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Old 11-23-2011, 09:04 AM   #1
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New rescue, aggression towards other dog

I have a very spoiled 2 1/3 year old Labrador rescue that I've had since he was 7 1/2 weeks; I worked hard on socializing him from an early age (kids, dog parks, skate parks, police and men in uniform, Venice Beach boardwalk, etc., etc), and he's as mellow and well-adjusted as a dog can be. That's Maynard.

On Saturday we went to the county animal 'shelter' (high-kill pound) in Downey to meet a (believed to be) Shar-Pei / Shepherd mix a rescue had identified as a likely good candidate for a companion for Maynard. Maynard met her, they played, seemed like a good fit, so we rescued her from "death row" and, after being spayed yesterday, she came home to us.

Groggy from the procedure, she was wary at first (and probably just wanted to be left alone to sleep), but accepted Maynard's presence pretty readily, and as of this morning, she seems fine here and with Maynard, and Maynard, in turn, has become slightly more clingy / obsequious, but is otherwise adjusting well.

Through all of this, and even when she was at the shelter, Astrid (tentative name) has never displayed any signs of aggression, she's never even barked.

But this morning (around 5am), when we were out for a walk, we ran into a small dog being walked -- I live in a very dog-friendly condominium complex with lots of small dogs, many of whom are, per their owners, "not good with other dogs." Astrid went to the end of her leash and alerted, and as the other dog kept being walked towards her, she growled. The other dog barked. Astrid barked. It wasn't a "straining at the end of the leash snapping and frothing" moment, but it was unexpected, and since I'm so used to Maynard's goofy easy-going nature, something I'd like to socialize out if possible.

Astrid's about a year old, as near as we can tell, and we think she's had a litter, though we don't know when or what happened. She's obviously been through a lot of stressors in the past 24 hours - the spay operation, an hour car ride in holiday traffic, a new home with an established dog. Rides in an elevator. Moving from a prison-like shelter to a condo overlooking a lake and ducks. (With a permissive owner who's of the opinion that couches are just as appropriate for dogs as they are for people...)

So I don't want to read too much into the growling, yet. Just, looking for ideas on how to curb it, if possible. I take Maynard to the dog park every morning, I'll be taking Astrid when she's more herself and after she's been checked out by the vet (Maynard's inoculated against kennel cough etc., but the other regulars at the DP may not be.) [At 6:00 am there's a small core group of regulars at the park; we tend not to go later in the day, when you never know who/what you'll run into.]

Any other suggestions? This is my first "real" rescue (Maynard, coming to be as a barely-weened puppy, doesn't really count; he wasn't old enough to have issues! )...

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Old 01-31-2012, 06:28 PM   #2
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Sounds like it could be leash aggression/reactivity, which is actually a pretty common problem. Some dogs get frustrated when they see another dog on a walk because they can't go meet the other dog, or may feel like they have to defend themselves because they're not able to escape. Its usually due to lack of socialization or an insecure or fearful personality, and even dogs that are friendly with other dogs can be leash agressive.
I have a dog with fear-aggression issues who is leash reactive, which we're currently working on. Its tedious, but she's making good progress. When we go on walks, I bring lots of bite-sized treats and a squeaky toy. That way, if I see another person/dog/whatever, I can get her attention, put her into a sit, and keep her attention either by feeding her treats as quickly as I can or by squeaking the toy and playing tug, as the other dog goes by. If the other dog coming towards us seems reactive too, I'll turn around and walk the other way.
Another good thing to do is take the dog to a park, or somewhere where he can see other dogs, but where he's far enough away that he doesnt bark at them, and let him just watch the other dogs. You could work on some training at the same time, rewarding by feeding treats and petting. Try to make it as fun and rewarding as possible so that he sees other dogs as a positive thing.

Here are two great articles on training reactive dogs:

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Old 11-24-2012, 07:13 AM   #3
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The dog might be "selectively" aggressive to certain dogs. Since you are just getting to know this dog and vice versa, give it some time. If this dog is a Shar Pei/Shepard mix, you have a dog that will naturally guard.

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Old 11-24-2012, 02:16 PM   #4
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Congrats on your new dog, and good on you for rescuing. I'd like to second what MalamuteGirl has suggested, make sure you make every association with a 'strange' dog a positive moment through treats/play/praise. Perhaps also make sure Astrid (?) has a place to get away from Maynard, at least for the first while. Perhaps she's 'tolerating' this new, strange dog while in this strange place but it puts her near her edge for any other new dogs. And, as she becomes more comfortable/familiar in her new home, she may come to object to Maynard's friendliness. Not saying for sure, but the first few days or even weeks are not always the pattern for what will come later.

I have a leash-reactive, fearful dog and have been working with him for two years. I believe his fear is mostly genetic, due to breed and possibly gestational malnutrition. He used to be extremely reactive to both dogs and people, at the end of his leash, on his hind legs barking and lunging kind of behavior. He started out with much less reaction - he'd just try to get away from the "scary people", but I didn't realize where it was headed and ended up with a pretty scary looking dog. I think you are very wise to be aware early so hopefully you can nip it in the bud.

Good luck, and please keep us posted on how it goes.

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