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Old 04-13-2013, 08:46 PM   #1
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Default Need Advice - Fear Aggressive

Hi everyone. I'm new to the community and am need to advice. We are the owners of a 5-year-old mix breed rescue. We think that he is a mix of hound, shephard and lab. His name is Stew. He was dropped off at a co-workers vet office as an 8-week-old puppy and we took him in. Our first family dog. At about 4-5 months we noticed some signs of fear in him. When anyone entered our home, the hair raised on his back, he shook and growled. We started working with him right away to try to get him adjusted to guests. Over the past 4 years, we have had 3 behavioral trainers, taken him to training classes, and most recently Ohio State University Vet clinic. The doctor their prescribed medication for him. Since then, he seems to have the same issues. It has difficult on the entire family. Our teenage sons are not allowed to have friends in the house. We have to crate him when any guests come to our house. It doesn't seem fair to anyone, especially Stew. We LOVE him, but I need to find a solution. Re-homing is an option. Please offer any advice! Thanks!

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Old 04-13-2013, 09:27 PM   #2
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Hello and welcome to the forum!

It sounds like you've done a lot to try and work with the issue. There are a few trainers on here who will hopefully be able to give you good advice.

One thing I'd suggest is looking into B.A.T

Here is a page that goes over it/gives information on it : Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) | Official site for BAT: dog-friendly training for reactivity (aggression, fear, frustration) by Grisha Stewart, MA

Good luck, I'm sure you will get some great/helpful answers from the trainers on the forum soon.

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Old 04-13-2013, 10:57 PM   #3
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Robert a, welcome to the Forum! Have you looked over any of the posts on this Forum dealing with fear aggressive dogs? There is a lot of info. I'm sure one of the trainers on this forum will respond. I also have a fear/aggressive dog, and BAT training has done wonders for him.

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Old 04-14-2013, 12:30 AM   #4
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Hi Robert. Sorry but there is no magic cure for fear aggression. There are various strategies of behaviour modification (possibly combined with meds) that can make improvements in your dog's behaviour, but these are long term strategies and require a huge commitment. Whilst dogs can make great strides, aggression is never 'cured', so some level of management will be required for the life of the dog.

What have your previous trainers suggested? What are you currently doing apart from the meds? Have you done any reading on dealing with fear aggression, and if not would you be interested in suggestions? Has he actually bitten anybody? What are his triggers?

Sorry I am going to disagree that rehoming is a viable option. You have owned and become strongly bonded to your dog for 5 years, and yet you find his behaviour intolerable to live with. It is highly unlikely that someone else who has no existing bond to the dog will want to knowingly take him on. To put this in perspective, many young dogs of sound temperament and no major behavioural issues die every day simply due to lack of anybody willing to adopt them. Sad but true.

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Old 04-14-2013, 07:44 AM   #5
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Thanks Kaos. We have been very committed to a variety of behavioral modifications techniques for years including reward therapy, "safe place" mats, extra exercise, slow-paced repetitive guest entry, "sit means sit" vibration/beep collars and 2 types of medications. It has been four years of tests, therapies, medications, etc. The most confusing part of this is that he goes to Doggie Daycare once a week and shows none of these aggression signs when he's there. All of the employees there think Stew is the BEST! All of his aggression seems to be confined to our home, but you can see how troubling that can be. We've worked hard to train him on door knocks, doorbells, our family using the front door consistently, slowly with treats, etc. Nothing seems to change the behavior. He has never been aggressive toward any of us, but at 70 lbs he can be difficult to calm and restrain when someone walks up to our door. And my biggest fear is that one of my sons will forget to restrain him and have someone enter our home.

Stew has been a member of our family for 5 years now and we LOVE our dog. I completely understand how members of the forum would look down on us for even thinking of trying to find him a new home. We are huge believers in pet adoption as we did with Stew and I know how hard it is to find homes for calm, we'll behaved animals, but my hope was to reach out to see if there are any rescue groups for dogs like Stew. As much as it would hurt to do so, I am willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy and relaxed including driving him across the country. I'm not sure where to turn next, so I tried the forum. Thanks!

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Old 04-14-2013, 08:04 AM   #6
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Hi Robert and welcome aboard it's difficult to assertain what's bought this on. You have had Stew since 8 weeks old right? and these traits developed at around 16-20 weeks so he hadn't stayed any where else since you took him in? Any triggers in your mind that may have set this unwanted behaviour off?? Saying that it could be genetic problem While iam not a trainer like Kaos I will agree it will be hard ( but not impossible) to modify his behaviour and will require eveyone to be on the same page for it to work and it's a lifetime commitment!!! It wouldn't be fair to rehome him as there is a 'bond' already in place and it wouldn't be fair
to have another placement either for new owner(s) or Stew Good luck and please keep us updated!
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Old 04-14-2013, 04:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert a View Post
Stew has been a member of our family for 5 years now and we LOVE our dog. I completely understand how members of the forum would look down on us for even thinking of trying to find him a new home. We are huge believers in pet adoption as we did with Stew and I know how hard it is to find homes for calm, we'll behaved animals, but my hope was to reach out to see if there are any rescue groups for dogs like Stew. As much as it would hurt to do so, I am willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy and relaxed including driving him across the country. I'm not sure where to turn next, so I tried the forum. Thanks!
Sorry but attempting to rehome this dog won't make him happy and relaxed. You may believe in adoption, but you adopted an 8 week old puppy with no known behavioural issues, ask yourself honestly if you would be willing to take on a 5 year old large breed dog with serious aggression issues? The answer is clearly no.

You may find a rescue that will take him, but IMO this is a bad idea. A rescue can do all the training and behaviour modification they like (and a majority don't have the knowledge or resources to do much), but those skills and knowledge won't pass on to the person who ultimately adopts him, especially given that most of his problems are in the home, and you can expect him to be worse due to the stress associated with the move. You will tell yourself that a very experienced person will adopt him, but I will tell you that experienced people (trainers like myself) will screen dogs they want to adopt for themselves extremely carefully and are typically far far more selective than the general public. Many trainers got involved in training due to having to work with a very troubled dog, and most would not willingly seek to own that dog again. These dogs typically end up with well meaning people who are entirely out of their depth.

It sounds like some of what you have tried to modify this dog's behaviour would have been contradictory. Any kind of punishment around visitors most likely caused you greater problems. It doesn't sound like you are open to attempting a combination of more training and management, so I won't bother to make suggestions.

I am not looking down on you, living with aggression issues is hard work and very stressful for all involved. If you have reached the end of the road with your dog and you are not prepared to invest more time / energy / money into working with your dog, and you don't consider a total management solution to be a viable option, then I believe it is time to consider humane euthanasia rather than passing him on. This is my personal view, and I understand that others here will strongly disagree, however, I will tell you that I am both a trainer and actively involved in rescue work.

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Old 04-14-2013, 04:28 PM   #8
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I have to agree to some extent with what kaos has said! You may have been trying to help this dog but if you have gone wrong with the way it's been handled then further problems will be present! So if you have time/money etc to invest in positive methods then good If not may be a sanctuary might be the answer. Rehoming/shelter are not options in this case!
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Old 04-15-2013, 01:54 AM   #9
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Hmmm...are you sure it is fear aggression and not resource guarding??? That is a different issue. Seems odd that he hasn't responded somewhat to all the training you have done...
Kikopup on utube has calming signals that if you learn them you will be able to tell if it is stress versus resource guarding, esp. since he only does this in your home. Might be a completely different approach to the training. I wouldn't re-home...we humans just need to figure out what our dogs are telling us! I would only use positive reinforcement methods, anything aversive will increase fear/anxiety.
Give treats to guests and have them ignore your dog - don't look at him, talk to him, etc. and then just drop treats on the floor so he associates treats with strangers in the house.

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Old 04-15-2013, 07:54 AM   #10
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Hmmm...are you sure it is fear aggression and not resource guarding??? That is a different issue. Seems odd that he hasn't responded somewhat to all the training you have done...
Kikopup on utube has calming signals that if you learn them you will be able to tell if it is stress versus resource guarding, esp. since he only does this in your home. Might be a completely different approach to the training. I wouldn't re-home...we humans just need to figure out what our dogs are telling us! I would only use positive reinforcement methods, anything aversive will increase fear/anxiety.
Give treats to guests and have them ignore your dog - don't look at him, talk to him, etc. and then just drop treats on the floor so he associates treats with strangers in the house.
What makes you think it might be Resource Guarding? There is no food/toys etc involved maybe he feels over whelmed by visitors calling round we don't know if he has been punished when he has shown this agression but it needs to be handled in a positive way like you suggested to make any difference to his fear of 'what ever' is causing this behaviour.
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