Q: Please help with potentially aggressive dog!
I have a 3 year old rescued black lab mix named Riddler. He has an interesting history but I just want some opinions on what I should do with some of his issues that I am sure are a product of that background.
Riddler has severe separation anxiety but we are working on that already - you guys have given me some help there.
What I am asking here now is his potential aggression and I don't know what to do about it! Riddler is easily spooked but usually he is very calm and polite if I am with him. With dogs - I think he is intimidated or something by male dogs larger than he is (he is 70 lbs himself) and he often gets hackles and growls at them. At a park setting this usually devolves into a noisy bout of growling and running around play-biting at other dogs' necks, which other dog owners usually forgive once I explain that he just likes to play rough. I actually think he does this in an effort to get the other dog to chase him, as he loves to run with other dogs. However sometimes the interaction is completely different. For example, last week I was sitting on a bench on a semi-busy sidewalk and a large dog approached us. After a quick sniff, both dogs immediately got hackled and then they full-on attacked each other, paws up and barking and biting. They were quickly pulled apart but I don't know when this is going to happen and when it's not. On some days he is so manageable that we can walk through stores and public places just fine, and then other times...?
His other major issue is his potential aggression with people. I think that this is actually a fear-motivated thing as we don't know exactly where he came from. Men with deep voices make him bark and growl, and he used to freak out with big baggy coats, etc. Last week I went to a hardware store (my town is very dog friendly) and a man walked right up to him to pat him on the head. He was wearing leather gloves and I think that, combined with the man's speed shocked Riddler and he lunged at the man and make a couple small snaps at the air. Luckily the guy laughed it off and apologized for not asking before petting my dog, but not everyone is as understanding and I am afraid that this is going to get us both in BIG trouble. See, if I slowly introduce Riddler to someone then he is just find accepting them, but he gets fearful if they approach too quickly. Last month I had a large group of people over and since no one really bothered to say hi to him, Riddler just cruised the party and made friends with everyone. It's weird and since I don't know where it stems from, I'm not sure where to stop it.
Any suggestions? Sorry this is an epic novel, I just wanted to get lots of detail in there. Behavior therapy? Take him out MORE to get him used to different things, or take him out LESS to not overwhelm him? Please, any help would be greatly appreciated!
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