For the last 2 months we have been dealing with Nando getting into fights down at the dog park over toys.
Our sweet boy, who we used to be able to let loose in the park with no worries that he would get into a fight (if there was an aggressive dog at the park he would avoid it, and if there was multiple dogs playing, he would normally sit away from the group, preferring to play only with one dog at a time) had started to fight.
The first time, we probably blamed the other dog, but then it started to happen almost every time we went to the park, and it was starting to get ugly. We believe his behaviour was changing because the effect of the chemical castration was wearing off, because the fights always broke out when:
- There were multiple dogs involved;
- Always between male dogs that were either not castrated, chemically castrated, or adopted from a shelter with a history of dog-on-dog aggression.
I think we have almost solved the problem now by:
- Increasing the intensity of Nando’s training (after having the baby, we had let it go a bit) – emphasising the ‘drop’ command, as well as ‘come’, ‘leave it’ and ‘sit’.
- Avoiding situations where there was more than 1-2 dogs at the park, avoiding all French Bulldogs (they are all uncastrated males in our neighbourhood) and other uncastrated male dogs, and making sure there were no toys present.
- Having Nando surgically castrated
- Increasing the amount of exercise Nando got (after he recovered from surgery) – including long walks where he could run off lead, and swim, until he was tired.
One month after starting this regime, Nando is now playing nicely with castrated male dogs at the park, even when toys are involved. Yesterday he played tug-of-war with another dog and they ran around sharing the toy between them.
There is recent research to show that castration does not cure all forms of aggression – but hopefully, in Nando’s case, when the aggression was just between male dogs, the removal of his ‘testosterone-driven behaviours’ will solve the problem.
Update 1: Nando has also played well with uncastrated male dogs, although these days I make sure that play stops before it gets ‘over excited’ – for example, if the dogs start growling. The other dog owner sometimes tells me it is OK, ‘normal play’ behaviour, but I explain to them that Nando is in training and it is important to me that he can exit this type of play when I call him. And bless him, since he has been castrated he is listening really well. Once I call him away however, he will often not resume play again, even if he is off lead and allowed to.
Update 2: This week I let Nando play with 2 male uncastrated French Bulldogs. The two French Bulldogs started playing together and were making all sorts of growling noises, that sound quite aggressive, but watching them play it was just play. HOWEVER, these growling noises triggered Nando and he went into his growling aggressive mode (and therefore straight on the lead and home). So, castration alone has not solved that problem.