Ask a Trainer – Intact Aggression
Training advice for aggressive intact dogs
Q: My dog, Wishbone, is an intact male Jack Russell. He wasn’t completely socialized and had a few aggression issues. He is now much better with us, but he hates my mother-in-law’s intact male dog, Jonesy. They got into a pretty bad fight after months of getting along. Now, if they even see each other, they try to get at each other and fight. Should I assume that he won’t get along with any other male dog? I want to board him, but I’m afraid he’ll be a pain to the kennel if he barks or tries to fight with other dogs. Any advice?—Peacemaker in Pasadena
A: Fights involving unneutered male dogs aren’t uncommon, and with Wishbone and Jonesy both being intact, you’ve got double trouble. But does their “talk to the paw” relationship predict that Wishbone will have trouble with other dogs as well? Maybe. While it’s true that there are plenty of intact males who are not dog-aggressive, dogs can tell when another is unneutered. When an intact male enters a dog park or social group, it’s not unusual for other dogs to get their hackles up, both literally and figuratively, and fighting can result. You didn’t mention Wishbone’s age, but assuming he’s an adolescent or older, I’m curious as to why he’s not been neutered. I assume you’re not planning to breed him, as aggression issues can be passed down genetically. Unless he’s a show dog or there is some medical or other reason that he must stay intact, I urge you to speak to your vet about neutering. In addition to lessening the incidence of aggression toward other males, neutering also decreases urine marking, roaming, and possibly, other aggression-related behaviors such as territoriality. As to Wishbone’s relationship with Jonesy, if one or both of them get neutered, it might change; but given their established history of fighting, it might not, and it would be best to manage the situation by keeping them apart for now. The important thing is to give Wishbone every possible chance of having peaceful encounters in the future. If possible, hire a gentle, positive trainer who has his or her own dogs that are “bomb-proof” around other dogs. That would allow you to work with any possible reactivity in a supervised way, and the trainer could then help you to ease into encountering unfamiliar dogs in public. All of that should help you to predict how Wishbone would behave in a kennel/boarding situation in close proximity to other dogs. If it seems potentially problematic, you could always opt to have a petsitter stay at your home instead.