Unsure how to tell if my new dog is dog aggressive w/o risking a fight

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Joan I.

Boxer Buddy
Hi everyone:

We just got a new boxer girl a couple of days ago. She came from a breeder who took her back from a couple who divorced, so the although I don't have all the details of her history, the breeder does and placed her with confidence with us, (we have 2 small children.) I trust the breeder and so far Kaylee has been very gentle with us and our children. She is 3 years old. Today we took her for her first walk. We went to a small off leash area in our neighborhood, where we took our last two boxers for walks.

Not knowing what to expect, I kept her on leash. I was pleased to find out that she obviously has had some obedience training, cause she stayed close to my side in a pretty good heel.

Until we saw our first dog. He was off leash, a rather large long hair mixed breed. The dog seemed very happy and friendly and approached us, but when we got close, Kaylee got tense, I think, and kind of jumped towards him, I pulled back hard, then there was some snarls, and a bit of lunging on both parts, and I hauled her away. I think they would have fought.

So on we went, and next a wee dog approaced. I was apprehensive then, and kept a tight control of Kaylee. The other little dog ran up, and although I didn't let Kaylee close enough to actually sniff, Kaylee's tail was wagging, but she was pulling like h*ll on her leash.

So, now I don't know what to do. I do know that a leashed dog feels more vulnerable when approached by unleashed dogs, and is more likely to get aggressive. I was pulling on her very hard too, cause I was scared she was going to fight. I guess that pulling hard can increase the aggression as well? Also, she is very new to us, brand new to that park, and I know the breeder only ever had her on leash. I have a feeling she hasn't had much experience off leash. She was quite tense when we were there, just looking in every direction all the time, never even stopping to pee or poop.

I need some advice on how I am to find out what her degree of aggression might be, or might not be, without risking injury to herself or another dog. I would horrible if she bit another dog! Maybe she was just feeling protective over myself or my kids, maybe if she had of been off-leash she would have been fine, but how do I find out? I am too nervous to just take her off the leash to find out.

And what kind of collar should I use if she is dog aggressive? I don't want to hurt her throat by yanking, but how am I to control her if she is pulling and pulling? I am open to an obedience class if that might help....

Thanks for any advice. I am feeling a bit nervous about this. We just adopted her 2 days ago, and she has been a real sweetheart here at home, and gentle with my children.




Boxer Insane
I would avoid the off-leash areas for a while.

Kaylee is going to need time to come to trust and respect you. At this point she has no idea how long you'll be around and will respond to your commands (esp. while off leash) much as she would to a stranger.

Work with building a relationship with her. Run through all the commands she knows with lots and lots of treats and praise rewards (the breeder should have given you a list of words and/or hand signals she responds to). Let her know in every subtle way possible that you are the pack leader and are the one she should turn to in uncertain or new situations.

Once you've built a foundation of trust, find a secure fenced area with no other dogs and work on off-leash recalls and other commands. Get her used to paying attention to you in various situations.

Obedience class is always good, so long as it's one that promotes ONLY positive reinforcement. However, I would work on your relationship a bit first before going public and introducing even more strangers into her life.

You also asked about what kind of collar you should use to control her - you should need nothing other than a flat buckle collar and a calm, firm voice. A "negative reinforcement" collar such as a choke or pinch collar will seriously damage any trust basis you're trying to establish. As she's been shown and has been trained to be in the ring with other dogs, I would doubt that she's truly aggressive. Excited and over-eager to socialize, but not aggressive.

Call the breeder and ask her the same questions you've asked here - she knows her dog and should be able to give you some excellent background advice.

In the meantime, build your relationship with her, get to know her, and give her some time to settle into your pack structure.

Best of luck!


Boxer Insane

Dont have any advice as such but could you ask her breeder about other dogs she has mixed with. They must have had a dog or two and could give you some advice about socialising.


Joan I.

Boxer Buddy
Thank you so much for that great advice. I feel better already! It makes so much sense what you are saying. I will work with her at home, and in a fenced off-leash area in a time when their are no other dogs present, then gradually intro her to other dogs. I do want to do obedience classes with her, but maybe I should wait til she trusts me more. I will also ditch the "chain" collar.
Thanks so much for the advice....


Boxer Insane
I agree about waiting to establish your relationship with her before you take her to obedience class. I started Beau in obedience class when I had only had him 3 weeks. He did learn a lot, and I did too, but I think it would have been easier on both of us if I had waited.

We are in another obedience class now (I've had him six months), and he is much calmer now!

Good luck with Kaylee. I'm so glad you decided to get her!:)



Boxer Insane
If you only got her a few days ago she is very stressed and confused about the whole change in her life. And this is going to carrying into her interactions with these strange dogs also.

I would keep her social life quiet for the next few weeks while she gets ued to her new family and starts feeling more comfortable and secure with you.

In the mean time I would also ask the breeder about how she interacted with her other dogs to help get an idea is she is good with other dogs.


Boxer Insane
A good trainer or behaviourist can help you assess her and work with her. As far as what type of collar - yes, as bustermom stated, flat only - or, you may like to consider a head halter. Head Halters (try Gentle Leader brand) are excellent for lunging dogs - easier on the neck and helps the handler keep the lead loose. As you know, tight leads and handler stress only make the situation worse.

Here is an article, with photos, on how to fit a head halter:

Here is a thread on working with and fitting head halters:

Everyone is right about allowing her to settle in - here is a nice article on bringing a new adult dog home:

Where am I? and who are all these people?

There are many threads here on leash aggression so a search is well worthwhile :)



Boxer Insane
All my dogs wear a harness. I can pull hard (if need be) and know that it won't hurt their necks. Yes, if you are nervous and tense... it's gonna go right down the leash to your dog. My mixed breed is somewhat fear aggressive. So when I am coming up on a dog or person, I will speak calmly to her and quietly tell her she's a good girl (of course while she is behaving). And I try to remember to keep myself calm, and it really does seem to help. She knows I am OK and she can relax a bit too. Although she has gotten better, she still has issues with strange dogs larger than she.
Good luck with everything.

Joan I.

Boxer Buddy
You mention a harness. Is that the head halter, or is that the kind they wear around their body?

I can tell I have lots to learn about dog training. It's been so long since Buster was at school, and it was not a good experience anyway.

I can see from reading the articles that the head halter might be worth a try. I'll have to give her some time at home and in the yard for awhile, then venture into some training. I did talk to the breeder, and she said that Kaylee has never been aggressive at a show, or when walking with her previous owners, but they never did have her off leash, so that is definitely a brand new experience for her. I am thinking what happened yesterday is that I took her out way too soon, she was very nervous, and frightened, and then the first dog along was a big hairy one who ran right up to her.

Some quiet time at home for an adjustment period is in order.

Thanks all!
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