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Is This Aggression At All?


MattB
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I recently posted about what I described as leash aggression - this was about my male grey jumping up and barking aggressively at approaching dogs. I had lots of really helpful responses and some useful references. I read one article about how confusing it is for dogs to have their owners try to correct 'aggressive' behaviour which is actually pretty reasonable - I.e. In the case of dogs running towards my dog, barking would be considered reasonable. This was illustrated to me on a recent winter night when a large dog sprinted towards us out of the dark and Charlie's barking stopped it in it's tracks.

 

It feels like this is what happened originally, it would be large boisterous dogs who barking would be reserved for while dogs on lead, small dogs and puppies were tolerated. After a few months of this Charlie has stopped discriminating which makes me wonder whether, rather than focus on correcting his behaviour, we need to try hard to avoid these situations. I'm finding walks quite stressful now which I realise could quite well be a viscous circle as he senses my anxiety and becomes more tense. My biggest worry is that he could hurt a small dog but I might be blowing things out of proportion.

 

So just interested in where people draw the line - what is ok and what is unacceptable when it comes to on-leash behaviour?

 

Any thoughts much appreciated.

 

Matt

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Well it sounds as if you understand what has happened. It is pretty uncommon to have a leash reactive greyhound when they are fresh off the track. Leash aggressiveness is a learned behavior, typically caused by the human (as you understand).

 

I wouldnt worry about him hurting a small dog, he needs to realize that nothing will hurt him. LAT (Look at That) training is the best for your situation. Do a search here for these key words and it will explain how you now need to counter-condition him to see other dogs as a positive event, not something to get stressed about. To do this you will need to first realize what is his threshold, where he gets out of control. Once you know what his threshold is, then you need to start training him BEFORE he gets to his threshold. Usually you need to have a hound that will either focus on you, sit, or otherwise pay attention to you. Have treats and praise keeping his attention on you as the other dog gets closer.

 

What I do with all of my hounds, fosters included is simply walk past other dogs regardless of how they react. I keep a short "handlers" lead (hold leash 12" above collar) and simply walk at a normal pace right by the other dog no matter what they are doing. I do not allow greeting face to face as this is an aggressive way to meet in doggy language (yes typically everyone out there with an ankle biter or other dog will want to allow dogs to meet face to face, they dont know what they are doing). I keep a regular pace with no reaction on my part and just walk by. If my hound starts to react, I simply keep walking and once we are past the issue, I will just give a quick pat on the side "relax" and keep walking.

Really the key is YOUR attitude. Dogs are very good at reading humans and your anxiety translates very quickly down the leash.

 

Chad

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I don't think there is a 'line' as such - you just have to work with your dog and hopefully the dog will improve.

 

With 'look at that' training it is certainly a lot quicker if you can keep the dog under threshold, but in real life you can't always do that - if the dog is reacting I agree with Chad's approach, keep walking. Once some distance is gained, get the dog to focus on you as soon as you can - the dog will learn to look at you and respond and it will help the dog calm down. Mouse used to be so bad that she would jump and fishtail and bark and scream and it would be impossible to move her on if she got like that so I'd just hold on to her and apologise as the other dog and owner got further away. Now we just get a few spinnies on the end of the leash sometimes when she sees a dog across the road and it's staring at her or barking at her. Otherwise she can just keep walking normally in a lot of situations now.

 

Cross the street to avoid those head-to-head meetings where possible. Normal dog behaviour is not a head to head meeting, as you can see very clearly in the video I posted of Mouse at the GreyhoundAngels Christmas party.

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Guest Bean_Scotch

It depends on what you want. Some people want their dogs to bark at approaching dogs, some don't. I don't want my dogs to a darn thing. Nothing. Don't bark. Don't growl. Don't lunge. Don't even curl your lips. I taught them this and we don't have issues. You may want to look at www.johnrogerson.com he's a world renowed animal behaviorist and has a 10+ hour seminar on aggression in depth. Lots of aggression issues are related to the human, and not necessarily the dog. BAT is another good one to use. I've even used CAT successfully.

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If Charlie has generalized from only reacting to large boisterous dogs to now reacting to all dogs, then that would make me think something about how you're responding to his behavior around other dogs is somehow reinforcing the leash aggression. You may be right that he's responding to your anxiety on walks, and that's what's making him more reactive toward all dogs in general.

Pay attention to whether you're tightening up on the leash whenever another dog comes into sight or approaches. Many people do this without even realizing it. Your anxiety is communicated through the leash tension, and that's one of the most common triggers for reactivity on leash. Can you walk at off-peak times of day when there's less chance you'll come across other dogs? Or drive him somewhere quiet to walk him?

Stress increases reactivity, and if he regularly reacts toward other dogs on walks, that will keep his stress hormones high and he'll be more likely to respond aggressively. It's a vicious cycle. To try to break that cycle, I would try to aim for a period of at least 2-3 weeks where you avoid all reactive responses. This may mean only walking at odd times, walking somewhere other than your neighborhood, or not walking at all.

After that period of downtime, you can start working with him using some of the methods above to desensitize him to seeing other dogs, starting at a distance where he doesn't react. I really like Turid Rugaas' methods of parallel walking and curving, but they usually require controlled situations with cooperative assistants and dogs. Consider looking into Turid Rugaas's book and DVD on Calming Signals, as well as her books on Barking and Pulling - all very applicable to the issues you're facing.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Thank you very much, all very helpful. Interesting re: vicious circle and stress hormones. Makes me feel guilty that I'm inadvertantly reinforcing his bad behaviour. Maybe it's my general unease at our rough neighbourhood and we just all need to move!

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Don't beat yourself up. Most dogs can learn to react more calmly to other dogs even when we people are a bit uneasy. Can take some time and practice but most can learn. :)

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Our big guy used to go bonkers, whirling and snapping on his leash and he corrupted our other dog into reacting similarly. The last straw was when they pulled me over and dragged me 30 feet on my belly over the snow to get to a little fluffball that was having an equivalent fuss. I took the non-grey to basic obedience where they taught us to distract with a treat when we encountered another dog. I had to just give in and travel with a cookie bag, and over time they learned to look at me automatically when they saw or heard a barking dog on walks. Worked like a damn. I still carry the cookie bag just in case, but it did eradicate the behaviour. Takes time but it works!

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Guest Winnie2014

I'm having a similar issue with Winnie recently. Statuing/lunging/barking/growling at some dogs. I'm going to work on her keeping her attention on me when we pass dogs with treats/recall with her name with a shorter leash for the time being. I know I'm guilty of shortening her leash when I see other dogs - and while I try to get her to ignore them, she obviously feels the tension of the leash. Is this a good plan? Keep on a mission with a shorter leash for the majority of our walks?

 

I walk her on trails and while before she was whining/vocalizing at other dogs (and then peeing once they passed, so submissive behavior), she wasn't growling. And avoiding doesn't always work either if we're walking on a narrow trail and see a dog walking towards us.

 

Edit: And this isn't always. It's worse if we don't have an escape on a narrow trail passing dogs walking the other way.

Edited by Winnie2014
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just an update, I am concentrating on not reacting when we see another dog, giving them a wide berth but remaining calm. This has had a profound effect and Charlie is much calmer in these situations. Sometimes his tail wags and I wonder if this is a playful barking?

 

He Still reacts to dogs when they run up to him but that is a bit more normal I think. I had to laugh as an elderly gentleman let his Jack Russell run up to us telling us not to worry he wasn't aggressive, it wasn't our safety I was concerned for!

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Just an update, I am concentrating on not reacting when we see another dog, giving them a wide berth but remaining calm. This has had a profound effect and Charlie is much calmer in these situations. Sometimes his tail wags and I wonder if this is a playful barking?

He Still reacts to dogs when they run up to him but that is a bit more normal I think. I had to laugh as an elderly gentleman let his Jack Russell run up to us telling us not to worry he wasn't aggressive, it wasn't our safety I was concerned for!

He maybe feels better because you have a plan now, and are keeping him at a distance he is more happy with at the moment.

 

I would disagree with the idea that you don't get reactive greyhounds fresh off the track, because I've had a few that were. My old boy Oscar was reactive from the first walk, which i wasn't expecting. Other foster dogs have been straight off reactive either to small dogs or to any size dogs running near them. Being uneasy yourself doesn't help, but it's not necessarily the primary cause of the reactivity.

 

Most greyhounds hsve never seen other breeds, let alone socialised, nor walked in a park, or learnt 'how to be a pet' manners and skills that other dogs learn as puppies. it's a whole new world . Many adapt really quickly but others need more time .

 

The loose dogs running into his face was a big problem for me and my Oscar too and definitely made him worse. He was like a magnet for badly behaved dogs!! At the risk of becoming unpopular with other dog walkers , try your level best to avoid these rude dogs. That may be by calmly taking another route, avoiding parks where ill trained loose dogs are the norm and if you see one making a beeline be prepared to whisk your dog behind you and face off the loose dog by shouting at it if necessary. I stopped a mastiff in its tracks once that was rushing my ancient, frail greyhound, snarling by doing this...i later saw the mastiff walked on lead and muzzled so i guess it went for someone's dog later on.

 

This approach is more difficult to do with dogs who are non aggressive but their rushing over is seen as a threatening act by your dog, so you need to get rid of them somehow, before they reach your dog and make him freak out. If you can do this, he will trust you to lookafter him. But you do need to the whole time act calm, confident and assertive, not scared or panicky, or it won't work.

Edited by Amber
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