My Dog is becoming aggressive!

by Sarah
(UK)

Hi,

I have a 6 year old male collie cross (he was a rescue from a puppy). I took him to puppy training & socialised him well & only ever use positive reinforcement techniques (clicker training). For the last few months he has started taking a dislike to golden labs & has become really aggressive to some other dogs whilst out walking. We used to allow him a lot of freedom, but now he is on the lead as we dare not let him off. He becomes very possessive about his toys so we never take them out with us, but if he finds a stick etc he will become aggressive to other dogs (never too us) & to be honest I cannot relax whilst we are out. He is pretty good at home & never displays aggressive tendencies in the house, but I am becoming increasingly paranoid when visitors come around, particularly if they have young children (although we never leave the dog unsupervised). I used to love walking with him, but am getting increasingly anxious when out. When I used to take him to puppy classes, my trainer commented on how “assertive” the dog was, so wondering if this may be an issue? We are also considering a muzzle (in the short term), so would welcome your thoughts on this, Could you advise please?

Thanks in advance

Our Response

Hi Sarah, i’m sorry that your dog has suddenly become aggressive – it does sound strange that it has happened so quicky even if it has happened over a period of time…Has something happened with another dog at some point that you maybe didn’t notice?

1. Firstly take your dog to the vet and get him checked out so that you can rule out any medical reasons for this change in behavior.

2. Utilize the expertise of your local puppy training class – this is an ideal opportunity to ask questions from other owners and seek the advice from a dog trainer who A). Knows your dog and B). Is there to actually witness the behavior.

3. Socialization on a regular basis is very important – the last thing you want to happen is for your dog to stop meeting other dogs, humans etc as this will only escalate the issues.

4. Where does your dog sleep – has he been sleeping away from you and the family and started picking up negative behavior that you have not noticed?

5. I would avoid playing stick games as every-time your dog wins the stick it is reinforcing his postition (or what he thinks) as the pack leader within the family. Start asserting your behavior as the pack leaders – eat first, walk through the door first, reward good behavior and ignore negative behavior. Every-time your dog tries to exert his ‘assertiveness’ let him know that you ar ethe boss. If he jumps up – turn away – and ignore him – reward when he stops.

6. Train , Train, Train! Keep using basic obedience training exercises to reassert yourself as the pack leader – SIT, STAY, COME – all is on the site and available on the internet. Utilize the expertise of the local trainer.

7. If you are concerned – then use a muzzle when you take him out – when you notice that is becoming agressive say ‘No’ when quiet reward.

8. Reward positive behavior – use your knowledge of the clicker.Use reward based training methods Why? Because they work.

9. Use a relatively easy to use dog obedience training technique called the ‘Look Command’ or ‘Focused Attention Exercise’. This is a technique to get your dog’s attention at the point he is showing aggression. Start by saying your dog’s name – when he shows eye contact – reward with a treat and praise. Practice this until your dog is looking at you every-time. Now repeat the exercise but take a couple of steps to the left – wait for eye contact and reward – repeat this back to back and it will hold your dog;s attention for longer and longer. Use the same verbalk cue every-time. Great for using on dogs that are becoming focused on other dogs and about to show aggression. Practice this at home first though, away from distractions.

10. Try no to show that you are anxious too on walks – as by tensing the leash and showing anxiety will be picked up on by your dog. As soon as he shows aggression – stop – turn in a different direction, use th elook command or sit command and reward.

Hope this helps – sorry for the late reply but I have been away. Anymore questions – just ask.