Defensive Aggression

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 22, 2007
Noah, our 1.5 yrs old male border collie mix, that was rescued in last Nov, has an aggression issue toward other dogs when they get too close to him. He shows his teeth and tries to tell them not to get any closer. He snaps and sometimes bites if they get too close (especially big dogs). We adopted Noah from a border collie foster family that had taken him because he had failed at the temperament evaluation test. He is a very sweet dog and he has been very gentle and nice to our 2 other dogs, Holly and Max, a 4 yrs old female border collie mix and even with 15 yrs old male German short hair pointer (who died recently). Noah and Holly are getting very well and play together a lot. He is very good with people even with little kids.
In March, we started taking him to training classes where there was an aggressive pit bull who barked and tried to lunge at him. We had attended 4 classes altogether before we finally pulled him out since it was such a chaotic class and we thought it was bad for Noah to stay any longer (I regret that we didn't withdraw sooner). Since then he developed an aggression. We have been working on his issue and will appreciate any advice. Thank you.
Posted by Alpha-Dog
Aug 23, 2007
Hi there,

Thank you for your post. It sounds as though your Border Collie mix is mostly a very good dog. However, I am sure that his aggression towards other dogs while you are out walking is very distressing for you.

Has your dog been neutered? If not, the first thing that I would recommend is that you speak to your vet about having your dog de-sexed.

Next, I recommend that you read and start using the Alpha techniques. It is possible that your dog is confused about the pecking order. If he believes himself to be the Alpha Dog, then perhaps his aggression is a result of him doing what he believes to be his job – protecting other pack members (you) from potential threats (other dogs).

I also recommend that you purchase a Gentle Leader or similar kind of leash for your dog, because it will give you more control over your dog’s movements when you are out walking.

Be very careful that you do not inadvertently reinforce your dog’s behavior. If you take your dog for a walk, see another dog approaching and you instantly react by tightening your hold on your dog’s leash or speaking sharply to your dog, you are sending a clear message to your dog that you are very wary of the approaching pooch. He will not realize that you are actually afraid of HIS reaction! His tension will suddenly increase and he will most likely become aggressive towards the strange dog.

Instead, when out walking remember to hold a slack leash at all times. If you see a strange dog approaching, speak to your dog in a happy, confident voice, step in between him and the other dog to break any eye contact, and then ask him to sit and follow some commands. If he ignores the other dog, praise and reward him. If he becomes aggressive, growl a guttural growl (AAHH) at your dog. If he stops growling, praise him straight away. Practice this as much as you can for best results.

If you are not getting any results with the above method, you may need to start a gradual method to teach your dog to remain calm in the presence of strange dogs.

Take your dog to a park or beach, or anywhere dog’s are often exercised. Determine how far away you can have your dog from the other dogs without him displaying aggressive behavior, and then gradually move closer. Give him lots of praise and encouragement, but if he growls or barks at any time turn around and move him back a few steps. Get him to sit and stay for a few moments so that he is calm, and then move forward again. You may find that this takes quite some time, but with patience and persistence, you will hopefully get to the stage where your dog will walk by strange dogs without reacting badly.

Always keep your dog on leash, and if you think there is any danger that your dog might attack another dog, you should invest in a muzzle for your Border Collie mix.

Good luck, and please let us know how you progress with your training.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 6, 2007
Hi Alpha Dog.

I am pleased to let you know that Noah has been doing great with other dogs in the off-leash park. He still has some problem when he is leashed so we are still working on it.

I read that dogs can do either "flight" or "fight" when they get scared. Noah used to fight, especially when he had a ball in his mouth, but now he has learned to "ignore" of "flight".

The biggest contributor in fixing this problem was that I stopped throwing balls for him completely since I realized that his snapping and biting occurred 90% of time when he had a ball in his mouth or chasing a ball. His problem was because he became protective. He loves to fetch and it looks like his aggressiveness switches on as soon as he plays with a ball.

I didn't use Alpha Technique but I am sure that he sees us human beings as his master so he listens to me and any other people and reacts to our commands very well. He knows how to communicate with us people, but apparently he wasn't very good communicating with other dogs.

He is now playing and chasing around other dogs in the park nicely.

It took us a while but we have gone this far and I wanted to share our success story with you.

Thank you!!