Fear Aggression
Basenji Mix

My 3 year old B-mix, Pippin, has extreme fear aggression. I rescued her from a shelter when she was 10 months old. I have no clue what happened to her before I got her. I'm almost 100% sure she was abused. (I noticed when I roll up the newspaper to put it back in it's plastic sleeve, Pippin will cower and hide as much as she possibly can. It is enough to break your heart.) She is mostly aggressive towards strange men/teen boys and children.

Her aggression first showed itself when our roofer came into our house to ask us a question. Pippin was barking like mad, then quickly bit the man and ran off. In her defense, if she can have one, the man did just walk into the home without being let in. A few months later, my husband and I took Pippin to a family reunion/picnic at a park. Some children ran past Pippin and Pippin lounged for them. It was a pretty scary situation. We immediately took her home. We were thinking it was too much stimulation for her to begin with and running children put her over the edge. Also, whenever my husbands cousin comes to visit, Pippin will nip at their shorts while they walk. Going to the vet is also an ordeal. Pippin has to muzzled every time.

The vet recommended positive reinforcement training with strangers at a distance and slowly moving in. I've started clicker training with her on basic commands and it is going fantastic. But we haven't done any training involving strangers yet. My concern is potentially putting people at risk of getting bitten, especially children.

I'm just not sure what to do. Does anyone have any tips or tricks to overcome fear aggression? Thanks so much!

Fear aggression is a tough one. Your vet is right in suggesting positive reinforcement and work on Pippin's fears. Perhaps while out and about, watch closely for signs her energy level is ramping up and immediately try to distract her somehow…like when she tenses up, have her "sit" for a minute with attention on you and treat her whatever is appropriate for your program when she relaxes. (food reward or affection reward)

What other breed is she mixed with? If it is a herding breed like Sheltie or Corgi, it may be very difficult to keep her from "herding" children. My mom had a Sheltie who would nip my daughter on the backs of her arms to "herd" her through the house when she was a toddler. Mom ended up having to put the dog out when we went over there so my daughter's arms wouldn't look like Swiss cheese when we left.

She may never be entirely comfortable with strangers or children, but with patience and a caring, consistent training program, you may be able to help her find ways to deal with her negative energy. It takes as much attention to her subtle "tells" on your part as obedience on her part. Good luck with it...

Where in Ohio are you located?

She might need a professional trainer to help you get the steps you need to help
with this. Some dogs can learn to be a bit calmer, some not, but its wonderful your being so responsible for humans as well as your dog.

Basenji Mix

Thanks everyone…

@AJs Human, I have no idea what she is mixed with??? When we got her from the shelter, they said she was a JRT/shepherd mix! I posted some pics of her on my introduction post. What do you think she's mixed with? I'm stumped. If I had an extra $100 laying around, I would LOVE to get a DNA test done on her.

@Quercus, We are in Cincinnati.

@sharronhurlbut, I'm going to try to work with her some more on my own and see how that goes. Money is kind of tight, but I'm putting some aside each paycheck to hire a trainer. 🙂

I would guess either German Shepard or Australian Cattle Dog…her muzzle looks more GSD but her body build looks more ACD. Either way, they are both herding dogs. One of the methods herders use to move livestock is nips at the heels of the stragglers to keep them in line. Regarding the nips at the kids' shorts, she may be trying to herd them. I would try to discourage the behavior if possible just on the off chance she misses the clothes and gets skin instead. Good luck with it...

As AJ says it's important to stop the nipping if possible as this can only get worse if not corrected. Persevere with the clicker trainig and as she becomes accomplished she'll gain confidence and this could conquer her fear. Don't rush things though - be patient with her. It's so horrible to think that someone may have been hitting her and who can blame her for her reactions to people?

I'm going to say (surprise!)
Read Control Unleashed.
if you can find a CU class, do that.
Games (in CU) Look at That!, Off Switch, Mat work, Whiplash turn, Doggy Zen
pay close attention to what is said about Threshholds.
found at
dogwise dot com
cleanrun dot com

Basenji Mix

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me, but she is definitely worth it. I'd do anything for my best friend!

Oh! I think we're having some progress with her. My neighbor's granddaughter is staying the week. The first few days Pippin would bark at her anytime she got near the fence. I had the girl just sit at the fence and I would treat Pip every time she looked at the girl or walked near the fence. Eventually I had Pip eating treats out of her hand!!! (I told the girl not to try to give her treats or pet her unless I'm outside, of course. Just in case Pippin would get spooked.) But I'm super excited about this progress!

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