Excessive Barking And Territorial Aggression

by Jennifer Wedge
(Ney, Ohio)

We recently adopted our black lab grandchild. My son and his wife had a baby and could not handle him any longer. He is now 3 years old and has had only minimal training. I have trained many dogs, but usually laid back puppies such as my 4 yr old Golden Retriever. Apollo is a real challenge given his age, temperament, and lack of prior training.

One major issue that I have never had to deal with is 'guard dog' type behavior. We live in the country with lots of animals around. Apollo goes insane when he sees a rabbit, deer, or an orange vested hunter with a dog, in or near our back yard. He will back like he is losing his mind and run from window to window barking and looking out. He has even chewed at the glass. He loves to sit and watch the birds in the back yard so I would hate to close the shades. That option would deprive my husband and I of our bird watching, and probably get the shades chewed up.
I have attempted to hold him and calm him, but it is as if he doesn't even know that I am there.

Please help!!! I am having positive results with other behavior problems and training, but this one is beyond me.

Vet Suggestion For Dog With Territorial Aggression

Hello Jennifer,

The best way to address
Apollo’s behavior depends on its underlying cause. It sounds as if territorial aggression might be to blame, but it’s impossible to determine this with certainty in the absence of a thorough behavioral assessment.

I always start these types of work-ups with a physical exam to rule out any medical reasons behind the behavior in question and to confirm that the dog is healthy and a potential candidate for the medications (e.g., those that relieve anxiety) that I might prescribe. I can’t give you a specific plan for your dog without more information, but in general terms, behavioral modification almost always involves rewarding dogs (e.g., with praise and treats) when they are acting the way that we want them to and then gradually introducing watered down versions of the stimulus that sets them off. We continue rewarding them if they remain calm and back the stimulus off if they get agitated. Behavioral modification does take time (weeks to months, typically), but with patience your dog should be able learn to accept the presence of animals, people, etc. near “his” backyard.

If you are unable to deal with Apollo on your own, make an appointment with a veterinarian who specializes in problem behavior. Your primary care veterinarian may be able to put you in touch with someone, or the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has a listing of these specialists on their website.

Best of luck,
Jennifer Coates, DVM

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