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Developing Leash Aggression - Help!

Chaser
July 8th, 2008, 12:56 AM
I'm asking for input on this because it is an entirely new problem to me and seems to be starting to happen with no warning at all.

Chase seems to be developing some leash aggression and I'm not entirely sure how to deal with it. It started happening two weeks ago when I was visiting my dad for a few days...Chase can be really anxious when he's not at home, so I corrected him anytime it happened but did not think much of it because I knew he was feeling stressed out and was maybe overly defensive because he was feeling uneasy for three straight days.

It's now continuing at home. He doesn't lunge or snarl as I've seen many dogs do, but he lets out a few barks and often growls a bit - sometimes the fur on his scruff stands up. Oddly, it mainly seems to happen at night...maybe because he feels even more threatened when he knows there is another dog but can't see it clearly? He has barked/growled at a tiny little puppy and a boxer in my building who he has met several times and normally likes. He has also done it with people - previously with the odd people who are pretty sketchy and I would say the warning is warranted, but now he has done it to an elderly lady and a woman about my age - again, just at night.

During the day in the same period people come up to him and pet him on walks with no problem, and he had three dogs lunge and snarl at him and just kept walking or stayed in his sit-stay when we were waiting at a light.

I don't understand it and I'm at a loss. :shrug: When it happens I give a leash correction and tell him NO - or better yet, if I can anticipate it I put him in a sit-stay and that minimizes it but it still happens sometimes and more and more things seem to be bothering him at night so it's getting harder to anticipate it.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. He's being rude and I hate people thinking I have a mean dog when he is so social off-leash and/or in daylight. I'm also worried it will escalate and I don't want to become one of those people who is wrestling their snarling dog on the sidewalk! (Well, that's probably an exaggeration, but still....)

Thank you in advance for any advice :)

minimomma
July 8th, 2008, 01:11 AM
This may be way off but I haven't had this problem with a dog. But I did have a problem with a horse years ago. During the day it would be fine. But at night it would run into things ect..

My vet said the horse had night blindness. I know dogs can get this as well. The only reason I am suggesting this is because his behavior is night and day with different people. I may be way off base but I thought I would throw this in.

Other then this, I don't have much to offer with the exception maybe he feels he needs to protect you more at night then during the day.

I hope it works out and you get the right information to help you:fingerscr

hazelrunpack
July 8th, 2008, 09:23 AM
That does sound like he's having trouble seeing at night, Chase_mom! Have you had his eyes checked recently? That would be a good place to start if you haven't already, and then go from there.

Chaser
July 8th, 2008, 02:05 PM
That does sound like he's having trouble seeing at night, Chase_mom! Have you had his eyes checked recently? That would be a good place to start if you haven't already, and then go from there.

No, it hadn't even occurred to me actually. I've never noticed any clumsiness or bumping into things during the day or night. And he wanders around the apartment at night with no problems and also at my dad's house which he is not familiar with the layout of. He has his annual in a month so I will ask the vet about it then....but could this happen to such a young dog????

I don't know....I really feel it is more behavioural...though I don't really have a good explanation for that either. :shrug: There is a dog who moved into our building a while ago who is really awful to him. She's a lab about 2 y.o. and she lunges and snarls at him if she sees him, and we have only seemed to run into her at night. Do you think that could have put him on guard? I don't know if he would make the night-time association with that though.

Argh....this is weird and frustrating! :frustrated:

Chaser
July 8th, 2008, 02:19 PM
Oh crap....I just looked up some information on Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in dogs....and it can start around 1 year and progress quickly. Now I need to try really hard not to freak out....I really hope you aren't right Hazel but I'm kind of worried now. Chase seemed quite claustrophobic as a puppy....at around 8 months there were some entryways, hallways and stairs he just would not do. But now I'm wondering if it was a vision thing and not a confined space thing.

I'm going to talk to my boyfriend and see if he's had any "leash aggression" with Chase during daytime hours. He said he had noticed it too but I didn't ask him the times it was happening. I just put together the night time thing on my own.

:fingerscr that my baby is okay....I can't even begin to imagine how to support a young dog with vision loss. If he was a senior I wouldn't be feeling shocked or scared.....but he's one y.o.! I don't even know what to think about this now....:sad:

If anyone has any other theories please throw them out there....because I'm really hoping this one isn't right.

hazelrunpack
July 8th, 2008, 02:32 PM
First rule of thumb: Don't Panic. :grouphug: The vision idea is just a theory--and the one about a behavior due to the lab always attacking at night has just as much validity!

The best thing to do is have him checked at the vet. :fingerscr that it will rule out vision problems and set your mind at ease that way. Then you can focus on correcting the behavior. :thumbs up

However, if it turns out to be PRA or something like it, it's not a death sentence by any means. A blind dog can do quite well, you just can't rearrange your furntiture frequently :o My parents' dog went blind at about age 13 and lived for another 5 years. She never missed a beat--still chased rabbits in the yard, for that matter, though I can't imagine how she did it! :eek: You just need to be careful to keep him on a leash in unfamiliar outside areas and make sure his recall is rock solid. As long as they can hear and smell, dogs seem to do just fine.

But this is putting the cart before the horse, since you don't even know if that's the problem yet. So try not to worry :grouphug: Have him checked and keep us posted!

Chaser
July 8th, 2008, 03:52 PM
Thanks for the pep talk Hazel :) I definitely started to panic.....Boyfriend told me not to, as he apparently has had problems with Chase in broad daylight (although I have to say Chase doesn't behave with him as well in general as he does with me!). But he did bark at the Boxer in our building in the lobby, not outside like I thought, and it is blindingly well-lit.

I'm going to talk to the vet about his eyes at his annual regardless. But I also did realize that it may be something I'M doing. I've really started hating our building lately, and we live in downtown Hamilton.....which is not the best place to be at night...and I might be radiating nervousness and putting him on guard without realizing it when Boyfriend works nights and I have to be the one to take him out for his before-bed business.

I think maybe I'm going to start a chart so that I have a record of when it is happening, where we are, and which one of us is out with him. If night time is emerging as the real constant then that will be helpful to tell the vet in a few weeks. And if it seems to be a more behavioural thing then you guys can probably better offer advice if I can pinpoint triggers.

hazelrunpack
July 8th, 2008, 05:50 PM
Sounds like a plan! :thumbs up

TeriM
July 9th, 2008, 01:39 AM
It is actually very common for male dogs to hit an "agressive phase" at about a year old. My Riley hit that at just over a year last year while we were away on holidays. He got all leapy and snarly towards other dogs while we were camping and basically just threw a temper tantrum when he didn't get his way. When we got home we contacted our trainer and we were all stressed about socialization but I believe her direct quote was something like "he has beeen socialized as much as possible, he is just being a young male dog and he is being an ass". We did a few private sessions with her, I bought a prong collar (he was 90 lbs and way to strong) and worked a ton on basic obedience and that took care of the issue.

I occassionally have some snarly noises when he is on leash in a very closed in space and meets other dogs (think vet hospital etc) so I keep the halti for those occasions and have him focus on me which keeps it positive.

Good luck.

Folkwitch
July 9th, 2008, 09:47 AM
At around a year old, my Big started being really nervous around everything and everyone. It was worse at night to the point where he would startle, hide behind my legs and then growl at things like garbage cans. I'm not even going to mention what happened when we passed by a garbage bin and someone had left a big stuffed clown in the trash! :laughing:

Our walks got longer and longer because I'd walk him slowly over to whatever had scared him so he could smell it and see that it wouldn't hurt him, and we'd take the same route every time circling our area. Once he stopped startling at things he'd seen/smelled before, I shifted the route slightly. I did have the vet check his sight and hearing, but everything was fine other than this adolescent kind of nervousness. He's grown out of it now, but it took a while.

:fingerscr: for your pup!

Lissa
July 9th, 2008, 10:18 AM
Chase can be really anxious when he's not at home, so I corrected him anytime it happened but did not think much of it because I knew he was feeling stressed out and was maybe overly defensive because he was feeling uneasy for three straight days.

Depending on how you "corrected" him - this could be part of the problem. Over-correcting or harsh corrections when a dog is anxious/afraid often backfire.

It's now continuing at home. He doesn't lunge or snarl as I've seen many dogs do, but he lets out a few barks and often growls a bit - sometimes the fur on his scruff stands up.

You need to learn to pick up the signals he is sending before that... Ie: calming signals, distance increasing signals and stress signals... For example - if he is licking his lips or looking away to try and calm himself and the situation, you need to be aware of that and give him the distance he needs. You need to figure out at what point he starts to react (5ft, 10ft, 20ft?), only when he's startled (perhaps they just came around a corner)? etc... What are you doing as he starts to react and after he reacts? Most people tend to tense up and start to over-manage their dog - you want to do anything to stop the reaction which sends all the wrong signals to the dog...
The scruff standing up (piloerector reflex) does not = aggression - it merely means that the dog is aroused - its often seen in dogs who aren't confident and have been startled/are afraid.

Oddly, it mainly seems to happen at night...maybe because he feels even more threatened when he knows there is another dog but can't see it clearly?

Unless Chase has vision problems, darkness is not hindering his eyesight (they aren't quite as good as cats but MUCH better than us - they have pretty good night vision)... What is more likely is that he either doesn't have as much experience at night (few night walks), the person walking him is more tense at night or he's formed a negative association (could be something as simple as a B-B gun going off at night which put him on edge/high alert). What's also possible is that he is in fact reacting all the time, its just that nobody has picked up on yet (he may be sending off stress/calming signals all the time without anybody noticing)...

I don't understand it and I'm at a loss. :shrug: When it happens I give a leash correction and tell him NO - or better yet, if I can anticipate it I put him in a sit-stay and that minimizes it but it still happens sometimes and more and more things seem to be bothering him at night so it's getting harder to anticipate it.

Generally, correcting a dog who is afraid is a bad idea. Not only does is NOT teach them how to behave or that there is nothing to be afraid of, it often escalates their fear/reactions. Dogs aren't stupid, even though their natural form of communication would be to bark or growl, if you are correcting him for it every time, eventaually he will STOP warning you/his triggers and lunge or snap FIRST...
You need to do your homework (what are his triggers, from what distance, for how long, your reactions, if/when he calmed down etc...) You need to recognize his calming and stress signals BEFORE they escalate to barking and growling. You also need to start training a "look at me" command that is an automatic response - basically you want him to get whiplash because he is turning to focus on you so immediately :laughing:...
Then you start a counterconditioning, desensitization and training process. It's extremely important for Chase to have behaviours that he can focus on instead of his triggers - whether that be to focus on you by looking at you or targeting your hand or even basic tricks to help calm him or keep his mind occupied (ie: "bow"which is also a calming signal). Secondly, you need to keep him far enough away from his triggers so that he isn't stressed or reacting. You want to try and prevent any reactions. Then you can start counter-conditioning - so let's say he's fine 30ft away from his trigger - at that point reward him the entire time the tigger is in sight. As soon as his trigger is gone, the reward is gone. If this is easy for him you can also work on some basic OB commands and possibly move a couple of steps forward. But make sure you don't go too fast - the last thing you want is for him to react.
When you are taken by suprise or its impossible to avoid a trigger - this is where you use your whiplash "look at me" command - one that Chase has been conditioned to listen to automatically. This command is vital because it allows you to redirect your dog and get him moving away from his trigger and hopefully prevent any reactions. I tend to use "touch" which means touch my hand because it gives my dog an additional task...
What may be helpful to you is to teach Chase to target your hand with his entire muzzle - so that if necessary, you can encircle his muzzle with your hand so he cannot bark... Obviously you don't want to put pressure on his muzzle but it could help him to remember to be quiet. You also do not want to train this a couple of times at home and then do it on your walk that evening - he likely will need more practice than that because his triggers are too overwhelming!

I hate people thinking I have a mean dog when he is so social off-leash and/or in daylight.

That is part of the problem... You need to stop worrying what other people could be thinking of your dog and simply focus on your dog. I know its extremely hard - there's a lot of social pressure to have a Lassie-dog! But you are making things worse by worrying and being embarassed. Remember, this is JUST A BEHAVIOUR - a very natural one!