Behavioral or Underlying Agressive Issue?
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  • Hello all!! I adopted my dog 4 months ago as of July 9!! They told me he was a basenji/mix and he is about a year and a half. He growled when i first met him and they said he has never done that before and I was so in love with him since I came across his picture that i drove an hour and a half to meet him. I brought him back home with me that day. I thought I'd found my perfect companion after 3 years of my heart healing from the loss of my last dog due to sudden kidney failure.
    However, I gathered that he must have been through abuse/abandonment in his young 1 1/2 years here on this earth. I have fallen in love with him and he's so sweet and cuddly and looks at me with love in his eyes. But, to step outside he becomes a completely different dog. He will growl/howl, bark, lunge at people bicycles, other dogs, kids... he goes into his own other world and I have not found a way to break through to him to stop this reaction. He came too close to biting a girl on the beach this past weekend, even though he was on a leash and I thought I had him controlled. I would like any advice on what i can do to help stop this from happening because i can't imagine life without him, but i also don't want to feel like we are trapped inside forever either. I want him and me to have the life together that we should have.

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  • Have you considered asking a trainer or behaviourist for help? It's difficult for people to give advice without actually observing the dog. What is his level of training? How does he behave at home with you? Any aggression? How about when visitors come over?

    I would work on basic obedience and also teaching him lots of different behaviours. You should observe his body language closely when you are out walking him. There are always signs when a dog starts thinking about doing something, and at the very first indication he is noticing someone, that is the time to distract him by asking for an incompatible behaviour, e.g. sit, down, watch me, heel, back up, whatever. If you need to keep walking you could change direction and pace several times to keep him guessing. Get him to focus on you and your requests. Make sure you reward him for doing as you ask. Until things start to improve, guard against getting too close to anyone so that he cannot take you by surprise. Also, if you are using a flex leash, stop doing it! You should use nothing longer than a six foot leash.

    Keep your dog mentally stimulated with things that are desirable and until you see improvement never let your guard down when you are out walking. Good luck.

    last edited by eeeefarm
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  • @ladybugzy said in Behavioral or Underlying Agressive Issue?:

    However, I gathered that he must have been through abuse/abandonment in his young 1 1/2 years here on this earth. ....But, to step outside he becomes a completely different dog. He will growl/howl, bark, lunge at people bicycles, other dogs, kids... he goes into his own other world and I have not found a way to break through to him to stop this reaction. He came too close to biting a girl on the beach this past weekend, even though he was on a leash and I thought I had him controlled. I would like any advice on what i can do to help stop this from happening because i can't imagine life without him, but i also don't want to feel like we are trapped inside forever either. I want him and me to have the life together that we should have.<<

    Most bad behaviors don't come from abuse/abandonment. Not socializing, unstable temperaments, high prey drive kicking in for moving objects... In other words, a lot of things.

    First, either keep him home, or take him out ONLY with a muzzle. No matter your intent, if he bites someone, you risk him being put down or deemed a dangerous dog and you sued.

    You can try some things on your own... such as getting a friend to go to a park with you. Have your wingman keep all people and animals away from him. While seated with him beside you, get your friend to give small good treats to random people pass about 10 feet out and have them TOSS the treat to him. No interaction at ALL, just toss the treat. You may need to do this 3 or 4 days, or a dozen days (keep time down to about 30 to 40 mins each outing) until he consistently reacts to approaching people with happy expectation.

    Next phase, have the person stop, a bit closer but no more than 8 feet, and say "hi puppy's name"... then toss treat. Walk on.

    One he is comfortable with that, enlist bike riders to do the same thing. People with pets are next.

    Here is the thing, though... you cannot risk him biting. Your goal is to dial back his reaction. It is not likely you are going to have him safe enough to risk him flipping out.

    Sooo, you work on him getting used to a muzzle. And when you are out, you use it. When I was in Europe, tons of people had their dogs out with muzzles. You still have your buddy, while keeping others safe.

    And, you work on leave it/look at me commands.

    Muzzles—Not Just for Aggression Anymore!
    http://www.clickertraining.com/node/3948

    http://bestfriends.org/resources/muzzles-tool-keep-everyone-safe

    Of course, nothing beats meeting with a veterinary behaviorist to evaluate your dog's behavior. Is it fear? Is it aggression? Is he guarding YOU from other threats? Knowing why can help with controlling behaviors. But a dog who will try to go after children is one I would keep muzzled in company, regardless of the underlying cause.

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  • It would be useful to know more about the circumstances of the aggressiveness. This could be "leash aggression", and I would be interested to know whether he displays it when he isn't at the end of a leash. Dogs that spend time tied outside are often aggressive toward passersby when tied or leashed, but not when they are loose. I agree with Debra about using a muzzle until you get a handle on this behaviour. I am less enthusiastic about having strangers feed the dog. That can have unintended consequences.

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  • First Basenji's

    I second the advice given so far. I just wanted to give you another resource that might give you some ideas on how to train your dog away from the reactivity: http://careforreactivedogs.com . Good luck!

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  • Absolutely agree with what's been said.

    Training at home in his safe area with little distraction will help cement the desired behaviors before you need to take him out to a distractive environment.

    I have a boy who was very reactive (though not at the level of yours) at the various dog events we attended. To fix this, I would sometimes go to class or a local event with him not to participate but to "acclimate"; we would just site there and watch. At first I would bring his crate along and he would get treats dropped in the crate every time another dog came near, eventually we worked to the point where he could sit on my lap but still get treats when anxiety levels rose. Now he only gets aroused when particular dogs appear and even then he's pretty laid back compared to previously.
    The muzzle idea should work but you will have to train him to accept it first at home before you take him out.
    It takes time and patience and you can't rush this.

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