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Aggressive behavior from our dog


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#1 Isaiah

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:35 PM

Hello, I am new to the board and also relatively new to owning a dog. Sorry if stories like this get posted often but I feel that I need some advice on keeping my dog (and dogs around him) safe and happy.

 

I have been trying to deal with aggressive behavior from my dog Isaiah. He is 4 years old and a border collie mix (not sure what he is mixed with but it could be lab). My girlfriend and I adopted him from a rescue and love him very much. Aggression towards other dogs is his only major problem. We live in a major city (San Francisco) and it is difficult to find places for him to run without other dogs around. Here are a couple of short examples of when this has happened:

 

--Most recently, a baby pitbull jumped up towards his head while he was bringing the ball back during a game of fetch (he LOVES fetch). Isaiah stood very still and leaned away before barking loudly and biting the baby pit in the cheek. He would have kept attacking it if I had not tackled him away. The baby pit sustained a cut on the cheek (it bled but not badly) which I offered to pay to have mended, but the owner did not take it to the vet.

 

--When another dog tries to restrict his running, Isaiah does not like this at all. He has gotten into fights when dogs cut him off or jump on him. Unfortunately, he is so fast and low to the ground that I feel like he is really attractive to dogs that want to wrestle. Isaiah hates wrestlers.

 

--If another dog is near him at feeding time, he will try to fight the other dog. This has happened in a kitchen and also when treats were being given. However, at a park he is not treat or food oriented. He just wants to run and usually chase other dogs playing fetch.

 

There have been other times when I have had to break up loud barking arguments which seem like they are about to be fights. Usually it starts with another dog entering his space. Isaiah just doesn't really get along with other dogs although his favorite pastime is holding his ball in his mouth while he runs circles around another dog playing fetch. He can do this for hours and his focus is really intense to the point where it can hard to get him back on leash when he starts. He's great with people and a wonderful companion in every way, other than the aggressive behavior.

 

Any suggestions or advice on how to work around this would be great. Thanks for reading.



#2 waffles

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 07:58 PM

Well, to me this does not sound like dog-aggression but rather a dog (like many border collies) who does not tolerate rude behavior.  Who wants a puppy jumping on their face?  Or a dog jumping on their body and slamming in front of them while running?  Loud barking arguments between dogs don't always need to be broken up.  They are, like humans do, arguing and working out differences.  Most of the time these arguments work themselves out without injury and can actually be made worse by people interfering (grabbing collars, yanking dogs away, etc).  Depending on the circumstance you are most likely better off just monitoring the argument and letting it work itself out.  It takes time though to learn behavior and learn when to step in and when not to.  Many dogs are just like yours and it does not mean they are aggressive, even though many people you come across will tell you your dog is the bad one when theirs is the the rude, out of control one (typically the owner is yelling 'but he is friendly!' as their dog comes running out of control at you).  

You may enjoy reading about Dogs in Need of Space:

http://dogsinneedofspace.com/

 

Also, for the food issue with other dogs, you can simply manage this by not feeding him around other dogs.  As for parks, you can go during off hours when you know their are not as many people around.  My dog used to be a lot like yours (we have worked hard to improve his social skills but he will never be a doofy golden retriever as far as social skills go) and has improved a lot by me standing up for him and removing dogs that are rude from his space-don't correct your dog for growling but rather stand up for him and help him out (many dogs do not speak their own language well and will not back off of a growling dog like they should).  He learned that I will take care of the annoying dog and he does not have to lash our instantly but rather can wait until I can take care of it.



#3 Jexa

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 09:49 PM

(typically the owner is yelling 'but he is friendly!' as their dog comes running out of control at you).  



Ah, yes. Most recently: Max on leash, laying next to my trailer while I got something out of it. I heard someone calling their dog, look back and see a cowdog trotting towards us (dogs aren't allowed off leash at the barn, mind you). After several unsucessful attempts to call their dog back, owner just yells, "Aw, don't worry, he's friendly!". I just calmly replied, "That's nice. He's not." And pointed at Max. All of the sudden owner starts (unsuccessfully) trying again to call their dog back frantically and runs huffing and puffing over to us to finally collect their dog, who by the way was not approaching in a friendly manner, about a foot from us. But I was SO PROUD of Max, who like your Isaiah, is NOT a fan of rude dogs. He takes it further, and will lunge and bark at any dog he sees, whether theyre rude or not, and will not tolerate dogs in his space. We've made tons of progress with the barking/lunging, but I expected to have to load him quickly in the tack room to avoid this dog. Instead my calmly stepping inbetween Max and this dog and forcing the strange dog to keep his space kept Max lying quietly behind me. It's taken awhile, but it seems as though he's learning I'll take care of him.


So I second everything waffles said. He doesn't sound aggressive, he sounds like he, like many border collies, has a relatively big personal bubble. Be on your dog's side, be his biggest advocate- help protect him from those rude dogs and you will be amazed at how much less reactive he'll be once he learns that you'll protect him. He'll eventually look at a rude dog and think, "no biggie, dad's got this". In other words, stand up for him and he won't feel like he has to stand up for himself as much. At the same time, as waffles said, LET him stand up for himself when he needs to. A snarl or quick snap to get a dog out of his face is not inappropriate behavior.

#4 Isaiah

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 11:50 PM

Thank you for your thoughtful responses, waffles and Jexa. I really like the DINOS page and I agree that I need to help Isaiah avoid overzealous dogs at the park. I've been working on picking out dogs that could be a problem for him and trying to keep him clear. I think our Izzy is just really focused on either chasing and returning his ball/stick or chasing other dogs and he considers it his job, and he doesn't want to be interrupted. 



#5 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 12:18 AM

Hi there  ~

I'll second what everyone else says. :)  Izzy doesn't sound dog aggressive, he just sounds like he has little tolerance for dogs in his space. That is very common in border collies. And yes, they can be particularly intolerant of interference when they're involved with something.

The baby pit bull incident actually sounds like Izzy did everything he could to tell the puppy, "NO." The body language you describe clearly says he wants to be left alone. When the puppy failed to pay attention, Izzy simply gave him a sharp correction. I know I would have felt bad if one of my dogs did that, just as you did, but I would not have been surprised. The pup was simply too naive to take a clue. ;)

And the running and blocking thing is another instance that a border collie may heartily dislike. Pressure from other dogs is NOT something they are fond of. BCs can be a lot more "space sensitive" than other breeds.

As for food situations - you can't know what he experienced before he came to you. Maybe he once lived with dogs who taught him to defend his food. So, if he doesn't have to live with other dogs now, then I'd say don't set him up for a bad situation. Let him eat his meals in peace, without any other dogs near. As for treats, again, make sure there is no slightest hint of competition. You can work on having him sit and wait for treats at home, so that the habit of patience when getting treats becomes ingrained, but again, who knows what troubles he had before you rescued him.

That's a thing with rescue dogs: they may very well have past histories that you can't know about, but which shaped his behaviors long before you got him. You do the best you can to train and manage him, but be aware that he may have "triggers" in certain things. The best policy may be simply not to give treats when he's with other dogs.

So, in summary, he doesn't sound aggressive. He just sounds like he is protective of his personal space, and it's your job to help him remain comfortable among other dogs. Best of luck!  :)

~ Gloria


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#6 simba

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 08:21 AM

Most of the time when older dogs correct puppies they'll stop quickly, even if they look like they won't. It can look like the puppy is about to die though.

 

I don't usually bring toys to the dog park, just in case. I've seen a few scraps over tennis balls that ended with a trip to the vet's. Even if I can guarantee my dog's behaviour I can't do so for all the other dogs that will be there. Having said that I don't know your situation, and your dog, so it might be completely different.



#7 bcnewe2

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 08:25 AM

Isaiah just doesn't really get along with other dogs although his favorite pastime is holding his ball in his mouth while he runs circles around another dog playing fetch. He can do this for hours and his focus is really intense to the point where it can hard to get him back on leash when he starts

 I guess I'm the only one that's seeing this differently. i agree with waffles that he's a dog that does like his personal space but...is it ok that he runs around other dogs with a ball in his mouth with intense focus? 

If he did this to my dogs, they would be correcting what they see as very rude behavior, then if he retaliated we'd have a fight except I'd of called my dogs back to me once I saw the other dogs behavior.  I would be aggravated that someone let their dog get in our face. You guys are telling this owner other dogs are doing it to him?  some might be but...

 

I have an dog aggressive dog, he's old now so don't have to worry to much anymore but in all his aggressive years he really never broke skin unless a dog took him on full out and fought. Most of the time I could redirect him before anything ever happened.  But breaking the skin of the puppy was more than just warning and guarding his space. Or that's what I'm reading.

Puppies can be very rude, I've raised allot around my nasty dog, I guard the pups and the situation but if something happens that I didn't manage to control, like a pup coming up to him, he  has never broken skin of anypuppy. 

 

Unless in an all out brawl with an adult dog that challenged him or took on his challenge he wasn't dangerous just a jerk! He also had space issues and was pretty good about not challenging other dogs but NEVER backed away from a challange in his space.  Even then, I rarely remember blood,

 

Loud barking arguments might be a way to stand off for 2 dogs in some people's eye, but if it's aggressive barking I see it moving right into a fight if the other dog is game. I would not be allowing that at all. Calling both or my dog off that crap right away.  Warn away bark or 2 but a barking argument is not a warning.  In fact I've never really seen a "barking agrument" not as an argument with sustained barking. 

 

These things all sound manageable to me I have managed my aggressive dog going on 10 years, and yes rude dogs are not fair to him but he is still aggressive which makes him no better than the other dog.

 

Not trying to start an argument or calling the owner out but I do think you have to take responsibility of your own dog. If he can't handle dog parks don't take him. If he's food aggressive feed him alone but it's up to you to see that he is causing no issues.

 

Sorry....just had to add what I saw a bit differently.


Kristen
 

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Full of people waiting to be offended by something!

 

 

 

 


#8 juliepoudrier

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 09:47 AM

I'm glad you pointed out the circling thing Kristen. I agree with much of what was said before your post, but Isiah's owner also needs to be cognizant of rude behavior in his own dog.

 

 

To the OP,

Izzy doesn't like dogs chasing and blocking him, so it would be logical to assume that other dogs might not appreciate Izzy's chasing/circling behavior either. It's just the other side of the same coin. If you see him gearing up to do that, it's your responsibility to interrupt him and direct his attention elsewhere (just as you'd hope another dog's owner would do the same if their dog was interfering with Izzy's play).

 

As for the puppy correction, I would guess the pup didn't take no for an answer and so Izzy escalated his correction. My old Jill was nicknamed "puppy killer" not because she killed puppies, but because if they pestered her or got in her space, she'd correct them and didn't always leave it at a quick correction and then let go. So there are some dogs out there who just don't respond in the "normal" manner when it comes to pups. That said, if all the pup ended up with was a small mark, then clearly Izzy held back some. I just didn't let Jill around puppies, because it was easier than being ever-vigilant. You, as Izzy's owner, need to recognize that Izzy might not correct puppies appropriately (like my Jill) and be prepared to intervene for the puppy's sake.

 

J.


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#9 waffles

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 10:17 AM

I totally agree with bcnewe2 as well.  I didn't mean to leave out the part where you too need to control your dog just as much as the other dog owners.  But so many times people think they have a very dog aggressive dog when they really don't (of course none of us here on the internet can tell that with the OP's dog).  

 

The OP has the right to walk her dog on leash in public without fear of other rude dogs rushing them (on or offleash) and I guess I did not get the impression that she was only taking her dog off leash around other dogs.  Everyone needs to be aware of their dogs limitations, and if your dog really can't handle dog parks then it is best to avoid them or go when no one else is there.  But I also see responsibility on both sides-the rude but friendly dog and the dog that just is not tolerant of all types of dogs.  And of course, if you believe a dog fight is about to happen then intervene but many times dog fights happened because the owners intervened so it is up to you to either learn dog behavior/language and or just keep the situation from happening by keeping your dog away from dogs he does not know.

It may be a good idea to get together with other friends or family who own dogs and start a play group at someones house who does have a fenced in area.  Then he gets to interact with other dogs that you know and the owners know each other as well.  



#10 Jexa

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 10:21 AM

I missed the part about Izzy circling- agreed, don't let him fixate on other dogs like that. I also wanted to throw out that busy dog parks, even for well behaved dogs, can be unpredictable. You can't know how other, strange dogs will react. Especially as you're working on helping Izzy through these issues, it might be a good idea to avoid the dog park, at least when it's very crowded.

#11 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 10:43 PM

Sorry, I also overlooked the bit about Izzy circling and fixating on other dogs. That is NOT a desirable behavior, at all. Other dogs may misread his intensity as aggression and respond accordingly, or they could just plain get tired of the loony toon who keeps orbiting around them. A friend of mine has a male dog that tends to fixate on and orbit around around my Nick and Nick loathes that behaviors, hackles up and growls every time.

It's rude and inconsiderate of Izzy towards those other dogs, and plus fixating on anything, to the exclusion of minding you, is never good or desirable in a border collie.  Or any breed! :)

So, I'd recommend you work on curbing or simply not allowing that. It's not good exercise when he's being uncooperative to you and inconsiderate with other dogs. Dog parks may not be a good thing for him, if that's what he does when there.

Best of luck!

~ Gloria



 


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#12 puppytoes

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 11:14 PM

I have a dog that sounds very similar to yours except that my dog has no interest in other dogs period. I do not take him to the dog park when it is busy; there needs to be enough room for him to run after his ball far away from other dogs. If another dog comes over, I have him lie down and wait til the other dog leaves. Sometimes they don't and the people come over to get them. They often tell me that their dog is friendly. I explain to them that my dog does not appreciate interference while playing. That usually does the trick.

 

I find off leash walks without toys work best for us. My guy is 5 and I adopted him at 3 months and he has been this way since day one. I consider him to be very well behaved but this is one thing I have to been able to get rid of. I have simply gotten pretty good at managing it.




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