Fear aggression?

Posted by robjmacrogerscom
Sep 16, 2008
Hi All,

I am new to this website and through research found Daniel Stevens to be highly recommended. I have raised a Chocolate and Yellow lab, both living to the age of 13 years and in April had to put down our last living Lab, Javah. We researched and decided to purchase a 6 week old Shepherd from a local breeder in May. We have found her to be incredibly smart, loyal and loving. We have socialized her a lot as we camp in the summer and Moxy met many kids and adults alike. She was going to obedience training twice a week, now once and has performed admirably. In the last 1 - 1 1/2 months we have noticed some skittish behaviour towards strangers and will bare her teeth and snarl when cornered, for example, when trying to put her leash and collar on. Today we had her spayed and she had to be sedated and muzzled before they could operate. Our vet suggested she may have fear aggression. We believe it is extremely important to handle this correctly and are reaching out for advice. One last item . . . about a month ago I took her to a local pet store to have her nails clipped and the girl working suggested (against my best judgement) to take her to the back where it was quiet to do this, while I waited in the store. The two previous times I held her as she was nervous, but she submitted to the clipping and left happy as she was given a treat. This time it was an awful experience as Moxy yelped a few times and the girl's arms were scratched. I feel bad as I should have went with my gut instinct. Is it possible this has contributed towards her skittish, nervous behaviour? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 22, 2010
Hi there

Fear aggression can be quite hard to deal with and requires much patience and perseverance on your behalf.

A very important thing to remember when dealing with dogs that have fear aggression is that you must never reward them when they are showing this behaviour. By patting them or telling them that ‘it’s alright’ you are reinforcing their fear. Therefore each time Moxy shows this behaviour you must ignore her completely, not even making eye contact. She will eventually come to realize that you are not afraid strangers and so she shouldn’t be either.

It is also a good idea to keep up with the alpha dog training, so that your place as leader of the place is strongly established. She will then seek guidance from you to see how to react to different situations and be very tuned to your commands.

When at the groomers, it may be advisable to stay with her all the time. If left by herself, she may feel the need to defend herself from fearful things, such as having her nails clipped, whereas if you were present, she would trust you to protect her if the need arises. Although it is good for you to be there with her, you must not reassure her if she starts to become anxious or misbehave, as you would just be reinforcing the nervous behavior. Instead, make sure you reward and praise her when she is sitting quietly and confidently for the groomer.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!