Acting Aggressive in Public

Posted by HoltDonna
Mar 5, 2012
I have a 7 year old female German Shepherd who has recently started exhibiting some aggresive behavior when we go out in public around other dogs and people. Her name is Montana. We lost her brother to blood cancer in September and we both miss him.

Here is some background. We got these two when they were puppies and they spent every day together. Last April, some changes in my household resulted in the dogs and myself living alone. We went from 3 adults and the dogs to just the dogs and myself.

Denver (my male Shepherd), spent all summer battling cancer and lost his fight in September, 1 day after his 7th birthday.

Montana and I are now alone. I never really did the dog park with them, but I take her for a walk everyday and I try to take her for a ride and to the store as much as I can.

In January, I noticed a hematoma in her ear, so I took her in to have that removed. This was when I first noticed she was acting aggressive when we were out. Since she never acted this way before, I thought maybe this was because her ear was bothering her and it was stemming from the discomfort she may have been experiencing.

Since then, she has had the stitches removed and has been back to the vet for a followup visit and everything seems to be fine with her from a medical perspective. I also had a thyroid test performed just to make sure there were no hidden medical issues that could be causing her aggressive behavior.

I have a friend with a puppy and she has brought him over quite a few times to let them play and she does great with him.

I took her to the store and she was terrible. She barks and lunges and acts like she is going to attack anyone that comes near us.

She does not act this way when we are walking. We do random type walking and she does really well on the leash.

I bought a muzzle for her when we go out in public when we will be near people. I am so scared that she will bite or nip someone. I know she senses that tension as well, and is feeding on my fear, but I am not sure how to change my behavior.

I always make her wait for me to go through doors, I make her wait at the top or bottom of the stairs. I make her wait for her food, sleep on her own bed, and I take her toys away and give them to her when we are playing. She is not food aggressive and she doesn't act aggressive when I have friends over.

Maybe she feels like now that we are alone, she has to protect me.

Any ideas?

Posted by KOPCaroline
Mar 7, 2012
Hi Donna,

It sounds to me like Montana has reacted badly to stress - I think its likely that the loss of Denver was a big upset in Montana's like - it certainly would have changed the "pack" in your house. Especially coming after a loss of two other people from the "pack".

And then shortly after this upset, Montana had to go to the vet and undergo an uncomfortable procedure.

I'd say she's having trouble with the pack you two now make up, and may be protecting you on lead because Denver's not there anymore and its a bit weird for her.

You might start of with going back to alpha training with her - just to reiterate that you are still the head of the house, and it will help you two bond more at the same time.

You might also try looking for obedience classes in your area - even if Montana is awesomely training. It will put her in a controlled environment where she will be on a lead and off lead around other dogs and owners. It could help quite a bit.

Otherwise, when you're at a dog park, keep Montana on lead for at least the first part of your time there. Let her meet other dogs while you can control her, and judge her reactions. You don't want to let her off lead unless you're sure she's going to be calm.

Keep on with the muzzle in stores and other strange environments until you've trained with her more and she's started responding. I know it seems mean, but it is a good safety precaution.

I hope this makes sense, and hope even more that it helps - please keep us updated. Other members may have more great advice to offer as well Good luck!