Australian Shepherd Attacks and Aggressiveness

by Candice
(Birmingham, Alabama)

Someone please help me. I've tried everything I know to do and it seems like the situation just keeps getting worse! We have 3 female dogs, the oldest is our Aussie Coley who's 6 yrs old now. She is the smartest and most loyal dog I've ever had and she's usually very sweet and loving. We've had her since she was born and we've never had any issues with her being aggressive towards us until this past year.

She has always been somewhat aggressive towards strangers like delivery men etc. and other dogs that she doesn't know but never with our other 2 dogs or anyone in our home after she's introduced to them, but over the past year she has started to become extremely aggressive towards me.

Our other 2 dogs have never been aggressive towards any of us and there's no aggression between the dogs either except for our youngest dog Macy is a 2 yr old Aussie mix and she's also Coley's pup from the one time she got out on accident and ended up with a litter. Macy has over the past year started to become aggressive with just Coley for some reason. It's not bad but Macy jumps on Coley's back and tries to stop her from being able to play and run around and they will snap at each other for a second and then go on about their business.

I don't know if Macy being like that with Coley has anything to do with the way Coley behaves towards me but I've definitely wondered. Our middle dog is a 4 yr old rescue Chow mix who was abused and I've never seen her have an aggressive bone in her body. There are 5 of us in the house and Coley does not attack or bite anyone but me. She barks at the others when she's in my 15 yr old daughters room and anyone tries to come in she gets on the bed and barks in their face, but I'm the only one she actually bites.

I've figured out that she does it mostly when someone else is laying down or sitting and I come into the room like when I have to wake my daughter up for school for example. We've had to stop letting her sleep with my daughter at night because she tries to bite me when I come in to wake her up in the morning.

It's even worse when I have to get my husband up for work. Coley will sleep wherever she wants at night and it's usually at the end of our bed or in the floor beside our bed and she gets up with me in the morning and it's become routine for her to be extremely good and loving like she usually is until the second I start to say my husbands name out loud or do anything to wake him up. As soon as I do she jumps in front of me and starts growling and barking in my face and snapping at me.

I've been bitten over and over and she will not calm down or stop after she starts, she shakes from head to toe like she's having an anxiety attack and my husband has to help me with her to get her in her crate or outside so she will stop trying to bite me. When she comes back in its like nothing happened and she's my best friend again until the next time I "disturb" someone and then it happens all over again.

If it's just her and I at home there are never any problems at all. Every time it happens it seems to be worse than the time before and after she bites me and realizes she hurt me her demeanor changes and she seems almost ashamed or confused about what just happened.

It's really nerve wrecking for me and for everyone else and our other 2 dogs who are both non-aggressive dogs to deal with her doing this every day.

I will do anything to fix it and not have to get rid of her. Everyone loves her so much I could not imagine her not being part of our family but I'm afraid that one of these attacks is going to end really badly for me if something doesn't change.

Comments for Australian Shepherd Attacks and Aggressiveness

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by: Anonymous

Post on Australian Shepherd Lovers on Facebook.
Those people will give you plenty advices.
How about a dog trainer?

thank you
by: candice

Thank u so much for ur suggestion & the fb page, I'll definitely give it a try! As far as a dog trainer my grandmother used to train all kinds of shepherds & police dogs & the way she treated them always bothered me & I always thought a good trainer would be way out of my price range. I would love to hire one if I could afford it I'm willing to try anything!

Some suggestions
by: Fran

I have a reactive Aussie who is prone to such panic attacks and I recognize the confusion the dog experiences and the disheartening emotions you must feel. (My case is a bit different, however: my dog is youngish, reactive to other triggers than Coley, and is improving with work and understanding.)

In my opinion, you are correct to note that Coley is not fully aware of her actions. I've learned that at some point, the escalation of emotions tips the dogs off of a scale of reason. They are in total reactive, panic mode, not realizing what they are doing. With my pooch, I can stop her with a sharp command to sit. I may have to say it twice, but the sharpness of my voice and the clarity of the task for her to do seem to help her refocus and take control of herself. She sits with body shaking and jaws quaking. I praise her for a good sit, again and again, calming her; and, as she calms I will pet her and further calm her. (Pulling herself out of the panic is a great feat to be commended.) You may already have discovered that scolding or negative treatment of the panic attack causes more emotional turmoil and makes it worse.

You are probably right in thinking Macy's behavior may be indirectly causing this. I don't know whether or not you should interfere with that. But, I would like to suggest some resources I have found in my long journey. "Scaredy Dog!" by Ali Brown gave me insight. "Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out" by Laura VanArendonk Baugh gave me an exercise that seems to help my dog learn to better control her actions when anxious. I also found Patricia McConnell's short books very helpful as to redirecting focus and desensitizing and counter-conditioning, all done positively - as a smart dog needs. I also found a website of a trainer: It appears from her blog that she has three dogs of her own, so probably knows how to deal with those dynamics. I suppose it is possible that this trainer and Patricia McConnell may offer advice through email or phone calls. It is certainly worth a try.

In the meantime, recognizing that I am not a trainer or behaviorist, you might consider my thoughts. Generally, when we wake people in the morning, we are hurrying and there is a bit of frantic energy. For a while, you might try allowing plenty of time and calmly stand outside your daughter's room and softly call Coley to your side. Pet her, give her special treats, calm her and have her heel with you a few steps into the room. If she seems at all anxious, stop and have her heel with you as you exit, leading to a different space where you can leave her; then go alone to wake your daughter. Extend your entry into the room each day, never causing Coley to become anxious. Eventually, you may speak gently to your daughter, then leave the room with Coley. (You may have to return alone to wake your daughter.) The idea is that Coley has a clear signal of her task - to accompany you to wake up your daughter (or husband). There is no confusion about what is going on. She is following your calm lead. You must proceed slowly, never putting Coley in a position of not being certain what you intend. Make it all a positive, calm task.

I wish you the best of luck! Please keep us posted. I want to know that all worked out well for your beloved Coley.

by: KarinAnonymous

Have you been to,the vet?
If this happened to my dog I would first of al make shore its nothing physically wrong with her and that she is not in pain or anyting Its so strange she shange so suddenly and in thst age.

thank u its getting better!
by: candice

To answer the last comment yes ive taken her to the vet & there is nothing unusual going on with her physically or that they can detect. The vets advice was the normal " lots of exercise & attention" which of course she gets an abundance of both. My vet is definitely not a breed specialist & wasn't much help. Thank you Fran for all if your advice & the book suggestions! I've been working with her little by little each morning & I've actually got it to where Coley helps me wake up my husband in the morning now instead of trying to keep me from waking him like before. I started out doing it with a leash & leashing her while I woke him every morning & always made sure that I said to her "its time to wake up Justin" before I ever say anything to him or touch him. Now I don't have to have the leash & she doesn't give me any problems, she actually seems happy to be helping me. Its just like she needs to feel like shes in control to a point & that satisfies her. As far as waking up my daughter we are still working on that. She hasn't bitten me again in a long time but she does still growl & snap at me when I turn to leave my daughters room. She's fine while we are in there & while I wake her but then she jumps in front of me when I go to walk out showing her teeth. Its a process & its not easy but its getting better & its rewarding when it pays off. Thank you again for all your ideas & help! I'm truly gratefull & of course im always open to more suggestions! Thanks again!

Thanks for the update
by: Fran

So glad to hear there is improvement. It's a long journey, isn't it? Hope all continues to improve and does so quickly. Again, best of luck and do keep us posted.

by: Anonymous

What have you done to establish dominance? We had a very similar problem but the moment she shown signs of this behavior I lovingly pinned her to the ground and bit her ear just enough to make her yelp... I know this sounds cruel but we have never had a problem since and she's back to being the most loving dog.

ridiculous "pet"
by: Anonymous

I know two families that have this breed. Both bought as puppies from well-respected breeders. Both are way too aggressive with anyone other than the owners. In my own case, IF the owner is in the room with me, the dogs are somewhat behaved. Both will come to me in time, smell me and lick my hand and then I can pet them... BUT if the owner leaves the room the dogs freak out, bark and if I move they get aggressive. Even the owners will say to me that they "don't really trust their dog with other people. Both dogs have nipped their owners at least twice and me once.

I've owned dogs for years (Goldens mostly) and IF any one of my (adult) dogs would have bitten me, or my wife, or my kids... that dog would be out of my house immediately. "Family member" or not I will not tolerate that behavior in a "pet". If I wanted a guard dog I would have owned one.

An Australian Shepherd is probably a great dog on a farm or ranch where it can do what it's bred to do BUT NOT IN A HOME.

Sorry Aussie lovers but it's not a wise breed to own in a neighborhood.

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