Sweet to aggressive

Posted by Dr-Kate
Dec 7, 2009
We adopted a female Dalmatian/Australian Shepard mix rescue, Dottie, two weeks ago. When we met her she was calm, friendly to everyone, walked nicely on a leash with lots of people walking by and stopping to say hi to her. She was a little timid, but did fine when we had several people over for Thanksgiving. This weekend, we had two male friends come over (a teenager and an adult) and Dottie began barking and growling at them. I told her "No." When my husband told her "No," she barked and growled at him with her ruff up and tail between her legs. I put her in her crate and we ignored her. While in her crate, she was quiet and laid down even when the two strangers were around. The teenager spent the weekend and Dottie did not settle down, I had to put her in her crate several times.

Dottie was sitting with the family this evening and my teenage boys came in from sledding. Dottie barked and growled at them. They spoke to her, thinking all the clothing was new to her. She didn't stop. Again, we told her "No and hush" and put her into her crate. What I am struggling to understand is that she has been fine with them all along, they take her for walks, and love her up. Suddenly, it is like she doesn't recognize them. My husband and I feed her and also, walk her. She pulls at the leash and we are working to get her to walk nicely. Currently, she is crated during the day.

All we know about Dottie is that she was found roaming in Georgia. She knows some of her commands, sit, stay, and come. Although, she chooses to ignore them at times. She has one blue eye and one brown eye.

I do not want to give up on her, but at the moment my husband thinks she is crazy. We need to be able to trust her with strangers and other dogs.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Posted by kjd
Dec 7, 2009
My guess, Dr. Kate: She has had a bad experience with at least one man in her past. As she got more comfortable in her new home, she felt safe to show her opinion of males. Be patient with her. You don't know what happened to make her the way she is, but she isn't crazy. Have your sons start over from scratch -- toss her treats, don't make eye contact or touch her or talk to her. Let her stay away from them. When I had Zoey, who was afraid of most anything but people, her behavioralist advised: the dog has to approach what frightens her; it cannot approach her. Males frighten Dottie. Let her decide they are safe to approach. Tossing treats to her will let her know their being around means good things. It is hard for teenagers, but they must go slow with Dottie. When she approaches them in the beginning, they should continue to ignore her. They can gradually start talking to her in a calm voice, telling her how brave she is to be near them. The time will come with she will welcome their touch, but not in the immediate future.

Meanwhile, you should continue working on being the alpha. If she continues to feel your husband is safe, he should also take the alpha position. But he shouldn't be harsh with her.

You are doing a good thing giving this poor animal a home. Good luck and let us know how it progresses.

Posted by cgstilley
Dec 7, 2009
I'm having the same problem with a 9yo sheltie/corgi we adopted. He's mostly sweet, but will snarl and snap without notice. Last night I was brushing him and when I tried to turn him to reach the other side, he bit my hand. He didn't break the skin, but still. I sent him into the punishment corner with a strong "go lay down". He will let my adult sons pet him and seems to enjoy it, but then will turn and snap. I wanted a nice, old dog, but I don't want to live like this.
Posted by crazycrayonmom
Dec 7, 2009
Your new dog doesn't know he's safe yet. It can take a very long time, especially if he had trauma in his life, for him to relax in your home. Don't give up on him. He'll be worth it in the end!
Posted by LetsPlay
Dec 8, 2009
Hi sgstilley,

I would recommend taking your dog to the vet to make sure that he is not sore or sick.
It might just be that you are touching him in an area that is uncomfortable for him. Some dogs get ear infections and the area around their ears (the place where most people pat a dog) is really sore and painful. It could also be that he has a wee lump somewhere.

And of course, it could be that he thinks that he is ruling the house and he has the right to determine when he had enough. If your vet says that he is healthy and it's not a physical condition that is causing it you should definitley work on establishing yourself as the Alpha Dog. Have a look at the Alpha Dog book or ask us again on the forum if you have any questions.

All the best