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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20906
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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We have a collie that we took from a rescue centre. He is

Customer Question

We have a collie that we took from a rescue centre. He is affectionate, loving and gentle in the family environment and absolutely bomb proof with our children. He is very well trained, walking on heel, listening to every command. He came to us drastically underweight and we have got him looking great. But, the homing centre did not pick up that certain things trigger attacks from behind. He flinches when feet are close by, like he's been kicked. In two months he has gone for two men, a relative when we thought he was just settling in, and the latest a workman on saturday. We understand the traits of collies, we know a collie nip when we see it, but this is something else, it seems to be motivated by fright but its a full on bite. On saturday the man was bitten three times in two seconds. On each attack the alpha male (me)has not been present and he's attacked the hip, or back of the leg of the two men concerned. He can be really inconsistent with men, sometimes he can be fine and other times he's not- some men he likes- others he growls at. On the two occasions he has attacked, he was played with gently by the men concerned and the attack came by way of ambush when they turned their back. It seems tragic to us that such a fine dog has this unidentifiable trigger and we are hoping that somebody can give us advice as to how to proceed or we will not be able to keep him. Its worth saying that on most visitors coming it appears to trigger excitement and leads him to trigger play with our other collie.

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 5 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,

My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

Thanks for all that information. It is helpful. I need to let you know that the site does not allow me to make clickable links, so to view the supporting websites, you will need to copy and paste the link into a new browser window or tab.

The first thing that I would do is be sure there is no underlying medical cause for the aggression though I don't think that is the cause, it needs to be ruled out. Unfortunately, these would not be able to be ruled out without testing.

It sounds like your new dog may be having issues with thinking he need to protect the family but not having the confidence to do this or as you suggest possibly being scared of these people. Dogs are aggressive toward people for a variety of reasons. It might be that they are fearful of people and thus are aggressive before the person can be. Since he is scared, he waits until they turn their back and then move in. Since in most cases, these people leave once he does this, in his mind, it works to make them leave.

In other cases, a dog is aggressive in order to dominate the people. Other causes could be that the dog feels they are the alpha member of the pack and as the alpha member they must protect the pack (you) from threats (people). This might also be the case since it only happens when you are gone.

I don't know if you allow him on the furniture, but if you do, I would stop that. Dogs that are allowed on furniture tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow him higher that the humans or even on the same level. Attach a leash and use it to remove him from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a quick tug and firm "NO" when he attempts to get on and a treat when he starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture).

Owners sometimes make the situation even worse by tensing up and worrying about what will happen. The dog senses the owner worry and feels that he is justified in his aggressive stance because you are obviously worried about the people. They don't know you are worried about them attacking, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the people. So family members need to be relaxed.

There are ways to correct this situation though. The best way is to start obedience training. While a formal training class is great, you can start obedience training without a formal class. Before you can get into classes, the following site is helpful for teaching you how to train your dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions. Use tasty treats like vienna sausage slices or liver slivers as dog are eager to work for them over other types of treats.

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

You will also want to keep a leash on him at all times initially to grab if he should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. All family members need to participate in this if they are old enough to give commands.

This obedience work establishes the humans as the alpha members of the pack and as alphas or bosses it is the human's job to protect the dog and not the dogs job to protect you. Now the dog will still protect you if something should happen because you will be protecting yourself and as part of the pack, he will follow your lead and protect as well. But if you are calm around someone, he will see that you are ok and there is no need to help. This is why being the boss works well. Obedience training establishes you as the boss. It also helps a dog gain self confidence and be less fearful of humans as he knows what to expect of them. It also allows him to be socialized around a large number of different kinds of people in a controlled situation where the humans are not focused on him.

You can use this obedience training to control him when visitors are around. You can train him to sit when visitors come in the door and stay until the visitors are sitting down. Then you can command him to go lay down in his spot and stay. You can also have him stay in that position until visitors leave.

When first teaching him to sit at the door when visitors come, you can slip the leash under your foot, have him sit and use the leash to keep him in that spot in a sit or down position as you open the door. Initially he will fight it, but soon will realize it doesn't do any good to try and move away and will stay. When he does that reward him. Have visitors reward her as well. Have a release command or command him to go to his spot once your visitors are seated. This teaches him what behavior you expect to see when visitors come over.

Additionally, I would suggest you get a basket muzzle and make him wear it anytime children are around or visitors are there. Be sure to use the leash to make him obey you. If he growls give a short tug to get his attention and a firm "NO" to let him know, you are not going to allow this behavior. If he is sleeping, give a little tug to let him know that someone is there so he isn't startled when being woken up.

If there is someone the dog tries to do this to on a regular basis, perhaps they would agree to come over so you can work with the dog to teach him to sit. Of course, the dog would need to be muzzled to ensure there was no bites. You might start the training even though it doesn't happen when you are around and teach the other family members how to do it once he knows the commands and is listening well. The other family members will need to train since it only happens when you are not home, so it is going to need to be something your family agrees to help with.

In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques I describe, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
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