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Hello,
We have a 4 year old labrador pointer which we believe to have fear of other male dogs because his neck fur stands up, he might lick his lips and growls. And if they meet it is very tense and it turns into a fight really quickly. We believe it is due to fear and not aggression/dominance.

We would like to ask if anyone has any tips to how we can train with him as the dog trainer has said she cannot help with that issue. I avoid greeting other male dogs of course, however he is a dog which requires a lot of exercise so letting him run freely in the woods is something he both loves and needs, but at the moment I dont want to let him run freely in case he meets another male dog. Also, other loose dogs might come up to us if they are not on a leash.

I think we have ruled out aggression/dominance behaviour because we tried chemically castrating him for six months and it only made it worse. That is why we believe it is due to fear. Female dogs he has no issues with.

Honestly I have no idea the root of the cause as he used to play with other male dogs in his earlier days.

He is an anxious dog though in general. For example he gets stressed when we are getting dressed at home and he can get very stressed if we leave the house and dont give him something to occupy him for a short time (a snack for instance). When we are at walks and we stop for even a second he will begin to whine because he wants to keep moving.
All of the above things are issues we are working with progress.

I was wondering if anyone have had similar issues with their dogs and managed to solve them.
All ideas are very welcome!

best regards
I know that you said he had been a bit aggressive before, but - unfortunately - one of the side effects of castration can be an increase in fear and anxiety and / or related behaviors.

Here in the U.S., castration of males is promoted like a fix-all solution to behavioral problems and "prevention of heath issues", but - unfortunately - this is far from the truth. You did not indicate whether the males that your dog fears / goes after are altered or unaltered. Altered males do tend to take issue with unaltered males (which is why my Loki seems to be a magnet for aggressive dogs despite his incredibly calm demeanor).

Being that this is likely (at least, in part) a scent-based trigger, maybe it may help to keep a strong, calming scent handy to mask the pheremones of other males present? I know they make some pretty strong anti-anxiety aromatherapy clips that could be applied to a collar. Just a thought 🤷‍♀️

If I'm reading this correctly, you are really dealing with three issues. One is that your dog needs more exercise and stimulation than you can provide by taking him on a regular leashed walk. The second is that your dog is fearful of other dogs. The third is that he handles his fear by becoming aggressive.
First, dealing with his exercise and stimulation needs. Have you explored any kind of dog sports such as carting or skijoring to give him a cardio workout? I also find that trick training helps a lot with keeping my dogs sane. Practicing sitting, crouching, bowing, walking backwards, etc. exercises both their mind and their body. Think of it like yoga for dogs.
Second, regarding the fearfulness, do not let him interact with other dogs. Keep him out of environments where there are loose dogs. Get his attention and lead him away before the other dog comes close. Also, make the sight of another dog a cause for celebration. Keep treats in your pocket: lots of treats. (I've also heard a suggestion to use something like liver or cheese paste in a squeeze bottle, but I've never tried it myself.) Start shoving treats into your dog's mouth as soon as you see the other dog, before he starts reacting. I don't mean one or two treats. I mean handfuls. Keep stuffing treats into your dog as long as the other dog is within view. If your dog is too upset to eat the treats it means you are too close. Move away from the other dog and keep feeding treats. This treat tactic won't produce immediate results; it will probably take a month or two of distant dog sightings before his attitude starts to soften a bit. Eventually, though, he should start turning to you when he sees another dog. Both the reward (the treats) and the task (staying by your side within range of the hand that is dispensing treats) give him something to think about other than the strange dog.
Third, since he starts fights, take steps to ensure he doesn't harm another dog. Again, keep him out of environments where he can come close to another dog. You may also want to consider a basket muzzle to prevent him from biting another dog. Aside from the safety factor, the muzzle will make your dog look more scary. The visual effect might make other dog owners a little more careful about letting their dog run up to yours.
Solid advice!


The aggression toward other dogs sounds like reactivity, which is indeed usually based in fear.

The general advice is to find a place where your dog can observe the thing that makes them afraid from a distance they view as 'safe', and gradually decrease that distance over weeks or months as they learn not to be afraid.

However, I'd start with confirming that you aren't causing the reaction by anticipating it. I used to walk a really lovely dog for my neighbours. Initially, I was told she was "extremely reactive to other dogs". In truth, she was reacting to her people being afraid, which she interpreted as a fear of the other dog not fear of her reaction. In her case, at least, it was an easy fix: one walk with me playacting at being really happy to see every other dog.

DEFINITELY AGREE!!!
 
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