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I have a (nearly) 8 year old female Labrador, who has always been extremely sweet around humans.

In her early days, she played with the other neighbourhood dogs without a problem, but when I moved to London (UK), it became hard to socialize her, as I was in a less nice part of town where most dogs were raised to be aggressive.

Since then I moved to a much nicer part of London, but sadly most of the dogs around were cat-sized, and quite yappy, which she didn't particularly like. It was in this part of town that she got bitten by a Bull Mastiff.

Since then I've had troubles with her around other dogs. She has no interest in playing or being around them, and has started launching herself at other dogs when they get close.

I have no idea of how to fix this behaviour, and I thought i'd turn to you for some guidance.

Is there some particular training I should do with her? Change some things that will make it easier further down the line?

I'm conscious that dogs have different personalities, and I don't want to force her to be around other dogs if she doesn't like it, but at the same time, I don't want her pulling me or my girlfriend towards other dogs when we're walking her, or worse yet, launch herself at other dogs when she's off lead in the park playing with the ball.

I should note that she's never bitten anything or anyone, though she does look like she's trying when she gets aggressive towards other dogs.

I would really, really appreciate any guidance you may be able to give me in this matter.

Thanks

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Your dog is is exhibiting a negative reaction to other dogs. What you want is for your dog to be positive or neutral around them. In order to do that you should recondition your dog to see other dogs around as a signifier of positive things to come.

The first thing to change is your own attitude. After having your dog react negatively to other dogs, it's only natural that you would be nervous in these situations. Your dog will pick up on that and think it's the correct way to feel. Try to be confident of good things to come when another dog enters the picture.

My dog began to react less and less positively to other dogs shortly before she turned 8. The trainer I worked with has me playing a game with her. When another dog appears on the scene and Tolly (my dog) notices him/her i say "Who's that?", (you can use 'look' or any other cue, but the trainer pointed out that phrasing it as a question automatically softens your voice) lure her to look at me and then give her a treat for looking at me. This teaches her that seeing another dog is an indicator of good things to come and that the correct behavior is to look at the dog, then look at me. Once she gets the hang of it you can just use your cue without the lure. Eventually you can wean her off the rewards totally. Distance is a key factor here too. You might have to start this from quite far away (really as close as your dog can be to a dog without the undesired behavior happening). Once your dog gets more comfortable you can decrease the distance between your dog and the dogs that upset her. It helps if you have a friends with dogs so you can more easily control the distance and timing. The key is to keep setting her up for success and positive interactions with other dogs. The trainer warned me though, that it is relatively common for older female dogs to not want to engage with other dogs.

It's been 4 months or so since I started doing this with my dog. She hasn't gotten growly or aggressive at another dog in about 3 months and even started playing with other dogs a bit recently.

Good luck. :)

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  • That's great advice. Thanks! She's been clicker trained, so I might try and add that in addition to the reward. This is also part of a bigger problem, where her recall isn't great unless I have an incentive (ball, food, etc) or there's nothing else interesting around. I'll try this out straight away :) – Andre Mar 6 '15 at 9:34
  • I feel you. I'm also working on my dog's recall. A Clicker would probably speed up this process up some; click after she looks at you. I'm too slow to time the clicker right, so i always just use the word 'Yes' instead of a click. :) – Veg Mar 6 '15 at 19:24

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