Ag­gres­sive Cav­a­lier cross at­tacks other lit­tle dogs

Modern Dog - - FRONT PAGE - by teoti an­der­son

Learn Your Dog’s Trig­gers

Q: I have a 16-pound Cav­a­lier mix that gets along well with 95 per­cent of all other dogs, large and small. The other five per­cent he will attack. It hap­pens quickly, but I’m try­ing to look at him for some body lan­guage hint that will tell me when he is up­set. The only thing I have no­ticed is that his eyes will get re­ally big if he feels of­fended by an­other dog and then he will attack. The vic­tim is al­ways smaller so he knows what he is do­ing. He has never had a prob­lem with a larger dog. In fact, he looks a bit fear­ful but al­ways min­gles nicely. He lives with two other dogs and will oc­ca­sion­ally have a tiff with the other male but never the fe­male. He is fine with many small dogs that act sub­mis­sive to him. He is neutered and eight years old. I think he is just a bully and there isn’t much I can do to straighten him out ex­cept keep him on a leash around smaller dogs. I would love to hear an opin­ion and a so­lu­tion if pos­si­ble.— Carol Carl­son

A: It cer­tainly can be frus­trat­ing when you can’t pin­point a spe­cific cause for your dog’s ag­gres­sion. Don’t you wish you could just ask him?

Most ag­gres­sion is based in fear, and you men­tion your dog does act fear­ful around larger dogs. When dogs are afraid, they have limited choices. They can flee, shut down, or fight. It may be that your dog is just smart enough to re­al­ize that re­act­ing ag­gres­sively out of fear with a larger dog is not a good idea! With smaller dogs, he may feel con­fi­dent enough to try it.

Here is one ex­er­cise you can do. The best way to work with this is­sue is in a con­trolled set­ting. Don’t put your dog in sit­u­a­tions where he is likely to be­come the ag­gres­sor, or he’ll just have more chances to prac­tice his re­ac­tiv­ity. If he’s been do­ing this his en­tire life, it’s al­ready go­ing to be quite an in­grained habit.

Get a friend with a friendly dog to help you. Both dogs should be on leash. Po­si­tion the other dog far enough away so that your dog will no­tice him, but NOT re­act. If your dog reacts ag­gres­sive-

When dogs get in a high state of ex­cite­ment, which can tip over into ag­gres­sion, you may also see his tail held high and wag­ging quickly, or the fur be­tween his shoul­ders rise up. Look­ing for th­ese signs will help you learn your dog’s trig­gers.

ly, the other dog is too close and the ex­er­cise should begin again with the other dog out of sight.

Have your friend walk his dog across your dog’s line of vi­sion, but never com­ing close enough so your dog will re­act ag­gres­sively. As long as the other dog is in your dog’s field of vi­sion, feed your dog su­per de­li­cious treats. When the other dog goes out of sight, all treats and at­ten­tion should stop. Re­peat. Over mul­ti­ple ses­sions, depend­ing on progress, your goal will be to grad­u­ally re­duce the dis­tance be­tween the dogs. Keep all ses­sions short, only a few min­utes at a time. With time and prac­tice, your dog should learn to as­so­ciate the dog’s ap­pear­ance with food. He will start to en­joy the ap­pear­ance of the other dog rather than fear it.

As al­ways, if the prob­lem es­ca­lates please con­sult a re­ward-based trainer in your area. And also re­mem­ber, it’s nor­mal for dogs to not love ev­ery other dog they meet. Your dog cer­tainly shouldn’t be at­tack­ing other dogs, but it’s not un­usual for dogs to en­joy the com­pany of some dogs and not oth­ers. Af­ter all, we don’t like ev­ery­one we meet, ei­ther!

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