You ask – we answer:
Q: My mom and I have a golden border collie that we’ve had since he was 18-months-old (approximately). He was the sweetest dog for the first 2 years and then he started acting psychotic; he bites me, my mom, and anyone else who tries to make him stop doing something. He’s attacked some neighbors as well as my dog, a 3-year old basenji-chow who is NOT dominant at all.
We’ve tried several different trainers and behavioral experts, as well as “doggie downers” and other medication. Nothing seems to work – he keeps attacking and since we won’t give him up he has to walk with a muzzle and 2 leashes at all times when outdoors. Thankfully we have a backyard where he can run around, but I don’t want to have to muzzle him for the rest of his life when he goes to the groomers or the vets!
Is this a genetic thing with all golden border collies or is there something we can do to “fix” his behavioral issue? Note: he’s the “dominant male” of the house, he’s been fixed, and he should have been past his fighting phase years ago.
A: I believe that aggression is a genetic predisposition. That being said, I also believe life circumstances either enhance or inhibit aggression. I also believe that some methods of training can aggravate aggression and make aggression worse.
Dogs are born with genetic makeup. Aggressive behaviors need to be in a dog’s genetic code for a dog to be aggressive and things that happen to a dog during its life will either nurture or suppress the aggression. It is difficult to say exactly what is going on with your dog, but I would be very interested in meeting him.
I have a dog who is severely dog and human aggressive but lives in an environment with other dogs and people without incident. I will never “fix” him, he was born with a genetic predisposition to aggression and will always be prone to aggressive tendencies. I have however taken on the commitment to “manage” his aggression on a daily basis and continually condition him to exercise self-control around other dogs and people.
Training in counter-conditioning aggression is not about “fixing” aggression, it is about “managing” aggression effectively.