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Is this aggression, herding or something else?

989 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  pupresq
Hello, everyone. I've been reading through some of the great threads here and realize that dog aggression isn't a black and white issue so I've decided to ask for some advice with my dog Maia.

First off, let me give you a little background. Maia is now 1 year and 9 months old. I have been training her in search and rescue since she was 5 months old. There are a couple of issues I am working on with her and one of them may be aggression related.

She usually gets along fine with the other dogs and has never done any physical damage to them. However, she will give them a quick nip to the neck, sometimes with a quick growl, at various times when they approach or run past her or even when she is standing by them and they just look at her. She does this quickly and then goes back to what she was doing. She doesn't raise her hackles or show other signs of aggressive behavior when she does this, though she does raise her tail a little some of the tiime. She also seems to do this more often to out of control, smaller dogs. Some of the other members of the SAR group have advocated putting her on her back when she does this.

After reading the posts here and the article on "He Just Wants To say "Hi!", I'm not so sure that putting her on her back is the best solution. She apparently has a low "fool factor" tolerance, though sometimes the other dogs don't appear (to me) to be doing anything rude. What do you recommend I do? Should I continue treating this as aggression and put her on her back? Should I not let her play with the other dogs? Should I step up my leadership and use NILIF methods?

I am working on another problem and I don't know if they are related. She is very attached to one of the other dogs whom she has known since she was a puppy. She will follow the other dog around whenever she gets a chance and becomes anxious when she doesn't know where the other dog is located. One of the other members suggested that the other dog is her "sheep" and she is herding her. This made me wonder if she is trying to "herd" the other dogs, too. What do you think? What is the best way to discourage her anxiousness about the other dog?

Thank you for your help with resolving any of these problems.
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I wouldn't 'put her on her back,' nor would I necessarily think her behavior with the other dog was 'herding.'

I'm guessing- not a trainer - that she needs to learn to ignore the other dogs and focus on you and the job you're asking her to do.

So, I'd be working on focus and obedience and seems that would take care of the unwanted behaviors?
"Aggression" is a funny term. It means different things to different people. Is a mother dog who growls at her puppies for nursing too long when she's weaning "being aggressive"? Technically, I guess so, but it's not a bad thing. Protecting a child from danger by barking at an intruder can also be aggression, but also not bad. I find it helpful to think about aggression as a neutral term and as part of the spectrum of doggy behavior. Sometimes it's appropriate and sometimes it's not and that's the real issue. It sounds like Maia has appointed herself hall monitor for all the other kids and needs to learn that the humans have it under control and she should mind her own business. But do I think she's an "aggressive" dog? Doesn't sound like it. Could the behavior precipitate a dog fight? Yes, so that's a problem.

Putting her on her back is an outdated (and never very useful) technique. I wouldn't recommend it regardless of the diagnosis of your pup.

My dog Grace is sort of like your dog - bossy. She wants everyone to behave, she wants to know where everyone is at all times, and she has her own ideas about "correct" behavior. I don't think Maia thinks her buddy is a sheep, but I do think she's using those same instincts that made GSDs good herders and good guardians of the people and animals they think are important. If one of us is missing, Grace will sleep by the front door and wait for them to come through. She checks to make sure everyone and everything is the way it's supposed to be. On balance, I regard this as a sign of her intelligence and good genes and I thought that general instinct made her a better SAR dog - she wanted the round up all the humans and make sure they were safely out of the woods.

But I do understand why what Maia is doing is inappropriate.

Chances are Maia thinks she's doing her "job" by keeping everyone else in line. I would recommend redirection and a verbal correction when she does this to let her know that the humans have it under control. A massive and severe punishment is just going to scare her and cause you worse problems. I would try to avoid the situations where it happens randomly as much as possible while you're working on it so you have good control of the circumstances and you can make each incidence a teaching time. Does she know "leave it?" You might try having her on a down stay and practicing having other dogs milling around. If she ignores them, praise and treats, if she looks like she's getting ready to be snarky, redirect - then praise and treats when she relaxes. I'm sure other people on here will have some better ideas about training specifics. The important thing is not to traumatize her for doing something she probably doesn't realize is wrong, just help her relax and replace the negative behavior with something else.
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