Serious Aggresion Problem

Posted by susan2912
Mar 5, 2010
My family adopted a 1yr border collie x with no problems but within 6 months he was aggressive to other dogs on lead, though hes great with people. He had no known aggression problems at the shelter, and we socialised him from day 1. At home hes obediant (e.g. sits + waits for food, walks through the door after us etc) and doesn't act like he thinks hes alpha dog.

We hired professional help, who told us to stop all contact with other dogs, give him the cold shoulder, then slowly socialise him well enough to let him offlead again. We followed his instructions, but after another 6 months there was still no significant improvement.

After that long without dog-to-dog contact, we don't trust him offlead anymore. Walks are stressful and brief, and I know he isn't getting enough exercise. Does anyone know how to help solve his aggression, or even ways of giving dog-aggressive dogs good exercise?

Any help much appreciated. Susan.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 6, 2010
Hi Susan,

I am sorry to hear that your border collie mix has a serious aggression, especially when he is leashed.

I am afraid the professional trainer was wrong. When a dog has an aggression, you should get him socialized as much as possible, but without overwhelming him.

I think male dogs between the ages of 1 and 1 1/2 start becoming an adult dog and aggressions (either fear or dominant) start right around that time. I have a dog that sounds just like yours. We adopted Noah, a border collie mix, when he was around 1 yr old. The foster family had 2 other dogs and Noah was doing just fine with them. We had 2 existing dogs when we added him and he was fine with Max (14 yrs) and Holly (3 yrs). I posted Noah's problem in this forum so you can read it if you are interested.


Now that I look back, his fear aggression started when Max became physically weak. Noah might have thought he had to be in charge of the pack, although he was not ready. He actually bit a couple of dogs at the dog park and drew blood. Until he became aggressive to other dogs, I never thought about my own dogs bite other dogs. It really opened my eyes and I started reading and doing some researches on correcting that particular behavior. Noah has been very good with people including kids.

Since his aggression started I tried a lot of things: I put him in a doggy day care at the training school (so that he was somewhat familiar with the place and instructors, who understood his problem) a few times for just a couple of hours each time. I have been taking obedience trainings with him, by selecting classes where there are no big dogs that he would react at. I have taken agility classes. I have been fostering dogs to provide Noah more opportunities to get used to other dogs under my supervision. Noah gets OK once he gets used to them in an open environment. He still shows his teeth at big dogs when they first come to our home and snaps at them when they get too close to him.

It has been a long time since we first noticed his aggression but I am so pleased that he has come this far. He is totally gentle and sweet to small dogs/puppies and my foster kittens.

Fearful dogs get aggressive when they are leashed because they feel they are stuck. When dogs encounter with strangers, they can either "fight" or "flight" but the "flight" option is not available when leashed.

I would suggest you find some very friendly and confident female dogs and start getting your dog in contact with them in his own pace. If your dog is obedient you can have him on a leash and sit in a distance from the dog. Have the dog's owner make her sit and stay as you walk slowly your dog closer to her. When he starts lunging or barking, go backwards. See how much closer he can come without getting too excited. You can offer treats to him to keep his attention to you. This is a baby step but he needs to get used to be around other dogs without reacting at them.

If you are comfortable you can hold a puppy and bring the puppy to your dog to see if he wags his tail. Tell him to be gentle while you let your dog sniff the puppy. Observe all of his reactions when other dogs and puppies are around. Find some patterns, such as he is OK with female dogs, or small dogs, etc. Start with those easy ones and expand the variety of dogs.

Good luck and let us know how it goes
Posted by crazycrayonmom
Mar 7, 2010
Border collies are also very visual dogs so you have to be right on top of their reactions. The minute your dog shows aggression towards another dog try the turn and walk away routine. Then when he calms down turn back and go forward again. I had an aggressive border collie and used the "watch" command to distract him from what was bugging him. If you miss those first tell-tale signs, tail high, body tense, etc. and he gets into the hot zone you're best to just turn around and go home. It's very hard to break the focus of a border collie once they're turned on (it's in their genetics, ever watch a border collie herding, they really know how to focus).

One thing we used to do with our border collies was teach them to run on the treadmill. Sorry Cesear Milan, I was doing it before your t.v. show If you get them tired out on the treadmill before you go out to experience other dogs on leash it could help.

Good luck!
Posted by susan2912
Apr 9, 2010
thanks heaps guys

ive taught him the watch command, and with some yummy treats its working well. i have noticed tho that ill say "watch" as we're walking right past the other dog and often fletcher will keep watching the other dog for a couple more seconds until its properly behind us. I always still praise him wen he looks at me, but sometimes i feel like he is waiting too long and being disobediant and defeating the purpose of the exercise.

also i was wondering if i can get some clarification on the warning signs? he is naturally a very alert dog, so his ears are often pricked. if he looks interested (pricked ears, high tail, walking tall), but his hackles are down, is that just natural curiousity found in most dogs, or is that still a bad sign of aggression?

there is a dog that lives a few houses down, and fletcher upon getting near the house will start whining and pullinig to meet the dog through the fence in what looks like a friendly way, and his hackles are down. would he be friendly in that situation do u think? and does raised hackles always mean aggresion?

thanks for your previous input and we r trying ur strategies and he is improving, slowly.