprised and very close it's tough to drag him away.
My experience with my sister's dogs led me to conclude that he would be okay off-leash. It was after that experience where we tried taking him to the dog park. He didn't actually try to get into a fight with any dogs there, but was more of a bully than I'd like him to be. I guess he just feels the need to assert himself. So I'd say that, overall, he's better off-leash than on-leash.

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Your dog could be better with females and/or larger dogs. You can observe dogs he gets along better with. But a good trainer is a good idea. And getting a second dog should wait until you've figured out his issues and how to work with him and which dogs he gets along best with. If he gets along best with female dogs the same age and breed as your sister's dogs that might be the best kind of second dog to get eventually.
I was pretty sure that he got along better with female, large dogs than with either male or small dogs until we ran into a neighbor walking her female, large dog (I believe it was a Labradoodle). They were both on leash and Friederik appeared to go into an aggressive mode. I apologized and told my neighbor that he was better off leash than on leash. She said, "Fine! Let's take them off leash." We did, and Friederik started trying to bite the Labradoodle. He wasn't able to hurt the dog in the slightest, but it was embarrassing and upsetting for me, not to mention surprising, because I thought I had him figured out. The thing that would discourage us from getting a larger dog is that my husband is now 75 and I'm 69. Large dogs, even well-behaved ones, are just a bit much for us to handle at this point.

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Good luck, one dog and a few cats is plenty for me!!!
I'm both a dog and a cat lover, and have two cats, both rescues. My last cat lived to be 22, and during the last few years of her life, she told me, "Please mom, no more dogs." She'd been around a Cocker Spaniel, two Collies, and a Golden Retriever (not all at once) during much of her life, but was just too old to adjust to another dog by the time the last of my dogs (one of the Collies) died. After she died, I was so anxious to get more pets again. I probably rushed into it, because I got Friederik and both cats within a one-month period. It's turned out well, though. Friederik gets along well with both of them.
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Old 12-03-2017, 05:12 PM
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Yes, an attack that produced injuries requiring veterinary attention could absolutely have cause a dog to escalate faster to aggressive behaviors. Form the sound of it, the only aggressive encounter you've seen from his was the on-leash incident with another dog. Leashed greeting result in more tense behavior even in stable dogs. Very possible that had he met the same dog off-leash he wouldn't have shown aggressive behavior.
Well, the incident I mentioned was the worst of several. I described another one in my last post to Shadowmom. And the other day, my husband was walking Friederik in a nearby, but unfamiliar neighborhood, when they walked by a dog behind a chain-link fence. The fence wasn't particularly sturdy, though, because Friederik actually dove to the ground and shimmied under it to get to the other dog, before my husband could even react. Fortunately, he was able to pull Friederik back before anything could be done.

Quote:
Interacting with a dog on-leash versus off-leash is very different for most dogs. It is not uncommon to see dogs who display reactive/aggressive behavior only when engaging in on-leash greetings. The leash restricts movement, and can make an already slightly anxious dog much more defensive.
Here's what's kind of weird. I was nervous about introducing Friederik to my sister's dogs, and everybody kept saying that this should be done while all of the dogs were on leash and in neutral territory. I expressed my concern to my sister, and both she and her husband assured me that would be unnecessary. So one day, we drove over to her place for a trial run, before the weekend we were planning to leave him with her. When we got there, my sister, her husband, all three of their dogs and at least one of their cats were in the front yard. None of their dogs were on leash. When we pulled up out front, they said, "Okay, let him go!" We opened the car door, and as I said before, he just ran up to them, did the obligatory butt-sniff and started playing. As good as that experience was, it has been the exception, not the rule. I just wish I could figure out what it was about that time that made things work so well.

Quote:
It likely also has to do with the situation. The first aggressive encounter you describe happened when he was still very new to the area and your home, and from the sound of it still injured, so likely under an incredible amount of stress. A more stressed dog is going to be quicker to escalate to aggression in situations they otherwise wouldn't. Likewise, the dog park is a pretty stressful environment. Lots of unknown dogs of varying levels of social skills running around in a very high aroused situation.
You're right. I probably rushed things. I tend to do that.

Quote:
Compare this with interacting with 3 dogs, one of which is uninterested in him (thus removing social pressure), in a house where he has time to get used to them.
Yup. The only thing is that I'm generally not going to have that luxury when introducing him to other dogs.

Quote:
All behavior is a reflection of internal emotional states. Aggressive behavior is no different. Treatment for this kind of behavior involves teaching the dog alternative coping behaviors, increasing obedience to increase owner control + build cooperation between dog and handler(s), and systematic desensitization and counter conditioning to change the emotion response the dog has to the trigger (other dogs) from a negative/conflicted response to a neutral/excited response. A professional will be able to examine the dog and give you some kind of prognosis for recovery, but it's impossible from a written description to make any claims about to what extent you're likely to have to deal with this behavior for the remainder of the dog's life. Sometimes you can work through it, sometimes there is some level of management involved until the dog dies.
I understand. As I said, I'm considering asking the lady who did his basic obedience training if she'd be willing to work with him. She really seemed to like him a lot and was able to get him to obey some basic commands in a very, very short time. He seemed to like her, too -- although, so far he's never met a human he doesn't like.

Quote:
Absolutely. I would highly recommend finding a professional with accredidation through either the CCPDT (certification council for professional dog trainers) or IABC (international association for behavior consultants). Those tend to be good certifications to start with.
Thank you for that recommendation. I hope such individuals aren't hard to find. I think I'll probably wait till March to have someone (whoever it may be) start training him. We're getting our first snowfall of the year as I'm posting this, and the weather is likely going to be pretty crappy for the next three months.

On a side-note, I'm excited how Friederik, who spent his first 3 or 4 years in L.A. is going to like the snow. One thing for sure... I can almost guarantee that he'll like it better than I do.
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Old 12-04-2017, 11:44 AM
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Lightbulb IAABC, CPDT-certified *reward-based*, PPG / Pet Professional Guild, or TDF

.

another vote for 1-to-1 help, if U can find an IAABC Canine-Consultant, or a CPDT-certified trainer who uses reward-based training [remember, trainers who use prong-collars, shock, air-horns, choke-chains, water-balloons, etc, can also be 'certified' as Knowledge-Assessed via the CCPDT test].

Another option is to find a nearby trainer who's a member of the Pet Professional Guild, as their members are not permitted to use either aversive tools or coercive / confrontational methods. PPG should have a searchable list for states / cities.
[Holler, if U can't find one.]

There are also USA-apdt members who disagree with the changes that made APDT 'more welcoming' to aversive & traditional trainers; Truly Dog-Friendly is a list of trainers who specifically eschew all aversive, coercive, & confrontational techniques. [I'm on that list. ]

Truly Dog Friendly ¬Ľ Truly Dog-Friendly Trainers

Re Ur dog:
lots of dogs get a bit snappy when they're overexcited; as he didn't injure the Lab x Poodle at all, without seeing his body-language, it's hard to say if it was over-arousal or aggro - could be either.

BTW, wagging is not necessarily a "happy" dog -
wags indicate arousal, but what kind of wag tells the emotion expressed. Wide, low wags level with the spine are great happiness; so are "circle wags", which look like propellers.
If the last third of the tail wags rapidly & low, in a tight arc that's not much wider than the dog's body, that is appeasement, the dog is anxious - that particular wag is often seen in pups when greeting adult dogs.

If U ever see another dog FLAGGING - waving a stiff tail held very high, so it resembles a flagpole stuck atop the dog's bum, with a slow metronome movement side to side... Get outta Dodge.
The flagging dog is indicating readiness to fight; it's most often seen when 2 similar sized strange intact males meet; emotions are running high, things are on a razor's edge, & could go either way in seconds.
If it turns into a fight, U don't want Ur own dog sucked into the brawl.
Flagging usually goes with a stiff erect posture, head & ears high, legs under the body, ready to leap in any direction, & body rigid - the hackles may be up / hair might piloerect on the spine, rump, shoulders, & /or back of the neck.


Until U can find & hire a good reward-based trainer, "CLICK TO CALM" is a terrific DIY manual that will not conflict with anything such a trainer might recommend or do -
safe, low-stress desensitization & counter-conditioning, in a recipe style format.
U can turn to the pages listing B-mod for Ur dog's "symptoms" & start DS/CC immediately.

https://www.amazon.com/Click-Calm-He.../dp/B004J27O3G

It's available as Kindle or paperback.
happy B-Mod,
- terry

.
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