Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Retraining a nervous aggressive dog
It is now Tuesday and Igor is still trying to become my shadow. He does come into my office now, so at least he is changing. Before he would just stand at the doorway looking at me and then run downstairs as soon as I looked towards him. Now he comes in and sleeps behind me or under my desk at my feet. This is still not a good idea for a dog that has this problem.
Most of the time, I do send him away. Once he is downstairs I can hear him whining as he paddles about confused, but this is a good sign as this makes him think why he could not be with me.
When I sit in the lounge, he comes up to me looking for affection and recognition. I totally ignore him so he goes and tries to settle but he is not certain what to do. He will try lying in his bed or he wonders round the house whimpering. Only when he settles down do I then call him over to me to fuss and play with him. The problem is he does not know how to play or what to do when on his own. He has a constant need to be next to me all the time.
Winston, on the other hand, he just sleeps on his bed or sometimes he looks at me and when I wave to him, he wags his tail. It is possible for me to move round the house and he remains where he wishes to be. A dog should not need to be with me all of the time. Winston will go outside and wander round the garden or lie in the sunshine waiting for his walks. This is the norm for most dogs.
Today I would try to clip a lead on Igor. This is in order to take him for a walk in the fields close to my house. Walking with Winston I hope to see how he reacts when he sees other people.
Putting on the lead was going to be a problem. I tried a noose but he would not come near me. In the end, I walked into my house, sat down, and told him to come to me. He did a few times, only to run away again. Eventually, he sat in front of me offering a paw. Whilst I held this, I was then able to clip his lead on him so we could go for our first walk. Making him come to me makes him submit. Here is the possible key the owners can use later.
On the walk, he first saw a woman going into the house next door. Later he saw some Spanish builders working on a property and finally a farmer working in a field, but he showed no reaction towards any of them.
Wednesday I took them both for a long walk with Igor on twenty metres of line. Walking was fine, but being nervous, he would not let me out of his sight. My testing to see if he would follow me whenever I changed direction proved this. This meant I could drop the rope and let it drag along the ground, giving him more freedom. I could always grab the rope if I needed to. Winston did try to play with him but it was only on a few occasions, did they actually run round the field together. As he lacks the play skills, he prefers to go and find a rock to carry like a dummy.
Once tired out, we went to the Arenal where I walked him on my special short lead. Passing the Fish and Chip shop the woman inside remarked how beautiful he was, only to see him jump in fear at the sound of a saucepan lid falling on the floor.
Whilst I was sat down and talking on the telephone, a youth walked up behind me. His sudden appearance made Igor lunge towards him, giving me a demonstration of his problem. Using the GRRRRUFFF sound, he immediately calmed down. When we were walking along the Arenal, he showed no aggression towards other people. It seems it is only being stationery or surprised that is the worry for him. This is a classic symptom of nervous aggressive dogs.
Wednesday evening I received a call asking me to take him round to see some friends. They wanted to look at him and see how he would get on with their bitch. Though I was reluctant, I agreed.
At the gate, Igor made an aggressive attack towards their bitch through the bottom of the gate, but no harm done. When the owner opened this, Igor made some quieter aggressive movements towards them. They just ignored him and we walked into their drive and then into the house. For safety, I kept Igor on the short lead but without a muzzle.
Once inside the house, we watched Winston playing with their dog. After a while, she turned her attention towards Igor, hoping he would play with her. Again, this only showed he does not know how to play with other dogs.
As Igor began to settle, my friends insisted that I should now let him off the lead. Winston played with their bitch most of the time but she did manage to encourage Igor to play for short periods. You could see Igor was uncertain of his surroundings as he kept going from the house into the garden and back again. My friends just called him to them and after a while, they were hauling him about fussing him. Soon they even had him rolling over on his back in complete submission. The key again was they made him come to them, which made him submit.
Thursday we had another long walk before heading for the Arenal. Everything was fine until a friend called me over for a chat. As soon as she looked at Igor, he lunged at her only stopping when I used the GRRRRRRUFFFFF sound. He seems ok walking along with me, it just seems he does not like surprises of anyone suddenly appearing in his proximity.
Friday morning I let them both out the back door into the garden and I went to work in my office. This dog is good at opening doors and demands entry, so I locked it. For over an hour, he banged at the door needing to get to me. Even at times barking to tell me, he was there. Winston was with him so he was not alone, but for this dog, being away from me is not an option. Only when he gives up will I eventually open the door to go outside and ignore him. He must learn that all this banging and barking achieves him nothing. Only then can he learn to use the time to play with Winston.
It is now time to walk him without Winston, but this time wearing his muzzle. I need to teach him he cannot scare people away all the time. Once he stops the aggression, I can then allow people to touch him. I also need to find some method of how people can make him approach them without making him feel insecure.
What is becoming more obvious is submission is the key here. As with me, the methods I use makes him have to come and submit to me. Also with my friends, once they told Igor to come to them he became putty in their hands.
If I use the circular lunging ring, I am trying for the same result of submission to me, but within an hour. Using the house is much slower but I still need to make the dog accept that I control everything. Once he accepts this, he has two choices. Either, he can remain aggressive and alone, or he can come to me, or anyone else he meets, for his much-needed human companionship.
If you watch wolves in the wild, this is how they correct an errant wolf by ignoring and evicting him. When he realises that to survive he needs to be part of the group, he then must submit to the leader to request he re-enter the pack again. What the leader would never accept is a wolf as his shadow. Sociability is to relate to all members of the pack not just one.
Only when Igor makes the right choice can I hope to make the corrections to him that will work. If the owners can witness for themselves the methods are effective, then I hope they will feel confident enough to carry on with the training.