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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20222
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My dog was attacked 6 months ago by 2 stafford terriers

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My dog was attacked 6 months ago by 2 stafford bull terriers & although he was very nervous afterwards he recovered well. Recently he has started snarling at any dog he meets, once he has snarled he then plays ok with dog its as if he needs to assert himself first. He is a border terrier & before attack was really friendly so was hoping for some advice on rebuilding his confidence
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.

In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.

How old is your border terrier?
Is he neutered?
Has he had any obedience training?
Does he exhibit this behavior with dogs he knows well?
Do you give any sort of reprimand when he acts in this manner?
Is this on leash or off leash?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

He is almost 4 and is neutered, he has had training & is very obedient. This behaviour seems to be with dogs he is meeting for first time and is a lot worse if he is on his lead. I verbally correct him which he seems to understand as he sulks but also praise him if he doesnt snarl

Hi Gill,
Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. I do have to mention that there are health reasons for aggressive behavior even though I don't think it is an issue in this case. You can read about these below. Unfortunately, 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.

Dogs are aggressive toward other dogs for a variety of reasons. It might be that they are fearful of other dogs and thus are aggressive before the other dog can be. In other cases, a dog is aggressive in order to dominate the other dogs and be the alpha member of the pack. 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 (other dogs). In your case, fear is probably the underlying cause since he was attacked.

In addition, 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 dog. They don't know you are worried about them attacking, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the other dog. I'm pretty sure this is contributing to the situation since he is worse on lead than he is off. So you need to work on being more relaxed when walking him.

Now having him wear a muzzle might make you feel a little less nervous, but he doesn't sound like it is so bad a muzzle is needed.

Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you. Even though he doesn't seem dominant toward you, I felt I should mention this.

What may help him learn to not start off a meeting defensively is to be assured that you won't allow another dog to attack him. I know that is impossible when he is off lead, but you can start when he is on lead by keeping him a little back from the other dog and only giving them a little room to interact and ask the other owner to do the same thing. You might even ask that there be no contact with your dog for a little while. If you are stopping casual contact, he may see this as you taking over the protection aspect which will help him relax a bit.

I think you are doing a good job of stopping the behavior and definitely doing the right thing in rewarding the desired behavior. I would switch to using a high value treat like paper thin vienna sausage or raw chicXXXXX XXXXXver. Most dogs will ignore most anything for these types of treats. It might help keep his attention on you.

Another trick that really works well is to brush his tail down to a position horizontal to the body. This is a non aggressive tail position and often will help change a dog's frame of mind. A tail held high is dominant or aggressive and a tail held down between the legs is an indication of fear. Changing that position helps change their interaction with another dog since it is body language. I also want to give you some sites on body language.

I'd start back up with his training and try for 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.

Formal classes would work great. Obedience training serves various purposes. It will help socialize him quickly around a large number of strange dogs in a controlled atmosphere with a professional trainer present. This may help with the situation as well.

If there is a dog that he reacts to often, you might work with him and this dog. Since it is worse with new dogs it might be difficult to work too much with him but I would start giving a short tug and firm "NO" when he displays unwanted behavior so he understands you find it unacceptable. I'm also going to give you some sites on BAT training that might be helpful.

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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