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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Our Labradoodle Freddie, who was very very back when youn
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Our Labradoodle Freddie, who was very very laid back when young, since the age of 2 seems to be deciding that he doesn't like some dogs and barks and shows his teeth at them. This appears to happen more when he's on the lead, which is not often; when smaller dogs jump up to his face; when we are having coffee and food outside cafes and other dogs come up behind him (he turns around and growls at them, and we are convinced this is about the food). He has also become quite territorial around his house. Whilst we were having coffee last week a friend came along with a dog he has always played with and Freddie turned on Bobby and growled him away.
We are not sure how to deal with this.
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replied 2 years ago.
My name is ***** ***** Ive been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
The first thing that should be done is to rule out a medical cause for the sudden aggression. While his age makes this less likely, I still need to mention it. You can read about these here:
If there is no medical cause for the aggression, then it is strictly behavioral. 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 addition, owners sometimes make the situation even worse by tensing up and worrying about what will happen which you admit is happening now as a result of his past behavior. 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 their reaction, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the other dog.
For a dog that is reacting like this, total control is necessary. This means not only physical control but on a mental level, you must be the alpha. To accomplish this, you may want to have the dog wear a basket muzzle anytime he is not in your own house or yard. This will not only prevent bites but also allow you to feel more at ease when walking him. If he is not neutered, have that done.
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. You don't mention that as a problem so that is a good thing.
Dogs that are allowed on furniture tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, 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. In addition, humans shouldn't be on the floor with him either. 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).
You will need to have him obedience trained if he isn't already. If you can, I would do group classes (with the muzzle if necessary) and let the trainer know of the problem your dog has. It might take you a few months of basic training before he is ready for group class. If he has had training you need to keep up with it at home on a regular structured basis and not just by commanding him to do things through the day. Set up a specific time and place to just train with him each day.
The following site is helpful. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
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.
Obedience training serves various purposes. It helps a dog learn what humans expect of them when they state a command which leads to self confidence and less fear. Each time a dog obeys a command, even if it is for a treat, it makes them a little more submissive to that human in the future which helps with dominance aggression. And since it is the leader or boss who is responsible for protecting the pack, if the dog is made submissive with training, you are responsible for protecting him, so that can reduce aggression due to fear and dominance.
Now one thing that I immediately see is that you haven't been "protecting" him from other dogs. Little dogs that are jumping at his face should not be allowed to. It is your responsibility to keep those dogs from doing so. This may involve asking the owner to please control their dogs or physically putting yourself between the dogs and your dog. You might also come up with a way of warning your dog that another dog is approaching so he isn't caught off guard. If he is sitting or laying down and another dog approaches from behind, he is at a disadvantage especially if the other dog is showing dominant behavior.
Your dog is now an adult and behavior that he may have tolerated as a younger dog is seen differently when he is an adult. Obedience training helps with teritorial issues as well since you own everything being the boss so he shouldn't be as protective when you are present.
You will also want to keep a leash on him at all times initially to grab if she should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with additional 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. Give this a try and see how it works for you.
I want to also give you sites on body language so you can determine what a dogs body language is saying to your dog. It may help you understand why he is fine with one dog and not the next.
It will be helpful if you can find someone with a dog to help you once you have your dog listening to commands consistently. What you will do is have your dog on the leash. You will have your helper off in the distance. Your helper will gradually move their dog a bit closer to you preferably walking past your position in the distance. As long as your dog ignores them, you can give your dog praise and a treat. The second you see him fixate on the other dog or show any other sign of aggression (hair standing up, etc.) give your dog a correction by giving a short tug and a firm low toned "NO". It shouldn't take your dog long to realize you will not tolerate the aggression and that if he ignores the other dog, he gets treats. Once this happens you can repeat the training moving the other dog closer until he is no longer trying to lunge at other dogs. You will need to practice this when you and your dog are walking as well. I do realize that he isn't this bad yet, but without correction now, he will get to this point before too long.
In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques I've suggestion, you may have to consult a professional in person 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 you found my reply helpful. If you need further clarification or more information, please reply and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
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