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Fear aggression (I think)

(18 Posts)
butterybiscuitbasic Wed 23-Oct-19 22:29:56

My smallish dog has, in the past month or so started to display what I think is fear aggression.

He’s just about to turn two, and has in recent weeks seemed to escalate. He’s super friendly with dogs if his own size - and dogs he is familiar with but there have been 4 instances over the past month or so where we had been fairly aggressive towards larger dogs.

Previously this has sort of manifested as barking and growling at dogs say across the road or similar while on the lead (and tbf - some that are fairly aggressive themselves previously).

But in the past couple of weeks he has
1. “Gone for” a Labrador who he has previously seen at the park with no issue”

2. With no warning started growling at an American bulldog who was minding its own business.

This is a new thing and I’m really worried and unsure what the steps to tackle this are. He’s honestly not shown any aggression before, and it does seem to be larger, darker coloured dogs that he takes issues with... however for example when “going for” the labradors today, he was happily waking around with golden retrievers and a very large collie.

Any ideas - am thinking behaviourist. Also he is still intact (getting him done in two weeks) but babe heard mixed advice on whether this is likely to actually make this worse or better

OP’s posts: |
RedHelenB Thu 24-Oct-19 05:58:57

Has anything happened to him by a larger dog?

frostedviolets Thu 24-Oct-19 08:20:14

At two he is now adult.
This might be his adult temperament coming in.
Do you know if the dogs he went for were entire males?

I think if it's sex related aggression, as in he is challenging other males (and only males) neutering would probably help but if it's fear related neutering may make it worse because it removes testosterone which gives the dog confidence

missbattenburg Thu 24-Oct-19 08:31:03

If he's targetting bigger dogs I would imagine it's fear.

The best thing you can do for him right now is to stop any interaction or close proximity to large dogs. Being 'forced' or encouaged to greet, pass or even be within x metres of a dog he is scared of will make this worse for two reasons:

1. It will be unpleasant for him and so continue to reinforce his fear of them

2. He will learn that growling sends them packing because, naturally, when a dog growls the humans seperate them

If he learns the second he may then apply that learning to anything he is nervous of and you may see this behaviour spread to all dogs, children, lorries, cars, bikes or whatever else he might be nervous of.

Get in the mindset that on any walk you may have to do an emergency about turn and walk off in the opposite direction to the other dog. Use treats to encourage him with you. Take whatever distance you think he is comfortbale with (20m, for e.g.) and double it. Don't get closer to a big dog than that distance. Just for now while you figure out what's going on an what to do.

Be aware that adrenaline can take 2-3 days to go back to normal levels after a worrying encounter so if he does have one, give him easy and quiet walks for a couple of days. Otherwise he's even more likely to pop at other dogs while he still has higher adrenaline levels.

Fear aggression is unlikely to get better on it's own and may be made worse by castration. If he were mine I would cancel the op just for now, get a good behaviourist in to asses and help show you exactly how to handle dog encounters so that you can start to build his confidence back up again.

Done now when he is so young you have the best chance of helping him through this. If you wait and see you risk it becoming more ingrained and habitual.

missbattenburg Thu 24-Oct-19 08:32:23

p.s. it might, but equally might not be, linked to anything that's happened to him in the past.

p.p.s. never tell him off for it

tabulahrasa Thu 24-Oct-19 12:07:33

WIth new behaviour you want to get him a check up, just to rule out anything medical...

And yep I’d hold off on neutering until after you’ve seen a behaviourist...

Personally I’d stop walking him round any dogs until you’ve got a training plan in place the less stressed he is the less likely he is to react and the less he practises those behaviours the better.

butterybiscuitbasic Thu 24-Oct-19 15:00:14

He has been growled at by larger dogs at points and I think “squashed” a bit playing with a larger puppy a while ago when he was younger.

Not sure on sex of other dogs. It’s a nightmare as he’s charming and if anything “over-interested” in dogs his own size or smaller, and in 99% of cases fine with bigger dogs too.

Behaviourist it is... he does need nuetuering though as had also started to “mark” indoors.

OP’s posts: |
missbattenburg Thu 24-Oct-19 15:14:59

he’s charming and if anything “over-interested” in dogs his own size or smaller

This is a bit of a flag for me. I think it is very easy to mistake over interested and charming/playful when the dog is actually nervous, and using the 4th response option: flirt.

Fight. Flight. Freeze. Flirt.

They are all options coming from the same emotional state. One of fear/anxiety.

You may already be aware of this etc, but thought it worth mentioning in case not.

missbattenburg Thu 24-Oct-19 15:19:16

Karen Pryor on what I've called flirt but what she calls Fooling Around as a stress coping behaviour. Just in case it's useful orrings true...

"Fooling around

Fooling around can appear frequently as a displacement behavior, out of place and sometimes inappropriate. Have you ever been at a funeral or visitation when someone made a joke and everyone laughed too quickly, or more than the joke seemed to deserve? That is classic stress relief by "fooling around."A bit of humor, appropriate or not, can be a coping mechanism to relieve stress. Storytellers know this, which is why many dramatic films also include "comic relief."

With dogs, fooling around often presents as intense play, such as jumping up on a person, play bows, very pushy greetings, or any over-the-top behavior.

With dogs, fooling around often presents as intense play, such as jumping up on a person, play bows, very pushy greetings, or any over-the-top behavior. Some dogs that can't stop bothering visitors with a ball or tug toy really just want to play, but some are engaging in a coping mechanism."

butterybiscuitbasic Thu 24-Oct-19 15:23:49

Oh blimey that describes him to a tee! That said he usually just ignores dogs he’s not keen on. Not in a nervous way, more just carries on with whatever he’s doing and doesn’t greet them (well except for the selected ones he has in the last week decided to go for).

Have contacted a behaviourist so fingers crossed.

OP’s posts: |
missbattenburg Thu 24-Oct-19 16:13:06

Hopefully your behaviourist will help shed some light on what's going on with him.

Good luck!

butterybiscuitbasic Thu 24-Oct-19 19:18:02

Out of interest has anyone ever overcome this problem? I’ve never had a fear aggressive dog before, and wonder just how much you can do with it’s I am also wondering though if the large dog thing is a red herring and it’s him turning into an adult as there’s been problems with marking for the past month too.

remembering why I’ve always had female dogs now

OP’s posts: |
WomensRightsAreContraversial Fri 25-Oct-19 08:54:49

I've got a 20 month old bitch who started fear aggression towards other dogs after id had her a month (I've only had her 2). Training class trainer got us all to take our dogs near another dog in the class and distract and reward them - so we would walk up to another dog and handler then do some sit/stay/treat work. When I see another dog when we are out I get her attention and either just reward (before she shows any fear or aggression) or do some heel work then reward. She's quickly become a lot better and we've deliberately met a few friendly dogs with no drama (and I treat her after) in the last few days.

missbattenburg Fri 25-Oct-19 09:56:33

Marking can also be caused by anxiety or nervousness. Dogs that are over aroused (excited or scared) by the presence of other dogs can mark in respoonse to that.

Again, I'm not trying to convince you as only someone there with the dog could really know what's going on. Just sharing info.

The reality is that there is a variety of outcomes with FA. Some do very well, others struggle thoughout the dog's life, still others see an escalation of the behaviour as it 'spreads' to other triggers and targets.

Starting work with a good trainer or behaviourist early really helps and there is no reason, from what you have described, why the right support could not help you understand your dog and help get your dog to a level you are comfortable with.

This is a case much more advanced than yours but worth a read: www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/living-with-a-difficult-dog/

Wolfiefan Fri 25-Oct-19 10:01:52

Neutering can make fear aggression worse. Hope the behaviourist can help. For now I would stick to quieter walks where he won’t feel the need to react.

FreeBedForFlys Fri 25-Oct-19 10:04:02

Find a good behaviourist. Don’t have him neutered until you’ve seen the behaviourist. It could very well make him worse.

butterybiscuitbasic Fri 25-Oct-19 20:41:44

It’s so tough as we mist be talking about one in every twenty dogs that he meets that he has this reaction to. Am waiting on a call back from two behaviourists

OP’s posts: |
frostedviolets Fri 25-Oct-19 20:59:21

It’s so tough as we mist be talking about one in every twenty dogs that he meets that he has this reaction to

Could be trigger stacking.
He sees one dog and is very slightly uncomfortable; so slight you don't even notice, very slightly more uncomfortable on the second dog, very slightly more uncomfortable on the third and the discomfort builds and builds until by the twentieth he can't take it anymore and explodes

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