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August 31, 2007 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Dog Whisperer Filter: My 2 y/o neutered German Shepard has suddenly become dog aggressive.

We have three lovely German Shepards. We got the biggest from a German Shepard rescue maybe 6 months ago. They said he was dog aggressive, but we never saw it. He was fine with our two dog and pretty good at the park. For some reason he "smelled" funny or something so dogs would be a little aggresive with him, but he just shook it off and ran back over to us.

Our next door neighbor got a husky pup named Luna that is about 9 m/o. She is sweet, but very aggressive and strong willed. She keeps getting out and I was bringing her into my house at first, but she plays way to rough for my dogs and gets very growly and mean, beyond normal playing. This behavior seemed to make something snap in Baron and now he is so much more aggressive than before.

I was taking them all three to the groomers and lo and behold Luna was out on the sidewalk. Baron reacted very strongly in a "don't you dare come on my porch" kind of way, so being a puppy she ran right on the porch and charged Baron. I got my other two dogs to just go inside and sit (they are well behaved) but I was knocked flat on my belly with Baron pulling to attack Luna. She got a little knick on her chin, but was for the most part ok.

Now Baron just walks around finding windows to stare an growl at Luna. I hoped the problem was confined to her.

We have tenants moving into our basement apartment. They have a 5 y/o intact male German Shepard mix. We did the doggie introductions with the first two and everything was going swimmingly. We were going to bring Baron into the back yard on a leash, but he was just going nuts. I told my bf to make sure he was calm before he brought him down. He was tail wagging and relatively calm. Then he came outside and locked eyes with the dog and was just teeth nashing, whiny, growly, vocally upset.

He managed to slip his collar and just went after the tenants dog, or maybe the other way around. Its hard to say. But one moment there was a tense acknoledgement, the next a full on fight. We managed to get them seperated, but they got loose again before we could actually confine Baron and went at it again. To make matters more complicated apparently their dog gets super agitated at the sight of leashes, even attached to other dogs, with absolutely no chance of him being able to be leashed. (No one was really hurt, once again a nick on the foot for each)

The really weird part is that my female dog,Gretel, who thinks she is the alpha, launched herself at Baron more than once during all this. I don't know what that was about, perhaps a "I am the alpha and I say he is ok"? Who knows.

How do we get these two to behave? How do we work on furthering doggy introductions or do we just have to work out a timing schedule with the tenants on who can use the yard when?

Gretel and Baron being good.

The yard in question
posted by stormygrey to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Exercise both dogs separately to fully dog-tired before introductions. Two year old males are approximately 16 year old boys, neutered or not, so the super-high energy and territorialism is pretty normal. If they are tired, they will be more balanced, as Cesar says. I would actually recommend several days of extra exercise, mental and physical, for both dogs before you try reintroducing them.

I don't know how the hell you exercise a dog with leash phobia, though. I can't even imagine what you could do to a dog to make it crazed about leashes, and if this dog isn't a rescue of some kind I think I would hold it against the owners. That's a problem you work to get fixed.

For your dog, though, let me recommend the Gentle Leader Easy Walk if you aren't already. I know it's about impossible to hold a GS back if he wants to go, but I cannot believe the amount of control this particular harness gives me.

Very possibly you're just going to have volatile meeting periods that later settle down. You might consider muzzles and a hose for the introduction, and then somehow maintain your calm assertive demeanor until they get the growling and posturing sorted out.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:03 AM on August 31, 2007

Oh, and regarding Luna: a dog who's obsessing is a dog with too much free time on his hands. Exercise, chew time, and a Buster Ball or other puzzle-treat toy will help.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on August 31, 2007

My 2 y/o neutered German Shepard

5 y/o intact male German Shepard mix

It is not uncommon for intact males to trigger an aggressive response in neutered males. They smell the testosterone and it sets them off. I don't have any answers for you, but mixing neutered and intact males is often tricky.
posted by ambrosia at 9:10 AM on August 31, 2007

Best answer: We've had luck with the grazing method where you scatter the smelliest food you cna find on the ground and the dogs are obsessed with eating the food rather than each other.

We used sardines, you'll need quite a bit in little pieces for it to work. The goal is to have the dogs right next to each other and focussed on the smelly food rather than being territiorial or asserting their status.
posted by iamabot at 9:12 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, the intact thing bugs me a bit. Its not my place, but she has had him since he was about 10 m/o so why does he flip out on leashes and why isn't he fixed? I am kind of afraid he is going to rape my girl, but since she doesn't go into heat who knows, she does have a weird girly problem that causes her to have a odd faux period every now and then.
posted by stormygrey at 9:13 AM on August 31, 2007

Unfortunately, you are not only dealing with your dog, you are dealing with the bad habits of other owners. A dog with "leash phobia"? Luna habitually "getting out"? These are completely owner-preventable behaviors that they have simply not seen fit to correct. I don't know what you can do about your tenant, but can you at least talk to your neighbors about keeping a better hold on their dog? This will help deal with part of the problem.
posted by schroedinger at 9:14 AM on August 31, 2007

Oh, I missed the part about the dog being intact. Jesus. You are dealing with some nightmare owners here. No leashes and an intact male--they are asking for trouble. Is there any chance you can find new tenants? That is incredibly irresponsible dog owner behavior, even moreso with a large dog breed like a German Shepard.
posted by schroedinger at 9:15 AM on August 31, 2007

Best answer: There's a recently-aired episode of The Dog Whisperer where Cesar helps a family with two bulldogs who used to be the best of friends and now hate each other and regularly try to beat the shit out of each other. I don't know how easy his advice is to implement, but his basic point was the one he always makes, that the pack was out of balance because people were catering to the dogs too much, and the dogs were sort of pushing to see how far they could go.

Once he had the humans on board with providing pretty stern leadership, the dogs calmed down amazingly.

I don't think dog problems are really about what other neighborhood dogs are doing (not that I don't sympathize!) but are about if your dog realizes that no matter what other dogs get up to, he needs to be calm and relaxed. (Of course, that requires the humans to be calm and relaxed, which can be tough.)

Anyway, the bulldog episode had lots of parallels with your situation. It may still be re-running, and perhaps it would help!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:55 AM on August 31, 2007

I second studying Cesar Millan's techniques. There are folks who will probably disagree, but he does some amazing things with very aggressive dogs, and he always does it the same way. He deals with aggressive animals regularly, twice in season one. He's got a DVD just on aggression.
posted by wsg at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: "And that, you fool, is the only time people that can't hold the dog get to 'hold the dog.' Ha ha your dog is so big and strong that he pulled you (ohh so tiny) flat on your belly. That is not cool and you make me sick. I love big dogs but in the hands of people that don't know what they're doing with them they maim and disfigure children. They get put down. The people that own them should be put down."

I am not sure where you are going with this. It is not cool that Baron pulled me over. He is new to our home, coming from a past that we are not sure about. The leash was never out of my hand in the Luna incident and I was eventually able to get on my knees and reel him in so to speak. I mean, where did you get that "ohh so tiny" thing? I am not tiny and fairly fucking strong.

The dogs that I have had since about 8 wks each are well trained. It obviously takes some time and if he had shown that kind of behavior previously, I would have reacted better. I can walk the other two around people and dogs with absolutely no issue.

We are taking it seriously as you can tell by the fact that I am asking a community that knows more about dogs for some advice in the matter. So in short, mu~ha~ha~ha~har , if you have some advice since you grew up around dogs, I would love to hear it, but the rest is just noise.
posted by stormygrey at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2007

It sounds as though Baron is OK with new dogs on neutral territory (such as at the dog park) but not OK with new dogs in his home or yard. Perhaps a series of re-introductions to the tenants' dog on neutral ground is in order. Leave your other two dogs at home for the first few rounds, they are a complicating factor.

P.S. I love the path you added to your back yard, it looks great!
posted by jamaro at 10:34 AM on August 31, 2007

eah, the intact thing bugs me a bit. Its not my place,

Actually, as the landlord, I'd say it's entirely within your place to only rent to people who have neutered pets. In my view, failing to neuter your dog renders you automatically an irresponsible dog owner (unless you meet biscotti's requirements for a serious, responsible, competent breeder.) Having an intact shepherd mix that cannot tolerate being leashed strikes me as grossly irresponsible, (and mu~ha~ha~ha~har, I'd suggest reserving your contempt for the tenants, not stormygrey.) Putting the issues with your own dog aside, as a landlord I would be concerned about an intact male dog that cannot tolerate leashes or even seeing other dogs leashed. How on earth is that dog going to be adequately exercised?

*folds up soapbox, steps away*
posted by ambrosia at 10:46 AM on August 31, 2007

Best answer: It kind of sounds like Baron is very specifically dog aggressive - in other words, he's not attacking every other dog in the universe, just Luna and your new tenants dog. It also sounds like the problems are all happening on what Baron perceives as his own territory - the house, the porch, the yard. You know how shepherds are about that; they have that Patrol the Perimeter thing down. Baron seems to think he's protecting the whole pack from these interlopers.

I'm going to second what everyone else is saying about the wisdom of having an intact "leash averse" (?!?!) dog living downstairs and sharing a yard with three other large dogs. Is it too late to get new tenants? And get your neighbor to keep their dog in their own yard? Failing that, you're going to have to reintroduce them gradually and I'd recommend that you do it on neutral ground, like the dog park.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:35 AM on August 31, 2007

And I forgot my last paragraph, which is that some dogs, like some people, just don't get along. My old shepherd mix got along beautifully with every other dog on the planet - except one, who he hated and tried to kill every time they encountered each other, which was fairly often, since we lived on the same block. I just made sure he was never off leash when that dog might be around and when I saw him coming, I crossed the street and/or got my dog to sit and stay until the enemy had passed.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:42 AM on August 31, 2007

Mod note: Some comments removed. Stick to respectful answers here, take the name-calling and hollering elsewhere.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:46 AM on August 31, 2007

I have three cattle-herding dogs, all of which are quite hyper, but are capable of making peace, and even playful friendships, with other dogs. However, one of them, a fixed female age 7 who is the alpha of our pack, does occasionally meet a dog she just cannot abide by, and I've had to separate some terrible fights.

My yard is about the same size as yours, and I have long suspected that when a dog comes over, if we are watching it for a friend, or someone brings it to a party, some confusion arises in my existing 3-dog pack as to who is the boss. One friends' dog, in particular, also a fixed female, cannot come over without a few minutes of stink-eye, followed by a horrifying fight. I've tried pre-introduction exercise, being an assertive master, even Benadryl. Unfortunately, the only thing that has ever seemed to work is a muzzle.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:51 AM on August 31, 2007

on preview: I could have shortened my story by saying "I have a dog like mygothlaundry's."

Sometimes, there's just nothing you can do but avoid the situation.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:52 AM on August 31, 2007

Unfortunately asking the tenant to neuter their dog would not solve the problem. Dogs neutered after 12 months of age will not be locked into puppy hood and will display aggressive behavior. The fact that one of the dogs is a pure bred GS and the other has some GS in him means that these two males are going to tangle no matter what. I wanted to get my GS a buddy but was told that if I got another male they would fight, play, fight, fight, play and eventually damage one another.

If you are going to take on this tenant you are going to have to set up a schedule for the yard.
posted by bkeene12 at 12:02 PM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, there is a lot to consider in all this, but I am confident that either scheduling or acclimatizing or both well work out.

Thank Jamaro for the props on the path! It took forever, so there is not as much detail as I wanted. Plus the dogs discovered that the sand underneath the three inches of rock is super cool, so its kind of a dog wallow right now till I can redirect the wallow and add more rock.
posted by stormygrey at 12:29 PM on August 31, 2007

My dog is a rott/catahoula mix who is territorially aggressive, and otherwise fine with other dogs. We've done a lot of work with him with trainers, and unfortunately, the final answer, for us, is doing our best to avoid the conflicts. We've been advised that no matter what we do, it will be very difficult to train the instinct out of him. (This is not to say that we just let him be aggressive, we do correct him, but we have to be aware that under certain circumstances, he will try to go after other dogs, especially if they are on his 'perimeter.')

We had tenants who had a very aggressive dog, and we just had to be very careful to keep them apart. It sounds like your tenants are not responsible at all, however. I'd ask them to leave when their term is up (assuming they have already moved in?), and in the meantime ban their dog from the backyard. YMMV of course.

I find it surprising that people in your neighborhood walk their dogs off leash. If they are not on voice command 100% it's considered illegal here.
posted by miss tea at 1:41 PM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, its illegal here. I live intown Atlanta, we have a high "hippy" dog factor here.
posted by stormygrey at 1:47 PM on August 31, 2007

Ah, yes I am familiar with that "breed."

Well, good luck with the dogs!
posted by miss tea at 5:38 AM on September 1, 2007

I agree with those who suggest scheduling, or better yet reconsidering this tenant if you cannot be absolutely certain that your dogs will never be allowed to come into contact with each other. The bottom line is that some dogs just won't get along with each other (and this is not a training issue, nor is it an issue of humans not being "alpha enough") and you are risking serious injury to dog and human alike by allowing dogs who clearly do not like each other to be together in the same home (in a "natural" state, one or the other would leave the pack, thus removing the stress and frustration, but this rarely happens in a domestic state). A dog being intact/neutered can affect this, but is not necessarily the only issue by any means.

(And, by the way, there is no such thing as a dog being "100% on voice command", even though some would have you believe otherwise.)
posted by biscotti at 9:45 AM on September 2, 2007

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