Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Fear-Aggressive Aussie Pup Help?

by Sarah
(Virginia)

Hi! I have a ten month old spayed Aussie. She's my baby, and she's very, very smart. But she does have a few issues we're having a really hard time working out of her.

First, let me say more about her. She knows basic obedience, is fed a very well-rounded, healthy diet, and is good with other dogs.

She came from a BYB. When I got her, I knew absolutely nothing about good breeders or anything like that, but since have learned just about everything there is to know about reputable breeders.

Her problem is that she's very fear aggressive. If someone walks by the house, she barks aggressively and raises her hackles. If someone approaches her, she barks, growls, raises her hackles, sometimes lunges, and is absolutely terrified. She's even snapped at me once or twice in a stressful situation.

I'll be the first to admit I did NOT do a good job socializing her when I first got her, but since then we've been taking her just about everywhere with us and making it a VERY positive thing with food, praise, and with her favorite things, tennis balls.

We've been working on a 'quiet' exercise at home, to calm her and quiet her when someone walks by the house and it's going well and we've seen a LOT of improvement, but the problem is still there.

So, we really want to eliminate the problem rather than just cover up.

I REALLY want to make her a therapy dog for personal reasons, and with this temperament right now that's not a possibility, so we want to turn it around!

Let me add that in two weeks she'll be enrolled in puppy classes for socialization, but do you guys have any tips for working on it otherwise?

Thank you!

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Fear-Aggreession
by: Nonnie

We had a similar issue with our female blue merle mini-Aussie. We got Bailee in October of 2009. We got her half-sister, toy black tri Maggie, in late November of 2009. We socialized both of them fairly well.

At the end of 2009 I had lumbar surgery and was off my feet for about 8 weeks. Bailee barely left my side during this recuperation. Of course, any formal obedience training classes had to be postponed. My 18 year old daughter had the huge burden of taking care of three dogs, me and the house! She was a trooper through it all. We took them lots of places with us just for a ride. During this time we noticed that Bailee began to be very protective of me. She would lunge, growl, snarl and act very aggressive. Other than rides in the car, we didn't go many places.

During this time we began obedience training at home. Once the recuperation was finished we went back to our obedience trainer and talked to her about this behavior. She observed Bailee and told us it was fear aggression, and not just aggression. That explained a lot. She started to work with us one on one. That was in March / April 2010. We continue to work on her every day. She is much better and we are able to take her places.

There were a number of exercises that we did. One of the most helpful was to reinforce the "leave it" command. If we are out somewhere and she starts to growl or bark, we say "leave it" (in a calm voice not screaming it) and change directions. When she obeys the first time she gets a treat. At first we practiced at the pet store by standing near the door so she could see people and dogs coming in. When she first began to react, we said "leave it" and walked in a completely different direction. If she continued barking, etc. We just kept repeating the command and changing direction. This works quite well.

We have also applied this technique in a number of other situations, like when she barks at someone walking by the house. We also use it to our advantage. If we home and someone comes to the door that we don't know, we don't try to stop her from barking :~)

Good luck. Your Aussie is fortunate to have a "mom" who wants to do things right.

Fearful Aussie Pup
by: Anne

hi,
I had an issue with two of my puppies 13 years ago. I bred & raised them and at 9 weeks, I went to a dog show and brought back Parvo. One of our puppies got it the worst..Trooper. He survived but I did not socialize those 5 puppies like I should as I did not take them anywhere for about two months. My bad, but I did not want to expose them to any other dogs, and I did not think they
had been well enough to go out. As the vets are not sure how Parvo is transmitted.
Anyway...they had the same issues and I did the same things you are doing with positive reinforcement. They grew out of it as I took them to obedience classes and shows.
I NEVER had them turn and bite me. That I would not tolerate if they did. The next time she does that...put your hands on her body, one oh her shoulders and one on her hips, and I would firmly lay her flat on her side and not let her get up until you say so...even if she wiggles.
This is a quick reaction as timing is everything with corrections.
Good luck and keep up all your training. Little by little positive situations and her trusting people...will come around.

Anne Calmes
Obedience Trainer
Gold Ring Aussies
Louisiana, USA

fear-aggressive pup
by: Susan

If you are in SE Virginia and she has a tail, we may have one of your dogs siblings... We also got our dog from a BYB and are experiencing some of the same problems. Having met another dog from the same breeder, I'm sure that genetics play a part in addition to socialization. One thing that has helped us is telling people to ignore her when they approach so she she doesn't feel so threatened. I would also recommend lots of exercise to help burn off her excess energy. Good luck!

I need help too, quickly!
by: Anonymous

I found this thread because my sweet 13.5 week old aussie displays terrible fear-aggression when being corrected!!! I have been diligently doing everything I can to make his life wonderful since bringing him home about a week and a half ago. I teach, I praise, I play, I crate train...I just plain do everything in my power to make sure he is receiving the right stuff to become a well-adjusted and well-mannered doggie. (I also feed him excellent puppy food mixed with raw.) But it's happened twice now when I've had to correct bad behavior that he is NOT puppy biting me, he is AGGRESSIVELY biting me while acting like I am seriously hurting him while only trying to still him and display dominance. I am mortified, and I don't know what to do. PLEASE HELP!!! What am I doing wrong???

Threshold training
by: Anonymous

I would highly suggest threshold training. Read everything that you can on it (this is a good place to start http://suzanneclothier.com/understanding-thresholds-its-more-under-or-over). My dog was fear aggressive to certain things--bicycles/skateboards/raver scooters and panhandlers) and working below his threshold really helped. Take it slow, don't be in a rush or you will end up further back than when you started. If you are comfortable muzzling, learn how to properly charge a muzzle with treats to be a good thing. Once your dog associated the muzzle with treats and relaxation, then introducing stressful situations while muzzled will help her relax and keep everyone in the area safe. Muzzles are not bad things at all. Consulting a veterinary behaviorist may be the next step.

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