Fear Aggression Rehabilitation Continues

26 Aug

August 26, 2014


Whiskey is now a year and 8 months.  He has more confidence and thankfully that has helped him.  It is such a challenge to have both a people and dog fear aggressive animal.  We have had to put his dog fear aggression on hold for the most part because making him safe around people is much more important than making him safe around other dogs although we use our methods in both instances we have more control of people behavior, they usually don’t go to the end of a leash and start lunging at him as we walk by so that is probably another reason why we have had more success in that area.

We continue to make progress.  Here are the things that have helped the most for people who are committed to fixing their dogs:

1.  Know the breed.  For Whiskey, he is a border collie, I know what makes him tick from the standpoint of his breed.  He has innate instincts that work for him and against and things we can use that were working against him that we can switch to work for him.  He has an intense drive for prey.  So, if he is fixated on something he shouldn’t be – like a dog or a person, we can redirect by using his prey drive against him.  If a dog walks by, we tell him to look for bunnies.  If we want to redirect him from a person, we carry a ball and direct him with play.  Border collies and balls are inseparable.

2.  Know your dog.  Trainers can tell you lots of things but what they can’t tell you is what will work best for YOUR dog because you know your dog best.  Take in all the information, try everything.  Know the breed but also know what things your dog likes best.  Whiskey likes balls but he likes soccer balls better than other balls.  There are times he would rather have play as a reward than a treat as a reward, some trainers don’t believe this and think treats are the only or the best way to reward, sometimes play outweighs food.  Whiskey gets tired fairly quickly for a border collie.  We can tire him out in 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on how hot it is.  Once he is tired, he is much more receptive to EVERYTHING, this is true for almost all fear aggressive dogs, see #3.

3.  Exercise your dog before exposing them to their fears.  If you are going to do something that is going to stretch them, make your dog tired first.  Also, make them tired in as fun of a way possible so they feel very happy and bonded.  You will be really surprised at the results!  Ceaser Millan shows this trick on his shows all the time, it makes him look like magic.  The problem is that we can’t keep our dogs exhausted 24 hours a day in real life, it isn’t practical so we have to use this as a tool, not as a magic bullet.

4.  Use medication – we used just prozac for a while without seeing too much improvement but adding trazadone made a HUGE difference, so give this combination a try.  Don’t be afraid of medication for dogs, it is better than them biting someone and having to be put down.  Will they need it for life?  I don’t know, stay tuned.  Whiskey has made some nice progress over the last year, if we continue to make progress like this, maybe some day he will be well enough to taper off and he will trust the world enough.

5.  See the right behaviorist – don’t mistake a dog trainer for a behaviorist, they are not the same thing, although you also need to make sure your dog is fully obedience trained for success.  As for the cost, I wish I could start a fund and maybe I will put this in my will or something that there is a fund for people who can’t afford the cost of behaviorists but want to save their dogs, it is so unfair that there isn’t a “welfare” system set up where people who are willing and dedicated to helping these animals can get free help if they are willing to put forth the huge amount of time and effort it takes to rehabilitate these dogs.  I can’t imagine being as fearful as they are!  Hopefully, you can afford to see a behaviorist and learn some techniques if not, read about the games and techniques I was taught in my other posts and practice, practice, practice.  Remember just like with a therapist, if the first behaviorist doesn’t seem like a good fit, keep looking, I found so many have different philosophies and I interviewed about 10 before I picked the woman I chose.

6.  Remember that progress is SLOW!!!  I can’t stress that enough.  It has been a year and half and here are some examples of our progress:

  • Whiskey growls at EVERYBODY he sees, would run at strangers and aggressively bark, growl (even at 4 months)
  • Whiskey would run up a stranger and bite, would snap at people near him
  • Couldn’t see a person without him crying, whining, growling, shaking
  • Couldn’t see a dog with crying, whining, growling, shaking, lunging, attacking
  • Whiskey wouldn’t even play ball, his favorite thing, with a stranger


  • Whiskey ignores people he sees in public 95% of time, may growl/bark if he is in car and they approach or if they get really close to us
  • Whiskey can be loose in our house with adults who are willing to ignore him after the initial 2-5 minutes of adjustment of the transition
  • Whiskey still struggles and will growl/bark at people coming into house – must be grated
  • Whiskey still not trusted around any children (they are too unpredictable, loud, quick)
  • Whiskey will let a 13 year old girl outside the family pet him
  • Whiskey has let “acquaintances” let him in and out of his crate
  • Whiskey will play games with all strangers
  • Whiskey will go up to a semi-stranger and take a treat from their hand or “touch” their hand
  • Whiskey can be on a long lead but not held in a park (e-collar) back up and chase ball, so focused on ball, doesn’t even care who is around
  • Whiskey went into vets office today without shaking and let people make eye contact with him
  • Whiskey still cannot have a regular vet visit
  • Whiskey still cannot be around other dogs



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