‘Help! My rescue Patterdale terrier is quite aggressive, particularly towards men.’ someone in our Facebook group asked. We completely know how you feel. After adopting Blake from the RSPCA, we quickly saw the problems that stemmed from his abusive background. We realised that we had to put a great deal of time and effort into training him to give him his best chance to have a happy life as a much loved pet.
Aggression in our Rescue Patterdale Blake
In fact, when we adopted our rescue Patterdale Blake from the RSPCA he was so scared of men that he wouldn’t even let my husband come down the stairs! Of course Simon was his ‘dog dad’ and because he was feeding and walking him, they quickly developed a bond (yes, look how sweet he is – but don’t be deceived!).
Yet the meeting of strange men was extremely problematic. He barked constantly at some of our friends when we first took him visiting. He even went to bite one of them and we had to pull him back on the lead.
The nightmare continued when we passed strange men in the street – even on the other side of the road he would start barking, growling, lunging and even foaming at the mouth! He once bit a carpet fitter who came into our house, but at least it was only on the jumper. We knew that it had to stop.
Tips on Reducing Aggression in Rescue Patterdales
Even now two years on Blake is still a bit scared of strange men, but his behaviour has improved. Generally if socialised and trained well from a puppy, Patterdales are not aggressive dogs (read are Patterdales aggressive?) A lot of aggression in rescue terriers is due to fear that stems from past experiences. If you can reassure them and get them used to strangers in a controlled and positive environment, this can help. It takes time, and so needs to be done slowly and many training techniques need to be repeated many times. Here are our top tips on how to improve the aggression towards strangers in rescue Patts (and other rescue terriers):
Introduce your rescue Patterdale to strangers slowly and calmly. We find that it’s best for him not to go mad at the door, but for him to be in his bed. We then bring the stranger into the house and sit them down and then arm them with treats for positive reinforcement! Then we let Blake in and he can sniff them and be rewarded for it. If he growls or snaps he goes back into his bed. This has helped Blake to allow visitors into our home.
Strangers passing on the Street
For strangers passing on the Street we used ‘clicker training‘ which again is a positive reinforcement training method. When we would see a stranger on the other side of the road, we would click the clicker at the very instant he laid eyes on them and the treat immediately followed. He would look and then be rewarded before the barking and/or growling started. Repeating this regularly with your dog will allow them to acknowledge perceived threats as more of a positive.
Once we had applied the above techniques for a few months and the aggression had calmed, we then started to socialise him more on the advice of his 121 trainer. This involved taking him to places where there would be new and strange people such as cafes and dog friendly pubs. Whenever a stranger approached him, we asked them to sit down which was less intimidating and again we armed with treats! This started to give Blake more positive associations.
We also started to take him for walks with lots of different people – friends and family. Here he is (above) learning to socialise with Simon’s Dad, girlfriend and their dog Stevie.
He can now go to a pub or cafe and meet new people without barking and aggression. He can also meet people in the park. Sometimes he barks a little and then he just gets told ‘No!’
Time for Classes
Finally, he was ready to start classes. This is a BIG challenge for Blake because the classes would be full of strange MEN and strange DOGS! Although there is a lot of barking and pulling in the classes, we are seeing an improvement, and he can repeat classes if he needs to.
We recommend that you get your dog into classes as soon as it’s safe to do so, and if you are finding that it is too difficult to get him in the classes, go for 121 first like we did. In Liverpool, we use Pawsitively Does It training for Blake with April and Dawn and would highly recommend them!