Missy Being Aggressive

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by southerngirl, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. southerngirl Honored Member

    Hey you guys I'm hoping that I may get an answer from you guys since this forum has always helped me. On another forum it was suggested it may be because medical issue which I'm open to, but would prefer to try some training to see if it helps. If the training shows improvement with Missy than it'll rule out medical. Another suggestion was old age. Missy hasn't shown any real signs of old age exept for a graying muzzle. Sure it could be old age, but I fell there is still something I could do to improve Missy's behavior. For those who are new I will post ages and names of my dogs.
    My 9 year old soon to be 10 year old Border Collie/LabX Missy is becoming aggressive. A little background Missy is Dog reactive and snaps at kids who are being loud, roudy or running. Tonight she attacked my cat Sophie who has been around for around 7, 8 years because her and Bone's our 7 month old kitten was bugging her which was causing her to be tense and hissing. Sophie is a mostly outdoor cat who can come in whenever she wants. Bone's is strictly indoors. She has pounced Sophie before for darting onto the porch.
    Recently I have found her not allowing Bones to move from where he is. It's at the point that he doesn't feel he can walk into the hallway which leads to rooms without being pounced and growled at by Missy. While Bone's is on my bed she will sharply bark and run toward him if he moves.
    She also guards my bird Toby when he is on the ground(can't fly) she does not allow other animals near him.
    Missy is also wanting to eat my new bird have had him for a month, she spends a good part of her day staring at him, but is becoming less obsessed with him lately(I have been working on this and am making progress.
    Last but not least she is also being mean toward PIper my 2 year old Bully breed(American Bulldog, Staffy, APBT??) They were always best friends playing together and Missy was very tolerant of Piper when she was a puppy. Piper will no longer sleep in my room because Missy growls and snarls at he when she comes in. I will have to put Missy in a sit so Piper can get on my bed.

    Any suggestions, training tips are highly appreciated. All this is pretty recent as in months maybe 2 or three.

  2. dukey_boy Well-Known Member

    The first thing I think of is arthritis. Even if it isn't noticeable to you, it can be just a niggling little pain that makes her very irritable. Otherwise, I really have no clue.
    southerngirl likes this.
  3. southerngirl Honored Member

    I don't feel that it's that because she still runs ahead of the bike when we take it out. The behavior has been around but has exculated to know being dangerous for my other animals and people. Thanks for replying really appreciate it.
  4. running_dog Honored Member

    Hi Danielle, I'm sorry to hear that you're having trouble with Missy.

    The problem with that assumption is that training can modify behaviour that is caused by an underlying medical problem. I'm not saying don't train but it is unwise to assume that because behaviour improves with training that there is not an underlying medical cause.

    I hear what you are saying to Dukey_boy about Missy still running in front of the bike but again you have to be careful about drawing conclusions from this because as far as they can dogs mask/forget their pains when they are going out for a walk.

    The time to assess whether Missy has pain is in her down time when there is nothing much going on. Does she sleep more that she used to? Is she slow to get up? Does she choose to spend less time on the bed and more time on the floor? This may sound strange but has her face changed? When Gus is in pain his face gets a worried look, not quite a frown. Zac in contrast looks drawn and stiff. Has her nose gone dry? Zac had a dry nose all his life and I thought that was just the way he was until I started him on Kefir (probiotics) now his nose is wet and if it goes dry I know there is something wrong, I guess that means he's been ill for 9 years even when I thought he was fine. Similarly my friend's dog had stomach ulcers and we all just thought he was calming down, since they were diagnosed and treated he's like a different dog - and he has a wet nose again!

    Another way to get an idea of if it is pain that is causing a behaviour change is for your vet to prescribe a low dose of painkillers. If Missy's behaviour improves then it suggests there is an underlying pain. Of course painkillers don't help with all medical problems so it has its limits as a diagnostic BUT it is simple, cheap, non invasive, and can be very effective. In Missy's case it would be your best option for an initial medical assessment because she is so terrified of the vets. It was only when Zac was on low dose painkillers that I realised how much his behaviour has been affected for years by the pain in his tummy (but it took Kefir to solve the problem).

    But hey I'm not trying to convince you that there is a medical problem just give you a bit of extra context.

    You are right to note to Dukey_boy that this has been going on for longer than the 2-3 months but that it has got worse.

    Let's suppose that it is a behaviour problem. What caused it to get worse?
    Have you changed your training?
    Do you spend less time with Missy?
    Is Missy insecure?
    Is Missy bored?
    Is Missy getting enough exercise?
    Have there been noises (like fireworks for instance) which have frightened her?
    Has anything really frightened her?
    Is it simply the level of change Missy can't cope with (eg/new kitten and bird, lots of family round)
    Are the people in and out of the house the same?
    Is someone playing with Missy and inadvertently encouraging her to be edgy?
    Is this herding behaviour getting out of hand or is it aggression?
    I don't know enough about your situation to be sure of the right questions to ask. But look back 3-4 months and figure out what has changed and how that might impact on Missy.

    As for training the underlying principle is that you must change Missy's attitude to the triggers. Because this is happening in your home that is the only solution unless you get rid of either Missy or the triggers. Keep the idea as simple as you can because dogs think very simply.

    So for Missy accepting Piper on your bed your training equation would look like this:

    Piper on bed = liver for Missy

    Then you develop your training plan which should be set up to communicate that equation as simply as possible to Missy. One idea would be to would stop all the animals apart from Missy going into your room. Then after a few days invite Piper into the doorway and feed Missy amazing treats all the time Piper is there. Gradually allow Piper to come closer to the bed and eventually get on it. BTW Zac and Gus are a lot less friendly to each other if Gus comes into my room a lot. It puts stress on their relationship. I seem to remember that your room was Missy's safe place. It might be a good idea to always have the other animals in by limited invitation only.

    The other thing you can do is to teach Missy that she doesn't need to escalate when things get on her nerves. Teach her to turn away from stressful situations and moving cats and reward her highly. Zac had to learn "exit strategy" which means that when he gets tired of meeting a new dog he doesn't have to chase it away he can turn away from it and do something else.

    Hope this helps, I have to go now but if I think of anything else I'll post again later :)
  5. southerngirl Honored Member

    The only thing that is a yes is that she has been sleeping on the bed here and there, but she has always changed from the floor to the bed once it starts getting cold out.
    Thank you so much for your help. I am trying to avoid the vet because of how much it stresses her out and I don't really don't have the money for a bunch of test to be done to rule out medical issues. Other than the aggression she hasn't changed. Still plays with Piper, gets around just fine, easily gets up, see's and hears just fine.

    Missy has always seemed controlling to me or mother hen. Once Chase attacked her older puppy and she attacked chase, kids scream and she tries to nip, kids run she tries to nip, cat runs she chases after it, cats hiss, or fight she gets in the middle of it. Once our cat Sophie got on the table and chase went to chase it off the table and Missy jumped in front to protect her. When my cat had kittens Missy would take them from her. Missy used to heard her puppies into one area.

    Have you changed your training? No
    Do you spend less time with Missy? No
    Is Missy insecure? She has always been timid. The slighst hint your aggravated or angry and she shuts down.
    Is Missy bored? possibly
    Is Missy getting enough exercise? No. Thanks to time change by time I get home it is pitch blackout side and my neighborhood has one street light. A thought of mine was maybe she is bored and not getting exercise. So my plan is morinings rotate bike and walk. Get home backyard play. And training throughout the evening. Feeding in her puzzle instead of bowl.
    Have there been noises (like fireworks for instance) which have frightened her? No
    Has anything really frightened her? No
    Is it simply the level of change Missy can't cope with (eg/new kitten and bird, lots of family round)
    Are the people in and out of the house the same? Yes
    Is someone playing with Missy and inadvertently encouraging her to be edgy? No, I've made it very clear to play with only toys with her because she has became mouthy in the past.
    Is this herding behaviour getting out of hand or is it aggression? Could be
    Should I remove the birds from my room for a little while. All she does is stare at them and whine. She actually hurt the new one(not badly thank goodness) I have been clicking and treating for whenever she looks away from them.
    Once she is fine with Piper being in the room again. Do I start with Bones the indoor kitten? And do you have any suggestions for Sprout the bird? She had also wanted to eat Toby(bird) when I first got him. What I did was put his cage on the floor and wouldn't allow her near once she got the idea I took him out of the cage and once again wouldn't let her near. tried it for this one, but hasn't worked.
    Alright I guess for now my plan is
    Walk/bike rotate every other day
    (backyard play
    training throughout evening
    No animals in my room but Missy.( A week or should I do longer?)
    For know I won't allow Sophie and Bones in the same area since it stresses her out.
    I only want to address one problem at time. I feel it would be to much to work on it all at once.
    Thank you so much for your help.
    running_dog likes this.
  6. running_dog Honored Member

    Sorry I've taken so long to get back to you. I'm going to rush a reply to you.. I must get to sleep very soon as I have extra dogs to walk before work tomorrow.

    It could be the exercise factor. I'm struggling with dark walks at the moment too. Dogs with issues are often better when they have lots of exercise and the inverse is sadly also true.

    It sounds like you have a good plan. The only addition I would suggest for now is to mix in some scentwork. Its tiring for the dog and its fun.

    A week without the other animals in your room is what I would try. Keeping Sophie and Bones away from her also seems like a good idea.

    With Sprout you were trying to teach Missy to hide how she was feeling, I still think somehow you need to change how she is feeling. But its really hard to do this when you are working with triggers that are there almost all the time.

    I would try doing a glance-quickly-at-Sprout-then-away-game rather than a look-away-from-Sprout-game. I'm thinking that it would help Missy to control herself from locking down into a stare. Make it into a really fun game though, not a control-yourself-game but a this-is-the-coolest-way-ever-to-earn-treats-I-love-Sprout-game.

    Also when giving Missy the treat you could roll it across the floor so she has to disengage more of her brain from the bird to get the treat. Another idea I've come across recently in a dvd called Really Reliable Recall (BTW I think its a fantastic dvd for anyone struggling with recall) is to time yourself and reward your dog with treat after treat from your hand for a full 30 seconds... it's a long time!!! I've noticed that Zac has usually forgotten what he was doing before I called him by the time the 30 seconds is up.

    Duh! I've just thought of the Premack principle, could you apply Premack to Missy with Sprout?

    Use super amazing treats when training any of these things! I've been buying ox heart then boiling, dicing and freezing it in training session size bags. It is easy to flake the cubes into even smaller pieces while actually training. It works out quite cheap here... cheese is more expensive but less hassle. But whatever you use make these sessions the highlight of Missy's day!

    I hope you find something in this jumble of thoughts that you can use! All being well I'll let you know if I think of anything else.

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