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Canine Behavior/6-month-old dog recently showing ambiguous fear and aggression behaviour towards other dogs



I have a 6-month-old male Coton de Tulear named Arthur. I have been introducing Arthur to as many dogs as possible since I got him at 10 weeks old. He loved running and playing with other dogs (even big ones) and would never bark at them (I've been told this is typical of the breed). However, about one month ago, a large husky/samoyed mix pushed Arthur quite hard a couple of times, until my boyfriend pulled him away (the husky/samoyed bit my boyfriend twice as well but was not excessively violent with Arthur). He was still growling at Arthur while we were walking him away. Ever since then, he has been scared to go near dogs. Recently, he has started going up to dogs and sniffing them but then pulls back, or if the other dog walks away first, Arthur starts barking like crazy and lunging towards the dog. Even if he sees a dog across the street now, he will bark frantically and sometimes cry, but when he goes near them, his interest in interacting is ambiguous (shows fear when they are with him but gets aggressive when they leave). I've heard that dogs typically enter a fearful stage around this age, but I'm not sure if it also has to do with him being traumatized by the husky/samoyed a month ago. It is difficult to socialize him much now, as other dog owners get scared when Arthur lunges and barks at them.

Is this normal and is there anything I can do to help Arthur? How long will this last?

Thanks so much!!!

As you apparently know, this breed requires extremely heavy socialization to everyone and everything because there is a tendency (linked to the breeding lines) toward timidity and aloofness to strangers.  We can assume with some probability that your dog is temperamentally more prone to fear than other breeds, even though you've done a superb job of socializing him.

Six months is not a particularly fearful stage of life for the domestic dog.  Your dog has a strongly conditioned fear response (fight, flight) toward other dogs and it's very understandable given the circumstances you described.  The behavior of that Husky mix was extremely aberrant and the dog was/is patently dangerous since it redirected its direction toward a human and followed through with actual biting.  Your dog observed all of this.  He has a form of "ptsd", if you will.  The typical "fear biter" will chase and growl/bite; this does not mean your dog's boisterous behavior ("gets aggressive when they leave) is actual aggression but rather a juvenile (immature) behavior that can, if not addressed, possibly lead to dog to dog aggression.

Does his behavior worsen when your boyfriend is present?  Have you tested this?

Let's do this:  first: NO DOG PARKS or places where dogs are off leash for any reason; second, walk the dog with your boyfriend and observe his body language toward other dogs.  Do not force him to interact with other dogs, do not deliberately stop to allow this interaction; if he "lunges" and barks "aggressively" (it's not aggression, just sounds like it to us), STOP WALKING, go to the end of the leash away from the dog and just stand there.  Let him work it out in his own mind; when he has calmed he will look TOWARD YOU.  Scoot down to eye level and call him with open arms; have a juicy treat in your pocket; when he happily gets to you, pop the treat into his mouth (you are now ignoring the behavior you want to extinguish and rewarding his happy recall to you) and go on with your walk.  Now try it without the boyfriend.  Do the same thing as described above.  Tell me what, if any, difference you observe in your dog with the bf and without.  Tell me how long it takes for your dog to calm once he realizes you have literally removed yourself (to the end of the leash).  Tell me how long it takes for him to happily come to you for reward and what happens IMMEDIATELY when you return to walking.  Be vigilant and observe carefully.  Forward answers in followup form so I can see original question/answer.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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