Fear Aggression

Could this be fear aggression?



Our lovable pibble's outside behavior is going downhill.

My boyfriend and I have had our darling pibble for almost a year now. I'll call her "T", since some of our friends follow these posts on Facebook, as well.

To make a long story short, we got T from a friend of a friend who has drug and relationship issues. We used to pet sit her, so we were already familiar with each other. T is now spayed, her skin allergies are under control, and she is back to a healthy weight.

There is nothing glamorous about her past. In fact, it was down right crappy. She has behavior issues that we're still trying to work through.

At home, T is a dream to be around. But when we're outside, her manners fly right out the window. We are stuck in this apartment until July. She was not raised around children, so all the noisy kids running around the complex, make going for walks a nightmare.

Today she lunged and growled at a boy walking down the sidewalk, because he was carrying a very real looking toy gun. We immediately turned around and went home. I don't want to be one of "those" pittie owners. But her lack of outside manners has me terrified that a neighbor will blow things out of proportion and start concocting stories.

Because of our current work and school schedules, it is simply impossible to find a professional trainer that can help us out. Our schedule won't be normal until July. Does anyone have any tips on how to help us correct her behavior on our own until we can get her to regular training sessions? Help!

-T's mommy

Gale's Reply:

Since T is an absolute angel with people she trusts and environments that are relatively calm, I am going to assume that you are dealing fear aggression.

Fear aggression is a response many dogs have to situations that are novel or unsettling for them. Basically, T seems to have adopted the attitude that the best defense is a good offense. And, given her history, it's understandable.

There are two fronts on which you can address this. And, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you'll want to do some of both. One is to manage the environment. The other is to work with her to overcome her fear.

It sounds like you anticipate being in a better situation in a few months. So, in the meantime, reducing the frequency and/or intensity of her encounters with situations that upset her may help.

For the time being, try walking her during times when she'll encounter fewer people--especially children. Or put her in the car and go to a location away from your apartment complex for your walks.

While this won't address her fear response, it will lower her stress level and yours while you are working on a solution.

I would also recommend that you begin working with her fear aggression via counter conditioning. As you noted, the ideal would be to get professional help. But, since that's not possible for you right now, there are some excellent books on the subject. Two of my favorites are The Cautious Canine - How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears
and Click to Calm - Healing the Aggressive Dog

Good luck. Feel free to post back here and let us know how things are going.

For more information on obedience training, visit our Pit Bull Training page.

For help with behavioral problems, check out our Dog Behavior Training page.


Comments for Fear Aggression

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Apr 30, 2011
Fear Aggrression
by: Amy

The wonderful thing about Pit Bulls and dogs in general is they do not live in the past...however we humans tend to carry our baggage forward.

I would say "T" lacks self confidence in unfamiliar places. My Pit had this issue. I hired a professional trainer and together we worked on confidence oddly enough with me first then my Pit.

There needed to be a trust built between my Pit and I. He needed to look to me, I needed to stop watching and worrying about him. To stay focused on tasks I wanted him to do.

It took many hours per day. Now 1 yr later my Pit is off leash trained. Worth all the time I put into myself and him.

Sometimes we humans get caught up in our dogs "bad" past, making unintentional excuses or being over protective. Once WE let go, move forward with building their confidence...things start to happen quickly for our furbabies.

Do not avoid situations that make her uncomfortable. With 100% confidence work past with positive reinforcement. Show her you both can do it.

If you have the funds, hire a private professional trainer.

Apr 30, 2011
Time and training will resolve this...
by: Lotsa Pibbles

I agree with taking her out of the stressful situations for now. Allow her to realize that you will keep her safe, as her "pack leader." Plan your walks for when the neighborhood kids "should" be put away & outta sight - school times, meal times, after bed time, etc.

Once your schedule calms down, but don't dawdle too long on this one, make it a priority - much like you would with teaching yourself manners, if you found out you were missing some!

Obedience training can be as little as one hour per week! And more than anything, it is teaching YOU how to think/act to get your pooch to respond in the manner you are envisioning.

Your new pooch will learn, as you begin to expose her to new and different settings (slowly, little doses, variety of situations/locations) that you will not put her in a situation where she needs to be offensive - but the key IS to get her exposed and keep her exposed, for a life time. It is UNsocialized (or insufficiently socialized) dogs that end up going Froot-Loops!!

Feb 09, 2012
Fear Aggression
by: Samm

When you take T out, have her sit when you see someone approaching, and just get to her level and somewhat hug and rub her. Let her know that its okay and to 'relax'. If your there comforting her, as she trusts you, she'll trust that your telling her its okay. It will take a while since she is aggressive with strangers, but this is where and why she has to sit, to develop that etiquette for harmless strangers.

As you posted this last year...i hope everything is good with her aggression now and i hope your neighbors have come to love her :)

Mar 25, 2015
Desperately seeking advice NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi I have a blue nose pit bull she's 7 months !!lately she's been aggressive n barking a lot at any noise n yesterday she bit me it's only with me that she gets like that not with my family members she's on her period . I don't want to have to donate her to the aspca.. I need help please give an advice ! Thank u awilda

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