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Is there anything I can do to prevent this behaviour developing or is it just a ‘normal’ part of being a dog?

(50 Posts)
Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 12:08:13

Our pup is an 11 month old spaniel terrier cross. He’s always been very friendly with other dogs-happy to play if they want to or he’ll have a quick sniff and move on. He’s seemed good at reading their body language. He’s been growled and snapped at so many times I’ve lost count, never any warning from the owners-it’s always been when both dogs are on lead and after a very quick, 3 second tops sniff. He’s never reacted back.

Today, he was off lead and approached another much larger dog (also off lead) the larger dog was very stiff. My dog then mirrored his stiffness whilst they sniffed and I saw, for the first time, the start of a reaction from him -a growl and an air snap. I called him away. (I say it was a reaction but actually he did it first).

Is there anything I should do? Is it just a case of watching his body language? We haven’t had him castrated yet and weren’t planning to for a while. Is this something that might become more frequent? It seems so common for dogs to do this that I’ve been anticipating the behaviour in him but I’d like to do whatever I can to prevent it in the future. Many thanks:

OP’s posts: |
elephantfeels Sat 08-Aug-20 12:12:19

There is a high possibility that other dogs reactions are due to your pup being whole.

Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 12:15:40

Is there anything I should be doing about it? Is that possibly whey the bigger dog stiffened his posture?

I’m always very careful about putting pup back on lead if another dog is and when he’s on his lead we try not to approach head on and I ask the owners if he can sniff and it’s always very quick.

Should we be thinking about castration? He’s been fearful of children screaming over the past couple of months which is what’s made us want to delay.

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Kaykay066 Sat 08-Aug-20 12:21:45

Don’t allow him to approach other dogs? If that’s the effect he has on some but male dogs can be aggressive. I never allowed my dog to stop and sniff anything whilst out on lead there’s no need for it. He was guide dog trained, they have specific things they don’t allow. Does he have a good recall and will come back to you off lead I used to call my dog if I saw another and move on, he wasn’t bothered by other dogs but I didn’t want them approaching him.

elephantfeels Sat 08-Aug-20 12:24:06

@Socre383 to be honest with you I'd just stick to him being on a lead or kept away from other dogs on walks. Work on the fearful issues then get him castrated

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Sat 08-Aug-20 12:26:17

I think you need to have a chat with a canine behaviourist or a really good, capable trainer who has a lot of well-adjusted dogs.

Personally I wouldn't be willing to castrate a dog just yet. In my (limited) experience having their balls off just makes them more nervous and anxious about things - and your dog is probably in his second fear period see here

Aside from seeking advice from an expert, in the meantime I'd nail recall, so that I could call him away from any dog I didn't like the look of before he got close, and I'd also work in his steadiness around other dogs, so that he will stay with you unless released to go and greet and play.

mrsjoyfulprizeforraffiawork Sat 08-Aug-20 12:32:26

I think you should be watching both your own dog's body language and that of the dog he is meeting. In fact, I think all owners should do this as a matter of course. If the other dog's body is stiff and no wagging tail, it is not happy and your dog is likely to sense that. At this stage, the approaching dog (yours) will either back off and leave, realising they are not welcome, or not know what to do so snap to deter the unfriendly dog from taking things further (which sometimes has the opposite effect). As soon as you see the dog your dog has approached is not reciprocating friendly interest, you should call your dog away before he gets snapped at. The problem is, if it is a larger dog, your dog may not like to turn his back on it in case it attacks him so you get a kind of stalemate that can turn quite nasty if prolonged. I usually call out things to my dog (whilst hastening up to defuse things and take mine away), such as "Good girl/boy! What a nice dog!" and similar inanities in a happy voice (so the dogs don't realise you are as worried as them) and sometimes that makes your dog relax a bit until you can get hold of them and move them away safely. It gets easier with practice. Also, you learn which kind of dogs might make your dog worried so you can clip your dog on the lead before you get to them (mine doesn't like bigger darker dogs than herself and is very suspicious of GSDs unless they are absolute teddy bears in nature - she is fine with most other dogs). I find I am always scanning the landscape near and far so I am aware of dogs we might meet/deer sneaking across the path, children wandering near, etc so I can leash the dog if necessary.

Wolfiefan Sat 08-Aug-20 12:39:43

I rarely let my dog greet another when on lead. It’s not a natural situation and some feel tense when they can’t escape. A behaviourist could help. But I would have called mine away the moment I saw the dog approaching in a “stiff” way. (The owner of that dog should have called it back but clearly didn’t.)
Dog body language can be really subtle and your dog may have felt threatened.
I certainly wouldn’t castrate for this. Especially not a dog that has shown some fear. It can make it worse.

Splinkyplonk Sat 08-Aug-20 12:41:26

Do not castrate your dog. It is the cause of so many problems with behaviour.
It is normal for teenage dogs like yours to go through a period where they are finding their way with adult dogs. This will include being told off and telling off, and then learning to moving away and learning not to react. This is the language of dogs.
The key is to focus on getting your dog to pay attention to you. Keep taking high value rewards, keep your demeanour positive and relaxed and keep moving. Don't dither when you meet other dogs but keep up the pace and always aim to defuse any tension rather than add to it by hauling your dog away or shouting or getting squeaky from anxiety etc.
As he matures, his testosterone will give him confidence and make him a stable adult, from all your training you will teach him to take his cue from you, stay calm and move away from confrontation.
You cannot achieve any of this by removing body parts...

Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 13:13:01

Many thanks for all the great replies.

I think I handled today’s interaction well, I did spot the body language straight away and called him and he came-it all happened within a few seconds. Now I know I’ll be even more mindful of it.

I will stop him sniffing other dogs on lead. It’s quite hard as it’s usually when we’re walking along the canal. I always cross the road if a dog is coming head on.

I don’t want to stop him interacting with other dogs altogether as he’s very sociable and enjoys a run around with others.

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Wolfiefan Sat 08-Aug-20 13:16:16

You can prevent it on a tow path. I have been known to put myself between my dog and the other dog on a lead. Stand and wait and attention on you.
And sociable? That’s great but if he is running up and bouncing on other dogs that don’t want to play then he will come off badly. Often dogs allow pups to get away with a certain amount but then that stops. And remember not all dogs want to play!
You want his attention focused on you. He can play if you say it’s ok.

Branleuse Sat 08-Aug-20 13:17:30

No need to let him approach other dogs unless you know them and theyre definitely ok together.

Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 14:04:11

That’s great but if he is running up and bouncing on other dogs that don’t want to play then he will come off badly. Often dogs allow pups to get away with a certain amount but then that stops. And remember not all dogs want to play!

He’s not running up and bouncing on other dogs and I wouldn’t let him. As I said in my OP he’s always been good at reading other dogs body language-playing if they want to play or just sniffing and walking away if they don’t.

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Wolfiefan Sat 08-Aug-20 14:07:50

But he didn’t today. He approached a dog that clearly didn’t want to make friends. There’s a very fine line between sociable and rude with dogs and it can be hard for humans to read the signs.

Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 14:13:37

Correct but he didn’t ‘bounce on him’, he went over to sniff him.

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Branleuse Sat 08-Aug-20 14:22:36

One of my dogs would be ok with that and the other would be hit and miss.
Honestly you are increasing the risk of some seriously negative interactions which could affect your dogs behaviour around other dogs in the future.
Dogs do not need to be able to approach dogs they dont know, and play should only be with known trusted dogs.

Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 14:28:35

Do you let your dog who’s ‘hit and miss’ off the lead around other dogs?

I haven’t got any known and trusted dogs unfortunately.

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vanillandhoney Sat 08-Aug-20 15:00:16

I think if you don't know how your dog will react, don't let them off the lead. It's not fair on other off-lead dogs. You now know your dog has the potential to be aggressive, so work on it from a distance.

My general rule is I won't let my dog approach unless I know the other dog and owner. Where I walk, I know most of the other dogs and them playing isn't a problem, but occasionally we meet a new dog and I always call him away just in case.

Borderstotheleftofme Sat 08-Aug-20 15:15:18

Don’t let him approach other dogs.
Even if off lead.
There is a dog near me that is always off leash, and dog aggressive..
fortunately I’ve only ever passed him on lead and walk very briskly past and he loses interest quickly.

You absolutely cannot rely on other owners.
You really can’t.
Your dog would be far safer away from strange dogs.

My own dog has been picked on so, so many times, she first became ‘hit and miss’ aggressive then all out aggressive (this was when I was following CARE protocol which was meant to help her hmm)

The solution was to avoid other dogs, treating for walking past on lead as she relaxed more.
She now will choose to avoid other dogs, if they go to approach her at distance she’ll turn and walk away from them, if it’s a sudden approach like a dog bouncing over and it’s up close to say hello she’ll lip curl at it.

I agree with a PP aswell that some will react negatively to him because he is entire.

Splinkyplonk Sat 08-Aug-20 15:46:37

Sounds like you handled it well from your description. Don't over react to this incident.

Wolfiefan Sat 08-Aug-20 15:59:11

But he shouldn’t have gone over. The dog was not inviting him in to play. It was tense. Call him away. Not all dogs want to play or greet each other. Some hate it.

Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 16:08:02

Well in that case the owner of that dog should have had him on a lead, not off lead in a designated off lead area. IMO if you’re in a field with signs saying ‘off lead area’ your dog should be comfortable enough for another dog to calmly approach it for a sniff.

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Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 16:09:18

Splinkyplonk thank you.

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Socre383 Sat 08-Aug-20 16:10:56

*You absolutely cannot rely on other owners.
You really can’t.
Your dog would be far safer away from strange dogs*

You’re right, people don’t seem to care when their dog reacts.

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Borderstotheleftofme Sat 08-Aug-20 16:21:32

Well in that case the owner of that dog should have had him on a lead, not off lead in a designated off lead area. IMO if you’re in a field with signs saying ‘off lead area’ your dog should be comfortable enough for another dog to calmly approach it for a sniff
This makes me so angry! angry

I was sympathetic at first but this disgusting view speaks volumes.
You are no different to all the other selfish owners making it hard for the rest of us it seems.

I have a dog who will not approach other dogs.
She will amble about off lead and bother no one.
It really, really angers me when people allow their dogs to come over to ‘say hello’ to her
She doesn’t want to say hello.
She makes it clear by turning her back on the other dog and going to walk away and they still try and let their dog approach and without fail will come out with bullshit like the above.
Try and explain my dog is uncomfortable around other dogs I get ‘oh he needs telling off’ or ‘ah he just likes to say hello/play’

MY dog will not approach anyone, be they dogs or people.
It is not my problem that YOUR dog doesn’t recognise clear ‘I don’t want to socialise’ body language eg turning away, walking away, lip curling etc.
As wolfiefan said, Stiffness is another obvious signal they don’t want to interact.
If your dog isn’t socialised enough to recognise other dogs signals then you should be.

I shouldn’t have to keep my well behaved dog on lead just because you don’t have adequate control of yours!

I fully stand by my assertion that you cannot trust other dog owners, sadly it seems you are included in that.

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