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Old 06-28-2010, 05:18 PM
mamallama mamallama is offline
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Default What's your take on this on-leash aggression?

I have a newly-adopted dog for a little over 4 mos. now - good guess maybe 3-4 yrs old. He's a good dog, calm, has gone thru beginner and intermed training and even recently passed a temperment test to visit nursing homes. He'll bark at the door, but does not jump on guests and settles very quickly. He walks nicely on leash ... we pass and meet/greet lots of people and dogs. Once in a while he might get a little barky/jumpy with a certain type of dog (across the street), but has successfully met and politely greeted other dogs face-to-face.

My problem is that - as I can remember - maybe three times since I had him, he's crossed in front of me on a walk to lunge at a passing PERSON. Each time it caught me completely off guard and puzzled me as to his intentions. Once was a young teenage boy, another was a gal ... both walking towards us and the dog crossed in front. I was able to catch the dog both of those times and correct him, all along wondering if he was being playful or going "after" them? Recently I took him for a walk and a friend joined us. Now, while there was nothing unusal looking about the first two people, I could see where my friend might cause him some suspicion, as he has a beard and wore a hat. My dog, had, however, met him earlier in the day inside the house without incident. When they were first meeting, I was especially alert to how the dog would react since my friend is a little out of the norm, appearance wise.

As we walked, I had my dog on my right and my friend on my left. Casual walk, my friend and I talking, and dog was allowed to sniff here and there. Twice, however, my dog went from his normal walk to quickly cross in front of me and this time, was actually going to bite my friend! The first time I caught him, but the second attempt a few blocks later, my friend actually felt his nip on his hip. I was mortified! My friend was fine - no skin was broken or anything and he did not react in any dramatic manner, but I was just beside myself to now KNOW that this was my dog's intention each of the very few times he did this.

Of course, I don't know doggie's background. Even being a calm dog, a lot of time was spent socializing in during his 6+ mos in foster care, but, of course, we have no idea what experiences he faced prior to that. I also understand that certain things can trigger a reaction from a dog ... hat, beard, etc. which my friend HAD, but the other two did not. In the past when we were approaching a "different" type of situation, such as a group of kids, or people on bikes, I would make him stop, sit, look at me and stay until they passed - then treat.

I'm wondering what any of you might have to say about what the dog was reacting to. I've heard of on-leash frustration. Maybe it was protective behavior. But why would a dog who's walking along fine (especially in the case of my friend who was next to me rather than approaching) all of a sudden think to himself ... Oh! I better go bite that person!
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Old 06-28-2010, 08:39 PM
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ihartgonzo ihartgonzo is offline
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What breed is your dog?

It sounds like he's reacting to people that are coming towards you, or that he feels is a threat to you... he is probably getting pretty attached to you, and wants to protect the people that he finally feels safe and loved with.

I highly recommend desensitizing him to walking/approaching people. The book "Control Unleashed" could help you a lot!
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Old 06-28-2010, 10:02 PM
Maura Maura is offline
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When he behaves this way, turn and walk the other way. Whether it is a stranger approaching or a friend walking with you, get the dog away from the person. Don't yell or use a correction, the correction is walking away, but is also a reward. You don't say how big the dog is, but generally if a dog's wish is to bite someone, he bites. Since he is giving nips, this is not a bite. But, it is unacceptable. As to what is the trigger, could be a smell, a sound, a number of things. Be observant and try to figure out what the trigger is/are. If he gets worse, protecting you from more and more people, he may be resource guarding you.
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Old 06-29-2010, 10:35 AM
mamallama mamallama is offline
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He's a ?? maybe cattle/hound/coonhound mix, about 70lbs.
His behavior when people were approaching I can somewhat understand - in spite of not being able to identify anything about the folks that would cause alarm. But this will take more careful observation on my part.

The purposeful crossing right in front of me to get to the individual walking WITH (not against) us is the puzzler. Especially since he had already met this person earlier at home without incident and ... now that I recall ... he also mingled with and let pet later that day back at the house. Plus, the dog didn't *immediately*go for my friend, I was in between them, but it took a block or two before he "thought" to cross over and give him a nip.

This friend is an out-of-towner, so it's not like we can practice or test this out (or IF my friend is willing to be gone after again), and like I said, this is not the dog's usual behavior. He successfully passes most people w/o incident.

I've got Control Unleashed at home - I'll take another look. I wish that darn book had an INDEX !!

Thanks, you guys.
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Old 06-29-2010, 03:20 PM
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ihartgonzo ihartgonzo is offline
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I would continue with heavily counter-conditioning people approaching. Make it SUPER, DUPER positive!

I asked about his breed because it sounds a lot like herding behavior. My Border Collie will begin to stare and fixate and will eventually lunge if he's not re-directed when people run by us on walks. His trigger is the fast movement, he does the same thing with wheels roll close by us. It is weird that this only happens occasionally with your pup, and seemingly randomly. I hope you can figure out what bothers him about these people... personally, if I couldn't figure it out and it's a rare reaction, I would just keep an eye on him during walks and identify when he's about to do it. Teach a really solid "watch me/heel" and get him focused on you before he goes over threshold. Can you control him while he's lunging? If not, it's not my favorite thing, but a gentle leader might help you keep him in check while you work on it.
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