I’m curious about your experience with dogs who are dog-dog aggressive and what I’ll call “intensive sniffers.” Ever since I heard Sue Sternberg say that dogs who sniff obsessively in her office are often/usually/always?) dog-dog aggressive, I have paid more attention to “intensive sniffing behavior” (I don’t know what else to call it–but hey, I just made that term up, so don’t go looking in the literature!). I’m talking about the dog who enters a room in which other dogs have been previously, puts his nose down and doesn’t lift it up for minutes at a time. I did indeed find a correlation (just observations, no research) that dogs who can’t seem to stop sniffing an area where other dogs have been, are often dogs who have problems with other dogs, especially unfamiliar ones.
I remembered that when I first took Willie, over 3 years ago, to his first vet clinic appt. He was about 8 weeks or so, maybe a day or two older. He first panicked when he heard dogs barking in the background, and I mean panicked. He looked terrified. We moved away from the sound (which was a good 100 yards away–the outdoor area of a doggy day care) and to the front door of the clinic. I put him down and he slammed his nose into the ground and started sniffing loudly and, well… intensely. He would not move from that spot for food, squeaky toys, smooches, clicks or guarantees of an entire chicken for dinner on a daily basis.
I groaned silently, predicting that this could indicate serious trouble down the road. (He had been a bit fearful of my dogs when he first met them, but he was a 7 and a half week old puppy who withdrew but then came right back and let them sniff him. It didn’t seem excessive at the time at all.) I picked him up and took him inside, where he went happy, waggy, flappy body at the vet tech and the vet. As we were leaving the appt, we walked into the lobby to find a Bichon puppy in the middle of the floor. Willie ran under a chair and hid. From a Bichon puppy. As if it were a monster.
Ah, Trisha, you might ask: And why did you keep this puppy? All I can say is that for over a year I said “I’m not sure I’ll keep him, but I just want to work with him enough to keep him out of a shelter or a euthanasia appointment.” As many of you know, he did exhibit horrific problems with other dogs for a long time, and I worked my tail off on it. (I show a video of him meeting a new dog in the Dog-Dog Aggression DVD, including one of the ways I’ve treated his issues. (the DVD is now on sale, my staff tells me I’d better mention, or they’ll muzzle me for life). As many of you also know…. I am stupid in love with him and wouldn’t re-home him for any thing or any body.
Two questions, really: How many of you have seen dogs who exhibited the potential for dog-dog aggression at such an early age? I have no explanation for Willie’s behavior. He grew up around other BCs and Labs, the breeder swore nothing she can think of would have caused any problem. I can tell you that his dam an sire were bred again, and resulted in another puppy with the same issues.
The other question relates to the “intensive sniffing.” I’m curious about your experience with it. I can tell you that I’ve seen dozens of dogs now who are dog-dog aggressive to unfamiliar dogs who attach their noses to the ground and will not stop investigating the scents of other dogs. One of the markers, as a matter of fact, that I used to judge Willie’s progress was how intense he seemed about smelling the scents of other dogs. It makes sense when you think about it… if one is nervous/anxious/deeply concerned about unfamiliar dogs, then one would spend an abnormal amount of time checking “them” out, scent-wise that is. Willie, for over a year, acted as if every unfamiliar dog he saw was a monster. A raving, horror-movie, flesh eating monster. Now when he sees another dog he wags his entire body and whines to get closer. He’s doing extremely well, and I am proud and relieved (but dog parks well never be in our future……)
Here’s the little monster himself….
And here’s some of fall’s bounty, from the CSA down the road. Yum….
I’d call my shepherd mix an obsessive sniffer, and he does have dog aggression problems. In fact, now that I think about it, I remember his obsessive sniffing annoying me a little the day we met him and took him out into the exercise yard at the Humane Society. If I thought about it at all, I probably chalked it up to his former life as a yard dog and not getting out much.
He’s gone through Growl Class and has had a stable only-dog life with us for 12 years, but is still too reactive to other dogs for safe dog-park playing.
I don’t know that I can think of specific instances when I could correlate the one behavior with another, but I’m going to watch for it very closely from now on. My heart dog will probably leave me before next summer, and I’ll keep this in mind when selecting another dog. My guy came right off the streets of East Cleveland, and was very dog aggressive for a couple years. He got much better with dogs smaller than he is, but always had problems with bigger dogs. If watching for intensive sniffing helps me pick a less dog aggressive pal, I’ll be very grateful. Thanks.
For the first question, I have one of my own: What are the circumstances under which you acquired Willie? I looked through the blog entries tagged Willie, and couldn’t find an answer. Does he predate the blog?
My male is also v. obsessive about sniffing. He’s an Aussie mix – maybe with golden retriever? I’ve always associated it with his anxiety when he’s in places other than home. At home he does sniff, but it obvious to me he’s tracking creatures around the pasture. 🙂
Aww, what a sweet pic of Will. Pretty eyes.
My dog is reactive to other dogs, but I wouldn’t say she’s an obsessive sniffer at all. She’ll lick a person to death, but otherwise she doesn’t seem obsessive about anything, really (other than retrieving tennis balls – she’s a lab mix). At the park (not a dog park, but other dogs do frequently run there), she’s much more interested in chasing her tennis ball than in sniffing around. At dog class, she’ll sniff at the potty area and do this walking-while-peeing thing that’s not very attractive, but that’s about the extent of it.
Now, as to the severity of her reactive behaviors: she was fine with other dogs and very well-socialized until the age of 10 months, when she started having individual dogs she didn’t like. Within a couple years, there were whole breeds of dogs she doesn’t like (Jack Russells, Dobermans, Viszlas, BCs …). Actually, she loves all black hairy dogs, but anything else is kind of a toss-up. When she used to go to the dog park, she’d search out other dogs that have her sort of issues, and they’d square off and jump one another. Her behavior is managed to where she’s okay on leash at the dog club and at agility trials, so long as other dogs stay out of her 5-ft bubble. If she’s in the car or just out walking, she’ll stiffen up and growl at other dogs even when they’re still over a block away. Off leash at the park, she’ll ignore them as long as they’re more than 50 ft away.
Does the sniffing thing seem to be correlated more with dogs with really severe aggression?
Liz Maslow says
I have seen & worked with many dog aggressive dogs, who were also compulsive sniffers. Doing assessments for rescue, if I see a dog who gets out into the yard and completely blows me off to go and sniff intently and seriously for a minute or more I am very concerned about how that dog is with other dogs. And in fact, many times those dogs are quite dog aggressive. But that is not always the case.
I have two obsessive sniffers and a dog aggressive non-sniffer. My berner mix, Plato, sniffs because he is concerned about other dogs, but loves to run and play with them. In fact, if he can run up to a strange (never met before) dog and act like a lunatic (play bowing, body wagging and bouncing) he does not need to sniff. On the other hand, if he is on leash and cannot greet how he would like to, his nose goes to the ground and I can’t budge him. He also sniffs at Rally competitions if he is nervous about his surroundings. Plato is a sniffer, he will sniff a new person from head to toe upon meeting. If brought to a well used tree he will sniff it for upwards of 5 minutes before moving on. When I first heard mention from Sue that obsessive sniffers were dog – dog aggressive I was very worried about Plato, who was 2 at the time and always seemed to enjoy the company of other dogs. Thankfully Plato is a wonderful 6 year young dog who still really enjoys the company of other dogs (especially girls).
My other sniffer is a 2 year old terrier mix. Tess loves to sniff and she will mark over another dog’s urine. She is the first female that I have seen who lifts her leg to mark on a tree (although I had heard of such a thing). She thinks she is hot stuff when it comes to other dogs. She greets dogs very forward and stiff, and dogs treat her like the royalty she thinks she is. She is great to have around other dogs, she will play to a certain degree, but will also tell another dog when they have gone too far. She is one of my favorite dogs to work with when assessing other dogs. She is very sweet and submissive to people and has a good read on dogs.
My dog reactive dog is my 4 yr. old aussie, Tai, he never sniffs. He will mark, but does so very determinedly “there is a bush I will mark it so all the world knows I am here”. He is pretty full of himself. When he meets a strange dog while on walks, or working (agility, freestyle) he will usually just ignore him unless the dog gets in his face, or he thinks the dog is doing something he shouldn’t, like having fun. Being an aussie he feels the need to direct all goings on in the area. If a dog were to be put in our yard, without me managing the situation, he would run straight at him and I imagine fur flying and teeth being involved. This is a scenario I don’t like to think about.
So, as far as my 3 are concerned neither of my 2 sniffers are dog aggressive. One is a nervous sniffer and the other is an “alpha bitch” sniffer, but both do fine with dogs and seem to enjoy their company. My non sniffer is the most dog aggressive of the bunch and would prefer to be an only dog if he had the choice, he really could take or leave the company of another dog.
In conclusion, I think we can use sniffing as a clue to how a dog is feeling, and as a possible marker of dog-dog aggression. I will definitely test a compulsive sniffer with other dogs to check for aggression when doing an assessment. That said, compulsive sniffing should in no way be considered the determining factor as to whether or not a dog is dog-dog aggressive.
Liz Maslow says
Sorry for being so long winded. I guess I have too much time on my hands.
I attended one of Sue Sternberg’s seminars where she mentioned the intensive sniffing, and have since made a note of my dog-aggressive Aussie/BC’s sniffing behavior. He definitely obsessively sniffs where strange dogs have been. By the way, he kind of looks like Willie, except he’s blue merle. http://www.flickr.com/photos/prudencerabbit/sets/72057594138574964/
I have a dog that is aggressive toward both dogs and humans that he doesn’t know. His human stranger aggression was evident almost as soon as he was separated from his littermates at 10wks, and has persisted despite lots of hard work at eliminating it. His dog aggression evolved gradually as he matured even though he had extensive exposure to strange dogs from the beginning. He does exhibit this excessive sniffing behavior with regard to dogs, and it appears almost frantic. He does not show this with regard to humans, which I find interesting. He has always been an extremely anxious dog with many fears and lacks resilience to stress. He has a few full siblings from several litters that share varying degrees of these traits.
My dog’s reactivity episodes are accompanied by increased sniffing. However, I think it’s more of a stress displacement behavior with her. I’m also not sure I would call her reactivity aggression, but I admit I’m not sure where reactivity ends and aggression begins.
Trish – I have observed this behavior frequently in dog aggressive dogs. Once I took my gloves off in a house and literally felt I had to get them off of my person. The clients rott mix was fixated, dialated pupils, “crazy” over my gloves as they smelled so much of doggies. This dog later went through the front door and very seriously injured another dog walking down the street. And I have seen this in numerous other dogs as well.
What an interesting question and observation. Ranger doesn’t have any such problem; he’s the calm confident dog that all the others want to be around and he believes that’s the way it should be. When we went for a walk on a local trail today we met an off-leash Airedale that was much more interested in following Ranger than answering his recall. Knowing one more thing to watch for will help in deciding whether we want to stay when a strange new dog comes to join the park play. I’ve picked up some clues by observation but have tended to rely mostly on Ranger’s judgement.
We have a 4 month old BC that we are having the dog-dog agression issue with, but not the sniffing. We have 2 other dogs at home that he is fine with. We got him at 11 weeks old and he was living with other dogs. I can’t figure out why he is doing this. We have been taking him to “puppy school” and he acts like he wants to kill any other dog in the room. We are trying very hard to use distraction. We have taken him to Petco, Home Depot, etc.. He is fine until he sees another dog, big or small. I hope we can work through this because we will be camping a lot next summer and he will see strange dogs everywhere we go.
Both of my merry hounds have had a round of over reactive displays (both are on the fearful side), in some cases, the other dogs rushing us have scared the bi-jeebies out of me…not sure if I disagreed with my guys overt disapproval to these inappropriate dogs, it was frightening for me as well. ie…situations like a black lab jumped it’s fence to get at my at the time puppy Daizy.
Neither of my beagles are angels, it takes two to tango, but over the years whether a dog approaching is friendly or not, I have to manage the situation in advance to let them know I feel it’s safe to “say hello” or “u-turn”.
I haven’t noticed the other dog on the offensive sniff, but I have seen them eyeball my guys from a distance before coming in close. You can almost feel their eyeballs on you. That’s when I know to “u-turn”. If another dog looks TOO interested in meeting mine, I don’t chance it.
If the person wants to walk along with me for a bit (so I can watch their dog, and try to figure out the dog’s intentions) then I may walk parallel with them until their dog calms down and then they get to sniff. I just don’t chance those fast, in your face meet and greets anymore. I know no matter how much I try to convince my beagles that they’re fun…they’d rather pass.
In class room settings they don’t sniff unless they are on the scent of leftovers. They do give other dogs the eyeball if they’re acting over the top tho. I’ve noticed that.
Even after having dogs rush us and my guys being vocal, or make contact back, no vet trips, or punctures. I think they have good bite inhibition but there were a few times where they have mouthed another dog’s muzzle, without there being a mark or sometimes it looks like they’re pretend biting, not making contact but there’s a lot of noise ( like watching a Chinese Opera) which normally ends the insanity.
I don’t take my dogs to dog parks either.
My Aussie is one of those happy go lucky types who would be happy as a door to door salesman…meeting everyone and everything, so I’m really lucky with him but I do make sure that I don’t overwhelm another dog if I notice it’s eyes get big when we’re approaching, we U-turn then too. I learnt U-Turn from Feisty Fido but call it “retreat” after a Monty Python movie where rabid bunnies attack soldiers and they yell “retreat! retreat! and scurry back into the woods safe from the bunnies 🙂
Sara Reusche says
Trish, you have wonderful timing.
I just came home from a puppy class which left me feeling discouraged and worried over the puppy’s futures. In a class of seven puppies all under the age of fifteen weeks, two have me very concerned. The Boxer pup has moderately serious dog-dog issues (bullying, pinning other dogs, biting their necks) and very serious body handling/restraint issues (lunges and bites at person’s face if restrained, screams, not afraid to use his teeth). The Husky was too stressed/scared to eat the entire class, defensively aggressive with other puppies, and also presented with body handling problems. All the other pups in class were normal, wiggly, loose, lovely puppies, but these two concerned me. It’s very rare for me to get that “hair on the back of my neck” feeling with such a young pup as this Boxer, but when he went for my face I felt it. Did Will have any other issues as a puppy (body handling, resource guarding, etc), or just the dog-dog thing?
My 30-lb mixed breed presented with dog aggression, resource guarding, and handling issues when I adopted her, but it’s hard to know where her issues came from. She had already been through three homes and been abandoned by the time she was brought to the shelter at 12 weeks of age. She was then housed briefly with a litter of much younger Lab/Hound crosses (who were the same size as her), until she was separated out due to resource guarding issues against the other puppies. She has never been an intense sniffer except for when I come home from handling other certain other dogs, then she will investigate thoroughly. Nothing intense about sniffing elsewhere, but she does urine mark (including the leg lift) where other dogs have been. She also pees on my other dog’s head, if that makes any difference.
Wow! I have never heard of that observation, but I have a neutered male (who was neutered because of his issues) that is very dog/dog aggressive and he is definitely an intensive sniffer. I’ve always noticed an entire package of paranoia that he displays, but I’ve not really thought a whole lot about the sniffing as a single indicator until I read this post.
My boy sniffed a lot as a puppy, but got along well with others when he was young, albeit he was a dominant puppy with other dogs. He didn’t start displaying signs of his aggression until around 10 months. But now that I think about it, the sniffing was there much earlier. Very interesting!
after a long absence, I’m finally back and I have a lot of reading to do to catch up with all the good information one can find on this site !
Trisha – you have met my Shepherd Tessa in person and I’m sure she didn’t strike you as the shy type. 😉 When Tessa was Willie’s age she displayed exactly the same behavior you are describing about Willie. I took her to puppy class at a very reputable dog-school (the owner is a friend of Jean Donaldson’s) and I was told that this puppy was going to grow into an aggressive adult.
She was the tallest pup in the class and panicked at the sight of other puppies, hysterically crying and whining. I was at my wits end, quit class and started taking her EVERYWHERE with me and gently exposing her to daily life and its challenges. It started with the daily trip to the schoolbus over sitting outside a busy dogpark watching other dogs interact, to strolling through pet supermarkets (a place I usually avoid like the plague ! ) . At the end I now have a very friendly four-year old. A canine ambassador who job it is among other things, to test therapy dog prospects on dog-on-dog aggression. She has become a communicator par excellence and has an unflappable personality. I met our puppy-school teacher the other day and she did not believe that this was the panicked puppy from yesteryear. I’m really proud of the two of us.
My male dachshund is another story. I got him when he was already five years old. Never properly socialized and equipped with a Napoleon complex galore. His attitude: Clear the way – here I come. I think his behavior is almost suicidal ! Deep down inside he is a very insecure dog and his act of “offense is the best defense” is almost impossible to deal with. 🙁 I am almost at my wits end with this guy and I have gotten to the point where I just run into the woods when other dogs approach us. The funny thing is that he does not have that problem at all, once he has had a chance to meet the other dog on neutral ground. Unfortunately, we don’t always have neutral territory around us and I just don’t have the time to go on neutral ground every day. He has gotten better and I have to be resourceful in my efforts to find things that interest him more than the “enemy”. One day it’s a toy, the next day it may be filet mignon while on other days nothing will calm him down. Usually the scenario is quite “amusing”: My girls are quietly sitting next to me while HE is acting like sledgehammer jumping up and down barking his head off. (Makes me look really incompetent.:O) Once the enemy passes, I gather up my patient girls and we are on our way.
Our walks could be sooooooo relaxing………….if it wasn’t for him.
But that’s what makes dogs so much fun: Their individuality. Five years from now I hope that age will slow him a down a bit. 🙂
Mine is perhaps negative information, but I’ll share anyway in case it helps. Brodie is dog-dog aggressive, but not necessarily with strange dogs. He is a breedist, hating on site most dogs in the pointer group, is mostly over boxers and large breed dogs, and is also likely to react to anything with a smushed in face (except boxers, because I had access to several and worked LAT on them quite a bit) including Boston terriers, the only small dog I’ve seen him react to. He also reacts to invasion of his space (by dogs not people) but will simply move away if able. Although he doesn’t react to too many dogs, whe he does react it is way over the top, though perhaps mellowing just a tad as he is now 11.
Susan Mann, Brodie, Kyp!, and Arie
I haven’t noticed any connection with sniffing, but my dogs who have had problems with other dogs had signs from early puppyhood. Cinder, who tolerates strange dogs as long as they don’t bother her, but is not good with strange dogs that are very submissive or want to play, exhibited “freezing” when I took her to puppy class the first time at 9 weeks. When another larger pup leaped on her, in her frozen state, which I stupidly allowed to happen, she reacted with a growly, snarling display and told him off. After that she was moved to the “small puppy side” behind a fence and she completely ignored the other pups and looked for me the whole time.
My most recent pup is a relative of Cinder. I had two pups to choose from out of the litter, and I took along my 11 month old, very gentle Aussie Sprite. One pup froze, mouth in a tight little line, the whole time Sprite was in the room, although she had been playing happily with us before that. The other pup, the one that came home with me, followed Sprite around, very curious about her. That was one of the main things that decided me between the two pups.
This is fascinating. My own, extremely anxious, hypervigilent boy (an Eskie, now 4 and from a reputable breeder) exhibits many of the same behaviors. He was a very timid pup, fearful of other puppies in class, spitting out treats and finally becoming reactive by the time he was about 10 months old. And every class was followed by diarrhea the next day. Why did I keep him? I’d never heard of a “reactive” dog, thought it was all my fault and that he would be “normal” if only I could figure out why I was being so stupid. I cried buckets over him, begged trainers for help and read every book I could find that I thought might tell me what I was doing wrong. (off topic but WHY WHY WHY are there so many trainers out there who either don’t recognize early signs of very serious fear issues and/or are unwilling to help????) When he was 18 months old, I finally succeeded in getting him help from a Board Certified Vet Behaviorist. He was put on medication immediately and I’ve been working on training much better ways to handle his fears (for both of us!) for almost three years. He’s come a looooong way but like Will, he’ll never be a dog park candidate. That’s the background. Interestingly, I noticed about a year ago that as he finally started to show big improvements he also started to sniff obsessively. There is no such thing as a quick walk around the block with him. Jogging is an ongoing struggle. He will catch a wiff of some doggie “message” on a pole 20 feet away and slam on the brakes because he MUST check it out. I’ve learned that there is no point in arguing, pleading or offering yummy treats and jog in place until I can get him to move again. Does the sniffing behavior tell us something helpful? Might someone do a study someday? Seems to me there are many, many dogs out there with similar problems and the more we know, the sooner and more effectively we can help them. To all you trainers – PLEASE don’t look away when you see signs of an excessively fearful puppy. The excuse I get now when I ask “Why didn’t you say something?” is that “Nobody wants to hear that their pup might have a problem and I don’t want to be the one to tell them.” Do I even need to express an opinion of that approach? Thanks for getting the word out that there IS help and even clueless owners should not give up! And by the way, love that picture – Will has the most gorgeous eyes!
I wonder about the reverse.. dogs with not much sniffing interest. Does their abbreviated sniffing behavior fall into a certain pattern?
My dog is only interested in brief sniffing time. He is much more interested in the dog, person, or toy than their scent. He is extremely well socialized and totally non-aggressive.
Lisa Spector says
Hi Trisha – What an interesting topic. I’ll look forward to reading more about it.
I have a six year old Yellow Lab that I would call obsessive about sniffing, but probably not for the reasons mentioned above. He is a career change Guide Dog. When he was first dropped from the program at 18 months of age, I figured that his sniffing addiction would last about a year, now I know it’s for life. He wasn’t allowed to sniff as a puppy, unless he was relieving. (Not easy for any dog, yet alone a Lab.) Although he loves to sniff scents from other dogs, I think his primary reason is to search for food. And in his mind, almost anything could be edible so he can find things to eat in the most unpredictable places. He has absolutely no aggression issues, although he can be intimidated by large groups of dogs that he doesn’t know off-leash, so you wouldn’t find us in a dog park. He’s fine with a few unknown dogs off leash at a time though. On leash, he can comfortably be around hundreds of dogs. Because of his Guide Dog background, he didn’t have the normal socialization with other dogs as a puppy.
Long story, but a few weeks ago he was attacked by a dog (off-leash) who had absolutely no interaction with him. Just charged him from a block away, when he was healing on leash in a residential area (not even where the other dog lives). I was a little concerned that he didn’t seem to do anything to defend himself, and I don’t even think he cried. (Fortunately, residents came out of houses to help get the dog off of him.) But, as my trainer said “He’s got such a rock solid temperament” and fortunately he hasn’t suffered any emotional repercussions from this (after the initial few days of shock). Fortunately, he’s also healed well physically. To add some humor, on the way back to the car, his nose was still working and he found a pal of french fries on the ground. It was one time that I was happy that he was going for them. They might have been the last french fries I’d ever let him eat 😉
Gin Gin Bon Bon says
My dog has some dog-dog issues (really not sociable, and possessive-aggressive with unfamiliar dogs) that developed during adolescence but as far as I know, isn’t particularly interested in smelling other dogs. She didn’t even pay much attention to our clothes when we came back from a day of DOG SLEDDING. I think the link between obsessive sniffing and dog aggression might have something to do with the internal conflict I see in other dogs sometimes, when they are attracted to an unfamiliar dog but repelled at the same time. My dog very rarely exhibits that kind of conflict; most days I think she would be happiest if she was the only dog in existence. She does linger much longer at smell sites on walks than she used to, and she has her little routine for peeing (one leg up, and sometimes she stretches out so far that her remaining back leg flips over like in a long stretch) but I kind of see that as the equivalent of my spending more time reading blogs, and commenting, than before. There are about three hundred billion dogs in my neighborhood, so it must be really interesting for her to “read” dogs that we never encounter, because their walks don’t coincide with ours.
This is interesting. My dog is aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs but is perfectly friendly around dogs that he already knows.
I wouldn’t call him an obsessive sniffer… in fact, I was under the impression that I should encourage more sniffing – that using his nose is a healthier response than staring ? Am I wrong? My dog is very visual. He often doesn’t even realize that there is dog 3 feet away … No sooner does he SEE the other dog, all hackles are up and he STARES like a demon possessed. I am working on this behavior by distracting him with treats to the nose… So far, it works…
He is a rescue dog so I don’t know what his behavior was like as a pup.
Chatelaine B says
We adopted Kaya when she was about 3 years. She a GSD, small one so we figure she’s mixed with something. At the adoption event she moved around other dogs without problems with them. She did sniff everything in site when we went walking with her to see if we wanted to take her home. For the past 3 years she’s lived with us, she’s has a strong dog-dog aggression problem that we work on everyday and yes, she’s a sniffer. Nose to the ground and follows, and get excited, the scent of whatever dog went by us first. She’s a total marker too. I own your Feisty Fido book so maybe this DVD is next on my list 🙂
Great pic of Will, Trisha!
My fear-reactive dog, Izzy, does sniff more than my other dog does, but I don’t necessarily think it’s obsessive. I think her issue tends to be hypervigilence, both from fear and in a predatory way. She has a tendency to scan the environment for things to bark at or chase, particularly outside. I had to teach her to make eye contact with me at all; she will still forget I am connected to her via a leash if I leave her to her own devices, though she is very good about checking in with me in the house now.
She also has a very hard time calming herself down from being startled by a noise, strange sight, or reacting to something. After years spent working on her (over)reactions to various things, she is so much better now, but to this day I can’t leave my blinds open while I’m not at home because she’ll fixate on people passing by the house and bark like mad all day – it’s just too much for her.
I rescued her as a stray at about 6 months of age, and while I don’t believe her to have been abused physically, I think she was at the very least a naturally shy dog who had no good experiences with people, wasn’t handled, never saw a vet, probably wasn’t fed enough, and didn’t live in a house. Ugh, people disgust me. Anyway, in general, I suspect people weren’t very relevant to her and she wasn’t exposed to much of anything novel. Her biggest issues are experiencing new things. New places can still cause her to shut down. She used to be fear-aggressive toward people, but she is much better now and will approach if given time. I feel pretty confident that she trusts me enough now to prevent a strange person from bothering her and allows me to handle things. It usually takes a few weeks of meetings for her to allow a stranger to pet her, though.
With strange dogs, she is still very much reactive/fear-aggressive. I can introduce her to friendly, well-mannered dogs without problems, but I have to go slowly as it’s very obviously stressful to her. She will never be ready for the dog park, but that’s ok.
I’ve have two apso who are selectively dog reactive. Both are intense sniffers. I never made the connection. Silly me, I thought them to be “slow readers” in reading the “news of the day.” It seemed like they had to sniff every molecule of every blade of grass on walk. Completely aggravating.
The female was also a marker (she never just squatted and peed .. had to walk far enough to be sure she was emptied out) but I never figured out who she is marking. The male is a social bumbler/status seeker and a high hiker when marking. He lifts his leg so high he sometimes fall over. I’ve wondered the significance of that … if there is any.
Trisha, Are you describing a different type of sniffing behavior than what Turid Rugas defines as one of her “calming signals” ? Could you elaborate on that ?
This is a fascinating topic! I have two dogs, both rescued from shelters as teenagers (one was about 18 months, one was 9 months). When I first got Lucy, the older one, she was a mess: very dog aggressive and reactive to all kinds of stimuli. She was also a very intense sniffer, to the point where it disrupted walks. I’ve worked hard with her on her dog-dog problems, and she’s gotten a ton better, to the point where she’s happy to see 90% of dogs; as she got more confident, she became a less obsessive sniffer. She’ll still find a sniff spot that she’s uninterested in leaving every now and again, but it’s far less constant. By contrast, my younger dog Theo is quite aggressive towards small dogs and cats right now (ah, the occasional idiosyncrasies of shelter pups), but he’s not a big sniffer at all. However, I am fairly certain that his problem is an oddly-targeted prey drive and not fear-based aggression (unlike Lucy). I wonder if the difference in impetus drives the sniffing behavior–or lack of it–now?
Very interesting. My 4 year old standard poodle who worries very much about dogs who are with in 10 feet of him who are clearly not under handler control and who has done some very impressive and scary aggressive displays (I think fearful), is very interested in the scent of dogs that worry him. At an agility trial yesterday he stood worrying about a couple of cavalier king charles spaniels while their handler chatted with another lady. The other lady intermittantly loved on the spaniels. Immediately the little dogs went away, my boy pulled me over to sniff the now spaniel scented lady, at length. Similarly, he had ‘words’ with a collie 3 months ago. That collie was at yesterday’s trial. My boy sought out the collie’s owner, when she wasn’t with her dog and thoroughly sniffed her.
Pam Coblyn says
My 2 year old border collie, Fenway, has made amazing progress with obedience training, going from a spirited, fun-loving and fresh little boy to a pretty well behaved dog. I say “pretty well” because he will sit/stay forever with a food bowl in front of him until I release him. Same with his beloved frisbee. Also, he is the dream dog that wouldn’t run away but isn’t a velcro dog either. But I’ve reached a roadblock with training and am frustrated.
In novice obedience class, we are having trouble maintaining a sit or down stay. At home, Fenway would park himself for an hour if I asked him (but I don’t! That’s too long for a bc). But in class, Fen will go for about 1-2 minutes while becoming more and more distracted by the teacher’s proofing (throwing a toy or ball to her own bc who’s off leash). Fen can stand it for just so long and then gets up to run over and join in the fun. I’ve been told repeatedly he doesn’t respect me and to give him a hard leash correction and put him back in place.
Fen will sometimes retreat to the original sit/stay place as I’m going back to correct him, but the teacher tells me I still need to give him a hard correction. This just doesn’t “feel right”. It seems to me that Fen is realizing the error of his ways and choosing to “do the right thing”.
I am frustrated! To get a foolproof sit or down stay, is it a matter of methodical training every day with a few sessions per day? (I do that…still no improvement in class).
Also, and here is my BIGGEST question: what is the difference between dominance and leadership? I am guessing that the answer might give me clues as to how to gain respect from my BC.
By the way, I play with him a LOT (frisbee, ball, tugging), do agility training, bike him for exercise, he’s a show dog and gets a ton of attention and fun. Could all this play and activity be causing a problem? Am I just a toy to him?
I would think it has to do with confidence. The more confident (truly confident), the less a dog needs to worry about the other dogs who may be around. Dogs who lack confidence need to know what other dogs have been around, their sex and health status.
My Dexy, who was an extremely confident, laid back Golden had little interest in sniffing for other dog smells, although he was a huge hunter so he was frequently sniffing for rodent smells. My Little Red Dog is far less confident, he is more interested in who is around and has the unfortunate habit of lifting his leg when he goes into a new place. He is also grumpy with other dogs, frequently growling at dogs when he meets them.
Pam you said
Why would you correct you dog if he is in the position you want him to be in? I think doing that would send him very mixed signals! Maybe during class give him cookies for STAYING when the teacher throws the distractions. Don’t wait for him to break – reinforce what he is doing right!!!
Sorry for the off topic – I just couldn’t resist!
I’m no expert, but as a teacher of obedience classes, in your situation, I’d find another teacher! I find harsh corrections in a stay make the dog MORE unstable, if they work, most dogs have shut down – which is the oppostite of a calm, happy stay.
Your bc seems perfectly normal to me – lots of dogs can’t do at class what they can do at home. The trick I find is to teach stay from the beginning in lots of different places – then add in the distractions. I was told 20 different places by a top professional obediece competitor, and 10 by a vet animal behaviourist – it depends how stable you want the dog to be.
As for the difference between dominance & leadership – may I recommend Trisha’s book “How to be Leader of the Pack and have your dog love you for it”? It cleared up all my questions & misconceptions!
By the way, if your dog is on something comfortable, there is no problem with a down stay of an hour or more, but I wouldn’t have him waiting for a frisbee or food at the end (make the stay more rewarding than the release). I have a friend, a border collie breeder & trialler, who is a vet nurse. Her dogs are capable of staying in a down stay while she acts as anaesthetist!
As far as I am concerned, you are doing the right thing by your border collie. The only thing to watch is you want to watch over stimulating him (a rare problem). I recently read a book “Stress in Dogs” which suggested dogs need around 17 hours of rest a day to recover.
Keep up the good play!
Pam – It sounds like you might be pushing your BC too fast with his stay training. Instead of keeping him in that stay so long that he becomes distracted and fails at it, release him sooner so that he can have a successful experience. Tone down the distractions while you work on the duration. I have always been told that you can increase only one of the three “Ds” of stays at a time – distance, duration, or distraction – but not two or three at once. For a dog, staying in obedience class is a very different, more distracting, exercise than staying at your home. So go easy on him, take it slower. I know there are a lot of opinions out there, but it is my belief that a stay should be a peaceful, soothing exercise for the dog and that you can get a good one without corrections if you are patient.
I also had a trainer tell me that you can amp a dog up too much by giving him too much really exciting hardcore exercise, and that can make them a bit nuts when you go to work them, because they get used to that emotional charge. Adrenaline junkies, if you will. Her advice was to make sure you also incorporate a brisk, steady walk into your dog’s routine.
Disclaimer – I’m no professional! Take that with a grain of salt 🙂
Pam and all: I’m not supposed to be doing this (versus working on the budget, sigh) but I simply can’t not respond when I saw your post and the excellent comments that followed. Quickly, but passionately: 1) oh yes yes yes…. get another trainer! Harsh corrections are usually unproductive, harmful and downright ignorant. Yes, they can work sometimes, but so can kidnapping someone and beating them to a pulp to get them to do anything you want. 2)I totally agree that what your dog can handle at home has little relationship to what he can handle in a distracting, class environment. Absolutely set him up to WIN, not to fail. Take smaller steps, ask for very short stays, reinforce them with food AS HE IS ON HIS STAY and then release him before he just can’t stand it anymore. 3) Re-read what you wrote: “….going from a spirited, fun-loving and fresh little boy to a pretty well behaved dog…”. Here’s the great news: he can stay a “spirited, fun-loving and fresh little boy” AND be an awesomely well-behaved dog. A good trainer, good books and the many of the people who read this blog can help that happen.
I found Trisha’s “Feeling outnumbered” book really helpful for stays, as a lot of the rewarding was done when you are close by, and the most patient dog ends up with the reward, whether you have one or more dogs, I still love that book as all the exercises are based on rewarding the patient dog.
Trisha’s “The Other end of the leash”, “For the love of dogs” are my two absolute favourites…oh wait, they’re actually tied with “Feeling Outnumbered” and “Feisty Fido” and “How to be the leader of you pack and have your dog love you for it”….hmmmm if you put each on your Christmas wishlist you’d be set for a while without spending a dime!!!!
DASH (desire, accuracy, speed, habituation) is an acronym I learnt from an agility trainer that’s helped me ensure that I have created a strong foundation. Each phase has got to be solid and tested before you move on to the next otherwise things fall apart.
I think too many people add distance, and do not go back to reward and test that the dog understands the “rules” of the game being close by.
Most people go right for the sexy stuff and when the dog fails (what I actually mean is when humans fail to make the “rules of the game” a no brainer for the dog) then people’s ego get the best of them and that’s when the punishment comes in.
Sounds like too much too fast for your BC to me as well.
I also believe that if you “correct” you’ll start to see things in his eyes that break your heart, let alone in his behaviour. I’ve seen dogs that after ‘being corrected” just dance around almost as if they don’t know where to go to be safe, what to do, they’re not calm, it makes them crazy, then comes the additional “correction’. I’ve also seen dogs lean away and close their eyes from their owners when the owner go into give them cuddles after they correct the dog, and the dog listens out of fear, or just has learnt to do nothing is safe. That also breaks my heart. It’s actually another reason I don’t go to dog parks anymore too much of that going on.
Once you read good books that give you a good idea on behaviour, it sure makes it easier to stand up for what your heart tells you doesn’t feel right. I think it also makes you a more compassionate “trainer”, “teacher”, “dog mom”… and when you don’t “correct” it actually speeds up the learning curve!
My dogs never hear a “no’ or receive an emotional or physical correction, other than they aren’t rewarded, just plain, nothing…which tells them, regroup, and lets see you try again! Especially in the learning phase..it totally slows down the progress if they not only need to try to figure out what to do…but they also have to think about what the unknown “not to do’ ….it’s got to be unsettling for them.
I have a friend who uses the word “no” and whenever we’re teaching the dogs a new trick…all I hear is “no”, ‘no”, “no” and even to me, hearing all that negative stuff is not making me feel like wanting to be around her.
I hope you continue to listen to that inner voice work with you dog’s “Joie de vie”, happiness is contagious and if given the choice, I’d rather be around someone who is happy than someone who is grouchy myself.
Best of luck!
Covering both my dogs in a few posts, wonderful! 🙂
I have an aussie that’s not an obsessive sniffer, but exhibited similar behavior with other dogs when he was a puppy. Very fearful of them, but I was told it was normal because he was readjusting to his new home and surroundings. With time and a lot of socialization he actually got normal, although he had some growling issues with other males. But after I brought home a new puppy, he was 2 and a half at the time, oh my. His dog agression (not towards our puppy but towards every other dog, except the few ones he knew from puppyhood) escalated so much that he once attacked a puppy that did nothing to provoke him, we just turned the corner and there she was, and my aussie charged at her…
I also begged for help and was told that it was my fault, because I was such a weak pack leader, so he felt the need to protect me. Now we’ve come a long way, but I still have him on leash and muzzled 99% of the time.
So it’s good to hear that it wasn’t all my fault after all… I cried buckets of tears over him and felt guilty as hell for being such a bad dog trainer that I let this happen and couldn’t fix it…
Pam Coblyn says
THANK YOU to all the people who responded to my concerns about the sit-stay. What sensible advice. I completely concur with everything Nicola, Alexandra, Keli and Trisha advised. In my heart of hearts, I was thinking along the same lines but you all put it so eloquently and reasonably. The harshness is something I have NEVER done, and wouldn’t especially with this boy who I raised since he was 8 weeks. He’s a confident and very smart dog
Oh shoot I see errors after hitting “send”
1- “For the love of a dog” by Patricia McConnell
2-DASH – Desire, Accuracy, Speed, HABITAT – (Susan Garrett) take the show on the road only after you’ve proofed it in low distraction environment, tested their understanding, then take it somewhere new. You start from scratch in the new place and create desire, sub-threshold at a rate the dog is able to learn without being distracted. Distance comes naturally once they understand the foundation.
3-I’m not a robot so I don’t expect my dogs to be either. I was so excited to be able to contribute to this post what I am hoping is “food for thought” that I hit send without proofing my comment! I too do things without thinking being caught up in the moment all the time! Fen, I hear you and agree that sometimes life is just so very exciting it’s hard to contain myself 🙂
Lacey H says
I did have a fiercely dog aggressive bitch once – and she sniffed no more than average. On the other hand, my current old male sniffs very obsessively indeed and always has (though even more now) and he’s never been aggressive, though a trifle anxious. I think it just depends.
Ute Hamann says
I have one intensive sniffer and he for sure has been sniffing the ground from a very early age on. But he is that Papillon Puppy who – at the age of 7 weeks – carried a junvenile rabbit into the house and ate it. He developped to a serious hunter with 10 months and at the same time began to become dog aggressive (acting self confident which he never was). I am not sure in which category the sniffing behaviour belonged, (hunt/ dog dog aggression) may be both. Fact is that I decided to try a chemical castration (lasted 6 months) during the anti-hunting training, hoping it might help him off the distractions of the ground scents. He is reliable around rabits and game now, after more than 2 years training.
The interesting thing is: he is and always was an intensive sniffer with humans. As puppy up to today he loved to be in masses of people and greet everybody.He loved and still loves children. But in my eyes he always was just a bit too pushy, trying to sniff peoples eyes with an extreme intensity. He never tried to hump people for years but still … I always thought it could be a sexual behaviour in this sniffing.
The proof came days after the mentioned chemical castration: He met the neighbours girl – as usual and joyfully ran to her. The girl hugged him as usual (I never was able to make her stop doing it). He sat in her arms, doing no eye sniffing, and he began to shake – he was totally scared by her normal behaviour. He was so scared that I do not think he was far away from a fear bite. Fear aggresson in this dog, towards humans? Unthinkable, never ever expected!!!
I talked to the vet, asked him to warn clients about unexpected behaviour changes after applying the injection as I was sure it had to do with it. (Not possible was the answer.)
On a workshop with Susan I mentioned his intensive attempts to reach and sniff peoples eyes. She said that sniffing of body liquids is in fact a sexual behaviour and I recalled the strange behaviour of this dog after the chemical castration.
Pam Coblyn says
One more reply from me and then I’ll shut up!!! LOL
This morning, I reread what Trisha wrote about being a “spirited, fun loving dog AND an awesomely well-behaved dog. That concept is going to stay the basis of everything I do with my boy. As an aside, he is nearly always smiling and has a huge look of delight….something that’s helped him win over the hearts of judges and a top handler in the conformation ring.
And I remember the obedience trainer telling me he’s just too happy because he continues to smile during the long, boring obedience classes. (she doesn’t the fact that he is smiling at me duing the downs!!!) IMHO, he loves to work and loves/lives to please me. I even called him off of a cat chase yesterday! Instead of punishiing him for a short bolt, I praised him lavishly for returning to me when I called him.
So why on earth would I want to yank the h*ll out of his chain in obedience class?
Well, this may lead to an explanation of why my dog is an extremely avid sniffer. He has lunging/barking issues with many dogs when walking on the leash (something we’ve been working on ad-nauseum to date, “watch me”, etc… slowly improving, but still needs work). Pretty much by the same time he started exhibiting that [mis]behavior he also started sniffing every square inch during our walks. I try to let him sniff as much as he wants to make the walk enjoyable for both of us, but sometimes it feels like too much. He would stop on almost every tree, bush, pole or grass area to take careful sniffs.
Kerry L. says
My nephew has a 120 lb GSD who is an obessive sniffer of people. I took the dog to obedience classes where he earned his CGC, but I won’t let him sniff me for longer than 3 seconds. I trust the dog when I’m handling him but not when he’s with his owner, my nephew. When he’s with my nephew (who is in his 40’s, so he’s a adult) the dog is hyper-alert and I’ve always worried he could be people-aggressive. The dog is 12 years old now and I’ve wondered if he would have made a good SAR or drug-sniffing dog.
I have a lovely little female pit bull who is selectively dog-aggressive and a crazy sniffer. She’s an extremely confident, outgoing dog, so I am comfortable that the sniffing is not out of insecurity or discomfort. She’s pretty well behaved around dogs at this point unless one sparks off at her, but I know, put in an uncontrolled situation, she’d aggress.
A couple years ago I took her to a competition obedience trainer for lessons. We worked inside without too much sniffing, but once we went outside into the trainer’s fenced training yard, forget it. I couldn’t get her nose off the ground to save my life. Meatballs or no meatballs. The trainer was slightly befuddled- she’d never dealt with a dog so absolutely obsessed with sniffing. We never really were able to work through it, and I continue to have sniffing frustrations with her.
Vin Chiu says
I have one DA dog. My neutered male is 8 years old. He began exhibiting dog-aggressive behaviors sometime after he was attacked ferociously by an in-tact off-leash Anatolian Shepherd in central park when he was 2 years old. Yes, that is when some APBTs begin to exhibit this kind of behavior, however, trying to be objective about the incident and this dog, he did everything he could to avoid the onslaught, wrestled his way out of a few bites and only fought back when the other dog had bitten him several times and was coming in for another bite. I was bitten badly by the shepherd during the attack. When he did fight back it was only to the extent that the other dog was subdued and completely incapacitated. He did not injure the other dog. He was subsequently attacked by two other off-leash dogs very soon after and intervened when a Rottweiler escaped from a dogrun attacked his “sister”. It was like a 4 month long cruel joke. Neither incident was as bad as the first, but it definitely solidified his resolve to be wary around other dogs. He continued to live with my female without issue for many years and continues to love to play with our puppy who is past puppy license age. We took 5 weeks of gradual acclimation to make our first off-leash intro and it was well worth the wait.
He is not at all aggressive on walks but he will be very aggressive to dogs who enter his personal space when he is relaxing or otherwise confined. He does not give a threat display beside becoming very stiff and for only a split second before he is all over the other dog. He has never sent a dog to the vet or caused significant injury but does hold on until he is mechanically made to release and I have no doubt that he would seriously injure another dog if we didn’t intervene very quickly. He is very quick to fire. Needless to say, he is not permitted to be off leash with adults, ever. He’s wonderful with puppies and humans.
This dog is an INTENSE sniffer. He would sniff spots on our property for up to 45 seconds and mark over them. He sniffs spots where our female has urinated and over marks them. He is sometimes clearly agitated when he is sniffing in an unfamiliar place, like in town. He has not always been this way. He began sniffing like this a few years ago after we moved out of the city and out to our farm. Since moving out here, he is definitely more anti-social. Its like he found his little piece of heaven and doesn’t want anyone else to think they can have it. I have been working with him extensively and he is able to relax and just walk with me around the property, but essentially, even when he is meandering and relaxed, he is still ready for battle whenever we are out.
Dena Norton says
I’d recommend that you go in and reward your dog for staying as soon as the instructor starts the difficult proofing activity. Something that I also do is to go in and reward my dog for staying whenever another person in class goes in and corrects their dog.
You don’t necessarily need to shorten the stay for your dog in class compared to the others, but I would certainly go in and reward multiple times. Then give the stay command and leave again. So you are, in essence, doing a sequence of short stays, rather than one long one.
Pam – What a wonderful, fun dog you have. Follow your heart, I think you have good instincts. So many dogs in obedience just plod along because they have to – no one is having any fun. It’s a gift to be able to work with your dog and have them love it. Why shouldn’t he be happy and smiling? What else are we doing dog training and competitions for if not for fun, right? Pick a new trainer, in my opinion!
Perhaps, if such a correlation is common, it has something to do with dogs having dog-dog aggression also having very restricted access to other dogs. It could be partly that, as dogs who are reactive around other dogs subsequently are restricted from interactions with unfamiliar dogs, their interest in unfamiliar dogs’ scents would heighten.
I will have to watch for the sniffing behavior in the exam room when new puppies come in. I only wish that more of my clients were as responsive to these observations as the people who read this blog.
I don’t see a lot of young puppies with obvious fear or aggression issues, but when I do it can be like pulling teeth to get people to believe me or even do something about it. I spend a lot of time showing people how their pup’s body language is pointing to a serious problem that needs to be addressed. A lot of people just can’t understand that. They think it’s really cute when their five pound large breed puppy growls. It can be really frustrating to keep trying at every puppy visit.
Reading all these posts is so encouraging, it reminds me why I keep trying!
Cassie,you are wonderful and as frustrating as it is, don’t give up. Even the densest of owners can get a clue, eventually – I’m living proof! People may not want to hear it or may not understand at first but if no one tells them, what chance does that pup have?
Back on topic: I’m wondering about the intense sniffing – since my fearful dog really only started showing the behavior as he began to learn better ways to deal with his anxieties – if the behavior isn’t often a group of behaviors because the dog is conflicted. That is, the dog might be engaging in a calming behavior but also be engaging in information seeking behavior and even in some amount of territoriality if it marks (my boy doesn’t mark much, just sniffs endlessly)so there could be a whole spectrum of things going on and it would depend on the individual dog as to which behavior is foremost, if any. I think my guy is pretty conflicted. He feels better now and has some useful coping skills but is still learning and like it or not, came hardwired with a temperment given to anxiety. It will be a lifelong journey for us. Might as well sniff the signs along the way….
My Cocker Spaniel/Poodle is an obsessive ground sniffer (he tears around at 20 miles an hour trailing with his nose to the ground, it looks hilarious), but he’s good with other dogs – a bit shy sometimes, but has never been aggressive in the least. He also flushes and chases animals (including my cats) but doesn’t have a grab and kill instinct – I’ve seen him get close enough to animals to grab them in his mouth, but he never does. His only behavior problem is HIGH excitement!!! which can be very hard to control.
My Shepherd mix does have aggression issues, and he’s not much of a sniffer at all in comparison. He is, however, highly visual. He’s a ‘starer’ and constantly scanning his surroundings for threats. I’ve had a lot of success controlling his behavior with breaking his gaze and making him refocus on me, even for a short time. He has a kill instinct, he shakes, kills and crunches up anything he catches (except my cats, thankfully!).
The theory makes sense to me though. Dogs that are high drive and extremely attentive to their surrounds in whatever way are often those with over stimulation/aggression problems.
Very interesting responses, thank you all so much for taking the time. Later I’ll go through and add up all who have found a correlation between dog-dog issues and obsessive sniffing and those how haven’t. It makes great sense to me that dogs who are fearful about encounters with other dogs would spend an excessive amount of time trying to get chemical information about them. (Or visual information like Bonnie’s shepherd cross.) Willie was truly terrified of unfamiliar dogs when he was an obsessive sniffer, but he also loves other dogs once he 1) gets to know them and 2) feels like he can control their interactions to some extent. (It should be clear that I am guessing here on #2, but Willie is the ultimate “Alpha-wanna-bee” — huge control needs with no confidence. That’s what I get for coining the phrase–getting one myself in my dotage.)
And to Cassie, yeah yeah yeah! to you for your efforts to educate clients. I sympathize. I can’t tell you how many people have come into my office for one problem, and the REAL problem showed up within minutes. You know and I know and all the blog readers know that there is big trouble down the road if something doesn’t change, but the owners just can’t see it. I think to some extent it is unavoidable, just as physicians tell people that they need to get more exercise or….. However, I do have one idea: I found that we can capitalize on people’s tendency to be anthropomorphic and use it to a dog’s advantage. Rather than just saying “these are signs of serious beh’l problems down the road” I’ll use some human analogy. My most common is: “Right now your adolescent dog is like a 17 year old boy with drugs hidden in his bedroom and some bad friends. He can go one way or the other… but the only one who can intervene is you.” That seems to get their attention.
Cassie… you just inspired me to write my next blog about this topic: It’s a huge problem for dog trainers and behaviorists, as well as vets!
Mary Beth says
Are these all truly dog aggressive dogs or are we having too high of expectations of our dogs? We put them in so many social situations and expect the ultimate in politeness. Is sniffing a behavior found more often in fearful dogs or dog aggressive dogs? Or is sniffing a calming behavior for an anxious dog or a calming signal or an avoidance tactic? Interesting question but it leaves me with more questions than answers!
My two year old Golden is a very intensive sniffer but is quite the opposite of aggressive. When we go to the dog park, her nose is so glued to the ground that I have to drag her in and when she is finally in the gate it takes her fifteen minutes before she will even leave my side. When another, unfamiliar, dog approaches she looks away and ignores them until they lose interest and leaves. After her initial fifteen minute period is up, she continues to sniff every square inch of the park and won’t even lift her head when I call her or put a treat in front of her nose. Once she has sniffed the park thoroughly she will retreat with me to a quiet corner of the park and will then engage in a game of chase with her little puppy sister.
Noraa is a therapy dog because she loves people but she is very picky about the dogs that she will play with or even interact with. At her doggy school they use her with aggressive dogs because she doesn’t react to their barking or snarling, she simply looks away and ignores them. When they don’t get a reaction out of her they calm down. I think that they figure that there is no point if she isn’t going to react to all of their efforts. But, like Willie, when people are around she is a puddle of wagging smiling fur.
My Bernese puppy, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She wants to play with every dog in the park and finds it a bore when it is just her and Noraa (since Noraa spends most of her time sniffing). Another example of how different an individual dog can be from the “breed standard.” My Golden who is supposed to love every person and dog alike is very aloof around strange dogs but my Bernese, who is supposed to be aloof around strangers and loyal to her “pack” loves everyone equally…human and canine.
Trisha – My oldest dog has dog aggression issues. It seems to be fear-based and I usually describe it (anthropomorphically) as – “Bark, bark, I’m going to scare you away so that you don’t get the chance to get close and scare me”. She is fairly easy to call off when we’ve accidentally found ourselves around strange dogs and she acts relieved to be able to back down and come to a safe place (with me).
She definitely showed signs of early issues. I rescued her from an individual who handed her off to me in a McDonald’s parking lot (if you saw her petfinder photo, you’d know exactly why I had to have her). I was told that she was nine weeks old – but given her size at adoption, her exponential growth in those early weeks and her “finished” size, I think she was probably closer to six weeks. She only weighed about seven pounds and she grew to be just under 70 pounds.
I took her to puppy socialization sessions at my vets. She went under the chairs and observed from there – she was very unsure about coming out to play. Though, she showed no aggression. Her ears were (and are still) almost always pinned back. She cannot hide her emotions and if her ears are any indication, she is often unsure. We took lots of classes and had some early success in group agility classes. She loves people and her love of all of the trainers and owners seemed to drown out any issues with other dogs. But then we had an incident where a golden retriever stared her down and then came after her – crashing through about ten metal folding chairs in an attempt to come and get her. We’ve been trying to recover her confidence ever since (six years, now!)
One thing she is not – is a sniffer. She shows little interest in sniffing and I’ve never seen her sniff anything with much more than casual interest. She’s some type of german shepherd/herding dog mix and is very upright and always looking to me for interaction.
The good news is that she loves her housemate dogs and we’ve worked out a way to continue to train for agility and compete. We compete at a small venue that is filled with really nice people (Yeah, ASCA!). And while I have to do some management before we get in the ring, she loves agility so much that she does quite nicely once she’s out on the course. (One side effect of having to train privately is that I use her frisbee as a reward most of the time – her absolute love of her frisbee has transferred over to agility and she’s just so much fun to work with.)
Like you and your dog, though she has been a challenge, I love her so much and she holds a special place in my heart because of all of the trials and tribulations we’ve been through to get where we are now.
I, too, have a dog reactive (and fearful) dog much like Willie. While I don’t remember him obsessively sniffing as a pup, I now think I may have created a monster as he is now an amazing scent tracker. Having a job is my Aussie’s saving grace. Tracking and herding have helped him be less reactive and listen to me better in time of high arousal.
So which came first? Did I subconsciously enter my dog into tracking upon picking up his sniffing behaviour? Or did I create a scent-obsessed dog by starting him in tracking? I’ll never know! LOL! At least I’ve changed his scenting into a positive job for him to calm his arousal, which I’m extremely proud of!
Great topic…keep ’em coming!
Jelly showed fearfulness of some, not all, dogs from the time I got her at 4 months old. As she went from high-kill shelter to a ranch-type sanctuary with her sister and both had kennel cough, who can say what those days were like for her. Once she was recovered, I introduced her to my friend’s lab. She lunged and snapped 3 times and Emily rolled Jelly on her back and held her down. Jelly popped up and she and Emily were friends all the rest of Jelly’s life. From that time, introductions were more carefully orchestrated. In those early days (before 1 yr old), some dogs she liked very much right away, some she was cautiously submissive and some she would lunge and snap at–usually rambunctious young males approximately lab-size. They would leave and she would play happily with the dogs she liked. As she got older, it was obvious that she was uncomfortable with strange dogs and did not want them near her, or near me. We quit the dog park and went to areas less dog-dense. She never barked, squealed or acted crazy as I have seen dogs do, but as a dog approached would raise her hackles and lower her head escalating to a low growl. If a dog persisted, Jelly would sometimes turn away and sometimes erupt. She would have what I called a “noisy fight”. She would lunge and bark-bark-bark usually knocking the other dog down but no damage would be done. Very effectively, she learned what to do to move the dog away from her. Generally, we both practiced a policy of avoidance. However, one day she bit a large lab that came loping towards me. Jelly was on a gopher hunt at a local lake where I took her to swim. I had called her and she was coming to me. Unfortunately, the lab came too. Jelly changed her trajectory to intercept the lab slamming him into the ground just in front of me. I dragged her off, and the lab had an incisor tooth hole (1) in the top of his head and a bite wound on his shoulder. I enrolled Jelly in Pia McGovern’s Grumpy Pup classes. We went through 3 of them, the third on interrupted by a TPLO surgery. Jelly did become more comfortable with dogs. Instead of instant piloerection, she began wagging her tail in a slow relaxed way and a happy face. Sometimes she wanted to sniff a dog butt, but sometimes she just sat back down and looked up to me for the treat. She was always an intense sniffer. I never thought about whether they were areas where a dog had been, but certainly upon reflection for the most part they were.
About dogs who challenge us and the love we have for them. I suppose the bond formed becomes deeper and stronger because of our investment in time, money, and emotion that having a dog-dog aggressive dog entails.
I have only had two dogs that were mine personally. Tater was famous at the local dog park. He was so engaging and comical. People always remembered him if they saw him just once. After his death, I had people say that they had heard about him from others. He did not notice people so much but loved, loved, loved dogs. A smooth fox terrier crossed with a cattle dog, with huge stores of energy and stamina, he was busy and destructive. I loved him like a fool. You know Jelly’s sad story. If my love for her did not surpass what I felt for Tater, and I think it did, it certainly equaled it. Times are difficult and I do not see a dog in my future. I would have liked to have a dog who was not so difficult, one who was long-lived.
There is definitely a correlation between sniffing and the dog’s reaction to its environment, whether it’s aggression, reactivity, etc. I have a 20-month old Shepherd/Malinois mix that I got when she was four months old. I have been working on reactivity issues since I got her. Fortunately, even though she is initially skittish to new things, she loves other dogs and people, and can calm down now fairly quickly once she gets over her initial reactivity. But is she ever a chronic sniffer! This is particularly so when she is stressed. I’ve had her in group training using clickers and treats and she has done pretty well. But in a class that I did not realize would use “collar corrections,” she sniffed all the time and acted up much, much more than in the other group training class I had her in. And she sniffed everything, not just for other dogs. I’m currently reading Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, who talks a lot about reactivity, sniffing and training your dog to want to keep her focus on you instead of the big scary world. Very insightful! And leaves me with little doubt that a dog aggressive dog would be constantly scanning and sniffing for other dogs.
Yes, my dog is a very intensive sniffer! And she is dog-aggressive.
She sniffs me this way if I’ve been with other dogs, without blinking, and she will sniff the environment in the same way if other dogs have been there. She’s also a champion overmarker.
The only place that she does not do this is at the vet although clearly there have been many dogs there. She doesn’t consider the vet’s part of her territory either, as she does with the homes of me, my friends and my relatives she visits frequently. In the case of the vet’s office, I think she is actually just more interested in the vet and the techs, as she thinks of the vet’s office as a place where several people are going to make her the center of the universe! She’s definitely on board with meeting and charming as many humans as she possibly can. She thinks of the vet’s the way a human would think of the spa–everyone there is just paying so much attention to her that it is a fantastic little adventure. Where else could she be stroked by 3 people simultaneously?
I got Jessie when she was 6 mos old and I honestly don’t recall if she was a sniffer at that age, although I’d guess so because I don’t recall it popping up out of nowhere. I only started paying attention to it after she had become dog-aggressive at maturity and I had read Sternberg’s article. I wish I had known that this sniffing was a warning sign!
Liz F. says
To give a brief response, my dog IS an intensive sniffer and is aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs.
I could go on and on about it being more complicated, as his aggression stems from an attack by a puppy too big for his britches that resulted in surgery, eight month long exercise restriction (including no playing with other dogs) and the isolation of really not being able to go anywhere except to his doctors’. My dog did sniff a lot before accident/aggression, but it has definitely increased in the years after.
I remember friends of my parents had a cocker that never put his head to the ground, it displayed aggression towards people. This was years ago and as I remember the breeder was selectively breeding dogs that kept their heads off the ground. End result was by removing the sniffing instinct/behavior that was “detrimental” in conformation, it brought out the aggressive behavior. The dog was returned to the breeder.
Deb Mickey says
As a young dog my border collie Jill was terrified of just about everything, including unfamiliar dogs. She was to be my SO
Deb Mickey says
Just wanted to add – I’m an instructor and do behavioral consults for a local dog training school. I have seen dogs come into the training building and immediately drop their noses to obsessively sniff and I
Bill Giese says
Absolutely my Libby (street rescue shepherd mix) has been an intensive sniffer ever since we got her off the street at about 4 months. She is now 3 1/2 years. I never associated her intensive sniffing with anything in particular, but she has always also been reactive to unfamiliar dogs. I consistently work with her using clicker training and she has come to love many neighborhood dogs. However, unfamiliar dogs definitely still push her button – I just never associated that behavior with intensive sniffing. I always associated the dog reactivity with the probability that she was not properly socialized as a young puppy. She is also very shy around unfamiliar people.
Shannon Brauchli says
I wouldn’t exactly call my 4 month old Aussie puppy an obsessive sniffer, but he does sniff intensely when strange men have been in the house, all around where they have been. We have had quite a few workers in and out of the house since the Kodi arrived. His fear around them made me suspicious and low and behold we discovered from the breeder that while he has been well socialized to women and children, not so much with men. This caused a bit of an issue with my husband, but an all out counter conditioning regime has helped tremendously. Now I am wondering if this intensive sniffing is some sort of red flag that I should be careful of. Every strange man that comes in the house is handed a slice of cheese and instructed to feed him, so I am hopeful that we can overcome this with time and consistency.
I like the idea of channeling the sniffing toward tracking. Will have to give that some thought as maybe a redirection of the obsession is a good way to go.
Vin Chiu says
November 16th, 2009 at 6:21 pm
Perhaps, if such a correlation is common, it has something to do with dogs having dog-dog aggression also having very restricted access to other dogs. It could be partly that, as dogs who are reactive around other dogs subsequently are restricted from interactions with unfamiliar dogs, their interest in unfamiliar dogs
So interesting. I have an 8 year old border collie/Australian shepherd mix we adopted when she was 6. She was fine when we first got her and still does well with our other dog, a Cavalier spaniel. But after she’d been with us a few months, the dog-dog problems started coming out with dogs she didn’t know. It took me a long time to realize that she’s terrified of other dogs, especially little ones with a lot of attitude. I tried taking her to an obedience class, but it was overwhelming, both for her and for me! She’s well-behaved at home; walks are the problem. I’ve had some success walking her with a clicker and treats, it distracts her (most of the time) from other dogs we might see. I also had success with slowly introducing her to the next-door neighbor’s dog. She was terrified and aggressive at first, and I would just calmly say “no” and walk away. After a while, she would just sit there while the other dog sniffed around her. Now they play–it’s so fun to see.
And she’s a very, very insistent sniffer whenever we leave our property.
How interesting–I’ve never thought about this, but it makes sense.
My little guy was a rescue. I met him when he was a year old. When the rescue worker took him to the “meet-and-greet” room, he had his head down, sniffing the entire time. It was incredibly difficult to get his attention. I decided to foster him, and see where things went.
Two years later, I’m madly in love with my leash-reactive dog, who is somewhat reformed due to lots of work and an excellent “growly dog” class. But yeah…I suppose the “intensive sniffing” was the first clue!
I have the same situation with Murphy, a Border Terrier. I have his great grandma, grandma and mother, all titled in conformation and performance events. Within the litter, social pup with people and appropriate with the adult Borders and our Collie. No red flags at all. Lots of experiences in my huge yard, and with visitors. Pick of the 3 boys, I kept him, for conformation and agility. Got his 2nd vaccination, and headed out into the world. He was very fearful. It did not help that the first dog he met, another BT, snarfed him, and the second, a co-worker’s nice Border Collie, broke his down-stay, and rushed at Murphy in rude canine greeting. Trapped on leash, Murphy responded with teeth.
I thought I had a good chance of turning it around, and worked hard to socialize him in puppy classes as well as DS/CC. He made progress, and was able to play with other pups. I was very careful, picking him up for breaks when he got too excited, or leaving if I felt the “mix” was not right for him. He learned that in those situations, he was safe, but none of it transferred to strange dogs we met in the outside world. We went to the Vet Behavior Program at UC Davis. Murphy is the rare dog that does not tolerate having his brain chemistry fiddled with. It made him more reactive! We finally found an older medication, that on a very low dose, helps his anxiety on walks (constant stopping to look at/listen to things I could not see/hear) so that we are now able keep walking.
I no longer “kick” myself for those first unfortunate dog encounters with Murphy. If not those, it would have been something the next day or the next week that set him off. He is a very reactive, fearful guy. A plastic bag on the counter fluttering gently from a fan, a stack of towels at the top of the stairs, a fallen branch in the yard – all get a noisy reaction from Murphy. On windy days, we don’t take a walk, as all that sound is just too much for him, and he looks so stressed with his eyes rolling and his ears pinned back and tail down.
Murphy will never compete in agility. But, he has taught me a lot. and he makes us LAUGH. He loves his balls, and can pick up 3 holee rollers or 3 tennis balls at one time. And in a house full of snuggly dogs, he is the #1 “snuggle bunny”.
Murphy’s 5 siblings are all fine, some so social that they go to the dog park! He has 12 half-sibling by his sire (and out of his mother’s full aunt, so similar breeding) and they are all fine. I will not be repeating the breeding.
Oh yes, sniffing. Murphy will drop his head and track a dog on a walk, snorting and getting more and more aroused. We cross the street! None of my other dogs do this.
I’m extremely late to the party on this one, but my dog-aggressive dog is a very intensive sniffer.
She sniffs new environments as though her head were incapable of lifting from the ground. It seems her natural posture is head down, body tense.
If I have been with other dogs, she sniffs me almost aggressively and will not blink or let up. If I walk away, she follows, nose glued to my leg. It would be comical if I didn’t realize what it meant.
What’s interesting about this behavior in her case is that the only person she intensively sniffs is ME! She is frequently in contact with other dog lovers, dog owners. She does not sniff them in the way that she sniffs me.
She will, however, sometimes sniff pet sitters in the same way.
A few dog-people have suggested to me that Jessie’s dog aggression may be tied up in a sort of resource guarding–me or others who frequently handle her being the ‘resource’ in question. I think there may be some truth to this, as she is clearly more interested in what those who handle her frequently have been up to and who they have been with. She doesn’t seem to care to sniff those whom she has never met or sees infrequently (although she clearly remembers and adores those she sees infrequently–they get the hero’s welcome and excitement whenever they visit. )
My mother’s dog Vipper (English Springer Spaniel) is a sniffer but not aggressive. In fact, he’s so submissive that he will literally panic and pee upon so much as seeing another dog. But he sniffs EVERYTHING. It is SO ANNOYING. Come in from being outside and he’ll follow you around the house, sniffing at your clothing. He wanders the house sniffing the carpet (the same carpet that’s been there for two years). Even if you go upstairs for ten minutes and come back down, the same as when you left, he has to sniff you intensely. He also does this weird sniff-sniff-SNORT thing where he’ll breathe in rapidly and then snort the air back out. It seems like whenever he’s not laying down, he’s wandering the house sniffing. I think he’s looking for scraps of food personally, because he has a habit of stealing food off of unguarded dinner plates, but that’s kind of off-topic since this wasn’t about dogs sniffing while indoors.
However, he is cat aggressive. My mom has a cat, and when my husband and I came to stay, we brought our three along. He constantly humps my mom’s cat (another male). He tries to “play” with the one of my three cats that isn’t terrified of him, and when he sees the other two he isn’t familiar with, he’ll instantly rush at them, ears up. Mom insists he’s not being aggressive but as soon as they run, he chases, and I’m not sure it’s to play.
My 11-year-old 60 lb mixed breed is a lovely dog with people but is very dog aggressive and is an obsessive sniffer. She also pees like a male dog. Brooklyn was 4 months old when she crashed into my leg in the woods breaking my ankle in 3 places requiring surgery for pins and plates. That’s when her socialization ended. I was out of work for nearly 4 months and it was quite a few months after that before I could even get her out and into a place where she would be able to meet strange dogs (she had a boxer friend at home) and then I was nervous, always moving to protect my leg/ankle when meeting another dog. She got worse and worse and now fixates any oncoming dog with a stare and runs around them trying them to react. If a dog is totally nonreactive she gives up after a while ( I did foster 2 coonhounds who totally ignored her behavior and they all ended up friends) but most dogs feel threatened enough to react to her. I feel bad for her because right now I cannot have a second dog and she now has a life with no canine friends. I don’t even think I can handle her to work with her anymore
Interesting observation but there’s no absolute correllary that I’ve read of in any of the credible canine behavioral science research out there. It would be a great question to put to someone like Dr. Ian Dunbar I think, if he can find time to answer and allow you to copy and paste it here, it would be fantastic to be able to read his answer on your blog. There’s also a preiminent canine scientist in the Netherlands, I’m sorry I forget her name and website, but she’s extremely well respect and has done some very ground breaking research into the extreme subtleties of ‘dog language’ ( mainly related to the body ) that utterly destroys long-held and common human ‘myths’ about canine behaviors.
It’s refreshing to read a blog with so many dog lovers who do not continue to perpetuate the myths of the ‘dog as wolf’ model that has so unfortunately been resurrected after having been abandoned over 40 years ago by most behaviorists. Now everyone runs around pinching their poor dogs on the throat and turning them into fearful, neurotic little things with even more inconsistent behaviors.
BTW, my dogs sniffing behaviors could easily, based on your definition, qualify as an ‘obsessive sniffer’. But it’s not obsession. It’s not a case of breed, as most think. For example, not all bloodhounds, whose olfactory gifts are well understood as compared to other breeds, or Miniature Shnauzers ( ‘schnauze’ = nose ), are obsessive about sniffing at all. But we humans need to remember that dogs ‘see’ through their noses primarily. Their brains are hardwired to translate their input much differently than our brains do, yet we keep trying to compel them to ‘see’ as we do. Well, they can’t and they won’t and they shouldn’t have to. Compared to us, they ARE obsessive sniffers even when their noses aren’t on the ground. Have you ever noticed how we humans are so obsessive about our dogs behaviors when they are NOT sleeping? Why aren’t we obsessed with how they sleep or what they do when they sleep? Well, because they’re not bothering us in some way at those times LOL
I have one dog who sniffs much more than my other two. It’s just how he is. It’s more interesting to snuffle around at this or that than being bored, I’m sure. And what I can’t smell, he surely can and what I think has long since passed as an odor, for him is surely there. The tiniest bit of liquid or food substance or some other tiny item with a smell, he can find it. And there’s lots of it at many times in various places. He’s also one of THE most mellow, non-aggressive dogs I’ve ever had. Or what my mother might call ‘a total cuddlebug’. He’s very good with other dogs, including strange ones, and people. Just a real ‘sensitive type’ 🙂
I think it would take an intense amount of data, accumulated over a long period of time and from around the world by a team of biologists and canine behaviorists, to convince me beyond a reasonable doubt that ‘excessive sniffing’ and ‘aggression’ have a distinct relation. As humans, we should be very, very, very careful to avoid putting our own interpretations of the world on our dogs interpretations of the world.
Oh yeah my dog aggresive dog is an obssesive sniffer. I come home smelling like another dog and he doesn’t just sniff my pants he has to study them. My other dog could care less.
I recently bought a dog with lots of behaviour issues and most of them are now corrected except for the fact that she sniffs people constantly even myself if I wear a new perfume or new item of clothing she has not seen before , She also does this when people enter my home after giving them mouth for an hour…she growls and barks and its not very pretty at all…. I tell people don’t touch don’t talk don’t look at her till she is ready! she then goes over to them and sniffs them all over,, after growling and stepping back…. she then gets brave enough to lick there hand and wag her tail…then she sees they mean no harm at all and she loves them to death ! actually she becomes a pest and wants cuddles , lots of love and will climb on the person till she gets attention. I think that some dogs that have not learnt social skills are just a bag of nerves! no confidence and no life skills…. its so important to make sure they get this at a young age. I might add my dog is a Rottweiler ” so having a dog like her is even more important to nip this in the butt asap.
I am confident that she means no harm at all to anyone, she is just a nervous little girl who most probably has been hurt by some one in her previous home , and shes lost all trust. she don’t act this way to other dogs or people she meats outside the home. the sniffing can drive you mad as she continues for some time following me round the room till shes happy its me!
I would say don’t give up on any dog and I am sure the more people she meets and the more confident she gets she will not need to sniff no more at all. If you think your dog is going to bite then they probably will, dogs mimic are behaviour ” so its important to remain strong and confident at all times. She trusts me and looks at me for guidance so that’s a good thing…in her road to recovery and a happy life. I am taking her job away from her and protecting her instead so she can be less anxious/nervous and be more confident. (she has had to be a pack leader) now I am the pack leader who she trusts.
I have a english bulldog that has been neutered and is the only dog. We got him neutured due to him humping our legs and anybody he came in contact with.. He nver humped objuects which I thought was odd. however he did try to hump the neighbors girl dog… another reason we got him fixed… We havent had any dogs enter our house but our dog wont keep sniffing everything. He literally will walk the house hours of the time sniffing every single thing literally each time he passes it.. Is this nomal???
I adopted a dog and quickly realized that she had intense sniffing espicly at our vet and groomer, or anywhere there is a lot of dogs! She also has dog- to dog aggression which keeps me from taking her out to Pet Smart or anywhere.
Would Prozac help this problem?
Brenda Norton says
I have 3 males 2 females the one Male is obsessed with one I’ll call bear. Sniffs him constantly, if bear poops want to lick it, same with pee. Humps him don’t mess with others in constantly calling him away. What could be wrong. Bear don’t mess with him. Just growels
Devyn Freeson says
I have a Alaskan Malamute/ husky mix. He is about 2 years old and a rescue. We got him about 10 months ago and he has learned so much and is well behaved. We recently found out that in his previous home he was starved and taunted, so he has a minor food aggression that isn’t much of an issue anymore. We received a notification that a 10 month old puppy needed a new home. We took Max to meet her and based of her behaviors she exhibits she was also starved in her previous home. Unlike Max she is shy, reserved and eats her entire bowl in less than 30 seconds. She is not aggressive around food but she will continue to eat and eat. The first day we brought her home Max and Leia played all night together. Today is the 3rd shes been home and they have been getting into tumbles, which I know is usual. What I don’t know is if they are getting along much. They arent playing anymore and every time she plays with toys Max just barks at her like crazy. Most of their relationship is Max constantly barking at her and she whines back (she is a whiner and not a barker) It was funny at first cuz he’d do it every time she broke the rules, like going into the kitchen or getting to excited around our finches, but its happening alot more. If she gets way too close to him he will growl at her and she will whine back. They have a hard time training together because of Max’s food aggression but its getting better. Im just curious if they are going to get along after they work things out, or if we need to get them some serious bonding time. Max loves other dogs just hasn’t been around the same one for 3 days in a row. Any ideas or tips?
No quick fixes, but I’d definitely get in a trainer to observe and give you ideas. If they aren’t playing any more something is definitely not going well, and I wouldn’t let it go on and on as it is. I’d keep apart a lot, lots of separate training, until you can get this figured out.
I have a 12 week old German Shepherd puppy. She was the runt of the litter, quiet and shy when we went to pick our puppy. We have a 7 year old Shepherd/husky mix that is pretty dominant. They were fine being introduced. The second day, the puppy was a completely different dog, fistey and confident. They play and when my older dog let’s her know she has gone too far, the puppy gets agressive and retaliates turning into a fight I have to break up. The puppy then bites me and has broken skin many times. it usually happens too when the older female tries to hump the puppy. My vet told me to put her on her back in a submissive position which helps sometimes. She is a complete, obsessive sniffer. I am afraid of this happening when she gets bigger and I won’t be able to control the situation as well. I feel like it’s a circus sometimes and I need to figure out a solution soon. Help!!!
Are your observations breed specific? We have a Vizsla and GSP (bred for hunting although we don’t hunt) who are ferociously curious sniffers but they are very dog friendly unless another dog is aggressively overstepping normal dog bounds…