Case study: dog-dog aggression through frustrated greeting

Blog post by dog behaviourist Laure-Anne Visele, The Hague: case study on dog-dog aggression due to frustrated greeting.
Privacy: Essential details have been changed in the story, to avoid the owners being recognized. The details and photo were shared with explicit permission from the owners.
Written in: July 2018.
Illustration credits at the end of the post.

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

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Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I am the dog behaviour therapist at Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school) in The Hague.

I help people from The Hague, Rijswijk, Delft, Westland and region with their dog behaviour.

I have a degree in Zoology, am a certified dog training instructor, and have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (Magna cum laude).

If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, drop me a line briefly explaining the problem and I’ll tell you if I think I can help.

Dog behaviour problem: background diagnosis

Check out this beautiful girl! She is a 14-months-old Labrador-Border Collie mix I’ve recently seen in behaviour therapy.

She is incredibly sociable to people; strangers and family alike. In fact, she was so happy to see me, a total stranger, that she immediately wriggled close to me for a cuddle and happily offered me her ball to play within two seconds of meeting me.

Her biggest problem is “frustrated greeting”: lunging on the leash when she sees another dog. She isn’t the most subtle social partner on a doggie playdate off the leash either. She is touchy, overbearing and rough. This had become an issue recently.

Thankfully, she hadn’t ever caused damage to the other dog and her aggressive bouts had stayed in the realm of: Big show of teeth, zero damage.

Dog behaviour problem: etiology (causal factors)

Many factors have contributed to the problem:

  1. A (very) excitable temperament
  2. Systematically being interrupted when trying starting lick other dog’s scent on the ground into her vomeronasal organ (the bit of the dog’s palate responsible for processing pheromones)
  3. A generally low tolerance to frustration
  4. Reaching social maturity (aaaah, adolescence)
  5. Inabity to thoroughly socialize with other dogs during her sensitive puppy period (she got Leptospirosis 😮 and barely survived: the breeder hadn’t had her vaccinated!!!)

Dog behaviour advice

  1. Organise lots of playdates with dogs with whom she gets on, to refine her social skills.
  2. Never allow onleash greetings, to break the cycle of hope-disappointment when she spots another dog (and commonsense safety advice).
  3. A derivative of the BAT training protocol, to teach her to pass onleash dogs gracefully and calmly.
  4. Frustration training games at home, to improve her impulse control and gradually increase her tolerance to frustration.
  5. Cognitive feeding instead of ‘freeloading’, to tire her out and mentally stimulate her.
  6. Let – her – sniff the world on a walk, to decrease the countless unnecessary frustration moments she endures on a walk.

Dog behaviour prognosis

I demonstrated the exercises, left detailed handouts behind. The family seemed on board and understood the reasoning behind the advice.

Let’s see what a few weeks of this brings us!

Photo credits

Photo: Courtesy of Richard Wagenaar, photographer.

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