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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-03-2005, 01:55 AM Thread Starter
Adolescent Pup
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need help with dog with fearful aggression

Hi... I'm hoping some of you fellow dog lovers will be able to give me some insight as I am feeling really confused right now. Here is my problem... I will try to be brief...

My dog is having aggression issues. In the past week he has nipped at one of the neighbor kids and actually bit another. I am very concerned about this behavior cuz it is not ok. Without getting into details (cuz that would take an hour!), I have done many things...
1. I made an appointment for the end of this week for pup to have a health check to see if there is pain he experiencing physically that might have contributed to his lashing out.
2. I have moved up his neutering appointment in case that has anything to do with his agression.
3. I bought a muzzle.
4. I took him to a trainer for an evaluation and he said that the pup has many issues. There is no guarantee that with work and time that his behavior will be able to be "fixed".
5. I have another appointment with another trainer next week to see what he has to say.

As for some history on our pup... we have had him since he was 8 weeks old. He is now 9 months old. Since coming home, he has had fear of the vacuum cleaner... runs away from it and shakes with fear. He thinks he is 8 feet tall though. I don't know if that is cuz he is just definitely the alpha out of our 2 dogs or cuz he is a small dog and some small dogs just have that little man syndrome. He came with us weekly to my daughter's 4-H group. Everytime he would bark bark bark at the other dogs but would be more than willing to work with me off to the side with obedience. He is a great dog and we love his personality but we don't like this fearful aggression he is displaying. I've noticed that since the last bite episode, he seems even more fearful. When we took him to the trainer for an evaluation, he was shaking. When we took him to Petsmart to buy a muzzle, he was shaking. I took him today to buy a new collar cuz his broke and he was shaking. He's never displayed fear like that before except with the vacuum. He has never been teased or traumatized by anyone. I don't know what to make of it.

The breeder we got him from thinks his aggression is a result of the rabies vaccine... that he is having an adverse reaction to it.
The trainer I took him to for an evaluation has never heard of such a thing and thinks our pup has a lot of issues and can't guarantee that he is "fixable".
Some people are telling me that once a dog has bitten, there is no fixing them and they will bite again.
Some people are telling me that some owners have dogs like that and just deal with it. They muzzle their dog when in public, they crate or kennel them when company is over. No biggie.
Some people are telling me that he just needs further obedience training.

We (my husband especially) is leery about keeping the pup cuz what if this happens again? We were lucky that the girl didn't require stitches, that our pup wasn't quarantined, and that the parents didn't try to sue us. But what if one day he were to get out of the backyard without us knowing and bite someone else? Scary thought!

The breeder has offered to take the puppy back and exchange him for another from an upcoming litter cuz she really thinks he has irreparable vaccine damage. Personally I don't really want to do that. I love him and want to wait and see if anything can be done to help him. My children don't want to see him go either.

So please help me. Are we crazy for wanting to keep him? Should we give him up? Have any of you experienced anything like this and had good results with further training?

Just so you know... when the pup bit he was eating a treat from my hand when the girl came up to him. Maybe he thought she was gonna take his treat away so he lunged at her? Was he trying to protect me? Or was he just being wacko? I wish I knew!

Any insight will be much appreciated cuz right now I feel really confused on what to do.

~ Debrya
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-03-2005, 05:11 AM
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I've had experience with fear but not with the aggression part, except for towards other dogs (we have an ongoing issue with other dogs). Rupe when I got him was terrified of everything. Little things like the kettle boiling sent him into a panic. Best thing I found was to ignore the cowering shaking mass that was my dog. Sounds heartless but if I was matter of fact about something he soon learnt that it was nothing to worry about. If someone reassured him though he got worse, think he saw it as praise for behaving in the right way. Obviously he was rewarded if he didn't show fear at something that usually frightened him but he got nothing at all for being afraid.
To me the situation where your dog bit the girl sounds like it could be resource guarding. Pretty common problem from what I've heard. Does he bother about you going near him when he has food or a toy or taking things away from him? Or moving him from the spot he's lying in? I'd try him on NILIF. I dont have the link but it'll come up in a google search. I don't think much help can really be given over the internet, you need someone who can see your dog and see his reaction to things. Good luck with him.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-03-2005, 12:51 PM
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Is there anyway to keep him away from the neighbors children?

I'm highly skepticle of the rabies vacc. theory. Makes no sense at all.

My opinion is that a dog like this can survive and do just fine in a QUIET, adult household. Obviously for whatever reason, this little guy is overwhelmed. Could be his age...usually around 7 months pups go through a temporary fear period....but most likely it is a huge combination of things including genetics that cause this behavior.

Growng up we had an aggressive wirehair pointer and we just dealt with it. When company came over he soon learned to stand up and walk to the bedroom where we would shut him in with a toy. We always made sure he had plenty of exercise and attention so this short periods in the bedroom did not hurt him.

I think because your guy is still young a trainor/behaviorist may still be able to help him. Regardless, I would not trust him with children anymore.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-04-2005, 02:17 AM
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I missed this thread orginally. I went through a similar situation almost two years ago. My dog was almost two years old, was neutered and had been living in a shelter his whole life until we got him at 4 months old. He started off just being scared..then his fear turned to aggression. I had an animal behaviourist come to the house to assess him and to start a very strict training routine with him. We don't have rabies in Aus, so no fear there. I had him assessed after he got out and tried to attack the postman...he didn't bite him but he was close...close enough for my liking. The report I got wasn't good...he had more than just fear aggression and the behaviourist was very skeptical as to whether we could 'fix' him. I started him on anti-depressants and started the training routine. I was at a loss as to what to do. Over a couple of weeks I noticed he was actually getting worse, not better. I didn't have any children at the time but was worried about other people's kids...and just worried in general...I was raised that you don't own an animal with aggression problems, no matter how small...and this dog was not small!
In the end I had him put to sleep. Probably not the outcome you're wanting to hear, but I realised rather quickly that his condition was only getting worse, and that he was simply not happy. He was 21 months old when he was put down. Some people may not agree with what I did, but I was the one dealing with the problem, not them. Re-homing him was not possible...I was not giving him up to off load his problems onto someone else, he wasn't getting better, showing no improvement at all...there should have at least been a slight improvement. He also had major seperation anxiety and became even more destructive, even if he knew the people well.
Crating him wasn't an option for me...he was way too highly strung and even the behaviourist told me to not crate him...he said he'd more than likely rip his claws out trying to get out it would stress him so much.
When I told the behaviourist my decision he told me I had made the right choice, it just wasn't his place to say it at the time. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I still cry about it now, almost two years later.
I definently recommend getting your dog could help. However the behaviourist told me neutered or un-neutered male dogs get a release of hormones at 18 months and then again at 3 years of age. It was at 18 months that my dog got aggressive, th ebehaviourist said that even if he did improve, we'd more than likely take a big step backwards once he hit three.

Honestly, you'll get lots of advice and opinions on the matter, I know I sure did. What it boils down to is what feels right for you. I don't think you can trust the dog around children, even your own. Children are very unpredictable for a dog with fear aggression. These are some of the questions I asked myself....
How long was I willing to work with a dog that will never be trustworthy knowing I'm putting other people in danger?
If he brutally attacks a small child (and he could have killed, he was a strong dog) will I ever be able to forgive myself?
Do I want to remember my dog as viscious and spend thousands of dollars and lots of time in court because he attacked?
If this wasn't my dog, and I was a neighbour living near a dangerous dog how would I feel and would action would I want them to take?
Is it fair to him to spend his life in fear of everything and everyone and not allow him to spend any time being a dog for fear that some innocent person will get in his way?

Good luck with your decision and keep us informed. The day I had my dog put to sleep he growled at my mum, someone he was around regularly. I knew I was making the right choice then. It was hard, like I said, no matter what it was never going to be easy.

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-04-2005, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by RSbunny
I was raised that you don't own an animal with aggression problems, no matter how small...and this dog was not small!
Even a small animal can cause damage and some just can't be saved. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I went through it with one of my rats. I owned another rat who'd started off the same way but had come round with time and was my most loving one (I had 4). Unfortunately Kane just got worse and worse. I had to seperate him from the other 3 just so I could handle them without being attacked by him and feeding and cleaning him out was a nightmare. Being attacked by a rat may not sound like much but those teeth hurt! And I'm allergic to rats. He died while I was trying to make the decision to have him pts. I think the original poster would do well to look at the questions you asked yourself and make a decision. I'd get a second opinion with another trainer before making that decision though.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-04-2005, 03:36 PM
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This pup sounds like a cocker spaniel.
I work with fear biters everyday.Go with a trainer that knows what their doing!
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-04-2005, 05:42 PM
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I have a fear biter. Stewart came from the pound 10 months ago, and when I brought him home, and up until about 3 months ago, he was a fear biter. The only thing that the folks at the pound knew was that he was abused and a stray. When he got scared he would lash out and bite someone...never hard, but hard enough to shock them. At first I thought he was just trying to protect me, but then he bit someone when I wasn't around (he was at my parent's house), and I realized that we had a major problem.

I worked with him on de-sensitization and conditioning. I would walk him where a lot of people would be, and took him to the park among other places. And especially to the petstore, where I knew we would see other dogs and more people. And I enrolled both of us in obedience classes. He wouldn't go near the door at first, but the more I tried to bring him around other people, the better he got. And now I wouldn't say he's always friendly, but he's gotten SO much better! And now we actually teach obedience class.

As for the vacuum cleaner, I've met very few dogs who actually like it. With Stewart, I would roll it around the floor without it on, to just get him used to it. He's still afraid of it, but doesn't run and hide like he used to.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-09-2005, 11:32 AM Thread Starter
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Sorry for the late reply... I have been away from the computer. I want to thank you all for your insight on this matter. Your shared experiences, ideas, thoughts, etc have helped a LOT!

Trying to figure out what to do with our pup has not been easy.... but we decided to keep him... at least for now. We took him to 2 different trainers and were quite happy with the one we met on Monday. He is a trainer/behaviorist and assured us that while there is no guarantee that he won't bite again, he can definitely benefit from training. Our pup lacks confidence and training will help boost that. We start next Monday and hope that it will be a good thing.

Meanwhile.... we have all definitely learned a lesson from this experience. One.... we can't let other children around him. He does fine with our kids (ages 11 & 13) but I will never trust him around others again. Two.... we must listen to any kind of warning he gives whether it be a growl or bark, etc and react from there.

It is good to know that there are others out there who live with dogs like ours. It isn't all a lost cause. When out walking, muzzle him. When someone asks if they can pet him, tell them no. When company is over, crate him. I think this is all manageable. He is a great dog other than this bite episode last week... which was one of the worst experiences of my life. How scary that was!

The breeder we got him from did offer to take him back in exchange for another puppy which was very nice of her but we do love our pup and think that giving him back would most likely be his death sentence. She couldn't place him (with his past behavior) with someone else and I don't think she would keep him. I just couldn't do that to him. Of course I'm hoping that everything will get better from here on out. He will be neutered on Friday.... training starts on Monday.

The interesting thing is that while I mentioned that the breeder thought it could possibly be vaccine damage that made him act this way..... our vet and trainer both thought not. Our pup is a miniature australian shepherd and more often than not, his type of behavior stems from genetics. Both told us that genetics can go whacko when a breed is miniaturized. I never knew that when I was shopping for a mini. I thought they would have the same great personality of a standard aussie.... I'm sure some do but in our case, that didn't happen. For now we will learn to live with it. If something else happens down the line, we will probably rethink our decision but for now, we are just gonna cope.

Thanks again for all your advice. You guys rock! Wish us luck with the training and confidence building.

~ Debrya
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-12-2005, 01:41 PM
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Good Luck!!

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-12-2005, 02:59 PM
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good luck! Keep us updated!

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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-12-2005, 05:50 PM
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Another huge problem with taking a different pup from the same breeder, you get the same genes and environment issues as you've had with the first pup. My question is, why does she continue to breed and sell dogs when she has had problems with some of the pups? How silly is that? I have no problem with anyone breeding anything so long as it is healthy, has a good attitude (i.e. don't breed nervous/hyper dogs that bite), and the offspring can be provided for or at least used by someone (i.e. feeder rats and mice). As far as immediantly with your dog, listen to the advice of trainers and vets, but if you become too afraid of your dog to handle him, put him to sleep instead of giving him back or rehoming him. There are so many great dogs that would never bite that need homes. Sorry, but some breeders need to seriously look at the animals they are producing and stop if there are problems. I've done that with my rats, if they were sick, I didn't breed. If the mother's bit me while nursing, I never bred them again and I discontinued that line completely on the female side (no daughters were bred from that mother). Some things are influenced by genetics and agression is one of them.

Sorry, just a bit annoyed with "registered breeders".
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australian shepherd, cocker spaniel, neutered male, obedience training

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