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2-Year-Old Adopted Boxer Cured of Aggression Problem

October 21, 2009

Joyful Boxer Adoption Runs Into a Problem

Webster was a 2-year-old Boxer, newly adopted by Ed and Lois. His main job was to ride around in the passenger seat of Ed’s pickup, keeping Ed company all day long. Having raised many Boxers over the years, Webster was a welcome addition to Ed’s workday.

But Webster had an immediate and violent problem the reared its big Boxer head the first day on the job.

As soon as Webster saw another dog through the windshield of his truck, he launched himself off the passenger seat hard enough to bash into the glass and give himself a bruise on his forehead.

Ed was devastated. “He’s a great dog, but I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself and go right through the windshield.” Webster was impossible to live with.

Home Behavior Consultation with Doc Truli

We set up a home behavior consultation. Ed and Lois filled out about 5 pages of questionnaires and I arrived for our session together.

Webster wiggled his way up to me at the door, and immediately gave me sloppy Boxer kisses. We sat in the living room and Lois offered me tea and fantastic homemade cookies. I noticed a beautiful blue bubble Depression glass bread plate under a plant by the side of the living room window because I collect blue bubble glass. Lois was flattered I noticed the plate.

We discussed Webster’s daily activities, I assessed him for signs of aggression. Webster showed none. But, suddenly, he ran over to the front picture window, pushed back the closed curtain and started slobbering and barking, bashing his paws against the glass.

I ran over, “What is it, Webster? What do you see?” I saw a young yellow lab about a block away nonchalantly walking on the end of his leash.

Webster went nuts.

Suddenly, Webster ran over to the front picture window, pushed back the closed curtain and started slobbering and barking, bashing his paws against the glass.

Territorial Agression and Interdog Aggression

My differential diagnosis list just narrowed to territorial aggression and interdog aggression. Dogs certainly can have portable territories. They can define a space, usually around their favorite person or people, and guard them. But in Webster’s case, his maniacy seemed to be triggered exclusively by other dogs.

Treatment for Interdog and Territorial Aggression

I taught Ed and Lois how to fit Webster with a Gentle Leader head collar made for short-nosed breeds of dogs. Then we practiced deference and relaxation training (“sit for everything”), with instructions for 10 minutes of practice every morning and evening.

Webster’s parents called a friend with a Labradoodle who set up 3 blocks away from the house. We determined that Webster was only mildly interested in a dog 3 blocks away, whereas he found 2 blocks to be insufferable.

We had to prevent Webster from being triggered by strange dogs until he learned to handle himself properly. Lois, Ed, Webster and I went out to the truck and rigged up a doggie seat belt so that Webster had to lay down on the seat, without looking out of the window. This rig bought him time to let the habituation training to his Labradoodle friend take hold.

I left Webster’s parents to their work. I called 2 weeks later, Lois reported, “He’s perfect!”

Habituation and Densensitization Training

The Labradoodle friend moved a little bit closer to the house every day and Webster got used to him, with tons of encouragement from Ed. By the fourth week, we had Webster sit in the truck and just look at a dog while everyone talked to him so he would not be startled. He showed no aggression!

Now Ed has the work companion he was hoping for!

P.S. Lois remembered my fondness for the Blue Bubble Depression Glass. At Christmastime that year, she found 2 of the antique plates at the swap barn at the town dump. They were in near perfect condition, except they had homemade cookie crumbs all over them when I was through!

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