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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I cannot believe I'm even on here posting this as he lay next to me peacefully. I'll describe my problem as concisely as possible as to not draw this out.

My dog Maska is an absolute joy...............except for his aggression toward other big dogs. Sometimes a visit to the park goes okay if the other dog(s) is submissive. But sometimes, something in his head just clicks and he feels like he has to attack the other dog! And it turns into a nasty fight because he's so huge and obviously trying to kill the other dog. On top of it, I live in one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country! Bozeman, MT.

He's about 3 1/2 - 4 yrs old now and 90 lbs of muscle. I found him at a park when he was about 1 yr old and still considered a puppy. So incredibly sweet to all people and a big cuddler. But something must have happened that first year of his life that set in an antisocial behavior. Little did I know I was acquiring a dog-aggressive lab/bird dog mix.

Well, I have worked and worked and worked with him. Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer dvd's), and 2 professional dog trainers, a ton of money, and constant exposure to other dogs as to work on his skills. He is so well mannered and smart, he can do anything I've ever attempted to teach him..............except socialize with other dogs normally! He even has to wear a muzzle to the park to prevent outbreaks with other big dogs. (It's actually a very non-threatening muzzle with a smile and tongue hanging out on it that everyone laughs at and thinks is adorable). The 2nd trainer said that this is something like PTSD in a military veteran. That sometimes, there's a trigger that's gonna get set off and it can never be totally controlled...that is the saddest thing for me to hear regarding my dog.

SO...I've been stuck with a dog-aggressive dog. And I love him so incredibly much, but the stress of not being able to take him to anyone else's house...or to the dog store...or to the park...or camping...or ANYWHERE without constant worry is totally wearing me out. I love this boy like he's my own child. And I want what's best for him and for me. Once before I seriously considered adoption and had made an unofficial commitment to find a good home for him, but all I could do was feel an incredible guilt and sadness thinking that adoption would be the beginning of the end of his life, as he shifted from home to home possibly being abused or not wanted. I'm tearing up thinking about him getting mistreated if I give him up. I'm so stressed...I just don't know what to do. I never intended on acquiring a dog-aggressive dog. I'm stressed enough as it is. It affects every part of my life.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post, and please if you have ANY advice or suggestions as to how to go about this, I'm right here waiting for answers. Thank you. Jake and Maska
 

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What is his behavior like before he goes off? Does he seem nervous or anxious at all, any panting, pacing, whining, stiff posture, widened eyes - anything like that?

What have the professional trainers suggested you do with him? You said they tried to help you re-socialize him, but how exactly did they try to accomplish that (what were their methods?).

Most of the time, when dogs act this way there is a fear component. It may have to do with his life before he came to you, it may be genetic in nature, or it may be a combination of both.

The thing with fearful/reactive dogs is that they are sensitive - even if it doesn't seem like it when they're at the end of the their lead, barking and lunging. Overly harsh methods (like those Caesar employs) will be absolutely detrimental to these dogs - you don't want to tear them down or try to discipline the fear out of them, you want to build them up and show them the world is a safe, fun place and that you acknowledge there are certain situations that make them uncomfortable, and you'll do your best to keep them safe in those encounters.

Likewise, "constant exposure" to other dogs seems like socialization, but it can very easily become flooding. An example of flooding would be if you put a dog-reactive dog in a room with a bunch of other dogs and just expect your dog to 'get used' to the others. A lot of the time, the result is your dog sitting to the side, appearing to behave but in reality just shut down. Obviously, this isn't what you want.

For now, keep him out of dog parks. They can be unruly anyway. Start your training in the sight of other dogs, but not in close contact.

Here's a sticky on reactivity:
http://www.dogforum.com/training-be...y-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/

Also, look into counter conditioning. It's a pretty simple concept that can help him feel differently about strange dogs.

Your dog may just never be a social butterfly - and that's fine. As long as he can exist in the general area of other dogs, you can still do fun dog things with him without requiring him to play.

Another thing you might look into is dog sports and/or an obedience class. These things can help your dog build confidence, which is key. Just make sure it's a positive training center and that they assess your dog as being able to function in a group setting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@PoppyKenna thanks for the reply. Before he goes off, and basically anytime he sees another dog, he gets real anxious and concerned-like about the other dog. For instance, if the dog is far off, his ears perk up and he whines and whimpers a lot as if he wish really bad to be near that dog. He wags his tail, pants a little, then closes his mouth and holds his breath to concentrate as much as possible and kind of goes back and forth on that. Then if we get closer, the whole time leading up to the other dog, he gets even more concerned about the other dog and becomes "fixated" on him or her (even though I try to break him out of it). Until we get right up to the dog, which he is usually trying very hard to pull me toward, he seems fine and almost as though he just wants to play and meet the dog REALLY bad. Then when he meets the other dog, his hair raises and he gets all dominant like and tries to dominate the greeting by standing real tall over the other dog. And if the other is submissive then he's not real interested. But if the other dog is somewhat dominant too, then my dog Maska tries to dominate even more and he starts a fight. What I like to do is bring good energy to the two dogs meeting by petting the other dog and sort of ignoring Maska and giving good praise and attention to the other dog. Then Maska seems to lighten up and do normal sniffing routine with the other. That works sometimes.

I'll check out counter conditioning. And I fear you're right - he will just never be a social butterfly. And that's hard, because I want to be able to just go places with my dog and not have to worry so much about his aggression. It's not the ideal situation I intended to be in.

I'll look into dog sports and obedience class. One thing about Maska is that he absolutely LOVES to hunt. I believe he could do all day if I let him. He's got a great nose and loves sniffing things out. It's one of the ways I exercise him. I run him 3-5 miles a day and often go on several mile long mountain hikes.

It breaks my heart that I'm still considering adopting him out if I can just find the perfect home for him where he won't be shuffled around or end up abandoned or dead.

Thanks again!
 

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I think you'll be able to get him to the point where you can still go places with him, you just may need to give up on the idea of taking him to the dog park to play with other dogs.

I know how you feel - I also have a reactive dog and before I got him, I wanted a dog that I could take anywhere and everywhere. He's a challenge, but I've come to realize that as long as I get him to the point where he can peacefully coexist in those environments, we can still have fun.

He may just be a frustrated greeter, but the aggression and controlling behavior makes me think that he's insecure and uncomfortable in the situation. I don't believe he's behaving in a "dominant" fashion, rather, I think he's thinking, "okay, I can be near this dog as long as I can keep him from making any sudden movements or doing anything that might scare me".

He really shouldn't be interacting with any other dogs right now. Start him very far away, just so he notices the other dog but before he begins any of those anxious behaviors. You may have to play with the distance a little before you get it just right.
 
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