About a 3 or so months ago, we started noticing a decline in Bella's sweetness and maturity around other dogs - and even some people.

Both off leash and on leash she has become very disturbed by any dog's presence and growls and barks in a threatening manor. We are new to this kind of behavior. She's never been this way before, and was always very social and even a bit submissive at times toward others. But now she stands assertive and bold, almost as a challenge to dogs who clearly aren't looking for trouble. 

Bella has been the target of big aggressive dogs in the past, and even some smaller ones. Could she simply be afraid of being "bullied" and be standing up for herself? Or is this just just Napoleon complex? 

We recently had an incident where she was off leash in the front yard, and literally ran into the street to get to a german shepard puppy who was innocently passing by. She got right up into the dog's face snarling and barking with her posture dominant. What is this? She's even mean to her old friends in the neighborhood - ones that would never hurt a fly let alone her. 

Could this be a faze? We want Bella to feel comfortable and not stressed or threatened, and peace for the dogs in the neighborhood which now all fear her. Nobody wants their dog to be the titled "the mean little yappy dog down the road", now do they?

Can anyone help? We want the old Bella the way she was before. She can't go on forever being antisocial, I'm just looking for some suggestions. 

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Comment by Beth on May 8, 2014 at 12:03pm
I agree with working with a trainer. Fear could be an issue but does not have to be. Dogs reach "social maturity" at around 18 to 30 months and at that time their behavior around other dogs can change quite a bit; before that they tend to act like puppies and be deferential to strange dogs, but then they hit social maturity and they are not necessarily going to keep that puppy-like behavior.
Comment by Madeline and Bella on May 8, 2014 at 11:06am

Thank you for all the advice!


Just to let you know, Bella is 2 years old. So yes, I suppose she does have an open window to work with this problem before it becomes too hard. She currently has no out of the ordinary health problems, other than being slightly overweight. After looking more into this, I learned that this could be fear aggression and it's quite common in young dogs that have been attacked/threatened by other dogs in the past, just as Bella has. It could also be frustration as the result of not getting enough exercise. This is my fault on that part, because we've been too caught up in the cold and rainy weather here not wanting her to get too dirty (avoiding that dog stink :p) that we haven't been able to really focus on her well-being. She's now going to be weened off of her couch life and back into the routine of 2 mile walks daily. I'm very hopeful she can move past this stage in her life, and move to a healthier state of mind. 

We may be babysitting a family-friend's yorkie all week next week, and this could be a test for Bella to see if she can cope with having another dog on her turf. Although Bella has previously met their dog, that was way before she had truly developed this aggression. We've warned the family about her issue, and we've both agreed to have a little meet-up beforehand to see if there is a serious problem between the two. I'll let y'all know how that goes. :)

Thanks again, 


Comment by Holly on May 8, 2014 at 2:25am

No real suggestions but I have noticed a Chihuahua in my neighborhood charges other dogs and has to be walked when no other dogs are around. The other day he charged at my dog when he "got away" from his owner. It happened so fast that I grabbed the leash and had to lift him up off the ground by his collar to stop him before he could bite Sully. The owner is nice enough, but totally clueless about reading his dog. I am still learning how to read my own dog but I have noticed the calmer dogs have owners that watch them closely to prevent them from acting in potentially dangerous ways.

In my case my dog's growl is so soft I didn't hear it and I didn't realize when she was showing early stages of fear aggression. Fortunately my daughter heard the soft growl and let me know so I watch for the signs now and I can calmly tell her it's ok and she relaxes. She never growls now because a trainer taught me how to build her confidence and because I avoid potential conflicts with dogs who might get in her face.

I have no idea why it might start suddenly with Bella but I hope it is not a health problem. From what others have posted it sounds like behaving aggressively can become a habit so prevention sounds like the best and safest step. There is a huge dog near us that is not aggressive but not great about boundaries. The owner, Thank God, is working on training him to behave around other dogs. She lets him observe Sully and get close, but never too close. Eventually the two will probably be friendly, but the Chihuahua, never I bet. Hope it gets better for Bella! 

Comment by Tali'Sha and Gible on May 7, 2014 at 8:12pm

Dogs can become insecure if theres any health related issues, try and see if she can be checked out by the vet sometime soon to make sure shes not in any pain or discomfort. Either way she is feeling insecure. or overly protective, i would try and train her to see other dogs and people as good things rather than something to dominate.

Comment by Bev Levy on May 7, 2014 at 6:23pm

I would contact an obedience instructor for help with this. I see that her birthday is in 2012 so I think you have a small window to correct the behavior before she gets older and it is ingrained.

Comment by Jane on May 7, 2014 at 5:53pm

If this is a sudden change, the first thing I would do is rule out any health issues that might be making her uncomfortable. If that checks out fine....is she spayed? How old is she? How much exercise does she get per day? If she is still young, it's not unheard of for a dog to mature into a more dominant personality, especially a female. Being attacked in the past can also definitely attribute towards fear or aggression towards other dogs.

I would not leave her unleashed in your yard. It sounds to me like she is protective over her "property". I would recommend some obedience classes or a private trainer that can help you work through some of these issues if there is nothing health related going on.

Comment by Catherine Grace on May 7, 2014 at 5:50pm

 How old is she (I'm new here, sorry)? It could be the "teenager phase" or a fear period, but either way, I would start over with the socialization as if she were a puppy. Start in a calm environment. Keep her on leash and re-introduce her to some of her friends in the neighborhood. Treat her when she greets them and interacts politely. If she starts to get inappropriate, give her a command that's incompatible, such as "Look at me" or "Lie down." 

You may also want to try BAT training that helps her disengage before she gets too aroused by the triggers. http://empoweredanimals.com/BAT-basics.pdf

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