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How to safely introduce aggressive dogs

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The Goal

1Let's assume you have an aggressive dog, namely you are aware that your dog tends to be aggressive in certain situations or environments (no dog is always aggressive).

2Let's further assume you don't like this aggression. Whether this is because you fear

  1. injury!
  2. a costly lawsuit!
  3. health implications from the associated stress, for both the dog and yourself!
  4. impaired human relationships for "having an aggressive dog"!

This second assumption implies that you don't fall for the common misconception that "a dog for protection needs to be aggressive". Quite the opposite really, I can't find now where I explained that earlier, will you remind me if you know?

3So the final assumption when you have a sometimes aggressive dog and you don't like this aggression: You want to know how to keep your dog calm and controlled when you meet other dogs or people. Right?

Given these three fair assumptions, then this Periodical is for you!

The Outcome

Example of the outcome that is easily achievable. Hey, even I can!

  • With Miguel, who you know I admitted long ago is b-ex-b, beautiful but not bright like your dog - and like you may have thought all GSDs are... rolleyes - so with Miguel I am at the point where other dogs behind a property gate or fence can bark and growl and snarl as much as they like, but Miguel stays totally calm
  • Most times not even his withers come up
  • This is when I am next to him
  • Because he knows that I don't like when he amuses himself by making other dogs green with envy for being free while they are locked away!
  • Yes, I do feel that you can train dogs to behave somewhat socially responsible if you set a good example (something that, it seems, is so much harder to engrain into people...)

When I have moved on and he stayed behind, I sometimes hear and see him "teasing" those dogs though:

  • He may go close and snarl back in their face
  • Or he may run two or three times along the gate or fence so that they run with him, snarling
  • He clearly feels this is fun...

And when other dogs are not behind a gate or fence - which is what makes this dog FEEL SAFE "teasing" them when alone with them:

  • Then Miguel will LOOK how I behave towards the dog(s)
  • Or he will posture at a distance when he feels safe to do that
  • I told you long ago, he is a wimp, yes. rolleyes

I haven't seen him anymore getting agitated at another dog though, regardless how aggressive other dogs have been. Of course this required a lot CONSISTENCY, REPETITION, and USING TOOLS - say from my Toolkit, yes.

view from the cabinConversely, but this of course is no aggression, what still annoys me with Miguel: When we are driving in the truck cabin (which he hates, the cabin is too small for him) and I have to halt and ask someone for directions - or someone stops me and asks me for directions lol - then Miguel often starts snarling or quietly barking.

This of course makes it difficult for me to understand the other person! Hence why it annoys me. Every time. Despite that this is no sign of aggression: He clearly just doesn't like to be left out of what's happening (many dogs don't like that).

And when someone approaches us on a walk, same thing, often Miguel will try to position himself between us, or even scare the other person away. For me, entirely unacceptable dog behavior. I mean, from a wimp, right?

In both those instances I have to make sure I ANTICIPATE the situation, or I end up feeling stressed. I have to PREEMPTIVELY give Miguel a SIGNAL not to interfere when I am going to have a conversation with someone, anyone!

Then he does comply.

To be frank, when I am already stressed then that "signal" is more like a proactive "Now shut up when I speak to that person...". Else it is a calm fingerpoint at him and then at my lips signaling "zip it". This is the ideal, but I don't always manage to remember it at the time. lol

The Training

Or, how to get to the Outcome when you have the Goal!

That particular Training need is obvious now: Attentive readers will have noticed that all the CAPITALS above already pinpointed what is worth noting. grin

Before you struggle scrolling up on that tiny mobile device screen ... here's what I CAPITALIZED above, in the order I wrote it, not necessarily in ranking order:

  • GSD lol
  • LOOK

So really, with any dog breed or mix, that's what you need to consider and do in order to safely introduce aggressive dogs. Whether

  • your own dog is aggressive and another dog is calm
  • or, your dog is calm but encountering an aggressive dog
  • or, you are facing an entire pack of aggressive dogs?!

I will repeat those points here now in a shortlist of the key actions. Subject to the difficulty of your personal situation you may need to take all of these actions or only some. In other words, this action shortlist is complete: If only you do ALL, you can safely introduce even multiple aggressive dogs from now on. And if your situation isn't too difficult (yet!), you may not even need to take all these action steps (now). You decide.

Action shortlist

1Make the involved dogs FEEL SAFE, all of them. If you lack the tools to achieve that, there's an app for that. No it isn't. Much better, there's an entire TOOLKIT for that! grin

2LOOK what each dog is doing, pay attention. Read the dog body language f.

3Show CONSISTENCY in your training. Both, in training yourself to do what you learn from MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG, and in training your own dog (at least) to pay attention to what you do. idea

4Make use of plenty of REPETITION until it sinks in. Both, into your own daily habits, and into those of your dog: Repetition in all kinds of different situations and different environments.

5USING TOOLS can help! Think: Why became something as simple as the clicker f such a success that half of the "professional" dog training world relies on it?

Because using tools that are simple enough for both dog and owner helps:

  1. to remember what to do when
  2. to actually do it
  3. to directly see the outcome of what you did
  4. and so to improve on the process how you do it next time.

And that improvement comes with every single repetition, whether you consciously try or not. So yes, using the right tools goes a long way! Since I cannot remember everything myself, not even where I wrote what, rolleyes I built an entire Toolkit for that. The world's only Dog Training Toolkit f.

Like Ian Dunbar once said, you don't have to be famous to do great things, in fact fame would stop you doing great things. Something like that. lol

6ANTICIPATE what may happen next. So for example, say you did pay attention and LOOKED, and you just read another dog's body language and you realized he's up to no good, with your dog. Maybe you even read from your own dog's body language that she doesn't FEEL SAFE?

It is now that you can ANTICIPATE an uncomfortable (or even dangerous) situation if you don't take action, calmly but decidedly. I see many dog owners paying no attention, not even to the traffic, when they walk their dog, whether on-leash or off-leash (and honestly, I often don't pay enough attention myself). And so obviously, then they also fail to anticipate what may happen next. You cannot safely introduce potentially aggressive dogs if you don't LOOK and ANTICIPATE.

7The logical complement of anticipation is to rather take PREEMPTIVE action sometimes: in order to avoid worse! Such action might be a visual cue, a verbal cue, a command, running away, ... whatever you feel the situation you observed developing may require.

8Ideally, your preemptive action comes so early that a mere SIGNAL is enough: A signal to your own dog, to the other dog(s), or both.

But let's be clear about this: Even if you feel you have to run away (to get your dog to follow you instantly!?) in order to avoid a delicate situation evolving that you ANTICIPATE you cannot handle any other way (yet), any preemptive action is better than to introduce aggressive dogs that you feel you cannot calm down or distract in time. Indeed this nicely leads back to my first point: You need to make sure that all involved dogs FEEL SAFE, and yourself too.

Final Pointers

Final pointers that I couldn't as nicely fit into my "storyline" above:

  1. Use my in-house developed Behavior Training far more than others' Obedience Training, because only Behavior Training can instill with your dog the intrinsic motivation to behave the way you want in those difficult situations when you need that most
  2. Sufficiently exercise your dog, so that at least your own dog will stay calm when introduced to another dog that is aggressive: UNexercised!
  3. Aim to stay calm yourself too because dogs are energy recipients, and you don't want to contribute further to the aggressive dog's level of aggression
  4. Remain flexible, for example:
    • while all dogs stay calm and controlled, reduce the distance to other dogs or people
    • but when either dog starts to get stressed, move away from other dogs or people

That's it!

adult GSDWill you give back a bit today?

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