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Sounding Aggressive But Wagging Tail...


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Feels like I've posted a lot but it's so helpful to get people's perspectives on behaviour who have had similar experiences.

 

I've previously posted about some on-lead aggression from Charlie. I've been in touch with a behaviourist and we're arranging some one to one sessions but so far I've been trying to follow advice on this forum. Currently what this means is that my girlfriend is unable to walk Charlie.

 

Lead to off-lead dogs I won't get started on - we try hard to avoid these people and it is very frustrating, now walking different routes as often as possible but we've had some very threatening encounters with big dogs (Bullmastiffs, Staffordshire bull terriers and a pack of near-wild spaniels) running straight at us in one case this escalated - it happened so fast I'm not even sure who bit first but Charlie definitely had the last word and I felt sick although he was fine and the other dog didn't seem injured it did affirm that we need to avoid these situations. I was also glad I didn't have him muzzled. Once wound up, Charlie wants to bark at every dog he sees.

 

Other than the above in general behaviour has got much better, then we have the occasional setback - we're usually able to remain calm now past aggressive dogs behind fences which was one of our main problems. Part of this is recognising Charlie's warning signs (I'd describe this as a 'pre-bark' where he exhales sharply) and my own instinctive reaction (tightening lead and becoming tense). If I say a firm 'No' Charlie will, more often than not, relax and trot along. If Charlie does pass this threshold I try to remain calm and say his name in a tone that doesn't convey panic and can usually get him away fairly quickly.

 

Lead to lead passings have been going better as well with some exceptions where Charlie jumps, pulls and barks. This morning at a huge German Shepherd, while barking quite aggressively Charlie was also wagging his tail a lot - I just wondered whether this is suggestive that this is more frustration at not being able to meet - or if I am reading into this incorrectly? In one case there was a stray dog near a road which was about to get run over, at first Charlie barked at it but once a driver had stopped and handed the leashed dog to me he lost interest completely. So my main question was - could this be frustration at not being allowed to say hello rather than aggression? And if so - is there a way that I should be reacting differently to this behaviour?

 

 

 

 

 

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His behavior may definitely be stemming from frustration rather than aggression or fear. Speaking from experience, a lot of those hyper-arousal behaviors can start friendly, then quickly take a turn. My Truman gets excited, tail-wagging, barking, and it all looks very playful. On the off-chance that he's actually allowed to meet the dog (only dogs I'm familiar with, who I know are calm and even-tempered), he usually decides, "Wait! I don't like this anymore!" and playful turns snarky. What I'm getting at is... reactivity is reactivity, no matter what the driving force is, therefore, your training regimen should be the same. Remember, the end goal is to have Charlie maintain focus and stay under his threshold whenever you're walking on lead.

 

If you want him to have more exposure to other dogs and an outlet for play, try finding a greyhound playgroup where everyone is off-lead and muzzled.

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I don't have time to write a really in depth post, but remember that a wagging tail indicates only a willingness to interact... but not necessarily in a friendly way. It is important to read the rest of the body language to decide whether the intention is friendly, aggressive, reactive, etc.

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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Frustration could certain play a part (both frustration and arousal can lead to aggression), but I suspect it's not frustration because he wants to play. The idea that a wagging tail always mean friendly or play behavior is a HUGE misnomer. A high tail is a sign of arousal (the higher up, the more aroused with the extreme being the tip of the tail curving forward toward the head) and a tail that is up like that and stiff or wagging fast is a big warning sign to me. A happy wagging tail is held at mid-height (look at the base of the tail primarily) and the tail is helicoptering around in somewhat lazy circles. A low tail, wagging or not is generally a sign of fear or deference (or obviously in may just be in a relaxed state).

 

You might consider carrying an automatic umbrella on your walks. If an off lead dog starts approaching, you can quickly pop the umbrella open. It may scare the other dog away and if not, provides something of a barrier to protect your dog. Obviously practicing opening it when there aren't other dogs around (and I would feed Charlie at the same time) so the umbrella doesn't scare him and make the situation worse for him is a good idea.

Edited by NeylasMom

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest daytonasmom

I had/have this problem with Daytona too, for him it's mostly other dogs on leashes. i thought the same thing - maybe he is frustrated because he wants to meet the other dog... tried it and yeah.. NOPE. He isn't very food motivated, especially when we aren't at home so treats aren't really an option for us. What is finally working for us is when I gently (very gently and loosely) put my thumb and middle finger around his snout. He can pull away easily but if he starts barking and getting all worked up, I just hold his nose again. This probably sounds terrible, and everyone, feel free to correct me on this, but it's what actually works for him. He's learned the barking isn't worth the annoying nose-holding.

 

Like I said, it's very gentle and loose, and I speak firmly but calmly to him while doing it, and keep walking with him. As soon as he's quieted down, just a few seconds usually, I give him lots of pets and praise for not barking at the other dog. Lately, just using the "firm" voice is all it takes. I don't discourage the little bit of growling or whining, since that is just him communicating. When he does that, I just speak to him calmly and in a comforting voice to let him know it's ok and he's safe.

 

Neyla'sMom - awesome idea with the umbrella! Where I live using an umbrella when it's raining makes you a tourist or a wuss, but carrying one to deal with unleashed dogs would be totally acceptable! :)

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You may never get Charlie to 100% calm. And, indeed, why would you? My two girls are very leash reactive, Paige particularly. And once a roused she is a complete PITA for the rest of that walk and sometimes the next as well. What helps me and therefore he rascal few things.

 

First, I now know that Paige and Brandi give back exactly what the other dog (whoever it is) gives out. So if the other dog is calm, friendly and appropriate, so are my girls. If aggressive, that's what they get back. If rude and inappropriate, they get dominant bitch back. This means that things can and do escalate if they aren't controlled, but at least I can recognize why my dogs are reacting and, frankly, why should they be calm when they recognize the other dog as threatening or rude?

 

Second, arousal of any type has a physiological response. So now I get that Paige, once she has had prey drive, aggression or any other type of arousal on a walk, is experiencing a flood of adrenaline, cortisol, whatever. This is necessary for her survival in the wild and it means that she can't calm down until it leaves her system. All we can do is ride it out. If she only has one event on a walk, it passes quickly, but if there are multiple events, it peaks again, leaving her more aroused. It therefore takes longer to leave her system, and also leaves her more sensitive to stimuli. I'm not sure if physiologically that's right, but that seems to be what happens.

 

I've described the treat system I use to manage Paige (every time I see her begin to get wound up a treat gets wedged into her mouth. She used to spit them out, but gradually starting chewing them and now looks at me for a treat before losing her teeny tiny mind at that bird, bag, cat, dog, shadow....) which works but it takes reptile. Dog training is one step forward and two sideways sometimes. But you are making progress and the stronger your relationship with Charlie becomes, the better.

 

Finally, a mixed breed obedience class might also help assuming all dogs are appropriately leashed. Paige and I found it very helpful even if everyone else was sitting and downing and I was the one treating for not attempting to kill the closest 'lunch on a leas' snackable fluffy.

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Thank you everyone. Thought I might be over simplifying the wagging tail sign.

 

A greyhound group sounds good, Charlie has met family dogs all off the lead and isn't interested at all. Our other grey (daisy) tries to play with him but he runs inside to hide.

 

Yes Charlie isn't very food motivated either.

 

One of my logistical problems is I'm also walking my spooky daisy (incidentally her arrival is what started this behaviour overnight) who wants to run in the opposite direction to Charlie.

 

Yes good umbrella idea NeylasMom - you've helped with lots of my queries!

 

I have probably painted a grim picture of our walks! They're fantastic, just trying to iron out a few things. Hopefully going to move somewhere quieter soon too!

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"Not being food motivated" is usually a function of the food not being high enough value and/or the dog being too far over threshold (ie. you're too close to the stimulus, the thing that's causing the dog to react). In the latter case, your best option is just to get the heck out of dodge.

 

And yes, Brandiandwe, your description of the physiological effects is pretty accurate. Stress causes the release of cortisol and other chemicals that stay in the body for a period of time, making it more likely the dog will react again, often at something that otherwise wouldn't warrant a reaction. In other words, it's a vicious cycle. Its why it's so important that if you have a reactive dog you block windows or don't leave them in the yard unattended if they are seeing dogs and barking in those places, and why you really need to manage as best as possible not to pass so closely to other dogs on walks. I know its tough, but you learn to watch the environment and as soon as you see another dog approaching, change direction or cross the street.

Edited by NeylasMom

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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But it is definitely manageable. We're just back from a lovely walk where Paige got excited one dog barking at her. She strutted along, barked a few times, turned around and grinned at me and continued on her way. They are all having an attack of the autumn sillies though and feeling good so carrying on. Sigh.

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