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KrisK

A catch 22-training fear aggressive dog

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Cricket, my almost 2 year old female is a fear aggressive dog. With a lot of work, I've managed to get her over some of her fear issues but I'm now faced with a real dilemma.

Cricket is very fearful in new situations, esp. people and really doesn't like other dogs (but has always been fine with Jazz and Zachary, my other dogs and she's an absolute charmer with my husband and me...I don't get it???

Now that I live in a rural area there is no real opportunity to take formal classes in obedience, etc. and even if I were able to do so, Cricket re-acts in such a disruptive way, (barking, lunging, etc) that I would be asked to leave anyway. There are no classes dealing with her issues specifically, at least not within reasonable distance (I already travel 150km a day back and forth to work)

She desperately needs the socialization because I'm very worried about Ontario's new legislation which along with the breed ban includes things like 'acting in a menacing fashion'...which has absolutely no definition BTW!!! ...so her lunging on a leash could be interpreted as being menacing...and she could be taken away and euthanized!

We don't travel that much any more but do go to our camp(cottage) esp. during the spring/summer/fall months which means taking the dogs with us. I have to find a way to get her used to being in public...I can't leave her behind on her own...and having someone come in isn't an option either.

Any and all suggestions are welcomed! Thanks everyone

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How have you worked with her? What methods? In what ways has she made progress?

 

I'm working on the barking/growling/lunging thing with Boyden and I am seeing progress. Quite a bit actually.

 

I very recently bought a Halti. I'm not fond of them but it will help me to turn his face towards me instead of grabbing his muzzle. Someone here had mentioned it and at the time I didn't understand how a new collar would help anything, but I do now and think it will help.

 

He's not used to the Halti yet and I haven't used it on a leash yet, but I will soon.

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I took a class for dealing with issues like this because Speedy has some fear issues with other dogs and children.

 

What we learned basically is to re-condition our dogs to look to us when faced with a frightening situation. This is a step-by-step process that we are still working on - even a year after we finished the class!

 

A few things that we did:

 

1) Reinforce basic obedience commands. This served two purposes - one was to deepen the bond between the dog and handler; the other is to provide a means of distraction when you become aware that the dog is about to become frightened.

 

2) Watch your dog and learn the signs that he is about to react to fear. There are all kinds of signs - the position of the ears and the position of the tail chiefly. Once you learn to recognize the signs, it will enable you to occupy your dog when you are able to avoid a situation.

 

3) Teach your dog an attention word. Ours is "watch". When I say, "Speedy, watch!" he stops what he is doing and looks up at me. This starts at home, in a situation with no distractions. I started by putting a bit of meat in my hand and moving it up to my eyes and said, "Speedy, watch". He learned to look up to my eyes when I say that. Gradually you do it amid distractions.

 

4) Slowly condition your dog to accept scary situations better. What we did in class to help with dog issues was this. A handler and dog were placed about 10 feet from the door. One of the class instructors would walk by with their dog (on leash) and as she did so, the handler fed and praised their dog. Gradually we moved closer and closer to the door. Speedy now does fine in the presence of other dogs as long as he has a few feet of space between him and the other dog. He has learned - over time - to look to me when he is frightened. Then I know to do my part and either remove him from the situation, or occupy him somehow to distract him from whatever is worrying him.

 

5) Learn not to tug on the leash when your dog faces something that he is afraid of. If the dog runs to the end of the leash, that's one thing. The dog knows how much room he has on leash. But tugging at the leash will cause the dog to react more aggressively. A halti might alleviate that problem, though.

 

6) Accept that your dog might never been the life of the dog party and you might need to keep some space between your dog and others. On the other hand, try to help your dog learn to cope wtih the presence of other dogs as best you can by reinforcement.

 

7) This is a hard one - the one I still struggle with the most - try to remain calm yourself when your dog flys off the handle. When Speedy would "act up", I would get upset both with the situation and with him. Then he would get more worked up. Nobody was in control and that made it worse for him.

 

I always keep some chicken or something on hand when I take Speedy into a public situation. When he does get scared and begins to get snarly, I immediately put the food right on his nose and lure him around to face me. Then we back away together. There is no emotion involved and it helps him get back on an even keel.

 

I wish you could take a class like I did - that's really the best scenario.

 

A call to an animal behaviorist might be a good idea considering the situation you are in with the laws.

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The yahoo group Agbeh could help...its a very serious goup, but very helpful esp for people without many options in their area.

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have you tried a privete trainer? I found a privete clicker trainer from Happy, the trainer used her own dogs to help starting with her easiest to get along with, and we started clicker training, pretty soon Happy was doing nose to nose figer 8s around the other dog, it was great and effect was tremendous, she is still fear aggressive but no where near to the effect she used to be, and latly she even completly ignores other dogs when on a walk, I still have to tell her to "leave it" for now, but when I do she will walk right beside the other dog and totally ignore it, I definatly reccoend clocker tarining for a fear aggressive dog, for people we just want to a lot of places and had people play fetch with her lol she adores people now, litterally I practicly have to pry her away from greeting people lol

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hi there:

You know the saying goes, there is nothing to fear but fear itself I know this is a tough problem, but I think the most important thing is what you have already done and realized you need to deal with it. Fearful dogs are ill equipt to handle stressors that many other dogs can handle. If you prevent her from being around her fears, while working around them, she won't learn that life is not all about her protecting herself, rather that life goes on around her whether she likes it or not. I would suggest you bring her everywhere with you. I mean everywhere. Riding in the car is good socialization, bringing her to a public place that is no heavily trafficed and practicing obedience is good. Also watching dog events. Begin to teach her that life is good. When there are people/dogs around, good things happen. Teach her that when you go out, it is because you and she will be interacting, not that she needs to be worried about everyone "looking" at her. The minute she begins to "freak" regarding anything, don't chastise her, rather, get up, and say "where's the frisbee? Where's the ball?" and then go and play. This will teach her that when she is worried, she can DO something about it, and redirect herself.

Julie

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7) This is a hard one - the one I still struggle with the most - try to remain calm yourself when your dog flies off the handle. When Speedy would "act up", I would get upset both with the situation and with him. Then he would get more worked up. Nobody was in control and that made it worse for him.
I have dealt with 2 fear aggressive dogs and they have successfully been desensitized. Took lots of situations and patients. Most of all it took control on my part.

 

I have been wrestling with some ideas in training my newest pup to work sheep. Let me throw some inf. I have learned out there and you can see how it might relate:

 

When I first started Mick on sheep he was about a year old. He is quite a keen dog and no fear in him what-so-ever, I got mad at him while training and gave him a correction that was full of anger and confusion on my part. How did he react? He went right in to the sheep and tore the hide off a lamb. At the time I didn't know why but the next day after thinking about it all night I realized he had matched my emotions right to a T. He did not know why I was mad but he figured he needed to mirror my feelings exactly...what it got me....a hide-less leg on a lamb! (lamb was OK)

next incident:

Mick is a overly friendly big pup. He gets the wiggle butt thing going when he sees anyone new. I had him at a hotel (been there for 3 days) and we were walking down the hallway when 3 people came walking down the same hallway. At a distance Mick was doing the wiggle butt thing but as they approached one of the strangers was a young child. She got scarred of Mick and let out a small cry and her dad picked her up. How did Mick react? He got scarred too and let out a very quiet low growl. Nothing happened but I realized just how responsive he is to emotions that are around him. Same thing happened with my young niece. She got scarred of Mick so he got scarred of her.

 

What's it mean and why'd I tell you?

Because I think it is one of the most important things you need to be aware of when working with your fearful dog, especially on lead. Your emotions have a direct line right down the lead to your dog. If you get nervous or scarred he will not have positive emotions to draw on in bad situations.

 

I have found that a positive response to his emotions (no fear added from me) will let him 'feel' the proper way to respond. I also use a correction for his improper actions. Not his feelings, but his actions. A correction might be a pop on his lead (not a continuous pull) then give him something to do that he is already successful in doing.

A halti might work but if your nervous while correcting or tugging on the lead he will have a direct line of fear being added to his already bad emotions.

It's not an easy idea to get a hold of but one that will hurry your training along...good or bad! Which ever one you send him in your emotions.

 

Good luck and I would look for someone close to your area to help you work through these issues. It's easier when you have someone confident around you to help. (just like you helping your dog)

 

Good luck and keep working on it

Kristen Reker

Cedar Hill, MO

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At a distance Mick was doing the wiggle butt thing but as they approached one of the strangers was a young child. She got scarred of Mick and let out a small cry and her dad picked her up. How did Mick react? He got scarred too and let out a very quiet low growl. Nothing happened but I realized just how responsive he is to emotions that are around him. Same thing happened with my young niece. She got scarred of Mick so he got scarred of her.
This is so true!!! My Celt is just like that, even now at 2 1/2. Around children who "ignore" him or who are quietly pleased to see him, he is fine and fairly confident. But the moment a child (or an older person, actually) reacts with fear to him, he goes into "scared" mode.

 

I think it is very important to work on this problem with people who know and understand dogs and who will provide the right type of training experience for Cricket. And, do get her into public but in situations where you can be in control of yourself, your worries, your dog, and her surroundings.

 

Are you able to take your dog to a class that is meant to deal with her issues? That might be the best option of all.

 

Our training club sometimes has dogs enrolled in a class that are not suitable to be in the training area with the class. They will provide an area outside the class training area (but nearby), where a trainer or assistant trainer (an experienced person, of course) can work one-on-one with the dog and its handler.

 

If the dog "improves" sufficiently during the series of lessons, it can be moved back into the training group. If not, behavior is still improved as it is worked near but not among the other dogs.

 

This takes time and patience, and real care on your part to improve your dog's outlook and not contribute to the problem.

 

Good luck and best wishes on overcoming this!

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"I also use a correction for his improper actions. Not his feelings, but his actions. A correction might be a pop on his lead (not a continuous pull) then give him something to do that he is already successful in doing."

 

Yup. Bonnie was fear-aggressive, and difficult to teach because if I got too strong with her she'd just freak out and shut down. But you gotta be the boss. If your dog growls when faced with a new person/dog/situation, let her know that fighting isn't allowed. Maybe just a low growl yourself("quiet" "that'll do" "knock that sh*t off") is all that's required. The point is, correct the behavior. Then re-direct her attention. Stay calm. Good luck!

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Thanks all, sorry this is LONG....

 

In answer to some of the questions and maybe some additional info...

 

When I got Cricket at 6 months old, you could not sneeze around her without a reaction. She has made alot of progress in dealing with everyday situations although after we moved, it took her 4 months before she would walk down the hallway to our bedroom. :rolleyes:

After acquiring her in November(individual rescue-that's another story-they re-inforced all her fears there!!), she would not allow you to touch her hips, legs, etc. After the winter of trying to get her socialized using the 'watch me' "please sit' posture while out walking, she was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia...so I am assuming she was in alot of pain which likely explained some of the negative reactions. I had also taken her to some basic obedience classes through the winter but she was completely stressed the entire time. There was no real 'safe' place for her to watch, because the training area is not that large. She had FHO surgery in April...we moved to the country in June, so during her recuperation time, she was not out walking etc.

Unfortunately, where I live now, we are 11 km. from the closest community which is located directly on the TransCanada Hwy. and it is not really a 'walking' type of community.

The only 'trainers' that are in the area (within a reasonable distance of 160 km) use the 'correction collar method of training' which I did with Jazz and really regret ever having done it.

Since my husband works at home, and I travel daily 150 km to work taking Cricket for a ride doesn't happen frequently. It was much easier when we lived in a town.

Finding a specialized class or a behaviourist that I could work with would require me to travel to S. Ontario (6-8 hours or more) AND, I finding the right one..would be hit or miss.

I did order two of Patricia McConnell's books, The Cautious Canine and The other end of the Leash..which I'm expecting any day. I know they were both recommended by someone on the boards.

Cricket is not a food motivated dog since I did try that with her. If she's wound up...nothing gets her attention, not even a ball, which she loves!

There is a new vet (recent graduate) in town so I am going to ask if he knows of a behaviourist whom I could contact. If I have to take her somewhere, I'm not opposed to that, it just will require more $'s and time.

 

We love this quirky little girl..and as I said, she is wonderful with my husband and myself for the most part. She still has issues with me trying to brush her...but she is coming along. We were both quite happy with her the last time we had company. Although both her and Jazz were confined to their room, she did not bark frantically every time she heard a new voice...something she did constantly before...to me, that's progress. I wanted to keep her on leash, close to me, when we had the company, but my husband was/is very uncomfortable with that idea. He's worried that she still might try to nip

Anyway, I'm not planning on giving up with her...and she may never be a social butterfly..I just want her to be more comfortable.

Thanks again, I'll let you know how we are progressing

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I think you have cause for concern.

On the news again this week was a guy fighting to keep his pits. They DID get out and rough up some kids out tobogganing and Did get out again and bruise a 4 yr old child but they Have Not bitten anyone YET.

I'm not saying the owner is a good guy. Obviously he is not controlling these 3 dogs. He's facing $30,000 in fines (so the news report said but I think thats excessive)and has retained a lawyer. His community is up in arms and demanding the pits be destroyed. Are they dangerous dogs? In Ontario, they are.

I hope you can a solution for Cricket, it does sound like she's come a long way.

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