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Frustrated with our "problem child" - dog aggression

August 1st, 2007, 01:11 PM
Hey all,
I just wanted to see if any of you guys have any suggestions regarding our other dog, Gracie.

Gracie is approximately 5 years old, 50 lbs, and a Heinz 57 (likely a terrer/collie/husky X of some description). She came from the HS to our home when she was about 1 year old...we were her fourth home, all the others had brought her back.

She used to have serious guarding issues, used to snap at people near her food/toys, and no training whatsoever (no obedience, not housetrained). She has very high prey drive. But she housetrained very quickly, and after about 6 months of NILFF and the umbilical technique (doggie bootcamp, really), we worked through the other issues. With people of all kinds and ages, she is the most sweet, affectionate, loving, happy, silly, SMART girl. I trust her completely with any humans.

Once we had these things under control, we started taking her out more, including to dog walking areas. This is when we discovered the dog aggression. There have been a few dogs that she tolerates and even enjoys playing with...pretty well all of them have been submissive males. However, with the majority, we would get dog fights. Not normal noisy tussles to establish hierarchy, but real FIGHTS. Needless to say, the walks in places where we might encounter dogs quickly ended. After moving to the country, we rarely met other dogs and Gracie stays on the property, but once I was leaving for work and someone I'd never seen before was walking her dog in front of our house and Gracie ran out the door after it. She bit the dog before we could get to her (not badly, but enough to scare everyone involved). She has also bitten the dog of a friend who came over with her dog, despite us warning her not to, and the two of them entered the house without warning. Gracie attacked almost right away. Gracie is never unsupervised when there is the possibility of another dog being around.

Of course after these incidents, we sought the help of a trainer. We worked extremely hard on basic obedience and reinforcing our roles as alpha (she is one of the most dominant females I have ever met). We set up controlled situations with other dogs so we could correct/praise the appropriate behaviours. She learned quickly, was eager to follow direction (about 95% of the time). Eventually we could walk her by homes with dogs and she would simply ignore them. Some of her more neurotic tendencies like watching/guarding windows have stopped. We felt confident enough in her and our training to introduce another dog in the home (Jaida). Gracie has been 99.9% great with the new family member.

BUT there have been maybe 4 incidents where she has attacked Jaida. Luckily we were always within arm's reach and could separate them before anyone got hurt. We take hold of her by the scruff, tell her extrememly sternly NO, then we immediately put Gracie in a submissive posture and bring Jaida over to sniff her, giving her lots of praise for being calm and relaxed in this posture. Gracie is usually extremely submissive at this time (tail between legs, eyes/head averted, licking lips). The incidents are forgotten by both dogs in minutes. Gracie usually will let Jaida do anything (bounce on her, sleep next to her, chew on her feet)...although of course we discourage Jaida's "harassing" behaviours. The incidents seem to happen during play, most often when either myself of my partner are playing with both dogs at the same time, although once it happened when just the two dogs were playing with a toy.

This happened again last night. It's hard to reconcile our otherwise sweet dog with the scariness of the attacks. It also feels like Gracie's issues are more glaringly obvious now that we have Jaida in our lives, who has a completely different personality (extremely laid back, easy-going and great with dogs and humans). And we feel guilty about comparing them, and not liking Gracie's behaviour.

We plan on pursuing further training with both dogs in the spring (we are still paying off Jaida's vet bills). We would like to "work" Gracie to get some of the energy off her but we are limited in terms of where we can go/what we can do because we are fearful of fights in off-leash situations where other dogs are around. On-leash is no problem because we can correct Gracie before a problem arises (we have been able to take her to dog parks since the training, as long as she stays on her leash...loose leash, a very watchful eye for subtle body language indicating aggression).

Anyways, I know this is really long, but I wondered if anyone else has been in this kind of situation and has any suggestions/stories/wisdom to share? Do you think we can expect further improvements or are we always going to have to be careful with her?

August 1st, 2007, 01:25 PM
Our dog was also very aggressive with other dogs (if they didn't submitt) and also had a very high prey drive, and had to be properly introduced to all visitors (as she would bite of not) we found the best way to control this situation was teaching her 100% recall.
This way no matter what ,even if she was in the middle of the attack, she could still be called off.
Unfortunately we could not change her, as hard as we tried, but we could walk her off leash, and if we saw another animal, we would call and she return to a heel position.
So maybe work on her recall.

I forgot to add, you guys are :angel: !!! not just because of Jaida, but for saving Gracie as well!! Had it not been for you and your partner Gracie surly would have been PTS/ You and your partner are the best!!:thumbs up :)

August 1st, 2007, 01:37 PM
I guess we've been wrapping our heads around the thought of her always having "problems"...god know she could be worse, who knows what kind of treatment she used to get. We hope to one day be a bigger pack...we'd love to get a pair of GSD males in a couple of years. But I don't know if it will be possible...I guess we'll have to see.

The advanced obedience we plan on doing with Gracie is all off-leash. I'm HOPING that we can get her to a 100% recall, or at the very least a long-distance sit/drop. That would solve the "oh crap she got loose/ran out the door" problem. Right now, once she gets her sights on something and is off-leash, she won't listen. On-leash is a different story. We practiced all summer with the deer/squirrels/bunnies/birds on our daily walks/training sessions, and she'll snap to a Front or heel no problem. Sigh. I wish we could do the training right now (we have a totally awesome trainer, and did private lessons with him...just awesome) but we continue to do training on-leash with Gracie for now.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Happycats!

August 1st, 2007, 01:43 PM
Gracie would probably do fine with males, I know our dog did (she was a female) she hated other females and would attack, but was fine with males, as long as they didn't become agressive with her.

I hope all works out well with Gracie, I'm sure it will, your love and dedication will eventually shine through, and you will one day have complete control.

August 1st, 2007, 01:57 PM
Yeah, we want to get a couple of big ol' softie boys...we need some lap dogs in the house:laughing: