Frank Crosses the "Border" Line - a Not so Perfect Pyr story

by Martha
(Barrie, Ontario)

Frank has had a couple of “aggression incidents” in the last two weeks. Perhaps some of the GPCSO Pyr lovers can shed some light on what is going on with her. I am a bit stumped.

Frank is our 6.5 year old female Great Pyr. She is well socialized, loveable and the fearless protector of our realm. Until very recently she always exhibited an ability to analyze situations and apply only as much “Pyr” as necessary.

On Easter weekend, Dan and I took Frankie to a local forest. The unofficial rule states that once you get well into the woods you can unleash your dogs and let them run or walk with you. On the way into the forest, on the main trail Dan held the leash as we passed a huge young male Great Dane. He was beautiful! Frank and the Dane exchanged friendly greetings (both on leash) and the owner of the Dane indicated there was only one guy left in the area with two big hunting dogs.

Once we were about a ¼ mile in, Dan released Frankie from her leash and she jogged around us with pleasure. She led the way down a familiar trail about 50 yards ahead of us.

Suddenly, out of the bush charged one big black dog heading straight for Dan and me. Closely behind it was a second slightly smaller version of the first. Both were bearing down on us fast; barking and not friendly. I heard a man’s voice shouting, and looked up in time to see Frank spin around and sprint back. A quick glance in the opposite direction, showed the two black dogs almost upon us. This was not going to be good.

Dan and I took one big step back to the edge of the trail as Frank and the male skidded to a halt, in a standoff - eye to eye. For a moment I thought “this is okay.” But the black dog lunged and the two of them connected aggressively. The second black dog joined in and for an instant it looked like Frankie was going to get the worst of it. She kept spinning around and all you could see was a mesh of black and white, like an Oreo cookie in a blender. All of the dogs were snarling viciously. Within seconds Frank spun one last time and caught the male by the back of the neck and forced him to the ground. The smaller dog, a female, broke away at the sound of the male yelping.

The owner (a tall man with a large walking stick) came breathlessly out of the woods shouting in a foreign language at his dogs. The female went to her owner’s side, but the male was squealing and was pinned under Frankie. Dan jumped in at this point to pull Frankie off, and ended up having to pancake her with his entire body in order to subdue her. I snapped her leash on while she and Dan were both down and panting.

The man glared at us, grabbed the male dog by the collar and yanked him away down the trail, with the female in tow. Dan and I just looked at each other in astonishment. What the hell just happened?!

I checked Frankie out from head to toe, and she was fine. I told Dan that I would prefer if we kept her on the leash for the rest of the walk…but he didn’t quite agree. He didn’t like the way that incident played out. In short, Dan didn’t feel Frank was at fault, given that she was protecting us from two aggressive dogs. I saw his point, and once we had travelled even deeper into the forest, we let her off the leash and enjoyed the rest of our nature walk. That is, until we were walking back towards the entrance.

There was a man and a woman on bikes and with them was a Border Collie. The herder caught sight of Frankie and went into his “stance”; which is common for this breed. Frank approached the other dog just as I called out to the bikers “She is friendly." But the greeting was not friendly. Frank growled at the other dog in warning and then when he put his “herding move” on her, she used her size advantage to pin the dog down as a show of dominance. The smaller dog yelped, and I was close enough to snap the leash on Frank and give her a quick, hard correction as I yanked her off the collie. Dan and I both apologized to the owners and they moved on. The smaller dog was fine, as there were no teeth or claws used in the incident.

Dan and I talked about Frank’s unusual behavior with the Border Collie on drive home. We felt it was somehow connected to the first incident with the two hunting dogs. We couldn't come up with anything concrete, but considered it over. Little did we know, we would have two more similar incidents in the weeks to follow.

A couple of days later I was coming home across our neighbourhood park when we met Wooten (a Great Pyr – Border Collie mix puppy 3 months old) and Winston (a pure bred Border Collie and local fly ball champ). Frankie had met both dogs previously without any issues.

Winston’s owner is very proud of his dog and suggested I let Frankie off her leash to romp with Winston – which we have done a few times in the past. He always maintained that the much larger Frank would never catch Winston, as he was as quick as lightening and incredibly agile.

Well, this time, not only did Frank catch Winston during a game of Collie herding gone bad, she did the same thing she did to the Border Collie in the bush. She growled, spun around and forced Winston to the ground aggressively with her big body. She actually sat on him and held him down.

Again, I stepped in quickly, snapped the leash on and gave a hard correction and admonition. Frank hung her head and looked up at me. I was so disappointed. I apologized to Winston’s owner, and told him I couldn’t believe she did that. He couldn’t either. Wooten’s owner thought that perhaps Frankie was trying to protect her puppy. I’m not so sure.

The latest incident happened the other night while Jason was walking Frank. It happened right in front of our house as he was finishing the walk. Again, it was another neighbourhood Border Collie named Finn.

Jason told me that Finn was going by them just as they came to the driveway and usually Frankie doesn’t bother with him at all. But this time when Finn did his herding stare and lunge, Frank retaliated aggressively. Jason said she growled, and lurched forward straining on the leash and almost pulled him off balance. He had to use all his strength to pull her back and hold her.

Finn’s owner was really surprised at this sudden show of aggression. Luckily Jason was able to hold on and the dogs didn’t connect.

So now I am trying to figure out what is going on with my dog and Border Collies. I would be foolish not to notice a pattern here, and I am at a loss as to how to correct this. Anyone out there have any ideas, comments, suggestions? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Comments for Frank Crosses the "Border" Line - a Not so Perfect Pyr story

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Apr 18, 2012
Frank Crosses Border Line
by: Sandra Young

When my Great Pyr Wizard was growing up, he was attacked by 3 different Rottweilers on 3 different occasions.

One of them he had played with as a puppy, but he was now about 18 months old. 2 dogs ran off their property when we were walking by. Wizard was on leash. From then on Wizard hated Rotties and could spot one a mile away, long before I realized they were there. He instantly would start barking and lunging. I could never trust him off leash unless I knew the area really well - certainly never in a leash free zone.

Wizard was great with all other breeds but I did have difficulty with him at any dog event when Rotties were present. I never could break him of this, except with one Rottie that he met when it was a puppy at 8 weeks. However, once he grew up, we did have some problems. Wizard was like this until he died at 12.5 years.

I note that Frank is going after Border Collies but appears OK with others. My only suggestion is to get him socializing with very young BCs and hopefully that might overcome the problem. I know I tried really hard with Wizard and was not successful. Pyrs can be so stubborn when they get something in their heads.

Good Luck.

Apr 18, 2012
Sounds "Pyr"fectly normal to me.
by: Bill Earley

I agree that it sounds like all of the events are connected though maybe not in the way you would normally think.

Lets start with the first incident in the woods. Frankie showed the Pyr ability to use just the force needed to deal with and neutralize the threat. We can deduce this from the fact that even a small female has the bite strength to have killed the dog in question once she had him by the back of the neck a little more bite pressure or a couple of quick shakes of the head and it would have ended badly for the other dog. The other dog had not completely submitted so in her mind the event was not finished which is the reason it was so difficult for DH to disengage her.

Follow that up with the BC encounter shortly after... here was a strange dog that made am unacceptable move (the classic BC herding lunge) and Frankie was having none of it. Think of it as a preemptive move "we are having none of it and we are having it NOW!"

Fast forward a few days and remember these dogs have a memory that would make an elephant look downright amnesiac and we have another dog that makes a similar move and both Winston and Winston's owner found out just how "quick" a Pyr can be when they think it is necessary. Again she used only the force necessary to ensure that the potential "threat" was neutralized.

The incident with Finn is another case of stare and lunge followed by an "Oh No You don't" message delivered by Frankie.

Frankie's level of trust (towards other dogs) has been severely diminished and they don't look at other dogs the way we do. A Pyr's thought process runs more towards "Is it big enough to constitute a threat?", "Is it one of mine?", "How much and what type of force to apply".

There is a "famous" TV personality who preaches that dogs live in the moment. Dogs may, Pyrs don't, they live in the current threat assessment.

One thing you can do is to make sure you keep your body between Frank and the neighborhood dogs that you meet while on a walk and try teaching her to sit and wait for the other dog to pass. It will take the cooperation of your neighbors while she winds down and regains that trust level with the neighborhood dogs. Meanwhile she has added canines to her list of potential threats.

Good luck with her I always love hearing stories of Frankie and her Pyr-ness.

Apr 19, 2012
Thank you Bill and Sandra
by: Martha

Thank you both for your comments and insight. Bill, I think you are bang on - Frank does appear to have suddenly added canines to her list of potential threats.

Frank is my first Pyr and I have a lot to learn about this distinctive breed! And you are right about the memory of these dogs...like Sandra said, Wizard could spot a Rotti a mile away, and obviously remembered all his past experiences (positive and negative).

On the bright side, I had a nice "pack walk" last night with our 12 year old Cairn Terrier Hannah, little Yorki mix Josie, Frank and our weirdo cat Pumpkinz. We encountered many other neighbourhood dogs (no border collies), without incident. I did notice that Frank prefers to be the one between me and other dogs/humans though; so I had to step up and be the pack leader and make this one adjustment. (Thanks Bill).

Hannah is a crusty old girl, and yaps at cars that go by, other dogs, birds, etc...but when I position her next to Frank on my left, and shorten her leash a bit,the calm energy of the Pyr always seems to soothe her and she settles right down.

At this point, I am holding off visiting our off leash dog park until I get a handle on this Border Collie issue. The DOLRA in Barrie has an abundance of BCs, Australian Cattle dogs, Heelers, etc. I am hoping I can reverse this new behavior of Frankie's...I am wondering if it is possible to undo the "imprint" she seems to have of herders? Any ideas?

Thanks again.

Apr 20, 2012
Frankie's Supposed Aggression on the trail
by: Chris - Experienced Dog Owner

Do NOT blame the dog. Frankie's behavior toward the last dog encountered on the trail, is more than understandable, given that she had just encountered and successfully fought off 2 dogs who appeared aggressive toward "her" people. Her adrenaline was still pumping and she was now, more than ever, on high alert to any potential danger - meaning other dogs.

I would not describe this dog as aggressive in ordinary circumstances, nor requiring a warning about being aggressive, but rather she is smart, aware and protective, just as a Great Pyrenees should be. Her aggression toward the last dog encountered is basically due to Dan exercising poor judgment in letting her off leash again and he should be advised not to do so in the future after such a circumstance.

It is far better for Frankie and other dogs to err on the side of caution in public areas where other dogs may be loose. You would be smart to keep her short leashed when encountering other dogs either in the city or the countryside/forest.

Apr 21, 2012
Re-active not aggressive
by: Bill Earley

Hi Martha ... glad to hear the pack walks are progressing.

Short of teaching the Border Collies to quit being so "rude" by doing the little stop-stare-lunge routine I'm not sure what you can do that will provide a cure in a short time frame.

If you go back and read your original posting every time she has gone off on a BC has been after the lunge. Given her encounter in the woods with the two "hounds" that is understandable.

The only hope short term will be to try and get her to focus on you to the exclusion of everything else and good luck doing that with Fearless Frank who is always on guard. Dr. Sophia Yin (drsophiayin.com) has some de-conditioning techniques that you may be able to work on with Frank to get her responsiveness down to a lower level, but, it will be a while before she just ignores the lunge out of hand.

She's just not built that way.

Apr 27, 2012
Not Aggression
by: Donna

My Pyr has a fear of other dogs. I do not know her past or what happened to her, but when she sees an unfamiliar dog, she would, if allowed and has in the past, gone after it, and pinned it with much nasty growling. Blood has not yet been drawn but she will not back down. She is in defence mode. If any other dog challenges her, whether it be to stare at her or happily run at her, it scares her.

It seems like that is what has happened to Frank. He is only doing what his instinct tells him now. Perhaps it was that one incident with the two dogs. He won't forget it now. Any dog may be enough to set him into defence mode. It's not his fault. Do not get mad at him.

My dog stays on leash at all times unless in an area where I'm fairly certain there are no other dogs. I worked with a great trainer using the treat method. When we see another dog, I keep walking, saying 'clever girl', she looks at me and that gets her a treat. Her hard mouth, normally very soft, tells me she is extremely tense. It works very well unless we are in a tight situation. I can even simply say, when she looks at the other dog, leave it, and she'll look away and we keep walking.

She will never be able to be off leash in the presence of other dogs, but she actually seems okay with that, and feels safer with me.

Frank is still a good dog. I think he is just afraid.

Nov 06, 2012
I now have a 12 month old Pyr.
by: Rhonna Booth

As to the story of Frankie and her aggression, I have an almost 12 month old Pyr whom I have had since he was 9 weeks old. I love him all the world. He is massive at approx 120lbs and technically won't be one year old until November 17th, 2012. His name is Aslan (as in the lion from the movie, `The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe`.


The issue with Aslan is extremely aggressive to anyone new and any dogs he does not already know. He does not calm down after introductions. He has known my dad the entire time I my dad comes over. I am at wits end but after reading all the other posts I have to agree Aslan has never bit anyone but growled and snapped. He has also had one dog half his size pinned down on the ground while holding his throat.

I am very scared and untrusting of Aslan around strangers and unknown dogs. Anyone have any information on what to do. I have bought him a muzzle for when we go out or if people come over. I also have an E-Collar with a remote, he does respond very well to that.

With my husband, myself and my now 3 year old son, he is extremely gentle. Every once in awhile he will knock down the 3 year old because of his age and size. Other than that he is the nicest gentlest giant with us. I love him as I am home alone so much.

I am personally so in love with the Pyr breed.

Nov 30, 2012
Frankie is doing her job
by: Deeanna

Im falling in line with what everyone else is saying. Frankie is taking the way BC's are looking and acting as a threat (she is doing her job and protecting you). Since the BC's in your area all have the same actions and the first incident with the other two dogs, she is now very connected to her protecting her herd (you and your husband) she is doing what she was bred to to for thousands of years. I would keep her on leash around border collies, but really she is doing her job.

Dec 21, 2012
defence
by: Erin

Being attacked by the two hunting dogs could have shaken Frank, and be causing this behaviour. A family friend's dog was attacked a few months ago, and since has been very defensive around other dogs, quick to prove that she is top dog. It took a few months but she has calmed down. Frank should just need some time to calm down, but in the mean time, if she is still acting out, leaving her on her lead wuld be best.

What I found most interesting of your story...you can let your Pyr off the lead?!?!?!? And she comes back when you call!?!?!? Our Pyr could never be let off the lead and be expected to come back when called, he just played peek-a-boo among the trees, and goes to bother the neighbour's cows til he gets hungry. We just had to wait for him to return on his own.

Mar 03, 2013
He is only being a Pyr
by: Grant

Pyr's are very aware of their owners feeling and emotions and the minute you become nervous of a situation they go on high alert.

Frank's behaviour could well be prompted by your nervousness in situations with other dogs. Our pyr is extremely socialable and loves meeting other dogs, but the instance any one of us, particularly our daughter, displays any nervousness or fear of another dog he goes into the 'protect' mode. He does not like to back down until the situation is calm.

We usually walk him off lead and he has no concern for other peoples emotions as he charges up to meet their dogs.

May 08, 2013
Just Pyr being Pyr.
by: HTan

I agree with everyone who says Frank is just doing her guard duty being a model Pyr. I can also see why she does that... probably due to the reaction of her herd "you guys".

She is a great doggie protecting her kin.

P.S. Roman hikes a lot off leash with us... so far so good (almost 7 months with him to date) about not wandering off. Its like if I trust you.. you Roman better prove you can be trusted kinda thing. Not recommended for every Pyr though.

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