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Old 09-11-2008, 03:57 PM
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TheGoldenRetriever TheGoldenRetriever is offline
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Default Question on a Strange DA

Strange problem with our originally-intended-adoptee-and-current-foster-dog Marley. (Been fostering him for a while now.)

Brief background: Marley's a neutered male Australian Shepherd mix that we adopted 1 and 1/2 years ago from a recommended but poorly-run rescue. (Found out "poorly-run" only later!) He was claimed as "ignores cats and great with other dogs" ... important to us as we already had a dog-friendly dog and a few cats. At the time we did bring our dog to meet him and they were fine together, we didn't bring our cats because the rescue's director said we should not bring them because she had multiple dogs on her property and not all were cat-friendly.

Short story: Animal aggression problems with Marley, "rescue" refused to take him back citing "already have problems with the county for too many dogs" on her premises due to complaints from neighbors. We tried training Marley regarding the DA and aggression toward the cats and were unsuccessful, so hired 2 professional trainers. Neither trainer could "cure" Marley of DA and his behavior toward the cats is specifically predation rather than aggression. With extensive research (though his tags and limited paperwork that came with him) we also found out Marley's true past history which was completely different than what the "rescue" told us.

She claimed he was a surrendered family dog due to moving ... nope, he had been a forcible seizure due to neglect and had already had 2 more homes through a shelter and a previous rescue in another state. We found out he's an Aussie/Rottweiler mix, which we suspected, but the original "rescue" thought he was all Aussie ... nah, too stocky and his head's wrong ... we saw that from the start but it didn't matter to us. Also found out he was originally severely neglected from a pup ... left chained outside for 11 months and never socialized with anyone. Despite this he loves all people but is intermittently DA and considers cats/small animals as prey.

So here's the very weird part ...

Marley's intermittent DA only ever happens indoors ... he's perfectly fine with other dogs outside! A bit dog-reactive at times outdoors but never aggressive toward other dogs. Indoors it's a different story ... he'll seem perfectly fine with another dog indoors, but will then attack the other dog without warning and without provocation. (He only got to do the first attack and there were no injuries .... after that we would supervise and intervene if he tried, but he tried 2 more times ... we then began keeping him separated.) Cats we know we'll never be able to socialize him with ... they are strictly prey to him, along with any gophers or squirrels he happens to find outside.

ANYway ... the question is: Has anyone ever known a dog to be selectively DA, as in only intermittently and only indoors? Any trainers have suggestions ... as we and 2 trainers are out of ideas?

One trainer brought other dogs over and Marley was the same ... seemed perfectly fine with them, sometimes for hours, but would suddenly try to attack them ... but again only indoors. If it helps ... I should mention that Marley very quickly got "guardy" with me .... didn't want our other dog or anyone in the house near me. He never got aggressive toward my guy or my stepson but would very pointedly put himself between me and them anytime they tried to get near. If they continued to try to get near me he would move to continue to block them until I told him "No!" and made a point of letting them near me.

Found out that when he was neglected as a pup (up to 11 months) in another state, the person who was feeding/watering and paying attention to him was a youngish female neighbor with very long blonde hair .... I fit her description so perhaps this is why Marley got so attached to me so quickly, to the point of being guardy? I trained him out of his guard behavior toward me, using both rewards and verbal corrections, but can't do anything about his weird intermittent-and-only-ever-indoors DA ... and neither could the 2 professional trainers.

Both said they never heard of this very particular problem before! We had even tried me leaving the house for a few hours to see if he would be the same ... and he was. So his indoor-only DA is not related to his prior "guardiness" with me.

Any suggestions/comments/previous experience with such a weird problem? This is his only problem, otherwise he's a fabulous dog ... and quite gorgeous!
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Old 09-12-2008, 08:52 PM
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Kayla Kayla is offline
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Strange problem indeed, and I would wonder ( but couldn't be sure) if it has anything to do with either a) heightening his reaction because he feels pushed into flight or fight, but feels trapped because of the fact he's inside, so that kills his flight and he goes straight to fight or b) territory as well or a bit of both.

I have dealt with a selectively reactive dog but it was always outdoors ( namely because I couldnt have other dogs around him indoors except his best dog friend and as for strangers we simply had to manage the situation by crating him in separate room).

I used counter conditioning by working under his theshold ( to determine this I observed how close the cause of his reaction was until he actually began lunging/snarling/growling/snapping/acting like a lunatic) in the beggining for him it was about 50 feet. So already you can see the problem that in most houses you simply do not have that type of space to work within. The whole point of counter conditioning is to keep them sub-threashold and change there perception about what is causing them to react ( as usually it is anxiety based)

However something that can work in your situation and works differently but just as ( arguably much more effectively and faster) is CAT ( Constructional Aggression Treatment). I know one member here is having great results with her DA/Reactive Pup, just make sure you find someone who knows what they are doing, Doc might be able to recomend someone in your area, but I havent seen her on lately.

Best of luck
Kayla
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Old 09-12-2008, 09:01 PM
assortedagility assortedagility is offline
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Think of this - outdoors is mostly play time. Outdoors is more open. Outdoors is more of a 'sharing' type of environment. And outdoors might be harder to claim, show dominance over, and protect.

Indoors there are all sorts of things to claim and protect. Couches, food, toys, attention, and even space.

Let me guess, he's completely unpredictable and there aren't many warning signs? Everything seems fine one second, then all of a sudden he lunges and rips at another dog? And it isn't a short snap, but usually a raging attack.

As far as ideas: MANAGEMENT! That may be the only thing you can do. Speaking to trainers and behaviorists, we've never found any cure for our dog's problem(exact same - genetic issue) either. About the only and last option would be to (as some say) "put the fear of God into her" with an extremely harsh punishment that woudl only take 1-2 times to get it through her head. But that isn't going to happen in the near future.

Not to mention that this is a behavior that is often based COMPLETELY off of impulse. The point is the dog is NOT thinking. It doesn't think before it reacts, it only just reacts. Which makes it an even more difficult behavior to address and effectively manage.

Last edited by assortedagility; 09-12-2008 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 09-13-2008, 08:30 PM
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TheGoldenRetriever TheGoldenRetriever is offline
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Wow, thanks!! You two have really given me a lot to think about regarding Marley .. really appreciate your input!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayla View Post
if it has anything to do with either a) heightening his reaction because he feels pushed into flight or fight, but feels trapped because of the fact he's inside, so that kills his flight and he goes straight to fight or b) territory as well or a bit of both.
This may very well be a factor ... Marley does sometimes seem a bit anxious indoors, but only when there are other dogs present in the house. Yet he will be perfectly fine with the very same dogs while outside with them! He's perfectly fine if he's in the house and does not see a cat or another dog ... he's much more relaxed at those times. It's strictly an indoor vs. outdoor thing ... and does seem anxiety related.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayla View Post
However something that can work in your situation and works differently but just as ( arguably much more effectively and faster) is CAT ( Constructional Aggression Treatment).
Very interesting ... thanks for mentioning this! I am currently researching this and it certainly sounds like something worth trying. We are planning to contact one of the trainers we had to see if she has heard of this technique, or can point us to another trainer with experience in this area.

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Originally Posted by assortedagility View Post
Let me guess, he's completely unpredictable and there aren't many warning signs? Everything seems fine one second, then all of a sudden he lunges and rips at another dog? And it isn't a short snap, but usually a raging attack.
That's pretty much exactly the way it happens ... except he doesn't "rip" at the other dog. In the first attack he did bite but there was no broken skin ... possibly because the other dog did not fight back but only yelped and got outta there quick. As far as whether or not Marley would break skin on another dog while indoors ... well, we never found out because we simply never gave him another chance to even possibly get that far. He did have attempts after the first attack, but either one of us or one of the trainers grabbed him.

But the attack and the later attempts were just as you described: Completely unpredictable with no warning signs ... no warning growl, no showing of teeth, no curled up lip, not even a low throat rumble .... just a sudden lunge and attack ... seemingly out of nowhere.

It does not seem to be territorial ... each time no toy or any other resource was involved. Also, Marley has no problems with any of us sticking our hands in his food. Strangely enough, he will even allow another DOG to nose into his food bowl ... as long that only ever happens outside. He will not tolerate another dog nosing into his food while indoors ... but he has no problem at all with any people touching his food indoors.

Even when he went through his "guardy" phase with me, he never got aggressive with any people. He just blocked anyone from coming near me and if they continued despite his persistent body-blocks Marley would start to whine ... but never barked or even growled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by assortedagility View Post
As far as ideas: MANAGEMENT! That may be the only thing you can do.
Yep, that's exactly what we have been doing ever since first realizing Marley had a problem. Except for the initial attack, we have not had any since ... and it's been over a year now. His subsequent attempts were closely monitored ... and stopped before he could get to another dog indoors. Very simply ... Marley is never, ever given an opportunity to repeat that behavior. He is kept completely separated from other animals while indoors ... luckily we have a large house so this is not quite as difficult as it sounds.

Owners of Marley's dog friends at the local dog walk area and the separate dog park find it very hard to believe that Marley has any problem at all ... but that's because he only ever interacts with their dogs while outside. Had Marley been placed in as an only-pet (which the other "rescue" should have in the first place!) then his problem would not be a problem at all. We had one pet-free neighbor who was interested in Marley .... they had him at their house for a couple weeks and adored him. But it ended up the man's wife did not want a shedder in the house, and Marley does shed ... just like all Aussies and Aussie mixes.
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:08 PM
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Kayla Kayla is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGoldenRetriever View Post
It's strictly an indoor vs. outdoor thing ... and does seem anxiety related.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGoldenRetriever View Post
Also, Marley has no problems with any of us sticking our hands in his food but he has no problem at all with any people touching his food indoors..
I am in no way experinced with dealing with behavioural issues other then what I went through with Duke's reactivity but I will say these two sentences stand out to me. In all cases it was indoors. It's never involved humans but it always involves dogs as long as there inside.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGoldenRetriever View Post
he never got aggressive with any people. He just blocked anyone from coming near me and if they continued despite his persistent body-blocks.
This one points out that his resource gauding ( again not an expert so take these words with a grain of salt until you contact someone more experinced) did at one time, extend out of the house, with you.

To me it strongly does point to resource gaurding, in which case he views his house, his humans, his stuff as his. If you have never read it Jean Donaldson's book MINE! is excellent on the subject and would be a great read to compare how the trainer you hire is approaching the problem.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGoldenRetriever View Post
Very simply ... Marley is never, ever given an opportunity to repeat that behavior.
Very clever owner I know it's tough but your doing a great job, management is the first step to fixing the problem and although it can be a pain, Marley is very lucky to have such a dedicated gaurdian.

Let us know how it goes,
Kayla
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Old 09-14-2008, 04:34 PM
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TheGoldenRetriever TheGoldenRetriever is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayla View Post
I am in no way experinced with dealing with behavioural issues other then what I went through with Duke's reactivity
Perhaps not ... but honestly your different perspective is providing more insight than the two trainers we hired. (Not that I'm dissing them ... the first we weren't particularly thrilled with but the second was excellent.) I am still focused on a statement from your first reply, specifically:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayla View Post
a) heightening his reaction because he feels pushed into flight or fight, but feels trapped because of the fact he's inside, so that kills his flight and he goes straight to fight or b) territory as well or a bit of both.
That combined with this latest insight:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayla View Post
To me it strongly does point to resource gaurding, in which case he views his house, his humans, his stuff as his
I believe you're on to something ... and perhaps it has to do with Marley's first home. That would be the one where he was chained outside alone from the time he was a puppy, and otherwise neglected as well ... Marley was eventually forcibly seized from that home.

Then you provided this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayla View Post
This one points out that his resource gauding
All the above from you ... and knowing Marley for the last year and a half .... I'm beginning to believe you're right, even though both trainers said it's not resource guarding because no particular object is involved. Perhaps Marley views space itself as a "resource" ... and indoors is limited space, so he wants it all to himself even though he's perfectly fine outside with any other dogs. I'm starting to think this may have been conditioned into him because of the fact that he was left chained outside from the time he was a puppy ... and spent too much time in that neglectful state before he was finally seized.

This had not occurred to me before because Marley has very good "house manners" ... which is unusual for a dog that had been left outside 24/7 in his first home. But just because he behaves inside (unless there's another dog present), that doesn't mean he's also comfortable inside. As you said, perhaps his anxiety level is heightened just by being indoors ... to the point that the presence of another dog in that limited space throws him over the edge. In other words, seeing the space itself in it's entirety as a resource that he doesn't want to share ... even though he will happily share the outdoors with any dog ... because outdoor space appears unlimited to him.

I don't think his problem is genetic, as in born "wired wrong" ... because if it were that then there would not be this differentiation he was between outdoors and indoors. If gentic he would randomly "snap" regardless of his environment ... and he doesn't.

Thanks again Kayla! In addition to continuing to research CAT, I will also look for the book you recommended. This whole situation has been heartbreaking for us ... although we are currently fostering Marley for another rescue group (a GOOD one this time!) ... neither of us has EVER given up an animal before. Every one we have had has always had a home for life. We do believe Marley would be truly happiest as an only-pet, but that doesn't make the prospect of giving him up any easier. We love the big ol' lug ... despite his problem, and it is the only problem he has.
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Old 09-14-2008, 06:59 PM
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mrose_s mrose_s is offline
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Sorry I don't really have any advice except that Buster is somewhat selective with his DA. Inside his house, his yard he is fine. Even with intact males that he hasn't met before aroudn a bitch on heat. He's fine, he's actually the msot calm and collected.

Outside the yard offleash he's dominant but not agro, onleash, any dog he can see is a threat and needs to be made a big deal off. He's also proven he does not back down when a dog gets too threatiening or too close.

He grew up with a cat, and when we lost that cat we adopted another one. Buster did see him as prey, utterly and totally just want to eat him. Ofcourse it helps that he had a cat around his entire life but every other cat was food apparently.
Elliot was so good about the introduction, all 3 other dogs were fine with him but Buster went to the stage of at one time actually jumping up and trying to grab him out of our arms. Another time we were sitting on the ground with them, Elliot walked past, Buster got this jittery look and slowly opened his mouth and tried to mouth his leg as he went past, like he just physically couldnt help it.

All this time Elliot woudl get close enough to test him but stay far enough away to be safe, he never paid any attention to Buster and certainly never swatted him with a paw.
Over a couple of months we got them to the point where they were okay in the house supervised, then it took about another 6 months to get that "Look... prey" look out of his eyes when they were in the backyard together.

Now, a year on, the sleep in the same bed, they spend time alone in the house together and Elliot swats him when need be. Buster is actually developed quite a nervousness around Elliot, one meow or a quick glare will get him out of his way. Elliot also likes ot block doorways so none of the dogs can pass "NONE SHALL PASS!" lol
Buster and Elliot are now the closest out of all the dogs because the intro was so careful he never got a chance to be even partly threatening. I've caught them trying to curl up together once or twice.
I will always be this careful when ontroducing dogs and cats now because I've seen how much its helped their relationship...
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