Her Dog Shows Two Different Types Of Aggression

Dear Adam:

I am writing about our dog Rudy,​ a​ three year old goldie mix that we adopted five months ago from a​ shelter. We have received different opinions on​ his mix. Some have said goldie/shepherd,​ some have said goldie/chow. the​ latter is​ the​ opinion of​ the​ [local dog training academy],​ where he is​ presently enrolled in​ their one-month board and train program. We enrolled him because one month ago he attacked a​ jogger. the​ jogger was running by my husband,​ who had Rudy in​ a​ sit on​ a​ slack leash. the​ jogger changed direction quickly,​ running straight toward Derek and Rudy. Rudy lunged at​ the​ jogger,​ jumped up on​ him,​ barking and growling aggressively.

He tore the​ man's jacket by nipping at​ it,​ but he did not bite the​ jogger.

[You weren't paying attention to​ your dog. if​ you​ were,​ you'd have already been running the​ other direction to​ execute the​ "attention getter" drill as​ outlined in​ the​ book. -Editor]

The only other time he had displayed such aggressive behavior was toward a​ UPS driver coming up the​ driveway,​ but he was well under control that time.

He has a​ very strong prey drive and dominant personality. He had been doing very well these past three weeks at​ the​ Academy. They were not able to​ elicit any aggressive behavior from him,​ and his obedience training was going well. But last Thursday,​ he bit a​ trainer. He apparently was being put back into his kennel and ran off down a​ long hallway. He was not leashed. When he got to​ the​ dead end,​ he first went submissive,​ rolling over on​ his back. the​ trainer then reached to​ grab his collar and Rudy gave her hand a​ good bite. She then reached for the​ collar with her other hand,​ and he did the​ same to​ that hand. He did not give her any warning growl or​ snap. He did not move forward toward her,​ just reacted to​ her reach toward him. After the​ second bite she backed off,​ and another trainer was able to​ coax Rudy to​ go back with her uneventfully.

I have read your book and believe that the​ trainer bite was an​ example of​ fear aggression? (I don't know what to​ think about the​ jogger,​ though.) the​ Academy seems to​ be saying that they can't train that reaction out of​ him; that we will just need to​ be vigilant and mindful of​ his triggers. That goes without saying,​ and I now believe that being cornered is​ one of​ his triggers. (Our vet had also mentioned that when they cornered him to​ get him on​ a​ table,​ that he had snapped out at​ them.) But your book and tapes led me to​ believe that you​ can train such behavior out of​ a​ dog. or​ am I misunderstanding? Are you​ merely just getting the​ dog to​ react to​ you​ instead of​ following his instinctual reaction? Certainly that's a​ good thing,​ but what if​ he's with someone else when he's triggered?

We need some perspective on​ this situation. I love him and want to​ give him every chance to​ learn correct behaviors. But on​ the​ other hand,​ we live in​ a​ dense children and jogger packed neighborhood. We can't keep him if​ there is​ reasonable risk of​ this kind of​ thing happening again.

Mary Ellen

Dear Mary Ellen:

Thank you​ for the​ e-mail.

You've got a​ couple of​ things to​ consider:

1. the​ dog needs to​ be firmly corrected lunging. Going after the​ biker is​ a​ prey-based aggression. Correct him for this,​ as​ described in​ the​ book.

2. Going after the​ trainer and the​ veterinarian is​ the​ result of​ the​ dog being insecure and not trusting the​ handler. Usually in​ these types of​ cases,​ he will not bite if​ he is​ secure that you​ will not hurt him. or​ if​ he knows that he will only be fairly corrected for behavior that he understands.

With aggressive behavior,​ we can never say 100% "All" or​ "Never" that your dog will or​ will not show a​ specific behavior.

Regardless,​ your dog needs to​ be corrected for such behavior,​ and then shown that if​ he is​ calm,​ he gets praise and nothing bad happens to​ him. This can sometimes be achieved by placing the​ dog in​ such positions while he is​ wearing a​ muzzle. He cannot bite you,​ and ultimately learns that everything ends up "A-Okay."

It is​ a​ process of​ deconditioning. Not so for the​ prey-aggression,​ which can be fixed with a​ couple of​ well-timed and motivational corrections.

That's all for now,​ folks!

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