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Dominance/ aggressiveness in dogs

(15 Posts)
smartiejake Sun 31-Aug-08 17:30:49

My sheltie has started to behave very strangely, quite dominant and aggressively over the last month or so and I am getting rather worried about it.She is just over a year old.

With some visitors to the house and in other peoples homes she has started to behave agressively. Usually what she does is charge up to people and jump up. This does not appear to me to be frindly behaviour and she sometimes tries to bite their clothes.(Has never actually bitten skin)

We spent yesterday at my sisters and took the dog with us. My sis has this enormous otterhound that chased her a bit to start with but then she settled down and seemed fine.

However this morning my dog saw my sister and her dog through the patio door in the garden and went ballistic barking. Not sure if she was barking at the dog or my sister.

Following this we went into the kitchen to get the dog her breakfast and dd was holding her box of biscuits. My neice who is 3 was standing next to her and my dog jumped at her and grabbed her sleeve with her teeth. Obviously I shut the dog away immediately. Later on I bought her out again but kept her on a lead.

But why would she behave like this and what can I do to stop this dominant behaviour? I want to be able to trust her around people and children and she is usually so lovely.

Any dog whisperers out there?

smartiejake Sun 31-Aug-08 17:40:49

Anyone?

tallulah Sun 31-Aug-08 17:47:30

If this is a sudden personality change I think you need to see the vet. She could be snappy because she isn't well.

Don't know much about this breed but this age is adolescence for a little dog so it may be hormonal. Our dog (castrated male) started behaving aggressively at a similar age but hasn't stopped. The only thing stopping us getting rid of him is a behavourist told us we couldn't "pass the problem on" and that the only option would be to have him put to sleep. I won't do that unless he actually goes for somebody so we are stuck with him.

Good luck.

bella29 Sun 31-Aug-08 18:07:08

I don't blame her at all for barking at the otterhound. If someone much bigger than you chased you around & then turned up outside your window, you might not be too happy either! She knows that it's her patch and may not tolerate other dogs invading it.

As for the children with the biscuits, that too is understandable, especially if she has not been trained not to jump up at people.

If it is a very sudden change in her personality then obviously get a vet to rule out any health problems, but otherwise it sounds like training and/or advice from a behaviourist is needed. I would not leave her alone with the children until you sort this out.

northernrefugee39 Sun 31-Aug-08 18:51:54

Our dog was a bit like this at the same age. She would let our own kids do anything- take her bone, get in her bed, but was snappy and would jump up at small boys paricularly, and be occasionally agressive to other dogs.
I agree that it's a good idea to see a behaviourist, which is what we did.

They said she was doing what she thought was her duty- as a pack animal, protecting our kids.

She needs to learn that that isn't her job, and she is the bottom of the pecking order, below your kids.

Obviously the anxiety it arouses in you, when small kids or other dogs are around, rubs off and she feels even more her duty is to protect everyone. That was the gist of what the dog woman said.Now she is a wonderful totally trustworthy dog. We had to be very firm with her and give her particular boundaries for a while.
You know that story in the paper the other day about bringing up kids the same way as dogs? ignore bad behaviour, praise good, don't over react, boundaries etc? wink it's so true!

smartiejake Sun 31-Aug-08 19:49:08

Thanks that is exactly the way I feel.I definitely think she feeds off my emotions. When there are people in the house who are very used to and confident with dogs she rarely behaves like this and I am more relaxed.

Because she has done this a few times recently I am definitely more anxious about it and it seems to rub off on her.

I haven't taken her to the training class for a while. THink I need to make the effort to take her back again. There is also a behavioral specialist at the club who does home visits so I will try to set this up.

tink123 Sun 31-Aug-08 21:43:44

This has been a problem for two friends of mine who have had sheltie's. Wonder if it is part of breed's makeup

northernrefugee39 Mon 01-Sep-08 09:30:04

I think what you say about the people she feels relaxed about is the crux- it probably all stems from feling nervous or anxious.
I remeber getting really woried every time a small child ( boy particularly) came round, and watching her etc, it just made it worse.

The same if we were on a walk and met another dog- and my kids always got really woried in case there was a dog fight and that would make her worse.

Now we're relaxed she's much better.

Good luck with the training classes; it all takes so much time and effort doesn't it?

Agree see vet if you are worried.

Also agree could be adolesence.

Also consider that you have a herding breed of dog and that nipping ankles, jumping up and holding clothes, chasing, is all very normal behaviour.

You may find that she just needs more stimulation, shelties are super intellegent, and to find a way of channelling her urges to 'work' in a more desirable way.

smartiejake Mon 01-Sep-08 22:16:21

Thanks for your replies. Tink it's odd that your friend has the same problem.

I have has shelties since I was ten and I had always heard that shelties were one of the best dogs to have with children.

Wild thing- I had already considered the breeds trait re chasing and nipping at clothes but I want to stop her doing it as I am concerned she will catch a child's skin when she does it.

You might be right about the extra stimulation. Perhaps she needs to be played with more. Another thing I had considered that she needs a pal- wonder if some extra stimulation mught come from another dog.

Alambil Tue 02-Sep-08 00:51:43

Have you been training her?

She will take the top dog position in your pack if you don't; the only way to stop that is to step up to the plate and keep her below you - all of you - she should be under the youngest DC.

Dogs are 89% (at least) wolf; they are pack animals and feel insecure if they don't know their position. They take liberties too!

Stop the nipping by yelling "NO!" (think child-running-in-road) and get a tin of nuts and bolts (an old cigar tin with half a dozen nuts n bolts in it - tape it up) throw at the dog when shouting

Don't hit it, although it won't hurt if it hits it's rear end; it'll soon stop if you're consistent

Feed the dog last. Make the dog go in and out your house last (on walks, if she follows you into garden etc) and stand over her when she's laying down - make her lay down sometimes and do it; stand with your feet close to her body so she can feel you.

This'll all signal to her that she's lowest - you should find she settles down after a few days if you're consistent

If you want any other tips the Dog Whisperer on telly is one of the best doggy behaviourists out there - he goes back to nature and treats dogs like dogs, not people!

smartiejake Tue 02-Sep-08 18:06:54

Yes we have trained her but I haven't been for a while. I think the problem lies with my girls who both treat her like she's a sweet little doll.

I have told my eldest many times not to pick her up/ allow her on the sofa and always make sure she is at a higher position than the dog but she will not listen.

Since the weekend have got tough and told her that if the dog bites someone we will have to get rid of her (rehome not destroy) and that we need to be consistent with her.

I have watched the dog whisperer and have tried a few of the ideas- particularly the making her go down and making her wait for her food. Really need someone to come in and give me some 1-1 help though and make sure they come when my girls are here so we can all be consistent. Thanks for your suggestions.

woodstock3 Tue 02-Sep-08 20:46:23

it may be her age - our lab is a bit older and at about a year his behaviour changed. he isnt aggressive, he's utterly soppy, but has definitely become more boisterous with othr dogs and has started to guard the house (ie barking at people instead of enthusiastically welcoming every burglar in town). our vet says it's territorial behaviour kicking in and warned us to be ultra-strict about things we dont want him doing (eg nipping, nicking food from ds, jumping up) because if not checked this is the age where playful behaviour can turn into aggressive behaviour because of the territorial urge (she will naturally start defending 'her' family against other humans and other dogs - this is probably what was happening with your sister's dog)

smartiejake Tue 02-Sep-08 22:31:49

Yes - she has definitely become more territorial in the last few months. She's a pain in the garden at night as she feels the need to charge round the garden barking. (We have a family of foxes the other side of our fence.) I have also noticed that when I go outin the garden to call her in she barks even more-obviously trying to protect me. I have started to use a whistle rather than yelling at her to come in which she is beginning to respond to.

She has also started barking at people when they come to the door. But she will actually quiet if I tell her to shush.

hercules1 Sat 06-Sep-08 12:44:58

Get a bottle of water and spray it at her when she barks and say in a strong voice "no barking".

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