My dog is getting more agressive

About 9 months ago I found a stray dog on the street, we took her in and made her a member of the family. I posted about it here

But there hasn’t really been a happy ending for Cricket and us. She been spayed, had her shots and regular vet care. She’s been through obedience training. But she has issues that are just getting worse and I don’t know what to do.

She has always been very dog aggressive. She gets along well with our other mutt (although Cricket is quite dominant), but when she sees another dog she doesn’t know, she just freaks out and acts like she wants to kill the other dog. It makes walks very difficult. And when a strange dog gets loose in the neighborhood (we have wrought iron fences, so she can see out) she goes ballistic. A few weeks ago she managed to bust through the welded iron gate (popped a rivet) and get into a huge fight with another dog. It scares me what might happen.

But even worse, in the last few weeks she has nipped 3 people at our door. Generally when people come to visit, I make her lie down and then once they are in and she sees they are welcome guests, she comes over to say hello. She has always been polite (although occasionally jumpy). But recently she has nipped people on their legs though their pants, and I don’t have any idea why this behavior has just started.

I’m afraid this is going to get worse and she could really hurt someone. She has always been very sweet and gentle to the family, but with the change in her behavior, I don’t know if this could change too.


It sounds like she’s gotten comfy in her home and is starting to see where she can push the envelope. This is a serious problem and probably needs professional help that can work with the dog hands on.

Were the people she nipped doing something? Anything? Or just sitting there? Were they ignoring her or interacting with her? Were they guests or family?

I think the first thing is a trip to the vet to make sure she hasn’t become ill or picked up a parasite or something in the last couple weeks. Be sure to check her teeth and throat that there’s nothing caught and making her cranky. Also ask the vet about post-spaying hormones or behavior changes. It’s a long shot, but you might as well ask.

Then if the vet turns up a blank, ask her to recommend a trainer who works with troubled dogs.

Take that animal to the pound and tell them it is a biter - one which bites strangers and attacks all strange dogs.

They will put it down. Or you could have your vet do it for you.

Not all strays are going to become pets.

You don’t need the lawyer bills you are facing

The people were guests who were all standing at or near the front door talking to me or one of the family members, ignoring the dog, just chatting. She’s been to the vet recently (when she got in the fight with the other dog, she needed to have a wound cleaned and closed) and she has no health issues.

I think this is good advice.

I think this is also good advice if the troubled dog trainer can’t do anything. I think you’re right to be very concerned, Palo Verde. If I got “nipped” by a dog at someone’s house, that would be the last time I went there with that dog in the home. If your dog got out of its yard to attack my dog as I walked it past your yard, I would prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. Dog owners have a responsibility to not harbor an animal that is a threat to people and other animals.

Does she appear to be from a herding breed? If so, these behaviors may be too ingrained to train out. Nipping is how herding dogs move and steer larger animals through gates and passes. Likewise, they are bred to fight off outside predators. Its hard-coded in their DNA.

That said, if it were my dog, I would try a professional trainer before giving up.

I’m sorry. You all did a good thing taking her in, I hope it won’t end in disappointment for you. If it does, you still did a good thing.

I think she is half lab and half boxer, as best we can tell.

Stop leaving it alone outside. When you have company or a knock at the door, dog goes in the crate before you open it.

They could simply treat the animal differently, since it is only (currently, at least) aggressive toward strangers. But I would not negatively judge the OP if they decided to give the animal up. There are much less-aggressive dogs that are in need of a home and would be a better fit for any family.

What would you tell someone else in this situation, Palo Verde?

Your dog getting into fights with other dogs on the street is going to get it killed, or you sued into oblivion. One incident is too many. You can keep it inside, keep it crated or locked away when guests come over (as my aunt does with her vicious dog), and have zero quality of life, or you can put her down.

Act three of This American Life: Animal Sacrifice might interest you. Ira Glass choses to keep his dog despite incredible violence, he goes into some of the reasons why, and how it’s impacted his life.

I sadly had a dog that I adopted that became more aggressive after a few weeks. I’m experienced with dogs, and I was alarmed. I called two highly respected trainers and both recommended getting rid of him as he was part chow-chow. Since the dog was leaping up snapping at my face, then would leap up and grab my collar, I decided to return him to the no kill shelter. I didn’t want him to leap up and snap my nose.

Sometimes trainers can’t help and I expect the legitimate ones will tell you that.

Wow. I can see how they got to that point and it became the new normal. With that in mind, and as they mentioned in the interview as well, perhaps it’s good for you, Palo, to formulate where the line is?

Because maybe trainers can help, but they might be very expensive? What if it requires that you do XYZ and you just can’t or it doesn’t work with your liifestyle? What if you just need to keep your dog locked away and not have people over? What if the dog needs valium, but that’s too expensive (I don’t know if it is)?

Might be good to formulate for yourself, so you don’t end up in the situation of the people of that interview.

I wish I could help. Good luck to you & Cricket!

Oh my God - if you want examples of that extremely irritating modern style of talking, vocal fry, take a listen to the ladies in that clip. That irritation aside, what a stupid story. How is Piney still alive after biting two kids in his first aggressive blow-up? Ira can’t even keep track of how many people Piney has bitten. Piney should be put down, and Ira and Anaheed Glass should be in jail.

I agree with gracer that you need to decide where the line is with Cricket, palo verde. I assume that you’re not a crazy person, and you understand that the line is waaaaay ahead of where Ira and Anaheed think it is.

Dogs have a reset button at the base of their occiput. Quickly and surprisingly depressing the button, technically known as a “dope slap,” causes the animal no harm or pain and reminds her that she is not the boss. This also works on teenage boys because there are few major differences between dogs and boys. There in another reset button on dogs’ lower backs. If that does not work, put the dog’s head on the ground using its collar for leverage and choke it a bit to while telling it in a growly voice that you are perfectly willing to kill it if it doesn’t behave. Mother dogs do it to teach their kids some manners, though other people frown on you using that method on children.

Palo Verde, I don’t suppose you are anywhere near Baltimore, are you? I have a friend who took in a stray who turned out to have pretty severe fear-aggression, which it sounds like your dog may have. The group she worked with has now got him sitting happily in a group of dogs, wagging his tail and even looking to play. That is HUGE for him!

Aggression comes from any number of triggers, you really need a good behaviorist to help you with this. Unless you can figure out what sets her off and learn to read her body language, this is going to have a very unhappy ending. It can be fixed, but it’s going to take some serious work on your part.

And no- the “reset button” is not good advice unless you want to get bitten yourself. It may work for some dogs, maybe even most dogs, but try it on the wrong dog (one who’s history you don’t know especially) and it could get ugly.

Good luck, and if you decide that this is more than you can handle then a quick and gentle end after a lovely day of everything she loves best is no bad thing.

This sounds like a really good way to get bitten. Or worse.

And having listened to that episode of This American Life, I fail to understand how Ira Glass cannot see that he is abusing his dog! That dog is miserable and he is forcing it to survive and continue being miserable! Oh I give up.

I hope that your dog is not so unhappy, Palo Verde, but I agree with others that you need to make some sort of change right away so as not to fall into the sort of nonsense the Glass family is in. Hire a trainer, or put the dog down, or find her another home. Don’t just let things continue. I wish you the best of luck and I’m sorry this didn’t have a happy ending.

Interesting. It suggests to me that there might be multiple motivations here - that her reason for nipping the people is specific to something about strangers at the door while her reason for fighting the dog was something else. In the short term, it is a good idea to crate her when you have guests overs.

Hopefully, you can find someone local to help with this problem.

I’m for taking her to the pound, as I’m a nervous wreck every time she is outside (what if she breaks the gate again) or inside (what if she bites a guests seriously). But my husband seems to think there is some easy fix (if we make her sleep in the crate she’ll realize she doesn’t own the house). The other problem is that we have 4 kids who are in love with her and would be devastated if we took her to a shelter.

No easy solutions.

By the dog or the teenaged boy?

Then you kill it. It’s what its mom would do. See, the domestic dog is the product of millennia of us killing the ones that won’t behave to our standards, and millions of years of pack leaders doing the same. But you don’t kill it the first time it gets uppity. You point out the bad behavior, inform it of the consequences if it repeats the bad behavior, and kill it if it persists. It also serves to reinforce your position in the pack. Your other dogs will be watching because they know what should happen if members in their position (the lowest of the low who survive only because you allow them to) did the same thing. Dogs like to know where they stand and most have no problem with being in a subservient position. And you get rid of the ones that do.