Golden Retriever Shows Two Different Types Of Dog Aggression

I am writing about our dog Rudy, a three year old goldie mix that we adopted
five months ago from a shelter. We have received different opinions on his

Some have said goldie/shepherd, some have said goldie/chow. The latter
is the opinion of the [local dog training academy], where he is presently
enrolled in their one-month board and dog training program.

We enrolled him because one month ago he attacked a jogger. The jogger was running by my husband, who had Rudy in a sit on a slack leash. The jogger changed direction quickly, running straight toward Derek and Rudy. Rudy lunged at the jogger, jumped up on him, barking and growling aggressively. He tore the man’s jacket by nipping at it, but he did not bite the jogger.

[You weren’t paying attention to your dog. If you were, you’d have already
been running the other direction to execute the “attention getter” drill as
outlined in the book. — Editor ]

The only other time he had displayed such aggressive behavior was toward a
UPS driver coming up the driveway, but he was well under control that time.
He has a very strong prey drive and dominant personality. He had been doing
very well these past three weeks at the Academy. They were not able to
elicit any aggressive behavior from him, and his obedience training was going
well. But last Thursday, he bit a trainer. He apparently was being put back
into his kennel and ran off down a long hallway. He was not leashed. When
he got to the dead end, he first went submissive, rolling over on his back.
The dog trainer then reached to grab his collar and Rudy gave her hand a good
bite. She then reached for the collar with her other hand, and he did the
same to that hand. He did not give her any warning growl or snap. He did
not move forward toward her, just reacted to her reach toward him. After
the second bite she backed off, and another dog trainer was able to
coax Rudy to go back with her uneventfully.

I have read your book and believe that the trainer bite was an example of
fear aggression? (I don’t know what to think about the jogger, though.) The
Academy seems to be saying that they can’t train that reaction out of him;
that we will just need to be vigilant and mindful of his triggers. That goes
without saying, and I now believe that being cornered is one of his triggers.
(Our vet had also mentioned that when they cornered him to get him on a
table, that he had snapped out at them.) But your book and tapes led me to
believe that you can train such behavior out of a dog. Or am I
misunderstanding? Are you merely just getting the dog to react to you
instead of following his instinctual reaction? Certainly that’s a good thing, but
what if he’s with someone else when he’s triggered?

We need some perspective on this situation. I love him and want to give him
every chance to learn correct behaviors. But on the other hand, we live in a
dense children and jogger packed neighborhood. We can’t keep him if there is
reasonable risk of this kind of thing happening again.

Mary Ellen

Dear Mary Ellen:

Thank you for the e-mail.

You’ve got a couple of things to consider:

1. The dog needs to be firmly corrected lunging. Going after the biker is a
prey-based aggression. Correct him for this, as described in the book.

2. Going after the dog trainer and the veterinarian is the result of the dog being
insecure and not trusting the handler. Usually in these types of cases, he will
not bite if he is secure that you will not hurt him. Or if he knows that he will
only be fairly corrected for behavior that he understands.

With aggressive behavior, we can never say 100% “All” or “Never” that your
dog will or will not show a specific behavior.

Regardless, your dog needs to be corrected for such behavior, and then
shown that if he is calm, he gets praise and nothing bad happens to him.
This can sometimes be achieved by placing the dog in such positions while he
is wearing a muzzle. He cannot bite you, and ultimately learns that
everything ends up “A-Okay.”

It is a process of deconditioning. Not so for the prey-aggression, which can
be fixed with a couple of well-timed and motivational corrections.