Golden Retriever Aggressive

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by chino2000, May 8, 2013.

  1. chino2000 New Member

    Hi everybody. I have a female 3yo desexed Golden Retriever and she is aggressive on lead. She growls and lunges at other dogs and sometimes at people. She totally changes when I put a lead on her. Its almost like it turns her hypo. I've taken her to obedience classes, i've tried all different leads and collars, i've tried taking her attention away with food, but nothing seems to work. I even get her tired before we go for a walk. Has anybody ever tried temporary medication for this type of behaviour?

  2. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I can totally sympathize with you. My 10 month old Border Collie is doing something like this, only he is only really difficult to control when the other dog is behind a fence. He actually bit (no blood, but he nearly broke the skin) my leg this morning when I pulled him back from a dog behind a fence. He doesn't usually growl or bark at people, but will try to follow them as they pass. He nipped a stranger on the backside the other day when I failed to rein him in. It has changed my attitude toward walking him, and I am becoming more and more tense . I am sure he senses this as well, as I have tied a knot in the middle of my 6 foot leash so I can keep a tighter rein on him.
  3. charmedwolf Moderator

    I'm with you both as well but I have some things that have helped us for the better. I'll make up a master list of all the behaviors a aggressive dog should learn and sticky it.

    What your describing sounds like leash aggression. I don't know about medication but teaching a couple of things can help :)

    Here is a video of teaching the Surprise Party Game:
    Dlilly likes this.
  4. Dlilly Honored Member

    Medication won't stop any behavior, training will. It sounds like your Golden may have barrier frustration… Does she get along with people and dogs when she is off leash (That's a question, my question mark key doesn't work.)

    My Kelpie becomes wild when he sees a dog on a walk, once he sees a dog nothing I do will work to get his attention. But, when he met my dog off leash, he was still very exited, but just sniffed her and starting doing the play bow, trying to get her to play. His problem is that he was never socialized and has barrier frustration, and he also needs to calm down. :p He is currently on Prozac but needs training still, medication is not a quick fix.

    This book, (LINK) is all about crazy dogs and how to train them. It mentions medication, why the dog is acting that way, and how to train the dog.

    Control Unleashed is another book that may come in handy. It has different exercises for reactive dogs.

    Now, those 2 books might not be the best for you if your dog is truly aggressive. Did you go to a trainer, and if so, did they tell you your dog was aggressive or reactive
    brodys_mom and southerngirl like this.
  5. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Brody was never socialized with people, and he has barrier frustration. He is perfectly happy and well behaved towards most dogs he meets on the street who are on leash or calm off leash. He has had a few encounters when he was on and the other dog was off leash and came at him boisterously. The other dogs' owners did not have them under control. He was fearful, not aggressive in those instances, and tried to hide behind me because he couldn't flee. He has been to the off-leash park twice with no incidents with dogs or people.

    Our biggest issue is dogs behind fences. At times it seems he wants to get close because he really wants to play or meet the dog. He pulls incredibly hard and it makes it difficult to calmly move away. There are several situations like this in my neighborhood (one being right next door), giving me no options at certain times of day when I need to get out to walk Brody. If I go one direction to avoid one dog, there are one or two other dogs we will potentially encounter, so I really need to address this problem immediately and break him of his barking and lunging. It is not only stressful and embarrassing, but at times, he lashes out at me when he can't get what he wants. I am going to have a really nasty bruise on my left thigh from our encounter this morning.
  6. chino2000 New Member

    Chino gets along with other dogs at home and not too bad at the off leash beach although she runs for them as though she is going to bite. She also goes silly when we go past dogs in yards. She was socialized with other dogs and people as a puppy and we also went to obedience classes.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  7. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I have requested the first book, "Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out", from my library. It sounds like it is right up my alley. The reviews at Amazon are really good. Thanks for suggesting it!
    Dlilly likes this.
  8. tylerthegiant Well-Known Member

    Those books are both excellent books for this issue. There are many ways to solve this problem, but IMO all of them will involve working below the dog's threshold. There's really no way to avoid it. If the dog is above threshold their "rational," decision making part of their brain is simply shut down, they can't listen or learn at that point.

    The threshold is the point at which the dog goes ballistic. Below threshold would be when the dog notices the trigger (whatever stimuli causes the ballistic behavior-another dog, a person) but before they start lunging and barking and pulling. Probably the easiest thing to do is when the dog is below threshold stuff their mouth with treats, high value stuff. This way you are counter conditioning the frustration caused by the "predictor of punishment" (what the trigger has become to your dog-the other dog or person has predicted the punishment which is the frustration caused by the barrier of the leash-in other words on a leash every time the dog sees another dog he ends up frustrated). So now seeing the trigger means good things (treats) and the second thing it accomplishes is attention to you when the dog sees the trigger. Eventually you can shrink the threshold distance more and more until you can walk right past another dog w/o incident, paying attention to you. Then use a variable reinforcement schedule, then phase out the treats if you want.

    However, being below threshold is necessary, and that is sometimes hard to control. I'd advise to change the walk somehow so you have as much control as possible, take another route, go at a different time a day, even drive somewhere else where there are dogs, but fewer dogs so you can change direction w/o immediately encountering another one.
    Dlilly likes this.
  9. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I wish I had the option of changing the walk. The trigger for Brody is the approach. He starts to stiffen, tail and head up when we get close to the houses where he knows there could be dogs in the yard. It is so hard to find a time of day when none of them are outside. And they are all within a block from my house. It's hard to describe our neighborhood, but it's like a big circle with a small park in the center with houses backing onto it. Ours is one of those, and our back gate opens directly onto the park. There are three walk-throughs from the street to the park. If I leave our house through the front, there are dogs to the left and right that I will have to pass to get out of the neighborhood. If I take the back entrance through the park, directly opposite our gate there is the one that currently is most exciting to him. She's the one that caused him to bite me from being over threshold. If she happens to not be in the yard, or we manage to get through the park without him noticing her, then there is another dog just outside the park at the entrance to the school ground where we play fetch in the evenings. She is in a corner lot with a chain link fence and she patrols all day long as people come and go to the school. So it's hard for me to get far enough away from one dog to keep him under threshold without being too close to another dog to put him over. It's a bit like a mine-field! I've been thinking I should start taking some stinky treats and just practice going out our back gate, very slowly and gradually, at times when we aren't going for a walk, just to teach him how to get past that one dog without feeling like his head is going to explode! Unfortunately, the school ground is the only place big enough that I can get him running at top speed for any significant distance. And I don't usually have access to a vehicle, so driving somewhere is not really an option.
  10. tylerthegiant Well-Known Member

    Sounds to me like you have a great opportunity for training, because when he's tense like that, but not lunging, air snaping, barking, there is a perfect opportunity for counter conditioning! That is the time. That's when he'll associate the trigger with the yummy treats but he's still in a state of mind where he's thinking and can make the connection. It sounds like you can catch that moment multiple times on your walk, that's perfect. Try practicing outside your gate like you were thinking....can you ever skip a running session at the playground and just work on the leash reactivity? With your dog's breed, may be not, but the more he practices reactivity the more ingrained it's going to get. It will slow down any progress you make with counter conditioning if he's put into any situations where he can be reactive........
    Dlilly, Evie and brodys_mom like this.
  11. brody_smom Experienced Member

    You are so right. I know that it will be so worth the effort to put this behavior behind us and allow us to enjoy our walks instead of stressing out about them.
    Dlilly likes this.
  12. Dlilly Honored Member

    Make sure to keep us updated! I'm really interested to know how your training is going! :)
    brodys_mom and southerngirl like this.
  13. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Can't report any measurable progress. The weather changed from record high temps to wind and rain, so people haven't been leaving their dogs in the yard as much!:rolleyes: Jean Donaldson suggests feeding your dog's meals to him on walks and requiring calm behavior in all sorts of situations. I did some of that this morning. Also, have been really working on loose-leash/watch me. I have been keeping the leash very short, maybe 3 feet and stopping when it gets tight. I wait for him to stop and sit right next to me and look at me. I can't decide whether I should treat him, or just reward by walking forward, so I have been doing a little of both. I was reading about how the major difference between pet owners who train their dogs, and professional trainers is the reward/feedback rate. I know Jean Donaldson recommends the use of the no-reward marker (ah!ah!, or too bad! or wrong!) to let the dog know they made a boo-boo. The annoying trainer lady at Petsmart used ah!ah! and it drove me nuts. Kikopup, and many others say just ignore the mistake without marking, but I wonder if some dogs need that negative feedback to be able to learn what is right. Any thoughts?
  14. tylerthegiant Well-Known Member

    I think it depends on the situation and the dog. I can see the argument for both. There was a thread on here I read regarding NRM recently. I think it's in the Advanced forum.......Do you feel like Brody shuts down at all or do you feel like he tries another behavior when he hears it?
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  15. tylerthegiant Well-Known Member

    I just wanted to add that you can load a NRM just like you load a reward marker, it just makes the communication more clear. I am all for a high rate of reward! LOL The more heavily reinforced a behavior is the more reliable it is, which is why you're not supposed to ask for the cue until you're getting a behavior 90% of the time or more. It's also why you should never ask for a behavior unless you're sure you're going to get it. I pretty much ALWAYS reward the behavior I want, but I mix up the reinforcers, it could be access to something (like outside just before a walk) it could be praise, affection, a treat, play. I always give some sort of a "thank you" because I know the most heavily reinforced behaviors are the strongest. I don't want a mixed reinforcment history, although sometimes I end up creating it anyway especially with JJ because she is only reinforced by specific things at specific times. :mad:
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  16. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I'll go look for that thread. I don't know that HE shuts down. I think I do, when I have to use it too often. The trainer had us use it for loose-leash walking IN Petsmart on Saturday afternoon. He did surprisingly well, all things considered, but she had us say "ah!ah!" and change directions every time the leash became tight,which was very often. ( I should have known it was the wrong time to schedule training for a dog who was so new to us. But she had a really loud high-pitched voice that got under my skin anyway! :rolleyes:)

    I have noticed that when I am using shaping he will lie down after a while if he can't figure out what it is I want. I can see how a NRM would be really helpful there. As for loose-leash or counter-conditioning, I'm not sure he would even notice it once his brain has switched off. He's not trying to figure out how to get a treat, he just wants to move forward (which is NOT an option!), and his lunging, barking and whining are much more important to him than the fact that I am not getting the behavior I want.
  17. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Could you explain this a little more, please? :confused:How do you get a behavior 90% of the time if you're not asking for it? How am I sure I will get a behavior if I've never asked for it?O_o
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  18. tylerthegiant Well-Known Member

    I think that's an awesome question, because both you and your dog really do know the difference between learning a behavior, and knowing a behavior, what gets a little more complicated are the differences between prompts and cues.

    For simple behaviors, like a sit, you can probably add the cue pretty quickly. You lure the site, lure the sit, lure the sit. Lures are prompts-hand signals can be prompts or cues depending on what information is being given. A prompt gives the dog hints, while a cue a specific behavior that goes with a specific word. See the difference?

    The dog is concentrating on that bit of food going up over his head. Now in one training session or several smaller sessions throughout the day your dog has gone from six or seven times of concentrating on the food going over his head to seeing the prompt and putting his butt to the floor, with enthusiasm and without hesitation because he KNOWS when the sees that prompt and puts his butt to the floor he's going to get the treat. Now it's time to add the cue, the light bulb moment has occurred, and I feel if you get good at training you will start to see that light bulb moment, although in some dog's it's more obvious than others.

    So YEAH it's time to add the cue! But, what does that clue really mean to the dog? The cue might mean something like "when I hear the word sit, with my human standing in front of me, with a treat in her pocket (I smell it I know it's there) and she raises her hand up over my head while we are in the bedroom, I put my butt to the floor."

    And that is why when you raise the criteria (distance, distraction, duration) in any way you need to start from scratch. Go from the bedroom to the kitchen (a more distracting area of the house for most dogs) and lure the sit, wait for the light bulb moment (should come faster this time) and the behavior to come consistently, then add the cue. Now the cue means to the dog "When I hear the word sit, with my human standing in front of me, with a treat in her pocket, and she raises her hand up over my head while we are in the bedroom OR the kitchen, I put my butt to the floor."

    And so on, and so forth until the dog understands that sit means butt to the floor no matter where I am or what I was doing, and I sit until I'm released to do something else.

    Sounds like a bit of a pain. Sometimes in dog training you might be temped to skip certain steps, but in my experience skipping this step just leads to later stalls and setbacks, and everyone frustrated.

    If you asked for a sit 100 times, and for whatever reason your dog sat 5o times but the other 50 times he doesn't sit when you ask for a sit the 101st time, what do you think the chances are the dog will sit? 50/50, right? So now let's say out of those 100 times you asked for a sit the dog sat 100 times. Now what do you think the chances are that the dog will sit when you ask them the 101st time? 100%, right? THAT is a reliable command. :) Don't mix up your reinforcement history for the cue, make it meaningful and you'll have that reliability.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  19. tylerthegiant Well-Known Member

    In the counter conditioning scenario, I'm not sure I'd use a NRM either, You're right, if he's over threshold he's not going to register it, and even if he did when he was below threshold I don't think it'd be very helpful because it's not telling him what to do and he's obviously cluless about that or he'd already be doing it. You don't want to add any more frustration or negativity to a situation like that and if a NRM could cause even a second of it the NRM might even make the situation worse.
  20. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Okay. This is much clearer to me. Specifically for his sit, since he had a weak one when he came to us, I would like to speed it up and strengthen it. I have tried going back to luring and clicking, but maybe I need to revisit this a lot more and treat it like a new behavior in order to do so. I have assumed his reticence to be adolescent stubbornness, but perhaps (most likely) it is trainer negligence! I should probably do this with some of his other commands as well, now that I think of it. Most of the time, it just seems if I wait long enough, he'll do it, but sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting for obedience, especially on walks!

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