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Australian Cattle Dog: Common Aggression Issues

Australian Cattle Dogs are tough working dogs bred to herd unpredictable cattle and livestock. Most working dogs are bred to have at least some capacity for suspicion and wariness around strange humans and animals; the ACD is no exception to this. The commonest form of aggression displayed by Australian Cattle Dogs is other-dog aggression, which forms the basis for this article.

Why Might My ACD Show Aggression Towards Other Dogs?

There's a whole host of reasons why; most have to do with the working heritage of the breed. Listed below are some of the most common reasons.

  • Many Australian Cattle Dogs are strongly aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex. This is in the dog's nature, partly from breeding (a variety of breeds went into the creation of the ACD; some were included deliberately to encourage aggression, which is valuable in controlled doses for herding breeds) and partly from long-term training, which has now become instinctive.
  • Territorial: it's a rare ACD that's not strongly territorial. Any animal venturing onto his property will be confronted with aggression almost immediately.
  • Strong prey drive. Most ACDs are hardwired to hunt down and seize almost any smaller animal - including other dogs, and cats - in the vicinity. Sadly, many ACDs are confirmed cat killers.
  • Lack of socialization. Any dog that hasn't been introduced to lots of unfamiliar dogs and people during the socialization period (ten to sixteen weeks) will be notably uneasy and fearful with new experiences and creatures for the rest of its life. ACDs are most certainly no exception to this rule; their native wariness will only be exacerbated by a lack of socialization, which may result in fear-biting or outright aggression.
  • If you live in a multi-dog household, some form of hierarchy will eventually be figured out among the dogs. Frequently, the dogs will scuffle amongst themselves - sometimes violently - to establish who is going to be the alpha dog. Well meaning owners often actually prolong this period of uncertainty by attempting to assist the underdog; this is not helpful and should be avoided.

How to Deal With Aggression In Your Australian Cattle Dog

Here are some basic tips for dealing with aggression issues in your ACD.

  • Prevention is better than a cure. If you get your ACD while she's still young, make SURE that you take her to puppy school. As well, introduce her to plenty of other dogs and humans, in a controlled manner so as to avoid overwhelming her.
  • For an ACD that's already showing signs of aggression towards other dogs, you'll need to desensitize her. Introduce her slowly to a dog that you know to be friendly, and allow them to play together for longer and longer periods.
  • Your reactions can influence your dog, too. If you're out and about with your ACD and you spot other dogs approaching, don't tense up and start to worry. Your dog will sense it and will emulate your behavior. Fake being calm if you have to, because this is important.
  • There are special obedience classes for aggressive dogs available in most cities, aimed at un-training aggressive tendencies. These classes are usually much smaller than conventional obedience classes, with a higher instructor-dog ratio.
  • If aggression-obedience classes aren't available in your area, take your dog to conventional obedience classes (notify the instructors of her condition first; you'll probably have to muzzle her). The idea is to get your dog obeying your commands straight away, every time, so that if you need to call her away from an ensuing dogfight, she'll obey you straight away.

If All Else Fails

If you simply cannot get your dog to stop acting aggressively towards other dogs, you'll have to muzzle her whenever you take her out in public (this breed should always be on a leash in public, whether aggressive or not, given their wary and independent natures).

For indepth information on handling your dog's aggression and other problem behaviors, take a look at Secrets to Dog Training. Written by Dan Stevens, Secrets to Dog Training is a handbook for dog owners and focuses on preventing and treating destructive and problematic behavior in your dog. There's a whole section devoted to dog-aggression; it's well worth taking a look.

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