By Marc Morrone
Tribune Content Agency
Q: My husband and I very recently adopted an eight-year-old rescued golden lab mix. He was in foster care for six months where he lived with two dogs and a cat. He is a mellow, sweet and adores humans. But when I have him in the backyard and dogs walk past the street, he goes into attack-mode, snarls and barks. It takes all of my strength to hold him back. I called the foster guardians to ask about this behavior, but they never saw it in him. They tell me he has always been rather friendly with other dogs he met while on walks. Can you suggest what we might do to help him get over this? - Maureen Andrew, Richfield, MN
A: This is what a scientist would call a self-rewarding behavior. Most dogs that live in a yard that borders a street do this when they see a dog walking past their property. When they see another dog, they bark and see that dog leave, in their mind they just did a good thing. Once this happens, they now believe it is their mission to chase all dogs away that walk past the property.
The anxiety you show when he does it only adds to the drama. He thinks you are upset that the dogs are near the property - he is blaming the other dogs for your anxiety. This is not easy to fix and requires the attention of an animal behaviorist - not a dog trainer. You'll need a behaviorist that specializes in positive reinforcement.
The best quick fix I can offer is to build a solid fence along your property that does not allow your dog to see the passing dogs. He will lose interest when he can't see them and likely will be a happier dog since he no longer as the worry about chasing away other dogs.
Marc Morrone has kept almost every kind of animal as a pet for the last half-century and he is happy to share his knowledge with others. Although he cannot answer every question, he will publish many of those that have a general interest. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; please include your name, city and state.
This was printed in the October 30, 2016 - November 12, 2016 edition