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Yes, she is spayed. Her agressive behavior has been more noticeable recently. Yes, I tense up when other dogs are approaching. We do let her sniff things and eliminate on the walk. The only thing we have tried is telling her "No". She has not had obedience training with us. We've only had her about 8 months. In parks, off leash, she tends to be better. She reacts to all dogs, big and small, the same way, when on leash. She walks very well on a leash, is eager to please, and knows basic obedience, like "come", "sit", and "stay".
Any advice would help!
The first thing that should be done is to rule out a medical cause for the sudden aggression. You can read about these here:
If there is no medical cause for the aggression, then it is strictly behavioral. Dogs are aggressive toward other dogs for a variety of reasons. It might be that they are fearful of other dogs and thus are aggressive before the other dog can be. In other cases, a dog is aggressive in order to dominate the other dogs and be the alpha member of the pack. Other causes could be that the dog feels they are the alpha member of the pack and as the alpha member they must protect the pack (you) from threats (other dogs). It is hard to tell whether your dog does it because of fear or dominance.
As you have seen, owners sometimes make the situation even worse by tensing up and worrying about what will happen. The dog senses the owner worry and feels that she is justified in her aggressive stance because you are obviously worried about the other dog. They don't know you are worried about them attacking, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the other dog. You may have noticed that it is worse when she is on leash and worse when you are tensing up.
Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you. You don't mention this happening yet, but it might if this is dominance based.
Dogs that are allowed on furniture (even if put on the furniture) tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So I recommend keeping her on the floor at least to start with. Attach a leash and use it to remove him from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a quick tug and firm "NO" when he attempts to get on and a treat when he starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture).
Whether fear or dominance based, the techniques I am going to suggest will work. You will need to work with her on obedience. . If you can, I would do group classes and let the trainer know of the problem your dog has. Before you can get into classes, the following site is helpful. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
Obedience training serves various purposes. It helps a dog learn what humans expect of them when they state a command which leads to self confidence and less fear. Each time a dog obeys a command, even if it is for a treat, it makes them a little more submissive to that human in the future which helps with dominance aggression. And since it is the leader or boss who is responsible for protecting the pack, if the dog is made submissive with training, you are responsible for protecting him, so that can reduce aggression due to fear and dominance.
Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you. You will also need to protect her from other dogs. There may not be any danger but still don't allow other dogs to come up on her or sniff her on your walk. Make the walk fast paced and allow time for her elimination and examination at the midway point of your walk. This will help her see you as the protector and not give her as much opportunity to react to the other dogs.
It will be helpful if you can find someone with a dog to help you once you have your dog listening to commands consistently. What you will do is have your dog on the leash. You will have your helper off in the distance. Your helper will gradually move their dog a bit closer to you preferably walking past your position in the distance. As long as your dog ignores them, you can give your dog praise and a treat. The second you see her fixate on the other dog or show any other sign of aggression (hair standing up, etc.) give your dog a correction by giving a short tug and a firm low toned "NO". It shouldn't take your dog long to realize you will not tolerate the aggression and that if she ignores the other dog, she gets treats. Once this happens you can repeat the training moving the other dog closer until she is no longer trying to lunge at other dogs. You will need to practice this when you and your dog are walking as well.
Another techniques is called BAT. You can read about that here:
In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques on the previous website, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.
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Since there have been recalls on certain foods, please check the following site to be sure the food your animals eat is not affected. If it is affected, contact your vet as soon as possible. Have your dog seen if they have any symptoms.