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Discussion Starter #1
Hello! I am brand new to this forum, and am hoping there are people here that can help me out! We own a roughly 1 year old female Texas Heeler (Australian Cattle DogXAustralian Shepherd). She is a great dog to my fiance and me, but she does have what I would call "fear aggression." By this, I mean she will bark and growl at strangers, both human and canine, if they approach her. She will sometimes show her teeth, but she only does this to dogs. She just barks and growls at humans but does not really act aggressively to them other than that. To dogs, she will muzzle punch, chase, and bark in their face with her teeth bared. She won't actually bite them. The whole time she does this, she often appears to be afraid (usually the dog is quite a bit bigger than her, or extremely hyper). In the case of humans, she will bark and growl at someone she doesn't know if they approach her and try to pet her.

Any ideas on how to stop this behavior? We have had her since she was a 2 month old puppy and we have always tried to socialize her. She has been around other dogs and puppies since she was tiny. She has never had a traumatic experience that should make her act this way. She has just always been this way, since we got her. This is frustrating because I am not sure how to help her relax! Any tips?
 

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how's her body language, when you think she's scared?
growling and barking is just communication, as long as she doesn't anything with the intend to inflict damage (i.e. seriously biting, not just air snapping), i wouldn't call it aggression.

I'm not a pro with this kind of mix (Australian cattle dogs are pretty rare over here), but isn't it for Aussies not uncommon that they're a bit more aloof and prefer their distance from strangers? that doesn't mean they're badly socialised... they just don't like being strangers to be impolite (very hyper dogs) or obtrusive (random people petting them).
Her chasing and showing impressive behaviour, could be her trying to take control of the situation. cattle dogs are there to lead cattle so i suppose this behaviour is not unusual for them too...as i said...I think it depends in the bodylanguage if this is really fear or just a bossy herder that likes to play dogpark police.

I'd chose a double approach. reward positive calm behaviour and her ignoring people/other dogs, when strangers are present and at the other side, make sure to give you dog the space it needs. block dogs and ask strangers to ignore your dog and keep a certain distance.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Hi Mathilda,

Thank you for your response! Her body language differs if it's to a dog or a human. With humans, she acts submissive, with her tail between her leg and ears down. She looks scared, but barks and growls. With other dogs, it's different. She will have her tail raised and curled up, stiff body language, ears up, and makes sure she makes eye contact with the other dog. That's why I would call her aggressive, at least with other dogs, because from everything that I've read, that body language is her challenging the other dog, pretty much trying to provoke it. She seems to WANT to provoke it to fight her sometimes.


To be honest, for Australian Shepherds, I'm not sure if they are supposed to be wary of strangers. Cattle dogs, I don't think so. I have seen others be totally fine with strangers, same with Aussie shepherds. But, that doesn't mean they weren't an exception to the breed's characteristics. Cattle Dogs think can be kind of bossy, and sometimes I think she is trying to herd the other dogs and gets mad when they don't move where she wants them to.

When she is muzzle punching/barking/growling/herding other dogs, she is using this VERY high pitched bark. Normally, she has a deep bark, but with other dogs it is super high pitched and annoying! Haha. I don't know if that means anything? Not sure why she does that.

The only thing I am worried about if I tell people to avoid her is that her "problem" will never get solved. I don't want to have a dog that no one can pet. I want her to be able to be around other dogs and people! You know what I mean? We are using treat-based rewards for good behavior currently.
 

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I can't really help out a ton, other than to say Australian Shepherd should be aloof with strangers, but not afraid of them. Levi handles being pet by strangers very well, but he doesn't seek out attention.
 

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@TruckersMom

I wanted to address the video where Trucker is approached by a person. I am not surprised Trucker reacted that way. The person approaching him's body language was predatorial*, so it was not surprising that you saw that reaction in him. It isn't about desensitisation to people it is about building attraction, first to you, so that you are his point of reference and that then will then build confidence in all interactions.

* Upright, moving towards him.
 

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@Gnostic Dog We were trying to get him to react to show the behaviorist his reaction normally I don't let anyone approach him.
 

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@Gnostic Dog We were trying to get him to react to show the behaviorist his reaction normally I don't let anyone approach him.
But any dog who is insecure is going to display that kind of behavior because there is no attraction there only resistance. I would caution against pathologizing this behavior it looks easily fixable.
 

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@Gnostic Dog He displays a lot of mixed signals (in the video where he walks into the garage to sniff around my dad is standing less than 3ft away working on the garage door).
 

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@Gnostic Dog He displays a lot of mixed signals (in the video where he walks into the garage to sniff around my dad is standing less than 3ft away working on the garage door).
Not surprising that he is displaying mixed signals. Again, if you work on building attraction and flow, and the five core exercises that I described in other threads, can do just that and do it quickly he will be a great dog.
 
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