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Handling Dominance Aggression in Dogs

19 | Posted 6/10/09

Handling Dominance Aggression in Dogs

By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS June 25, 2009

stockxpertcom_id10704032_jpg_b45f4ab8f531d225bd033bd4650fd2f2Do you have a dog that you think has dominance aggression? A dog who's confident and aggressive over many types of resources? As the top dog, he's outgoing and rarely shows fear postures or what one might call "apologetic" behavior. One moment, he's as charming as a Casanova on a first date. The next minute, he's throwing more barks and bites than Mike Tyson at a pre-fight press conference. If so, read on.

Note: For the actual definition of dominance, go to the " dominance controversy" at  http://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/

In animal behavior, dominance is defined as a relationship between individuals that is established through force, aggression and submission in order to establish priority access to all desired resources (food, the opposite sex, preferred resting spots, etc). A relationship is not established until one animal consistently defers to another.

Dominance aggression would be the aggression that the higher ranking individual exhibits towards the lower ranking ones in order to "keep the lower ranking one in it's place."

 

How can a dog become so unpredictable and bossy?

This high and mighty behavior starts in puppyhood when the pooch is treated like a prince. He gets praise and petting for his slightest deeds and free food delivered on request like room service at the Hyatt. Then he wins tons of toys without even trying and the best human beds and couches to rest his bum. Most dogs who live the high-life just become spoiled brats.

But for some dogs with a more aggressive personality, this life without leadership or predictable and consistent rules creates a furry monster who aggressively claims ownership to any resource - food, toys, sleeping places, access to attention - that he wants. This fighting over multiple types of valued resources is called dominance aggression by behaviorists who study social hierarchies. And a dominance-submissive relationship between individuals exists only when one individual consistently backs down. In essence, some Fidos claim the household to be under their aggressive dictatorship.

In reality,  dogs who are aggressive to family members RARELY actually have dominance aggression. What they generally have are situations where they guard multiple resources out of fear. For instance, you may have allowed them on the bed and then been shocked when they also decided to sleep on the couch. In your surprise you react angrily or indignantly approach them in an accusatory tone, " Get off!" instead of calling them off in an instructive manner and then rewarding the more desirable behavior. Some dogs will "get off" when asked the first time. Others switch to the same reaction mode that you just exhibited. They go into a defense that escalates as you do because they are just reacting rather than thinking of another option out of the situation. Over time, the dog's reaction in these situations may become worse because he's learned to expect conflict in these situations and to react sooner and sooner.

There are inklings that this type of situation has caused your dog to be aggressive over multiple types of resources. For one, the dog does not have a confident personality, rather he may even act very needy around you. Secondly you may often see body postures of fear and anxiety in the conflict situations—cowering, head low, licking lips, averting gaze and more. (Refer to lowstresshandling.com chapter 1 to see the signs of fear in dogs).

Luckily, regardless of whether the aggression is fueled by fear or your dog is truly high ranked (which is rare) our treatment is the same and it does not involve force.

How To End Rover's Reign Using Your Brain Rather Than Your Brawn

You might think that, like wolves in a pack, baboons in a troop, or lions in a pride, the way to take charge of a dominant-aggressive dog is by calm, assertive force or even violence. The problem is that with animals, their reign is often short-lived, lasting only as long as they have the physical strength to prevail. Similarly with humans, only the strongest, most skilled members of the household can win physical altercations, leaving the majority of members to fend for themselves. Furthermore, such a butting of heads can temporarily suppress the aggression while making the underlying emotional state much worse. Since emotions guide behavior, the dog may outwardly hide his resentment when he's not strong enough to fight, all-the-while seething inside. Then, when he can't contain it anymore, he bites. Luckily because we humans have bigger brains, we can swiftly carry out a non-violent, long-lasting coup while changing Bowser's entire attitude. Our carefully executed plan will help us with those rare dogs who are truly trying to vie for highest rank, as well as those who are reacting out of fear and have just not been taught more appropriate safe behaviors.

First Keep Yourself Safe

Avoid all situations that trigger a battle. This is a war of wills where you supposedly outsmart your less cerebral companion. If furniture is one of the resources Fido guards, then all human furniture is off bounds. Deny access to the room containing the cherished chair, barricade the bed with uncomfortable books or booby trap it with the electostatically charged Scatmat. Or just keep Rover on leash so you can pull him right off. Just be sure to do it in a ho-hum manner. For instance, nonchalantly take the leash and walk away unemotionally. Then reward him with a treat for following you off.

Next Take Control of All Important Resources

This includes food, furniture, toys, and anything else Rover likes including petting, praise, and playtime. Instead of his controlling these items, you'll ration these resources as selectively as the Seinfeld Soup Nazi. Also control Rover's freedom of movement by putting him on leash. For the next several days or week, he should be attached to you or tethered to a tie down in the house whenever people are at home with him. This will keep him from getting into situations that get him into trouble and provide you with a lot of opportunities to reward the desired behaviors.

Now, teach the ruling Rover to Say Please by Sitting Patiently to get what he wants. When Rover's ravenous, let him see that you have a treat so that he knows what he can earn and then hold the food in your hand. At first he'll wonder why the delay; usually, you deliver on demand. Just stand silently and stationary and when he finally sits, give him the treat before he has a chance to get up. Next, move a few steps and repeat this exercise. Practice this 10 or 20 times in row, and Rover's light bulb is sure to stay lit.

Now Apply the Automatic Sit to Everything Rover Wants

From here on, Rover must automatically say please for everything he wants instead of automatically taking it for free. Wait for him to sit and look at you politely before tossing his toy, letting him out the door, or giving him a treat. Put his dog bowl in storage and make him earn each kibble of food and pat on the head by performing this and other behaviors that he knows. The goal is that he learns that this is just how his world now works. It has order and predictability. When he wants something, he doesn't have to worry about guarding it. He'll get what he wants when he sits politely and looks to you for permission. This program where he learns to say please by sitting, automatically, for everything he wants and he learns that sitting and patiently focusing on you is the only way he gets what he wants, is my version of the Learn to Earn Program. It teaches self-control, impulse control, and to look to humans for guidance and is a good foundation program for any dog who is anxious, aggressive, or lacks focus and attention.

handling dominance aggression

Train Rover to Enjoy All Handling Procedures He Dislikes

For instance, if Fido growls and snaps when you handle his feet, work first on touching his feet or legs in a way where he barely responds, and pair this touching with treats. In order to make it clear that touching the feet equals tasty treats, only touch the feet while Fido's getting treats and stop touching the feet as soon as he finishes the treat. When he consistently allows this level of handling then increase the intensity by, for instance, squeezing the toes, or holding the toenail trimmers near his feet. The goal is that at each step he ignores the handling and is only focused on the food. By only going to the next step of handling when he's non-reactive at the current level, Rover can improve quickly, even over just several days to a week.

 

 

The best source for training dogs to love to be handled is Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats (Book and DVD)

The Attitude Change Can Be Fast

At first these changes are a challenge for owners. They want to pet the pooch when he pushes his way into their laps instead of ignoring him until he's polite. Or they accidentally let him barrel by to get out the door rather than waiting for him to drop his derriere and look to them for direction. By bearing down and making all the changes at once, though, you make the message black and white. You're telling him that you can set rules and be both predictable and consistent, so he should trust YOU to guide him instead of making his own rules.  Once Rover gets the rules you've conveyed to him through your actions, the weight of trying to be in charge or wondering how he should react will be lifted off his shoulders. Furthermore, once asking politely is Rover's new habit, you'll only reward him when you decide he should have the reward. That way you remain the one in control, but you're doing so in a predictable and non-threatening way that helps him understand what you want and strengthens your relationship.

 

Comments Leave a Comment

Posted by suenestnature on 06/25 at 01:59 PM

Dr. Yin,
Although I know that dominance aggression is often the diagnosis when a dog is controlling resources, I have often thought this is a misnomer; it sems to me that in order to share a hierarchy, two individuals ought to be the same species. Could you comment about dogs and humans being on the same hierarchy? We don't after all worry about being alpha to our cats or pet rats; why do we do this with dogs?
Sue Alexander CPDT CDBC

Dogs in the Park

Guelph, Ontario

http://www.dogsinthepark.ca

Posted by Sophia Yin, DVM on 06/25 at 02:41 PM

Thanks for the question Sue. First, I don't think dominance aggression is common at all in dogs (with relation to humans). I think that even when they are aggressive over many types of resources with humans that they are more often acting defensively and have been given no other option regarding what they should do (e.g. Human instruction "Get off the bed!"; dog gets defensive, especially if they are already a fearful dog vs "Come when called off the bed and you'll receive a reward possibly on a variable schedule of reinforcement."
So now to your question. I agree that a lot of people believe that you can't have interspecies dominance aggression. but the definition of dominance is that it's a relationship between individuals that's established through force, aggression and submission in order to obtain priority access to resources—mates (or preferred friends), food, shelter, etc. In nature, this pertains only to a individuals of a given species because individuals generally only form social groups with individuals of their own species. However, when humans put multiple species in groups a heirarchy often does form. For instance if you raise lambs and kids (goats) together they may form a hierarchy or consistent rank order between individuals.
On another note, a recent paper by Bradshaw found that dogs don't have clear-cut heirarchies the way wolves do and agonistic relationships could be better described by what is called Resource-holding potential.
Based on the definition of dominance, I don't think mixed people/dog social groups have the same rigid hierarchies that wolves do either. I know that although all dogs that come to my house must learn to be well-behaved, but because I do not establish this good behavior (and priority access to everything I want) by using force or threat of force, I am not dominant over my dogs:-). But I am the leader who can guide them to do what I want.
Sophia

Posted by Sophia Yin, DVM on 06/25 at 03:29 PM

Oops. one more thing. I posted the article with this title because many people search online for articles on dominance aggression. So, even though what they are seeing is not really dominance aggression, I wanted people who have dogs that they think are dominant aggression to use appropriate behavior modification techniques:-).
Sophia

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 08:38 PM

Dr. Yin,
Now I'm confused. You added: "I posted the article with this title because many people search online for articles on dominance aggression. So, even though what they are seeing is not really dominance aggression…."
Is the "dominance aggression" you are defining in the original entry actually what you mean by "dominance aggression"? (I know people have all sorts of personal definitions for it.) I'm not familiar with every professional/academic definition out there, but the one I'm most familiar with, Dr. Karen Overall's, is rather different. Dr. Overall says it has nothing to do with dominance, and she uses the "priority access to preferred resources" definition of dominance. OTOH, your definition does seem to refer to the "priority access…." definition.
Can I invite you to discuss this definition morass a bit? I would love for someone to wave the magic wand and tell us one useful definition for once and for all. I know, I'm dreaming. At this point I virtually never assess it partly because the definition issue is so thorny.
Greta Kaplan, CPDT, CDBC

Companion Animal Solutions

http://companionanimalsolutions.com

Posted by Sophia Yin, DVM on 06/26 at 09:07 PM

ok I added something to clarify at the bottom of the blog because I didn't really define dominance in this article. . I just allude to the definition. The actual definition and info are on my dominance controversy page "www.Askdryin.com/dominance.php. And I have an entire chapter on dominance in Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats."
The actual animal behavior definition of dominance is:
In animal behavior, dominance is defined as a relationship between individuals that is established through force, aggression and submission in order to establish priority access to all desired resources (food, the opposite sex, preferred resting spots, etc). A relationship is not established until one animal consistently defers to another.
Based on this definition, dominance aggression would be the aggression that the higher ranking individual exhibits towards the lower ranking ones in order to "keep the lower ranking on in it's place." Animals can also have aggression in order to try to change rank (these are called dominance fights–for instance at wolf park in indiana where there are mixed wolf packs and individuals can't disperse the way they might in the wild, wolves occasionally have very serious fights for rank, called dominance fights. Wolves are usually separated before these occur). In either case (dominance fight OR high ranking animal putting lower ranking one in it's place), the fighters look confident, not fearful. For a lot of the cases that we used to routinely call dominance aggression because the dog exhibits aggression over multiple types of resources (e.g. not just food or resting spots) it turns out the dogs are exhibiting fear postures instead of confidence. This fear posture may be before or after the incident and not right as it's occurring. That's on reason we don't think that all of these cases we used to call dominance aggression are actually dominance aggression.
We also used to call any resource guarding dominance aggression–but now we call aggression over individual types of resources good possession aggression or toy possession aggression. I really have not seen many dogs that I think are truly dominant aggressive. Many actually have a history of being fearful in many situations!
does that clear things up?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/13 at 02:43 AM

As a dog handler/trainer in the Prison Service in the uk, we have to source our dogs from any where we can. Unfortunatly we haven't got our own breeding programme and get most of our dogs from rescue centres or the general public. As our requirements mean we have to have confident bold dogs ( I am talking German sheperds) some of the dogs we get have what we like to call an "attitude problem." Because our dogs are trained to bite the last thing we want are dogs that turn on the handler. As a young inexperianced handler I got bit quite badly by my own dog. He was two years old when I got him and had " Attitude" Since then all my dogs have been subject to "Role Reversal" as practiced by John Fisher. coupled with Clicker Training my dogs have been obedient and have the willingness to work, without the fear of them coming back at me. I think this combination can work wonders and as most dogs were breed to work , it gives the dog something to do and concentrate on.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/14 at 06:39 AM

Hi Dr.Yin,

I've read quite a bit about dominance and status seeking behavior and my dogs behavior still confuses me.My three year old cattle dog x who I adopted last year used to go to the dog park and while she was definitly bossy (liked to control the play) her style of play was appropriate and she was not over the top or agressive. However, while she loves to play hard with young playful dogs like herself, and is always gentle with small dogs and puppies she reacts very negatively to submissive dogs (who are not small dogs/puppies)
For example, if a dog she meets happens to go belly up or "scream" (ex:high yipping like a puppy) it drives her wild and she will pin them. She has a fairly good recall and I've been able to get her attention in distracting situations before (ex:chasing deer, when I can see she's overwhelmed,or when the other dog is agressive) but when she is going after a submissive dog she goes to a different world and I cannot get her attention. After the fight she also seems almost happy and undisturbed so I actually thinks she find these situations "fun' "exciting" and even a "game" This has happened several times and I stopped going to the dog park about 6 monthes ago because of these reactions (and won't be going back) and have worked with a trainer. Just to clarify, while she pins these dogs she has never injured or drawn blood from another dog and seems to have good bite inhabition and not use her teeth,
I have had several trainers remark that she is"dominant" but if this is the case than why is she better with assertive dogs and even agressive dogs than submissive ones? With dogs she likes she is not overly status seeking and will along them to bowl her over but even when meeting a more submissive dog on leash she has a desire to pin them.

Posted by Sophia Yin, DVM on 08/28 at 08:06 PM

Good question.
The normal response of an animal in an established social system is to back off once another animal has said "uncle." In fact submissive responses are defined in animal behavior as those designed to turn off aggression. Dogs that attack other dogs who yip and show submissive postures have one of several issue:
a) not fully learned appropriate social responses

b) have little self control/emotional control in high arousal situations–e.g frequently singletons are like this. As a pup they never learned that they should back down. (http://askdryin.com/blog/2009/07/04/is-hand-reared-rottie-pup-destined-to-be-aggressive/ and also watch video on the movies page: peggy sue comes)

c) The yipping or submissive behavior triggers prey drive. e.g. the high squealing is like injured prey. And even if the other dog does not scream, the body posture in association with the screams in the past can now trigger the same response.
If you ever go to the dog park you'll notice that if one dog yips and a dog fight ensues dogs in the area rush in to join. These are dogs just reacting to the situation. They yips/fights make them overly aroused and they go into reaction mode regardless of any rank relationship they may have with the dogs that are fighting. For instance I remember when I had a roommate with a silly doberman and a cute dachshund and a chihuahua mix. Once the dachshund and chihua hua were in a low level scuffle and the doberman got excited, wasn't sure what to do so just jumped in a bit the dachshund. She did not know what she was doing at all, and it wasn't rank related (if there was any rank in that house, she would have been the lowest). She was just reacting because she was overaroused. others do so specifically because they are both overly aroused and in predator mode.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/30 at 12:31 PM

Thank you for response, I appreciate your insight into my question.
I think its important that you mention that not all dog-dog aggression is related to dominance, I agree that dominance (in her case) has little to do with her behaviour than many would think….she just doesn't have the ability to control herself and has inappropriate reactions. However, another "label" that has been used to describe her behaviour is "fear aggressive" and I also think that's inappropriate, she doesn't seem to show any signs of fear. I am very interested in better understanding why my dog does the thing she does, because I can't help her unless I understand the root of the problem, but it's nice to get an answer that does not rely on categories and realize that not all of her behaviour can be completely and rationally theorized.
Unfortunately because I got her when she was over a year old I don't know the response to many of those questions but I definitely agree she is a dog with a high arousal (she is part cattle dog and it took a lot of training to get her to stop biting heels when she is excited).
Because I have a dog who is unpredictable she will not be offleash, but I have been doing lots of work with her on impulse control (learn to leave it, sit-stay, down-stay, and ensuring she says please by sitting whenever she wants something). However, it seems like a double edged sword, because I don't trust her with other dogs she only has two that I trust her with offleash (in a secure area) and as a result has become much more dog-dog aggressive. On leash she has learned to sit and look and me and remain in a heel while the other dog passes but she still lunges at other dogs who approach her offleash(she is on) or if they get too close (on leash). I've met several trainers that have just advised me never to let her meet other dogs but its not a)practical (because where I live I constantly run into offleash dogs) and also what if she gets loose one day? This situation has never happened but if it does I don't want my dog to attack the nearest dog and b) she actually likes other dogs, once she has gotten to know a dog she loves to play with them and be close to them and she is becoming worse with other dogs as she gets less opportunity to play with them. Because I have restricted her access to dogs, she is also more stressed around them, I want her to be more comfortable.
Do you have any tips to teach her more impulse control or have better responses to a dog she doesn't like? For instance, I can accept that I don't have a go-lucky dog who loves every dog she meets and that she will meet some dogs she doesn't like. However, while a bark or growl would be (more) appropriate I need to teach her that lunging/pinning another dog is not appropriate.

Posted by Sophia Yin, DVM on 08/30 at 02:34 PM

Yes. Most dog-dog aggression is actually not dominance based–most dogs when meeting are not trying to establish high rank (just like most people who meet are not trying to establish high rank either). Most commonly I see interdog aggression (with dogs who are not that familiar) due to fear or related to poor social skills (leading to uncertainty/anxiety/fear upon greeting) or poor social skills leading one dog to greet to exuberantly and others to become defensively aggressive which causes the social "retard" to then learn to fight dogs he meets. and then there's teh case of the dog that goes into predatory mode. So there are multiple causes.
It's really not that important to know the cause although it can be useful to know the triggers. Regardless of the cause the general approach will be the same. Train dog to engage in fun behaviors where he/she focuses on you–heeling, sit games, etc (I will have some of these up in detail on my online education section of my web page under the puppy training course–maybe in a few months). The trick is that you must be able to have the dog focuse on you at all times at the distance at which you are working–and not feel she has to focus on the other dogs.
then, once you have this type of control, you actually seek out dogs that you can work around. I follow dogs on walks at the distance where I can keep the dogs' i'm working with focused on me and having FUN. They must be having fun so that they associate the other dogs/situation with good things. Once I get overall reactivity down I can also introduce to certain dogs. You can find examples on my youtube page (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=superbark1&search_type=&aq=f). Watch Podee's aggression and Molly movie.
I use the gentle leader so that I can better control the dogs so that they don't "wig out". Once I can keep them calm I can then reward for calm focused behavior so that they learn something good in that situation. I find the training much easier and safer with the GL head collar than without but I don't have any good videos up of how to train the technique.
I also find that australian cattledogs do really well with these techniques. They are already motivated to work and want to do what you want if you're fun enough. I'm working on a photo-illustrated book right now that actually does show a lot of the techniques in great detail as if teaching a sport. It shows how little differences in movement can create a big difference in how interested and focused the dog is on the handler. I'm sure I'll have a press release out when that books finally gets done:-). In the meantime the closest I can come to showing you HOW to do the techniques will be with the puppy training online ed course. I do the same exercises with adult dogs, the only difference is that in the puppy training course I show the exercise on puppies (primarily and ACD puppy).
Sophia

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/30 at 05:11 PM

Thank you for your helpful response.
Your right about cattle dogs, my dog is super super focused which can be excellent when she is focused on me and my training but not so good if she chooses to focus on another dog because she becomes very fixated and it's hard to regain her focus.
My main problem right now is that I am expecting too much, too quickly from her. Over the past few monthes she has been conditioned to realize that dogs=look at me for treats, but she still has a limit to how close to another dog she can be while doing this. She has far fewer reactions than she used too but needs to learn that dogs in closer proximity to her are also a good thing. This step (moving closer to other dogs) has been the hardest, it is definitly outside her comfort zone (being closer) and is something that will need lots of work. I use her kibble for training (which she works for…and loves to do so!) but have higher value rollover treats for when I am getting her to look at me and not other dogs.
Because I live in an urban setting (so narrow sidewalks and not a lot of space to work with) and offleash dogs in any greenspace/open area/woods available (even when these areas are clearly marked as "must leash") it has been a major obstacle to keep her out of situations (dogs running up to her or jumping on her) that she is not yet ready for. I have been trying to get out of these emergency situations as quickly and calmly as possible but she's had a few incidents which have caused setbacks, it's not ideal but I guess this is just the reality I am working with. If I can't get out of the situation I try my best to use my body and not let her make eye contact…once Jersey makes eye contact with another dog it is much more difficult to get her to focus on me.
Watching your videos I need to increase my movement to keep her interested. Much of our work around other dogs is much too stationary and she is probably getting bored. Its a fine line with her though because of her high arousal level I have to keep my voice calm and my praise subdued or she tends to get overexcited and lose focus..so I can't be TOO exciting.I usually start her walk in my yard or room and practice playing games to look at me and move in exciting ways so when we get outside and around other dogs she's already focused but I need to create more excitement in our walks. My dog and I BOTH need to learn to have more fun on walks (while keeping her focused)– I look forward to the addition of some of these attention games in coming months on your webpage!
Regarding gentle leaders, I used a halti on her for over a year. However, she constantly had an irritated eye which made it very uncomfable to wear the halti. She also has a shorter snout and is not very good in the heat so the halti wasn't good for that either. I have not been using it the past few monthes and have worked on her leash skills and have a waist-leash (hands free). I feel like I am in control with the waist-leash (which also has a handle near the front in case I really need to gain control of her). Though where I work I generally recommend people use halti's/GL's in my situation I think she has done better without it.
Very true (regarding causes of behaviour)…I think I just like to research and knowing as much as possible about anything I'm doing..including my dog and sometimes can get hung up on all the labels/catergories/theories.
Thanks again for your comments and I look forward to your new publications!
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Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/25 at 01:58 AM

Express thanks you for your obliging reply. Your correct concerning cattle dogs, my dog is wonderful super focused which can be outstanding when she is listening carefully on me and my preparation but not so high-quality if she chooses to center on another dog since she becomes very obsessed and it's firm to recover her center.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/04 at 09:55 PM

Hi Canuckcattledog,

Just a quick note of empathy. We and our rescued border collie have gone through much of the same thing as you and your dog. He is much better with a great deal of work on his training and also, in his case, with some anti-anxiety medication that greatly reduced his overall baseline anxiety level.

I don't know if Sophia would agree with me on this but our experience with our dog was not that lack of contact with other dogs was making the situation worse. It seemed to me that our dog's problems became more severe as he went through teenager and reached maturity.

He was adopted at about 1 year of age and for the first six months or so he routinely went to dog parks and had no serious problems. He wasn't very confident but it was manifested mainly as occasionally humping another dog. But as time went on and he got older, his behavior at the dog park gradually became less and less appropriate. He started identifying dogs he didn't like and he would snarf at them. It wasn't every dog or even most dogs but particular ones and once he decided he didn't like them, that was it. He couldn't be around them.

His dog park behavior steadily declined as he approached 2 years of age and his overall anxiety level seemed to be rising at home as well. His last trip to the dog park, he was being hassled a bit by one of a pair of dogs - just a socially awkward dog. But our dog responded by pinning that dog's very old and arthritic mate who had not harassed him or even paid much attention to him at all.

So that put an end to dog parks. But it was more like the end result of a building level of fear and anxiety with him. And since avoiding dogs and dog parks and working on his skills, he pays much less attention to other dogs than he used to.

So I just wanted to mentione that it seems at least possible to me - and I know Sophia will tell me if I'm way off base - that it isn't necessarily avoiding contact with other dogs that has made your dog more reactive to other dogs.

We use the Gentle Leader collar whenever he's in situation where he will be around other people and other dogs (he has bitten). We tried a Halti and our dog hated that. But he is okay with the GL.

Off-leash dogs are really the only situation now that I fear. Like a lot of dogs, our dog is extremely anxious when he's leashed and the other dog is not - no escape route! Even just pulling the leash shorter can make him react to another dog. So we rely very heavily on refocusing him on activities and us around other dogs.

And we do whatever we can to avoid areas where they are likely to be offleash. Which means, actually, that we don't frequent a lot of parks. Our dog happens to like campuses, which are places where, in the back corners, there are almost never offleash dogs. And, if you're lucky, there are squirrels and bunnies! So when he needs some long-lead freedom to explore, we take him to places like that and he has a blast. Otherwise, he's on the Gentle Leader.

You're obviously working very hard for you dog - I know that will make a huge difference. smile

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/05 at 02:05 PM

I have a question. 3 of my 4 dogs have been together now for almost 4 years and all at once my German Shepherd mix has started jumping on my Jack Russell/Beagle mix and has about killed her twice before could get them seperated. Does this sound like dominance aggression or not. I am about to the end of my rope I have already started looking for someone to take the shepherd mix as she is the big dog and the one we have had shortest amount of time, I hate to do this. Also the Jack Russell mix has not been Spayed where the rest of the dogs have been spayed and neutered, which only have one male dog and 3 females.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/05 at 04:49 PM

I don't know quite how to phrase this, but I would like to talk a bit about humping. One always seems to see humping defined as dominance - yet three week old puppies play hump each other fairly indiscriminately,e.g. small pups hump big pups, bossy pups hump other pups and get humped in turn.
Our old JRT Dodger humped every new dog he met (and he was long neutered). He speed-humped Weimaraners (love that colour) at the dog park at a 25mph clip. He recently died at the age of 14, and he was the least dominant Jack I have ever encountered (we do JRT rescue so we encounter a LOT of Jacks). He was extremely unreactive - if a dog scrimmage broke out, Dodger would always be found doing something incredibly interesting (to him) behind a shrub as far away as possible from the action. He let small puppies crawl all over him, and he left weaker senior dogs alone (did not hump either category). All of his happy humping seemed directed towards getting the humpee to chase him and play - once a dog started playing with him or running with him, he stopped humping and never humped that particular dog again. So I think Dodger figured out somewhere along the way that humping irritates most adult dogs just enough to goad them into chasing him, which for him was the best kind of play possible. Once a dog played (properly, in his opinion), the humping did not manifest itself. If a new dog would play with him right from the start, he never humped that dog. Dodger was THE guy I took with me for seven years to shelters to assess dog to dog aggression in Jacks needing to come in to rescue - he never met a dog he didn't like, and not a single dog we met ever disliked him either - he had an amazing effect on really cranky dogs. So I have decided that humping has its place as an ice-breaker for some dogs. Obsessive humping is not appropriate - but not all humping is either 'bad' or 'dominant'. I think we tend to get too emotional about humping, and that is because we are people and it embarrasses us when our dogs hump (in public). smile

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/05 at 11:16 PM

Hi Dr Yin,
Looking forward to seeing you and Sarah in a couple weeks.
I don't see the big deal over dominance. Dominance is dominance, it comes in many different packages. Some will say its not a personality characteristic, for dogs in general no, but that doesn't mean it can't be for a particular individual; as you said it depends on consistency. Cross species is the same thing. Dominance has nothing to do with species. A person can have a dominant relationship with a dog. TV personalities promote it regularly. A dog certainly could be dominant. I met a dog once who really cared about no one or anything but himself. He wanted it, he took it and that was that. Eventually he was euthanized. I think the biggest problem with dominance is that some people have abused it to describe pack hierarchy in dogs and in wolves. Being the dominant figure in a crowd, pack, what ever doesn't mean the figure has to not allow any other figure access to this or that, it just means ultimately it is their choice if they deam it necessary.

I think one of the biggest problems in animal training, especially dogs is that so many people take all aggression for dominance aggression when that is as you say extremely rare.

If I read you right, the treatment is the same. I think there are dominant dogs that were born that way; they are bullies. I don't think that is treatable. I tell people, if you meat a real dominant dog, the odds are pretty slim, he won't chase you barking, he has no need to scare you away, he has no fear. Have you seen what I am talking about? Not the spoiled brat you have described here.

Jerry

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/06 at 12:27 PM

Hi Natalie,

Thanks for your empathy!
I actually wrote that post almost two years ago and since then we've had many improvements.

My cattledog x is again in group obedience and able to walk calmly by other dogs. She has a great emergency U-Turn when we do run into rude dogs. We've added clicker trainer in and trained her to look at other dogs and then look back at us for a click (and treat).Her hackles are no longer up at the sight of other dogs..at one point she was able to look away from other dogs and look at us but was clearly stressed and hyper-vigilant. Since allowing her to look at the dog and then look back at us she has gotten much more relaxed.We walk by lunging and barking dogs and she barely bats an eye.

We also play lots of focus games and have trained a reliable hand-touch..all tools which keep things exciting for her and help to keep her (and US!) relaxed around other dogs.

I understand your pain about off-leash dogs. My dog has good bite inhibition and is mostly noise and hot air but off-leash dogs are still a big source of stress for us.Off-leash dogs jumping on her or getting in her face are still a problem and she will never enjoy meeting numerous novel dogs but we've accepted this and try our best to minimize these situations.

College and university campuses are also a favorite place to visit for us! Lots of grass, trees and smells and away from traffic and not full of off-leash dogs. We also take her downtown and to other locations with lots of people and few dogs (she LOVES people and craves human attention). Like you Natalie, we have stopped trying to go to most parks...even one's with strict leash laws there are just to many off-leash and out of control dogs. We live in a very very busy urban center so this makes finding any sort of non-sidewalk walking area difficult.

Good luck with your dog..it sounds like you've been working really hard as well!

CanuckCattledog

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/05 at 01:27 AM

Very useful post. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/13 at 07:01 AM

Hi Dr. Yin,

You stated in an earlier post that, "On another note, a recent paper by Bradshaw found that dogs don't have clear-cut heirarchies the way wolves do and agonistic relationships could be better described by what is called Resource-holding potential."

Would you mind, please, giving the full citation? I would like to access it for future reference and I am having trouble locating it.
Thanks!
Melissa R. Hartley
Canine Behavior Consultant, Sindar Kennel, LLC
http://www.sindarkennel.com
President, Weimaraner Rescue of SC

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