I have just had a DIAL conversation, a one-hour chat with a couple about their two-year-old Red Fox Labrador, Saffy. I wasn’t there in person because they live too far away, but it was doable because the problem is straightforward.
Some questions unearthed the true reason for her behaviour towards other dogs.
Saffy is very well trained. She is also very sociable and well-mannered with other dogs apart from just one scenario.
She has her special dog pals that she plays with and, in the words of the lady, ‘when walking with one of her friends, if other dogs come to join in the play she tries to “own” the pal dog. It is as if she is jealous. She chases and hangs on to its collar and sometimes snarls’.
Questioning diagnosed that these ‘pals’ that she reacts upon aren’t the only dogs she walks with and knows well. She only behaves in this ‘aggressive’ manner with those that are playful and not her calmer or older pals. Could it be redirected arousal?
Saffy is walked twice a day off lead in a place with many off-lead dogs and there is a lot of playing and running about.
I am sure that it’s to do with over-arousal.
The incidents rarely happen at the very start of the walk.
The play is unchecked and the added excitement of another dog results in Saffy redirecting onto the dog she knows best – her pal that she’s been playing with. When we are stressed and want to take it out on someone, it can be our nearest and dearest that received our redirected arousal can’t it! Too much play and exercise may not always be a good thing.
It’s redirected arousal, not dominance.
I recommend limiting play to short sessions with lots of calling her back. Her recall is great apart from when she is really fired up, so they will work on whistle recall instead and use it well before things get too exciting.
When she’s playing with a pal and another dog appears, they must call her back straight away. Lots of reward for doing so. Then, when the dogs interact she can join them rather than the other way around.
I’m sure also that redirected arousal onto a pal is now simply a habit for Saffy, when she’s excited from play and another dog comes over, to ‘take it out’ on the pal. This can be broken by preventing it from happening, even if it means curtailing play to very short sessions.