questionsfear-aggression in dogs. thumperchick?


I think you should take her to a professional trainer. Fear aggression is one of the toughest things to deal with and doing it on your own is really hard. You can usually save yourself a lot of time and effort by having the dog evaluated by someone who knows what's what. Make sure you ask the trainer lots of questions about training style, prior successes and failures and ask for references. Not all trainers are created equal. Good luck!


Was your dog Jelly Bean recently upgraded from Ice Cream Sandwich? :)


@cengland0: I knew that would come up! :D She's the old-style Jellybean, about 8 years old now.


@zuiquan: I thought this might wind up being the answer, from the Googling I've done on the issue. I'll have to check with my vet and see if there's anyone she recommends.


Last Christmas we bought our (then) 8 year old female Bichon Frise (Bella) a playmate. We got a male Mal-Shi (half maltese/half shitzu) we named Lord Barkley. We knew going into it that a lot of established dogs develop problems. Our Vet (Dr. Tina Phillips) has always said that dogs respond to their owners like real people. That we should share the new puppy. That we should re-enforce our bond with Bella while bringing Barkley along. It was very rough the first few months....she didn't want him near her 'stuff'. She didn't like us petting him. She didn't like even sharing water bowels....but....slowly she came around. Mainly because we never showed a preference over either. We played with Bella and Barkley. We made sure to keep them together as much as they could take. We made sure she saw the same amount of attention...and if Barkley did something bad we made sure she saw us punish him. It's a year later and MOST of the huffiness is gone. Just got to work with them.


I second the recommendation about working with a trainer. It can also be helpful to join a Yahoo group. If your dog is a purebred , join a breed specific group. There are some behaviors related to breeds and sometimes that breed will respond better to specific training techniques. My Great Dane was taken to AC to be euthanized at 5mos because he was "uncontrollable and dangerous". AC turned him over to GD Rescue where I adopted him. He is an alpha male and came to me with serious aggression issues. I serially attended obedience classes with him the first two years I had him and joined an online GD group with a couple of professional handlers and trainers in it. I got a lot of help on both fronts, and now I take him to all kinds of pet-friendly community events and get compliments from everyone on how well behaved he is. He is just a model of decorum. Except what they don't see is that there is still a highly alpha, aggressive 140lb dog in there that I am constantly aware of.


Ran out of space and wanted to describe the big breakthrough I had with Simba. We were walking in my neighborhood and a young St. Bernard literally climbed over his fence and ran across the street at us. This was still during our intensive training period, so I had my hand on the leash quite close to the pinch collar to ensure control. I could feel Simba gathering up for a challenge, and in one move I shoved him back and to the right while stepping forward and to the left, putting him directly behind me. I stomped my right foot and pointed with my right hand at the approaching dog and told him an a command voice, "No. Go home." He stopped short and looked at me quizzically, I repeated and he turned around and went home. I could feel Simba realizing, "Oh. She's in charge. Other dogs are her responsibility." Since then any time a dog approaches or acts aggressively toward Simba, I put him behind me and step up to deal with it, and it has cut his misbehavior by 95%.


What kind of dog is Jellybean? I'd suggest exposure therapy, get her comfortable around something like a stuffed dog, and then work your way up to real dogs. If you have friends that have smaller and medium sized dogs, that would be best. You can put them on opposite sides of the room, and eventually get them closer until Jellybean is comfortable.


@moondrake: That's an awesome story! I'd love to get Jelly to that point.


@thedogma: She's just a regular old Heinz 57 mutt.

If I have time to introduce her slowly, she has no problem, as long as the other dog isn't aggressive. My mom just got a new rescue a few months ago, and it took Jelly about 30 minutes to realize that the new dog wasn't going to be going for her throat. They got along just fine after that.

The main issue is that I really can't take her anywhere, since there isn't going to be a 30 minute introduction for all of the dogs we might see while we're out.


@raijen: Hm. Do you have access to any other dogs? Maybe if you can get her slowly used to multiple dogs, she'll unlearn the aversion since she'd stop associating other dogs with panic mode. It's not the cleanest solution, but if it's possible it could work. I do realize that's a lot of ifs.


I would suggest a qualified trainer. As someone said earlier not all trainers are alike. It's seems anymore that anyone can call themselves a trainer and hang out a shingle. Ask around at work, school, whatever and find someone who is recommended. When interviewing trainers ask what their techniques are for fear aggression training. They should give examples of very specific techniques not generalities if they know their stuff and should be able to share with you the why behind how the technique works.

Once a dog is imprinted with fear aggression either by birth/breed or trauma, it can be hard to break. It may become more a matter of controlling that dog's environment and surroundings to eliminate the chances of it happening. A dog with fear aggression can go on to have a very happy life, just under predictable circumstances.

With training what you are looking for is getting them to the point where they either no longer fear or if they are fearful, they don't respond negatively.


@raijen: Working with a professional behavior-based trainer, as opposed to a 'manners' type trainer is the best idea.
With Loki (abused, mal-nourished Husky/GSD mix) the issues and causes were many and deep. But he never had a problem with our other dog, Thor. They got along like gangbusters from day one. Other than seeking the help of a professional who can evaluate your pup, I have this to offer in the way of advice:
Patience. This will get better with time and consistent training. Your dog looks to you for how to act/react, stay as chill as you can. Every time. When they calm down/relax - reward with affection. Treat them like a kid who can't talk yet - that's essentially what they are (to me.)

Loki's story tbc...


As for how we got Loki to stop being afraid of us? Time. Consistency. He would rear back, hackles up, snapping, growling, and peeing on you. This was his reaction when he sensed any possible displeasure from any person (not kids, though we didn't let him around them without a ton of supervision.) Walking away didn't work, distraction didn't work, food didn't work. Eventually I just decided to stand where I was and ignore him until he calmed down. Then, as soon as he calmed down - he would thump his tail and come to me for lots of love and reassurance. Yes, I was covered in puppy puddles a few times, but he eventually figured out that me being unhappy does not equal aggression. Now he's still got some twitchy tendencies and every once in a while will submission urinate - but he's not aggressive or afraid. That just took time and consistency, months of it. Now? He's actually the better listener of my 2. Your patience will pay off. And your pup will be so much happier! Good luck.


@moondrake: That's awesome! I'm so glad you were able to work with him like that - and get him to realize that just because he's big and bad, doesn't mean you aren't!


Lack of an alpha, or she views herself as the alpha.

At some point in time, she's stopped seeing you as the pack leader. In some rare cases, fear aggression is just a mental glitch, and there's nothing you can do about it.. but in the vast majority - it relates to pack hierarchy. When around another dog, even in your presence, she doesn't trust your judgement or ability to handle the situation. You need to re-establish yourself as alpha to this dog, and the rest becomes surprisingly easy. (though establishing leadership is often the hardest step) - there are a ton of books and info on the matter - but be prepared to do a lot of your own behavior modification, before you get the dog to respond. I train dogs (not for a living, just personal pets, family pets, friends, etc) and most have been rescues with some sort of trauma in their background.. in all cases, establishing the pecking order, and self-correction is key to getting the dog to trust you, and thus follow your lead.


@goatcrapp: Thanks goatcrapp, I guess that could be possible, because I certainly wasn't able to protect her when Penelope starting going for her - and and I could that now she feels like she needs to protect herself. Thinking of it that way makes me feel sad. Jelly is an extremely well-behaved dog other than this one issue.

Thanks again to every one for helping me with this! I've been asking for recommendations and talking to trainers, and will also be asking the vet the next time I have my other dog in for his check-up. I haven't found anyone yet who impresses me.