Q: We have an almost 7-year old female Shepherd mix. Other than one dog that she’s okay with, she is aggressive to other dogs. She attacked a neighbor’s dog a few years ago which resulted in many stitches to the other dog. In the past month, she has instigated a fight with our male dog three times. The other dog wasn’t hurt but it worries me that one of our children may get caught in the middle of this. It has further stressed me out to wanting to just get rid of her and/or finding a workable solution for her aggression.

We’ve tried finding her a new home in the past (no luck), and didn’t want to take her to a shelter, so we still have her. It’s extremely stressful taking care of her and worrying about her getting out of the house and hurting another dog. Several of our neighbor’s dogs are outside in their yards off-leash and within her sight. We no longer take her for walks and it’s even stressful taking her to the vet’s office.

If it were not for our children loving this dog, I would have taken her to the shelter by now. What strategies do you have for this behavior? Can it be solved with work, or will it always be an issue?

A: Sorry to hear of your difficulties. Let me reinforce you and your efforts in keeping everyone safe. That is certainly the most important concern.

I might suggest you build a dog run if your property is big enough, and keep the Shepherd away from the other dogs until a trainer can come out and evaluate the situation and set you up on a behavior modification program. By keeping her safe and everyone else safe, you will eliminate any chance of injuries and your stress level will lower.

A complete medical check up is called for including a comprehensive blood panel to check for possible internal problems especially dealing with the liver and thyroid. X-rays are needed to check for possible hip, joint and musculature abnormalities.

You can find a professional trainer in your area that uses only positive training methods through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.APDT.com) or The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.NADOI.org). The trainer will evaluate the situation and your dog and set you up on a training program. They should also be able to tell you about how long it will take for the training to take hold and to what degree of success you’ll be able to obtain. Once fully informed, you can make the decision as to your next course of action.

Once again, until then, please continue to err on the side of safety and keep the dog away from your other dog and children!

Recommended Resource:

My DVD, The Dog Whisperer, Beginning and Intermediate Training for Puppies and Dogs, will help with many dog behavior problems.