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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 28935
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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my cocker spaniel has just gone for a tall stranger who walked

Customer Question

my cocker spaniel has just gone for a tall stranger who walked past us while sitting in a pub garden, he was on his lead and has done the same thing before .both men were very tall and on both occasions the dog was lying down apparently relaxing with my wife the dogs younger sister and myself.the first time no contact was made so we brushed it off but this time he bit the mans trouser which could easily have beenhis leg if the lead had been slacker.please advise
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin
I have advanced training in canine behavior and at first glance would diagnose territorial and protective aggression in Sonie. These types of aggression are directed toward a person or another animal that isn't a member of the group or pack, or is unfamiliar to the dog. Aggression may be exhibited toward people or other animals that approach family members or the pet's perceived territory, while the very same dog may be non-aggressive or even friendly when meeting unfamiliar people and dogs off the property. Anxiety and fear may also play a role in the developement of territorial aggression since threats and aggressive displays are more likely to be exhibited to novel, unfamilair, or fear-eliciting stimuli (tall men, e.g?) Dogs that also exhibit signs of fear or anxiety when meeting new people or animal off their property are more likely to be exhibiting fear-induced aggression either alone, or in combination with territorial aggression. Dogs that are allowed to frequently exhibit behavior toward passerby at windows, fence lines, or along the boundaries of the property progressively get worse. The reason for this is that the end result of the dog's territorial behavior is movement of the person or animal away from the home. Thus the dog's aggressive behavior is reinforced.

An owner with good control over a dog can usually suppress the behavior with firm commands and appropriate rewards for compliance - treats, praise, and petting. The first important step is to immediately take complete control of the pet and its environment. The pet should never be exposed to anything that triggers aggressive displays without a family member being present to control its behavior. The problem can be best managed by desensitization and counter conditioning. Retraining should begin by gradually exposing the dog to stimuli and situations that previously evoked aggression. However, training shouldn't proceed until the owner can successfully calm and control the dog on command.

The techiques for desensitization and counterconditioning used in this process are best discussed with a trainer or behaviorist. Addressing aggressive behavior must never be done in a long-distance fashion because it's a dynamic process and the many steps necessary may change continually. You may elect to simply sequester Sonie or keep her on a very short leash which might solve your problem in a most expedient manner. Exacerbation of her aggression, however, dictates professional and hand-on intervention.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.