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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Before I begin, let me first say that my Lab is not at all aggressive with people. She absolutely worships the ground any human walks on.

I was doing a bit of research on why my Lab (Posh) shows no signs of aggression before she attacks smaller dogs. Posh is almost completely submissive to bigger dogs. She has only ever attacked smaller dogs (both of which are Chihuahuas). I know that the Chihuahuas instigated this behavior in my Lab because it all began with the Chihuahuas snapping at her or showing their teeth. But I don't understand why she only attacks the smaller ones. My Lab has been bitten in the face by another Lab mix (and she did nothing but hide behind me), and even aggressively mounted by a Husky (Posh showed her teeth at the Husky as a warning). With the smaller dogs, she has never shown any warning before her attacks. She freezes for barely 1 second, and then bites down around the neck/upper back. I found that this behavior is the most dangerous when it comes to dog attacks. The reason for this is that their intent is to kill. When she was attacking the smaller dogs, she is silent. Even her face is emotionless, like she is in a daze. Otherwise, she gets along great with dogs that are almost/about her size or bigger.

Why is this? Why is she showing bigger dogs a warning when she doesn't like something, but shows no warning to smaller dogs? Is it because she knows she will lose a fight with a bigger dog?

How can I prevent this from happening again? I ask experts, and they always tell me to look for the warnings. But Posh never shows a warning. She can be happy and wagging her tail one second, and the next second she snaps into full attack mode. If I get a behaviorist for Posh, what will they do to teach her from doing this again? If her intent is to kill a small dog, can that behavior be diminished?
 

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I went back to your other thread to find the background more in depth and thought I'd post is here for other viewing the thread to go back easily: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/i-think-my-dog-resource-guarding-302777/

Rundown of previous incidences from other thread:
- Dog in question is an almost 9 year old Lab mix. Lives in a mixed species, multi dog household (it sounds like it's the Lab mix, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix, a Chihuahua and a Cat).
- Dog freeze up very briefly and then attacks during incidences. No warning signs reported.

With Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix:
(1) Lab mix was 1, small dog had been snapping/growling aggressively, small dog growled while being held, lab attacked by grabbing smaller dog around the neck and "slinging her around" (assuming that means shaking her)
(2) Lab mix was 2-3. Smaller dog was being walked on leash down the street, Lab attacked "at random" and let go quickly.
(3) Small dog started yelping, Lab mix ran into room and grabbed her around the neck. Small dog needed stitches.

With the cat:
(1) never had problems with the cat previously. Dog had been boarded, came home and hid under bed (which she commonly does when stressed/scared), you "brought her into the kitchen" (did she come out willingly or did you forcibly remove her from under the bed and lead her to the kitchen?) and you were feeding her treats. Cat came in, sniffed the treat, dog attacked. Broke cat's lower jaw.

With Chihuahua:
(1) while at dog festival (assuming this means both dogs on leash?), chihuahua snapped at the Lab mix while close to you, Lab mix attacked. Lab mix had to be restrained around abdomen/back legs and forced to let the Chihuahua loose. Chihuahua needed stitches and a drain placed.

I agree with others that responded to your first thread that this likely isn't resource guarding. I would wonder if it might be prey-drive related; it sounds to me like she's attacking in a predatory manner during these incidences, the way a dog would attack a prey animal, not like they would another dog.

I agree that it sounds like both smaller dogs in your house need some help as well.

I also agree that it is well past time to involve a professional in this.

In answer to your questions in this thread, I'll break it up into pieces:
(1)
Why is this? Why is she showing bigger dogs a warning when she doesn't like something, but shows no warning to smaller dogs? Is it because she knows she will lose a fight with a bigger dog?
This more than anything else is what is making me think there is a prey drive component to this behavior. I would especially think this given the incident where the small dog's yelp triggered an attack all by itself.

My guess is their is also a significant amount of frustration and perhaps under-stimulation at play here as well.

(2)
How can I prevent this from happening again? I ask experts, and they always tell me to look for the warnings. But Posh never shows a warning. She can be happy and wagging her tail one second, and the next second she snaps into full attack mode.
Given the speed with which she attacks, I would not be letting this dog interact with either of these small dogs or the cat. Given the intensity of the attacks and the likely size difference, I probably would not even feel comfortable letting her do so when muzzled.
(more below...)

If I get a behaviorist for Posh, what will they do to teach her from doing this again? If her intent is to kill a small dog, can that behavior be diminished?
I would say there is no "if" in her intent to kill these dogs. Perhaps it didn't start out that she intended to kill these animals, but given that the most recent attack left the smaller dog with a drain and stitches and was stopped only because someone pried the smaller dog loose, I would say she would have likely killed it if given the chance.

I don't think I would ever actually trust this dog around smaller dogs or cats again. I don't know it's even a likely goal to be able to have her live peacefully with your smaller dogs.

I do think that you need to involve a professional, like, yesterday. ASAP. This isn't something people on this forum can help you with. In cases of serious aggression, in person evaluation is vital. We cannot do that. Also, while there are some people on this forum involved in training professionally, most people here are dog hobbyists without the knowledge base in dealing with these kinds of issues.

Someone who is affiliated with the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) as a member. Someone who is CPDT-KA, or even better CCBC-KA (through the Certification Council For Pet Dog Trainers), and/or affiliated with the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants) would be a good starting point. All those organizations have websites you can find by googling the name/acronym and should have search functions on the website to find people in your area affiliated with/accredited by them.

Exactly what the person in question will recommend will depend on the person and what they feel the causes of these issues are as well as how much they feel they can work on the issue. I would expect someone to suggest management more than training, though- at least during a long period of training.

Anyone who gives you an outright guarantee that they can stop the behavior is someone I would be leery of. There are no definite things in behavioral modification, and especially if this is prey driven like I think it may be I would think that it is something that may never be fully resolved.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I agree with others that responded to your first thread that this likely isn't resource guarding. I would wonder if it might be prey-drive related; it sounds to me like she's attacking in a predatory manner during these incidences, the way a dog would attack a prey animal, not like they would another dog.

I agree that it sounds like both smaller dogs in your house need some help as well.

I also agree that it is well past time to involve a professional in this.

In answer to your questions in this thread, I'll break it up into pieces:
(1)

This more than anything else is what is making me think there is a prey drive component to this behavior. I would especially think this given the incident where the small dog's yelp triggered an attack all by itself.

My guess is their is also a significant amount of frustration and perhaps under-stimulation at play here as well.

(2)

Given the speed with which she attacks, I would not be letting this dog interact with either of these small dogs or the cat. Given the intensity of the attacks and the likely size difference, I probably would not even feel comfortable letting her do so when muzzled.
(more below...)


I would say there is no "if" in her intent to kill these dogs. Perhaps it didn't start out that she intended to kill these animals, but given that the most recent attack left the smaller dog with a drain and stitches and was stopped only because someone pried the smaller dog loose, I would say she would have likely killed it if given the chance.

I don't think I would ever actually trust this dog around smaller dogs or cats again. I don't know it's even a likely goal to be able to have her live peacefully with your smaller dogs.

I do think that you need to involve a professional, like, yesterday. ASAP. This isn't something people on this forum can help you with. In cases of serious aggression, in person evaluation is vital. We cannot do that. Also, while there are some people on this forum involved in training professionally, most people here are dog hobbyists without the knowledge base in dealing with these kinds of issues.

Someone who is affiliated with the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) as a member. Someone who is CPDT-KA, or even better CCBC-KA (through the Certification Council For Pet Dog Trainers), and/or affiliated with the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants) would be a good starting point. All those organizations have websites you can find by googling the name/acronym and should have search functions on the website to find people in your area affiliated with/accredited by them.

Exactly what the person in question will recommend will depend on the person and what they feel the causes of these issues are as well as how much they feel they can work on the issue. I would expect someone to suggest management more than training, though- at least during a long period of training.

Anyone who gives you an outright guarantee that they can stop the behavior is someone I would be leery of. There are no definite things in behavioral modification, and especially if this is prey driven like I think it may be I would think that it is something that may never be fully resolved.
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to reply in such a thorough manner. I truly appreciate it.

Her having a prey-drive, unfortunately, sounds pretty accurate. It's just so hard for me to imagine my usual sweet, gentle, playful Lab as a killer. Reading this broke my heart, because I feel like I have failed my Lab to live a normal life. I was 16 when I found Posh, so I got into tons of debt with my mother trying to bring her to good health (she had moderate dermatitis and a severe case of worms). She was living a pretty normal life with me, up until she attacked the first Chihuahua the 3rd or 4th time. She then had to be kept in my bedroom, and only let out in the back yard for a few hours to run and play. She had barely any access to the rest of the house after the final attack on the Jackhuahua. I feel bad about this, but my mother refused to let Posh share access to the house because she was convinced that Posh was a monster. The rest of my family doesn't even treat Posh as equal to the other dogs. It really hurts me.

What's so weird is, Posh has been around the Jackhuahua and the cat a few times while we weren't around. This was by accident, because we let Posh out in the back yard and forgot that the other animals were out there. When we went to get them, we saw that Posh and the Jackhuahua were just playing. Even just a few weeks ago, I let Posh out, not knowing that the cat was outside, (he must have sneaked past me) and she was trying to play with him. Eventually, Posh just ignored him because he wasn't wanting to play with her. The only times she attacked them, is when someone else (mostly me) was around. That's what made me wonder if it might be resource guarding.

I now know that Posh should have gotten help many years ago. I feel horrible that I have let it get this far. But, I was 16 and I really couldn't afford a trainer since I had vet bills, a phone bill, and a car insurance bill to pay. I probably should have given Posh up for adoption, but I felt like I needed her in my life. She has brought me so much happiness. There were times when things seemed hopeless for me, and Posh would do something goofy, and I would just laugh. She was the only positive thing in my life for a while. I know it seems selfish, but despite everything else, I really do take great care of her. She is spoiled to the core, she is allowed to share my twin with me (some nights I sleep on a very small portion of the bed because she is a bed hog), I buy her the best food (I've just started buying her grain free wholesale dog food, which is about $40 a bag), I take her to the park sometimes, I play with her as much as I can, and I even bought her an $80 faux fur bed, which she loves. I'd do anything for her. I have probably spent well over $3,000 on her in just vet bills. I hope you don't think I'm a terrible owner. I do realize there are things I could have done better. I was just very misinformed. I do, however, plan on hiring a behaviorist soon. I saw something in the local vet yesterday, (while picking up Mia from having her 2nd surgery to remove the necrotic tissue) and it said something about choosing a behaviorist/trainer who uses Cesar Millan's techniques. The vet I use is the best vet within a 20 mile radius, so I trust them. Do you think Cesar Millan's techniques would be worth a shot on Posh?
 

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Do you think Cesar Millan's techniques would be worth a shot on Posh?
You just said the magic words... Wait for it.

Cesar screwed up a few times, and much of the dog community threw the baby out with the bathwater - all of a sudden, everything he taught was bad. Unfortunately, the problem stems from how people employed his technique with dogs - many are wrong. Well followed positive trainers have screwed royally but haven't been beaten publicly over it by the followers like Cesar has. I've owned dogs all my life, rescued dogs off the street, rehomed many dogs. Much of what Cesar used over the years is stuff i used growing up. Much of it is nothing new, but he put alot of perspective on dogs. If not the techniques, much of the psychology is correct.

I still employ some of Cesars methods, as well as other peoples, been paying attention to different trainers lately, lots of common sense out there on all sides of the spectrum. I don't use force, but I will push a dog out of it's shell - my dogs have never been traumatized and I want that confidence.

Socialization is huge, many people in different environments - get your dog used to being out there.
 

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I am not a fan of Milan's techniques for the most part. I don't think he has absolutely 0 to offer, and his show was what sparked my initial interest in dog training, but he is no longer someone I look up to in the dog training world. That doesn't mean that no one who does like him is worth any money- I go to school with a guy who absolutely idolizes Milan, but I wouldn't steer people I know with dogs away from him, and while out training methodologies don't line up exactly, I also agree with a lot of his choices in training.

I don't think Milan is the devil like some dog trainers, but I also think that basing your entire training methodology on "dominance theory" is an outdated way of doing things, and that he employs techniques that involve often dangerous amounts of force on dogs that are not suited to that kind of training and often involves convoluted claims of dogs trying to "dominate" or "control" their owners when the behaviors in question are not motivated by quests for social dominance but rather by other emotions such as fear, insecurity, anxiety, or frustration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I was watching Cesar's clip on controlling prey drive, and I'm not sure I liked how he did things. I understand that he was using the method as if he was the Alpha, but I'm not a dominant person, so I really don't like having to dominate my dog. I want her to respect me, but I also want her to feel respected. I do think that my dog is insecure, which is probably my fault. When she was a puppy, I tried crating her at night. Well, all night I heard her crying like she was suffering, so I ran back to her and put her in bed with me. So, for the last 9 years (her whole life), she has slept in my bed with me. My bedroom is also her bedroom. I'm with her A LOT. Also, whenever I go on trips and let other people look after her, she gets extremely stressed. I spent the night with a friend once, and I came home to find several piles of bloody diarrhea in the floor. She never gets an upset stomach by eating something weird. My dog is basically a goat because she can eat just about anything (even though I don't feed her everything; it's just that she gets into things and never gets sick from it). She only has diarrhea when she is stressed. I do let my dog get her way a lot, and a lot of that has to do with me wanting her to be able to feel as if she can relax (and I also have a hard time saying no to her). She's pretty good with listening to commands, for example: she sits when I say "Sit", she shakes when I say "Shake my hand", she lays down when I say "Lay down", and she won't eat her food until I say "Okay". But once she gets around my Chihuahuas, it's like she is in a daze; like she has her sights on them and nothing else.

This is so strange for me to see in her because she is extremely gentle and loving with people (despite jumping on them from extreme excitement). Posh has NEVER shown a single amount of aggression towards a human. If it were only people on this planet, I would be convinced that she doesn't have the ability to feel anger. I have even tested this, which was probably dumb. But I wanted to see if she had resource guarding issues with her food (like many dogs do). I have given her meat and other savory goodies, and taken them back, and even put my hands in her food dish while she is eating. When I do this, she looks up at me while wagging her tail, almost as if she's allowing me to share it with her. She has the most generous, sweet face when I do this. So, I am nearly convinced that she knows that the food is not 100% hers; and instead, that it is a prize that I can take back if I want to.

I read somewhere that prey drive isn't rare in Labradors. The reason they can exhibit prey drive is because of all the energy they have. Posh is EXTREMELY energetic, even at the age of 9. It's almost as if she's still very young. I let her outside in my back yard for about 1-2 hours each evening during the week, and more on the weekends. But, is that enough? She used to chew anything she could, up until she turned 3. When I got her at age 16, I had no idea that Labs required so much exercise. I played with her a lot, but she's never had a big yard to run in (the yard we have now is fenced in and about 100 feet in length and maybe 20 feet in width). She runs a lot when she is outside, usually up and down the long 100 ft strip. So, she is getting a lot of exercise.

Also, she used to bark aggressively at another dog on the other side of the fence. Posh's bark seemed aggressive, but I don't know if she was just excited. This other dog was a yapper, and small. But the owner finally moved away. There's also a bigger dog in my other neighbor's yard that she seems to like a lot. She's a pit mix and doesn't bark. Posh actually whines because she wants to be able to get near her. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe Posh just has negative feelings towards smaller, yappier dogs.
 

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My first response was short because I was in a rush to get to school and needed to be out the door fairly soon, but I figured I'd elaborate a little more on my feelings about Milan. I've gone back and forth quite a lot since I was a 15 year old kid who idolized him, and I've expanded my knowledge base to include lots of other "kinds" of dog training.

My main feeling is that Milan's training methodologies are built upon a misunderstanding of the dog/human bond and a misinterpretation of the function of social dominance in a dog's behavior, both with other dogs and with humans. I also think his training techniques are outdated and highly aversive/punitive and do not like that it almost exclusively relies on setting the dog up in a situation to fail so that you can correct it into the "right" behavior. Finally, I believe that the backbone of good dog training is rooted in science, and I do not think that his training incorporates the latest in scientific research.

First, I will say that social hierarchies are a part of every social animal. Dogs are social creatures. Social hierarchy exists in dog-dog relationships and in dog-human relationships. Sometimes, problem behaviors may be stemming from one dog's need to be higher on the social hierarchy than another dog's. Sometimes, problem behaviors may occur because the dog sees itself as a higher in the social hierarchy than certain humans. I used to not believe any problem behavior was a result of rank issues in dog-human relationships. I no longer feel that way. I used to believe that wanting to be of a higher social rank was never the motivation in dog-dog relationships. I no longer feel that way.

My educational background- prior to the school I am at now that focuses 100% on dogs, dog training, and dog behavior- was in biology, to have an eventual focus in evolutionary biology and behavioral biology. Had I not decided to pursue a career as a professional dog trainer, I would likely have gone to veterinary school and then on to focus as a veterinary behaviorist or gone into veterinary research on dog behavior. Because of this background, I have a very strong interest in primary literature. In the last few decades, the scientific community has gone to having literally 0 interest in dogs to being extraordinarily interested in them, and there is a lot of very recent research being done into their evolution, physiology, and behavior. There is strong support in the literature for the assertion that dog social relations with other dogs function very differently than their social relationships with humans. There is also strong support to suggest a more dyadic nature to social hierarchies in dog-dog and dog-human relationships than a linear one. This means generally two individuals have a social hierarchy (one is higher ranked than the other), and the hierarchy of two individuals operates independently to the hierarchy between those two individuals and a third individual. There is also some support for social hierarchy relationships to be relatively situational (ie, a higher ranking animal in one situation isn't necessarily always the higher ranking of those 2 animals). Finally, there is a fair amount of support for the assertion that large amounts of physical force are not usually necessary to develop social hierarchy relationships.

Milan's training methodologies assumes that dogs live in linear hierarchical organizations with a leader, a slightly less highly ranked member, one below that one, one below that one, etc- all the way down to the lowest ranked member. I am by no means an expert in the literature on this subject, and I am by no means almost done in my exploration of the primary, peer reviewed studies done on this subject. Those I know who I would consider experts on this subject in the literature, who I have talked extensively with, are the ones who have related to me much of what I have said in the previous paragraph. Milan also assumes physical force (often a great deal of physical force) is not only the most optimal way to establish these relationships of social rank but 100% necessary much of the time. He also has the (IMO mistaken) belief that dogs relate to humans the same as they do to other dogs, and that the human must be at the top of the "pack hierarchy" as the "pack leader", not only in order to avoid some behavior problems but to fix all behavior problems.

As I said, sometimes social rank issues does play a role in a problem behavior, either with other dogs or people.

For prey drive issues, I can't imagine that being the case. In this situation, I do not think social rank issues has anything to do with it.

I also think it sounds like you afford a dog a greater deal of faculty/personal freedom (not the word I want to use, but can't think of the word I want- it's been a long day) in life than does Milan and his constituents. I would tend to agree that my dog does not have to bend to my every whim, and they are a creature with their own thoughts, feelings, and needs beyond me and mine.

I would wonder if her mental and physical exercise needs are being met. Most dogs will not actually run for a full 2 hours when left alone in a yard, and eventually they're going to be just as bored out there as they are inside in a crate, even if there's more room and more to do. I would suggest some sort of interactive game be played with the dog daily. Catch, Fetch, tug with a rope toy, even just you two running together outside in the yard. I am a big fan of walks for a dog who feels safe outside and is enjoying the walk, as well. When deciding the optimal way to exercise a dog, it is important to take breed into account, and the original purpose of the breed. Labs were bred to retrieve by swimming, to accompany their human on long hunting trips through wooded areas, and then to come home and be the family pet. Some labs have lost their love of water (I know especially dogs from service dog lines tend to have done so- guide dog lines especially), but most will still love retrieving. Those that still like water will like to swim. They were bred to walk with their people, so walking is an important social activity with them. They were also bred for companionship when not hunting, and so quality time with their humans is important. Fetch, a swim on a warm day if she likes water, a hike with you or just a walk around the block, and hanging out, are all likely to be more satisfying than running loose alone for 2 hours. The labs I regularly work with, even the highest energy ones, tend to enjoy about 30min out in a big exercise field alone before they start getting bored. The lower energy ones get bored after 15min, sometimes. If someone is out there throwing a ball, they'll happily go for an hour. If someone throws a ball for half an hour, then lets them run for 20 min, then walks around with them for 20 min, then throws a ball for another half an hour, they're usually ready to go to sleep as soon as they come out.

I would really strongly urge a professional behaviorist or trainer- affiliated with the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) as a member. Someone who is CPDT-KA, or even better CCBC-KA (through the Certification Council For Pet Dog Trainers), and/or affiliated with the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants) would be a good starting point. I do not think that someone who has an affiliation with Milan is 100% a bad thing, but I also don't think it'd be a positive either.
 

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I too would guess that you might be seeing predatory behavior toward smaller dogs. Dogs growl as a means of avoiding physical conflict, so in growling, she is essentially telling the larger dogs, "I don't want to fight but you're making me uneasy". The fact that she isn't warning the smaller dogs could very well be due to prey aggression- dogs don't growl before they chase and kill a bunny, as "warning off" the bunny would be counterproductive.

Another consideration might be whether she was ever corrected for inappropriate interaction with the smaller dogs, even before she had problems with them, which could suppress those type of warning behaviors. Or, if she had previously shown the other dogs warning behavior (maybe not even growling, but more minute signs) and it was ignored by the dogs, she may have escalated her response, and now that she sees that biting them works, that has become her default response to them. Fighting can also be a self rewarding behavior (particularly for the "winner"), which makes it something she will be more likely to repeat. The wagging tail you see is likely not a "friendly" gesture, but rather conflict or excitement.

At this point, it doesn't really matter how you got here, but that you recognize where you are and manage her accordingly. I would keep her away from smaller dogs, as whatever warning signs she may or may not show prior to attacking them are too subtle to detect in time to avoid a fight. You know that she can and will cause serious injury, and unless you can be certain you can prevent her from doing it, the best solution for now is separation from the smaller animals. I would use caution/avoid contact with larger dogs as well, particularly those you don't know, at least until you are able to have her evaluated by a professional.

I think Cesar Milan's techniques are likely to foster a false sense of security and an inadequate level of management regarding her temperament toward other dogs. My experience with dogs like this (I had a dog who showed the behavior you describe toward ALL dogs, not just small ones) is that you can likely teach them to not attack other dogs in controlled environments, under close, militant supervision, but if you lapse even momentarily, disaster can strike. My dog was fine with my other dogs, until she was trying to shake them to death, then we'd peel her off and she was fine with them again, until she wasn't (I should clarify, after the first incident with my smaller dog, she was kept separate from her, and significantly restricted after a couple incidents with my other big dog, who could hold her own in a scuffle). In most cases, when I thought it over, there was something that caused the issue, the other dog jumped up on the bed while she was already sleeping there, or tensed up when she walked by them in the hallway, or she redirected on them because I shooed her out of my chair, or they growled because she tried to take a twig they found outside, but those are all things that you can't 100% prevent. In her case, because she literally would use any excuse to brawl, it was easier to keep them completely separate. You know what she is capable of, and even if there is only a 1% chance of a fight, that's a 1% chance of potentially fatal injuries to your smaller dogs or cat.

You may be able to work with a trainer to develop more control/better anticipation of her issues, but I think realistically that she will never be "friends" with your smaller animals. My dog mellowed some with age, and with training, I was able to teach her and my other dogs to ignore/not interact with each other, which allowed them to sometimes share the same space, under controlled circumstances, and direct supervision. It didn't make them friends, they weren't allowed to even sniff each other, and there was always a risk that she could start a fight.

Even keeping them separate, accidents can still happen, as you have seen. A couple times, my smaller dog found herself in my big dog's mouth when she darted through the gate we used to separate them (once on Easter, she was following my Dad with ham, and ran right into the other dog's mouth), and sustained (thankfully fairly minor) injuries. Any other time, we could walk through the gate, leaving it open, and the dogs would stay on "their" sides no problem til we came back through, but any living thing will behave unpredictably at times. Training is a good idea to help in the event that you find the dogs unexpectedly together, so you may have some hope at redirecting Posh's attention to prevent a fight. Ideally, you would train both dogs (not at the same time/in close proximity/by yourself), so you can control them accordingly if needed (and prevent the smaller dog from getting itself in trouble), but manage them through physical means of separation (gates/doors/leashes) so you hopefully won't have to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
My first response was short because I was in a rush to get to school and needed to be out the door fairly soon, but I figured I'd elaborate a little more on my feelings about Milan. I've gone back and forth quite a lot since I was a 15 year old kid who idolized him, and I've expanded my knowledge base to include lots of other "kinds" of dog training.

My main feeling is that Milan's training methodologies are built upon a misunderstanding of the dog/human bond and a misinterpretation of the function of social dominance in a dog's behavior, both with other dogs and with humans. I also think his training techniques are outdated and highly aversive/punitive and do not like that it almost exclusively relies on setting the dog up in a situation to fail so that you can correct it into the "right" behavior. Finally, I believe that the backbone of good dog training is rooted in science, and I do not think that his training incorporates the latest in scientific research.

First, I will say that social hierarchies are a part of every social animal. Dogs are social creatures. Social hierarchy exists in dog-dog relationships and in dog-human relationships. Sometimes, problem behaviors may be stemming from one dog's need to be higher on the social hierarchy than another dog's. Sometimes, problem behaviors may occur because the dog sees itself as a higher in the social hierarchy than certain humans. I used to not believe any problem behavior was a result of rank issues in dog-human relationships. I no longer feel that way. I used to believe that wanting to be of a higher social rank was never the motivation in dog-dog relationships. I no longer feel that way.

My educational background- prior to the school I am at now that focuses 100% on dogs, dog training, and dog behavior- was in biology, to have an eventual focus in evolutionary biology and behavioral biology. Had I not decided to pursue a career as a professional dog trainer, I would likely have gone to veterinary school and then on to focus as a veterinary behaviorist or gone into veterinary research on dog behavior. Because of this background, I have a very strong interest in primary literature. In the last few decades, the scientific community has gone to having literally 0 interest in dogs to being extraordinarily interested in them, and there is a lot of very recent research being done into their evolution, physiology, and behavior. There is strong support in the literature for the assertion that dog social relations with other dogs function very differently than their social relationships with humans. There is also strong support to suggest a more dyadic nature to social hierarchies in dog-dog and dog-human relationships than a linear one. This means generally two individuals have a social hierarchy (one is higher ranked than the other), and the hierarchy of two individuals operates independently to the hierarchy between those two individuals and a third individual. There is also some support for social hierarchy relationships to be relatively situational (ie, a higher ranking animal in one situation isn't necessarily always the higher ranking of those 2 animals). Finally, there is a fair amount of support for the assertion that large amounts of physical force are not usually necessary to develop social hierarchy relationships.

Milan's training methodologies assumes that dogs live in linear hierarchical organizations with a leader, a slightly less highly ranked member, one below that one, one below that one, etc- all the way down to the lowest ranked member. I am by no means an expert in the literature on this subject, and I am by no means almost done in my exploration of the primary, peer reviewed studies done on this subject. Those I know who I would consider experts on this subject in the literature, who I have talked extensively with, are the ones who have related to me much of what I have said in the previous paragraph. Milan also assumes physical force (often a great deal of physical force) is not only the most optimal way to establish these relationships of social rank but 100% necessary much of the time. He also has the (IMO mistaken) belief that dogs relate to humans the same as they do to other dogs, and that the human must be at the top of the "pack hierarchy" as the "pack leader", not only in order to avoid some behavior problems but to fix all behavior problems.

As I said, sometimes social rank issues does play a role in a problem behavior, either with other dogs or people.

For prey drive issues, I can't imagine that being the case. In this situation, I do not think social rank issues has anything to do with it.

I also think it sounds like you afford a dog a greater deal of faculty/personal freedom (not the word I want to use, but can't think of the word I want- it's been a long day) in life than does Milan and his constituents. I would tend to agree that my dog does not have to bend to my every whim, and they are a creature with their own thoughts, feelings, and needs beyond me and mine.

I would wonder if her mental and physical exercise needs are being met. Most dogs will not actually run for a full 2 hours when left alone in a yard, and eventually they're going to be just as bored out there as they are inside in a crate, even if there's more room and more to do. I would suggest some sort of interactive game be played with the dog daily. Catch, Fetch, tug with a rope toy, even just you two running together outside in the yard. I am a big fan of walks for a dog who feels safe outside and is enjoying the walk, as well. When deciding the optimal way to exercise a dog, it is important to take breed into account, and the original purpose of the breed. Labs were bred to retrieve by swimming, to accompany their human on long hunting trips through wooded areas, and then to come home and be the family pet. Some labs have lost their love of water (I know especially dogs from service dog lines tend to have done so- guide dog lines especially), but most will still love retrieving. Those that still like water will like to swim. They were bred to walk with their people, so walking is an important social activity with them. They were also bred for companionship when not hunting, and so quality time with their humans is important. Fetch, a swim on a warm day if she likes water, a hike with you or just a walk around the block, and hanging out, are all likely to be more satisfying than running loose alone for 2 hours. The labs I regularly work with, even the highest energy ones, tend to enjoy about 30min out in a big exercise field alone before they start getting bored. The lower energy ones get bored after 15min, sometimes. If someone is out there throwing a ball, they'll happily go for an hour. If someone throws a ball for half an hour, then lets them run for 20 min, then walks around with them for 20 min, then throws a ball for another half an hour, they're usually ready to go to sleep as soon as they come out.

I would really strongly urge a professional behaviorist or trainer- affiliated with the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) as a member. Someone who is CPDT-KA, or even better CCBC-KA (through the Certification Council For Pet Dog Trainers), and/or affiliated with the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants) would be a good starting point. I do not think that someone who has an affiliation with Milan is 100% a bad thing, but I also don't think it'd be a positive either.
Thank you for such a thorough reply. I feel really bad for not learning more about Labs; I truly only know the basics.

Posh LOVES the water. If I let her run free by any kind of water (river, lake, ocean, puddle), there's a 99% chance she will get in it. She's not very good at retrieving. I mean, she does go after the things I throw, but she never gives the item back. She will usually either run around with it while trying to challenge me to grab it from her (almost as if she's saying "Try to get it!"), or she will bring it to me and play tug of war. I don't mind, because she has a lot of fun and I think it's funny. :) One of her most favorite things is the laser pointer. I don't know what it is about that thing, but she can't get enough of it. I have even let her "get" the dot, and somehow, I wonder if she still thinks it's a solid object (bless her heart). Her and I play with the laser pointer probably every other night.

Another big problem with Posh is that, she will run from me if she's not on a leash. She won't necessarily run away from home, but she will not listen to my commands or come back when I say to. She also tugs her leash a lot. I really want to get her a trainer to teach her how to walk beside me without needing a leash. It would be so nice to have her walk with me on hikes and such. At age 9, is it still possible to teach her to be obedient enough to walk without a leash?
 

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My experience with dogs like this (I had a dog who showed the behavior you describe toward ALL dogs, not just small ones) is that you can likely teach them to not attack other dogs in controlled environments, under close, militant supervision, but if you lapse even momentarily, disaster can strike. My dog was fine with my other dogs, until she was trying to shake them to death, then we'd peel her off and she was fine with them again, until she wasn't (I should clarify, after the first incident with my smaller dog, she was kept separate from her, and significantly restricted after a couple incidents with my other big dog, who could hold her own in a scuffle). In most cases, when I thought it over, there was something that caused the issue, the other dog jumped up on the bed while she was already sleeping there, or tensed up when she walked by them in the hallway, or she redirected on them because I shooed her out of my chair, or they growled because she tried to take a twig they found outside, but those are all things that you can't 100% prevent. In her case, because she literally would use any excuse to brawl, it was easier to keep them completely separate. You know what she is capable of, and even if there is only a 1% chance of a fight, that's a 1% chance of potentially fatal injuries to your smaller dogs or cat.
The way you just described your dog sounds exactly like Posh. After the first attack, things were fine. Then the 2nd attack occurred, and after a while, things were fine again. But then after the 3rd attack, I tried slowly letting them get around each other again (while holding the Jackhuahua closely to me) and Posh tried to grab her. That's when I knew they would have to stay separated permanently.

So what you're saying, is that Posh sees smaller dogs as prey? Because she gets along great with bigger dogs; she even plays with them. I never thought dogs really acknowledged size in other dogs (since a lot of tiny dogs tend to act as if they're big beasts). But as I've seen more different types of dog behavior, I can definitely see that dogs do, in fact, acknowledge size differences.
 

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I was watching Cesar's clip on controlling prey drive, and I'm not sure I liked how he did things. I understand that he was using the method as if he was the Alpha, but I'm not a dominant person, so I really don't like having to dominate my dog. I want her to respect me, but I also want her to feel respected.
My mantra with dog is this, and it's never steered me wrong.

Respect the dog, respect the fact that they are a dog and treat them like a dog, let them be a dog. Give trust to the dog, they will trust you back. Be worthy of respect, be worthy of trust - and the results are magical.

I've owned many small dogs, I do get them out in public, let them off-leash, let them interact with people and other dogs as much as possible. There are always signs that other dogs will be an issue, sometimes one has to be very quick. What I would suggest is have someone take a video of both dogs when they are near by - just don't let an attack happen.

Maybe it's jealousy? Do you treat the small dogs differently than the lab?
 

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I'm going to pop this in here because threads that discuss CM tend to get very heated, very quickly. Please remember that we are a FORCE FREE forum. It's fine to discuss methods but recommending any method that involves force is against forum rules and WILL result in a ban. If you are unsure about our rules, please read them thoroughly.
 

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Maybe it's jealousy? Do you treat the small dogs differently than the lab?
I really do wonder if that is the case. I don't treat Posh differently, but everyone else in my family does. It's so unfair and upsetting when they do. I give her a lot of love and I remember to always tell her she's my favorite, even though I know she doesn't understand, lol.


I'm going to pop this in here because threads that discuss CM tend to get very heated, very quickly. Please remember that we are a FORCE FREE forum. It's fine to discuss methods but recommending any method that involves force is against forum rules and WILL result in a ban. If you are unsure about our rules, please read them thoroughly.
Oh, I'm sorry. I think I forgot to read the rules. I never really knew that CM used force until I heard about it in this forum and on a YouTube video yesterday. I won't be using force with my dog. I'm going to make sure she gets proper training.
 

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@Hiraeth no worries :) that wasn't at anyone in particular... just posting a fair warning because sometimes these things go crazy, quickly.

As I said, discussing methods to gain a better understanding is totally fine.
 
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