selective aggression in inherited dog

Posted by jbscharli
May 18, 2010
I inherited my father's 18 month old English Springer Spaniel when he past away. I basically trained her, since my dad was not physically able to. She had an older "sister", which she lost along with her master, and the freedom of many acres no road and few people. My father had a tough time getting around. So when "Charli" got old enough to challenge the older dog, he couldn't always get there in time to handle the situation the way he wanted. Unfortunately Charli was the one that got punished, mainly with yelling or sometimes put in a separate room, mainly when they ate.
We had lost our dog 6 months before, so when Charli came to our home, she was, (and still is) the only dog. We took it very slow to let her adjust. She was doing well,but 8 months after she was with us my daughter went to pet her and Charli growled, baring teeth at her. She has done this to my husband and 17 yr. old son, but not nearly as often. She has only done it to me when I was grooming her, or the time I tried to put her on her back. I had read about "dominance aggression" and wanted to see if I could put her in a "submissive" position... never did happen.
I believe it is dominant aggression, but it is somewhat selective, and not constant.
We have started with the "Alpha dog" training. Hopefully this will help.
Any suggestions or thoughts would be appreciated. She is a good dog, and we have gotten so attached to her....but my family's safety comes first.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
May 21, 2010
Hi jbscharli,

I am sorry to hear that Charli's previous life wasn't a very happy one. Unfortunately she didn't not get enough attention/care/training due to your father's physical condition. It was a very critical stage in her mental and emotional development so I assume she had some handicap from the beginning of her life.

Her selective aggressions seem to explain that. She doesn't have a stability in her mind because she is lack of confidence in herself.

I think most of dogs's aggressions are due to lack of confidence. Charli has not totally gained trust toward you and your family menbers. Getting bit by her, your children should feel some fear or at least uneasiness toward Charli. That triggers Charli's uneasiness to be petted, or touched other parts of her body. In other words, she is as much scared as you are, as much skeptical as you are. One example is when people give a treat to a stranger dog, sometimes they extend the treat to the dog and pull their hand right away thinking they might get bit. That will trigger the dog to snatch the treat as soon as possible and ends up biting the hand.

I really think Charli's confidence level needs to be boosted up by taking her to a dog obedience class by you (or anybody in your family). She will be a totally different dog after she forms a strong bonding with a person. That person should trust her inside out, that person should protect her and stands on her side whatever happens to her. That person would not label Charli as a dog with "inpredictable behaviors".

All my 3 dogs are rescued dogs and each one of them came to us with some issues and lack of confidence because of the way they had been treated. They are not perfect yet (and will never be perfect) but they are now pretty confident dogs, thanks to all the training, agility, trick classes we took together. We are still doing daily trainings to maintain the focus from our dogs.

By the way, putting her in a submissive position would not only help her but in contrary it will ruin the relationship between her and you. It just goes against what you want to do - gaining her trust and confidence....

Good luck
Posted by jbscharli
May 23, 2010
thank you for your input. The lack of confidence is a very good point. I believe that is why it has been so tough to figure out why she doesn't always growl at the same thing and person all the time. I promised my Dad I would take good care of her, but it is tough when we are all, just alittle afraid she will bite. We have lots of work to do, but hopefully it will be worth it. Thank again