Reactive/ aggressive dog

(31 Posts)
borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 02:28:12

Please please be kind!

We have a 1 year old border terrier who we rescued 2 months ago. She came to us with no name other than 'Dickhead' and she actually did respond to that which is heartbreaking.

Positive things;

she knows her new name

she is now toilet trained

she is happy and settled in our house with our older dog. Unless she's tired then she's grumpy.
she plays great off the lead
she stays right by your feet on a walk off the lead
we had an issue with mouthing but she's learnt to go and get a toy when we have a visitor or we come home
she knows, bed, sit, down and stay

Negative issues;

she barks at other dogs if they get too close
if you're in the way of that dog she will try to bite your hands or leg
she growls and lunges at other dogs even if she was previously ok with them if they get too close. Or if she has a chew.
resource guarding
if on a walk she hates big dogs and will growl and bark at them. However she has had issues with a big dog attacking her previously so I can understand that one.

I've had borders all my life and I've never met one with so many issues. She's such a happy thing in the house, but out of it it's like the world is far too stressful to cope with.

Yesterday we had her on a lead in a very quiet pub away from anyone else, and an old English sheep dog walked in and because she couldn't go up and say hello she stopped wagging her tail and started growling and barking, then my husband tried to move her out of the way as they dog came over off the lead to sniff her and she very nearly bit him.

This cannot go on. I need help. How do I find a dog trainer that will actually help

Here she is.. all 4.1kg of viciousness. Vet said she's incredibly underweight so I can understand the resource guarding as I'm not sure she is hungry anymore but habit is hard to break.

My neighbour was breeding borders and wanted to keep her to breed from but then moved house and left her in the garden alone. I called the rspa and they said they couldn't help, so I rang him
And asked when he was coming back for his puppy and he said ' got too many dogs hoped it'd be dead by now tbh go get it yourself if you care that much' so I did. Police really couldn't have given a shit.

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PupsAndKittens Mon 18-Nov-19 02:51:18

First of all thank you for looking after this beautiful dog.

I would ring the Rspca again and explain you expect abuse, then they legally have to do something as it sounds like a puppy farm. hoped it'd be dead by now tbh kind of sums up his morals, fucking prick 😡😡

Op, you are doing all the right things just keep on going, maybe look at a few YouTube videos as they can be helpful.

PupsAndKittens Mon 18-Nov-19 02:53:46

And if it’s any consolation my dog dragged me through my neighbours front garden yesterday, because it wanted to attack a cat sitting in it. Needless to say I was not best pleased and very embarrassed when the owner came out of the house and had to help me up!

borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 06:53:17

Thank you! I feel like I'm losing a battle sometimes but I think we'll get there

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Lonecatwithkitten Mon 18-Nov-19 06:59:54

Sounds like she has had virtually no socialisation with other breeds of dogs and has no social skills. I would suggest a behaviourist to help you help her to develop the right social skills.

Rachyabbadabbadoo Mon 18-Nov-19 07:02:05

I can't advise about the aggression issues, but my friend has a cocker spaniel who barks at other dogs, and old English sheepdogs are the worst trigger. Not only did the cocker bark, she grumbled and swore all the way home, long after the other dog had gone. Apparently some dogs are more of a trigger for her, particularly ones where you can't easily see their eyes. The owner of the OE sheepdog said loads of dogs can't stand his dog, as eye contact is such an important part of communication for animals.

Rachyabbadabbadoo Mon 18-Nov-19 07:04:28

Ooh, and the only thing that stops friends barky dog barking is having something to hold in her mouth - stick, ball, toy etc. Still tries to bark but too stubborn to drop her possession, so tends to be quieter garbled barking.


DeborahAnnabelToo Mon 18-Nov-19 07:06:24

That poor little creature. The RSPCA should be ashamed of themselves. Basically you have a traumatised little dog here who does find the world terrifying but please don't give up on him. You need a behaviourist rather than a trainer and they need to use positive methods rather than punishment. Your vet may have recommendations for people who can help. 2 months is still a very short time to have owned a little traumatised dog and he will still be feeling very insecure and scared. You really have done a wonderful thing in rescuing him but Yes, you do need some help. Tbh I would be walking him away from other dogs completely at the moment and not taking him places like the pub. My dog is a nightmare in the pub, (also a rescue) and our dream of having a chilled out dog snoozing at our feet is out the window. So we don't take her. Sometimes you've got to just accept the dog you have rather than the one you want, especially when it comes to rescues. But I do think there's a lot that could be done to help your little guy it'll take the right behaviourist and lots of work though.

borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 07:06:41

Yes her having a ball in a mouth does help a lot! It's just so much work! I hope it can be fixed

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Ohffs66 Mon 18-Nov-19 07:07:24

We have similar OP. Rescue dog came to us age 3 so we don't know what's caused it, and we've had 3 behaviourists and not yet cracked it 100%, probably learned to manage it better more than anything.

Ddog is absolutely golden when it's just us at home, but she hates visitors and is very dog reactive...she will have a pop at any dog who comes too close although she's never bitten even when she could have.

So we just live our lives differently, whilst continuing with training and behaviourist. We are probably going to try some more intense behaviour modification again in the new year. Probably the best piece of advice we've had is not to lead walk her as she finds it stressful and raises her cortisol levels, so now she just has one big off lead run per day. We rarely take her to the pub or on day trips (which is absolutely not what we envisaged when we got her!) and just generally try to keep her life as stress free as possible, and accept that things that 'normal' dogs generally enjoy, she doesn't.

Read up on trigger stacking and body language, you'll need to learn how to read her much more than you will with a happy relaxed dog so you can manage accordingly.

And always, always carry some stinky / high value treats close at hand when you're out and about to try and distract her from reacting (I usually have a tube of Primula about my person at all times!).

It can be quite a lonely road tbh OP, I wish you luck and hope you find a good behaviourist. Where in the UK are you roughly?

And also, she is gorgeous. Poor little thing is lucky you rescued her.

DeborahAnnabelToo Mon 18-Nov-19 07:09:17

DeborahAnnabelToo Mon 18-Nov-19 07:11:39

Sorry i said "him" throughout and it's a "she"!

Disfordarkchocolate Mon 18-Nov-19 07:19:44

I know you have lots to work on but he has done really well in the last 2 months. Our rescue dog got a lot better with food over time, apart from a clear mission to find whatever food my son had left in his bin.

Booboostwo Mon 18-Nov-19 07:30:23

Poor little doggy! She is lucky she found you.

Have a look on the APBC website for someone near you. Resource guarding and fear aggression towards other dogs are both complex issues but, to an extent, they can be managed with proper training.

Do you have DC or are there DC who visit your home regularly? Having DC around a dog with these kinds of issues makes it much more likely that the DC will be bitten because they won't be as able as adults to work around the dog's triggers.

Veterinari Mon 18-Nov-19 07:36:06

Contact an APBC behaviourist
Ask MN to repost this in the Doghouse - lots of good advice there. I’ll try and comeback later

borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 07:42:57

@Booboostwo no no children and none that visit

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user1495225181 Mon 18-Nov-19 07:49:34

We had the same problem with our golden retriever and they have the added bonus that they are strong ( and everyone expects them to be super friendly). I was dragged across the road more than once while she tried to get to the dog across the road to pin it down!

It’s a long process but I now have a beautifully behaved dog who is mostly off lead with no issues.

Initially I just avoided other dogs as much as possible, got up early to walk her, always looked ahead and changed direction if necessary. ( only issue is all the other problem dogs are also out then!).

We lived in an area with very wide roads which helped. Once I felt I was less stressed I moved onto the next stage. I was always looking ahead and If I saw a dog I would cross the road so we were on the other side of the street and speak to my dog saying “good girl” and giving her a treat. I would distract her until we passed the dog. ( I had to make sure I was not tense and kept the lead loose which was difficult when I was expecting to get dragged off my feet).

Overtime ( this took many months) I would gradually delay giving her the treat until she got it after passing the dog but kept talking to her through out. Eventually she would look at me if she saw another dog rather than reacting.

Even after she had improved it was a really long time before I would pass dogs on the same side of the street but I didn’t mind that. Again it was a long time before I would let her off lead close to other dogs but fortunately if she saw them at a distance she wasn’t really interested in them.

Another thing that helped was when she had improved a bit we got a dog walker (as I was ill and couldn’t walk her) and she went out with his pack. He had no problem with her, I think she learned from the other dogs how to behave appropriately. You could do the same by meeting up with other dog owners.

You really can sort this but it takes time, overall I would say that it took over two years to get past the worst and be able to pass dogs without incident. Even then years later I am always slightly wary in situations where she may be unhappy ( she doesn’t like jumpy pups!) and put her on the lead although this is very rare.

Good luck and I hope it all works out well, you have done a lovely thing rescuing this little dog.

billybagpuss Mon 18-Nov-19 07:50:54

Honestly it sounds like you’re doing brilliantly. Your list of positives far outweighs your list of negatives and your list of negatives can be summed up with one point ‘wary of other dogs’

I agree with pp the pub is a stretch too far for her at the moment, I’d also recommend finding a secure dog field that you can rent so she can have a fully relaxed run. If you are in the SW I can recommend an excellent one and a trainer who may be able to help.

borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 07:52:54

@user1495225181 thank you! I do take her to day care on days I work 13 hours and she's off lead all day and plays with every single dog there beautifully. Apparently she's one of the best behaved border terriers theyve ever met and one of the best dogs they have there which honestly confuses the hell out of me!!

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Booboostwo Mon 18-Nov-19 08:13:09

It is possible for a dog to be fine socializing off lead but to be reactive on lead. I have a German Shepherd who is like that. Given the chance to sniff and interact the other dog he is fine, but on lead he looses the plot. Ironically this doesn't help in any way when he is on lead because I can understand why other owners would not like me and my 40 kilos of barking and frothing at the mouth GSD to approach and say hello!

I know his pedigree, no fear aggression there, and his entire history, he reacted this way the very first time he walked on lead at 10wks old, so there is no real explanation for why he is like that. He just is.

borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 08:27:30

So the bite I got when she was stressed, that was redirected aggression yes? Because I have to admit it was odd for me to have been bitten and her be absolutely rock steady with me again literally seconds later

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RussellTheLoveMuscle Mon 18-Nov-19 09:31:47

Join Reactive Dogs UK on facebook. There's lots of information on how to start helping her and they can reccommend a local force free behaviorist. They are also lovely and supportive so no judgement

Zaphodsotherhead Mon 18-Nov-19 09:36:36

I have a Patterdale like this. She's horrific with other dogs, fine with people (after an initial barking at). She used to bite me in redirected aggression when we met another dog.

She was undersocialised as a pup (bred by family friends on a farm and they kept her past socialising age, then I took her on). Luckily we live very rurally so she doesn't meet many other dogs.

She's calmed down a lot, age has mellowed her, she's five now. But I just have to accept that she's 'that kind of dog' and try to reassure her whenever she barks, jumps, lunges or growls. At home, with me, she's the most loving and cuddly dog, but outside?

I warn people, a LOT. But she's mine and I love her and I know Patterdales can be difficult so... I just take everyone's shouted sympathy and move on!

borderterrierist Mon 18-Nov-19 11:56:26

I just feel so sorry for her. I'm going to work with her and hope we can move forward! The reactive dogs fb group is impossible to join!!

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AvocadosBeforeMortgages Mon 18-Nov-19 13:41:11

A fair bit of this sounds quite familiar to me! I also "accidentally acquired" a terrier with issues at a similar age. He's the dog that sent me on a crash course in canine behaviour and training - I grew up with dogs, thought I knew something about them and rapidly realised I knew sod all after I acquired this one! Two years down the line and he's much improved - I doubt he'll ever be perfect, but through a combination of help from an APBC behaviourist (CCAB qualified is also equally good!), following through on that advice, avoiding scenarios where I know he'll act up, and acquiring a sixth sense for his mood, I can avoid most occasions where he'd kick off.

Given that she's ok with other dogs at daycare, she's not truly dog aggressive. I'm wondering if she's like mine - if you read up on "frustrated greeters" does it ring true? Being lead reactive is also a possibility.

As for biting your legs when kicking off at still something, it sounds like what's known as a "redirected bite" - mine did this on a fair few occasions (but not for a long time) and it's the only occasions where he's drawn blood. Essentially the dog is so totally overwhelmed by their emotions that they bite the nearest thing available - mine sank his teeth into a plastic bag full of stuff I was carrying on one occasion. Try and keep your hands and legs out the way (there's an art to this), and in the meantime work on the underlying reason why the dog has redirected a bite at you. IMHO there's no point in telling a dog off for such a bite - they're so out of their mind in such circumstances that I don't think they realise they've done it, and they certainly aren't in a state of mind to learn.

Resource guarding around strange dogs is nigh on impossible to fix, according to our behaviourist. Best advice there is to avoid giving the dog things it may guard around other dogs. For instance, mine will resource guard sticks, so he's now been permanently banned from picking up sticks if we're somewhere he may meet another dog which is basically everywhere. It may be permanently necessary to feed your two dogs separately, for instance.

I wonder if it's possible that your dog was resource guarding the space that you were occupying in the pub? Mine will do this if you've sat down for 20 minutes and a strange dog comes in 🤦‍♀️

One of the key things to do is to avoid situations where it's unlikely your dog will cope. For now, pub trips are too much for your dog, and big dogs are to be avoided wherever possible (easier said than done, especially in an urban area, as I know all too well!) etc etc

I'd also say that while having a toy in the dog's mouth can act as a gobstopper, it does nothing to improve the underlying issues. I've been known to take this approach on occasions where I've had no choice but to take him somewhere where he's highly likely to act up, but it's not a proper solution.

You may never have the perfect dog, but things can certainly improve. Do, however, expect that some issues will be resolved and some new ones will pop up in their place - I've just got mine to a point where he only has issues that I can live with 😂

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