View Full Version : Aggressive and Fearful Behavior

24th April 2007, 06:43 PM
Shane is now 15 mos old and has issues with aggressive and fearful behavior. This is displayed towards other dogs and strangers. When he was two months old he escaped from our x-pen and was loose at campgound. Another camper found him but was pretty rough with him, holding him by the scruff of his neck and swatting at him because he was nipping at her.

I know that he should have been socialized with puppy classes at an earlier age but due to unfortunate conditions resulting from Hurricane Katrina and the lack of available classes at the optimal time he wasn't able to attend any classes.

He started a beginner class this past Monday and it was a disaster. He was barking, growling and lunging at all the smaller dogs. He was less aggressive towards the larger dogs in the class. He barked and growled at the trainer and her assistant.

The trainer thinks I should keep bringing him and that he may relax by being around the other dogs. I'm not so sure. I am going to consult a specialist for dogs with problem behaviors.

He is so sweet and loving at home, never bites my husband or I but does bark at guests. I have two other cavaliers and neither of them display this behavior.

I really want to help him over come his fears but am at a loss as what else I can do. I am going to try to bring him to work with me as often as possible and take him out to shops where he is allowed, also trips in the car just to see other people.

Any other ideas are welcomed!

24th April 2007, 06:49 PM
There's no time like now to tackle these issues so you have a happier dog and you are happier too. :thmbsup:

I'd take your trainer's advice -- assuming they have some professional certification or are well experienced with dogs? If the trainer knows what they are doing it would be good to have him in the class as long as he is not really aggressive (as in this is more npoise and not really with intent to harm). A good trainer can evaluate what is going on.

But I'd also advise seeking some help from a good behaviouralist. Have a look at www.apdt.com which will list apdt certified trainers near you. You want to make sure they will use a motivational approach and not anything that will punish this behaviour.

24th April 2007, 06:52 PM
The dog trainer search page is here:


Also here's some stuff that may help. Basically youhave what is called a 'reactive dog' -- a dog that gets easily aroused and reacts to strangers, other dogs, etc. Retraining involves giving the dog things to do that make it calmer, less likely to react, more interested in looking to you for cues as to what to do next andhow to react. A good training class will help you learn to work in this way with your dog, and also teach you to help yourself work in a more productive way with your dog -- generally we give accidental cues to our dogs that can actually encourage the behaviour we don't want and a good trainer willeasily spot those things.

If your dog is well trained to sit, relax, go into a downstay -- then that is a dog that won;t be lunging at other dogs, barking, and paying no attention to you. :) There are no quick fixes -- you will need to give time to training and working with your dog. But you CAN train away from the unwanted behaviour and towards a happier relaxed dog.

have a look at:


24th April 2007, 11:23 PM
Thanks Karlin.

I read the articles you recommended and also contacted an APDT trainer today but have to wait for her to call me back.

The training class Shane is in now is run by the local SPCa. The trainer has 20+ years in dog training, rescue and working with strays to resolve their aggressive behaviors.

24th April 2007, 11:44 PM
Sounds like a good trainer. She likely sees the aggression as fear based and more reactive than truly aggressive. Generally if such dogs get some time in a class they soon stop getting overexcited at the presence of other dogs and also once you start doing the actual learning, your fellow will start focusing on you, not the other dogs, and learn to ignore them. That's a good starting point for him! Your trainer might want you to keep him a little distance away for a while.

I've gone along to some of the classes where Lisa and Tara have really reactive dogs and you'd be surprised how quickly they start to settle. Sometimes they will have the owner work on the lesson behind a barrier so the dog learns to focus in the presence of other dogs even though it can't see them; then eventually the dog can come out and will be OK even when it can see other dogs.

Lily used to be totally overexcited at other dogs --still does get barky and can be snappy though not really aggressive per se -- but after a few obedience classes, when she realised the dogs wereal there yet again and no one found her a distraction, she calmed down a lot, better with every class we went to. :) She also needs ongoing work but is a lot better than she was a year ago.

25th April 2007, 01:55 AM
Just wanted to say Hi. I lived in Harvey, La (Woodland West) all my life until 13 years ago when I moved to Birmingham. Nice to see someone from my old side of the river!

25th April 2007, 02:11 AM
Karlin has really given you great advice. I wanted to comment on how sad that your dog had to go through that camp experience, how awful for you both. Your dog also sounds like he has a good heart but had some tough experiences so some great training with the right trainers should make it all work out.

25th April 2007, 06:53 AM
I think it is a very good idea that you are onto this and are going to work with a behaviourist. It is amazing what they see that we don't and if some of this is fear driven you don't really want to keep putting him in these situations without some tools on how to help him.
No suggestions here sorry but it sounds like your doing everything you can anyway. Good luck