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Aggressive over toys. HELP!

February 15th, 2005, 01:52 PM
I posted this in the General Forum by mistake and although many people checked it out nobody responded. Please...if anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate them.

My pointer/lab rescue is a sweetheart but when it comes to playing with other dogs she sometimes gets out of control. A few months ago she got whacked really hard in the face by an extremely large stick someone else was throwing for her at the park. When the guy threw it she ran in front of him and he caught her across the jaw. It was an accident and there was no damage but after that she was extremely scared of sticks. So I made her play fetch again immediately after it happened. She seemed to be fine until the next time we went. Now everytime a toy/stick is thrown she runs for it, stops and turns around waiting for the dog to come. She then goes at them in an aggressive way. I try to keep her from experiencing this as much as possible because I do not want to put her in a negative position that will allow bad behaviour but sometimes it is enevitable. Now I am in a position that when I take her to the park I have to bring a leash so that when (not if) someone throws a toy I can give her a time-out. These time outs work if I can actually get ahold of her but the problem is that once the toy is thrown she is gone like lightning and she knows she will be in trouble so of course she does not come to me. I rarely get a chance to stop her before it happens. i don't want to have to stop brining her there because she needs a lot of exercise and walking her just doesn't do it. So my question is...has anyone ever experienced/heard of anything like this before and do you know of anything I can do to help fix this behaviour problem? I have checked the local pet stores for someone who will help me train her but they only offer courses to help with the basice which she knows already. I can't seem to find someone that helps train adult dogs with only specific issues.

February 15th, 2005, 03:16 PM
Though it seems that the whack on the jaw is somehow connected to her behavior because of the timing - I really think that this behavior is unrelated to that incident.
She is exhibiting possessiveness over objects she wants to claim as hers. This is rather like a child trying to bully the other kids on the play ground over a ball.
First make sure that she understands the 'leave it', 'sit/stay', 'drop it' and 'gentle or easy' instructions. These have to be good first.
I would put her on the leash (a leash empowers your words and gives you the last word) and bring a stick with you. Create opportunities for her to learn good manners. Throw the stick a very short distance (not longer than the length of the leash) and let her try to get it and have her bring it to you. Make this a happy game and give her lots of praise for success. Make the distance longer and longer (extending the length of the leash) and work on her success of retrievals. Also work the 'sit/stay' as you throw the stick and then have her go get it and bring it back. She should always drop the stick to you - not have a game of keep away.
After you have been successful then take her to the park when there will be less people there and start teaching the same game there. Start with short distances and work towards longer distances as you are successful. Ignore the other dogs. Correct any bad choices she makes to blow you off, growl at another dog etc. Learn to read her intentions - what does she do just before she is about to get grumpy? That is when you warn her to be nice and tell her to be 'gentle' or 'easy'. If she is not listening then you need to go back a step in your training to get back to success.
A dog should perform, or have good manners, out of respect for the leader, so if she is not listening to you then you need to work on your relationship and respect. We have drills for this, but it really comes down to clear communication and working with your dog.
Remember - working your dog for 30 minutes is just as tiring as giving them a 30 minute walk - and its much better for both of you over all.

February 15th, 2005, 08:38 PM
Thank you so much for your thoughts. I have been doing "exercises" with her at the park everyday when no one is around like you said. She listens very well when we are alone and get's a lot of praise and treats when she does the right thing. She has all of the basic training like sit, stay, leave it etc. but the only time she doesn't listen is when this happens. It is like she tunes everything else out and can only focus on that. She also knows what "be nice" means and as long as I am close by she will do it. it is almost like she knows she is out of my reach and therefore thinks she can get away with it. She can afterall to a certain extent as she will be quite a distance away and it takes me longer to get to her. I am so frustrated that I called almost every dog trainer in the book today but only a couple do behavioural training. Most of them are just entry level for puppies. At this point I believe I am going to have to hire someone for private lessons that work with these specific issues. I am waiting for a return call from 2 very well known trainers. Hopefully this will do the trick as nothing else seems to work.

Thanks again for your reply!

February 15th, 2005, 10:42 PM
How old is this dog? Behavior can change dramatically between 10-18 months in their development.
If she is good at 10 feet away, but not at 20 feet then work at 11 then 12 then 13 etc. Use a long leash to empower your words and always go back to success. If you know she can't be trusted at long distances then she doesn't get to be at those long distances until she can prove herself.
A child who respects his parents doesn't steal from the cookie jar even when the parents are out of the house, and a dog who respects his leaders words doesn't blow her off even at long distances.
Good luck it sounds like you have been doing a great job and just stay the course - professional help might be needed but it sounds like you are on the right track.

February 16th, 2005, 10:55 PM
I spoke with the two best behavioural specialists in London today and both of them said that there is nothing I can do to stop this behaviour. They both said that a toy to a dog is a form of prey and with the mix I have there is a strong hunting background so she is going to be possessive regardless. They also said that toys should not be brought to an offleash park due to this. Unfortunately it is hard to control other people's actions so I guess I will just have to continue what I am doing and hope for the best. It seems to be working, only taking a really long time for her. I am unsure of her age as she was a rescue and we had no history on her but my vet says she's aprox. 2-3 years old. Maybe she will grow out of it. She seems to get more calm the longer she is with me. Of course it takes time and patience but she has only been with me for 6 months now. I guess I will keep doing the training and maybe she will come around. Thanks for your help!

February 17th, 2005, 10:01 AM
I would challenge the trainers you spoke with only in that if this dog had a confident leader in her dog pack she would respect him and not challenge him for the toys. Therefore, if you are able to be a confident human leader to her then the same should follow.

February 27th, 2005, 07:59 PM
It sounds hard to believe but my search for help has ended. Not one person that I contacted is willing to help me. I called everyone in the book, went to every pet store in town and asked for referrals. I have given up on trying to find someone to help me and I am dealing with it to the best of my ability and everyone else's suggestions. Allie seems to be getting much better. She will listen on command now when I say "nice" and for the most part will not be aggressive. So I think with enough consistency we will get there. I have been really strict with her lately and have not let her get away with anything. I have enforced the time out's strongly and also overwhelmed her with treats and postive reassurance when she does the right thing. I can see the difference in her already and I am confident that we will get there without any help from a behaviorist. Thanks for all the help and suggestions, it really has made such a difference.

February 27th, 2005, 08:21 PM
Hi Allie, trust tenderfoot, as I believe your dog can be changed.
Our dog had a very strong prey drive (killed everything that moved) she also became very toy and food aggressive, (my brothers teased her, so thier fault) But my father totally turned the dog around !
My father is very firm but fair, and demanded respect from all of us and the dog was no exception.
He never hit or used food rewards, he made our dog earn affection, the dog totally respected him, and when he was finished training her, she chased a rabbit, and was just about to bite, and my Dad said "hey" the dog looked at him, then he said "come" the dog immediately came while watching the rabbit happily hop away.
So I believe your dog can be turned around, You are the Boss and the dog MUST know this, make her earn affection, and ignore her when she;s bad, and keep taking her toys off her and giving them back when she obeys, keep doing it over and over and use a comand like "Drop" when you want her to let the toy go, that way she knows even with other dogs, when you say Drop, she is to let the toy go.

Keep up the good work and never give up!

Lucky Rescue
February 27th, 2005, 08:47 PM
They also said that toys should not be brought to an offleash park due to this

Agree. As long as your dog is not being aggressive to you or to other people,(if she is, sorry I missed that part) I wouldn't force her to play this way with other dogs if she doesn't want to. "Being nice" and "sharing" with other dogs is not a concept with dogs as all are NOT equal. The dominant dog gets the prize.

Maybe she will grow out of it

Actually, dogs usually grow "into it" as they mature. Dogs are not children who can be taught to share with other dogs and trying to make them do so is likely to end in a fight.

February 28th, 2005, 10:31 AM
I agree completely Lucky.

I have seen people bringing toys and balls for their ball crazy dogs who then are surprised when fights start.For some dogs that's like throwing a steak in the middle of 10 of them.

March 3rd, 2005, 10:27 AM
Teach your dog a good, solid "LEAVE IT" command. Then keep your eye on who's throwing what around the park. When her ears perk up or her attention is focused on something....tell her "leave it"
If you've trained the command properly, she will avert her attention back to you in expectation of something better happening.
Good Luck with your rescue dog! They can be wonderfully fulfilling pets!

You might also want to check out something like agility training for her. She may need a more interesting 'job' to do... And it will teach her to focus on you more.

March 3rd, 2005, 11:32 AM
Well first of all Allie is my rescue and I am Kat! LOL! Second, I have called about agility training and they said that if she is not very well behaved then she cannot enroll. They said I must first work on the issues she is dealing with. It seems as though I am being told to go in circles. Although in most dogs telling them to be "nice" doesn't usually work, she seems to have responded to it. When she is getting cranky and I give this comand she usually walks away from the other dog. So since it seems to be taking an effect on her I have continued it. As far as the "leave it" command when it comes to a ball or somehting else being thrown she goes NUTS! Any other time she will leave it but if she see's the toy she freaks right out. Maybe you are right and I should properly teach her that command but I am having a difficult time with it as I said she goes NUTS! Any suggestions to help in that circumstance? I have tried leashing her and giving her slack on it, giving her the command and then rewarading her but the problem is that she is more interested in what else is going on (even if I turn her away from it) then the treats or positive re-inforcement. So I have a dilemma because it seems to be impossible in that circumstance. She is not in any way aggressive towards people. She is only aggressive towards another dog when there is a toy around them. What I don't understand is why the shelter I got her at offers no support for training. It is like as soon as the dog is gone it is not their "problem" anymore and they are not interested in helping you. If anyone has any other thoughts I would really appreciate them. Thanks for all the suggeztions so far!

March 3rd, 2005, 12:07 PM
Well to enroll in agility you need a good strong background in obedience. Your dog has t owork off leash with you and not get easily distracted as a dog who has not done well in obedience, or needs more obedience training may. Also, since you work off leash, the dog really needs to understand and listen without causing other dogs in the class trouble. I know it is frusterating, but they do have reasons for wanting problems sorted out before enrolling in higher level classes.

March 3rd, 2005, 07:15 PM
There are 4 levels to training - inside - outside - outside w/ distractions - distance & distractions. If she is good a one level then you have to work towards the next level but NOT jump ahead to a level she is not ready for. Right now I would say that toys & dogs are college for you/her. You need to work the 'leave it' with appropriate challenges she can succeed with. Get her really good at the 4 levels and then move up to the next level of distraction that is just a bit more challenging for her and get her good at the 4 levels again. Each time you are upgrading the distraction until she can do it with the ultimate distraction that she currently fails with. Does that make sense?