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