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Do You Think This Is A Problem Behaviour? Not backing down when another dog shows aggression

#1 User is offline   Simply Grand 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 09:14 PM

I'm finding it hard to word this without using terms I don't really want to use, so forgive me if its a bit clumsy!

Quinn is my nearly 4 year old entire Australian Shepherd bitch. She is, and has always been, a confident and assertive dog, although she is very responsive to me and to other humans. Overall she is great with other dogs, she will play with some and is not overly interested in others (and with a select few will flirt her butt off) and she communicates well and I think very clearly with them in "dog language", including moving away and/or giving lots of warning if she is annoyed by something. However she is what would be called in old school language quite a 'dominant' dog.

She tolerates rude or silly behaviour from other dogs but if another dog shows actual aggression towards her she will fight back. Now this really doesn't come up that often! Only a handful of times in her life and she has never injured another dog or been injured, or even had what I would call an actual fight, but there have been a couple of times when another dog has snapped at and made contact with her and I see her take pause for a second then go "that's not cool" and go back at them with lots of noise and carry on.

It happened today with a regular dog we see at the park (a cattle dog for ease of reference), not one that plays with mine but they've been around each other and been fine. I noticed the other day that the cattle dog was quite seriously resource guarding a stick she had, from both other dogs and people, and noted then that I needed to keep my dogs away when she had a treasure. Today however I was playing with a ball I brought with Riley and another friend's dog, Quinn joining in now and then but she's not that interested in fetch, when this other dog and her owner came around the walking track. All fine for a while then the ball had come to a stop between my friend's feet, the cattle dog came in and grabbed it and lay down between my friend's feet to chew it, Quinn happened to be standing there behind my friend, the cattle dog guarded the ball from Quinn with a growl and snap and Quinn went back at her.

I'm sure it wasn't that Quinn wanted the ball, she hadn't been interested in it, it was that she didn't like the cattle dog showing that guarding aggression towards her. So they scuffled briefly then the cattle dog backed down and ran, Quinn followed around in an arc then they came back within reaching distance and we each grabbed our dogs. Both dogs were physically fine, the poor cattle dog was quite stressed although ok, and Quinn was relaxed again as soon as I had hold of her. After a minute or less, with the ball obviously put away, they were fine around each other again.

The other couple of incidents have been under similar circumstances. I am inclined to think it is not a behaviour problem, and is actually not a negative trait for a shepherd breed dog, which were bred not just to herd but also to protect their flocks. Obviously it is alarming for everyone when it happens though, and I do work very hard to keep Quinn out of those situations and will continue to do so.

I know there will be mixed opinions on this, and I know the dog park issue will inevitably come up, and as I always say on that topic dog parks are not for all dogs or all people but I continue to find more benefit than risk in them and so will continue to attend.

I am interested in people's thoughts though as I try and clarify my own opinion. Do you think this is a behaviour problem I should be trying to modify? Do I have an aggressive dog? Or is this an appropriate trait in a dog with an assertive temperament?

This post has been edited by Simply Grand: 28 August 2015 - 09:18 PM

#2 User is offline   Dame Aussie 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 09:23 PM

If she is only responding to other dogs snapping at her I wouldn't call her aggressive no. My Aussie is like this too. If another dog has a go at her (which has happened I think twice over her 7 years) she won't just back down and take it and will pursue the other dog having a go. She has never started anything though.

I'm not questioning you attending dog parks but this is one reason why we don't. I can control my dogs but not others, and I know if another dog starts something Lili won't just walk away :/

This post has been edited by Dame Aussie: 28 August 2015 - 09:25 PM

#3 User is offline   The Spotted Devil 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 09:30 PM

My Dally is similar - won't start it and, in fact will ignore a dog fight next to him. But grab him by the throat and he will sure as heck finish it. What I like, however, is that as soon as I've stepped in he stops straight away and hands over responsibility. And would prefer to get back to training or whatever else we were doing. I don't think his behaviour is inappropriate given the circumstances BUT I really dislike seeing him put in that situation so I do everything in my power to avoid interactions with male dogs (most of whom take an intense dislike to him). I don't do dog parks unless the weather is crap and they are deserted but that's my choice.

#4 User is offline   huski 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 09:45 PM

I don't have the kind of dogs I expect would take crap. So no I wouldn't consider it a behaviour problem if they didn't tolerate directly aggressive behaviour, I would consider it a problem though if they couldn't maintain obedience and couldn't recall away or respond to me.

Having said that I also expect my dogs not to buy into the distraction of other dogs when we are out. I had Blaze at the markets the other day and a dog lunged and barked at her aggressively and she didn't care whatsoever. But had it got off its leash and tried to attack her I wouldn't expect her to have no reaction.

Aggression is something all dogs possess in varying levels. It's the context in which we see it that can be problematic for us.

#5 User is offline   Simply Grand 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 10:03 PM

Thanks for the comments guys :)

TSD, I like that Quinn is immediately focused on me and relaxed when I intervene too. If she remained aroused or stressed afterwards I would be much more concerned about the behaviour.

Huski, I've actually been thinking about training in drive for her lately, she is pretty responsive even when aroused and will call off from a situation like the one above but not as quickly as I'd like. She also got out of the improperly latched gate at the park last week and ran across a road, she definitely paused at my recall but decided exploring was more exciting and kept running, so I would like to get that 'turn on a dime no matter what'.

This post has been edited by Simply Grand: 28 August 2015 - 10:04 PM

#6 User is offline   Rebanne 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 10:23 PM

My only question would be, if I am reading your post right, is why you continued to throw the ball when you knew a resource guarder was close by? But I don't think you have a problem dog.

#7 User is offline   Snook 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 10:27 PM

I think Quinn's behaviour is completely appropriate and wouldn't have any concerns about but as you've already said, I'd try to avoid putting her in a position where she feels the need to respond assertively.

#8 User is offline   Simply Grand 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 10:34 PM

View PostRebanne, on 28 August 2015 - 10:23 PM, said:

My only question would be, if I am reading your post right, is why you continued to throw the ball when you knew a resource guarder was close by? But I don't think you have a problem dog.

The ball was on the ground already by the time she was close to us. But I definitely wasn't as vigilant as I should have been! I should have realised that what I'd seen before with her guarding the stick meant she was also likely to guard any ball she got hold of and picked it up as soon as I saw her, before she got hold of it. Definitely lesson learned.

#9 User is offline   Jemmy 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 10:47 PM

Yeah it's a lot easier to pick up the warning signs in hindsight! I don't she sounds like a problem

#10 User is offline   Her Majesty Dogmad 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 11:00 PM

Never a good idea to have a ball in the dog park, so many dogs can make an issue out of it.

I don't think you have a problem dog however. Play ball in your own yard and stick with that, walk in the dog park - if you must, I'm not a fan.

#11 User is offline   Terri S. 

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 11:39 PM

Didi is very tolerant of annoying and rude behaviour and because she is generally the biggest dog in the equation I expect her not to react back to aggression and she doesn't which is good because even if a smaller dog initiated something, due to her size and breeding I'd be worried about her getting in trouble. If snapped at or lunged at by another dog she will ignore and walk away, the only times I have seen her actually defend herself with some conviction was when a big entire male Dobe grabbed her around the throat and when a Dane at training lunged at her with aggressive intent so I get the feeling she only feels inclined to respond when the other dog actually poses a threat to her - which is rare.

While I think Quinn has every right to respond to aggression with aggression, I think I'd be nervous taking a dog that didn't back down easily to a dog park scenario just because there is always that risk of someone else's dog being a jerk first and even though you technically aren't in the wrong, I wouldn't want to worry about breaking up a scuffle or my dog getting injured in a fight.

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