Hello Corgi lovers,
I am frustrated & hoping for helpful tips/techniques to help with Finn. He is very protective/territorial of his people and friends and has become very aggressive towards newcomers in people form or pretty much anything that is around us on walks or outings. Within our home he is very loving and sweet with no signs of aggression. Yet, if he sees or hears another dog while on a walk he puffs up and starts growling & will even lunge towards anyone he doesn't know who approaches us. We have tried correction with words and the training collars to no avail. We (my husband & I) have made sure that it is not due to an insecure or nervous energy that we convey. We have spoken to a few trainers who annoyingly blame his aggressive protective behavior on his breed, which I just cannot agree with. We have recently started sending him to a doggy day camp to create more socialization without our presence & he does fine with the other dogs but will still growl and attempt to snap at people that become too close when we hand him off to the staff. We have even tried to give him a treat when people approach to distract him & make him feel that new people/dogs mean a positive thing... but I feel that I am reinforcing bad behavior by giving him a treat just to have him become aggressive directly after his treat has been swallowed. I don't trust him not to bite a stranger by allowing them to give him a treat upon approach... Please help... what do I do? He loves walks... but I can't risk him actually getting in a fight with another dog or biting another person....
I just looked at your profile and you say you got Finn when he was 4 months old. By that time, the socialization windows (when puppies think new things are interesting, not threatening) are rapidly closing so unless the breeder did a lot of socializing with Finn outside the home, it's entirely possible that he was not socialized properly and finds new people and strange dogs threatening.
I suggest you start with this book:
I have not had cause to use it myself, but have heard very good things and generally agree with this trainer's approach.
The idea with the treats is to have people toss them from far enough away that the dog doesn't react, and the key is that the person tossing the treats ignores the dog completely (no eye contact, no moves toward the dog, definitely no attempt to touch the dog). Gradually over time people get closer and closer before they toss the treat (always tossing BEFORE the dog gets nervous or aggressive). Over a long time, most dogs can learn to accept the treat from a hand.
You also can teach a "watch me" command at home and practice it in increasingly distracting situations, so you have a way to keep Finn's attention on you while he works through his behavior.
It is true that many Corgis have a tendency to be suspicious of the unfamiliar, as is true of most herding and stock-guarding breeds. That is why extensive early socialization is so important with Corgis, so that they have a wide list of people and dogs they consider "familiar" and don't see them as threatening.
Your dog may be protective or fearful or a combination of the two, but he's young and he can be helped. Try again to find a positive trainer who can help you work through this.
Thank you so much for the helpful info! I just ordered the book & will look up info on teaching Finn the "watch me" command.
The squeaker toy is a fantastic idea for regaining his attention when he snaps... I'll have to try tomorrow. How has your trainer taught you & Charlie the "watch" command. As you may understand, when Finn gets in that mindset... its so hard to get him to snap out of it... its like hes focused on the kill. He looks so sweet but he acts so ferocious to strangers & totally nonthreatening animals. Until recently he has never focused any aggression within his group of people (close friends & family along with their dogs). But lately his favorite canine pal... a 9 month old, 70ish lb labradoodle (Smith) has been victim of a few unprovoked outbursts that I don't understand. How has your trainer helped with that kind of thing with Charlie? Finn is the perfect happy lil guy without the outside influences but like you mentioned... he's a crazed monster when he snaps!
Jennifer, you write " we "dominate" him by pinning him to the ground, and we stand over him. He generally calms down once we do this, but if he doesn't we keep him down until he's just laying there. We make him lay there for a few minutes, if not more and then we gets up when we tell him to. " Be aware that this is a dangerous technique that can ultimately make the dog more people aggressive in general and really backfire. It is also dangerous for the person carrying out the technique, putting them a risk of a severe bite. Your other comment " the more harsh the punishment, the harder Charlie retaliates! " is right on target!
I think Beth gave you some good suggestions. Also, try Nothing In Life Is Free, we often do things without realizing that we are giving control to the dog in the house. When that happens a dominant or fearful dog will think they have to be in control and behave poorly. A leashed dog will often behave differently than when they are off leash. I am glad you are working on training and be sure to be very positive and up beat in your training.
I'm at the end of my rope with our baby girl Maisie. She does exactly this stuff - we can't enjoy walks in the park or anything else because she lunges and snarls at every passing dog. Her brother (yeah - we adopted litter mates and have since been told that was a terrible idea) is fine with other dogs when walked alone but gets riled up too when Maisie starts barking. We've tried everything - the treat method, the distraction method, the "watch" method. Nothing seems to sink in. I've been doing all these things faithfully for the last 2 months (I walk them twice a day every day) and Maisie seems just as fearful and aggressive now as she did when I started.
I've been told the "it's the breed" thing too but then I see perfectly well adjusted corgis walking around with their owners and it's hard for me to believe. Is there any hope you think, for Maisie being calm or do we have to resign ourselves to not ever being able to enjoy an outing with her?
If she's too wound up to take treats on a walk you may have to go backwards a bit first. Try sitting in a parking lot at Petco, or a bench in the park with some super yummy treats and constantly feed her any time you see another dog. Basically you want to be stuffing her face the entire time that dog is in view. Slowly decrease the distance between you and the other dog as she becomes more comfortable. It's definitely going to take a lot of time and patience. If she gets wound up and over her threshold I would just remove her from the situation entirely.
I would also recommend formal classes or a positive-based private trainer if the funds are there. Some areas have "reactive rover" classes which are specifically for dogs with reactivity or aggression problems.
I don't buy the "it's the breed" argument. Pembrokes are generally known for being outgoing and friendly dogs.
I think we might indeed have to spend the $$ on a trainer. We did a session with some folks at the local Human Society (where they taught us the "find it" game and the "watch" game) but didn't suggest using them in a progressive way (watch first, find it later, etc). I can use both of these to get her past dogs but was kind of hoping one day she'd be able to see other dogs and not react, rather than having to spend eternity distracting her from them.
Sigh...I wish I knew why she's like this. She's never been attacked or anything and her brother Milo's totally calm around other people and dogs if she's not with him. I guess I'm just not ready to settle for never being able to take Maisie out and I don't want her to constantly be fearful, poor thing.
Thanks for the response. :)
Agreed! Males especially (but also females) can be territorial with strange dogs and cats, but it's one thing to protect the homestead and quite another to go after other dogs/people on a walk.
My girl can be little reactive on-leash to strange dogs, but it's more an over-stimulated/inappropriate barking thing than an actual aggressive stance. My boy thinks there are no strangers, only friends he has yet to meet and of all the Corgis I have met, the worst I can say is one or two are a bit shy around strangers.
It's a different story if you walk into the yard and he's they are on guard, but on a walk they love everyone.
I definitely understand you frustration!
Have you employed a private trainer?
Finn actually lunged @ our 2 year old neice yesterday which really has me
feeling crazy! When it is just my husband & I he is the perfect pup...
listens well, plays happily & is super loving & affectionate...
but that is only in our home. Now he's starting to show food aggression
towards his dog pals... which he has also never done before til recently.
My husband & I watch dog whisperer & try the techniques mentioned in
applicable shows... with no change in behavior outside of our home.
He pulls like crazy & goes insane when any new people or another dog are
around. He goes on 4+ walks a day & gets plenty of exercise.
How old was Maisie when you got her? Where do you guys live?
We haven't employed a trainer b/c we don't really have the money but it looks like we'll have to find it somehow. Our dogs so far are OK with people and have never lunged at anyone, thank god. But they're 19 months old and oh boy do they pull! That in itself drives me nuts.
The Humane Society folks said for Maisie's training/rehab we should walk them separately but who has the time? As it is I'm 2 hours a day making sure they get enough exercise (we live in an apartment in San Mateo, CA) and I can't extend that to 4 hours a day. :(
I admit I'm very embarrassed by Maisie's behavior and it's really stressing me out. It's like being the parent of a really bratty kid (they act up and other people look at you witheringly and blame you) and I cringe every time Maisie growls at someone else's dog while it's just being calm or friendly.
I imagine the Dog Whisperer would say Maisie's feeling and reacting to my anxiety and that I'm not putting forth a calm and assertive energy. Heck, the way I feel, I'm sure I'm not. How can I though, when I really do feel nervous every time we see another dog? I can't seem to squelch that fear and even if Maisie DID miraculously stop growling at other dogs, it would take me some time to unlearn that fear behavior on my own part. It's rough.
I still think sometimes it is not the immediate correction that can change a behavior. Yes sometimes that works but often with a "bossy" dog it is the every day things stressed in NILIF coupled with a well timed correction such as quickly turning away before getting close to the person/dog that causes a reaction. If EVERY time the dog pulls you quickly and enthusiastically change direction, eventually the dog will stop pulling. Unfortunately it is exhausting to change a behavior once it starts. I find when I have problems it usually stems from me being a little too lax. As far as food goes I can't see expecting dogs to share with other dogs. Mine all know that they are not allowed by the others while they are eating because I will step in and correct the one that decides to casually wander over by another animal that is still eating. On Dog Whisperer you rarely see just how long he works to correct a behavior. It looks faster on TV. I don't think the breed is a problem but they do like to be in charge and most of us don't realize when we are not being in control. Growling at another dog will get mine an instant tug and No but I don't expect all of mine to enjoy all other dogs, they just have to be polite.