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Sudden aggression towards small dogs

Loves Labs
April 4th, 2007, 09:09 AM
We are suddenly having a problem with our 2 year old yellow lab, Jada. We have had her for a few months now and we are taking care of her for 2 yrs. while a friend is overseas.

She is normally extremely friendly with people and other dogs. She can get "spooked" easily and is usually very submissive. She was actually a guide dog puppy (so she is very well socialized), but did not pass due to her shyness. I notice that a lot of the more dominant dogs sort of pick on her at the dog park.

Anyways, we have had a few incidents now with small dogs. She will be playing normally, then will approach a small dog wagging her tail and they will sniff each other. Usually then she carries on, but a few times lately she will suddenly become very agressive, pinning them down and making very vicious sounds. Now, at first, I thought the smaller dogs were showing aggression first and this was more of a defense behaviour. Now yesterday we were at the park and a lady put her very small dog down to play with the other three labs. Jada went over and sniffed her, then immediately attacked her. Now I don't mean she was actually biting her, but it was definitely an agressive act that scared all of us.

My friend says she has been very well socialized and she has NEVER seen this behaviour before. I am wondering if it is because she is "bullied" by our other dog Hayden a lot...play fighting, but still he picks on her. Or does this behaviour just come out of no where sometimes?

Anyways, I am definitely keeping her on leash at all times and avoiding smaller dogs. But if anyone has any suggestions/advice, it would be much appreciated! Thanks :o

PetFriendly
April 10th, 2007, 09:12 PM
Do you know any small dogs who will stand their ground? It could be that she's trying to assert herself and it comes off as more aggressive because the dog is so much smaller.
It could also be that the small dog is putting out 'I'm-the-boss-of-you vibes and your dog is taking offense... Small dogs don't usually understand how small and vulnerable they are until they get pinned and can't do anything about it.
Did the smaller guys have under bites? I know we have problems on occasion in the dog park with dogs who are between 1 to 5 years old and not very secure with themselves. My little guy knows his size and isn't cocky but he is confident, he has un underbite and always walks with his tail curled over his back... Some dogs take it the wrong way and jump him...

Hunter's_owner
April 10th, 2007, 09:18 PM
Do you know any small dogs who will stand their ground? It could be that she's trying to assert herself and it comes off as more aggressive because the dog is so much smaller.


I would be a little cautious of trying this...I would be afraid that it would escalate and bad things can happen really fast, imo:shrug:

PetFriendly
April 10th, 2007, 09:35 PM
I wouldn't try it with a stranger's dog, but the dog in question needs to learn its boundaries and that some small dogs can be friendly...

SableCollie
April 10th, 2007, 10:01 PM
Sometimes dog-dog aggression will suddenly show up when a dog hits 2 or 3 years old, that is when they are fully mature.

If this is only towards little dogs it could be a prey thing. Or she could have had a bad experience with one small dog, and generalized the negative feeling to all small dogs.

If you are afraid she might hurt another dog, I wouldn't let her off leash at the park right now. Dog parks can be really overwhelming for some dogs, especially shy dogs.

Also you mentioned she approaches small dogs with her tail wagging. Tail wagging does NOT always mean friendliness! I know, everyone is taught as kids that wagging tail = happy dog, this is so off the mark. If she is holding her tail up high and wagging it stiffly, this is a sign of arousal, arousal leads to aggression. Her mouth will probably be closed and her body may look tense or stiff. A "happy" tail wag is when the tail is held level with the topline or lower (obviously in some breeds, they are bred to have their tails over their backs--huskies and such, but you will still be able to tell with the rest of their body language), wagging in a loose, sweeping motion, or in circles (windmill tail) and quite often the whole back end will be wiggling (wiggle butt!) The dog's body will be relaxed and goofy looking, and its mouth will usually be open and smiling. Closed mouth indicates some tension. Yawning, licking the lips, suddenly and frantically scratching like she has an itch, sniffing the ground, sniffing or licking privates, and shaking as if to shake off water are all signs of stress. (Taken in context obviously. Just because your dog is sniffing the ground doesn't mean they are stressed!) Watch her body language, and if she looks stressed/tense, remove her from the situation.

sissani
April 10th, 2007, 11:47 PM
We have a dog like this that regularly comes to our daycare program and usually our only option is to put her in a seperate yard with larger dogs we know she doesnt pick on. Mostly its puppies, or small nice dogs, or even sometimes larger submissive dogs. She is a bully, so to speak, and narrows in on the dogs she knows she can dominate. We just have to work around it. But if you want to change the behavior, not just avoid small dogs all together forever, I would talk to a trainer and see if they have any professional advice.

Good luck! :goodvibes:

Loves Labs
April 11th, 2007, 11:31 AM
Thanks everyone...
I have definitely not been going to the dog park lately and we cross the street when I see a smaller dog approaching - as this has happened once with both dogs on leash.
I will take a better look at her body language when a small dog is near. SableCollie you are so right about the wagging tail not always indicating happy dog.

I should also mention I have noticed her being much more vocal when we come across ANY dog on our walks...she whines and almost howls loudly. She acts very very excited (normal for lab), but is make so much noise lately.

I don't feel comfortable "testing the waters" with a small dog on purpose, even one we are familiar with. I am finding her way too unpredictable right now. I am going to ask her previous owner (right now) for any insight into what is happening. She is turning 2 in a couple of weeks...so it could be a new behaviour appearing with her reaching maturity.

One more thing (sorry! :o ). I have noticed at the dog park (when we used to go :sad: ), she is kind of the "tag long"...always looking to join in the fun, but no dog really intitiates it with her. Does this make any sense? It is kinda like she is the outsider trying to fit in with the cool kids. :shrug:

Yesterday - we approached an older lab on leash. My two were sniffing and friendly with this guy...and he was very friendly, but subdued. Jada was sniffing him then all of a sudden she yelped and jumped back as if she had been attacked or bit, etc. However, this dog didn't even lunge or make any sudden movement towards her. It was very strange...and I have noticed this one other time.

Sorry this is so long - I just wanted to put all of the info. out there in case anyone can piece it together and offer any sort of explanation for my sweet little weirdo.:pawprint:

Kocela
April 11th, 2007, 05:33 PM
Thanks everyone...
Yesterday - we approached an older lab on leash. My two were sniffing and friendly with this guy...and he was very friendly, but subdued. Jada was sniffing him then all of a sudden she yelped and jumped back as if she had been attacked or bit, etc. However, this dog didn't even lunge or make any sudden movement towards her. It was very strange...and I have noticed this one other time.


When she jumped back and yelped did she lower the front of her body at all? My dogs often do this when trying to entice another dog to play with them or chase them.

Loves Labs
April 12th, 2007, 10:27 AM
No, I wish that were the case.
She had her tail between her legs and definitely had "frightened" body language.

I talked to my friend, her owner and she never ever saw this behaviour and is very surprised by it. Jada was a service dog puppy, however did not pass after her puppy training because she got a bit skittish during her tests when her owner was not present. So my friend is calling her service dog trainer to see if she can offer any explanation. She is also calling someone who babysat her for a month before she came to us.

Hopefully someone can provide some insight :fingerscr

PetFriendly
April 12th, 2007, 08:13 PM
Jada was a service dog puppy, however did not pass after her puppy training because she got a bit skittish during her tests when her owner was not present.

Hopefully someone can provide some insight :fingerscr

Ok, so maybe its a touch of SA and you haven't quite demonstrated to the dog that you've got her back and won't let anything bad happen to her? Not that you aren't taking great care of her, just some dogs need stronger leaders than others. :confused: