This real life problem, sent in via the Secrets To Dog training consultation email service, is a pure case of dog to dog aggression: it’s about a Basenji Mix, Tamsin, whose behavior has changed considerably since she was attacked by another dog. If you have similar problems read on:
Tamsin was attacked by another dog 3 months ago. Now, every time we go to the dog park, she shows teeth and growls at other dogs. She occasionally growls at people when I walk her and they want to reach down and pet her.
She loved going to the park (prior to the dog bite) and after about an hour she would start getting a little aggressive but I thought it was because she was getting tired of playing.
After the dog bite, she is aggressive upon entering the park and we can stay at most 10 minutes because of her behavior. I’m going to start walking her with a muzzle but would love some advice on taking her to the off-leash areas again.
She is well-trained and knows the basic commands. She has been to obedience class around a year ago, mainly for pulling me when she walks…which is still a problem but she is getting better. She pulls especially if she sees a cat or squirrel and she is very strong. We have enrolled in class which starts this weekend for a refresher course, mainly for me. I need to become the alpha in the household.
She growls at strangers when we walk but only if they reach down to pet her and she does not growl at everyone. She is very particular on who she likes…she has always had this quality about her. She can tell who the dog people are and would bark at the neighbors coming home who did not have a dog and not at the neighbors who owned a dog.
When people come over and knock at the door she sounds very ferocious and it take awhile to calm her down, so she does not respond quickly with “No barking”. She is also really standoffish with everyone at first. She acts really timid when people come over to my place but warms up to them after she acts like she is going to tear the person apart. She has never bitten anyone or another dog, but the aggression is bad enough (cujo comes to mind).
I bought her a muzzle and took her to the park yesterday evening and there were three dogs at the park and she played with them without being aggressive. I eventually took off her muzzle too.
So she has good days and moody days. She hates all basenjis with a passion and they fight without biting of course, but it sounds like a terrible cat fight. So, I leash her immediately when I see a Basenji at the park. For other breeds, it is random, although the last time at the park we only stayed for 10 minutes. It may have been overwhelming because there were so many dogs at the park? But the day before she growled at a neighbor in the parking garage and the lady stepped back and said “she’s not going to bite me is she?” Also, in the past week she has growled (cujo like) at other dogs, when we are taking a walk. At first, they come up to her and the other pet owner and myself will let the dogs do their sniffing, but then Tamsin has her mood. I don’t know what to say, except “Tamsin stop, let’s go” and then I apologize to the other owner.
Well, thank you very much for your time.
Secrets To Dog Training Reply:
As you probably know, once a dog gets into a serious fight, especially one that results in injury, that dog’s natural aggressive instincts can come to the fore and be very difficult to contain. However there are a few things that you can do that I believe will help turn things around with Tamsin.
One of these is to go through a fairly rigorous training program, similar to that outlined in SitStayFetch, starting from the very beginning. As you are doing the refresher course that should help out quite a lot and you may wish to continue on with that or use both together.
The reason I am recommending starting the training program afresh is that, if the training is done properly, then you will:
- Get Tamsin used to responding to you.
- Be able to control her in a variety of situations.
- Be able to enforce your top dog status more easily.
Those 3 things may not stop her aggressive behavior (although hopefully it will, as ideally she should wait for a command from you instead of deciding on her own course of action) but they will let you control and reprimand her effectively if she does step out of line.
I think that if she is pulling on her lead then that is also a sign that she doesn’t quite understand where her place is in the family structure! In conjunction with resuming training I think that it would be worth your while reviewing Secrets to becoming the alpha dog. The methods outlined in that book will help establish you as the ‘pack leader’ and, again, make her much more likely to listen to you when you command her.
On the whole it sounds as though Tamsin has had a bad experience but from what you are saying I think that she will come through it ok. However, if you are genuinely concerned that she may bite someone, or another dog, then you should muzzle her in those situations until you are confident that you have her under control. The last thing you or Tamsin needs is a visit from the police, especially if she has previously been acting aggressively towards neighbors and the like as you stated in your email. Better safe than sorry!
Well, I hope this helps. You have my sympathies with an awkward situation, but hopefully within another month or two she should have settled down.
P.S. If you’re really serious about obedience training your dog then go to my dog aggression page right away! You’ll discover all of my most explosive dog training secrets, strategies and tips that took me over 14 years to test, fine-tune and perfect.