We adopted a female 1 yr old Bc 1 month ago. She seems to becoming more aggressive as time passes, and this is a huge concern. We have a 7-r old son, who has friends, we are social, and we have 2 cats. We were told she was afraid of men, but from the get-go she has never shown any fear of my husband, or our 7 yr-old son. She was so affectionate and loving we joked that folks who say BCs are aloof are wrong! The initial aggression issues came up when we first started walking her on a leash--she was aggressive toward other dogs, (though never to our older male dog), and to people. By aggression I mean snarling, growling, serious "I want to rip you to shreds" style barking. She seemed selective, not showing this behavior to all dogs or people--size, M or F, there was no pattern. I took her on a pre-visit to our vet (to smell the place etc) and when we returned a few days later she tried to bite the very nice vet tech gal, and would not let the vet come near her without the whole Kugo attack dog routine. We are signed up for dog training classes but the big question is, is this behavior controllable? It is one thing to be able to command the dog to behave in a desired way but what if I am not say, in the back yard, or in the same room? The randomness and unpredictability is what is confusing us, and truthfully we do not trust her at this point. There is an ongoing personality issue with one of our cats--but in this case, the cat is the Alpha and literally chases the dog. Is it a bad idea to have a BC with kids? We understand the herding instinct, but growling at a small child (who has not touched the dog, etc this happened today with a little girl who came to our home) is something altogether different. Evidently we are home #4 (animal shelter, then her first adoptive family, a month or so with an interim "rescue" person, now us). The animal shelter remembered her at 7 mos old as loving and sweet, playful and saw no signs of aggression . One vet said as long as she hasn't shown us any aggression it should be able to be resolved, another said we should think of the liability. We want to give this girl the great home she should have. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Here is the linc to a yahoo group that deals with aggression. They have some very knowlegable people on this board. There rules etc look a bit daunting but don't let that stop you. They can be a bit tough on people sometimes too. Also please don't let that stop you. They really do mean well.
I would also have the vet chech her over to rule out any medical issues. (eg. thyroid problems)
Thanks for your insights. We just want to know that there is hope! One person at a local vet's office I spoke with (I called them because the records we were given showed they had boarded her etc) was pretty adamant that BCs belong on farms or ranches and that the aggression is "here to stay" and suggested we contact a BC rescue group. I did understand what she meant by how the breed needs to "work" and have a job etc--we did at least read up on BCs and talk to people who own them. She was not convinced that our exercise routine or training would resolve the issues--she kept referring to liability concerns. I think because the behavior is so unpredictable we are worried now (being fearful/defensive while being on the leash made sense to us, even the fact that we had her in a whole new location, we were new, she needed to see she could trust us,etc we understood) but what happened yesterday made no sense: Lacey (our BC) was here at home, I had my son's friend come in and be in the house where Lacey could see her through our patio doors, I offered Lacey the little girl's coat to smell, and then when Lacey seemed to be watching but not overly "interested" I asked her in, had her sit, and without the little girl even approaching her she growled pretty seriously. So that made no sense, because the "threat" in this case was a small very calm child who had not touched her etc! My response was to simply tell Lacey "out" which she knows means to go back outside. I am now thinking of "practical" things like, what would happen if we were away for a good part of the day, I could not ask our neighbor (who BTW has a female BC she adopted, who is an absolute sweetie) to come over and walk her etc for fear of what she might do. What is going to happen when we leave on a trip this weekend... we had planned to board her at a kennel with our other dog but are concerned not only how she might behave, but what impact it might have on her. My husband grew up with Springers and I have had Labs prior to Lacey, and neither of us has ever had a dog that was aggressive, so whew! it opens up a whole new can of worms...and I used to think having my shoes chewed up was something to worry about!
Now for your specific case: My dog Angel behaves exactly like you have stated and is VERY leash agressive for my wife. We are currently working on the problem so I'll try and share as much as I can with you.
As a general rule of thumb if dogs ever act strange, get a full blood panel and a thyroid check. It is money well spent to rule out a lot of possibilities really fast.
I agree whole heartedly with Joe's comments. I would characterize this behvior as fear. Being on a leash is a very restrictive to a dog.
Angel will do the CUJO thing with my wife, but never with me. I control the situations and have developed her trust that nothing will ever happen to her on my watch. Based on this I use her all the time to test for "Dog agressive" rescues. She will walk up to a snarling dog with no hackle and no agression at my request, because she knows I would not let her get hurt. Despite the fact my wife keeps telling me about angels outbursts, I have watched and respond that it is something she (my wife) is doing that is either encouraging it, allowing it or otherwise reinforcing it.
She complained that Angel was "pulling" on the lead as well... and about 15 minutes of retraining the wife solved that problem.
Yes, I believe what you said is correct. As it happens, I had a lengthy and very informative conversation on Thursday with Dr. Carter, and what he told me was "It's not your dog, it's you." I was very open to that idea, and truth is, in a way relieved because if it is me then that is something I can learn to deal with. I thought I knew what he was talking about. The amazing thing is that the very next day I took Lacey to be boarded at our vet's (where we have always taken our 14 yo springer, but Lacey has not yet been to since we got her a month ago--the vet I tried for her was a different one). We arrived and even though I had been telling myself to relax, be mellow, I knew I was nervous because all I could do was worry "what if" as in what if she sees another dog? what if she growls? what if people think she is out of control? what if she bites someone? Well, the parking lot was packed and it seems everyone was there with lots of dogs. We had three "encounters" with all the snarling etc before we even made it in the door. Inside, she went crazy when the gal came in to lead her to her dog run--truly, a dog Oscar-winning performance. The vet happened to be walking by in the hall and came up. Lacey lunged at him, more growling and snapping and I explained how she is not comfortable on a leash etc. Now remember what Dr. Carter told me? Well, the vet simply said, "it's better if you just give me the leash" held out his hand and I just responded thinking "oh my god here it comes." I handed him the leash and INSTANTLY, and I mean the very second he took it without saying a word to her Lacey stopped growling and barking, and quietly followed him out the room. The last thing I saw was her wagging her tail as he handed the leash over to the same gal she had lunged at when I had her, and there she went following the gal perfectly nicely--not pulling, not growling, nothing!!! All I could say was "it's not her it IS me!" over and over. It was an amazing and enlightening experience. I hope my experience here can enlighten others out there with this issue--I am relieved. I completely understand how I need the help of a dog behaviorist with this and I know that Lacey is the wonderful dog I thought she was. So thank you for the help! I will report back with our progress. And thank you again Dr. Carter!
Wow, Mackenzie, you and your dog are making great progress! I'm glad your dog has an owner willing to go the extra mile, to say nothing of an owner who realizes that our end of the leash causes a good number of problems. I'm thinking my Sophie may have to visit a behaviorist. Now, she has never ever shown anything vaguely resembling aggression toward a human, regardles of the human's sex, age, race, etc. But she has some real dog-on-dog issues. At first I was more than a little concerned because her reactions to other dogs were all over the place. She seemed unpredictable. Some dogs she likes, some she tolerates, and some she would just as soon kill as be on the same planet with them. But as time has passed I've come to see a pattern. It's big dogs she doesn't like. It's overly enthusiastic, high energy, rude in-your-face dogs she doesn't like. If the dog is big and rude, she goes ballistic! And I'm convinced (for a variety of reasons) that it's fear related rather than a dominance issue per se. She's just dominant enough to to figure "the best defense is a good offense." For the most part, I've been able to control her behavior by avoiding the triggers. But this past Easter weekend was a pip! OK, here I am with Sophie at a friend's house for dinner. There are other dogs there, dogs Sophie gets along with. Suddenly, the front door opens and in barges a relative's Hound From Hell. (To give you some idea of said Hound's personality, none of the dogs can stand her! Sophie herself had previous experience with the Hound and she wasn't inclined to accept the Hound in any way, shape, or form.) Well, this day Sophie went into full attack mode. This time it wasn't bluff. True, she hadn't actually hurt the Hound as yet but I have never seen her so pissed and I didn't want to take any chances. So I ended up having to haul Sophie off the Hound and take her home. And you know what? Looking back on it, I think I'm to blame. I haven't been terribly responsive to Sophie's fear and removed her from some of her uglier confrontations before she lost it. (You know, how you think that just letting the dogs "work it out" or calling your dog over to sit next to you will somehow resolve the problem?) So I really think she feels ever more compelled to "protect" herself because she doesn't trust me to do it! By forcing her to stay in proximity to a dog who scares her, what I've done is a close approximation of "flooding" which is about the worst thing you can do with a frightened dog. So I've really got to re-examine my whole approach to this issue. Jeez!
Thanks to all for the great suggestions! An update on Lacey (aka The Lacenator, our new nickname for her). We started obediance class Tues pm. On the way to class: lots of snarling out the car window whenever she saw anyone. Arrival at the park: 29 other dogs, Lacey doing her usual "don't mess with me" routine at first and then I think she realized the other dogs had their own worries! I had spoken with the head trainer (she is an animal behavioralist and came highly recommended by our vet) prior to class and she thought we should be in the group lesson rather than have private sessions--that Lacey would benefit by being around the other dogs. She and the three other trainers took time to "meet" Lacey, pet her, etc (she was clearly terrified but because I did not pull her away by the second round of this she was less afraid). Halfway through the 2 hour class she was calm, lying at my feet. At the end the trainer asked to have her meet another very aggressive dog in the group face to face--a 165 pound bear of a dog who evidently hates all dogs. She did great, and in fact he did too. Yesterday I was able to work with her on a 12 foot lead for a sneak-away drill they wanted us to do for homework...we worked out in front of 6 men painting a house and going back and forth to their work trucks, with another BC barking at her behind a fence, and children riding past on bikes. All that and not one growl! Today I took her to a park to work on our homework and we had to walk along a bike path for a short way--she was amazing! She was still interested in the passing bikes but she stayed by my side and even when a dog barked at her she did not bark or snarl or growl. So, we have made our first steps together.