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Dogs/Aggressive Behavior


Good Evening,

I have a 9 year old Husky/Shepard mix who is not keen on having visitors or anyone near our property. The problem is, I have a new neighbor now and they have children. In order to protect my dog and the kids, I'd like to put up a fence, which I'm in the process of doing. But, I'd like to get to the root of my dog's issue.

She's like a child to me. Putting her to sleep or giving her away is not an option.

To go into more detail:

Signs of aggression started at an early age. I moved back into my mom's house to take care of her, and my mom had a sick and elderly dog. She was fine with Tara until one day a treat was involved. Roxy (my dog) tried to attack Tara. We intervened and once the treat was gone everything was fine. Roxy was about 10 months old at this time. We didn't think much of it, she was the runt of her liter and the only female. Fighting for her food was something she was used to. Though, she never once showed food aggression towards humans. To this day I am able to go into my dog's mouth with my own if I wanted.

I have nieces and a nephew, she played fine with them for a long time. One day, my nephew decided to hit her and that's when my dog started to take a disliking to him. I'd say that she was about 3 or 4 years old at this time. She began barking at him, and so we corrected this problem by simply keeping them separate at all times. (Even to this day she doesn't like him. My nephew is not good with animals I might add. My sister had to give away two of her dogs (at separate times) because they bit him.)

Her aggressive/territorial behavior really began when my grandmother moved in. I recall talking to the vet about this years ago and asking if there was anything I could do. My grandmother is a bitter old surly woman who hates people and trusts no one. Now that my mother and I work most of the time, my dog is stuck with this woman the most. I believe she's picked up her attitude towards people.

Whenever someone comes over, she barks and instantly settles down when they sit down. When they get up to leave, my dog gets nervous (I'm guessing) and begins to bark. She does not like men at all (this is another thing she gets from my grandmother).

This is breaking my heart because she is such an amazing, good and obedient dog. Even in the middle of her tirades when a friend is leaving the house, when I tell her to stop and sit, she stops and sits. I would just like her to enjoy life a bit more, and unfortunately I don't know what to do in order to help her.

I've asked the vet for help, my vet has told me that some dogs have territorial aggression and that's that. She is perfectly fine and for the most part normal/friendly, when we take her outside for a walk. People come up to her, they pet her, they give her treats, and she's fine with them. She is even fine with my nephew if they are going for a walk together. She does not like other animals. My moms dog passed away early in my dog's life, but we did have a cat for 8 years, and Roxy, though she chased him, never hurt him.

Please, any advice would be most appreciated.
Thank you.

Hi Jaclyn,

Dogs can be similar to people in that their tolerances for things can change with age. It does sound like your dog displays some anxious and territorial behavior, but based on what you've told me it doesn't sound unmanageable. Barking when guests arrive and get up to leave can stem from anxiety, and can become habitual.
The best thing you can do to help her feel more at ease is gradually expose her to situations that involve a variety of socialization opportunities. This includes children, elderly, men, women, people of different races, people that use wheelchairs/crutches/canes or other assistance devices, and other animals. To do this, reward her (with a treat, praise, and petting) when she shows signs of being calm in situations that would normally mildly irritate her. The key to making this work is to not overwhelm her, and to not reward her when she's showing signs of anxiety. I cannot stress enough that if she becomes anxious, DO NOT speak to her or give her any attention. ONLY talk to her, pet her, or give her a treat when she is calm. This is something that you can work with your nephew with too (or other kids that are frequently around your dog). When she shows relaxed behavior around the child, reward her for it. If not, back her off until she is at a distance where she is calm and work up from there. You can do the same thing with people that identify with the other groups I mentioned.
I hope all goes well for you. My mother-in-law's dogs acted similarly, but following this method caused a pretty quick decrease in unwanted behaviors with them. Be consistent, and your dog will learn it.
Sorry it took a while to get to your question, I forgot to set vacation settings and found myself swamped with questions to answer.

-Teri Abshier  


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Teri Abshier


I can answer questions regarding dog training, nutrition, grooming, and pretty much anything in between. I am also happy to answer questions regarding dog/puppy selection, choosing a pet professional (dog trainer, groomer, veterinarian, sitter, walker, etc.) care, handling, and product reviews. In regards to health questions, I can answer minor health/home care type questions, but in no way can give veterinary advice or diagnose illness. If you have concerns about your pet's health, please seek the advice of a veterinarian.


Owner/Trainer at "All Things Pawsible" Dog Training/Problem Solving. Certified Dog Trainer with 5 years experience using reward-based training techniques. Certified Dog Groomer. 4 years of college studying Animal Science/Psychology (will receive B.S. in Psychology in Jan 2013). I was also a 3 year veterinary technician at both a small animal and large animal facility.

Animal Behavior College Alumni

BS/Psychology University of Phoenix. Certified Dog Trainer through Animal Behavior College. Petsmart Academy graduate - Dog Training. Petsmart Academy graduate - Dog Grooming. Certified Animal Care Technician, Bakersfield ROC. Relevant (dog-related) college coursework completed includes: Animal Nutrition, Companion Animal Care, Animal Emergency Surgery and Nursing, Animal Diseases.

Awards and Honors
Animal Behavior College - Honors Graduate University of Phoenix - Honors Graduate

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