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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys, I am pretty upset and confused. I would appreciate any clarity someone could give me.

My family and I have two dogs: a 10 year old BC mix female, and an 8 year old Lab mix male. The BC we adopted as a puppy, took to puppy classes, obedience training, everywhere and anywhere - basically she was well socialised and has always loved meeting other dogs to play with.
The lab we adopted from a shelter at 10 months and unknown to us at the time he shows dog aggression when meeting unfamiliar dogs. He puffs and barks and lunges and puts on a show but once he is familiar he is quite happy to have them around. We have familiar dogs that he enjoys playing with at our house, going on walks with etc.

Until the BC turned about 8, it didn't matter whether she was with the other dog or not, she was always reliably friendly, even with the other dog carrying on while she was meeting another dog.

Gradually she started being more suspicious and occassionally joining in on the lab's barking and lunging behaviour. Other dogs she'd be fine. I could take her on walks alone, even surrounded by literally hundreds of dogs and she would still be friendly and submissive.

To this day she hasn't exhibited aggressive behaviour without this other dog but the behaviour with him is getting more frequent and worse. Now even an approaching dog puts her on alert and if she doesn't like that dog for whatever reason (this is where I get confused, I can't tell what she likes and doesn't like about them) she will growl a little... until the last month or two where I can recall at least 5 times she has actually barked and lunged.

To remedy this I try and separate them regularly but it is hard to reliably have someone home to take the other dog for a walk.

My suspicions are she feels she has to defend the other dog against what she deems as 'shifty' unfamiliar dogs. But why some and why not others? Why more frequently? Why not for most of her life but now she is?

I worry that I am losing my well socialised, fun dog. If her behaviour ever crossed over to when she is alone I would be shattered. It is upsetting me enough that it is getting more severe with the other dog and I am far more cautious about letting her meet other dogs with him.
 

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That is puzzling.

Being that she's a bit older, I'd start with a full vet check. It's possible that her hearing or eyesight isn't what it used to be, so when she's out with your other dog she's looking at cues from him as to what's going on - so if he's nervous/reacting, she thinks she'd better be too. When she's alone, she may not assume "danger" since she never has before, which may be why she's not as defensive.

It's just a thought, but a checkup wouldn't hurt.
 

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Just as handlers can pass on nervous energy to their dogs, nervous dogs can pass it on to other dogs.

I've seen this happen several times. This is also why i refuse to walk my puppy and my BF's chow mix together. The chow mix growls and sometimes snaps at strange dogs. He gets very tense and stressed as well. I don't want my puppy picking that up, so if my BF isn't there to walk his own dog (in which case I can put distance between Aayla and Kota when Kota gets reactive.) they are walking one by one. In another perspective, If you are out walking and suddenly your sibling/parent start yelling "get away from me" at a random stranger wouldn't that make you nervous and want to stay away from that person too?

The problem is that this can become a habit, so your BC could pick it up when she is alone. If you have time to walk them separately I would say do that. That way you can focus on your lab's reactivity without having to worry about two dogs, and also not worry about your BC becoming more reactive.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I guess I was just wondering why it took her so many years to pick it up from him. And also sometimes she is the first to react with barking (he is tense from the second he sees a dog though). Some cases I was walking ahead with him being walked about 3 or 4 meters behind and she barked at the other dog almost as though she was afraid the other dog was going to get to him and upset him. Other times she seemed to know the other dogs were very friendly and responded friendly in return.

I have had walks where we passed 5 or 6 dogs (me keeping her ahead of him and his walker) and she was friendly tail wagging to all of them, and walks where the only dog we saw she barked at. It is so inconsistent. To me.

I am definitely separating them as much as possible. It's just a matter of rounding up other people to be at home at the right time.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Oh and yes, PoppyKenna - I have thought of that maybe she doesn't feel as confident with dogs in general due to her age, so maybe she has stepped it up with him/is paying attention to his cues now. She has been to the vet recently and is very healthy for her age. Still runs and plays like she did as a puppy. Tiny bit easier to wear out these days :p
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Just updating in case anyone else has some input.

Finally took her alone today and unfortunately she tensed up immediately and barked at 2 sets of dogs as we passed them. She never displayed this alone before. So as we approached the third dog I distracted her so she didn't get the chance to bark at them.

I then took her to her favourite off lead place because I thought she has a lot of positive associations there. She was perfectly fine with all dogs she met there. She is definitely more nervous than she ever used to be but showed no aggression. First dog she was even on the leash because I wasn't sure how she would react.

So I am going to keep them separated and try and nip this in the bud. I will try diverting her attention and rewarding her when when we are approaching another dog and hopefully 10 years of habit will come back instead of the recent week or two of negative association.

Any other suggestions? I'm not sure what inspired the switch to flick in her but it has so I will do my best to stop it in its tracks.
 
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