(Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA in Ask the Trainer)
My four year old Golden, Linus has recently shown “aggressive” behavior towards certain other dogs (a German Shepard and a Rottie in particular). He’s very gentle and sweet but during walks we will cross paths with certain dogs that he starts aggressively barking and lunging at. He never did this before, it’s only been within the last year or so.
I did have one gentleman with a Portuguese Water Dog who stopped after Linus did this and let the dogs meet. Linus was fine but most people panic and drag their dogs the other way when he starts barking at them. Is there a way to correct this behavior.
One thing that comes to mind is some neutered males do not get along too well with unaltered males. This could randomly be the issue. What kind of device do you, or have you used to train Linus to walk? If you used something like a prong, choke, or shock collar this could have been brewing for some time. What can end up happening is the dog develops a negative association between looking at other dogs, and feeling the pain of the aforementioned collars. This is something I accidentally did a couple years back when I didn’t know any better. Basically you are walking your dog, your dog gets excited when it sees another dog, you give a collar correction, or in some instances you allow the device to do all the work. With repetition of this you may get your dog to stop reacting when it sees other dogs, but you have inadvertently made your dog develop a hatred for other dogs because it associates them with the pain from the collar.
Maybe neither one of those applies to you, but I just like to mention those as they are rather common. Regardless, something that is referred to as Counter Conditioning needs to be put into place to get him to be at least be neutral when he sees other dogs. I am going to post a link at the bottom of this that I wrote that breaks down how to go about doing it. To sum up Counter Conditioning in a nutshell, what happens is your dog will start to associate seeing other dogs with things that it really enjoys. With repetition of this, your dog can start to be neutral, or even like when other dogs are around.
It sounds like this could be fear related, so technically what happened with the PWD sounds like it could benefit Linus. Basically, Linus puts on a big show, the purpose of which is to tell the other dog to go away. By waiting him out, and then bringing the other dog even closer when he calms down, he learns that putting on that big show is ineffective. I wouldn’t use that as the primary method to fix this problem, but overall doing this it will teach him that putting on the show is pointless. The reason I say I wouldn’t use that as my primary method to fix the problem is because it won’t make him like dogs anymore than he already does, it will only teach him that making a scene is pointless.
Thanks for the question and here is the link. http://dogingtonpost.com/ask-the-trainer-aggression-in-dogs/#.UsMbaP0SPFI
Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.
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