Quick Post

Rescue: dog aggressive or just insecure?

New Topic
Rescue: dog aggressive or just insecure?
  • Hi, I'm in the process of trying to rescue a dog, but I have a few questions about some behaviors.

    At first, when meeting new dogs, they say that he is a bit "grumpy", but at the moment he is living with another dog, and is doing great. He was grumpy and aggressive at first, but after a week is now letting the other dog come up to him while eating or playing with a toy and will not growl at the other dog. So, my question is, do you think this will be a problem? It sounds to me like he is just a little bit insecure and not aggressive and might could be corrected by socializing him with other dogs while also making sure that each one is a positive experience. If I adopt him, he will come into contact with my parents dogs (4 of them) fairly often. What exactly could I do to help him? I think I have an idea but I'm just not sure how to implement it.
    I'm 20 years old and am new to owning my own dogs. Although, I have grown up with dogs my entire life and have trained a couple of them fairly well. If anyone could give me some advice on this "aggression" problem, I would appreciate it. He seems to match me very well in all other areas. Thanks for the help.

    Edit: I forgot to add something. They say that he is not nearly as "grumpy" with other dogs as he was when he first came to stay with them. This was after only a week of living/socializing with the other dog.
  • I think the first step would eb a quick obediance course. I suggest that because it will hsow you what he already knows, it will bond you to him, and show you as the pack leader.
    Next the introduction of your families dogs should be gradual and kept short and fun. Maybe two at a time at a nearby park so none of them have any territorial issues.
    lastly, from the small description you posted it sounds to be as if he is more insecure then aggressive. If he wanted to bite he could and it seems as if he calms relatively well after a small amount of time, is that correct?
    Next, what breed, age, and history does he have?
    See my sister has a lab/pitt mix who is the old man of the family. We go over there with my pit bull AT LEAST 3 times a week since I have had her as a pup which is a little under two years so that is hundreds if not thousands of visits. I cannot recall one time he didnt greet her with a growl, snarl and a couple times a snap. She ignores him and literally this lasts fro 60 seconds. Its almost like he he just has to put her in her place from the begining plus my sister let it be known that she would not tolerate this behavior from him, we do put away all toys, treats and food to help them too.
    Two weeks ago it went like this....I pulled up and she was talking out front with the neightbor. I let Rory out of the car, my sister opened the fence to let her in. Immedialty Deisel hauls butt over to Rory, barking, teeth showing. The neighbor says "oh wow, OMG they are gonna fight" ! Beofre my sisiter could even respind he had flopped over on his back and Rory was kssing him.
    I would NOT continue this IF......
    -It was depended on Rory to be the complete submissive one, he actualyl submits after a growl or two
    -we had to continue to check them or this behavior went on throughout the visit
    -they had ever made biting contact
    -either had a aggressive past
    One thing to also keeep in mind is to never coddle or favor a dog when this is going on. For example many owners would shoo or oush Dieisel away as if to say "oh leave the baby or girl dog alone, you know better" or "she's a visitor, where are your manners"? That would only show Rory htat it is ok to challenge him. Or if it was the other way around, if I coddle Rory, "oh this is his house" then Dieseil would see that we were enforcing his behavior!
    Woo that was a lot of typing, hope I didnt overload ya there!
  • Hi nGoldenm, 
    First I am not a trainer, expert or other type of professional.  I can give no formal advice.  What I can tell you from my experience with adopting one dog is my dog was very timid upon her adoption.  She was living in foster care for 6 months with two other dogs and loved it.  She was in a large kennel in Ohio before that.  Not sure how she did there.  When we adopted her she was so scared for about 3 days and then probably didn't even really get comfortable for about a month.  If he hasn't been in foster care or a shelter for very long, I wouldn't necessarily take it as a statement on his personality.  There is so much change in their lives at that time, of course they are not comfortable in their surrondings.  We were able to get a peek into her real personality from her foster mom because she had been there for so long.  I will say we took a long time to find the right dog for us.  Adopted dogs all come with a past and we wanted to make sure we found the one that would fit into our family the best.  There will always be some unknown factors (see my post earlier today - "Seemingly Random Aggression"), but you want to make the best decision you can based on the information available.  Our foster mom would have been willing to introduce our dog to other family dogs - would that be a possibility for you? 
    Good luck and choose carefully. 
  • sheprano - They say that he understands a few basic obedience commands, but I don't mind that. I can teach him commands and basic obedience, although I will look into a class anyway. Well, I live about 2 hours away from my family, so meeting them a few at a time will probably not be possible. I can, however, try to limit their contact at first and try to get them used to each other slowly instead of all at once. And yes, from what I have been told he seems to calm down fairly quickly. I don't think he has ever tried to bite. I don't think it has gone past growling at them, and maybe some barking. He is a 1-2 year old Golden Retriever coming from an unknown background I think. At least, that information has not been given to me.

    jess_p - Yes, I understand that he may just be adjusting to his new surroundings. I am just trying to be prepared should I get him. For a majority of the time, he would only be with me, but a few times out of the year, I stay at my parents for a few weeks at time (college student) to visit over breaks. But I'm not sure about having the dog's foster parent introduce the dogs. My parents live over 1 1/2 hours from them so I doubt it. My parents would definately not drive there to do that and I wouldn't ask someone who I barely know to drive that far several times just for that.

    I could drive up there and try to spend the day and come back that night sometimes, that way we can introduce the dogs much more slowly, so he wouldn't be forced to immediately live with 4 other dogs (rather barky ones at that) whom he doesn't know.

    The more that I think about it, I'm thinking that he has probably had some bad experiences with other dogs and/or has never really been socialized the way he should have been. If this is the case, it should be fairly easy to try to socialize him in as many positive situations as possible and help him overcome his insecurity, correct?
  • Well it sure sounds like you are considereing all the options and thats great!
    I suggested obediance class not solely for obediance but for the two of you to bond. It is also great for distracted response from your dog. Its one thing to have him listen and obey when its just the two of you at home and when he is anxious, crazy, and nervous when you meet your parents dogs.
    "it should be fairly easy to try to socialize him in as many positive situations as possible and help him overcome his insecurity, correct? "
    Insecurity yes, any [previous issues, no.
    Its not like working with a clean slate IF he has had traumatic issues but I can confidently pressume if he has serious issues the kennel or foster would have known by now. Ovewrall I think this adopptee sounds hopeful ONLY becuase you really seem to have a clear view of what you are in for and a eager, loving willingness to help this doggy. This is nothing on the large spectrum of adoptee issues and I think he would come to live a long healthy life with you. I think when you go to visit for parents have them meet down the street, hide all toys, treats, and food. If they or your guy is kennel trained that is going to be helpful. Good luck and thank you so much for having the heart to adopt. "not every human needs a shelter rescue but every shelter rescue needs a human"!

  • He has been at his current foster's about a week. Seeing how he has learned to get along great with their other dog, I don't see any reason why he can't learn to live with my parents dogs for the short time that he will be there. I'll make sure to take your advice about the toys and food. I'm sure that will only intensify whatever it is that he is feeling. Plus, I'll make sure I feed him separately from the other dogs. The main thing I think that I have to worry about is my mother. She loves to spoil her dogs. I don't think I've ever seen them without a bone for more then an hour. [:D] I'll have to tell her to make sure that they don't have ay lying around when I come to visit.

    Do you have suggestions as to how I should go about socializing him, other then the training classes. I don't think that there are any being taught near me, but I will look none the less.
  • I'm concerned, as someone with a good deal of rescue experience, about two things. One, most importantly, this dog has only been in foster care a week. Unless I'm moving the dog to someone with an equal or better amount of experience dealing with rescues, I feel two weeks is actually a minimum before I'll even start talking to potential adopters. A dog can go through so many changes in that time.

    Two, you are not an experienced dog owner and this foster parent is not making it very clear to you what the problems are and how to deal with them. I wouldn't really be inclined to adopt a dog with any kind of issues to a home without the background to deal with them - not that you are not a GREAT home, I'm sure you are.

    In fact, because you are here asking what I'd say are the right questions tells me you will try hard with this dog no matter what. I really respect you for that. But when I place dogs, I prefer that a home like you get a dog that meets better your expectations for the breed, or what you want from a dog (a dog that will socialize with your family's pets).

    I don't want to turn you off this dog but I wonder whether you can get more information from the foster home. The last thing that concerns me is that I always told my adoptive parents that I was there, 24/7, for help, before placement and for the lifetime of the dog. I consider this to be a vital function of rescue and if you as a person relatively new to dog ownership, are not going to get that, well, I'm just not sure.

    I'm reminded of a friend who met a rescuer in a park to "meet" a foster dog, and he literally placed the leash in her hand and walked away. The dog turned out to have such deep problems that he still challenges the limits of his behaviorist, who is a nationally known name in the field. That's kind of the extreme of what can happen but these experiences give rescue a bad name. [:(]

    I'd really rather you a) adopted a dog you had more confidence in, or b) knew more about, or c) had more support from the rescue - or took advantage of it more - I'm not sure, you might just be shy of getting into great depth with the foster home for fear of seeming too pushy. I can understand that, too. [;)]

    Good luck and thanks for considering a rescue dog! I get good vibes from your posts and believe you'll do fine with almost any dog - but sometimes it pays to have a bit of patience - that way down the road, after having a great rescue experience, you'll be ready to adopt another dog and have the experience under your belt to deal with more advanced issues. See, I'm not completely altruistic - it all comes back to help the dogs in the end. [sm=wink2.gif]
  • brookcove - Thank you for your concerns. I'll make sure I embrace them. I'll also try to answer your questions or provide more info if I can.
        1) The dog has been with his current foster for a little over a week. I believe that he has been under the rescue's care for much longer then that. I'm not sure where he stayed before he came to his present foster. They told me that they wanted to take him with them on their christmas parade march, but decided not to bring him because he barked at a lot of the other dogs. He just wasn't comfortable in that kind of situation at that time. The christmas parade was in early December. I am currently about halfway through the adoption process and it will probably be about 2 more weeks before we finalize it. This dog was just the one that they thought mathched me the best. Once we get done with the home visit, I will get to visit the foster home and spend some time with the dog. That's why I'm asking these questions now. I want to go in there with some knowledge so that I can see if I will be able to handle this situation. No offense intended, it's not that don't have confidence in myself or the dog being able to be rehabilitated, I just don't want to get blindsided again. I want to know what questions to ask, what things to do to assess what condition he is in, and also what to expect if I do adopt him.
        2) He is not technically my first dog. I adopted a dog from a local humane society about 5 months ago. All it stated on his sheet was that he was found at 5 weeks of age and was fostered until he was almost 9 months. He was the only one of his litter that was not adopted before being placed in the humane society. He had only been at the shelter for a few days. This should have been a red flag but I didn't catch it. It mentioned nothing about his health problems. I adopted him and brought him home. For the next 4 months, I spent countless hours in different vet offices and took him to a university vet school/hospital. We just could not figure out why he was vomiting continuously (3-4 times per day, 3-4 times during the night). Eventually the hospital called me and told me that they had diagnosed him with megaesophagus and told me that it was uncurable. I tried all their suggestions on how to help him try to live a normal life. I even got him surgery to try and improve it. Nothing changed and he was basically starving to death because he couldn't get the food that he ate to his stomach and what did make it to his stomach was vomited up shortly after. Once we reached the end of the road and the vets were all out of ideas, I had to put him to sleep so he wouldn't suffer anymore. Sorry about the long-winded story, but that's the reason I'm looking to go a rescue this time. The dog's have been under someone's care for long enough to determine if something so dibilitating like this is present. I don't mind problems that come up, but something like this, that was not mentioned when it clearly had to have been evident, is not what I want to go through again. And I also realize that this may still happen, but there is MUCH less of a chance. I know this does not qualify me as an experienced dog owner, but I do feel that because I grew up wth dogs, trained most of them myself, and my recent experience does put me a little higher up the scale.

      The rescue has been very helpful to me and has answered any questions that I have asked them. They are really busy right now so I haven't had much time to spend talking to them, but that's what the home visit is for. They are going to come and check my house, and also to discuss what I am looking for and what they think will match me best. I'll be able to directly talk to them and ask any questions I have.

      Thank you again for your concerns and suggestions. They are appreciated and I look forward to more of them. It helps to edumacate me. [;)]

    espencer - Although I do not agree with most of Cesar's techniques and methods, those articles were helpful. Thank you for posting them.
  • OK, I've got some more information from the foster home. He no longer acts aggressive with their other golden under normal circumstances. They say that they get along very well. However, they said that if they are petting him, and their other dog comes around, he'll watch her and sometimes growl. They say that on walks, he loves meeting people and adores children. He walks with their other dog and had no problems with the children petting him and the other dog at the same time. They also say that he has not tried to become aggressive with other dogs that they meet on walks lately.

    So what does this sound like to all of you? I think that it's just an insecurity issue and could possibly be easily remedied. I would never be able to take my eyes off of him at my parents though, just for safety's sake. Their dogs wouldn't stand a chance if he decided to get aggressive. He outweighs them by about 40-50 pounds. I don't have enough time to post what I think I would do to remedy this situation but will when i get back later today. If anyone has any suggestions, please post them. Thanks.
  • he dosnt have any worse of behavorial issues then a lot of family dogs but the good side is that his are with good reason. He is protecting things from other dogs (resource guarding) because....
    1-he can
    2-he is insecure
    3-he needs leadership and guidance
    If and when you aquire this dog it will be imperative to socilaize him as much as possible and show him that good things come from being friendly with otehr dogs, ie playtime
    You will also need to take him to obediance school, I know we talked about this before and you said he knows his basic commands BUT what he dosnt know is YOUR limits, what YOU expect from him, and he needs to be able to build trust in you via bonding exercises. Dogs also act this way when they do not have a strong leader in their life. He wouldnt dare threaten another pack member if he understood that he was not alpha and its not his job to do so. Obviously the foster isnt doing that great of a job. I can assume that when she is petting him and her resident doggy comes along she may shoo him away, favoring the foster out of sympathy and the fact that "her dgo knows better" all that does is show the foster that it is ok to challenge the residnet doggy. Now that is just speculation but you can see where I'm going with it! Overall I'm sure he's a great dog, he just needs a stable environemnt and someone to have faith in him!
  • ORIGINAL: sheprano

    You will also need to take him to obediance school, I know we talked about this before and you said he knows his basic commands BUT what he dosnt know is YOUR limits, what YOU expect from him, and he needs to be able to build trust in you via bonding exercises.

    I completely agree with you on everything that you said. I'm just having trouble finding a trainer near me, hence my thread in the obedience forum. I have been able to locate 2 trainers, but I am not sure of their techniques. However, one is 30 miles away and the other is about 60. I'll figure it out somehow though.

    Dogs also act this way when they do not have a strong leader in their life. He wouldnt dare threaten another pack member if he understood that he was not alpha and its not his job to do so. Obviously the foster isnt doing that great of a job. I can assume that when she is petting him and her resident doggy comes along she may shoo him away, favoring the foster out of sympathy and the fact that "her dgo knows better" all that does is show the foster that it is ok to challenge the residnet doggy. Now that is just speculation but you can see where I'm going with it! Overall I'm sure he's a great dog, he just needs a stable environemnt and someone to have faith in him!

    I also agree with you here. My other dog only threatened my parents dogs once. After that I tried to step up my leadership with him by requiring him to work for everything that he got, ie meals, treats and I also practiced this when he showed signs of resource guarding (I gave him a bone and he growled at me once when I got too close). He never again tried to threaten my parents' dogs or guard his things around me. He trusted that I would not take his bone away to be mean because I always gave it back to him and also treated him for giving it up willingly. Well, except for when he was on this medicine that made him really hyper and dominant acting. LOL, he would herd all the other dogs into the guest room where my mom was ironing and would just stand in the door. Then he'd turn around and look at me like "Look at what I did, dad!!!!! Isn't this great!!!!!!" [sm=lol.gif]LOL, It was funny. Don't get me wrong though, I definately would have stopped this behavior if he was wasn't on the medicine. He was only on it as a trial of sorts. But back to the topic now [sm=biggrin.gif]

    I suspect that this would also work with this new rescue. I've found that it tends to work wonders in dogs that try to question who the "alpha" is. NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) teaches a dog that they have to earn their things from me. I think this would work, and it is well within my experience level. Anyone else have any suggestions that might help?
  • You are on top of things!!!!
    NILF was my next suggestion in addition or prior to you finding a trainer!! My dad has incorportated that into his dogs since as far back as I remember. I remember wondering thinking he was being picky and mean....that is until I got my girl and I have found that it has gone far beyond what it is intended for.
    Example, the rule about having them sit and weight for their food and then give the ok command has made it so that Rory is like that will ALL food from strangers or wohomever. She looks to me to see if its ok, even the treats from the nice cashier at the pet store.
    The one that has them sit and weight for you to walk through a doorway first has saved me tons of gray hairs from having her dash into the street and also that one time a kitty had came into our yard.
    Anyhoo, soory for the overload but I think you awareness and concept of what is ahead of you puts you at a bigger advantage then a lot of dog owners I have met!
  • Thanks for your compliments. I learned about it after I got to looking around on the internet after my first incidence with my other dog and my parents dogs. It was really instigated by my mom's Toy Fox Terrier. She growled at my dog first, but he reacted in the wrong way. He immediately grabbed her by her neck and started thrashing her about. It was kind of scary. So I looked for ways of stopping this and saw NILIF. I thought it was intersting so I tried it and didn't have have ardly any trouble with him at all after that. Haha, it seems like we're just swapping stories. [sm=lol.gif]

    Oh well, I feel much better about things knowing that he isn't aggressive perse, rather just showing a form of resource guarding which I feel completely confident that I can control.

    Not to mention he loves to retrieve. They say that he would rather play with his ball and fetch than eat. His foster told me this, "[font="arial"][size="2"]The most annoying thing about him is that when he has his ball he wants to play constantly and will keep bringing it to you over and over. I have to hide it to get some peace!"[/size][/font] I think that's great cause I have a great area to do this in and it will keep him and me very well exercised. Not to mention a great motivator for training. [;)]
  • These sites might help you to find a trainer: