Dog Agression

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Dog Agression

Post by FearlessDreamer » Wed Feb 13, 2019 10:02 pm

I have a 9 month old Australian Shepherd named Apollo. Now Apollo is a very good dog, he knows his basic commands, he even knows various other tricks such as spin, paw, roll over, sit pretty, etc. Apollo lives with three other dogs and gets along perfectly fine with them. However, since Apollo was little he has had fear agression. We attempted to stop this by bringing him to various pet stores, puppy play times, and even enrolled him in preschool, but it progressed. Now it is all out dog agression. He lunges, barks, snarls, and will not stop when he sees another dog. We have been to three trainers since he was four months old. There have been methods that have helped short term but nothing helps permanently. We have tried positive reinforcement, we have tried blocking his view, and making him give eyes, distracting him with tricks, shoving treats into his mouth, a gentle leader, and even a shock collar, with the recommendation of a trainer, which made him worse, along with various other techniques which failed. Some days it seems like he’s getting better, then he gets worse again. I honestly don’t know what to do anymore it’s like my only option is to leave him home and not take him on the walks he needs to keep him stimulated...

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Re: Dog Agression

Post by JudyN » Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:35 am

You may be trying to go too fast, too soon. This is a similar problem to one that came up a couple of days ago, so I'll add a link to that thread:

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=23874&sid=ee02d5a28 ... 236ff70383 Hopefully some more good advice will be posted either here or there :D
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Re: Dog Agression

Post by jacksdad » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:32 pm

JudyN wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:35 am
You may be trying to go too fast, too soon.
This is probably a significant part of why you are struggling to make progress. Another, it is possible you still haven't connected with a trainer that truly specializes in what you are needing to help Apollo. I don't want to spend too much time on that point, but some trainers know just enough to be dangerous, and others are want to show off a "quick fix". Helping a dog like Apollo isn't about the quick fix. it's more of a marathon vs a quick sprint. Which isn't to say you need pay a trainer to be there with you for months and months. on average, my clients are ready to move forward on their own in 9 to 12 sessions. The key is learning a couple of critical principles.

The first is, if this is fear, once past the puppy socialization stage of development (which Apollo is), we have to change our tactics. just being around dogs generally won't help. A lot of people (including some trainers) think you can "show" a fearful dog there isn't anything to be afraid of. we can't show, but we set things up so a dog can learn. It's an important difference in mind set. If you are unsure if this is fear or not, the safest approach is to assume fear until you can know for sure it's not. this keeps everyone safe AND does the least "harm" if you are wrong.

So the first part of this is to STOP taking him places to be around dogs close enough to trigger any unwanted behavior, and to NOT let random dogs he will never, ever see again come up to him. you might be thinking "but how will he learn if I do this?" The answer is two parts. if this is all you do, then he won't. But right now if this is fear, he is not equipped to "say hi" or to have a dog come up and "say hi". If he was, we wouldn't be "talking" about how to help Apollo. him being able to say hi or be approached by another dog is for a later "phase" in the process of helping Apollo. So, again. no random dogs.

The first principle to learn about is desensitization. This where you will take Apollo places he can see and be aware of other dogs, BUT they will be far enough away that he does NOT react to them. if he reacts with barking, lunging, a "laser" like focus on the dog... your much too close. The most reaction you want is him clearly turning an looking in the direction of the other dog. he will most likely turn his whole body, ears will go up, tail may go up, you might notice him do like a whole body "freeze". Even all this is border line too much of a reaction, so try and learn to catch any signal given off by Apollo that is even less. But you are needs some very minor "sign" that is is aware of the other dog or this won't work. Just like you can get too close, you can get too far away. there is a nice little "sweet" spot.

Now that you know about desensitization, it is time to learn about Classical Conditioning. This is the principle that Pavlov dogs (ring bell, dogs salivates) is talking about. it is learning about X predicts Y and the association that goes with it that then triggers a "reflexive" emotional response. For example, you HATE eating your spinach. But every time you take a bite of spinach, someone gives you a bowl of your favorite ice cream. if there is enough parings of you taking a bite of spinach, and the presentation of a bowl of ice cream after doing so....spinach will come to predict ice cream and you will very likely associate spinach with the feeling you get when eating ice cream.

This same concept can help our fearful dogs when we use desensitization correctly. how you would do this is...your dog gives of the most subtle sign of awareness of the other dog you can identify and soon as you see that, you start flowing one bit after another of the yummiest treat you know your dog will go for. hot dog, fresh cooked chicken, cheese, etc. Something super yummy..super special. and you aren't just giving one bit and calling it good per is treat, treat, treat, treat etc.

you do this for EVERY dog your dog shows awareness about. even IF he barks. (will come back to this in a second).

a mistake people make is to wait until their dog is "reacting" to the thing that scares them. that isn't how this works, we have to do all this before he barks, lunges etc. and IF we are maintaining the proper distance, there will be NO barking, lunging etc. or at the least there will be 80/90% less. we can never be 100% because we do not have 100% control of all factors out there...other people, loose dogs etc.

so when to stop giving the treats? think of the other dog as a "light switch", when your dog shows awareness...the other dog has "turned on the light"...meaning time to give treats. when the other dog disappears. the "light switch" goes into the off....meaning treats stop. OR...if they get far enough away that your dog looses interest. Another is if the "encounter" (your dog looking at scary other dog) goes on for more than about 5 seconds, time to move for distance and after a couple steps in any direction away from the other dog, the treats stop. later you will work on your dog being able to be around other dogs, but for now you just want your dog to be aware of scary other dogs and not "flip out".

Why we still give the treat if our dogs bark? Because this is about predictiveness... the "scary" dog PREDICTS hot dog. this can ONLY happen if every single dog your dog shows awareness too, causes "hot dog" to happen. This is soooo important that in the beginning if you even think your dog is aware of another...give the hot dog. this also goes for barking, leash jingling, collar these all predict other dogs and your dog hearing these things...begins the cycle of barking and lunging. so these things (if you pickup on them) can also be "triggers" for treats to happen.

NOW...if your dog lunges and barks...the chances are they won't take the hot dog in that state. DO NOT stand there trying to get them to take the food. offer it, but be moving for distance at the same time. if your dog doesn't take the food...focus on getting as much distance as possible. THEN try and figure out what went wrong. did you stay out around dogs too long, move too close, allow a dog to come to close? did the other dog "come out of no where?" etc. try and NOT let it happen again. if you were graph 10 time that your dog showed awareness of another dog and 8 or 9 out of 10 he didn't bark, lung etc you are going to be ok. offering hot dog that one or two times Apollo barked isn't going to teach him to bark at other dogs.

keys to remember -

Dogs MUST be a safe distance from "SCARY" if they are going to have any chance of learning they don't need to be afraid of "scary".

pair the awareness of scary at the safe distance with food. if you do this right, then food will help. don't be "cheap" with the food either. this is time for hot dog, chicken, basically anything dog safe that REALLY "turns your dog on" so to speak. store bought treats work for some dogs, but not most.

until you are getting a "yippy, I see a dog" type of response from your dog, don't even worry about "how do I teach him to go up to other dogs"

I just gave a brief look at what the starting point is. There is truly a method to this and it is based on well documented and established learning principles. making this type of behavior/training work a specialty. which is why it is hard to find a trainer that will get things moving in the right direction. So please, please ask any questions and I will do my best to answer.

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