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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bo is an 8-year-old lab/pit bull/whatever mix. Very fun loving, but in the last six months has become aggressive with other dogs. When boarded with another dog he had quite a fight with a very timid female dog. He tried to mount a large-breed puppy about his size (Bo is neutered) and when the puppy reacted Bo started fighting him. And he's started one other fight as well. The first one, with the timid female dog, no one was able to intervene and the dogs did quite a bit of damage to one another.

I live in New Mexico and am able to daily walk my two dogs off leash on trails, which they absolutely love. I've kept Bo on a leash for a while, but he and I both dislike this option. Advice would be much appreciated.

Bo never fought another dog until the fight with the timid female dog, has had lots of positive interactions with other dogs, and we've had no significant change in his environment.
 

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What gives you the indication that he started the fight? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. I would say that he probably did get it going when he mounted the puppy, but what about in the other situations? I would see if you can think back and determine exactly what action caused the interaction to escalate.

Is he acting aggressively when you pass other dogs on walks? What signs is he giving?

He potentially could have had his confidence shaken when he fought with the female, it may take some reconditioning for him to feel comfortable around other dogs again.

However, sometimes these things happen. I would not be surprised if almost everyone who has a dog that regularly interacts with others would say they have seen their pet be involved in a fight, or a contentious altercation. Actually, my Bear got in a bit of a scrape a few days ago. He was being harassed and mounted by a pitbull who didn't seem to understand how to play nicely. Bear growled at her to get off him, and then snapped his jaws at her to indicate that he needed his space. A couple seconds later, she had him by the throat and had knocked him to the ground- luckily he is large enough to defend himself but they wrestled on the ground for a bit while I tried to pull the pit off. As in my case there is usually somebody on hand to break it up, I am so sorry to hear about how your dog's situation played out! I have stopped taking my dogs to be boarded at larger facilities because I am nervous that something similar could happen- even though mine are as lovely as yours sounds like he was before his first fight!
 

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Have you had him checked by a vet and make sure he isn't in any pain. Also have his thyroid checked. Sometimes if the thyroid is off that can cause dogs to become aggressive. I'd do that first and then go from there. But if he's been aggressive and it isn't medical I'd be reluctant to let him off lead unless you are sure you will not run into another dog. He is a large dog I would guess and has the potential to kill a smaller dog. And even if the other dog started it he is a pit mix, they always get the blame. It sucks, they are great dogs. Good luck.
 

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I'm assuming you boarded him in a place that keeps the boarding dogs in a group during the day.

I work at a doggy daycare and it can be a very high stress environment for some dogs. There are dogs that do just fine everywhere else, but get nervous and defensive when in the enclosed indoor area. As much as I love dogs, they're kind of jerks. There's dogs that hump, harass, and straight up bully other dogs when they're overstimulated and your dog may be one of them--and that's okay. The way your dog acts when he's in a group while boarding is probably nothing like the way he acts when he's out on a walk in the open outdoor space with you, trust me. People are always shocked when we tell them about their dog's behavior at daycare, Boarding Bo and Home Bo are most likely Jekyl and Hyde.

I would keep an eye on his body language when interacting with other dogs, but I honestly think it was probably just the environment he was in.
 

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Very good advice above. I would just add, much of what we humans call 'fights' are in the canine world just arguments. They speak with their bodies including their mouths. That doesn't mean not being responsible, careful, and courteous. No one wants their dog to be on either end of this unpleasant business.
As for your dog, at 8, maybe's he's just feeling sensitive and no longer wants to be exposed to other dogs in group settings.
Can you just get him on a leash before he sights another dog, or when you enter an area where the sight lines are poor (a winding trail). Then, of course, you'll be stuck trying to protect him from the off-leash dogs--one of those catch 22's of hiking with dogs. :-(
 

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I'd agree 100% with Patronizingrabbits except you say both dogs had significant damage done. Most dog "fights" are mostly ritualized aggression without major injuries to either dog.


A dog who never showed dog aggression can become dog reactive after a fight. Do some desensitization and counter conditioning to other dogs.
 

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Wow, I missed the most important line, "quite a bit of damage". I'm not comfortable giving advice when it comes to that point, or my personal opinion. I need to smack myself upside the head for responding without a careful reading.
Okay, change my mind, personal opinion: if a dog of mine inflicted "quite a bit of damage", I would be keeping he or she on a lead and not allowing mingling with other dogs.
At 8 years old, he doesn't need to be running about or playing with dogs that he may no longer want to play with.
Of course a vet visit is in order, but getting old sucks. Even a healthy older dog may have aches and pains & feeling vulnerable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Very thoughtful feedback--thanks so much. Bo's personality has always seemed very much more lab-like. Still acts like a puppy, doesn't show signs of aging or any pain. Off leash he gets so excited he runs full blast in circles or figure 8's. He is definitely starting the fights. I will get his thyroid checked out, and keep him on a leash. Would a shock collar enable me to allow him to run off leash? Occasional encounters with other dogs are inevitable.
 

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I'd stay far away from an e collar. I could cause aggression. It's just not a good thing to use on a dog that is already showing aggression. What could end up happening is that he could associate other dogs with the shock and get more aggressive.
 
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