My daughter wanted to rescue a dog so we brought home Versa, a nine-month-old, mixed breed black and white dog. Little did we know when we chose her we would be dealing with fear aggression.
The condition is fairly common for pound dogs because the longer a pup stays in a shelter the more stressed the animal becomes. In shelters dogs tend to get limited socialization which can lead to fear aggression.
Slow and Steady
Versa is a mid-sized dog, weighing 40 pounds, and she asserts herself in new and fearful situations by cowering, growling and barking. To treat the condition a feeling of security must be created. One technique we have successfully used help Versa overcome her fear of strangers is to have them feed her treats.
A ringing doorbell or a knock at the door can send Versa into a barking frenzy. Although I want her to bark when someone is at the door, I want her to stop on command. This has been the most difficult behavior to change — and we are still working on it. To change her behavior, I place her on a leash and then have someone ring the bell. I let Versa bark a few times before giving the command ‘quiet’ and when she succeeds, I click and treat.
By far, one of the most successful methods for Versa has been taking her to ‘doggy daycare’ offered by a local dog kennel. With this service, she is placed with other dogs during the day which helps her become more confident. I started using the service after I had worked with Versa for about eight months. Now, every three to four weeks she goes to a day session and about every six to eight weeks she spends the night at the kennel.
Working through fear aggression with a dog can be a frustratingly slow process. It is easy to tire of the situation. However with time, patience and slow, gradual exposure to fearful situations you can end up with a well-behaved, and emotionally healthy dog.