On Boogie’s “Dog aggression”

November 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm 7 comments

Here are two videos of the Boogs trying to play with Butch taken last week.  Butch is totally not interested in playing with him.

This is what we always say: Boogie is friendly only towards dogs that he knows.

I can count about six or eight dogs… including Butch and Emma who stay with us from time to time, Mighty and Stinky, and our neighbors’ dogs. Everyone else, he lunges, snarls, snaps, bites.

Dogs that Boogie “knows” are either:

1. Dogs that he met over a year ago when we first adopted him back in the day when he was still “dog-friendly”.

2. Dogs that he met more recently, barked or lunged at, then accepted as a buddy after an elaborate human-controlled buttsniffing introduction. Once he accepts another dog, he will always remember this dog and he will be cool when he meets him/her again. So yes, he CAN be friendly but it is a huge risk to introduce him to other dogs.  Especially big ones.

This is really awkward to explain to some people.

I remember one time  when I was walking Boogie , a guy passed us with his very large, slow-paced and fumbling English bulldog.  He was very taken by Boogie and  wanted our dogs to meet and become friends.  I did my usual spiel:  “Sorry, Boogie isn’t dog-friendly. He might bite”.

As I was saying this, Boogie was hanging out with Sky (neighbor’s placid lab) right before our eyes, behaving in a perfectly friendly and chilled-out fashion. This was a total contradiction to what I just said.

The guy seemed hurt:  He’s ok with the other dog. How come he is ok with the other dog?

Me: He already knows that dog. He is aggressive towards dogs that he doesn’t know.

Guy: My dog is really calm and friendly. We could try introducing your dog to her? She is so calm, she doesn’t fight at all. She really doesn’t care.

Me: I’m sorry… I can’t guarantee that he won’t attack if he gets close. He is unpredictable… and it will take a lot of effort to introduce them nicely.

I have this sort of conversation more often than I would like, and it’s awkward. Especially when I am walking Boogie and Butch together …people don’t believe me when I say that my dog is “not friendly”. They take a look at the two bostons walking nicely side by side and they think I’m crazy.

Some photos from Boogie’s “Dog-Friendly” days.

At Silverlake Dog Park. (2008)

Playing with neighbors’ dogs (2008)

Boston Tea Party (2008)...  He was happy to meet all the dogs and he got along fine with everyone. (In contrast to this year’s Boston Tea Party where he lunged at every dog that got close.)

So what changed?

Last year on three separate occasions, Boogie was attacked by another dog when he was on leash. In all cases, the other dogs were not under their owner’s control (one was off-leash, the other one on a loose-leash) when they charged at Boogie. And in all cases, Boogie was just happily minding his own business when they bit him.

It makes sense that when Boogie now sees a dog, his first move is to ATTACK.   He was always very sensitive to begin with, and now he bears new emotional scars…

Keeping Boogie away from other dogs is not easy.

At the vet’s office, there are usually lots of dogs in the small cramped waiting room. I keep Boogie on my lap and I get the feeling that he is totally content to stay there, away from the other dogs. But occasionally another dog will come close due to the smallness of the room and we have a situation.  It’s awkward.

At Thankdog Bootcamp, it’s great that all dogs are leashed and in an “obedient” frame of mind. Boogie is fine if the other dogs don’t come close or make any sounds. If another dog approaches him or so much as let out a small bark (friendly or not), this sets him off.   UPDATE: Knowing what I know now, I would NEVER recommend taking a sensitive/aggressive dog to a bootcamp full of dogs and “correcting” him  whenever he reacts. This was what I was taught to do – the bootcamp was  incredibly unfair to Boogie. I regret that experience with all my heart. 

Boogie also has nervousness around PEOPLE THAT HE DOESN’T KNOW and he lunges if they freak him out…

Personally, I hate putting my dog in quarantine from any sort of social activity. I miss the old Boogie. I want to help him overcome his fear-aggression and reactive-ness. Boogie LOVES to play and I bet he misses having buddies to play with.

Obedience training is  awesome but doesn’t address the social issue. I have started reading Ali Brown’s Scaredy Dog! Understanding and Rehabilitating your reactive dog.

If you have read this book and tried the techniques (I haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet)… please share your thoughts!

I also have Emma Parson’s Click To Calm on my reading list.

Entry filed under: Play, Social stuff, Training.

Clicker-training Boogie Tips for working with a reactive dog. (Part 1)

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. melly kay  |  November 18, 2009 at 12:32 am

    My Bebe is the SAME way. She is fine with dogs she knows but she goes crazy when she sees a strange dog. She won’t bite but she just lunges and barks and the other people always think she’s psycho. They call it being “reactive” on the leash. We tried to take her to a dog festival and she just scared everyone away with her behavior. She hasn’t been attacked on the leash as far as I know (adopted her when she was 1.5 years old) but something could have happened in her past. I know exactly how you feel about it being awkward and a lot to deal with. People just don’t understand and it’s embarrassing at times. I haven’t read that book but I’d like to…Let us know how it goes!

    • 2. lili  |  November 18, 2009 at 12:52 am

      Hi Melly Kay, I am almost halfway through the book and so far I haven’t read anything that I don’t already know… :/ Most of the chapters are about food, and crating and basic obedience…
      BTW, I am going to be in Memphis early Dec – would love to meet Bebe!!! (and you of course) if you are around 🙂

  • 3. Gabby  |  November 18, 2009 at 12:38 am

    I know how you feel I too have the same problem and I enjoy reading your blog because it let’s me know that I’m not the only one who feels like that. My dog also has problem with other new dogs. Ususally her hair stands up in the back and tries to bite them along with beig nervouse around new people aswell although ahe is not aggressive towards them she just wants nothing to do with them. My dog has also had a bad encounter with a dog he bit her in the face cutting her next to her eye where she required stiches . So she really doesn’t trust new dog as well . I also have to explain to people about her not being friendly and people usually don’t believe me as well. Well I hope Boogie overcomes his fear and soon back to his normal self I am working with my pup aswell and know it’s not easy good luck

    • 4. lili  |  November 18, 2009 at 12:54 am

      Hi Gabby, thanks for commenting! I wish you good luck too… let me know if you find a solution!

  • […] 18, 2009 Following on from my previous blog post, I am now up to the part in Ali Brown’s book “Scaredy Dog!” where there is some […]

  • 6. kernowdogs  |  May 2, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    I regret taking my fear-agressive Weimaraner to that kind of ‘training’ – it’s something I’ll never forgive myself for putting her through 😦 Onwards and upwards though…

    • 7. lili  |  May 11, 2016 at 4:25 am

      I know it’s hard not to feel terrible but now that we know better, we do better, and dogs are the most forgiving creatures….


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