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Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Posted by freezetag (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 9, 09 at 9:26

My friend adopted a lab/doberman mix from a shelter a year ago. Her dog (Violet) had been at the shelter for almost a year; she was surrended initially after her owners were arrested, and then was adopted, but returned, because she was aggressive towards another dog in the home.

Violet is friendly and well-behaved with me and my dog. And no problems with kids. But, my friend says that Violet seems less friendly towards certain adults who come over (mostly men, but not always). And has, on occasion, lunged at people as they are leaving. My friend is a fan of Cesar Milan, and watches his show regularly, but hasn't seen this issue addressed. Of course, for now she puts her dog in a down/stay as people are leaving, and keeps a close eye on her, but would really like to understand her dog's fear? motivation? Why would her dog stay calm for a long period of time when someone is in the house, but show aggression as they leave?


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

This would be my guess...

I suspect that Violet isn't actually calm while the visitors are there; I suspect she is tense, just at a very low level. Cesar often rates dogs on a scale of 1-10, 10 being a red zone case. One of the best tips I learned from him is to correct behavior before it gets to a higher level.

Violet may be laying down while the guests are there, but the owner should try to assess if the dog is truly relaxed or is down and nervous (say level 2-3) and then escalates to level 8-9 when the guests get up to leave. My guess is that she is interpreting their getting up as a threat.

Here is what Violet is doing. Unwanted humans stand up, she growls, they leave. She is probably interpreting this as indicating that her growling got rid of the unwanted humans.

If Violet were my dog, this is what I would try, but she will need patient "unwanted humans" to accomplish it.

Unwanted humans stand up, Violet growls. Owner corrects Violet. Humans sit back down. Repeat this until unwanted humans get up and Violet does not growl. Humans leave.

Does that make sense? It might take a few times for this to work, but that's how I would approach it.


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Forgot to add

Dang, hit return too soon, apologies...

Lunging is definitely level 10. The correction your friend makes should be well before the lunging. Dogs always give off body language that shows they are preparing to attack. They get a decided "look" in their eyes.

Also, it is important for your friend to realize that it is much easier to train a dog out of dominance aggression than fear aggression. Encourage her to be patient but firm. Our current dog is fear aggressive; with him it is a lifelong work in progress, but we have seen marked improvements in his behavior after adopting some of Cesar's strategies and working with a professional dog trainer.

Good luck to your friend!


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

You have some good responses here, but lets see if we can get to the root of the problem. How much leash walking and basic training does this dog have? How much stimulation does the dog get? Does this behavior only occur inside the home when people are leaving or does it happen outside as well? Are there other behavioral issues? I suspect the dog does not get out much due to the fear surrounding its agression towards other dogs.
Without knowing much more I would suggest the owner purchase a muzzle (not the cloth kind - but a real muzzle) next I would start the dog on a schedule which includes 30 minute leash walking (brisk) at least 3 times a day, basic positive reinforment training, and nothing in life is free program, in other words the dog MUST work for every food morsel it gets. This way the dog will start to see its owners as the dominants of the house. Dobermans were bred SPECIFICALLY to assist tax collectors not only for protect but as extra muscle as well. I look forward to learning more about this dog.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Short term fix would be to leash the dog before people leave. The owner calls the dog to them, attaches the leash, and the visitors/owner begin the departure process. The owner needs to be alert to the first sign of aggression and make a short side jerk on the leash---just enough to get the dogs attention duverted from the unwanted bahavior. Do not jerk backwards, as that causes tension restraint---which increases aggression.

The rest of the advice---training/exercise---is good. Trying the above should fix the immediate problem so the long term training can fully correct bad behavior.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Cindy, you are right - "calm" was probably not the right word to use. I haven't seen this myself, but because my friend says that she can tell when Violet doesn't like someone, I agree that she is probably not calm at all, just not actively behaving badly. And my friend knew that Violet might have some issues, given her background, but adopted her because she also has many good qualities (generally well-behaved, loving, likes kids, etc). She knows that this issue won't be solved overnight - but would be happy to know that you have had some improvement with fear-based aggression.

I will ask my friend whether she has seen anything leading up to the lunging. She did not mention growling, but maybe there is some other low-level behavior she can correct. I'm guessing the lunging took her by surprise - normally you would be paying attention to your guests as they are leaving, so she may have missed some signs.

Mazer, Violet goes for a daily walk, and knows basic commands. There are two boys in the family (10 & 12), and they have a large yard to play in. I bring my dog over a few times per week so that she and Violet can play (because my dog is younger and an hour of racing around with another dog improves her behavior immensely). So Violet is alone much of the day, but has quite a bit of stimulation during the afternoon/evening hours.

I wish that Violet could come over to our house, but our yard isn't fenced, and my friend is not comfortable letting her run without a fence. Sometimes we walk them together, and I can see that Violet really enjoys leash walking - she is very focused on the walk itself and gets irritated if my dog tries to engage her in playing (which I appreciate, since I agree that the dogs should not be racing around when we are trying to walk them).

Not sure about the dog agression issues - I know that the people at the animal shelter said that Violet's behavior with other dogs had improved while she was at the shelter. When we walk, and encounter other dogs, I haven't seen anything unusual, but there is not much interaction - generally they just pass each other. She does approach other dogs in a different way than mine does, though. My dog (to me) looks very deferential (low to the ground, and approaches slowly), while Violet maintains her usual stance. I don't see her bristle - what else do you look for? My friend has said that Violet does act agressive (barking, growling) with some dogs (generally when the other dogs are in a fenced yard).


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

what else do you look for?

Tail stance (up/level/down/tucked) and ear carriage (alert/relaxed) are two big "tells" for most dogs. My own dog gets a look in his eye first, it is hard to describe, but its a sort of narrowing of the eyes and a glaring stare.

What helped us recognize these things was working with a trainer. I had the trainer come to our house for a visit and he helped us learn to recognize the dog's body language. We had never dealt with a fear aggressive dog before and knew we needed some professional help. It was worth every $.

Have your friend consider hiring a trainer that specializes in fearful dogs. I suspect the shelter people would know of someone.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

My Cocker use to do that. He'd only attacked when people left. It's separation anxiety. He would even attack me.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

I too facing the same problem with my Doberman. she will be very calm when person enter the house but will start to shout when they go out. might be she does not like people going out with out playing with her. but has not attacked anyone.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Thanks for all the responses! Will talk this over with my friend and post again (we tend to talk about our dogs a lot, and bounce ideas off each other, but I have not been any help so far with this).

I don't think Violet has separation anxiety issues - she is alone for several hours most days, and doesn't fuss when left alone. And she is fine with most people leaving - there are just a certain few people who trigger this misbehavior.

She seems especially fond of me and my family - I think because she associates us with the time she spends with my dog. Wonder if it would help to have the people she fears/misbehaves with bring my dog in the house?? The dogs definitely are not concerned with us humans once they have each other.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Here is the deal. The dog in question has aggression issues.
You wrote: "I haven't seen this myself, but because my friend says that she can tell when Violet doesn't like someone" it is quite possible your friend is seeing a reaction in the dog and she herself is tensing up, which will in turn cause the dog to ramp up its negative response to whoever it is reacting to.

You wrote: just not actively behaving badly. Lunging at people OR ANY aggression towards anything or anyone should not be tolerated and it is behaving badly

You wrote: I will ask my friend whether she has seen anything leading up to the lunging. She did not mention growling, but maybe there is some other low-level behavior she can correct. I'm guessing the lunging took her by surprise - normally you would be paying attention to your guests as they are leaving, so she may have missed some signs. Some dogs give ABSOLUTELY NO SIGN BEFORE AN ATTACK.

You wrote: Mazer, Violet goes for a daily walk, and knows basic commands. There are two boys in the family (10 & 12), and they have a large yard to play in. I bring my dog over a few times per week so that she and Violet can play (because my dog is younger and an hour of racing around with another dog improves her behavior immensely). So Violet is alone much of the day, but has quite a bit of stimulation during the afternoon/evening hours.

This right here is the key. The dog is spending too much time without stimulation and too much time in the same area - I call this the fish bowl syndrome. I bet the walks are leisurely and involve alot of sniffing around. This dogs walk should be at least 30 minutes a walk and should be a brisk walk at least 3 times a day, more on the weekends. You wrote when the dog has exercise period where it can run full out with another dog in play time, it demonstrates better behavior...this tells me right off that the dog needs more play time OUTSIDE of its yard, and more discipline. Even tho play time with dogs is very important and helps with socialization, the people in this dogs life should be having more interactive and controlling role.

You wrote: I can see that Violet really enjoys leash walking - she is very focused on the walk itself and gets irritated if my dog tries to engage her in playing ***This behvaior SHOULD NOT be tolerated from Violet.


You wrote: Not sure about the dog agression issues - My friend has said that Violet does act agressive (barking, growling) with some dogs (generally when the other dogs are in a fenced yard). THIS IS DOG AGGRESSION.

What I see is that this dog has had aggression issues in the past that the previous owner either ignored or did not want to deal with. The dog is now displaying aggression tendencies again. Which tells me it is feeling comfortable in its new home and it is ready to take the dominant role in the environment. No act of aggression whoever small should be tolerated. I can predict that if the aggression ssues are not taken care of immediately and without limits that this dog will bite. Whether it be another dog or a human, it will escallate without immediate and consistant correction.
Another dog to play with is great, but it is not going to solve the problem. I suggest more training, brisk walks more than in the morning and at night and faster than at a leisurely walk. You mentioned the family has two boys and it would be great once the dog can be trusted more that the boys take the dog with them skateboarding, roller blading or bike riding. Let the dog pull them. *This can take a bit of patience and perseverance.
This dog needs help, the faster it gets what it needs the better.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Yes, Mazer, I think we've established that she has an aggression issue! (hence this post)

Of course when a dog lunges at someone, it is behaving badly. No one disputes that, or has suggested that it should be tolerated. When I said that Violet was not "actively behaving badly", I was referring to the period of time where a disliked visitor is in the house, and Violet is lying down quietly. I had at first described her as "calm", but as Cindy pointed out, she is probably not feeling calm - she is probably tense. But not doing anything at that point.

I agree that most dogs would benefit from more exercise (as would most people!) But I didn't say that Violet's behavior improves after a good play session - I was referring to my dog (who just turned 1). Violet is a little older (3 years) and while I'm sure that exercise is good for her, I don't know that it would help her agression, if it is fear-based (which I suspect it is). My dog, however, does behave better after she's exercised (keeps her from jumping up, being overexcited, and chewing things up). Sorry if that was confusing.

When two dogs are walking on a leash, and one dog (my dog) jumps on or chases the other dog (Violet), I think Violet is within her rights to growl at my dog. I think I am the one at fault when that happens - I know my dog is playful and should be more careful to keep her under control. Violet has never hurt my dog - to me it just looks the same as when a mom dog teaches a pup manners.

Yes, barking and growling at other dogs is aggression. I just said I wasn't sure about her aggression issues with other dogs because I haven't personally witnessed it, and don't know how much of a problem it is.

The previous owner was arrested for selling crack, so I'm guessing you are right that any dog issues were not a top priority. It sounds almost as if you think that her aggression is now tolerated, but really, it is not. I don't think that Violet has become more or less agressive in the past year - she only acts out around a few certain people, so her bad behavior really depends mostly on how much they are around, not the length of time she has been in her new home. I don't see her as "becoming comfortable and ready to take on the dominant role" - I really think that she has been mistreated in the past and behaves agressively around people who remind her of that.

Regardless, you are correct that any agressive behavior should be dealt with promptly, and hopefully my friend can take some of the information here and deal with it appropriately.

Thanks again!


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Be careful. What I think is going on is that a fearful dog has learned to enjoy the adrenaline rush she gets when she attacks. She has learned that she can succeed in "chasing" these disliked people out of her house by waiting until they are near the front door, then attacking. That always makes them go, so she gets what she wants, and a nice shot of adrenaline, too.

I had a dog who looked a bit like Wishbone (from PBS) and she was always a frightened dog. I did not have the experience to know what was going on with her. One day she bit at my brother as he ran past where she was tethered. Then she bit his sons when they passed. Next thing, she lunged at a small boy who had come up to the garage to pet her. She waited until he was turned away and starting to walk away. I took her to a dog behaviorist and he analyzed her reactions to things. She was in a constant state of panic with anything new. But she had learned that she got a nice shot of adrenaline when she attacked. She was still timid, so would wait until the person was moving away. If the person was a little one, even better. She was an adrenaline junkie who could never be trusted with children. In my neighborhood, she was a child-magnet, looking like Wishbone as she did. We put her down. I could not guarantee that she would never have access to children. Plus, her years of feeling constant panic were enough. After three years of having her, I still could not laugh in the house without her piddling and slinking off in fear. Having anybody over was torture for her. I could not even listen to music while I was cleaning. We had the home vet service come and do the lethal injection while I held her on my lap on our couch.

I don't think that your friend's dog is nearly this bad, but she needs to get a trainer quickly. It is very hard to break this kind of habit if it gets ingrained.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Nancy, I am so sorry for your loss. That is a heartbreaking story.


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RE: Dog aggressive when people are leaving

Thanks, Freezetag, but it was along time and four dogs ago. Poor Peaches was always miserable, and it was a bit of a relief to let her go. My DH has Panic Disorder, and he really understood what she was going through once the behaviorist explained it. We were sad, and felt a little like we had failed Peaches, but the behaviorist said that she was simply born unable to cope with life.


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