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Aloha everyone,

I'm at my wits end with my dog, Ranger. He's a year and a half old, neutered, Catahoula/Heeler/Terrier mix, and I am at a loss... He gets along great with other dogs at the dog park, but when a dog that is still intact comes along, he loses it... Barks, growls, and will get into scuffles. He has (thankfully) never injured another dog nor been injured in these scuffles, but they are scary. I have tried to do nice slow intros with dogs that are intact, with positive reinforcement and they go well right up until they don't. Had one today with an 8 month old intact husky at the dog park. I had control of Ranger, brought him up to the other dog slowly and watched for his signs of aggression (hackles, tail locked, etc.) and praised him and rewarded him with jackpot treats when he stayed calm. Then all of a sudden, they are sniffing each other again, and the husky licks Ranger's privates and before I can stop him, they are fighting. Once he locks in, I can't get his attention back, and I have to break up the fight. I don't know what to do, he didn't do this when we adopted him at 10 months old, but it's just getting progressively more frequent as he gets older. I try to keep him away from dogs that I can see are intact in situations that I can't control fully, but when we are just walking down the street or at a cafe, I don't always see them coming, and I don't want to be paranoid for the rest of my life that an intact male is going to come by. How do I modify this behavior? I'm on the verge of doing an E-collar, which I really don't want to do... But like I said, once he locks in, I can't get his attention back... PLEASE HELP!
 

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An e-collar will only re-inforce his belief that the other dog is bad news! Have you considered neutering him? This would change his hormone levels and might help with his aggression. Perhaps you have your reasons why he is not yet neutered, however it might be that your dog is just not going to co-operate with your plan.

A behaviorist would be great too. Positive re-inforcements, gentle conditioning. Also look up calming signals, you can learn a lot about your dog's signals and might be able to prevent any escalation.
Perhaps the treats you are giving are given at the wrong time (rewarding him for tensing up instead of keeping calm), or he has food guarding issues, so bringing food into the meet is actually causing the issue? I don't know, just trying to come up with ideas here.

Until you know why he reacts this way, and have helped him overcome it, it is best not to bring him to the dog park, where you can't control what dog he comes into contact with. Until then, to keep him socialized with dogs, you could perhaps set up well supervised doggie-play dates with dogs that you know he can get along with.
 

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For some reason, some neutered dogs just do not like intact dogs. A lot of Dog Parks and Doggie Daycares in my area do not accept intact dogs. I’m more than ok with that - I don’t take my dogs to either and my intact boy has been jumped more than once by neutered dogs. I know that you must feel terrible about the fracas. But I’m inclined to say the onus would have been on the Husky’s owner to head off the confrontation.

As far as training, make sure you have a solid recall. Work on focus too and eventually train at a distance and with distractions. You also may have to accept that you will need to manage his behavior in Dog Park situations and seek out those that don’t allow unaltered animals.
 

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Watching body language of both dogs when introducing may help

Hi. Sorry to hear about your problem with Ranger and some other dogs. Sounds scary like you said and worriesome. Dog stress and aggressive behavior is no fun for anyone!

So, I have a few questions for you to see if we can sort it out and offer some helpful suggestions here.

1) Is there any way possible it is not merely intact dogs, but younger dogs that are a bit annoying to your dog? Younger pups and dogs generally do not have fantastic social skills yet... and tend to ignore older dogs warning signals or calming signals.

This happened all the time in the beginning with my older female dog Gracie and our newly added female puppy Puma. I kept watching Gracie give Puma pup very clear signs of NO THANKS, Please leave me ALONE!, Ummm you are waaaay to close to me!! and Calm down, you are annoying with all that puppy energy!! But Puma pup never listened til Gracie really made her listen. Why didn't she listen??? Ohhh because she was just a puppy and had not learned proper social skills and dog manners yet!

So maybe take note if your dog is reacting to all intact dogs or mainly younger intact males, or otherwise.

2) You say you "had control" of Ranger at the park? Can you expand on that? Were you on leash with Ranger? What about the other dog? Leashed or unleashed? Were you holding Ranger by the collar to guide him towards the other dog? Sometimes how we hold the leash or collar can send different messages to our dogs. Like a tightly held leash can induce/indicate stress and make a situation worse.

3)You mention you are watching for your dog's signs of aggression. Do you know a lot about dog body language?

Honestly I did not anything about this topic before I started working with my shy reactive Gracie dog. After studying about dog body language and calming signals I could read her better -----and watch the OTHER dog's body language as well!!! Dog calming signals can be fast and subtle, like a quick lip lick... or very noticeable like instant ground sniffing, head turns, body turns, body freezing or stiffening, yawning, etc. Once you know the signs you can be way more in tune and many times prevent things from escalating when you see stress signals from either dog!

I generally say watching our dogs body language and then giving distance for a moment (or more) can really help to de escalate a situations before it goes bad.

4) Is there any way possible that the young husky actually sent some negative signs to your dog and then your dog simply responded back? Many times I find that people "blame" the wrong dog because they didn't see the first signs of the "innocent" dog. Just a thought.

If you are going to continue to go to dog parks and allowing your dog to be
around other dogs, I strongly suggest you study up on dog body language and calming signals so you can watch BOTH dogs and see how BOTH dogs are feeling about the meet n greet. You can study dog body language online for free on a zillion websites. If you already know all this, fantastic!!!

Also, it may be a good thing for you to have a few sessions with a positive reinforcement trainer who can see in person what is going on between Ranger and the dogs he seems to be at odds with recently. We can't see the actual interaction, so it is kind of like a guessing game here to try to figure out what is going on and how to fix the problem.

Sounds like you are using positive reinforcement methods in your training with Ranger. Awesome!!!!

Pleeeease, do not start using an e-collar, shock collar or otherwise. You have the right idea to stay away form those stress inducing devices! It can certainly make things way worse for Ranger as he can start to associate the negative collar with other approaching dogs. He sounds stressed by these dogs already for some reason, hence the aggressive behavior, so you don't want to add any more stress, right?

Maybe give yourself and Ranger a break from dog parks for a bit to let all his stress hormones go back to normal levels.

Best to you and Ranger!
 
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