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Canine Behavior/Puppy showing signs of aggression


Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days.  I understand that your time is valuable, that you are most likely spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question, and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals.  In the interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback.  

I have three puppies that I am currently trying to train. The first two are boxer / beagle puppies aged 6 (almost 7) months and the third dog is a pitbul mix who is 9 months. Tyson & Missy are the boxer mixes and belong to the same litter. Tyson is my dog and Missy, his sister, was not being taken care of properly so the owner asked if I could find her a home (I had found 3 puppies from the same litter homes through a rescue agency). I agreed to do so and became the proud foster mother to Missy. One day, on our walk, we came across a sweet, young, pitbull puppy who had recently had babies. Tyson & Missy were initially cautious but became very friendly with her.. subsequently she followed us home & became the third edition to the crew. So now I am the proud foster parent to Lola & Missy. The issue is that Tyson is now showing behavior problems on walks. Anytime he sees another dog he begins to cry / barking and has now started snapping. Two days ago, he snapped at Missy when they spotted a squirrel and yesterday he actually bit the inside of my thigh while trying to fight Missy after two little dogs were barking at them. I admit I lost total control of the situation but his behavior is getting increasingly alarming to me. He has never displayed this kind of behavior before and never care about squirrels, bird, or other dogs. He did well in dog parks and goes to doggy day care occasionally. However, his vet did refer to him as an anxious, fearful puppy and stated that he would need a lot of socialization. I fear that the introduction of the two dogs has encouraged his anxious behavior. I'm working with a trainer but I need to understand the psychology behind the behavior & the most effective way to correct it. *When I walk him by himself, I am able to correct the behavior imemdiately and it never escalates. I'd like to get to the point that I could walk him with another dog without fear of him escalating to an aggressive state.*


Today I made donations in the amount of $40 to shelters in response to questioners who read, and then RATED fairly, my response.  It is too bad that you have not yet rated my response since July.  Don't you want to help animals with donations by simply providing a fair rating for the time I took to respond to your question?

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for your question.

When it comes to folks who are working other trainers, I'm very reluctant to give my input or advice.  I don't think it's fair to the other trainer if I haven't been called in by the other trainer on a consult or asked for my input, and doing so can be confusing and even frustrating for the trainer's client.  I certainly wouldn't want another trainer weighing in on my clients, and most certainly not without my knowing if our methods are on the same page and knowing about that trainer's experience.  Dog training is an unregulated field, and even "certified" trainers may not have the store of knowledge and hands-on skills necessary to be called "professionals."  Education for trainers is often self-motivated, not compulsory, and the education available to trainers depends on who's delivering it, as well as what the trainer's education allows the trainer to get out of it.  Hopefully, your trainer is highly skilled and has sought education appropriate to their clients' needs, and even beyond.

What you're describing of Tyson sounds like redirection of frustration through aggression, although without seeing what's going on, I always say that I can't been 100% sure.  Although I identify and understand behavior, I don't know what good that would do you if I didn't follow up with what to do about the behaviors I've identified and recognize in your description - i.e., training - so I think it's best if you consult your trainer as to what to do in both management and training terms, and in order to keep you safe from another bite.  

For instance, you've described Tyson crying and barking if he sees another dog.  That indicates to me that he's under threshold (too close) to the other dog for him to tolerate, for whatever reasons, which could range anywhere from frustration at not being able to get to and play, perhaps, with the other dog, to the anxiety your veterinarian described (again - I would be curious as to why Tyson is so anxious, and be seeking ways to lessen his anxiety as contributor to what you've described), or even more.  Again, without seeing what he's doing and doing some things that would test his behavior, I can't guess.  What you should do about it is something you need to ask your trainer.

The fact that he only does the things you describe when with Missy and Lola could mean a lot of things, ranging from more confidence to behave this way when the other dogs are with him (called: social facilitation), to the proximity of the other two so near to him when he becomes aroused actually contributing to his over-arousal.  The other dogs' behavior during these scenarios could also be a contributor to Tyson's behavior, cueing him to behave the way he's been.  Again, without seeing Tyson's behaviors and his interactions with your other two dogs, as well as how Lola and Missy behave when on walks with Tyson, I can't say, and I won't guess.

The fact that these behaviors are becoming apparent now makes sense, as Tyson is maturing.  I often laugh at the reasons people give for doing puppy selection tests, because their behavior and personalities can change so much from the 11 weeks at which puppies can be last evaluated to four - eight months down the road, or even later.  Puppy behavior is not necessarily, and not always, indicative of the way the dog will behave as an adult.  Many new tendencies and behaviors emerge as dogs mature, and with some breeds or breed mixes one can expect certain specific behaviors - what a trainer needs to know in these regards is vast.  However, it's good to evaluate and know the tendencies of a puppy so that an owner can reinforce and reward those that s/he likes and encourage the puppy to keep those traits as an adult (or, on the other hand, work to extinguish those behaviors which are unwanted).  My guess is that Tyson's current behaviors didn't emerge suddenly, and that there was an etiology to how they emerged and a point at which they could have been prevented from getting to where they are now.  I don't know for how long you've been working with your trainer, or your trainer's background; but, given your dogs' ages, it's certainly not too late to change their behavior through reinforcement and non-reinforcment of behaviors, and I would consult your trainer about how to do so if you feel s/he's up to that task.

Since you've reached out to AllExperts and to me, I feel the need to say that if, for some reason, you don't trust or are not happy with your trainer, consult with another trainer in CO who's well-versed in behavior AND training (the two go together in real life applications), or see a veterinary behaviorist.  I don't want to give you what may be possibly conflicting advice from what your trainer is currently telling you to do, which might just frustrate and confuse you.  If you haven't described to your trainer exactly what you've described to me, then you should.  If you have, but the trainer is unable to help you, or hasn't given you any strategies which are working for you, then find another trainer.  Make sure, though, that you're following the trainer's advice consistently if you trust that it's good advice, and have given his or her suggestions time enough to work if you're being consistent.  Make sure, too, that you've hired a positive trainer who doesn't suggest or employ physical punishment or harsh corrections of any kind.

I don't know a whole lot of trainers out your way, but the two I do know of and whose workshops I've taken are Suzanne Hetts and William Estep.  They're a husband-and-wife team who have long-standing and good reputations in Colorado as dog behaviorists under the name Animal Behavior Associates.  Although I think that the advice they give is often a bit simplistic and not "meaty" enough for me, that's me speaking as a dog trainer, not only as an average pet owner - and, even though I've found the advice simplistically delivered in their workshops, it could be because the average pet owner also sometimes attends their workshops.  I'll also say that I do find their information factually correct and spot-on for pet owners, devoid of myths to which many other dog trainers subscribe - so, if you're close enough to them to utilize their expertise and are looking to replace your trainer, you might consider getting in touch with them and saying I recommended them.

Best to you,

Canine Behavior

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.


I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.


Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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