- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Sigh...stop the fighting, dog!!

August 4th, 2006, 03:04 PM
Hi there,

Well its my turn - I came to looking for info for my bratty teenaged Golden. Toby is 2.5 years old right now. Before he reached 2 years, he was the silly little subordinate dog laying on the ground with his belly up for any dog he met. After 2, it was like a light switch went off and he suddenly started getting into fights. I'm told that this is typical teenage behaviour for his age and that some dog owners see the light go back on in their dog's brain at around 3 years (I HOPE TO GOD THAT IS TRUE!!). Apparently he is "challenging other higher ranking dogs to establish his place in the dog hierarchy".

He has gotten into progressively worse and worse fights (now he has bitten a dog!) to the point that we have to severley limit his access to only dogs we know he gets along great with. And with several 'rules' - 1. no sticks or toys around (he is now possesive over them) 2. on-leash only, 3. keep moving (walks instead of hanging around the dog park), and 4. keep greetings short and sweet.

I've been in touch with some good trainers who advise me to stick to the above rules, stand in between my dog and the other dog that is approaching, stick a muzzle on him if I'm not sure about the other dog approaching (like the owner is going to come near us if she/he sees me bending down to put his muzzle on!). With the caveat that I should only have the muzzle on him for 2-5 minutes at a time since its so hot.

Anyways, I am doing all of the above and we have regular 'walking dates' with my good friend and her golden that Toby likes. It is still discouraging as he still meets other dogs that he wants to pick a fight with. For instance, going to the vet and being in close quarters in the waiting room....or, people letting their off-leash dog race up to him and calling out 'don't worry - he's friendly!!'.

Sigh!!! I can't wait until he stops this madness!! Is there anything else I can do in the meantime?? The trainers just said to keep socializing him with his buddy and keep my eye out for signals that he is gearing up for a fight with other dogs and move along!

He is such a wonderful dog and is just a sweet angel with people. It is tempting to avoid the whole thing and not let him be around dogs, but I know that will only make things worse. I want my friendly little puppy back!!


August 4th, 2006, 03:06 PM
Is he neutered?

August 4th, 2006, 03:09 PM
Yes, he was already neutered before we adopted him from the Humane Society at 10 months old. I'm not sure what age he would have been neutered at though.

August 4th, 2006, 03:11 PM
Was there one incident that triggered his behavior or was it a gradual decline? How is he with you? Is he possessive of anything around you (no dogs around)? Does he ever growl at you?

August 4th, 2006, 03:17 PM
I'd say it was a gradual decline first beginning after age 2. He is totally not aggressive or possessive with me or any other people - just with dogs. I can take away a toy or food or anything with no problem and so can other people. He never growls at us either. Which is a good thing, I realize...I hear other people have the same problem as Toby (dog-dog aggression) but also sadly have the dog-people aggression issues too. I guess I will count my blessings that we don't seem to have that issue! :shrug:

August 4th, 2006, 03:23 PM
the training school I use has a "rowdy rovers" class. for dogs w/ good people skills, but no dog-dog skills. Sadly, I'm very far from you. But maybe there is something similar in your area. I'd try to get some professional one-on-one training w/ a behaviorist.

August 4th, 2006, 03:29 PM
We are aware of a growl class that is offered by one of the trainers ("Trainer B" - she is a widely known aggression expert/behaviourist) we consulted with, but she didn't think I needed to take it if I just followed her rules :confused: She also said that I could do a one-on-one with her but it would just show me how to act and would not let Toby practice with other dogs. :confused: :confused: The other trainer ("Trainer A") said she wouldn't let Toby into her behaviour modification class!

August 4th, 2006, 03:42 PM
they won't let Toby learn w/ other dogs? Frankly, I'd find a new trainer/school. one who addressed the problem at hand, and taught/practiced techniques with another dog. my trainer always uses his own dogs for teaching dog interaction. We set up a situation, trainer w/ his dog, me w/ my dog, and practice the techniques. maybe someone can recommend another in your area? I'm sorry, I wish I could be of more help, but I think learning & practicing w/ a professional & a reliable dog will really help alot.

August 4th, 2006, 03:52 PM
I'm told that this is typical teenage behaviour for his age and that some dog owners see the light go back on in their dog's brain at around 3 years Yes, dogs do get over the adolescent testing phase, but how they come out the other end depends on you. Aggression issues don't go away with time or age. You really have to deal with them for them to go away. After three (or sometimes 4, 5, or 6 ;)) they stop questioning and just fit into the role they established as an adolescent. But that role right now for your dog is people lover/dog hater and you don't want him to finish adolescence and still be in that state of mind.

August 4th, 2006, 04:00 PM
Thanks Jessi

I agree - what you are suggesting sounds like the absolute best. I wish I knew of other trainers in the area that know what to do with aggression. Everyone I ask either point to trainer A or to trainer B as they seem to be the widely known experts in the area. Trainer B especially is very knowledgable and has a good reputation since she is often called as an expert behaviourist in court cases. She seemed to downplay what I thought was extremely serious behaviour, which surprised me! We had a one-on-one with her and her dog before he got to the bite stage (forgot to mention that earlier) so she is well aware of what Tobys behaviour is like....sigh! Also - how do I say this - she is great with dogs but her interactions with us people are a little "off" IMHO. As for the other trainer (A) - she told me she didnt think her other clients would "appreciate their dog being around a dog like Toby"!!!! That totally turned me off! I am willing to do whatever it takes to help Toby through this (hopefully) phase, so if anyone has any advice on where I could get help....:sad:

August 4th, 2006, 06:58 PM
It's hard to give advice when I can't actually see in person how the dog behaves and stuff, but my 10 month old chow mix developed problems like that.
She was a perfect little submissive dog and then suddenly what appeared to be overnight, she developed dominance problems over other dogs (though not what I would consider dangerous agressive).
We have done what you did, strictly enforce the rules of the house etc.. but as far as your dog trying to attack dogs while you're out walking, how does he walk on leash in the first place? Does he try to pull a lot or go off and sniff things on his own?
What I found helps a lot with my dog is teaching her leash manners (and I don't mean just teaching her not to pull), I mean that she knows how to heel, not pull on the leash, mind under distraction when I tell her no (this isn't perfect yet but we're getting there). If your dog doesn't have very good leash manners in the first place, he's not going to mind well when he decides he wants to run off after another dog. I know I'm probably saying stuff you already know, but sometimes people don't realize just how teaching your dog to mind on leash in general can help with dominance problems.
For instance, if your dog is pulling or distracted the whole time, you're going to be on edge, which is going to cause your dog to be even more hyper and on edge, which is why it's a must that YOU yourself be confident in your dog. This can't happen if your dog won't even mind perfectly with simple distractions.
As far as trainers not wanting to work with you or your dog one on one or in a group I have to ask - WHAT?! - your dog would progress a lot more smoothly with the help of a trainer to show both of you what to do and not to do. I wish I had a trainer around here to show me how to do stuff, but all the ones here don't know anything, so I had to figure out everything on my own by reading books, articles, forums and learning my dogs body language (which works but it's definately much easier to have someone that knows what they're doing show you).

August 4th, 2006, 07:44 PM
Yeah, I am finding that even in a big city like Ottawa, you really have to be careful what trainers you end up with. I know there are a few that use negative/punishment so that excludes them from my list automatically. Then there are a bunch that just do puppy obedience and don't know much about 'problems', so it really limits the field fast!

There are two left in the phone book (other than the 2 I already mentioned) that I haven't tried and don't know yet where they fall in terms of positive/negative. One is affiliated with Barkbusters (which I understand is international) and the other is one Toby's breeder recommended (long story - I got him from the Humane Society but found out he was registered purebred and tracked him down). I've left messages but probably won't hear back until next week :fingerscr

In terms of the leash thing - so far he really only has jumped at a dog when they came right up and approached him directly or came after a toy/stick he figured was his, as opposed to him pulling/running over to the dog and jumping them. (we now don't go anywhere near sticks or toys for this reason)

He definitely is not perfect but he is pretty good on-leash in general. Mind you, I use a Gentle Leader and I find it helps alot. He is veeerrrrry good on his Gentle Leader!! When I don't use it, I have to be extra careful to keep him quite close to my side or my arm comes out of the socket. As long as I keep him on a short leash, its usually ok. He likes to sniff stuff but I generally keep tabs on that by saying 'off' when he gets too nosy with people's gardens etc. The majority of the time he actually listens! Lately I've been testing him more by stopping every now and again to sit or do a down stay - just to see if he's still paying attention. So far so good there. I did that last night when he started walking too quickly to see a dog ahead of us and he was good. All that being said, I'm sure there's tons of room for improvement on the leash. Before all this started, he was AWESOME on his recall even off leash with other dogs, but now.....I don't trust it.

Thanks everybody for your thoughts and advice. I'm going to follow up and hopefully one of those two new trainers will actually be decent. I love my dog and I want him to be a social dog with manners!!

Mybirdisevil - did you try anything else when your chow mix started with the dominance issues?

August 4th, 2006, 08:14 PM
Really we've just done the following the rules completely thing to establish ourselves as pack leader etc.
The main things we do are:

Feed twice a day at the same time, leave the food down for 10 minutes, if she doesn't finish we decide that she's done anyway, unless she's still standing there eating, in which case we make an exception 'cause we don't wanna make her eat too fast. If she's just standing there staring at her bowl or walking around, it's gone.(leaving food down all day or for a long time can cause food posessiveness, and she's always been a bit posessive of food).

No toys are her toys: basically yes, she's allowed to play with toys but we don't leave them out for her, she gets to play with toys when we decide she can, and if she acts possessive of a toy (pulling it away, trying to tug with us, holding her head high with toy in her mouth and pushing on us so if we try to take it she can pull it away) then she doesn't get that toy anymore.
(Just as a note, if your dog has become posessive of all his toys, it's easier just to buy a new set of toys and start over training with these).

Her fetch toys are completely seperate from the toys she just plays with or chews on, if we play fetch we use toys that are ONLY used for that. This way she doesn't become posessive of these at all, she knows these are specifically for fetch. This also keeps down conflicts between her and my other dog because she knows these toys are mine and her job is to fetch them, and that only.

She sleeps in her crate most nights, every once in awhile she sleeps in the bedroom if she's been well behaved but NEVER is she allowed on the bed anymore. If you have a dog with agression problems to the point where he's hurt another dog I would only let him sleep overnight in his crate (but that's just my opinion)

She is also not allowed full roam of the house, she stays in the room I'm in.(this is true for both my dogs though because I don't trust the other one not to eat something, he's only 8 months old :rolleyes: )

I could probably write about 10 pages of all the little tiny stuff I do, but those are the main things, lol.

Oh yeah, I also meant to say, when you do let him meet other dogs NEVER approach head on, this can cause an agressive outburst from either dog. Approach slowly and to the side and wait until both dogs are calm.

August 4th, 2006, 10:18 PM
When I don't use it, I have to be extra careful to keep him quite close to my side or my arm comes out of the socket. As long as I keep him on a short leash, its usually ok

Sorry I just had to respond once more. You probably know this but a gentle leader isn't really a good training device to teach leash manners as all it does is pull the dogs head around when he pulls. If you're worried about your "arm coming out of the socket" when he's on a normal lead then he's not well trained enough. If you have to keep him on a short leash to keep yourself from worrying, that goes along with the comment I made about you not being confident in your dog. You have GOT to work more on manners with a collar as a opposed to a gentle leader so you can become confident in your dogs ability to mind in all circumstances. When you're more comfortable, he'll be more comfortable (not to say get comfortable enough to just ignore him while you guys are walking, lol, but comfortable enough to not be completely worried the whole time about whether you're holding the leash tight enough, etc.)

August 5th, 2006, 07:32 AM
Good comments - thanks! Yes, I thought we might have to ditch the Gentle Leader. When we find a 'good' trainer, I'm going to see what they suggest about leash training without it. Too bad because he doesn't even try to pull when he's using it! Its like the leash is so slack that you hardly even know he's on the other end! I will work on that with him right away. Thanks again for your posts - it feels pretty discouraging having this problem and your ideas at least help me to feel there is something more we can do about it. I know it doesn't sound like it, but he is truly a sweet dog and I don't want to give up on him!

August 5th, 2006, 12:33 PM
Hi there

Check your PM, I've recomended a good trainer for you.

The key with the gentle leader is to teach the dog not to pull. Praise the dog when its walking well and let the leader indicate to the dog that its not walking nicely. You'll also want to work in some walking with a collar only, but the trainer I've recomended will show you how to use the gentle leader as a tool instead of a crutch

August 5th, 2006, 03:53 PM
Thanks PetFriendly!! I've spoken to the trainer on the phone and it sounds promising. We'll bring Toby to see her for an evaluation. Interestingly, she did not think it was a dominance issue (since he is neutered), but instead wonders if some incident with another dog may have happened that we may have not noticed (a growl or lip) and he overreacted and now our tenseness is making it worse. She is the only one out of four now that doesn't think its a dominance/social maturity-hierarchy challenging thing.

I'm going to go ahead and have evaluations done with both "Dogs Den Learning Centre" (Stacey Brickman) and "Bark Busters" (Connie Clarke). If anyone on this forum has had any experience with either or knows someone who has, could you please please PM me? Please tell me:
what did you see the trainer for? (what problem)
what was their methods like?
in general what did you like the best and least about them?
what are some things you think we should be aware of?

Remember not to post about them, but PM me instead...please and thank you so much!! Fingers crossed that we can help Toby :(

p.s. Mybirdisevil - how did you Chow turn out? Has she improved over time??

August 5th, 2006, 04:58 PM
She's much improved (though keep in mind she's only 10 months old so we caught it fairly early, maybe we overreacted but we didn't want her to end up really agressive towards other dogs or people), she doesn't get near as distracted or fixated on things and she's a lot better with my other dog. It was to the point (before we started getting more structured with her), where she was trying to agressively establish dominance over my other dog. If he had a toy (even if she'd never seen it before), she'd mount him (yes she's a girl but she would :rolleyes: ), and when it was really bad she even started dragging him around by the scruff of the neck (though this isn't as much of a problem now that he probably weighs 10 lbs more than her).

BTW, some of your dogs issues probably aren't dominance (imo), but the posessiveness of toys and other stuff sounds like it. Food and toy posessiveness is usually related to dominance unless the dog was in a situation where other dogs stole food and stuff from it (such as a byb or puppymill, or a house with lots of dogs where the dogs had to fight for food, as an example(if your dog was in a similar situation, that could trigger it; his agression also).

The trainer is right as far as you being tense aggrivating the situation, that's what I mean by being confident in your dog. When you're not comfortable, other dogs read you and your dogs tense body language and they become tense themselves which your dog notices and can lead to confrontation.

I'd also like to say, don't get frustrated in yourself or your dog, I understand how frustrating it can be when you just don't get why your dog is doing what it's doing and you don't know what to do about it, or the stuff you ARE doing isn't working right away.
I had to learn all the stuff I've been talking about fairly quickly, and I almost started from scratch (I dunno HOW many articles and books I've read), since I've only had one dog (before the current 2) and my dad never let it in the house :mad: , so it didn't have any training.
There's so much misinformation out there it's hard to distinguish what's just a gimmick and what works. If something doesn't make sense to you it's probably not right (especially since you won't be able to implement it if you don't understand it).
Just remember it takes LOTS of patience to get your dog where it should be (especially if you're trying to get it BACK where it should be).