View Full Version : ACD aggression help needed

11-27-2011, 11:58 AM
I was trying to follow the other thread, but it seems to be more reactive than aggressive so not helping and I am at the end of my rope w/ my youngest male. He came to live w/ me in August 2010 as an intact out of control male. He was promptly altered and began training. He passed obedience easily, he plays flyball like a pro and has been asked to join a local team. He was in agility and doing well, but was frightened as he was taking a jump and a teeter slammed in the next ring, so we have been working w/ his acquired fear of noises.
He has always been the in your face ACD, a lot of hard direct eye contact. He is socialized and does fine at dog parks, etc. My issue is right here at home. Lately he has been starting fights with everyone (and it took a few to figure out he was the culprit). Occasionally, sure they have their spats and move on, but the increased frequency is driving me nuts. It's not just him and one of the other dogs, it's him and any of the other dogs. The only ones out of his loop are my oldest male and my oldest and only female. (All dogs are altered). I love all my dogs but have reached a point of thinking he may need to be an only dog as I can't go through this 4 or 5 times a week, week after week after week. I went through years of crate-gate-separate w/ 2 females until one passed and I don't want to be back there. I've considered putting a muzzle on him (he is "mouthy" and was thinking maybe his nipping is starting it) but am also thinking the eye contact and body language are fueling it if not starting it. His primary victims are a male ACD slightly older and a male Aussie slightly younger, but last night it was a submissive 5 month old pup, this morning it was back to the slightly older male.

When I break it up it is on the hind feet face to face and usually I catch it at the growling, but a couple of times it's taken a head clobber to get him to release and then hanging on to him as he will run right back into it. There are no resources involved - balls are up, bones are put away, food is supervised....

Any ideas? Is this an age/stage?

11-27-2011, 12:53 PM
Have you had a full thyroid panel done? May be a factor. Check the thyroid threads in the health section.

the posse
11-28-2011, 02:27 PM
Excuse me if this is scattered...just had eye surgery and have no depth perception so, look out spelling! LOL

I know this is distressing to you Ms. I am not there of course but I "see" a multiple dog home without leadership here. True leadership. When you are the "LEADER" you call the shots. There is no room for resentment, jealousy, uncertainty, striving to be "Top Dog" or any of those pesky things that cause probems within your pack.

Naturally I could be wrong but I don't think so figuring that you take good care of your dogs and eveyone is healthy, especially the one causing the fights.

I see an opening here for a dog to take that spot of Top Dog as it does not seem that this spot is taken? It should be and it should be taken by YOU. My suggestion is to review your own attitudes, how you present your image to your dogs and what you do with them day to day. We know you are a caring owner...this is plain. But are you your packs leader?

I am going to ignore now all of the silly yapping that seems to pop up when someone mentions a particular dog behaviorist(expecially when the yappers have not studied this particular expert at all) and suggest that you rent, borrow or buy some basic DVD's by Cesar Millan. He is so caring, so good at reaching us dog lover/owners/handlers and showing us how to present ourselves to our dogs with the attitude that "I love you, I care for you and will, no matter what, be your leader and take responsibility for you. so you can now relax and be yourself. "

His calm, common sense and very knowledgable approach to dog psychology is really something to see. He will start you out by helping you become a calm, assertive leader. This is absolutely needed for dogs of all breeds but especially for more "primitive" breeds like our ACD's. They tend to strive to take over (even if they don't want to) if there is a void at the top. Someone has to step up and it should be you. Without clear leadership many of our ACDs are unsure, anxious, confused and will start fights just because of this.

Good luck with your good dogs and I hope you will let us know how things go.

Hang in there! Sonja and the Posse

11-28-2011, 02:34 PM
And MOD HAT ON: For the newbies here - yes, CM is a hot-button topic here. As with all advice offered here, and it is a "brussels sprout" - take it or leave it as it suits you. The CM topic is a love/hate one, so we do not debate it - just listen to all advice given, do your research, and do what works for YOU.


11-28-2011, 03:16 PM
It will not change with age. Please do NOT put a muzzle on this dog! I've seen this done with fatal results. Dogs that are scrappy or fearful of other dogs, will still start trouble & the muzzle may keep your other dogs from getting bit, but the one wearing the muzzle can be seriously injured!
No debate on anything here, just agreeing with the idea of getting your pack under control (and it IS a pack, when you live with that many dogs) I have a dog aggressive foster & 3 dogs of my own. Many times, I am not feeling well or have human things to take care of, but you still have to be in control at all times. I'm talking from experience. Crate & rotate is no fun and makes a stressful life! I can't leave my foster alone to even go to the bathroom without crating the foster to keep her from attacking my Rottie. When I'm in the room, there is no trouble, but I would not want to live like this. This old girl is only here temporarily. I'm lucky that my 3 (male & female Heelers & female Rottie) are buddies, with no problems, but I do NOT tolerate fighting. I have toy baskets sitting around in several places, so my guys have plenty of high value objects in play, but there are no arguments. As each dog came to live here, they learned that my rules are not to be questioned & there are no exceptions. They know I love them & will protect them, so they can just relax. If this dog is fine at training class & in public, then it is his home environment that needs to change. Please don't think your dogs personality will change, just because something scared him at agility class. My Rottenhound was scared out of her wits on the 4th of July, but she was over it the next morning. Sometimes owners can be the reason a dog develops a fear. Unless the dog is very weak nerved, the dog has usually forgot all about the scary noise or situation. A stable dog will not change, due to one scary noise. Startled for a few minutes is normal, but most dogs will recover by the end of class.
These dogs need some serious discipline & structure to their lives. There is no other way to have this many dogs without being a strong leader! I have to work hard on the calm leader part. I have a temper, so I have to keep reminding myself to be calm & assertive, when dealing with fosters.

Linda Watkins
11-28-2011, 03:29 PM
It will not change with age.

That's the bottom line. I've worked 11 years with Rose and it's ..... better?....but it's never gone completely away and she'd still be happier as the only dog. I had Shae for 9 years with Rose and the only way to truly keep the fights down and everyone under control was to always have one of them confined - all Shae had to do was accidentally bump into Rose and the fight was on.

I cannot tell you how great the stress was in our house, or how much pleasanter it was when Shae departed - I felt horribly guilty: for subjecting Shae to 9 years of Rose; for not giving both dogs a happier life; for subjecting my husband and Sam to the stress; pretty much for everything. It was not worth it to anybody for me to "stand by my commitment" to Shae - sometimes it's not standing by a commitment, it's just plain stubborness - and it doesn't do anyone any good.

11-28-2011, 03:42 PM
Listen to Sonja and TexasCD, they are telling you what YOU must do. I have a pack, have had a pack for a long time, have foster dogs that rotate in and out, have a male that I took back because he was termed "aggressive", he is not, he was protective of his family and they were NOT his leader and it was getting out of control. I'm sorry you don't want to rotate or crate dogs separately and want everyone to live like the "lion laying down the lamb" and no one get in anyone else's face. Unfortunately that's NOT what you have, you have a male who doesn't have control of himself because you aren't the leader of your pack and he doesn't have anyone over him except to drag him off the ones he's attacking. That's a reaction, not leadership. Leadership is avoiding the fight to begin with--life isn't easy, we take dogs to be our family members, as a result it's up to us to take care of them, provide a caring warm home, feed, and safety. I'm sure you are trying to do that but with this one male you have lost the "safety and security" of that situation for all your other dogs, and to tell you the truth, he's not happy either. I have reactive males, they are separated and out only with the ones they can act properly with, the others they are restricted from being with, period. No exceptions. A muzzle does nothing but frustrate your already frustrated male. It does keep him from sinking his teeth into someone but that's not your problem, your problem is inside his head not outside with his teeth. The only thing that will change with age is if he outlives the ones he doesn't like. It won't get better, he needs leadership, your whole pack does. And a teeter plopping down in an adjacent ring isn't enough to change his personality and put fear in him for weeks or more. He may have been scared, some of mine get scared at something outside, within a short time, they are over it. Again, it's his leadership, his ability to think that he can control others because he's not controlled that is the problem.

I hope this isn't too strong a post but I really hope it's revealed where the problem is and how to correct it. Otherwise every time it's not controlled, it ramps up and more is needed to correct it. As your other dogs age, this problem will get worse because of the pack behavior of dogs, the younger one, the ones who have been eyeing top ladder status all along and working their way up to throwing out the old guys will do exactly that, they will fight your older guys until one of them is hurt severely or gone. Stop it now and you won't have more to deal with later. As Texas said, it's not easy to manage dogs, it would be wonderful if you just brought one home, everyone sniffed and lay down together and never a disagreement, sometimes it's not like that--for me most of the time. I have my dogs, they aren't going anywhere so I have to deal with what I have and if that means separating for their lifetime, well, I'll do it, I bargained for these dogs and they will have a home here; we will exist in peace, one way or the other. No fighting allowed here, those are my rules and they are firm, written in concrete (and my dogs know it and the new ones learn it relatively fast). We have to do what we have to do, either that or don't take the dogs. Your other option is to rehome your troublemaker, as Linda inferred. That's not always what's necessary but it could be. My dogs are happy, they play, they seem to enjoy life, I love them, they love me. My home is quiet and peaceful so that's not an option I have to consider but it IS an option.

11-28-2011, 03:57 PM
Could I please suggest something to the Moderators?
On the Rottie forum, we have a sticky thread on controlling packs & one specific on bitch fights. I would like to see Dingoridge & Posse write up something and let it stay posted for everyone to read (make it a must for newbies to ACDs)
Please don't kill me guys for volunteering you to write something, but you guys have the most experience with multiple dogs, along with M Langer (BTW- I've missed Mary lately, where is she?)
I'm no good at putting thoughts into words & get into too much trouble with the Moderators:puppytongue:

11-28-2011, 05:13 PM
MOD HAT ON: Excellent idea if they are willing. Go for it. :pawup:

11-28-2011, 06:18 PM
Where is that "WHAT!!!--Dislike" button for Texas CD. It will take a while, full plate for the moment (but I'll think it over:-)).

11-28-2011, 06:43 PM
Perhaps finding a behaviorist to work with your dog might be more helpful than watching dvds, at least they can be there to see the dog interact and give advice on how to handle it, rather than just seeing something and perhaps maybe not be quite sure how to apply it in your own case.

11-28-2011, 08:44 PM
One of my ACD's, Maggie, is reactive and would prefer to be the only dog. I am working with a behaviorist to deal with this issue and Maggie is only allowed to be with two of my dogs and only when I am present. I never have her with my two smaller dogs and she only goes for walks with my foster dogs. I crate and rotate and this is the way it must be so that everyone is safe. I have considered re homing Maggie, but she is 8 yrs old and it is hard enough to find homes for ACD's that are younger and don't have issues and I could never forgive myself if she hurt another dog or was euth'd because of her reactivity. So I deal with it even though it is a pain at times especially when I am tired. I would love it if all of my dogs could be together at one time, but that's not the way it works sometimes.

11-28-2011, 09:20 PM
I would get a behaviorist out to help you. <biting my tongue> Under NO circumstances would I ever recommend going and buying CM DVDs - there is NO WAY you can tackle serious aggression issues from watching a highly dramatized TV show. There is a reason there's disclaimers all throughout the show. Is leadership and staying calm important? You bet. But that is rarely all that's going on, and only someone IN your home, trained to do exactly this, can be helpful.

Personally, if I was in your shoes, I would rehome or euth. HOWEVER, I'm not the type of person who wants to deal with fights all the time, nor do I want to deal with crate/separate all the time, so while there are plenty of people who would be ok with those situations, I'm not one of them. If he's an agility gem, maybe you can find someone who is looking for an agility dog that doesn't have other dogs in the home...or some other suitable situation. I wouldn't burden a rescue with a dog like that, but if you can find a place for him, his life could possibly be better than always fighting with your dogs.
Just because he's the one starting the fights doesn't mean he isn't incredibly stressed out about it (or something we're not seeing).

11-29-2011, 12:14 PM
Where is that "WHAT!!!--Dislike" button for Texas CD. It will take a while, full plate for the moment (but I'll think it over:-)).
HA HA! Thought you needed something to do! (hiding in my crate now) I was actually giving you a compliment. Maybe I should rephrase-- When Dingoridge & Posse have time, maybe they could PLEASE write something for a sticky thread!:hide::tongue2::hide:

12-02-2011, 02:12 PM
Thanks all for the insight - A LOT to think over. I'm not a CM fan, all my dogs are trained w/ positive reinforcement. The scraps erupt sporadically and now (paying closer attention) seem to have something to do with "space". Izzie has a bigger bubble. I got an email that there would be flyball practice this weekend and was so excited....so it appears he may also be bored. He is a rescue dog, so knowing nothing of his lineage is always something that requires some guess work. It appears he is a stronger worker than my others. Oddly, he does not spat w/ the top dog here or my female - ever. It's Izzie and Zeke, or Izzie and Joey, or Izzie and one of the the others he deems is "out of line". While Levi is similar, his "discipline" does not escalate. Izzie is very "mouthy/nippy" in his interactions and even playing i can see where that may aggitate and escalate another dog, not to mention his tail was apparently broken as a pup so never really wags, etc which throws off his body language.
I have contacted several people I know in rescue and IF we can find a perfect situation I would consider rehoming him. Until then I am going to work on his bubble and getting him tired.
thanks again for all the advice/insight

12-02-2011, 02:41 PM
It seems Izzie has a personal space around him that he doesn't want compromised, I have one like that too. She's can get scrappy very quickly if someone gets in her space or heaven forbid, bumps her. But with discipline and watching her VERY carefully and disallowing a scrape of any kind from her with another dog, she has gotten very good about it--she now gets bumped, gets in tight spaces and she's fine--I still watch her like a hawk because I know this is her "push button". She's the one that gets called down and put in time out, not the other dogs so she knows her behavior is what got her in trouble. Also I would guess Izzie's reaction about discipline of the other dogs is being a strong fun police dog--anyone that gets out of line, he feels it's his job to discipline them and put them back in line--goes into playing as well, as two dogs start having too much fun, he stops that as soon as possible, not allowed according to his rules. I allow no fun police activity, I have three that think they wear the badge, two who think they were born with that badge--wrong, I wear the badge and the fun police are stopped immediately and strongly. I watch those especially when the group is out--with much work and lots of oversight, they are all getting much better about it, hardly a notice for a long time from either of the fun police. Also if I have a dog that wants to aggravate any of the others by being a pest, that dog isn't allowed to do that, playing is totally different, if the dogs roughhouse (and mine do, sounds like WWIII) that's fine but a dog is not allowed to irritate or aggravate another dog. I never get involved in their roughhousing, ACDs love to have knock down drag out play sessions, that's fine, if it turns to someone copping an attitude, that's not allowed. The offending dogs are separated or called down or the one starting it is put in their crate and left alone to think it over. You have to know your dogs to know when an all out play session isn't boarding on a scuffle but is just playing, you can quickly tell by body language and it needs to be stopped before someone gets their fur all in a knot.

Sometimes problems can come from bored dogs, sometimes it's just interaction between dogs and different personalities, only you or someone observing your dogs can really know which is happening (maybe some of both). In most cases, you can get past these problems, it takes vigilance and disciplining every time, not hit and miss and controlling the offending dog (whether dominant dog, fun police or an underling that is being an aggravation).