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Well here's the skinny. My ex girlfriend got the dog fever and ended up adopting a shelter dog (staffordshire doberman mix?) 7 months ago at 4 months old. The first time I fed her she showed food aggression/protective aggression issues, no biting just growling and).
I searched online; talked to my most dog savvy friends about the issue, but soon decided to hire a professional trainer to assess the problem. It seemed at first easily cureable, but as time has progressed, her aggression around food lessened, but she became more aggressive in other everyday situations. She growls and bares her teeth when approached when sleeping, when food is present (most of the time), and when she is approached by people she doesn't know especially, but often times by people she does know (and also seemingly randomly). To the best of my knowledge it is fear based aggression, not dominance based (I believe she was abused as a puppy as she was brought in to the shelter with a broken leg at 4 months by a very "questionable" man as he was described by the shelter).

Soon after the first signs of aggression my EX girlfriend was too afraid to care for her so I decided to take her as my own. I love the dog ridiculously and I spend a great amount of time with her (socializing, exercising etc), but it seems that no matter how much time I spend working with her, I can make little to no progress with her aggression.

Basically I am fostering the dog as best as I can at this point, but my schedule (open as it is) doesn't seem consistent enough to truly give this dog what she needs. I can't take her to a shelter because she will most likely be euthanized, and if that's the inevitable, I will be with her when it happens.

I wish there was a perfect farm in the country she could go to with experienced dog aggression owners and everything could be hunky-dory, but as we all know, there are thousands of well adjusted dogs that could and would be adopted before her.

I suppose I'm looking for advice (or a miracle adoption). I am very willing to rehome her, but only with a enough screening to know she wouldn't be used for dog fights etc. She is one of the most eager to please dogs I've met (when she's in a good doggy mood) and has a great food and ball drive. I will under no circumstances abandon this dog to a situation that isn't considerably better than the one she is presently in, but I fear that I cannot help her given my present situation. Please help; I feel that I have exhausted all options at this point. She is a sweet girl much of the time, but she needs a lot of help. I am really open to consider all advice at this point. Thanks for your input.
 

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Its a hard one.....

I personally would keep her or euthanize her.

Its not fair to adopt her out if you know she is capable of biting, you will not find a farm with an owner who is experienced with aggressive dogs. And as you said there are many well adjusted non aggressive dogs dieing in shelters looking for homes.
 

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She hasn't bitten yet? This in itself is a good sign. Can you describe her behaviour for us? Does she growl and retreat? Does she growl and advance? How is her bite inhibition?


What did the trainer you hired recommend? What was his/her assessment? What sort of work have you done? Have you talked to a veterinary behaviourist about possible medication to reduce anxiety to enable you to work more successfully with the fear issues?

If you truly believe this dog is dangerous, rehoming her is really not an option, legally or morally. Though, being she doesn't have a bite history (correct?) her prognosis is better than if she did.

More details would be helpful.
 

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I had a foster dog (now my dog) with agression issues, and he actually has bitten. He started with some food agression issues that we were able to solve through training and hand feeding. He also is very agressive towards strange people in the house and yard. We have been working with a trainer on his issues and he is actually much better. While I will never trust him with strangers, he will come to accept people eventually.

Consistent training may help with your dog, but it needs to be with you. Your dog is too much of a liability to hand off to someone else. IMO, I think you need to commit to training and keep the dog, or euthanize the dog.
 

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Have you taken her to a vet to make sure there is no medical reason behind it--chipped tooth, thyroid, lots of things could cause aggression issues. I don't know if it would help or not, but if I were you, I would at least want to rule it out before making any permanent decisions.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
She hasn't bitten yet? This in itself is a good sign. Can you describe her behaviour for us? Does she growl and retreat? Does she growl and advance? How is her bite inhibition?


What did the trainer you hired recommend? What was his/her assessment? What sort of work have you done? Have you talked to a veterinary behaviourist about possible medication to reduce anxiety to enable you to work more successfully with the fear issues?

If you truly believe this dog is dangerous, rehoming her is really not an option, legally or morally. Though, being she doesn't have a bite history (correct?) her prognosis is better than if she did.

More details would be helpful.
She has not bitten yet.

When she growls she doesn't retreat, she stands her ground and lowers her head. I usually calmly take her and place her on her side in a more submissive position and make her to stay for a couple of minutes. After she pops up, she usually seems less aggressive but not always. Sometimes her aggression is much worse than others and this method does nothing.

When I hired the trainer, her only prevalent aggression issue was the food aggression, so we only worked on that (hand feeding, distraction with a toy after eating, claiming theb kitchen etc). I am going to work with one again but money is very tight right now.

I have been to the vet several times regarding this issue, but have found no medical reason that would inspire this aggression.

I have not yet talked to the vet about medication for anxiety yet. This might be my next option.

When I say rehome, I think I might have been a little too vague. The only way I would rehome her is if I found a dog enthusiast or trainer with experience with aggressive dogs who was willing to take her on with full disclosure of her issues. I realize this isn't going to happen, but I can always search and hope. I really just want what's best for the dog and I realize that's probably to stay with me.

Thanks again for everyone's input and please keep it coming!
 

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First thing you need to do is take to the vet to be sure there is no underlying medical condition that could be the root of her fear/anxiety. The usual suspects for this are pain (perhaps the leg did not set right or there are other skeletal issues), low or low/normal thyroid (a prominant problem in both breeds), tick bourne illness and cardiac/eye problems (again prominant in both breeds).

The next step is to find a BEHAVIORIST that is familiar with fear/anxiety based aggression, you'll need this even if the medical conditions exist in conjunction with whatever treatments are needed. The dog needs to be reconditioned and you'll need to manage her at all times. Remember that you willl have to manage the dog at all times and for the rest of her life. You need to learn to read her body language to learn when she's stressed and about ot become reactive and remove her from the situation until she can be desensitized to it. Training and desesitization is a lifetime commitment. DO NOT use any behaviorist that isn't positive reenforcemen/ negative punishment with this dog.

Rehomeing is not an option for this dog, as she's a bite risk in the wrong hands.

If you wish to work wit her yourself, and see the training rtechniques you want to use look at this thread Reccomended reading... for books you can use. However they are no substitute for a behaviorist.
 

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First thing you need to do is take to the vet to be sure there is no underlying medical condition that could be the root of her fear/anxiety. The usual suspects for this are pain (perhaps the leg did not set right or there are other skeletal issues), low or low/normal thyroid (a prominant problem in both breeds), tick bourne illness and cardiac/eye problems (again prominant in both breeds).

The next step is to find a BEHAVIORIST that is familiar with fear/anxiety based aggression, you'll need this even if the medical conditions exist in conjunction with whatever treatments are needed. The dog needs to be reconditioned and you'll need to manage her at all times. Remember that you willl have to manage the dog at all times and for the rest of her life. You need to learn to read her body language to learn when she's stressed and about ot become reactive and remove her from the situation until she can be desensitized to it. Training and desesitization is a lifetime commitment. DO NOT use any behaviorist that isn't positive reenforcemen/ negative punishment with this dog.

Rehomeing is not an option for this dog, as she's a bite risk in the wrong hands.

If you wish to work wit her yourself, and see the training rtechniques you want to use look at this thread Reccomended reading... for books you can use. However they are no substitute for a behaviorist.
Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate your professional approach and compassion.

I have been to the vet to try and rule out any medical reasons for her aggression, and the vet seemed fairly convinced that there was not a medical problem. I suppose I should return to her and ask about the possible issues you noted above.


PS. I grew up on Whidbey Island; good to talk to another Washingtonian .
 

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Also, does any body have advice on medication for her?

I have had several people tell me this might be an answer. I naturally lean away from this option because there is usually a better route than medication, but at this point I am open to all options.
 

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She has not bitten yet.

When she growls she doesn't retreat, she stands her ground and lowers her head. I usually calmly take her and place her on her side in a more submissive position and make her to stay for a couple of minutes. After she pops up, she usually seems less aggressive but not always. Sometimes her aggression is much worse than others and this method does nothing.
I'm actually quite impressed that she's never bitten when you do this! Most people here would caution against forcing a fear-aggressive dog onto its side; that's a recipe for a defensive bite. It's a good sign that she hasn't bitten you, and it makes me think she can be helped. I have no experience rehabilitating FA dogs, though, so I'll let those who have give you advice. :)
 

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I'm actually quite impressed that she's never bitten when you do this! Most people here would caution against forcing a fear-aggressive dog onto its side; that's a recipe for a defensive bite. It's a good sign that she hasn't bitten you, and it makes me think she can be helped. I have no experience rehabilitating FA dogs, though, so I'll let those who have give you advice. :)
Im obviously very careful when dealing with her in an aggressive state, but this method seems to work (at least temporarily). Shes now so used to it that I can generally get her on her side with commands alone, no touch. The only time she has tried to bite (luckily unsuccessfully) is when I tried to remove a sandal of mine from her crate while she was in there. Shes very protective of her crate.

I can usually see from a mile away when she's going to be aggressive, but when the instances occur just depend on her mood. Often, she'll maul me with kisses and love, but other times she'll put her tail between her legs and slink away when I tell her to come. Jekyll and Hyde dog as we call her.
 

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A lot of veterinarians are not so "up on" the behaviour of dogs and the links to medical issues. If you are interested, have a look at Dr. Dodd's research into hypothyroidism and fear/reactivity/anxiety. (just google Dr. Jean Dodd). You may have to insist on the testing from your vet, if she poo poos it.

And do NOT ALPHA ROLL THE DOG. Period. It does more harm than good behaviourally and is VERY likely to escalate the behaviour. This is not the way to deal with aggressive behaviour and anyone who recommends it to you, you should run from. I say this in real seriousness.

If money issues are preventing you getting a good behaviourist in, can you order some books?

The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
MINE by Jean Donaldson
How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong: a Roadmap for Rehabilitating Aggressive Dogs by Pamela Dennison

All available at www.dogwise.com

Okay, that being that....

Can you figure out what triggers the posturing? Voice, movement, certain situations? Certain people? Honestly the lowered head and freeze sounds like a typical resource guarding position but without seeing it it's hard to say. Either way, RESPECT IT and back off until you have a better idea of what is triggering the behaviour.
 

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I just saw your last post.
She may be resource guarding the crate, a favourite space etc. You will find "MINE" very helpful in this regard.

As for medication, extreme RG and fear based behaviours generally respond well to Fluoxetine (Prozac, known as Reconcile in the veterinary field). There are also good neutraceuticals like L-theanine (Anxitane) if you want to go the natural route first. Extreme RG is almost always based in anxiety issues, and is often neurochemically based, so trying one of these along with good, proper, positively based behaviour modification may be key to helping you get the issues under control.
 

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Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate your professional approach and compassion.

I have been to the vet to try and rule out any medical reasons for her aggression, and the vet seemed fairly convinced that there was not a medical problem. I suppose I should return to her and ask about the possible issues you noted above.


PS. I grew up on Whidbey Island; good to talk to another Washingtonian .
DO NOT use any dominance techniques AT ALL with a fear reactive dog, it WILL cause the aggression to escalate. It may go away temporarily because she's shutting down, but eventaully she will 'explode' and a serious bite will most likely occur.


Go to another vet and ask for a FULL panel thyroid test as well as a tick titre, these conditions CANNOT be caught without the correct blood tests.

I too have a reactive dog (my Dobe) and I've had other dogs with health conditions that cause fear based reactivity/aggression and underlying health conditions. The fact is that often there is a condition that doesn't get caught for years and low thyroid can happen at a younger age than previously thought.

I just moved to Silverdale from San Diego, so I'm just getting used to the weather LOL.
 

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Can you figure out what triggers the posturing? Voice, movement, certain situations? Certain people? Honestly the lowered head and freeze sounds like a typical resource guarding position but without seeing it it's hard to say. Either way, RESPECT IT and back off until you have a better idea of what is triggering the behaviour.
It does look like resource guarding as she does with food, but she reacts the same even when there's no resource to guard. It seems to be her reaction to many situations. Mostly when approached, especially by people she doesn't know well, but still often times when I approach. As long as and I let her come to me she's usually ok.

I will discontinue the roll, but if she shows aggression and I back off, doesn't that validate her aggression as an effective tactic?
 

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I will discontinue the roll, but if she shows aggression and I back off, doesn't that validate her aggression as an effective tactic?

No, you will remove her from the situation, and if she's RG the crate, that means it goes AWAY and you give her a small room where she can be and she ONLY gets to enter to rest when she does something for YOU. There are ways to maintain LEADERSHIP and not use DOMINANCE. NILIF (NothingIn LIfe Is Free) is the best technique I know of, it sets the dog up to look to YOU for guidance. The dog gets nothing with out doing something for you first. When she gets fed, she has to SIT and WAIT until you give her permission to eat, she is NOT allowed on furniture unless you tell her ect you become the giver of all good things. Then you spread that to others giving other people a positive association.

You can reintroduce the crate later, with her having to sit and wait to enter and she has to come out when YOU say she has to. Again You need to control the resources.

Oh, and nothing is EVER taken away without a reward for her giving it up. The root of RG is that things are taken away and they don't come back. The rewards can go down in value and eventaully become more random, but they need to be there.
 

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You don't WAIT for the aggression, you back off at the first stink eye or lip lick that tells the behaviour is coming. You stop it in it's tracks by not giving her reason to feel the need to agress. And then you figure out how to move her out of it through distraction or calling her into a different room or picking up the leash and taking her for a walk, whatever she finds motivating.

Then you work on the CAUSE. Not the behaviour itself but the reason for it. Whether that be fear, RG, or whatever.

Meeting force with force with a dog is not only bad training, it's bad for your health.
 

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I don't know much about how to approach the issues you have stated

But I would like to say you are doing a great job so far and don't give up :)
I would also like to agree with others in saying that rolling your dog on its side is not a good idea, but I see you have agreed not to do it anymore (great choice!)

If you give your location Im sure someone on here can recommend a good behaviouralist and maybe a good vet.
I would go to another vet and get tests done for all the things suggested here.
And get those books suggested

And one thing I would suggest is that when you say she is not guarding anything as there is nothing to guard, she may be guarding something you don't understand is there.
Like her personal space even can be a resource

And backing off from her growling is not going to encourage her to growl more, but it could save you from a nasty bite
 

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Excllent advice given!! I would second the suggestion of changing vets. It appears that the one you have doesn't want to consider working with you to find a possible medical problem (if there is one).
 
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