Dog is unpredictably friendly and aggressive towards specific dog

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Dog is unpredictably friendly and aggressive towards specific dog

This is a discussion on Dog is unpredictably friendly and aggressive towards specific dog within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi everyone! Four months ago I adopted a two year old retriever mix and she's been absolutely wonderful. Up until recently, we haven't seen any ...

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Old 01-24-2018, 12:23 AM
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Dog is unpredictably friendly and aggressive towards specific dog

Hi everyone! Four months ago I adopted a two year old retriever mix and she's been absolutely wonderful. Up until recently, we haven't seen any problem behavior. She's sometimes uncomfortable around other dogs, but until recently it was never an issue. If they're too rambunctious around her, she becomes submissive and somewhat timid, but they give each other a friendly sniff and that's the end of it.

I've started bringing her to the office with me and she has exhibited food guarding around some of the other dogs. I wasn't previously aware of this because she's the only dog in our household. One dog in particular she has now gotten into two small fights with, which was shocking to me because as I've mentioned, she tends to be submissive towards other dogs. The first time there was any sort of incident between them was when he approached her while she was drinking water (he has a habit of trying to take things from other dogs). She growled at him and he growled in return, so I removed the water bowl and nothing more happened. Since then her reaction to his behavior has gotten worse. She recently bit him on the snout over a bag of her food without warning, though not hard enough to do any damage.

The food guarding is an issue that I understand and can work with her on, but what's puzzling me is her reaction to this other dog. She sometimes will growl at him for seemingly no reason. He can just be standing in the area looking in her direction, with no food to guard, and she'll start growling. Other times, she goes up to him in a friendly manner and even licks his face. On his part, he's stopped approaching her since she bit him and has very little reaction when she approaches. Poor thing was so excited for a playmate the first time they met! The other day we walked them together to the dog park, again no issue. Next day, she's growling at him. Later the same day, she's sidling up to him to lick his face. What is causing this hot and cold behavior? She has barked when dogs try to mount her at the dog park, but has otherwise shown no aggression, and as I've mentioned, is usually quite submissive! Every time she approaches him now I have no idea if she'll snap at him or give him a kiss lol, it's beyond confusing!
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Old 01-24-2018, 09:22 AM
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The face licking isn't giving him a kiss, it's appeasement behavior that's usually displayed by insecure (or young) dogs. It sounds like she's very uncomfortable around him, sometimes she's warning him to keep his space, other times she's trying to appease him.

The submissive behavior around "rambunctious" dogs and snapping when she gets humped also shows that she is uncomfortable about many interactions with other dogs. To be fair to her, humping is a very rude behavior and rambunctious dogs are usually rude too- many people interpret their behavior as "being friendly" and "wanting to play" but many times they're actually harassing the dog they're "trying to play" with. Imagine if you met a stranger and they were jumping all over you and giving you hugs and humping you. That would probably make you very uncomfortable if not downright scared. Dogs have rules of etiquette and personal bubbles too, some moreso than others. :P

If you keep bringing her to the office make sure she has her own space where she feels safe and he can't get to her. I'd recommend to not bring her to the dog park because it sounds like she's uncomfortable with a lot of interactions with other dogs and every time she feels she has to defend herself it's going to make her behavior worse. You can also try counter conditioning and feeding her treats whenever she notices the presence of the other dog, but depending on how much space you have in the office, you might not want to risk it if she's guarding food. "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson is a great reference book for resource guarding and I used a few ideas from it when I first got my own dog who was guarding me, food, and toys from my old dog and my rabbit.
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Old 01-24-2018, 10:59 AM
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It's a bit of a stretch to recommend to stop taking her to the dog park and to say that she's uncomfortable with a lot of interactions with many dogs because she's having issues with one other dog in a smaller work space environment.
The original poster didn't mention any problem behaviors in any other environment except to mention that the dog would bark, not snap, if other dogs tried to hump her. That's actually a pretty mild reaction as many dogs will snap, bite or fight a dog trying to hump them. This dog could love going to the park and it could be her only place to have free running exercise. She can have some resource guarding over food and just have issues with the dogs in the workplace because they're in closer proximity and she thinks of her owner's workspace as hers.
There is simply not enough information to make any assumption about dog parks and whether this dog is happy or miserable there.
Submissive dogs can still love going to the dog park and enjoy playing and interacting with others. One of my dog's best buddies is a female lab pitbull mix that always has submissive body language with licking appeasement behaviors to new dogs. Yet she loves playing and running and wrestling and is a very high energy dog. She lives a block away from the dog park and her owner's bring her four times a day or they say she gets very stressed and whines constantly until they take her. She loves wrestling and chasing my dog, they alternate who's in charge and he gets exhausted from her and will just lie belly up and let her chew on him at which point she will bark at him and paw at him to play more. He absolutely loves her though. They will play together and ignore all other dogs. If she plays with another dog he stops playing and goes to me so she leaves the other dog and gets him to play again. She's not submissive at all with him but he let's her be in charge! They have the best time together.
For a positive friendly forum, I see countless posts from all kinds of people advising not using what can be a very positive and invaluable resource. It's a shame since the ones in my area are very well run and the owners are helpful, friendly and overall supportive and respectful. The occasional bad apple is usually quickly banned.
But "experts and professionals" from other cities, states and countries feel completely free to post how awful ALL dog parks are. As if someone in California, Washington state, Australia, England has been to the ones I've been to.
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