Ive been working with a dog who has a bite history of strangers not belonging to the pack. A category three dog.
Ive been working on desensitization/counter conditioning for the past 6 months using steak as a reward, which she loves, and have hit a wall. Weve been able to work up to proper introduction with new people where she holds her obedience command while I say hello, shake hands, etc. I follow up any non compliance with “no”, with R- leash pumps and place her back into the original command which is usually a downstay or sitstay. Tool used is a pinch collar.
The problem were having is when the person then makes eye contact, walks by, or even speaks to the dog the dog reacts, however she reacts selectively. Its as if she is determining who is a threat and who isnt. Some strangers she loves, others not so much.
Ive desensitized her to a muzzle in a similar fashion as the video on the site here and she wears it just fine. Weve been working with the muzzle on for the past few months with no change in her reaction.
Now I understand that perhaps this dog just isnt comfortable being around new people and that I shouldnt force her into uncomfortable situations. However its not possible to have people over at the house without crating the dog, walking by strangers (you know how adults and kids run up and want to pet the dog), or to have any type of social communications with people without the dog being on edge. To me this behavior is not compatible with a functioning household.
HX of the dog: She is a 3 year old Am. bulldog/black lab mix. One owner since she was a puppy. Lives with a dogo/pit mix and gets along fine.
Pack structure is followed to a “T” in the household. No health issues, owners attitude is do whatever it takes and is very compliant and genuinely interested in doing whats best for the dog, no seperation anxiety or housebreaking issues of any kind, no history of mistreatment, and obedience is strong until she reacts; does not break commands for any other distractions ; ie; balls, food, toys, etc.
5 years, 4 months ago TeresaModerator
Are you doing a drill like the one seen in this video of a “greeting drill” which is done in our aggression support group class:
If you notice in the video we use resistance to help the dog and to make it easy for us to tell what the dog is doing without having to have the dog in eyesight at all times. You can try having the dog in a sit and walking out to the end of the leash (with resisitance) to shake hands and talk to the person. This will give the dog more distance, and distance generally raises the threshold for aggression. Ideally you want to work with her in a stepwise manner to reduce potential for her being uncomfortable to escalate to aggression. Does she respond aggressively from a distance of 6ft or greater when a person looks at her, talks to her etc? This is the place to start to desensitize and countercondition.
Aggression never completely goes away. It is always a management issue. The goal is to successfully decrease the amount of management needed. That being said, every dog is different on how much management they will ultimately need. It involves many things, like genetics, socialization (environment), past negative experience, and experience in being successful by showing aggression at getting rid of the threat.
You could train with the remote collar, by completing Phase 3 training before doing work with the remote and aggression rehab. This can increase the motivation to comply with obedience, but will not make the dog more comfortable with strangers. This still relies on counterconditioning and desensitizing. The remote will eventually be necessary to work on a solid “place” command (if your goal is that the dog is not crated for visitors) unless they are really good at handling a lightline. For strangers walking up to the dog and wanting to pet it, you want the dog to be reliable not to lunge but it IS the owner’s responsibility to the dog to not allow people to run up to the dog and expect to the dog to accept petting. A common drill we teach owners in aggression rehab is how to keep the dog in a sit behind them, so they can block people from running up and petting the dog.
You can also work on an “easy” command as well. A muzzle of course is prerequisite for all aggression rehab. Safety first 🙂
Yes that is the greeting drill ive been working on. I apply the resistance as you stated. Its worked very well up to within 6 feet. From there on in the dog gets very tense and targets whoever may be in the circle; all a precursor to her lunging so I can read her and stop her before it gets there but I cant seem to make progress within that 6 foot radius. The e collar will definitely be used for the “place” command and for further obedience.
She does not react to anyone outside of that 6 foot circle. I guess it just takes more desensitization/cc from inside that circle. A slow and arduous process:/
Now do you recommend applying resistance with the pinch collar? That doesnt seem right as I would guess that the dog would become more tense with the pinching. Perhaps a flat buckle with an E collar? And then how do you react when the dog lunges? Correction for breaking original position?
5 years, 4 months ago TeresaModerator
Yes DS/CC is a slow and arduous process. It takes lots of patience for sure.
As for resistance, yes I would use the pinch collar. If you are putting slow steady pressure forward it’s not going to cause a reaction from the dog. Remember, when using resistance, you are just applying gentle pressure. Just enough for the dog to feel the pressure in that direction, and for you to feel tension or slack in the leash. Also no pulsing on the leash just steady forward pressure. If the dog breaks you should pivot at the hips toward the dog, and slide your free hand smoothly up the leash , like a leash ninja 😉
Also, have you tried this with just one stranger or only in a group setting? Any difference in success rate? Multiple triggers tend to lower threshold.
If you have not practiced using the pinch collar for resistance, do so before applying it to aggression rehab.
Ive tried individual people and multiple people. Definitely more success with multiples. Ive been using a starmark collar with the resistance. It just seemed counter productive to me so i thought id ask.
2 months ago Michael CrohnParticipant
Are you sure it is fear aggression? If it is taking months with treats and hasn’t gotten better it seems like it is not a fear issue but a status/territorial issue which I approach and train completely differently. With aggressive dogs I work with it is important for me to see when a dog is scanning or alerting to people in an aggressive manner. If I notice my dog focusing in on a person in a predatory manner I correct it with the Ecollar on a low level stimulation and slowly raise it until the dog looks away. If you are walking with the dog in territorial mode rather than migration mode where the dog is not following you than you are basically telling that dog to assess which person is a threat and which person is not. Therefore, when someone makes eye contact with that dog (which is a challenge) that dog acts accordingly and asserts his status over the person to protect his territory. This is just my opinion obviously but thought I would give you my thoughts in case nothing else was working.
2 months ago Sharon Blakeney-McDonaldParticipant
I was thinking the same as you Michael after I read your post… the GSD Tazer I use to have was the same where after years of different trainers and methods never stop his aggression with approaching strangers when he was on leash, at home or in the car with me. (When off leash he wasn’t aggressive when we were out). Until I came across protection dog training and this site did I start to realise what the cause of his behaviour was… he too would get aggressive if anyone give him eye contact and didn’t back away from us. One dog trainer use the e-collar similar to how you would do but Mike suggested to me to give him a command first and correct him for disobeying the command and not his aggression. This was Tazer natural instinct to protect and guard me so I didn’t want to keep fighting across nature. Once I started to teach Tazer when he could defend, be aggressive and when he couldn’t was the day I started to have more control over the situation and him. Unfortunately that day came too late in his life and not long ago I put him to rest as he became cripple in his hind legs from having DM.
Thank you for your post… its important for others to know its not always fear the dog is reacting in.
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1 month, 4 weeks ago Dave PageParticipant
I have a question regarding your post Michael. I’ve done a search and haven’t found anything.
You refer to walking territorial mode and migration mode, Migration mode I understand, as the dog is following you. Wouldn’t any walking, with an obedience trained dog in the heel position, be migration mode?
Could someone explain the difference?
1 month, 3 weeks ago Sharon Blakeney-McDonaldParticipant
Hi Dave… welcome. How I took what Michael meant by territorial mode was guarding. Guard can be a territorial behaviour where the dog protects their yard, car, owner and their personal space. Barking warnings to strangers or other animals. This can be confuse with aggression when it may be the dog as a high guard drive. Often once the stranger as come in the behaviour stops… it did with my dog Tazer unless you became threatening. I could be wrong but that’s what I thought he was referring too.
1 month, 3 weeks ago Mack CookParticipant
I have seen one of my past dogs look at a line of people and if one of them was dressed different or started acting different, maybe waving arms etc.. he would focus on that person intently. Also the dog really barking at us in the gray dodge noisy diesel, every gray dodge the rest of that day got super attention. Maybe next 2 days.. breeders and police folks like that quality as it can save lives.. but living with it is a fulltime job. And explaining …whatever way …to the dog that hey I got this.
Carefully and not aversive takes some patience.in this photo he is in that mode, it’s a busy street and it’s cold and he is frisky to say the least.
All dogs are different, yet... all dogs are the same.
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