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Aggressive Bullmastiff no fun!!

March 23rd, 2004, 12:30 AM
I found this site looking for any leads on becoming a professional dog trainer! Despite all of the success i've had training my own dogs and the dogs of others, my recent rescue a 120lb bullmastiffXpitbull has me positively stumped and concerned.
I rescued "deva" through the SPCA from a horribly abusive situation. She quicky took to my male "Hobbes" an extremely large and friendly mastiffXtimber wolf and my boyfriend. She went from being a sketchy, fearful dog to being a sucky affectionate animal except for one thing....She is highly aggressive towards strange dogs. To the point that we avoid them completely or use a muzzle for safety. Despite my base knowledge on types of dog aggression, she has managed to avoid all standard classification.
Her aggression contains elements of dominance, protection and even maternal in a way, but I do not want to give up and call her idiopathic or abnormal, nor will I give up on her so here I am.
I am out of my league here, ergot why I would like to study formally to go pro, I suppose she is my first big challange, but I do not think it's wise to attempt this on my own.
Please do get back to me. I would love to be able to take her everywhere with me like I do with Hobbes!
Ps. Where is Dr.Coren hiding? His E-mail addy is no more!


March 23rd, 2004, 08:19 AM
I rescued a Dalmation that had major aggression issues.

How long have you had the dog? I was told time will help and it has!

What about sitting the dog and using treats? Like get a dog to come close have your dog in sit and stay..when they are good and quiet give a treat. Let the other dog come closer and if they are good give another treat. Try to keep this up ...but if fails at least you will know its boundries?

We have also found that when dog are on leashes they tend to be protective....when off leash they will play and be the best of buds? Not that I'm saying to take off the leash but what we do with the Dal is on the weekend we go out to the off leash park...I would test your out first and see though. Lizzy is quite known at the park she loves all the dogs.

But if all else fails...use the mussle and just give some time for them to calm and relax. I truly believe love heals all wounds.

Lucky Rescue
March 23rd, 2004, 09:37 AM
There is nothing "ideopathic" or "abnormal" about Deva's behavior.

Molossers are often dog aggressive, and the fact that she is part pit bull is also adding to her aggression. Being intolerant or aggressive towards other dogs - to some degree - is normal for pit bulls. In fact,it's a genetic part of their makeup.

Deva may also never have been properly socialized with other dogs when she was a puppy. Probably taken away from her mother and littermates too soon as well.

You cannot stop her aggresssion, but you can teach her that she is not allowed to act on it in your presence! You can do this with obedience training. A dog cannot lunge at another if it is in a "Heel" or a "Sit-Stay". I strongly suggest obedience school for her - both for the socialization and to help her learn rock-solid commands.

This is not a dog for dog parks, or off leash play with other dogs. She has one dog she likes and tolerates and that may have to be enough.

I have a pit bull - she is wonderful with all people and other animals, but NOT with other dogs. I can take her just about anywhere with me, as she has very good obedience. I cannot take her to places where there are off-leash and untrained dogs rushing up to her.

This is just a fact of life for people who choose these breeds.

It sounds like you have done a wonderful job with Deva, but you cannot make her into something she is not. Enjoy her sweet personality, but don't expect miracles in the dog aggression department.

Edited to ask: What is her demeanor when she is lunging? Tail up and ears foreward, or ears back and tail tucked? I'm wondering if this is fear aggression, or just plain aggression.

March 24th, 2004, 01:53 AM
Granted, bullmastiffXpitty does not help, and yes aside from the total lack of socialization she had growing up, there is evidence to believe she may have been involved in pit-fighting as well.:(
ALL of the trainers I have sought advice from have advised me to use shock and pinch collars. And these are supposed to be my mentors? Pain got her to the state that this poor girl is in, I will not use pain in my training agenda never. I have had two pittys and I grew up with mastiff breeds such as english,neo's,boxers and bulls. A few were dog aggressive, but not all of them. NOt like this. When she lunges, her behavior is confusing and contradictory. She wags her tail which could mean that she is excited to attack, or she simply wants to play and is coming on way too strong! Sometimes she bears her teeth, other times she wines pitifully, sometimes she tries to take a *chunk* out of any dog who passes her by on the street (thank dog for muzzles!), and sometimes she exhibits a clear desire to play with bowing, wagging and head shaking. It is difficult to determine the base of her aggression. Fear is AS possible as dominance OR protective.
I have made too many observations to type out right now and to summarize, this girl is as confused as she is sweet with humans!
I agree with Dal's mom that time and love will definately help and I will *always* be vigilant in protecting other dogs from her as well as providing her with endless understanding and care. She is currently doing so-so in her training, she is smarter than she lets on. SOmetimes I will ask my other dog Hobbes to "get the ball" or "open the door" and when he doesn't comply (he's only 9 mos and still learning), Deva will get up grumbling and carry out the request when I never knew she picked it up! I digress.. Can you recommend a trainer in BC that doesn't cost an arm and a leg?
I am doing the bast I can with this girl, but a little help would be great! Thx for your reply.
Ps. Pics in pic section!

March 24th, 2004, 08:16 AM
Oy if you feel she was in Pit fighting there may not be too much you can do other then time and trusting you. Keep the mussle on.
I didn't want to say this cause it may be strange...but I will raise my voice to a happy voice so that not to raise alarm..if that fails I will sing..i know I know crazy lady lol! But if i react negative so will the Dal. There is no way in God's green earth can you use agression with her. Aggression breeds agression in her.

Just imagine me walking along singing New York New York.

Lucky Rescue
March 24th, 2004, 09:21 AM
Whoever told you to use force on Deva - NOT good trainers, and kudos to you for recognizing that.

As amaraq says, aggression breeds MORE aggression.

Your girl sounds conflicted, and her aggression sounds like it's coming from uncertainty, fear and anxiety around other dogs.

I suggest you take her somewhere that she can see dogs in the distance. This can either be a fenced dog park OR you can ask a trainer if you can sit way out on the sidelines during a class, but are far enough so that she does not react. You can work on her obedience, with lots of praise and treats for not reacting to other dogs.

Slowly and gradually, you can get her closer. Teach her the "Watch Me" command. As soon as she reacts to the other dogs, back up again.

Yes, I do know of an excellent trainer in the BC area. Let me find out her name and I will get back to you!

March 24th, 2004, 09:51 AM
A pinch or force collar is not painful and safer for your dog then a choker. For dogs that are thick-necked and don't realize they are being corrected with a choker, a pinch collar is a reminder. A choker, improperly used or continuesly pulled on by a big dog who can't feel it or ignores the correction, can crush the dog's trachea.

You have one LARGE dog there. I say give the pinch collar a try. If the trainer knows what he is talking about, you may see a vast improvement.

I use a pinch collar on my beagle mix. She came to me all muscle with no manners. Since she is a hunting dog, she thinks she has to follow every scent she comes across. With her pinch collar, she walks along sweetly and pays attention to me. With her flat collar, she chokes herself trying to check things out.

Lucky Rescue
March 24th, 2004, 10:31 AM
I agree 100% that prong collars can be exellent tools for certain situations. They are MUCH more humane than choke chains or shock collars. In fact, I've used one myself.

BUT I hesitate to suggest one for this particular problem, which sounds like fear aggression from the poster's description of it.

For obedience training with this dog, a prong collar would be very useful if used correctly, but I think the aggression prob. needs to be dealt with in a positive way so dog learns: Other dogs around = treats and praise. You don't want her associating seeing other dogs with getting popped on the prong.

This is how I got a fear aggressive pit bull I fostered over her problem, and it did work very well. For training obedience and walking, I did use a prong collar on her!:D

March 24th, 2004, 11:22 AM
Naturezrevenge, you asked about dog trainers in Vancouver. I have used Dawn Adair (she is the founder and owner of For the Love of Dogs). She has been excellent and stresses positive reinforcement. To her credit, she has a rescued Akita that, when she got him, was extremely dog aggressive and now he can go into any dog park and play (not saying she will be able to have this same success with your dog) and she is currently working with a coyote cross that she rescued. The phone number for For the Love of Dogs (who are also my dog walkers by the way - give them a plug since they are so great:D ) is 604-733-0012.

If she cannot help you she may be able to recommend someone who can.

Good luck!


March 24th, 2004, 05:28 PM
Thax for the lead, I will give her a call!
On the subject of pinch/shock/choke collars
They many be good tools for some, but not me.
It's just a personal choice. The only tool I choose to employ besides trining itself are "halties" or "bridles" as my boyfriend calls them. Ever tried walking two mastiff dogs? Thank goodness for halties! I am working on improving Deva's obedience, and I often do have my boyfriend drop us off at Hobbes's dog park.
When she watches other dogs from afar she usually exhibits classic play behavior and whines alot. She definately wants to play with dogs! I cannot trust her tho, as with *some* dogs male/female no tangible reason, she attacks immediately. My friend brought over her large male bullmastiffX Cody and there was 100% NO tension. We took them in a car together, left them alone and it was fine. I believe that a big part of her reactions is the reaction of people to her, but that is not always true. Sometimes if she is showing play behavior towards a dog who I know is muscular enough to handle her rough play, I will muzzle her up and let them run. But I have recently stopped this too, as she attacked 2 dogs for no apparent reason in the middle of play for what could have been so minor as an "eye contact" miscruency. She is rather unpredictable. Unlike Hobbes who LOVES small dogs, Deva can NEVER play with small dogs muzzle or not. Even with a muzzle on, i'm sure that just with her mass alone she could damage a small dog. Am I right to think this? I will give this trainer a call and *hope* that her rates are reasonable. I am a student gearing up to be a pro dog trainer myself, and I hope that someone will be kind and not charge me my months rent to help me learn how do help my dog!
Thanks for the #, I will call right now. Any advice is appreciated.

March 25th, 2004, 11:01 AM
Nature I'm like you and can't stand the shock or pinch collars but would use a pinch before a shock.

I read this book and it gave me some insight into fear agression.
I'm not sure your dealing with this though but it does help get you into a dogs mind. I thought it was one of the better books out there for agression.

March 25th, 2004, 11:14 PM
Thx for the reply!
Deva and I have an appointment this week with the lady at the SPCA who originally assessed her, and an appointment shortly after that with Dawn (the lady who was in a tip above).
Wish us luck! I'll keep you posted on her improvement. This is good experience for a girl going into professional training i think.
It's absolutely horrible what happened to Deva before she came to my home, but we'll do our best to help her forget her past and realize that things aren't as threatening and scary as she thinks!


March 3rd, 2008, 01:59 PM
Hi folks. I know this is an old thread and I'm a new user, but I'm desperate.

My fiancee and I have a bull mastiff (probably with rott in him, too, we don't know) and he's a sweet gentle thing with us. I'm very upset though. We were in the garage yesterday doing laundry, and my neighbor's chihuahua wandered in. The large door was open because we've been working on my car. Brutus immediately grabbed the chihuahua and was incredibly aggressive, to say the least. I curse myself for having him in the garage with me when that door was open.

The chihuahua died at the emergency room from internal bleeding. My neighbor is incredibly understanding and assured me that it wasn't my fault, my dog was just guarding me and his territory from this stranger. This doesn't change how awful I feel, and how I knew before this incident that Brutus is incredibly aggressive toward other dogs.

Brutus is 8 years old and has gone through professional obedience and socialization training. My fiancee got him when he was almost a year old (actually, sort of stole him) from a guy who was trying to make a chain dog out of him. In spite of repeated and ongoing efforts, Brutus will not accept that other dogs even have a right to live in this world, with the exception of Kilby (our other dog, and the Alpha in the house). Is there a way I can socialize him so I can at least walk him? I don't want to take him to off-leash parks or anything, but he weighs as much as I do and I can't even go around the bloack with him right now.

Any advice or suggestion would be much appreciated.

March 3rd, 2008, 02:27 PM
The guy who was making a chain dog of Brutus was not only under-feeding him to make him mean, but keeping him outseide in freezing temps and beating on him. Ugh.

March 3rd, 2008, 04:28 PM
Judging from what you have posted in your post - Brutus was most certainly not protecting you from a rogue dangerous chihuahua. Brutus is dog aggressive. Period. End of discussion. This incident is not your fault however. If the chihuahua had been in his own yard, he would be alive today.

Chances of your correcting this at this stage of the game are pretty slim and quite honestly, probably a waste of time.

It is, however, managable. IMHO - get your boy fitted with a muzzle and make sure he has it on any time there is a chance that he can have a run in with a strange dog.

As for taking him for a walk - California has a ton of trainers and behaviourists who can help you teach him how to walk on a leash, one on one, without the distraction of other dogs around. I would make some calls.

What part of California do you live in? I know some people who train in Cali and I might be able to help you find a trainer.

March 3rd, 2008, 05:34 PM

Thanks for the heads-up. I've never had an aggressive dog, just protective ones. I'm in NorCal, in the Central Valley (near Stockton). This whole experience has been an awful one. I've contacted the trainer/breeder we used to get our shepherds from when I was a kid, and he's agreed to do an evaluation for me, but doesn't think Brutus will ever frolick with poodles in the park, either. :) And he doesn't want to train Brutus because he deals with German shepherds, and otherwise thinks I would be wasting my money. At least he was honest and not greedy.

Dog parks are out anyway because I don't like them, but a walk around the neighborhood or down by the river would be nice.

Thanks a lot.

March 3rd, 2008, 05:44 PM
I won't frolic with poodles in the park! (Sorry - not a fan of poodles. :sad:)

You don't need the trainer to train Brutus. You need your trainer to show you the proper way to use a prong collar.

March 3rd, 2008, 07:31 PM
Really, I think I'm the one who needs to be trained. My dogs have always been very responsive to what I learned from the trainer I worked with. I showed a few, but got sick of it fast. I just...I guess I thought that all dogs were responsive.

A prong collar is pretty humane for mastiffs, because of the dewlap, right? Because the choke chain totally sucks.

And I have frolicked with one poodle. A standard blue named Sam. The only poodle I've ever liked.

March 3rd, 2008, 07:37 PM
The prong works because it gives a slight, self corrective pinch. Because of the way that it is made (like a martingale) it can not tighten enough to do more then that if it is fitted correctly.

My mom had a standard poodle for 10 years. She just recently put him to sleep because of the arthritis in his spine. He really wasn't my favorite dog.

March 3rd, 2008, 08:29 PM
How does it need to be fitted? Is this something I can do myself?

Also, a muzzle--same question.

Thanks for your advice.


March 3rd, 2008, 08:32 PM
Have you every used a martingale collar?

March 4th, 2008, 02:06 PM
Nope, unless you mean a choke-chain. Yes, I've used those in training all my dogs to heel. Along with treats and praise.

BTW, talked to a trainer yesterday. We have an appointment next week. His feeling was that Brutus is dog-aggressive, too. He told me to take Brutus for short walks around the block and use the choke-chain to heel him whenever he was attracted to another dog, then to praise him. It took us fifteen minutes to get around my block, between neighbor dogs and strays--but it worked. My back hurts and my shoulders hurt--probably as much from me being out of shape as from him tugging. When I got his attention back on me and praised him for it, he was SO HAPPY. When his attention returned to the other dogs, his hackles would go up and he would tug, and I would heel him and get his attention again, and he would be SO HAPPY again. (Kilby, our other pup, was very bored with this entire operation and had to content himself with marking every weed in sight.)

I don't feel totally in control, but I do feel positive. I'll feel better after our evaluation/consultation.

March 4th, 2008, 04:24 PM
log onto Yahoo instant messenger, girl! You can im me by my screen name here.

March 4th, 2008, 04:39 PM
Here is a picture of a prong (or force) collar.

March 4th, 2008, 04:48 PM

I always thought the whole thing tightened down! That's not nearly so bad as I thought it was.

March 4th, 2008, 06:31 PM
Just to throw another idea out there, I dealt with (or maybe trained with management in mind) my dogs' dog aggression using basically two things, a strong "focus/look at me" command and very slow desensitization.

The focus command is basically taught like any other, marking the desired behavior, ie eye contact, rewarding for and practicing increased time of holding eye contact and then slowly adding greater and greater distraction.....oh, and then removing the food/toy/whatever reward so that it only happens sometimes, rather than everytime.

The desensitization, aka how to ignore other dogs, in my case started at the super remedial level of literally handing out treats like a slot machine whenever a dog came into view, even very, very far away. I would literally camp across the street from a park where people walked their dogs to be able to do this.

Slowly we decreased the distance, always being very aware of when the dogs would begin to tense up or focus on the other dogs and backing up a bit. After a while I stopped acting like a slot machine and would just reward for remaining calm.

All this took a couple of months of practice multiple times a day, but eventually when the dogs could stay calm and not fixate on other dogs I began to integrate the "focus" command into these scenarios.

At this point both dogs can go for walks and pass other dogs without acting like jackasses, they can be around other leashed dogs and be fine, but I still make sure to protect their personal space, which I think is reasonable.

March 5th, 2008, 02:50 PM
That's essentially what I did both yesterday and today, taking him for walks. It's better than I thought it was, I think. Again, I don't have any delusions about taking him to the dog park, or about what happens when another stray gets within his reach on our property--all I can do about that is continue to make sure the fence is secure and not have him in the garage with me when I have that big door open.

BTW, we let our landlord know what's happened, and he's agreed to put out the funds to let us replace our back fence, if we'll do the work. That makes me pretty happy.

It's just a matter of patience for me now, I think.