Dog with unpredictable aggression

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Dog with unpredictable aggression

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Old 08-27-2009, 08:21 AM
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Dog with unpredictable aggression

My husband, dog trainer, and I are at our wit's end with our 3 yr. old hound mix. Over all he is a loving, playful, loyal, protective companion. However, throughout the years we have encountered a handful of people that he reacts to aggressively, with no rhyme or reason why. We used to think that it was only men that would cause this reaction, and only people he doesn't know. However, this week he reacted aggressively (barking, growling, hackles up) to a female friend that he has met and spent time with before.

The intensity of this situation is magnified because I am 6 mos. pregnant, and we are concerned about visitors coming to the house and the fact that I won't be able to devote 100% attention to the dog.

You may be wondering why we haven't given the dog away already, but I want to emphasize that 97% of the time he is a wonderful, albeit energetic, companion, and has been part of the family for 3 yrs. We also feel like since he has been our only "child" for so long and know his "issues" so well that we are better equipped to care for him than somebody else who may not be as patient or educated.

Any help or insight that you can offer on how to diagnose, predict, or handle this issue would be HUGELY appreciated!
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:08 AM
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Has the dog been to the vet and had a full workup done? If not, thats the first step, especially thyroid.

What exactly are the situations that this happens...is he inside? on a leash? with you? with your husband? etc etc



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Old 08-27-2009, 09:28 AM
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He is up to date on all of his routine shots, but we have not had his thryoid tested. If the issue is his thyroid, wouldn't the aggresion be constant?

Unfortunately there also no consistency between the scenarios when the aggression occurs, just like there is none between the people he reacts to. Sometimes he is on the leash, sometimes off, sometimes inside, sometimes outside. Both my husband and I were present for most of the incidents, but a couple times I was not.
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:39 AM
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He is up to date on all of his routine shots, but we have not had his thryoid tested. If the issue is his thyroid, wouldn't the aggresion be constant?

Unfortunately there also no consistency between the scenarios when the aggression occurs, just like there is none between the people he reacts to. Sometimes he is on the leash, sometimes off, sometimes inside, sometimes outside. Both my husband and I were present for most of the incidents, but a couple times I was not.
Not necessesary. It wont hurt to check.


Assuming its not a medical thing, aggression is caused by fear. No matter how unfounded the fear is. The barkgrowllunge routine is to make the scary thing go away.

Does he like food/toys/praise?

Does he have any other wierd phobias or moments where his confidence wanes?

Also how are you handling him when this happens?





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Old 08-27-2009, 09:46 AM
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Yes, I agree, the issue is fear...we just can't figure out what the common link is between the people that he has reacted to is that he could possibly be afraid of.

He is semi-influenced by treats, but has been known to ignore them when he is fixated on a "threat". Also, he is very smart, and will take the treat and then proceed to bark and growl at the person who gave it to him.

He doesn't have what I would call "phobias"; however, he does react to sounds/people outside the house by barking forcefully, but like I said, he is very protective.

When he reacts to a person we try to use the training we're received, whihc is to give him a command to sit/stay, to try to get him to a calm point. If that doesn't work, we may try to walk him away and come back to break his concentration, but these things don't ususally work. Sometimes if the "threat" sits down and stay still he will relax, but as soon as he/she stands up the dog is up on his feet again, barking.
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Old 08-27-2009, 09:52 AM
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Yes, I agree, the issue is fear...we just can't figure out what the common link is between the people that he has reacted to is that he could possibly be afraid of.

He is semi-influenced by treats, but has been known to ignore them when he is fixated on a "threat". Also, he is very smart, and will take the treat and then proceed to bark and growl at the person who gave it to him.

He doesn't have what I would call "phobias"; however, he does react to sounds/people outside the house by barking forcefully, but like I said, he is very protective.

When he reacts to a person we try to use the training we're received, whihc is to give him a command to sit/stay, to try to get him to a calm point. If that doesn't work, we may try to walk him away and come back to break his concentration, but these things don't ususally work. Sometimes if the "threat" sits down and stay still he will relax, but as soon as he/she stands up the dog is up on his feet again, barking.

awesome! I have som' solutions for you.

Dogs have som'thing called a threshold...if they are barking growling etc that means they are OVER that threshold..

Dogs that are over threshold cannot learn anything new. Their brains are in fight or flight mode, this is why they often will not take food.

The key is to expose the dog to his trigger at low levels under his reaction point and then reward with food like crazy.

If he reacts, do damage control...get as far away as you can from the trigger, if he calms down you can start training there.

of course none of this helps if you can't figure out his triggers in advance...so probably just be prepared as if he is going to react to every person thats not normal. lol


you may just look at how hes being approached by people, many people walk up too fast, or look dirrectly at the dog,and over all just pay to much attention to the dog.... having them ignore him and turn sideways or backward to him is much less threatening.

does that help?



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Old 08-27-2009, 12:05 PM
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Yes, those are helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, like you said, we can't figure out what the "triggers" are. There is no common link between the people or situations in which he's acted aggressively. That's why we're reaching out for help now. Our trainer and we realize that if we can identify the trigger/s, we can predict the behavior and therefore prevent it. But if we can't, what do we do?
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Old 08-27-2009, 12:42 PM
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Yes, those are helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, like you said, we can't figure out what the "triggers" are. There is no common link between the people or situations in which he's acted aggressively. That's why we're reaching out for help now. Our trainer and we realize that if we can identify the trigger/s, we can predict the behavior and therefore prevent it. But if we can't, what do we do?

like I said, for now, treat every situation like he might explode...you may want to go over the top with the praise/ treats even in "comfortable" situations so it really really cements in that strangers are good.

Do you do any other confidence building type training? Tricks especially are useful.

ETA: another option is to deliberately go over the top to trigger him...a loud fast guy in a hat...a screaming kid running...etc etc...then expose him to those things at low intensity.



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Old 08-30-2009, 10:58 PM
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I don't know if this might help, I saw a show on animal planet where a dog did the same thing. Turned out he felt like he had to protect the one family member that did most of his care cause the guy gave off a weak out look to the dog. The dog took controle and protected what was his. This could be not true with you but you ARE pregnant. Could he feel that you need protecting? In the show, the guy had to really take controle and be the head of the house over the dog and would be the protector, not the protecty. I saw it on "its the dog or me" or something like that. I don't know if this helps or not.
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