Lead aggression

Posted by Aldine-du-Plessis
Mar 18, 2008
Lead aggression

Have a three year old Australian cattledog.We got her when she was about 4 months old from people who rescued her from her previous owners,who kept her tied up.As we lived on a farm,she had plenty of excercise and regretfully,I did not then feel the need to socialize her with other dogs.We have now moved to Canada andd are no longer on a farm.Therefor I started to take her on walks with a lead,which is escalating into a major problem.If I have her off the leash,she is not very friendly toward other dogs,but definately seems to tolerate them better than when on her leash.On the lead,she becomes very aggressive toward other dogs and almost impossible for me to control.As soon as she sees another dog,she starts barking aggressively,pulling at the lead and lunges at the other dog.She does not respond to any commands an gets so agitated and excited that she nips at me and even once attacked my other dog(poodle-terrier cross).I then enrolled her in dog-obedience-classes,where she did very well in terms of obedience,but poor with socialising.Even the trainer could not control her if another dog came to close.If she gets into that excited state,it seems that nothing can get through to her.She gets plenty of excercise,as I take her for long runs twice a day off the lead.I think that I am a big part of the problem,as I now also become very tence whenever I see a dog approach,knowing how my dog responds.I feel that I am ttansferring my own anxiety to her and do not know how to break this cycle.I am even weary of socialising her off her leash,as it seems that her dog aggression is escalating,and I am terrified that she might bite somebody"s dog.At home I am doing the alpha-dog training and it is going very well,although I believe that we could still do better.She is a lovely dog and wonderful towards children and strangers,although she seems less friendly towards unknown males.Hopefully that will get better the more we work on my dominance.Please help.....
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 18, 2008
Hi there.

One of my dogs has the same problem. Noah has developed a leash aggression about a year ago and we have been working on it in many possible ways, including obedience trainings, dog day care and fostering other dogs at home.

Here is a link of my original posting back in August last year if you are interested.

I understand very well how your dog becomes so distracted that she does not hear any of your commands once she gets aggressive. In Noah's case, I could see his aggression switch turns on as soon as he sees other dogs. As you said Noah also did better off-leash. I have read a lot of books and learned that dogs can do only "fight" or "flight" when they encounter a fear (in this case other stranger dogs). Poor Noah used to fight with every one of them, then I trained him to flight (stay away, take off, or ignore) instead of fight. Whenever I see another dog that I can predict he might feel fearful against, I call him right away before the dog comes close to him. Fortunately he responds very well to my recalls so he just comes back to me. I only let him get closer to the kinds of dogs (very friendly and calm dogs that I knew). I reprimanded Noah when he actually got into a fight. He now knows he should not react like that .

I consulted a dog temperament evaluator at a doggie day care. The person knew that Noah was very gentle to people and he accepted my request of having Noah in the day care for a few hours once a week. At the beginning he was showing his teeth when big dogs came close to him but gradually learned that there was no need for him to protect himself or anything else.

Then, I started fostering dogs. Of course I always bring Noah and Holly (my other dog but she is very well socialized and mature so no concern about her) to meet a new foster dog and see how Noah reacts toward the dog. So far he has been doing great and he is getting some socialization that he missed when he was younger (since he is also a rescued dog that came to us at the age of 1.5 yrs so we have no idea about his history). He can now wrestle with our foster dogs too (until I started fostering, Holly was the only dog Noah felt comfortable playing with).

It has been a long way but he has come this far. He passed the CGC test but still taking some classes, not for obedience, but for meeting other dogs. Noah still reacts and barks when seeing big dogs but I have learned to control him by getting his attention to me all the time.

I was also told to put a muzzle on him but I didn't use it, just because that will work backward in terms of building his confidence back. However, it is recommended to prevent any injuries of your dog and other dogs.

It is important that you establish your position (I don't think it should necessarily be as Alpha, but you should be someone your dog can trust and look for directions). What she really needs is to get familiar with more and more dogs. Don't let her meet any dogs but only the dogs that have good temperament and well socialized. You would not want your dog to fail/get even worse in terms of socialization. Again, your dog needs to learn that there is nothing to get aggressive against other dogs.

I personally had hard time at the off-leash park just because Noah could not get along with some dogs. He did try to tell the other dog not to get any closer by showing his teeth or growling but some dogs didn't get dog-to-dog communication and they didn't respect Noah's personal space requirement. Noah didn't like boxers and huskies for some reason (I think the way they run toward him scared him). He did much better with herding dogs. You might want to observe your dog and see if there is any specific breed(s) she does not like.

Sorry, the above might not be answering your question but I don't want you to give up. You and your dog should be able to work it out. Good luck
Posted by taniajennifer
Mar 18, 2008
Dear Max/Holly/Noah:

Ok so i have a similar problem with the leash-free park. libby is fine with dogs that are even tempered and loves to hang on the periphery and run with them while they chase balls and goof around but is not yet in a place to handle high-energy, uptight dogs. so basically i have decided that dog parks are no longer an option for us until things improve. IF they do improve. I am fairly confident i can get her there. However, my dog got so much out of going to the leash free park as far as exercise and playing with other dogs. How do you compensate for that? Im not particularly athletic and we do walk twice a day 30 minutes each time but really it would be nice to give her more. Any ideas how to get more fun and socialization without a dog park? What do you do for Noah besides playing with your other dogs.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 19, 2008
Hi taniajennifer,

I live in Portland, Oregon, where it rains every single day from Nov to April. I don't go to off-leash park during the rainy season because the ground is so muddy and I would have to wash my dogs every day if I did.

My dogs are handling the change pretty well and they are laid back, however, they are still BORDER COLLIES!! They need both mental and physical stimulation.

I do agility with Holly. I want to do that with Noah too but as I mentioned in my previous posting Noah still has some problems with some dogs so I don't think he is ready for agility yet since he will have to be among other dogs.

I play games with my dogs every other nights. I make both dogs (plus the foster dog) down and wait while I take a basket full of toys (over 2 dozens) to a different room and scatter them. I place a huge cardboard box across the hallway. I come back to my dogs and tell them to go get a toy.

Each dog will go look for toys and bring one back to me for a reward (tiny piece of treat). They have to jump over the cardboard box on the way there and back.

Another exercise they do inside the house is fetching the ball from upstairs to downstairs. Our stairway is carpeted so the dogs don't slip. We all go upstairs and I tell each dog to go get the ball I throw downstairs. They have to take turns. I tell which one's turn each time. This is a good practice for them to self control. They all want to chase the ball but they should do what they are told. (for example, I looked at Noah and say "Noah, you will stay" and I looked at Holly and say "Holly, go get the ball" as I throw it. It is a tremendous temptation for dogs to see a ball is being thrown but he/she has to sit still.

You can also play hide and seek, treasure hunting, guess what game, etc. They are same as children in a way. They like challenges as long as there is treat/reward associated with.

I hope you and Libby will find some fun at home too!