Reactivity General Chat

Discussion in 'Newfoundland' started by Jackie W, Apr 9, 2024.

  1. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Reactivity

    Hello, I have a 4yr old spayed female Newfie. I have had her from being 8 weeks old, trained her on an ongoing basis, she's well socialised etc... and up until last year, no reactivity. However, there are a couple of dogs locally, who have attacked her out of fear or resource guarding. Up until recently, she's been pretty ambivalent about dogs 'telling her to give them space', but now, if another dog shows aggression, she will attack back. I always come off looking worse, as my dog is generally bigger than the other dog, who inevitably started it. She has never, ever, been the first to attack, with one exception.

    The exception was this; a rescue traumatised Border Collie who lives round the corner, (and whose owner I know has worked really hard with the dog who is fear aggressive) came past our house (leashed) about a year ago, said BC started to attack/snarl and became ridiculously aggressive at her through the railings whilst she was (safely gated) in my front garden. Owner had control and led BC away. Then, about a year later (ie not that long ago), the same dog came past again, in the dark, I didn't see it and dog and owner didn't see us, and I was bringing bags in at the end of a weekend away. Again, she was gated and in our front garden, only this time, as I came through the gate, she pushed past me, chased the BC up the street and jumped on/bit it. I was blindsided. She's since reacted to an Akita, that again, had been aggressive towards her when it was a younger dog, again, we hadn't 't seen it for around a year, and when we passed it (both on leads and again I didn't see it coming), she was ready to pull me and pounce on it. Has anyone had similar experiences?

    I just wanted to add I'm very au fait with dog aggression and have worked/been in a voluntary capacity with a rescue charity, fostering more than one dog with aggression issues (prior to having my Newfie). Studying canine behaviour is my hobby, and I've done a couple of reactivity courses, but any input from an experienced trainer or behaviourist about this, specifically, would be appreciated.
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  3. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    First, you should always rule out a medical issue. Since it's something that has started recently, it may have a physical reason. So, if you haven't, get her checked out by the vet to make sure she's healthy.

    Does she hang out in the fenced yard without you watching? It's possible she has had dogs attacking her through the fence for a while and she is just getting fed up with it. Or she's not being told to knock it off so has become used to fighting back through the fence.

    Knowing whether she is protecting her territory or fearful will help you determine how to work on it.

    If she is being territorial, then it might be best to create a second barrier between where people walk and her space. Fences are very narrow and easy to fight through, but if you put in some hedges or shrubs to deepen that "borderland". At 3-4 years is about the time you start seeing dogs become more territorial, especially if not fixed. Unfortunately, the more other dogs come by and fence fight at her, the more territorial she will be. So deepening the space between passing dogs and her space is really the ideal.

    If it's fear based, then you can look at the kikopup videos on reactivity for ideas: https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a

    At this point, she should always be on a leash or confined if you open the gate - because as you've discovered, you can't always know there's not a dog on the other side and she has shown that she will go at them if she knows they are there.

    If you don't see progress and it is fear based, do consider medication. It can help reduce the high stress so you can start to get through to her in a positive way. My shepherd has severe dog fear (she had been attacked and injured) and would try to crawl under vehicles as soon as we walked outside. Her fear was so extreme that just the thought that a dog could be out there was enough to have her trembling in fear. Three years ago, we put her on prozac. She still has dog fear, but she is more confident in everything else and that reduces her stress levels when we go out. She will respond to me now instead of being hyper focused.

    In fact, today we had an unusual test. There is a chain link and a wood fence between my neighbor's and our backyard. We pulled down a section of wood fence to replace so it is just a chain link fence. Cat-dog was out back with my other dog (the only dog she isn't afraid of) when the neighbor let her three dogs outside to pee. The five dogs immediately started barking ferociously at each other through the chain link. Four years ago, Cat-dog would have been barreling through the other fencing to get away in fear. Two years ago, she would have been trying to kill them before they could kill her. Today, she barked and raised her hackles, then walked away when I called her, then went back to bark some more, until I told her to get her butt inside. It was a much less intense reaction and she responded to my voice - when before, she never couldn't hear me through her fear.

    I would also suggest talking to your neighbors about maintaining a wider distance to your yard while you work with her on this issue. Preventing passing dogs from reacting to her will help ease her stress as well as theirs. Broach it in a "help me help her" way not in an aggressive "keep your dog away". Most dog people are happy to help.

    She's got a gorgeous face (I'm assuming that's her in your avatar).
  4. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Toedtoes likes this.
    Thanks for the reply - yes that is her in my avatar! I presume by backyard you mean the back garden?! (I'm in the UK). To be honest she's rarely outside alone, she's always with me in the house, and the incident mentioned above, happened in the front garden, which is safely enclosed by metal railings, (I do let her out there on an odd occasion when the weather is fine), but you have a point, that in this garden, it goes straight onto the pavement (sidewalk?) so people do pass with their dogs, frequently, many whom she knows, but I actually had to ask someone to move on the other day as his Shitzu was stood on it's lead just barking and growling at her though the railings and she was not happy. It was certainly not a friendly sniff through the gate, which she enjoys if the other dog is friendly. I wouldn't class her as a nervous dog, if anything, she's over confident. I'd say her biggest problem has been to listen to other dogs telling her to 'get out of their space' when running off leash. She's a little ignorant with that. The issues we've had seem to have come from a dog starting off being friendly, so I've allowed her to go near that dog, but it's then turned out it's hiding a ball, which it then guards, snaps at her, so we have these odd incidents. In the UK it's different to USA in that we can let our dogs off lead in many public areas and I"m right on a beach, which is incredibly popular with dog walkers, so it's like a dog park, but with no boundaries. She has her (many) friends down there, and we are well known. I think most people would say she's well trained and obedient. What I've taken from this is that I think I need to keep her away/leashed from any dog that we don't know.
    Re the medical issues, she sees a vet regularly for any problems, and at that point she was fit, albeit she does have a slight limp now (elbow issues), so again, another thing for me to watch out for.
  5. Chris B

    Chris B Member

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    CaroleC and Toedtoes like this.
    She could well be protecting her elbow.

    Think about when we have pain and someone comes near. We very quickly tell them not to touch in any way the affected area
  6. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    Yes, backyard = back garden.

    Unfortunately, each negative experience with a dog reinforces her belief that she needs to react. So I would definitely say to let her enjoy the dogs she knows and stay away from those she doesn't.

    The elbow issue could definitely be part of the recent problems. As @Chris B says, she may be saying "stay away, I hurt". She also may just be really cranky because she's in pain and so she lashes out at a nearby dog.
  7. Lifew/dogs

    Lifew/dogs New Member

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    Almost all aggression is fear based. If you avoid instances to help the dog get over the fear you are being trained by the dog to avoid the situations making him uncomfortable. I had a fear aggressive shepherd. When walking with my other dog he had a small measure of comfort with her but they were too powerful together so I stopped walking my other dog and the fears of the shepherd intensified. Was quoted by trainers over 5k and most articles aren't worthy of being called help.
    https://www.zmescience.com/feature-...hing-as-alpha-males-or-females-in-wolf-packs/
    There is no alpha, no dominance, no pack behaviors in a home situation with dogs. Fears can be switched from what you cured to something else. Removing obstacles is being dog-controlled. Like 'Mommy I'm scared of lightning' --"get used to it." The most useful tool is desensitization.
    https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/t...ith-desensitization-and-counter-conditioning/
    Good luck and find as many desensitization articles you can.

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