If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs or people it can be very worrying. Lottie is a chocolate Labrador. She’s a very loving dog and great with children.
The only problem is she’s not very keen on men. Lottie’s owner Helen got her when she was just eight weeks old. Helen’s a widow so Lottie hasn’t mixed with many men and her aggression is becoming a real problem.
Dog Behaviour Expert Jane Hanshaw has come along to offer some advice, It sounds like when she’s doing the growling she’s saying, ‘I am not comfortable with the situation’.
So really it’s up to you as the owner to take control of it at that level before it escalates to the bouncing and the rearing and all of that. You have to take control and give her some alternative strategy. The first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life are the most important part.
It’s called the socialisation period and it’s vital that you get your puppy introduced to as many different types of people as it’s ever going to meet, from tall me, possibly wearing fluorescent jackets, to small toddlers. If you don’t do that, then part of your dog’s education is missing, and that can lead to problems in later life.
Because her dog Lottie hasn’t met many men in her life she’s not confident around them. Her way of dealing with this is to keep men away – and it’s working. It’s time to see Lottie’s behaviour in action.
This is a perfect example of why Lottie feels unsure about men. Her tail may be wagging but in dogs this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are happy to be approached. This stranger is leaning over her and although she is obviously not happy, he won’t take no for an answer.
Helen as the owner, needs to take control of the situation. For this exercise we’re going to see how Lottie reacts to Steve a fellow dog trainer. If you see her, she’s glancing, she’s not comfortable. That’s the first part. The eyes are going, the ears are going, and then she turns her head away, then she turns her body away.
So if you don’t take any notice of those, Helen, then what happens is she has to start that low growling, and that’s the next level up, to actually turn her body and say,[ I’m not very happy, I’m not very happy,] and that just comes up and up and up and escalates to the point that she feels she’s got to bark [I said I’m not very happy.] By the time she gets to that she’s given you lots of body language before then.
Lots of dogs have been labelled as dominant, but in actual fact what they are is fearful. What’s vital if your dog’s behaving aggressively is that you find out just why it feels the need to behave like that. You need to seek the advice of a behaviour specialist who can unravel the problem, find out what your dog is fearful of and what’s keeping that behaviour going.
Training Pets at Home
In Lottie’s case, Helen will be shown an alternative strategy so she knows how to deal with her aggressive behaviour. Helen will need to apply this strategy every time a strange man approaches.
So the strategy we’re going to use is we’re going to put her in a sit when a person comes up, and then you’re going to just step between the person and the dog, so that you’re just taking control of the situation. tell her to Sit. And she can have a little treat for that.
So you have taken control, you say, ‘stay there, sit,’ and just step in front. Alright, You can just meet but then stop when Helen tells you. Right, so setting off, you’re aware of your dog, you see a man. Now what are you thinking? I’m thinking I’m watching Lottie to see which reaction she’s got.
Right, could you just wait there. Lottie, sit. Sit, Lottie. Lovely. Right, so you’re just going to block a little bit of her vision and you’re going to give her something to do. Now, at that distance you can have a conversation but you’re in charge of your dog
Now look how relaxed she’s got, because you’ve taken control of the situation. So that is much more comfortable from her point of view. So the aim is, after all this training she knows exactly what to do, she sees a stranger approaching, she sits behind you, she gets a treat and you keep her safe.
Bad Dog Behavior
If you keep that strategy on for quite a few weeks, what will happen is it will become automatic. Less aggressive outbursts, more this is what I do. Helen should now have a strategy to cope with her nervous aggression. However it’s important that she is consistent and rewards Lottie for calm behaviour around strangers.
Equally she must not allow strangers, even well meaning ones to invade Lottie’s space. When you’re socialising your puppy it’s very important to make it a positive experience. Your puppy needs to enjoy meeting all the different types of people, so don’t let them prod them or poke them.
Rather get them to tickle them under the chin. Likewise, when you’re introducing them to adult dogs, make sure that that adult dog is friendly as well as vaccinated, and therefore your puppy’s not going to learn to become fearful of other dogs..