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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys,

We adopted a 4 month old black lab/shepard rescue in Dec, and he just recently turned 1 year. He is not neutered yet (going on Tuesday) as we were on the wait list at the SPCA and just got our call to bring him in.

We had some food aggression issues when he was around 5 months, but we started feeding in outside, and taught him to sit/stay and wait for us to go back in before approaching the bowl, and that seemed to work out well for us. We couldn't approach the bowl and take it away or anything...... He was fine with bones and toys.....

Well, lately he's starting to show more signs of aggression. Now that he's a big dog (70 lbs), it's a bit more frightening and harder to handle! He barks and snarls as people walk by on the street, sometimes even on walks when we aren't at our own house, or if people come to the door, and he snarled and lunged at a guest I had over!!!! He's also snarled at me and my husband for petting him while he was sleeping, or trying to grab his collar when he was chewing on a bone.

We've crate trained him, walk him on a very short leash, try and make him work for his rewards, take him out for walks regularly, socialize him at the dog park..... This aggression is just extremely alarming.......

He seems to be guarding the house, so I'm afraid to have guests over! I'm getting afraid to walk him, because of the way he snarls and barks at people! Any advice? Is this normal behaviour for an unfixed male of his age? Will neutering help?
 

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Neutering will probably not help... might make it worse, hard to know.
Is he getting enough mental and physical stimulation? I would look up BAT-training and take contact to a behaviorist. Try to avoid putting him in situations that he can't handle until you have someone helping you out... Maybe the shelter have some recommendations for behaviorists or trainers?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I've booked a behaviourist that our vet referred to us. Do they generally help? They certainly aren't cheap!

I guess I'm just super upset at the moment, thinking that our dog is going to have to be taken from us/put down..... :(
 

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That sounds great. I'd say that your changes of getting a happy and relaxed dog are significantly bigger if you get help from a behaviorist early on, instead of waiting until something actually happens.

Dogs at that age CAN be a bit odd. I would just try to be relaxed in the situations. I have a dog who was the same way when she was around 14 months, barking, growling and lunging at people walking towards me or people looking odd or standing still and so on. I would just walk in a different direction while talking to her in a normal voice and having a relaxed body language to show that it wasn't a big deal and I wasn't scared of those people. She is now 1½ years and is totally cool with 90% of the people we meet, so there is hope!
When you have guests, put him in another room or crate him. When you meet someone he doesn't like on your walks, just walk away or pull over to the side. You COULD buy a muzzle, but it will a lot of training to make him relaxed when wearing it.

I wish you the best of luck, and I'm sure other members might have some tips for you.
 

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I would definitely up the obedience. He's testing you and his limits. I would put him on a strict NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) regimen and would also look into a good trainer. You can look up NILIF online...there's a lot of good info on it.
 

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I agree that it's great you're seeing a behaviorist now. Definitely take some video of the issue to take to your appointment in case the behavior doesn't happen while you're there.

This is also a prime age for a fear period, so that could be part of what's going on. I would check out the book "Mine!" for dealing with the guarding behavior (maybe not helpful for guarding the house, but it will help with the food and bone guarding). Work on collar grabs paired with a treat, so that grabbing his collar is a positive thing.

No, this behavior isn't normal for an intact dog at that age. Neutering may help, or it may not. Since you have to get it done anyway you'll see if that helps.
 

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I would definitely up the obedience. He's testing you and his limits. I would put him on a strict NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) regimen and would also look into a good trainer. You can look up NILIF online...there's a lot of good info on it.
NILF is good but make sure it isnt tweaked toward alpha/dominance, which is NOT what you need right now, this dog sounds very insecure of himself, and that is where his aggression comes from (guessing, without seeing him its hard to tell so DONT take my word as gospel, see what the behaviorist has to say).

I use NILF and basically I couple it with "it's yer choice" (google it), which is basically "you dont get what YOU want until I get what I want" which is for them to obey me. You want to sniff that patch of grass? fine, sit first, heel, stay, whatever. When he is herding, if he EVER doesnt listen, that's it, we are out of there and we try again next time. he learned VERY QUICKLY that if he wants to work, he has to do it on my terms. Of course I wasnt abrasive to him, I just said "uh oh!" and we left.

In the mean time, while you are waiting for the behaviorist, I would work on exercises that build his confidence, make it so that it is set up for him to win. When you feed him, instead of taking his bowl away (even if its empty) present him with a yummy treat, make it something that he doesnt usually get like cubed cheese or whatever (provided he doesnt have a sensitive tummy) show him the treat and touch his bowl if he doesnt do anything, take the bowl while giving him the treat at the same time. For now, with his food aggression, i would just feed him in his crate or in a room alone and wait until you can talk to the behaviorist about that one.
 

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if your going to spend the money for a behaviorist and they are good at what they do to be worth that type of money.. Be honest so that they can help you... Dogs can be fixed , but everyone needs to be fixed, learn and grow for it to stick and progress for the positive. Not being negative, there are so many little things that seem like nothing that to a dog becomes the source of a reaction that grows and becomes out of control when the owners heartfelt are trying to help them. I hope they are a good behaviorist that will provide helpful information and direction for you yall..
 

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Thanks everyone for your suggestions!!!

So we saw the behaviourist on Sunday, and had him neutered this morning.

What exactly should a behaviourist do? This guy came highly recommended to us by our vet, so we gladly spent the $800 fee for him to come to our house to assess the dog and give us a behavioural plan. I was a bit thrown off by the fact that he hardly even worked with the dog at all. He asked us to leash the dog when he arrived to assess his behaviour when guests arrive at the house, and said that yes, he was indeed in an aggressive stance upon arrival, so we had him crated for the rest of the visit. He didn't show us how to work with the dog AT ALL, or to even re-visit the dog once he'd calmed down. Is that normal?

He made his assessment based on the history we told him, and his brief encounter with the dog at the door.

His diagnosis is that he's been aggressive with humans, dog on dog, resource guarding and territorial. And that he's cautiously optimistic that the dog can be managed. The course of action is essentially a) neutering him b) fencing our yard and c) essentially re-asserting our "pack leader status" with NILF. He didn't show us HOW to do it. He just gave us some pointers on what to do. Seems like we already knew that stuff......... he didn't really seem to show us HOW to implement anything. Is that normal for $800? Then he said he'd follow up to see how it was going.......... this guy was suppose to be the best!!!
 

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I sort of had a similar experience when I saw a behaviorist (though not for serious behavioral issues). Lots of tips, but no attempt to show me how to do it, or to see my dog in the environment where he showed the problem behavior. Though my trip wasn't $800 at least!

I would use the follow up as much as you can. Ask questions, ask for specifics.

While I'm a fan of NILF, the "pack leader" stuff doesn't sit very well. Behaviorists as a group have denounced dominance theory.
 

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This guy was older, so not sure if he's still going on info that he has used his entire career? He showed us videos that were quite old..... things like eating before the dog, not letting him on furniture, going through doors/stairs first, making him sit/stay/look at me anytime he wants anything, withholding attention until he behaves, things like that.

My question is, how does this stuff help with aggression? Is the theory suppose to be that when he views you as a leader, he'll look to you in a stressful situation to see what is expected of him? So his aggression is currently stemming from being unsure of the situation, and thinking that he needs to protect us? And what about in the case of him being aggressive towards us when he's annoyed with what we are doing? Is that because he currently thinks of himself as the boss, and how dare we bother him in any way? But by showing him that we are the boss, he's suppose to just take anything we dish out?

He's a VERY anxious dog. That was made very clear this morning at the neutering appointment. All of the other dogs were happily waiting in line to be let in..... whereas Oscar was a nervous wreck. Barking, whimpering, freaking out. We ended up muzzling him to even bring him in, because I just didn't know what he'd do. So the behavorist also suggested trying anti-anxiety meds....... really?!?!!
 

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This guy was older, so not sure if he's still going on info that he has used his entire career? He showed us videos that were quite old..... things like eating before the dog, not letting him on furniture, going through doors/stairs first, making him sit/stay/look at me anytime he wants anything, withholding attention until he behaves, things like that.
Ugh. While some of that is fine (looking to you for what he wants, not giving him attention if he's acting up), the whole not eating before the dog and never letting him on furniture is a bunch of BS. That's a shame.

I do think the idea of NILF is that the dog looks to you for everything. So if he's insecure of new people, he will look to you. That said, I agree with you that just general training and management probably isn't going to solve specific issues if you don't also address those issues.

The anti-anxiety meds are probably the most valid suggestion. If he's anxious and insecure to the point of being aggressive, that's an option that I would try. I know of dogs who were aggressive and were helped a lot by Prozac or other meds.
 

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He also suggested putting him on a low-protein diet.... around 15-20%. He was previously on a raw meat diet, so he said that too much protein can affect serotonin levels in the brain that could cause aggression.

So neutering, low protein diet, anti-axiety meds, plus training........

Should we also get a trainer???
 

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Alpha male trying g to exercise his will on you. Your dog needs to know you are the boss and he is below you. Never let him pull on his leash. Do not let him enter rooms before you. He needs to follow you not come before you. If he has lab. Get him a good ball or toy to fetch on a regular basis. Lots of water exercise is good. He sounds out of place and has some pent up frustration. The food issue could be treated with something he really loves. Introduce treats to his bowl before feeding. Then slowly progress to treat with his food eventually treat him while he is eating by aproaching his bowl with the treat . This will create a positive attitude toward his food. Dogs use senses we do not and obviously sense anxiety and fear in us. They are not like us and not equipped to deal with this. A dog only need to worry about dog things. A single pack leader will always be respected. Your dog should seek your approval in every situation. Be firm and CONFIDENT this is key. And always be consistent. If you are trying alot of different things he will be confused.
 

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He also suggested putting him on a low-protein diet.... around 15-20%. He was previously on a raw meat diet, so he said that too much protein can affect serotonin levels in the brain that could cause aggression.

So neutering, low protein diet, anti-axiety meds, plus training........

Should we also get a trainer???
I would play around with protein levels and see. I don't think it is causing aggression, but there is some data that it can cause a dog to be more easily over aroused. The behaviorist I saw recommended trying it for my dog who gets very overstimulated. She didn't recommend anything nearly that low though. Just to go from the 30% foods I had been feeding to something like 25% and see if I noticed a change.

I would definitely look around for a trainer. Look for someone who uses positive methods, nobody who talks about pack leadership and dominance crap. Fighting aggressive behavior with more aggression from the owners just makes the problem worse. But I'm sure there are lots of techniques you could try to hel phim relax.
 

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Never give your dog's meds. And neutering is not the issue. No offense. I don't even know your Dog and am confident I could stop those behaviours quickly.
LOL okay.

I would play around with protein levels and see. I don't think it is causing aggression, but there is some data that it can cause a dog to be more easily over aroused. The behaviorist I saw recommended trying it for my dog who gets very overstimulated. She didn't recommend anything nearly that low though. Just to go from the 30% foods I had been feeding to something like 25% and see if I noticed a change.

I would definitely look around for a trainer. Look for someone who uses positive methods, nobody who talks about pack leadership and dominance crap. Fighting aggressive behavior with more aggression from the owners just makes the problem worse. But I'm sure there are lots of techniques you could try to hel phim relax.
Interesting, I didnt know that.
 

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Alpha male trying g to exercise his will on you. Your dog needs to know you are the boss and he is below you. Never let him pull on his leash. Do not let him enter rooms before you. He needs to follow you not come before you. If he has lab. Get him a good ball or toy to fetch on a regular basis. Lots of water exercise is good. He sounds out of place and has some pent up frustration. The food issue could be treated with something he really loves. Introduce treats to his bowl before feeding. Then slowly progress to treat with his food eventually treat him while he is eating by aproaching his bowl with the treat . This will create a positive attitude toward his food. Dogs use senses we do not and obviously sense anxiety and fear in us. They are not like us and not equipped to deal with this. A dog only need to worry about dog things. A single pack leader will always be respected. Your dog should seek your approval in every situation. Be firm and CONFIDENT this is key. And always be consistent. If you are trying alot of different things he will be confused.
Um, no, this has NOTHING to do with "pack status". Dominance theory has been thoroughly debunked by science. Do a search on the forum to find the multitude of links to information on this.

He also suggested putting him on a low-protein diet.... around 15-20%. He was previously on a raw meat diet, so he said that too much protein can affect serotonin levels in the brain that could cause aggression.
Seriously? LOL, not likely, honestly, given what you've said here, I wouldn't take much of this behaviourist's advice, he doesn't sound very knowledgeable about dog behaviour at all to be honest.
 

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Um, no, this has NOTHING to do with "pack status". Dominance theory has been thoroughly debunked by science. Do a search on the forum to find the multitude of links to information on this.


Seriously? LOL, not likely, honestly, given what you've said here, I wouldn't take much of this behaviourist's advice, he doesn't sound very knowledgeable about dog behaviour at all to be honest.
Still, it couldnt hurt to see if say, a mainly plant based protein food instead of raw, or a meat sourced food might do him better.

OP, I would also suggest trying a supplement called "Nupro" it also possible that he might be missing some supplements in his diet and that can also cause temperament problems. here is the link to their main site: www.nuprosupplements.com/ I order mine from chewy . com (no spaces).
 
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