Aggressive Toy Poodle

Posted by wolf-fritsche
Dec 26, 2012
We have six poodles (all rescues), two standards, two minis & two toys. Our problem dog is the smallest of the pack, Sophie (all 8 lbs of her), aged around four or five years. We got her from the local council dog-pound where she was on death row because she had apparently bitten someone. We are part of a poodle rescue organization and also work closely with our local SPCA which is the reason we were able to take possession of this dog. We have now had her for about a year and a half.

Apart from the three humans in the household, there are no other obvious alphas although there is a distinct pecking order. All dogs get on well; there is no aggression either during play or at feeding times and there are no signs of dominance within our pack.

The problem we have with this little girl is one of aggression towards strangers that come to visit, people we encounter on our daily walks (more so with people walking towards us, and she will also turn around and bark once the people have passed us) and towards other dogs whilst on our walks. She will also hunt other (but not all) dogs in the off-leash dog park. She will also zero in on people and bark at them (tail wagging, upright). Today, in the dog park, she followed a woman who was walking away from her, constantly barking and nipped at her slacks. Depending on who is in the park, I would normally keep her on her leash. Today I let her off her leash as I knew she would get on OK with the dogs in the park, but as it turned out she took a disliking to this particular woman. My mistake.

The other day we were on the beach and she would follow people up the beach, constantly barking at them and refuse to come back when I called her. She is becoming less obedient in these situations and I am concerned that she will nip someone.

She also tried to bite a tradesman we had working around the house a couple of weeks ago and she also has an extreme dislike of one of our regular visitors (probably because this person made some aggressive moves and noises towards her.

Obviously this behavior needs to be rectified, but I’m unable to recognize where the problem lies.

I would be grateful for any and all suggestions.

Wolf F.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 27, 2012
Hi Wolf F,

Your Sophie sounds a lot like Marty, our current foster dog. He is just fine with our own dogs and cat but he goes nuts when he sees stranger dogs on our walks. He was a returned dog (used to be my foster dog as a puppy and got adopted but never got socialized after that for several months) who has got aggression toward random dogs and I have been working on the issue since early August! Fortunately he has no aggression towards people but he has nipped some people including myself just because we happened to be next to him when he got aggressive at other stranger dogs.

I could not figured out if it was fear aggression or territorial aggression, or just getting too excited because he loves to play rough with dogs that he knows (including one of my own dogs). I finally asked for adivice from a professional trainer last week since we weren't going anywhere and I could not adopt him out without correcting this behavior.

What I was told to do is to get him used to just see other dogs in distance and give him super high value treats without getting too close to those dogs. If the dog is walking towards us, turn away and keep giving him treats. The goal is to let Marty connect "seeing a dog" and "good thing happening (treats and praises "good boy!"). Eventually, he will turn to me for a treat and a praise "good boy" when he sees another dog. The goal is to make him stay calm at a scene of a stranger dog and to make him "sit" and "watch me" while the other dog passes by.

One of my own dogs actually used to react at random dogs on walks so I trained him to "watch me" and "leave it" when we passed other dogs on walk. He learned it very quickly because he had already had very solid obedience so I thought I would be able do the same thing with Marty. However, Marty wasn't so obedient and his reaction towards other dogs was just outrageous so I wasn't successful.

The advice I got from the trainer made me realized that I tried to make a shortcut. I skipped the classical conditionning part...(giving treats and praises)

I am pretty sure Sophie's aggression is base on her fear to new dogs/people/situations. I think the reason why she doesn't listen to you at the dog park and at the beach is that she has shut her ears off when she gets to that state of mind (occupied with those targeted people or dogs), I know it is hard to train one dog with treats when you have multiple dogs but I am afraid you would need to the same thing as I am doing now. I used to walk all 4 dogs (my 3 and Marty) at once but I have been walking Marty alone since I saw the trainer. Good luck and let us know how it progresses.