I have a 3 yr old neutered male GSD with dog to dog aggression He went from docile to aggressive to most other dogs. I have contacted trainers, behaviorists, vets, and have been unsuccessfully working on this problem for a good 6 months. The dog is never mistreated but I think he began this as a result of being bullied in the dog park as I was socializing him. I no longer take him there but now he’s terrible with other dogs. He will remember and play with his certain dog ‘friends’ when we meet them in places other than the dog park (another regular park). He does not attack them but most others. He is a very large GSD 108 lbs and is stronger than I and knows it. Otherwise, he’s close to perfect and will behave well off leash. He’s nice to my Pomeranian as well.
This began at about 2 1/2 years of age and caught me totally off guard. I did not become tense around him and other dogs until a few months ago. One trainer had me put him in the down position when approaching another dog. It worked sometimes but I realized that it was too much emphasis on the entire encounter so I quit doing it. Now I just keep walking past the other dogs and it does work better.
The problem is still not solved and I use a muzzle in public on leash just for everyone’s protection. He loves people and is great with kids. We walk most days 3 1/2 miles with running and sometimes with another dog. This is not my first GSD and I have never had this problem before to this extent. In the beginning, I was very hopeful that this could be nipped in the bud fairly quickly but now I am not sure at all.
I try to beef up his confidence in the meantime and keep things calm. I’ll take all of the advice I can get…also thinking of having a thyroid panel done but he really has zero symptoms of that, He recently lost weight via diet, good mood and happy, loves to swim, run and chase balls…no lethargy or skin issues but he is itching right now. That began about 1 week ago. He does have some impulse control issues about getting excited about going out which is egged on by my Pom.
No food aggression, good appetite, not ravenous but eats well, good food …Nutro weight control formula, regular vet checks, does receive adequan injection monthly for hips, hip and joint supplements. That’s all I can think of.
I suspect the reason you may not have had any luck with trainers, veterinarians and behaviourists is you’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken and not fixing something that is broken. A lot of dog owners (and trainers, veterinarians and behaviorists) seem to think all dogs are supposed to like other dogs and expect them to meet and socially interact with strange dogs. I don’t know of any social species that does this including human beings. Suspicion is a more normal survival trait.
It’s true that some dogs (like people) are much more adaptable and not as prone to “stranger danger” agitation and dog parks tend to propagate that myth as they tend to attract what I call party dogs. These are generally certain breeds that seem more amendable and less competitive. Alternatively there are breeds that are not necessarily so but are individuals that haven’t achieved adult hood yet. I’ve seem many dogs at dog parks that I know once they hit about 18 months of age are going to get into an “incident” and learn subsequently that this is exactly what happened.
I was watching a Nature of Things documentary the other day about canine cognition
http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/a-dogs-life and one of the scientists from a university in Newfoundland Canada (I think) was challenging the idea of dominance and some other social hierarchal behaviours in dogs. I thought her conclusions were a little weird at least based on my own 30 years of dog experience until she mentioned her conclusions were based on research based on dog park observations. I think down the road we’ll find that her conclusions are going to have be become qualified and more likely overturned. Drawing conclusions based on the way dogs behave in a dog park is like drawing conclusions about human behaviour based on watching them in church.
It’s not that dogs can’t get along with other dogs. That wouldn’t make sense either. I would argue that they are not designed to get along with strange dogs. These are the same dogs that I encourage people to refrain from walking the same route day after day. Once they hit adulthood they’re not so much walking as patrolling and it agitates them to see strange dogs on their perceived territory. The average dog owner can’t do much more then further agitate the dog by tightening up on the leash exacerbating the dog’s condition. I also argue most dogs don’t need to be walked at all. They do however need to be exercised and you can read one of my columns on the topic to learn more about the difference.
That is not to say that your dog and all dogs regardless of breed or personality shouldn’t be trained to listen and behave around all distractions including other dogs. They should learn to walk on a loose leash, come and stay using other dogs as distractions but you build up to that rather then drop them into the deep end of the pool. If you are having problems with that then I would suggest that what’s broken is your dog’s idea as to who is the teacher and who is the student. If so, I’d have a look at the method you are using to train him. I find with all dogs but particularly dogs like yours if you’re going the treat route instead of relationship training you have a hard time addressing these sorts of issues. Remember he doesn’t need to like other dogs but he does need to respect you enough to follow your direction no matter what.
I’d stick to “play dates” with a dog or dogs that he has ongoing interaction with with as most dogs do enjoy this type of familiar social interaction once they have a chance to learn each other’s idiosyncrasies and it tends to be awfully good exercise.
You may find if that his itching disappears once you adjust your expectations of him as perhaps the conflict between what you expect and what he’s capable of is stressing him out.