I have a 2-year-old King Shepherd named Shyloh and a German Shepherd attacked her last summer while we were camping. Before this happened she was always a very gentle and loving dog with both people and other animals. This other German Shepherd definitely got the best of her.
Shyloh was sunning herself, lying outside in front of my camper when the other people pulled into the campground. The other owners had their dog in the back of their truck and it jumped out of the vehicle, and attacked Shyloh.
Now anytime other dogs come near her Shyloh goes into attack mode. She also now shows aggression when my friends come by with their dogs (in the past this wasn’t an issue) and she gets growly with other dogs in general whether we are home, camping or out in the car for a drive.
Can you tell me if this personality change is permanent? Is it a training issue that could be fixed? I typically take my dogs everywhere (friends, family, camping, etc.), they’re like my kids and I feel like I can’t take her out of the house and we are needing to completely change the way we live.
It’s more or less permanent as far as her “I’m not in Kansas anymore when other dog’s are around” realization but not necessarily so with her now automated “better you then me” attack motto. In most situations, returning a dog to at the very least a neutral or reserved outlook is pretty dependent on the dog owner’s training ability and time to invest.
What happened to her happens to a lot of dogs with the same result. It seems to just flip a healthy “suspicion” switch in some and “the only good dog is a dead dog” switch in others.
You’re going to have to raise the obedience bar if you want to get her to learn to exert self-control. People rarely train their dogs to the degree that they’ll stay, come, and walk around even common distractions so when this sort of thing happens they have to play some catch up first before they tackle paying attention around other dogs when it’s a dog to dog aggression problem.
You want to get the dog’s head firmly into a mindset that the basic commands are jobs and not tricks that can be done consistently around all sorts of challenging distractions. Once you’re there you can move on to working around dogs. It’s easier on the handler and the dog this way.
You can then use the relationship you’ve developed to get and keep her attention around the A-bomb of distractions – other dogs and then provide her with positive reinforcement for doing so just as you’ve been using around the less explosive distractions. If you do it right, she’ll end up replacing her fear that every dog she see’s is going to attack her with every dog she sees is going to result in some sort of reward. It really does work but you have to be patient and go slowly.
I advise clients to avoid contact with other dogs until we’ve laid a foundation regarding the basics and I highly recommending working one on one with an experienced balanced trainer to get you started in the basics and then as you progress, meet with you to help introduce gradually more difficult distractions.