Fear Anxiety

Posted by Shardan
Mar 16, 2008
We have 2 mini dashies. The male has a fear aggression problem with other dogs (other than his companion). When we pass by other dogs on our walks he barks and goes ballistic, he does the same when a stranger goes to touch him. He has gone through obedience school twice and we have followed the Sit, Stay, Fetch program. The second time at obedience training we got a little closer to the other dogs in the class but no dog could approach him.
We are desperate to know what to do next as we are planning a trip next year and will have to leave him with a dog sitter. Dashies are very attached to their owners so separation anxiety is something we have to deal with too, so we will have to introduce them to someone earlier rather than later.

Posted by Todd
Mar 16, 2008
Hi there and thank you for your question.

Aggression is an important behavioral problem and it is great that you are concerned and willing to fix it. Dogs can be aggressive for a number of reasons, fear, dominance, territorial and possessive. But from the sounds of your post it seems as if fear is the major cause.

As a general rule forceful correction techniques have a very negative effect with fear based aggression or with a very nervous temperamented dog.

The first step is to ensure your dog knows its position in the household hierarchy, at the bottom. A number of problems can be fixed by ensuring the dog knows its position at the bottom of the hierarchy and that you are the alpha dog.

First of all, I would encourage you, and any other family members, to read the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". This book will give you a good understanding of the hierarchical nature and behavior of your dog. Follow the tips in this book as much as possible and you should help you get good results within a couple of weeks.

Your dog should never be treated as an equal but always at the bottom of the hierarchy. If your dog isn't sure of it's position it may try to challenge others to see where it stands.

Some tips-

- Never move out of the way for your dog whether this be in the hallway or in the lounge, move the dog

- You must always be the first person through the doorway and the dog last. You can walk around the house practicing this.

- Always feed the dog last, after the family and never feed it from the table.

Aggression is serious and you may wish to see a vet for an opinion and to check if there is any cause for the aggression.

The first step is to build up your dogs confidence. Never reward fearful behavior like cowering under a table and not coming out. Ignore her, don't talk to her and wait for her to come out. As soon as she comes out praise her by patting her, talking to her and giving her attention. This step requires patience and alot of time.

The next step is to desensitize your dog, it is very important that he is muzzled as you never know when and how he will react.

Invite friends over to help you with him. They will need to be patient. Again follow the process of ignoring the unwanted behavior and rewarding the behaviors you want. Make sure your friends are calm, patient and make no sudden movements or sounds as this can put back the whole process.

*Get an adult friend to come and visit (make sure that you tell them what is happening!).

*As your friend knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, make your dog sit and give it a treat. Then put your dogs collar on and take it to either a crate or a secure room. If your dog is too much of a handful at even this stage then you will have to put your dog away before your visitor gets to the door.

*Sit your friend down in a room that is not often use by your dog. Give you friend some treats so that they can give them to your dog.

*Go to your dog and make it sit. Put a halti or muzzle as well as the choke collar on. Get your dog to heel then take it into the room that your friend is in. Make sure that your friend does not give any eye contact. Act as happy as you can while petting your dog.

*If your dog growls or disobeys your commands at ANY TIME then squirt it with water or shake a pebble filled can to startle it. Have the water pistol or can in your dogs view at all times.

*Make your dog sit quite a long way from your guest, perhaps in the doorway of the room. When your dog is calm get it to heel and move it closer, then get your dog to sit again. Praise your dog when it sits and heels properly.

*When your dog is calm and you have moved it and made it sit within 5 feet of the guest then get the guest to give your dog a treat. Make sure that the guest does not look your dog in the eyes.

Remember to keep rewarding confidence and ignoring the bad behaviour.

As your dog begins to respond you can try other situations like the dog park, the sidewalk and at friends places. Always follow the ignore and reward steps, and keep the muzzle on.
He should slowly become less fearful and let people pat him. Ensure you slowly introduce him to these situations, not all of a sudden.

Pet Parties are great places once you have started making progress to build up his confidence and help him.

There are some products that are natural eg DAP and Rescue Remedy that are available that help calm your pet so she is more relaxed and associates being petted and played with as good. These are not always expensive and are no replacement for patience.

Be patient and take things slowly. Remember to ignore and reward as appropriate. There are a number of posts i have made about separation anxiety and will help with both dogs. Good luck and please let me know how things go