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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
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.
thanks for the reply! I am very comfortable with all dogs and I am pretty sure I do not give any signals of fear myself. Of course I dont know if my dogs feels the same, but this happens when I am not with him also, for instance if he meets some dog and I am 20 meters away. What I have been guilty of in the past is that I have thought it was dominance behaviour and I reacted to him growling in a more strict way instead of a more understanding way, only by the use of my voice or course,never harmed him in any way. I have completely changed that in the last months when I learned it was due to his fear and hopefully he will see that over time. Feel very bad that I havent read his signals well enough and that it could make it worse for him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
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.
Thanks for the reply and advices!
Regarding exercise: the last six months I think he has lacked a bit of exercise because I normally take him running but I currently have a really bad back injury which prevents me from doing it and we recently had a baby which also takes a lot of time. That is why running freely in the woods would be perfect for him to run off some steam. I feel bad that he currently cannot run as much as he wants but we do through a lot of ball/fetch so he at least gets to do some sprinting. That helps.

I will try more intenselly giving him treaths when we spot another dog. That is usually not a problem though passing other dogs on the street. He does get a bit interested in greeting the other dog but it isnt that bad. The stress seems to start when he is actually greeting the other dog.

Would it be a good training if I managed to get another male dog to be close (some meters) and simply practise calmness with my dog? Is that a good way to make him feel calm around other dogs?

Regarding the last point: he has never harmed any other dog before. If I am there I manage to break up the fight within seconds fortunately. Wont work from a distance though..

thanks agaian!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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 🤷‍♀️



Solid advice!





DEFINITELY AGREE!!!
Thanks for the reply. Yes the chemical castration made it worse. It was an advice from our vet to try out to see if it helped. It probably took away his braveness so to speak so that is why it made it worse. The castration is wearing off now and he should return to his normal pre castration levels soon. He only reacts to non neutered male dogs. I guess it’s the only thing that he feels threathened about which is normal. That scent thing is interesting, never heard of it! Will see if I can find some info on it.

thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the reply. I am not going to put other dogs at risk. I was thinking of holding my dog on a distance from another male dog and practise calmness with my dog. Wasnt planning on letting them greet eachother. Not sure how that will be an issue for the other dog. If loose dogs come up to my dog when mine is on a leash I cannot take the blame for.

i am also seeking advice here because our dog trainer has said it cannot be improved which I dont really believe so I am trying to look for advice elsewhere.

thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks all for the advices. The main thing I gather from all the replies is that we need to practise being closer and closer to other male dogs but a very slow pace for him to get more and more comfertable.
regarding leashes: I use mostly a vest for him as the dog trainer said that leashes could make him feel more «trapped» in a tense situation.

some follow up questions:
1) am I supposed to get his attention and then give him treats or should I give him treats without doing that? That is, do I want him to get treats while being observative of the other dog and if not, does it take away some of the effect?

2) when should I not give him treats? For instance, if he is visible stressed (neck fur straight up for instance and he makes «worried» noises), should I still give him treats or does that reward stresses behaviour?



thanks again all!
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I'd say you want to give him the treats while he is aware of the other dog, you are trying to create something called a positive conditioned emotional response (Google +CER if you want to know more). This means his response changes from 'oh no, scary dog' to 'woohoo, another dog means treats'.

And, if he is already stressed you are right, you are too close. The sweet spot is where he is aware of the other dog but not actually showing a reaction to it.
thanks. So not getting his attention by calling his name - that doesnt «count» in towards getting a good association with other dogs? How about showing him a tennis ball instead of treats? Im asking because he loves that ball and gets really excited about it
 
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