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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have an 8.5 month old female black lab.* I bought her from a farmer in montana after she was weened from her mother.

She is a great dog, very friendly, very energetic, and very obedient for the most part. There are some times where it takes a lot of repetition to get her to listen but she's still a puppy so it's to be expected.

Now to the issue.* She's a lab so they technically are scavengers when it comes to picking things up.* On her walks she'll pick up nasty stuff and I have to take it from her or she'll be chewing on something and not knowing what it is I don't want her to get sick so I take it from her before she can eat it. At home she'll pick up towels, drier sheets, etc.* Never had a problem taking anything from her, I put my hands in her mouth all the time.* Sometimes it was harder than others but eventually she'd let me have it after she ran around the table 10 times playing keep away.

Fast forward, she turns 6 months.* We get her spayed.* The vet said to keep her relatively still so that she doesn't tear open her incision and gave us 14 days of pain meds, sedatives, and anti-inflammatories, to keep her calm and rested.* The only thing that seems to help keep her immobile was putting her in her crate, she just wanted to run and jump everywhere even on the meds.* After about a week of keeping her in the crate for the majority of the day (only letting her out to eat, use the bathroom, and go on mild walks 3 times a day) we decided that we'd put a leash on her and hook it to the bottom foot of the couch so she could at least move 10 or so ft in either direction and look out the window instead of being caged.* I gave her a bone and that kept her pretty busy for a few hours.* It was time to feed her and as I walked up to her she immediately started growling at me and her hair stood on end.* Woah that's different, she hadn't done that before so I distracted her, got her to sit, grabbed the bone, and then took it to the kitchen.* I got her bowl out and filled it with food (while she was sitting mind you) put it in the normal spot and then went to let her off the leash and as I reached for the leash hook she bit me with no warning, and with a growl as she was biting me.* I'm a pretty muscular guy so it didn't do too much damage but it did puncture my skin and I bled for 15 minutes. I was pretty shocked, frustrated, annoyed, etc because I didn't expect her to ever bite me and she had never shown any signs of doing so. I called the vet, called a few friends who have dogs, searched the net for reasons why she would bite me and they all said that dogs in pain sometimes exhibit abnormal behavior. I chalked it up to that, still frustrated, but I was like hey, she just had surgery, she's on pain meds and sedatives that are altering her state of mind, she gets a pass this time. 3 days later (1 day before being off the meds) she got a hold of one of the cats toys while I was in the shower. Note she had got them every now and then and after a round of her running around the table, always gave it up. My fiance tried to get it from her and she growled at her. She called me from the bathroom and as I walked in and the dog saw me approaching, she just started attacking my fiance that was kneeling 3 ft in front of her. She bit her on her hip, her arm, and her wrist. A level 5 bite according to the bite scale, multiple punctures and places. At this point I was freaked out. We immediately hired a behaviorist, talked to the vet, did tons of research on how to prevent it from happening again. This is a lab, they are supposed to be the ultimate family dog, not an aggressive biting dog. We did everything the behaviorist told us to do, we implemented a "trade ya" system that if she ever got anything she wasn't supposed to have, we'd grab a treat and trade her (getting her to drop it on her own, and grabbing it after we traded). That worked most of the time, but I feel that sometimes she'll run in the kitchen jump up and grab a towel off the counter just to get a treat. Other times it took escalating the type of treat to get her to trade. She did growl a few times but we learned to respect that and gave her space and called her too us rather than chasing her to get it, no signs of trying to bite. For the most part she doesn't care to guard things and it's random what she decided to guard. She had picked up that cat toy numerous times and let us have it without a growl before.

2 months went by, she hadn't shown any signs of biting or aggression at all. We took her on a family weekend get away at the beach. On the last day of the get away, while I was at the store, she got a hold of a decorative ball that was on a window seal and my fiances mom went to take it from her and got bit on her thumb pretty deep on both sides. When I got back they told me about it, but the way they explained the situation, her mom said it was her fault and it was an accident because she put her hand in her mouth to grab the ball...I thought it might have happened because she grabbed it as she was chewing on it and yeah that could happen, is it good? Of course not, but at least she wasn't bitten on purpose. But i only know what they told me, and I think my fiance would lessen the severity in hopes that I wouldn't get rid of the dog she loves.

3 days later at home, I was preparing dinner and on my way to the grill I had to use the restroom. I placed the chicken I was about to throw on the grill far back on the counter so that the dog couldn't reach it and ran to the restroom. 30 seconds later I hear my son screaming and what sounds to be like the dog attacking him. I open the bathroom door and see her standing on top of my son who's pinned under the baby gate. They told us not to give her free reign of the house any more to prevent her picking up the cat toys, etc. She had bit him once with a puncture although I think she got him 3 times total but only one broke his skin based on brusing and lumps. I asked him what happened and he said she was trying to jump on the counter and he told her no from behind the gate and she ran at him and attacked him...the bite that broke his skin was on his wrist less than a cm away from his main vein/artery. It was so deep that fat from under the skin was hanging out and had to be pulled out and cut off by the dr.* I feared it was a vein hanging out.

At this point I have lost all trust in her. In the cases she's bitten it's all been around resource guarding. Thankfully none of them have been serious enough to really hurt or disfigure someone but I'm concerned that it won't ever stop and that the next time she could really hurt someone or even kill someone if she gets them in the right spot.* I think there's just something wired differently in her that makes her think it's ok to bite to protect something that's not hers. With my fiances bite being a level 5 and the others being a level 3, all the recommendations from my friends and family, aside from my fiance, have been to put her down. My fiance thinks all of the bites were our fault and that she's able to be rehabilitated, and it's up to us to fix the problem.

I disagree at the fault being ours, I had a dog growing up that I could roughhouse with, play with, etc and she never once growled at me for 17 years. This isn't even about rough housing, and I feel like I've spent more time and effort trying to train my dog than I ever spent training my dog growing up, so it's not like we aren't doing the right things or she's biting due to our negligence.* I don't think she needs to lose her life, but I don't feel like she's safe to be around anymore unless all the conditions are perfect. Especially if she gets a hold of something she shouldn't have, especially after she bit my son. If there are no resources around for her to guard or feel like she needs to fight over, she's no concern to me at all, but given that each time has been over a different resource, and sometimes its a resource that she has no problems giving up 99 out of 100 times, it's not like I can say hey, she will bite me over a bone, remove the bone, or hey, she'll bite you if you get next to her food bowl, feed her in isolation, etc, there's no one thing I can pinpoint to remove that'll give me the confidence that she'll never bite again.

I've tried reaching out to our behaviorist and he recommended bringing in a specialist because he doesn't know what to do either. I've called numerous places and left messages and haven't got calls back.

What should I do? Is she a lost cause? Is there hope she can be rehabilitated and desensitized to guarding? At this point there's been 4 people bitten, am I being naive in thinking that maybe I can fix her?
 

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Teaching "Leave it" and "Drop it" are the first steps. Clicker train her, and have her on a training leash and start with low value things that you don't think she'll be possessive over, a cat toy, some trash, a towel. Use leash correction and clicker reward accordingly until she has a strong leave it. Drop it can be done during play, tug of war, interrupt it occasionally to have her drop the toy, then reward the success by re-engaging, or during fetch, which should come naturally to a retriever. Preventing a dog from picking things up in the first place is far safer than needing to chase it around and trade for it, which only encourages the dog to re-play that game.

Second step, having her back away from her food so that you can mix something awesome into it, some chicken or hot dog or veggies or whatever her favourite treat is, use your hands, let her know that humans touching her food = jackpot. Do not reach for anything she is being possessive over, instead, teach her to leave it, teach her to physically move away from it so that you can move towards it. She will learn that the aggression is not only pointless, but also has zero effect on you, she will also feel safer, and so will you. (Edit: I'd just like to add that ultimately you do want to eventually be reaching right into her dish to add awesome treats, but don't start off that way to help her build some trust in the exercise.)

Lastly, get her enrolled in some obedience, agility, or some other sport. Yes labs have the stigma of being amazing family dogs, and they certainly can be, but they are dogs bred to work, to be active, and challenged. I work in a boarding/training facility and most of the labs I meet are out of control and out of their minds with energy. They're not couch dogs. They're seen as thriving in family environments because in a big active family they get to go camping, hiking, they get to play ball, run around with the kids in the yard, be engaged on a daily basis with lots of stuff to stimulate them emotionally and physically. You need to find some outlet for her energy so that it doesn't all pour into unhealthy behaviours.

Good luck.
 

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I hate to say it, but I agree with your behaviorist. You need specialist help at this point, someone who is experienced with working with aggressive dogs. You're describing pretty troubling behaviors, particularly from such a young animal, but it's impossible for us to say exactly what's going on. Most of us are not dog professionals, and we of course can't observe her behavior through the internet. I am less troubled by the fact that she's biting and much more troubled by how deep the bites are, and of course the incident with multiple bites. If it were less severe bites I'd say it's pretty typical resource guarding, but with how you're describing them I do think you need in-person professional intervention. They may determine it's less serious than it appears, which is great! But I'm not comfortable making that call over the internet, sight unseen, as someone who's just an animal behavior nerd with no professional qualifications.

If you haven't already, check out the CCPDT (http://www.ccpdt.org/dog-owners/certified-dog-trainer-directory/) and APDT (https://apps.apdt.com/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?webcode=TrainerSearch) websites to see if any certified behaviorists and trainers are in your area who DO have experience working with aggression and severe resource guarding.

Be open to trying things like psychiatric medication, should a professional working with you feel it's appropriate for your dog. They can make a huge difference, particularly if there's an element of anxiety behind her behavior (again, I don't know if there is or not, which is why this should be decided between you and a professional working with her). Muzzle-train her in the meantime, so she will happily and comfortably wear a basket muzzle - both to avoid her picking things up to guard, and to keep people safe when she's outside of an environment you can actively manage her access to other people. The Muzzle-Up Project has a lot of great resources on how to do this (https://muzzleupproject.com/muzzle-training/).

And you need to sit down with your fiance and talk seriously about whether you are able and willing to manage her during what will probably be a long behavior modification progress - and possible her whole life - well enough that the people around her aren't in danger. Yes, there's often ways to help dogs with severe behavioral problems, but you also need to judge whether you and your family are willing and able to make the sacrifices and put in the resources (time, money, emotional energy) to make it through. Especially since there's at least one child in the picture. It's okay if the answer is no. Of course no one wants to put down a young animal, and I'm sure you've bonded with her, but the safety of your family and the public has to come first.

I really feel for you. It's an awful situation. Wishing you lots of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses, as far as the eating and stopping her from eating her food, she eats really fast, like 10-15 seconds and that’s with a bowl designed to make her slow down. Without this bowl, she eats all of it in like 2 or 3 gulps, so there really isn’t time to throw chicken or make her come away from her bowl for a yummy treat because it’s gone that fast
 

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Your situation is much too risky and complex to fully address on an internet forum. But my general thought is your dog should be managed at all times, and should be muzzle trained. I also think you should get a full blood panel done, including thyroid.

Regardless of what training you do, the fact is your dog has bitten, seriously, multiple times. Training can help lesson the frequency and intensity of these behaviors but no ethical trainer would EVER work with a dog like yours and 'fix' her, or deem her 'cured'... after any amount of training, regardless of techniques. If any trainer says otherwise, do not give them your money.

Here are a few facts, based on the information given:
-Your dog has bitten and punctured multiple times. The chances that she will bite with equal or worse intensity in similar situations, is high. IE, I would never trust this dog not to bite.
-Your dog is not exhibiting bite inhibition. Dogs bite - fact of life. Level 4-5 bites, quite rare in the grand scheme of dog ownership. None of her behavior, even something as 'innocent' as your mother grabbing an ornamental ball from her mouth and being punctured, was an accident on the dog's part. Either through genetics, or through mishandling, or both, your dog is not choosing to inhibit her bite and not showing any lower level signs of stress like growling, air snapping, etc. I would never trust a dog who escalates so quickly up the stress ladder.

Regardless, all you have at the moment is the dog in front of you. Again, if I were in your shoes this dog would NEVER be alone or in contact with any child. The dog would be behind a barrier of some kind in ANY situation with food. The dog would be muzzle trained, and muzzled in any uncertain situations where another barrier is not possible. The dog would be muzzled in public. The dog would be dragging a leash at all times so that I can remove her from undesirable situations without putting my hands on her. The dog would strictly earn all of her food through reinforcement based training.
 

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First, I am sorry that you are dealing with such a complicated and stressful situation. I am not qualified to give training advice for such serious risk issues and others, particularly Daysleepers and Canyx have given good management and resource advice, so I will speak to a different topic.

In most places, these would be reportable bites. You need to carefully read the animal control laws for your city, county and state. Serious bite may require a quarantine period and reporting to health officials and animal control.

In many areas, a bite history like you list would make the dog fall into a dangerous dog category and require special confinement and handling. Typical example would be muzzle and 4-ft leash when outside your own property, a kennel with roof and dig proof flooring when outside off leash on your property and registering as a dangerous dog.

Home owners insurance rarely covers dogs with a serious bite on record. Even ones with no breed policy will exclude dogs with bite records. A separate rider or liability only policy from a specialist insurance may cover you but the risk exists of being totally held financially liable for a bite injury which can easily run into the millions if plastic surgery and ICU stays or such are required.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I guess I wasn’t really looking for training advice I was looking for if she was past the point of being rehabilitated.
 

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I guess I wasn’t really looking for training advice I was looking for if she was past the point of being rehabilitated.
What does rehabilitated mean to you?

Safe around kids? Around adults? Around new adults or kids? Safe when highly controlled including muzzle use and kennelling?

Rule out medical conditions of course. But you still have to deal with the fact that the dog has given multiple serious bites to several people. A dog that is getting into a fight with another dog and chomps into a human hand that stupidly reaches in to break up the fight is a very different situation than a dog that bites repeatedly into a person over an object or maybe not even over an object at that point.

The reason I mentioned bite laws and insurance is that generally those are non-forgiving. There is no such thing as rehabilitated for the most part under liability laws and as horrible as it is to think in dollars and cents for a dog's life, it is something to consider in reality when weighing everything out in your mind.
 

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I guess I wasn’t really looking for training advice I was looking for if she was past the point of being rehabilitated.
This is a subjective question and has everything to do with 1. the degree you're willing to live with and manage these behaviors, and 2. the effort you're willing to put into training, BASED ON YOUR RESPONSE TO #1.

Can you make her choose to never bite again? No.
 

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You’ll have to be the one to decide that - if she is manageable in your household and you can set her up for success and security. Did you take puppy classes with her? You definitely need more professional help with her. Make sure they practice Force Free, Positive reinforcement techniques, so she doesn’t get worse.
I do agree she’s biting because of what you have done and are doing. I know you want to do what’s right for everyone, But this is a huge concern because you have been unable to manage it.
One thing I noticed in your original post was that you mentioned putting your hands in her mouth many times to grab things out of it. At 8.5 months, she should be pretty good at drop it and leave it. So many people have it in their head that they’re supposed to be able to grab stuff from their dogs mouths and this is just asking for trouble. How would you feel if someone grabbed your food (or phone, remote control, etc...) away? How often do you practice cues (sit, down, stay, off, etc...) with her?
Try putting her food in puzzles / treat balls instead of the dish. Keep her mind busy and slow down her need to gobble. You can also hand feed to show her where good stuff comes from. Or Slowly add a few pieces of food to the bowl (measure out first) as she’s eating and keep doing so until gone. Sit on floor or in chair next to bowl (not bending over her). You could also hold bowl in your lap while adding food. Put her food in a Kong and freeze it (use a little peanut butter, yogurt or wet dog food to bind pieces together for freezing). I would avoid any chews or bones that are made from an animal like cattle bone or rawhide. This elevates their instinct to guard.
How old is your son? Please be aware that Children should never be alone with dogs (even dogs without a bite history). I’m glad you pushed the food way back, but next time put it in microwave, refrigerator or high shelf. Dogs are opportunists.
Never punish a growl. If you get mad or try to stop a dog from growling, they have no warning system. I know it’s our instinct to be alarmed if we hear our dog growl, but that means she needs space. If you punish the growl, most dogs then have to resort to biting because they lost their warning system.
Bottom line: dogs bite as a last resort. They Love to please us and do not want to misbehave. I’m glad you had an easy dog growing up, but just like people, each one has a very unique personality.
Here’s a great article on resource guarding to read over. Best of luck to all of you.
http://grishastewart.com/resource-guarding/
 

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In your situation, I, personally, would not keep this dog. You and your wife, as adults, could probably manage the dog and keep her from biting again, but you have a child in the house. Children slip up. Children have friends over who slip up or who just plain don't heed warnings. I'm not going to tell you to put your dog down or to surrender her to rescue (with full disclosure of her issues), but if you choose to do either of those things, please don't feel bad about it.
 

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We went through the same thing with our golden retriever. We saw a behaviorist and it didn't really help that much, it was great if we had something to trade, but it wasn't always a situation when we did... and we had young kids. I would NEVER have trusted my dog in the same room as my kids, and he only bit once (my husband, and it was a small bite). We ended up moving and having to put a gate in the middle of the room to separate them, but he still snapped at my kids. We found a family that had more experience with the issue (and older kids) and gave him away (he ended up dying a couple months later... still not sure why).

With all those bites and a young child? I'd have him put down. My dog is 1 yo and has issues too (snapping if people get too close when she stole something) but has never actually tried to hurt anyone - if she had, I'd probably have to put her down too. And my kids are older now and know to leave her alone or find something to trade when that happens. With younger/other children she doesn't know? She goes in the crate.
 

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In your situation, I, personally, would not keep this dog. You and your wife, as adults, could probably manage the dog and keep her from biting again, but you have a child in the house. Children slip up. Children have friends over who slip up or who just plain don't heed warnings. I'm not going to tell you to put your dog down or to surrender her to rescue (with full disclosure of her issues), but if you choose to do either of those things, please don't feel bad about it.
I completely agree.

I'm sorry you're going through this; it's a horrible situation to be in. As Crantastic said though, you have children to consider, and their friends who will come and go over the years. If it were just the two adults in the house you could probably manage and train the dog to be better (not cured), but you can never control what your children do and kids are not great at judging situations. Especially with the unpredictability of the bites and the dog not simply biting and retreating, but continuing to go after the person I would not trust this dog around anyone but myself. To do so would be putting them at risk.
 
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