Dog Becomes Dog-Aggressive After a Move

Desensitizing a dog-aggressive pet takes time and help from a skilled trainer.

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Q. I have a 1½-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer named Boone. In the past three months we have moved to Salt Lake City and into a highly dog-populated area. Boone use to attend the doggie daycare that I worked at and had no problems with other dogs.

In the recent move he has become very protective of me and the household. He will growl and raise his hackles at dogs that come close to us on walks, that walk by on the sidewalk when we are outside, and dogs that come to the front door. I am not sure how to stop this behavior but I cannot let him think it is ok. I have turned around and ended walks, taken him inside and placed him in different rooms. He still continues the behavior each new time it comes about.

He also has problems with small dogs and puppies. I love my dog very much and it makes me sad he is turning into a dog hater, and I do not want to see this behavior continue. He has not bitten a dog or started a fight, but I am scared that this behavior will progress into that if I do not take care of it now.

A. Part of Boone’s behavior change may be due to the move to an unfamiliar place and part may be due simply to his recent entry into adulthood. You didn’t say he’d had some kind of bad experience with another dog scaring or attacking him about the time you moved, so I’ll have to assume that’s not the cause. And since he used to enjoy playing with his dog friends at daycare, he can probably learn to make new friends, too.

I would advise you to find a dog trainer who can work with you and Boone using non-punishment methods to help desensitize him to other dogs. There are good trainers who are skilled in doing this. Avoid trainers who want you to punish Boone’s reactivity to other dogs.

If you cannot find a skilled trainer to help you, you can work on this yourself. Take Boone to a place where he can observe other dogs from a distance great enough that he will not react to them but merely watch them. Reward him with praise and treats for looking at the other dog without barking. As he masters that distance from other dogs, work with him a little closer to them, closing the gap a small bit at a time. This is a gradual process that cannot be rushed without setting your dog’s progress back.

Help from a dog trainer skilled in desensitization techniques with dog-reactive dogs really would make training Boone much easier than trying to do it all by yourself, so do your best to find a good trainer to work with.


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Susan   jackman, Maine

9/27/2012 11:58:51 AM

I have a 3 y.o. Bichon Frische. Over the past year, she has been getting increasingly aggressive and has bitten several adult males that have come to our door. This past week, she chased a friend of my 9 y.o. daughter and almost bit her as well. To top it off, I was holding 6 month old baby and she jumped up on the couch and started growling. Minnie can be the sweetest little thing when its just our immediate family around, but we have a large family and the kids are constatnly having friends over. I'm worried about being sued! Help! We are in a very rural area and there aren't any dog obiendient classes available.

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