Sporadically Aggressive Dog

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Sporadically Aggressive Dog

This is a discussion on Sporadically Aggressive Dog within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hey everyone. So my gf owns a dog she rescued from the humane society who's papers state is a lab mix (we guessed maybe mixed ...

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Old 09-26-2017, 06:00 PM
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Sporadically Aggressive Dog

Hey everyone. So my gf owns a dog she rescued from the humane society who's papers state is a lab mix (we guessed maybe mixed with whippet or dalmation). He has a history of being aggressive with men but I've been in the picture for a year now. We all sleep on the bed, sometimes he'll even snuggle up and beg for petting. However he's had some moments of crazy disproportional aggression. We got another dog when she was a puppy and he jumped on her, to which i broke up the fight and was biten in the process. Nothing i held against him. Another fight happened with same results soon after that, but then nothing for a long time. The two of them for along really well and love to play. Going on walks he gets aggressive towards other dogs passing about 75% of the time. He'll also get snippy around food. One day the two of them got out and i grabbed him by the harness and he bit me really bad. All of this we've been able to justify as maybe a bad past, or food aggro, or just surprised and reactionary. However very recently he's been more inexplicably aggressive. Me and my gf were eating and he lashed out at the other dog, gashing her lip. Maybe more food aggression thinking she was trying to get our food. We added a new member to the family, a small chihuahua. All lying on the bed peacefully, chihuahua asleep, he crawls up to her without warning bites at her. Fortunately us yelling and pulling her away prevented any damage, but we are at a loss. This whole time we've been accepting of his personality flaws but this was unacceptable. How can we fix this? We don't want to get rid of him.
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Old 09-26-2017, 06:56 PM
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Sounds like a consultation with a behaviorist is in order. Possibly also a vet visit to make sure there's not a medical reason for his behavior.

In the meantime, keep everyone separate, especially during meal times and at night, since it sounds like both food and bed are sources of confrontation and conflict.
Muzzle train the aggressor for when you can't keep them separate. Actually, if you're muzzle training, you might as well get them all on board since, if done properly, it's not cruel and it's a good idea to get any dog used to wearing a muzzle so it doesn't cause added stress if the dog needs to be muzzled at some point in the future.

How much damage does he do when he bites? Here's Ian Dunbar's Bite Scale for reference.

Most dogs will give some sort of warning or indication that they're uncomfortable before lashing out. There's actually a hierarchy of behaviors that a dog will go through when feeling stressed or afraid or threatened or uncomfortable before resorting to biting. If you notice any of those behaviors, don't correct the dog or stop him or punish him. You want him to give you plenty of warning when he's uncomfortable so you can address the situation before it gets out of control.


Source: http://dogtrainingword.com/dog-aggression-ladder/

More info: Baloo's Blog 11 - Early learning and experiences - Dr Michelle Lord...Co-Evolve Dog Training and Behaviour Consultancy

I'm not at all a professional, but in my very amateur opinion, aggression (or any kind of reactivity) shouldn't be dismissed as simply a personality quirk or flaw regardless of the cause. If the dog isn't helped to overcome those issues and learn healthier coping skills, the problem behaviors become habits and escalate which you've found out the hard way.

I'm concerned that you said these incidents seem to happen without warning and I'm concerned that you said he bit you badly. A dog with poor bite inhibition that gets aggressive and bites without warning is a scary and not optimistic situation. I hope I'm wrong and you're able to get a professional involved to learn the best way to help him to not be so reactionary. Good luck.
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Old 09-26-2017, 07:35 PM
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I'd say the bite on me was somewhere between a 3b and 4. Definitely a 4 on the bigger dog, and a 2 on the chihuahua. He reacts with little to no signs. When he does give signs, it's usually very shortly after that he reacts so there isn't much time to address it. All the bites of note have been without signs. When i grabbed him, he had ears up, tail up, but bit my arm and both my legs. The crazy thing is is like he doesn't even realize the extent of the damage. He tries to lick the other ones wound he inflicted. We'll look into a behaviorist.
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Old 09-26-2017, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Lexzl View Post
He reacts with little to no signs. When he does give signs, it's usually very shortly after that he reacts so there isn't much time to address it. All the bites of note have been without signs. When i grabbed him, he had ears up, tail up, but bit my arm and both my legs.
It's hard to tell without actually seeing your dog in the moment, of course, but ears and tail up doesn't indicate a calm, relaxed dog. It could indicate being aroused or alert, as in intensely anticipating that something is going to happen. The something could be good/harmless, like anticipating play with another dog, but it could also be the opposite, anticipating a fight.


Source: Tails from the Lab - Body Language.
^There's lots of good info on dog body language in that Tails from the Lab link above.


Also note the first two images in the bottom row in the diagram below: Alert and Wary/Unsure/Suspicious. Both are ears and tail up positions.


Source: Canine Strategies

My dog gets really alert like that a lot, usually when she sees or hears something that I don't and is about to start growling or barking. If she stands in front of the glass patio door in that posture for more than a few moments, I either call her to me to interrupt whatever she's thinking of doing, or I get the treat pouch and go over to her so we can discuss whatever she noticed and I can start counter conditioning before she starts reacting.
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Old 09-27-2017, 06:31 PM
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cool diagram! any ideas how to correct for stalking when he sees another dog?
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Old 09-28-2017, 12:43 PM
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cool diagram! any ideas how to correct for stalking when he sees another dog?
I'm not sure I'm the right person to answer this because my dog doesn't do stalking type behaviors, and in my mind (possibly incorrectly) stalking is associated with predatory behavior. The dog isn't trying to avoid a confrontation by scaring the scary thing away. The dog is trying to sneak up on the thing. The closest my dog does to that is her typical super intense alert position with lots of intense staring, sometimes with one paw raised as if she's a pointer, when she sees a bunny rabbit. That's if the rabbit isn't moving. If it runs, Mira wants to chase it, but if it's just sitting there, she stares at it, although sometimes she play bows to it with her butt in the air and her tail wagging, so lord only knows what's going on in her goofy doggy brain.

Regardless, I'm pretty sure Mira's not feeling threatened or intimidated by the rabbits, but I'm also not sure what her intentions are, so I don't want to let the intense staring continue too long in case it will progress to a higher level of reactivity. I redirect with a formal "leave it" command and then a casual, conversational, "let's leave the bunny alone and walk over here now" kind of thing, and then turn around and walk in the opposite direction with lots of praise and rewards as a followup.

So I'd say obedience training + impulse control training are ways to mitigate stalking behavior. It's also possible that this is a situation in which counter conditioning to create a positive association to the other dog so that your dog accepts it as a good thing and not something that needs to be stalked can be done as a preventative.

Will treats or toys get your dog's attention even if he's in stalking mode? If so, I'd probably do that, get his attention to stop the stalking and then use the CARE protocol to counter condition to change his way of thinking about other dogs.

I don't know if stalking is a behavior included in that aggression ladder a few posts back, but I'm very hesitant to correct any behavior that might be since I don't want to take away my dog's ability to communicate discomfort or unease.

In my case, that stiff alert position is definitely on that latter, it's already pretty close to the top and not many steps at all from a biting incident, so even though i don't want the intense alert behavior to escalate, the last thing I want to do is discourage that behavior. I notice when she gets all intense and alert like that and immediately thank her and address the source of it.

Again, I have no idea if handling a stalking behavior the same way will help, though. Sorry.
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Old 09-28-2017, 01:45 PM
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Arrow stalking vs sneak

Quote:
Originally Posted by xingster View Post

...
any ideas [on] how to correct for stalking when he sees another dog?
"correct" is usually PC-speak for "punishing a behavior that i don't want / don't like".

U don't say
- which dogs he stalks:
bigger? Smaller? Intact-Ms? Prick-eared dogs? Ring-tailed dogs? Yappy lap-dogs? Same-size dogs?
- when / where he stalks:
in his own yard, as leashed dogs pass? In the dog-park? While off-leash? When on-leash? At the vet's?
- what's going on when he stalks:
was he playing with a favorite toy? Being petted & fussed? Lying asleep, jumped up, & began to stalk?

Also, as @AlwaysTomboy said, stalking is predatory - generally, it has 1 of 3 aims, to get closer to a potentially-chaseworthy animal to confirm that it's worth chasing; to get within pouncing distance & possibly kill; or to at least get within chasing distance, to improve the odds of catching it.

SNEAKING UP ON SOMETHING THAT SCARES ME doesn't share the same intention, & doesn't look the same, either.
A stalking dog usually pricks their ears for max audio-reception & their tail is about level with their spine; a dog creeping up on something that worries them not only lowers their tail, but ears are down, wt is shifted to the rear, & they appear very reluctant.
The stalker is cautious but excited, they WANT to get there; the sneaker would rather run the other way.

U don't want to "punish" stalking - IOW, reduce the frequency or outright extinguish the behavior -- so much as redirect the dog, or prevent the behavior, as it sets the dog up to chase & bite / kill; how awful the consequences would B, depend on who / what the dog stalks.
A dog who stalks toy-sized dogs is a serious concern, but one that stalks children is terrifying.

Similarly, if the dog sneaks up on things & persons that worry her or him, U don't want to discourage investigation. That's the 1st step in becoming comfy with the stimulus / being.
Quite a few guarding-breeds are fussy about objects in the environs - they don't like things to move from accustomed places. Ex, it's fairly common for Berners to 'alert' on the household rollaway-curbside can when it's no longer in the usual spot by the garage, but is out on the sidewalk for pickup by the city trash-truck, & they bark at it... in the same deep-toned, slightly-angry pitch they'd use when they suddenly discover a human intruder close to the house.
They've been surprised - & they don't like surprises.

If i moved a single piece of furniture in the house, my Akita would stop abruptly in the doorway of that room, fix me with a hard look, & cautiously approach it in an arc to sniff it, & confirm it's the same object that was once ===> over there.
Then she'd give me a lip-curling look of disgust, sometimes with a snort for emphasis, & walk off to a distance where she could keep an eye on the suspect chair, or rocker or table or what-have-U.
It could take her several days to a week to make peace with the change, & not pause at the door to surveil B4 entering - altho she wouldn't repeat the sneak-&-sniff confirmation, again, unless it was once again moved.

- terry

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Old 09-28-2017, 02:41 PM
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Similarly, if the dog sneaks up on things & persons that worry her or him, U don't want to discourage investigation. That's the 1st step in becoming comfy with the stimulus / being.

Quite a few guarding-breeds are fussy about objects in the environs - they don't like things to move from accustomed places. Ex, it's fairly common for Berners to 'alert' on the household rollaway-curbside can when it's no longer in the usual spot by the garage, but is out on the sidewalk for pickup by the city trash-truck, & they bark at it... in the same deep-toned, slightly-angry pitch they'd use when they suddenly discover a human intruder close to the house.
They've been surprised - & they don't like surprises.
Oh good lord, THIS. I don't know what breed mix Mira is, but she does this sort of stuff ALL the time. A white plastic trash bag that a neighbor two doors down left on their porch apparently needed to be threatened with raised hackles, growling, barking and lunging in the same way that she'd react to the sudden appearance of an unfamiliar person or dog in what she perceives as her territory. I told her she was being a silly goofball, plied her with treats and pets until she calmed a bit, and then casually walked towards it with her following a step or two back, now curious but still muttering warnings to the trash bag under her breath. We stood on the sidewalk in front of neighbor's porch and discussed the trash bag at length until she determined that it was, indeed, not a threat. She hrumphed at me as if I was the one who overreacted and then headed back to our house as if nothing had happened.

Mira and I do a lot of investigating of things: shadows, things that fall off of trees and go 'thump', weird looking tree branches, spots of grass that look like all the other spots of grass but apparently aren't...

Quote:
If i moved a single piece of furniture in the house, my Akita would stop abruptly in the doorway of that room, fix me with a hard look, & cautiously approach it in an arc to sniff it, & confirm it's the same object that was once ===> over there.

Then she'd give me a lip-curling look of disgust, sometimes with a snort for emphasis, & walk off to a distance where she could keep an eye on the suspect chair, or rocker or table or what-have-U.
Filing this away for future reference, lol. Mira's already suspicious about several pieces of furniture in my house and gives them a wide berth. I'm not sure what she'd think or how she'd react if I ever moved one of 'em.
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Last edited by AlwaysTomboy; 09-28-2017 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 09-28-2017, 03:27 PM
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i used to make Harley (he's a boxer) sit or lay down when he see's another dog... but he's starting to do this crawl towards other dogs that looks like the stalking photo lol.

He only does it to big fuzzy dogs... labs or german shepherds... i thought it was cuz he wants to play.. but try to distract him with treats so he doesn't stalk.
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Old 10-04-2017, 08:39 PM
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It sound s like you may have a dominant-aggressive dog on your hands. I would perhaps start by not letting him sleep on the bed with you for starters this would definitely help towards eradicating this behaviour. Does your dog stand with its head up and ears bent forward or stare at people and other pets intently? Does he snarl or snap when you approach him around his food? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, he may well have dominant-aggressive behaviour.

Your dog sees you as a apart of the pack, but needs to know he's at the bottom of the pack, as right now he probably thinks he is at the top. To let your dog successfully know he is at the bottom of the pack you will need to be able to dominate all aspects of his life, meaning, when you play with him for example with a ball, when you're finished do not let him win or have it. When it's time to feed him, you should also avoid letting him eat until you instruct him to.

All in all, I guess since him biting has happened quite a few times, looking into bringing on board a dog trainer would be a good idea too.
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