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TL;DR - My normally well behaved dog bit someone, recommendations for training?

I have a 1.5 year old coon hound/terrier (also mixed with many other things) mutt, about 30 lbs, that I rescued from the street at a young age. She was handled frequently throughout her life, socialized well, and has been well trained. She gets plenty of exercise, is crate trained, off leash trained, and likes long walks on the beach. All in all, she is a smart, well behaved puppy.

Recently she has nipped two people, and now bit someone and I am hoping to get some ideas on how to address this behavior.

She originally showed some dominance issues when I first rescued her that I chalked up to her brief street life, such as food aggression. It took less than a week to fix her food aggression with humans, though she still has some with other dogs (constantly working on this). She occasionally growls when meeting new dogs/people when she is on leash. I consistently reprimand her for this and she normally stops immediately. When off leash she generally has no issues with dogs or people. Occasionally she might growl or snap at another dog to establish her boundaries, but it doesn't ever go further than that.

The first incident was a maintenance person coming into my house. I was home with the dog. The man entered, she growled, and I corrected her. She then behaved normally. After a few minutes of working, he tried to approach her without asking me. She looked very uncomfortable, so I asked him not to pet my dog. He insisted on approaching her as I repeatedly asked him not to. She let him pet her and then when he turned around she nipped his leg. I reprimanded her and put her in another room until he left. I was instantly terrified that she somehow thought biting was ok. I watched closely for similar behavior in the following weeks and did not see any.

About a month later I had to leave town for a week on business that she could not come on. This is unusual for me. She stayed with a friend and his dog, both of which she is very comfortable with. He did not have his no trespassing sign up, and a delivery man entered his property (inside a fenced yard) to deliver a package when he was not home. His dog and mine both jumped on the man and nipped him hard enough that one made him bleed a little. I responded by doing more training with her and being very cautious with new people. She behaved wonderfully for me and I saw no negative behaviors.

Yesterday, my boyfriend (Ben) of about 3 months was watching her for the day. He was visiting with his parents and stayed at their house with her and his dog for the night. He has watched her in the past and she behaves well for him. She was crated in the morning next to his dad and showed no discomfort or aggression. Ben had both dogs out in the yard playing and when they came inside his dad was there. After a few minutes of conversation she ran over and nipped his dad. Ben corrected her and she walked away, ran over again and this time she bit his dad hard enough to draw blood. He reprimanded her and put her in her crate until they left. He feels as if he could have introduced them better, but I think the issue is much deeper than that.

The first two scenarios seem like a territorial dominance issue, where the third seems like it was possessive. He is very loving with her and gives her unwarranted affection often, and she is very loving and sweet with him. I'm guessing she didn't like a new person taking his affection from her. But, she has never had a problem with his dog or I taking his affection from her.

I'll stop rambling now, any ideas other than just hiring a trainer? I am happy to do that, but would like to better understand and address the issue myself first.
 

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Punishing her for growling is backfiring. It is making her more wary of people rather than more comfortable with them. When she is around people reward her for good behavior and remove her when she shows bad behavior.

Getting a behaviorist rather than a trainer would be far more helpful because she is biting and drawing blood.

You need to be your dog's advocate. If a person rudely ignores your instructions then leave. Put yourself between person and dog and back your dog off. Yes that's really odd behavior between humans, too bad.

Until you get advice from a behaviorist keep her on leash around people and reward her when she looks at anybody without lunging, growling, getting stiff and so on. Carry part of her food with you if she will take it or lots of tiny kibble sized treats. I use string cheese as it's so easy but cooked chicken, deli meat, soft dog treats like the food rolls are all fine. After a week or so she will see a person then look at you for her treat. That's wonderful and exactly what you want to see. I wouldn't move past that first stage until you have a plan of action from a behaviorist though.
 

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I agree with Kathyy. Punishing the growling has likely taught her that A) when she expresses she's uncomfortable with a person, dog, or situation, she gets punished, therefore making the situation MORE uncomfortable and B) growling isn't allowed, so next time she'll just skip growling and escalate right to the next step - snapping, nipping, or biting. This is possibly why you're seeing her put teeth on people "without warning" - all her warning signs were suppressed with punishment, so now you don't have an easy way to tell how uncomfortable she is.

A behaviorist is a great idea, but please run far away from anyone who touts "alpha", "pack leader", or "dominance" in their training. This is an outdated theory of dog behavior that's been well proven to be false. She's not dominant; she's insecure and possibly fearful. I do believe that when a dog has bitten to the point of drawing blood, getting in a professional who can see your dog's behavior in person and work out a training/behavioral adjustment plan specific to your dog and your situation is the best thing you can do.
 

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How did you fix her food aggression towards humans?

I agree with Kathyy - the negative punishments she gets when she's uncomfortable are obviously escalating her behavior and making her more uncomfortable around people. Punishing a fearful or aggressive dog is an almost surefire way to make the dog more fearful and/or aggressive.

I definitely think both you and your dog would benefit from hiring a behaviorist. Your dog would benefit from YOU learning the appropriate way to address these unwanted behaviors from a professional.
 

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I think it was normal. nothing shocking for the situation they were put in and that goes for any dog and any breed... that would of could of had the exact same response put in the exact situation. punishing them, yes, you create future fearful behaviors towards these situations. You break their confidence of defending themselves and the next home invasion they may have learned their lesson well enough to go hide in a corner worried they will get in trouble for someone coming into your home.

Strangers are strangers invited or not... I put my dogs up because people are stupid.. and people are disrespectful that it is your home and you as the owner have lost control of the situation if your not willing to physically tackle them on the spot instead. Both of these situations are ((( owner ))) caused..... also the age of coming into maturity and wanting to take that more upfront roll... helping them learn like put the baby gate up and let them watch you handle it.. and keep them out of harms way of stupid people..
 

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How exactly is she being "repremanded" and "corrected"? I would agree that that is backfiring. That is why the recommendation is now to not correct growling/biting/reactivity but rather to remove the dog from the situation and evaluate why it happened in order to work out a plan of action moving forwards.

Correcting aggressive behavior suppresses it temporarily, it does not fix it. I would find a rewards based trainer who can work with you on these issues.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Ok, I tried to keep my post short by just saying correcting/reprimanding. Let me explain more thoroughly.

To correct her food aggression I slowly worked for her to become more comfortable with my and other's presence while she was eating by sitting close by (not ever pushing boundaries but staying inside her comfort zone, never doing anything that made her nervous) and eventually being able to remove and replace her food. We have worked with other dogs in a similar gentle proximity style and she responds very well.

As for her growling occasionally at strangers I usually correct her by using a distract and reward method. I will ask her to sit, down, paw, heel, etc. and reward that behavior. Generally when I see a situation where someone with or without a dog will cross our path (hiking for example) I bring her into heel, reward her verbally and then reward her again verbally or with a treat once they pass without incident. That's why I used the term correct.. Did not mean to make it sound like punishing her.

As far as reprimanding her when something has happened nipping wise I went for a firm, clear, no and told her to leave the room to understand that is inappropriate behavior and to remove her from the situation. It all happened so fast with the maintenance guy. I was across the room and thought he was at least half sane and wouldn't disobey my direct orders to not touch my dog. I'm sure her reaction was partially due to my clear anger at him for touching my dog after I asked him not to. My only other choice would have been to jump into the air and dive tackle him, which I party wish I had done.

As for the other incidents, I was not there. She is never yelled at or punished for growling. I try to instead correct the behavior by associating new uncertain experiences with positive training. I do my best to anticipate and distract when possible. She has had many great experiences and normally does great at Bbq's and campgrounds and loves meeting new people and dogs. There have only been a few exceptions. Again this is unusual, new behavior.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I notice I said "consistently reprimand" in my original post rather than "correct". My mistake. Precision of language isn't really my strong suit.
 

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I notice I said "consistently reprimand" in my original post rather than "correct". My mistake. Precision of language isn't really my strong suit.
No harm done :) understandable of not always getting the translation in words... hopefully knowing your situation fully the ideas given still were helpful. I think your pup is normal... :)
 

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Get a positive reinforcement based trainer to help you. A few notes:

-Your dog is reaching maturity and it is not uncommon to see some behavior changes around 1.5-2 years of age. Dogs who may have been fearfully evasive in the past may now stand their ground, as an example.
-Your original post uses words that suggested you used punishment. The clarifying post is appreciated. But likely, you are still slightly punishing your dog or still adding stress to the situation by how you act or react when your dog growls or reacts.
-The very fact that you use "constantly" so much hints to me that the root of the problem is your dog is put in uncomfortable situations quite often. IE, you are waiting for a reaction before you take any action, even if that action is positive. Behavior modification happens when you work with the dog BEFORE she feels uncomfortable, combined with preventing reactions over a period of time.
-Barriers such as the leash and fence can be exacerbating reactivity. Not saying do away with them, but be aware that barrier reactivity is a thing.

Good luck! Definitely find someone to help. Likely there are so many subtle things going on between you and your dog that are being missed.
 

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Sorry you're having issues. There are at least a few things you have got to change to remedy the problems.
The first thing I teach my students is Never reprimand your dog for growling. They are telling you "I'm scared, give me some space". They're not trying to be a jerk or dominant. Sure you stopped your dog from growling, now he has to go straight for the bite because he lost his warning sign privilege. No yelling, reprimanding, hand raising, etc... He is not being mean. He is afraid.
A dog biting is their absolute last resort. He was terrified if he had to bite someone.
Never leave him out unsupervised. Put him in a crate, room or inside if you're not with him and in total control of all doors, gates and people. Otherwise you could soon have a lawsuit on your hands.
How old was he when you got him? This could also play into why he's insecure (esp. if he was under 8 weeks).
How did you work with the food aggression? Taking the bowl away or stirring your hand in it will not do it long term. I would hand feed him his dry food from your hands at least once a day (small handfuls at a time). The other meal, practice adding several pieces at a time While he is eating from bowl. Your hands become a welcome guest near the bowl, instead of a threat. This way anyone approaching means the dog gets good things.
Lastly, you may need to find a Dog Behaviorist (not trainer), who teaches all positive reinforcement. No dominance or shock collars. They'll make dog more nervous and/or bitey.
Best of luck to you.
 

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Thanks for the clarification.

Definitely work on being proactive as Canyx wrote. Positively working with your dog isn't just about chucking food constantly, it's how the food is used. Old style punishment training mostly happens after the fact. Have to change both parts of the equation.
 

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The clarification is a relief! The part about her being "dominant" had me worried, because so many poor trainers who mistake insecurity, fear, or natural dog behavior as "dominance" do, sadly, try to punish it out of the dog. Not using punishment on her will definitely work in your favor! Canyx does make a good point, however, that some dogs may even take a harsh or frustrated tone as "punishment" (and I know how easy it is to sound harsher than you mean to in a stressful moment!), so I agree wholeheartedly with them about being proactive and trying your best to avoid situations where she's obviously uncomfortable.

I do still think a good, force-free trainer/behaviorist who's experienced with insecure and fearful dogs will be the best next step for you. The APDT (https://apps.apdt.com/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?webcode=TrainerSearch) and the CCPDT (http://www.ccpdt.org/dog-owners/certified-dog-trainer-directory/) are both excellent organizations that require their members to follow humane, positive, scientifically sound training practices. Your vet may also be able to refer you to a behaviorist in your area, and if she's insured (more popular on this side of the pond than in the states, but I'm not sure where you are), some insurances will cover the cost of a behavioral consult.
 
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