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My now ex-boyfriend and I adopted a dog seven weeks ago from the local animal shelter. (Please don't jump to conclusions regarding the "now ex" thing, we were together for over three years).

When we adopted her, we spoke to the person that had completed her behavior evaluation at the shelter. That person told us that she was very timid and nervous and to be careful and patient with her. Everybody at the shelter was happy that she was getting a home as they all said she "was so sweet."

When we brought Hailey home, we were ecstatic. You never know for sure what you get when you adopt a dog from a shelter and she was an angel. She is non destructive (I think she has chewed a pen and some tissues in the entire 7 weeks). She is house trained (she did get sick, runny runny poo inside once). She is affectionate and making way on learning basic commands such as sit, down, paw. She hasn't made much progress really with leash walking but we have been able to manage it by using an Easy Walk Harness for the time being. However, from day one she has reacted quite strongly to strangers. As her bond with us has strengthened, this reaction has only gotten worse. She will bark, growl, and lunge at strangers while on a walk.

I took her today for an evaluation with a pet trainer to see if she would be appropriate for a beginner level class with her issues. I could not believe what I saw was my dog. Hailey started out behind me, unsure of herself. The trainer started out by giving Hailey treats and praising her. When the trainer stopped giving treats and instead held them, Hailey began to bark. Then the trainer moved on to look at Hailey, and when she met her eyes, it was game over. Hailey began meanly barking, and lunging from time to time. The trainer claims that this is probably routed in fear but that the dog is no longer just fear aggressive. She recommended private lessons and said that for the time being we shouldn't have Hailey in public without a muzzle. She starts private lessons next week.

It's just a lot for me to take in. I love this dog and this scares me. I feel like somehow her aggression is my fault or that I've failed her as a dog mommy. We went home and Hailey was right back to herself. She drops toys when I tell her to. She has no issue with me staring at her. She rolls on her belly right in front of me. I'm not doubting the trainer, I saw it all with my own eyes, but I'm just feeling so overwhelmed right now with my relationship failing apart. I want what is best for my dog and I am determined to give it to her.

Has anybody ever dealt with anything similar? Or just have kind words or advice?
 

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This kind of reactivity isn't uncommon, and can be fixed with proper training/management/desensitization. But don't let the trainer use harsh methods with her, or she may become really aggressive. If there's anything you don't feel comfortable with, don't be afraid to let the trainer know, leave if you have to, and find a trainer you are comfortable with. You are your dog's advocate. (Not to say that I think this trainer will be harsh. . .just letting you know that you don't have to let a trainer scare you into doing things that aren't right for your dog.)
 

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I would be really cautious of what methods the trainer uses, cause that could make her even more fearful of strangers if the trainer is the only interaction she's getting with "strangers".

Also, I agree that this fear can definitely be worked on. I don't see a mention of how old Hailey is, but if she's an adult dog etc then something may certainly have happened to her before she ended up at the shelter, and she could also be very fearful of losing you as you are her safety, you've become her everything... It's only been 7 weeks, she may still be feeling like she may end up back at the shelter, it'll just take a lot of time and work.. :) Good luck!
 

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Don't feel like you failed. I always tell my clients not to take their dog's behavior personal, it doesn't help you or the dog and usually just makes you frustrated. Just accept that your dog needs guidance and you need to guide your dog. Right now your dog is just doing what she knows, and it's up to you to show her a different way.
 

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You didn't do anything wrong. It's actually good that she's nice in the presence of treats. That means you can use treats to fix this. A truly human aggressive dog doesn't care if you have treats or not.

Please stick with positive methods. If you use, or allow the use of, aversives on a fearful dog, it will only make her worse in the long run.

Good luck.
 

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you absolutely did not fail. this happens sometimes with dogs after they are in a new home and feel safe. and you quickly found a trainer and are working on the issue which puts you miles ahead of many others who wait until it's too late.

I would find another trainer though, looking in the eye to "dominate the scared dog into submission" is not the best course of action. she is ALREADY scared of people, scaring her by staring her in the eye is only going to reinforce the fear.
 

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you absolutely did not fail. this happens sometimes with dogs after they are in a new home and feel safe. and you quickly found a trainer and are working on the issue which puts you miles ahead of many others who wait until it's too late.

I would find another trainer though, looking in the eye to "dominate the scared dog into submission" is not the best course of action. she is ALREADY scared of people, scaring her by staring her in the eye is only going to reinforce the fear.
I don't think this trainer tried to "dominate her into submission". Sounds like he was simply evaluating to see the dogs thresholds. Which is exactly what a trainer should do, to know where to begin with the dog.

As far as using harsh techniques, I would stay away from them.completely with a fear aggressive dog. If she is lunging out at people, she does need to be muzzled, for her safety, and the other peoples safety.

You can overcome this. Good for you, to take this on, and not simply return the dog!
 

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It's not your fault. Somewhere, sometime previously in her life, she learned that lunging and barking makes scary strangers leave her alone. I would look for a gentle, positive-based trainer to help teach her that strangers aren't SO scary, and different ways to react to them.

In the training subforum, there is a "sticky" thread with a list of good books to read about dog behavior. Until you get started in training, you can start reading. I particularly like "The Culture Clash" and Patricia McConnell's books to learn about how dogs think differently from people, it gives you a good foundation for helping change behaviors.

Good luck! You didn't do anything wrong, it's probably just a combination of her underlying personality and a hard knock life up until this point.
 

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you absolutely did not fail. this happens sometimes with dogs after they are in a new home and feel safe. and you quickly found a trainer and are working on the issue which puts you miles ahead of many others who wait until it's too late.

I would find another trainer though, looking in the eye to "dominate the scared dog into submission" is not the best course of action. she is ALREADY scared of people, scaring her by staring her in the eye is only going to reinforce the fear.
I'm not sure this is what the trainer was doing. When you are evaluating a dog, you have to have something to evaluate. By letting the dog show her (him?) what she does when uncertain, the trainer has a better idea what is really going on. Realistically, you can't expect that people are going to know not to look at your dog, and the problem needs to be addressed. I agree tht this dog doesn't sound suitable for a group class at this time (though she may be in the future). Be sure that the trainer doesn't use aversives (or tell you to use aversives - like a collar pop) for aggression, What you want is a program that allows the dog to earn good things (relief from pressure, treats, whatever) for better behavior, and changes the situation in her mind from threatening to non-threatening.
 

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I'm not sure this is what the trainer was doing. When you are evaluating a dog, you have to have something to evaluate. By letting the dog show her (him?) what she does when uncertain, the trainer has a better idea what is really going on. Realistically, you can't expect that people are going to know not to look at your dog, and the problem needs to be addressed. I agree tht this dog doesn't sound suitable for a group class at this time (though she may be in the future). Be sure that the trainer doesn't use aversives (or tell you to use aversives - like a collar pop) for aggression, What you want is a program that allows the dog to earn good things (relief from pressure, treats, whatever) for better behavior, and changes the situation in her mind from threatening to non-threatening.
I can understand if it was a test to see the behaviour, I see your point. But like you said, training should be more positive.
 

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I don't think this trainer tried to "dominate her into submission". Sounds like he was simply evaluating to see the dogs thresholds. Which is exactly what a trainer should do, to know where to begin with the dog.
Understand, but I would like to hear more about the trainer's background/experience etc. Maybe even some references. Did trainer say she thought she could help problem.

Myself I think a few more months in the quiet of home and care taken to not allow dog to get in trouble. You really don't know what kind of hollow-head treatment the dog has had. I don't like the private lessons might help or whatever she said. Might even consider another trainer's input.

Disregard the trainer stuff if you trust her, but I would still want more in home adjustment stuff.
 

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Well I'm such a skeptic with trainers that I really did not see anything that took place. I have through the years seen/heard too much BS thrown at people from know it alls that just had the gift of gab an absolutely no gift of training.

I liked the way the trainer said the dog is now no longer fear aggressive. Evidently it lost it's fear and turned into a full-fledged aggression type dog. That now needs muzzle and private lessons.

If in a few minutes went from one problem to another more severe problem I wonder what the trainer can change dog to in an hour.

OP, sorry for my pessimism. Good luck and keep us informed.
 

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I think you got some useful info here and during the evaluation. Here's a general suggestion:
1. Locate someone who is friendly with dogs and who will follow your directions.
2. Get some high value treats, such as small liver treats or small pieces of boiled chicken.
3. Ask your friend to come to your house, pre-armed with lots of treats.
4. When your friend comes in, he can not look at the dog or acknowledge her. You can hold a conversation with him and embrace, or shake hands. ... Continue to carefully ignore the dog, as she hides behind you, trying to take it all in.
5. The two of you can sit in the living room and talk, you can get him something to drink. Everything should be OK, as long as the dog always has an avoidance, escape path.
6. If the dog relaxes enough to stop staring at your friend, then he can make a quiet noise - a tongue click, to get attention, then toss a treat over the dog's head to land in back of her... then ignore her. Once she eats that treat, anxiety becomes curiosity.
7. If she is beginning to relax, she'll come back to you and watch him... in anticipation. Ask him to click his tongue again, then toss another treat over her head.
8. Repeat one more time.
9. Repeat, but throw the treat in front of her... but not at her... make her walk a step or two to get it... but not too close to him.
10. Repeat 3 more times, clicking his tongue before the throw each time. If she doesn't approach him OR if she doesn't wag her tail at him, then stop... this is enough, leaving her wanting more.
11. Stand up, ask him to stand up. Embrace him, say goodbye, and have him click his tongue and toss one last treat to the dog. After the dog has eaten the treat and wants more...ask your friend to leave. Tomorrow, or in 10 min., depending on how relaxed the dog is, repeat the performance. This provides a bit of consistency with a known person.

10a. When she approaches, wagging her tail, ask your friend to ignore her, but to hold a treat in his hand, allowing her to take it, repeating 3 - 4 times. After the 4th one, he can say hello to her, 'click' and treat. If she's concerned, look away.
10b. If she looks friendly, ask your friend to hold out an empty, open hand. She will sniff it, maybe even licking, wanting more treats. Afterwards, if she nuzzles, he can carefully try to rub under her jaw... she may pull away... let her. If interested, she'll move closer.

The main point is that the dog has all control over the interaction, and always has an unimpeded path to escape or to you. I believe that the trainer might have done something like this, if she hadn't stared at the dog...so we learned something :)
 

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I saw a lot of suspicion for the behaviorist/evaluator, but I like the private lessons and muzzle idea. I had to do this with a severely DA rescue. I typically walked her in graveyards at 5am! lol Cats didn't bother her but every dog she saw she wanted to kill.

Just like you, my BF and I broke up, and since he had a bigger yard, he kept the rescue for the remainder of the private lessons. She ended up doing really well in a singe-pet home, but was never a dog park dog.
 

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I saw a lot of suspicion for the behaviorist/evaluator, but I like the private lessons and muzzle idea.
Yes I agree, OP's between a rock and a hard place because if the evaluator is suspicious the last thing you want is private lessons from her.

The problem as I see it is the quickness of this evaluation, I would tell people it would take me 2 weeks to get into dogs head, of course I am not a behaviorist.

I have mentioned this before about a 6 month old Rottie that was dropped off for training and when done the owners picked dog up they told me that a behaviorist told them to have dog PTSed. The dog was a perfectly normal pup and they did have dog PTSed but when it was 11 years old and proper. This is just one reason I am a skeptic of dog trainers etc.

Another story I have told on DF is the 2 gentleman who had GSD pups that I trained for them and within a year each man had moved, one to Nashville and the other to the Denver area and within a year each man had started an obedience school.

Point is there are charlatans in the world of dogs. REFERENCES, REFERENCES, REFERENCES.
 
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