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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First time poster...I am asking for some advice and help with our recently rescued (3 weeks ago) Aussie Shepherd Border Collie mix that is about 1.5 years old. We don't know much about the history of the dog other than he was turned in as a "stray." He was not previously chipped so the Humane Society did not have much history.

First, we love the dog and he is amazing. Truly a fun and energetic addition to our home. We want to learn and help him grow into an obedient dog. We have a long way to go on both sides of the fence. Below are some details about the dog and our situation as well as some initial concerns and we are asking for some help/advice. Apologize for the length of the post but I want to make sure the details are included to help with your professional advice and help.

Dog:
Male
Neutered
about 1.5 years old
about 60 lbs
very energetic, loves to play, chase and run
wants to be by your side at all times (mostly)
has had some training in the past (understands SIT and STAY, kind of)
loves to sit and have his belly rubbed and just to be petted in general
he stays outdoors (he is not an indoor dog)
loves sunbathing in the grass

Us:
Family of 4 (husband, wife, 16 year old boy and 13 year old boy)
we have an indoor dog (12 years old, Maltese Mix)
we live on 1 acre of land that is fenced
we are actively trying to play with the dog multiple times a day
take him for walks 2-3 times a week
take him to the dog park about 1 time per week
kids play with the dog before school and after school
I play with him after work
wife plays with him about 1 time during the day

Training:
we are not professional trainers
we are attempting to train the dog on our own
we spend 15-20 minutes a day training the dog
we need to come up with a specific plan
we know we need consistency

Concern:
Our dog is amazing to be with most of the time. Although, about 2-3 times a day, when we go outside to simply walk from the house, across the yard, to the shop/garage (which is detached) the dog will run up, jump on us and then start biting our feet and heels to the point we cannot walk any further. He will block our path while biting and jumping on us (mostly biting). He as bitten hard enough to draw blood through a show and has drawn blood on our ankles as well. When he jumps he attempts to grab our arms with his mouth. He has also drawn blood with his mouth and claws on our arms. One of the occasions he literally tackled my wife and then jumped on top of her. He really likes to run full speed, head first, without stopping into us. He has bruised one of my boys legs from his nose.

Thoughts:
I totally understand we are fresh and new into this situation. I know it will take time, patience and consistency. I also believe that the dog is just trying to play and "herd" as his strong instincts desire. We want to help. We want to have a fun and loving relationship with the dog.

Help/Advice:
We don't even know where to begin. We don't know how to "train" the dog to stop and understand that the behavior is not acceptable. It has been difficult to even get his attention when he is in his frenzy of biting and jumping. We have had to put him a line that is tied to a tree just to walk around our own yard at times.

What are your thoughts, opinions, professional advice, experiences and other comments on techniques, ideas and plans to help with our situation?

We know it can be overcome. We are asking for help. Please ask any clarifying questions.

Thank you...
 

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In the short term, prevention is going to be the best way to curb this behavior, either by fencing off the route to the shop/garage (you can use livestock fencing/netting for a relatively inexpensive and removable option) or by confining the dog to a smaller portion of the property where he doesn't have access to that area.

How much physical exercise would you say he's getting each day? There's a big difference between five minute play sessions and 45 minute ones, for example. For most dogs, leaving them out in a fenced yard - even a large fenced yard - by themselves doesn't count much towards sustained physical exercise, because they don't spend much time actively running around on their own accord, so play/walks really matter. And is any of that play actually training, focused enrichment, or otherwise mentally challenging? He's a mix of intelligent, incredibly active breeds that need both physical and mental stimulation. As an outside dog, he's also not going to get as much interaction as an inside dog would unless you're literally out there with him most of the day (think working farm dogs), so you have an even harder job making sure he gets all his mental and social needs met.

He sounds like he gets so excited and overwhelmed to see people that his brain falls out and he has no self control or inhibition. Some of this is likely due to age - he's very likely still an adolescent in terms of mental development - but that doesn't mean it's something I'd trust him to 'grow out of', especially since the behavior is potentially dangerous. Not because he's a bad or aggressive dog, just because he could really hurt someone knocking them down or bodyslamming them. Pick either 'sit' or 'down' and work like crazy on training it in less exciting circumstances. Make it a part of his daily life. Using 'sit' as the example, have him sit before you pet him, before you give him his dinner, before you greet him, before you offer him a toy or chew, before he jumps in or out of the car. Work up to more exciting situations - ask him to sit as you throw a toy, then cue him to go fetch, sit before starting a game of tug, sit and stay as you walk away, then recall him to you, etc. I'm just using generic examples - some of these the 'less exciting' things might be too exciting to start with for him personally - but just giving you an idea.

What you want to get to is being able to interrupt excited behavior with a 'sit', to have it become so instant and automatic that, when he's charging towards you, asking for a 'sit' means he practically slides his butt across the ground before he stops. When you reach this point and consistently demand a 'sit' instead of allowing the charge, then rewarding that sit with some attention and pettings (and maybe a treat or quick game at the beginning), he'll start running up and sitting instead of slamming into you or nipping. But it takes time and consistency, hence why it's important you figure out a way to stop him from charging in the meantime. This is, for the record, more or less how I dealt with my youngest's habit of charging and launching himself at us when he was excited. He's not perfect, but much, much improved and easily reminded with a quick hand signal that he needs to put his butt on the ground if he wants our attention. He is not a herding breed, but I know we have some herder-savvy members here so hopefully someone will be able to speak more towards those breeds/behaviors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for your detailed response and suggestions. I really like the idea of having him "SIT" before he does anything. We will be implementing that. We will have to see about "alternate" routes or fencing off a way to the cars. Just a matter of logistics for the way our yard is set up.

Any other thoughts on the biting behavior is greatly appreciated. He loves to go after ankles and feet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So I am going to pile on to my own thread. Not sure where to go or what to do. In the past 2-3 days our dog has started getting significantly more aggressive. He has drawn blood three times on myself and twice on my wife. Totally unprovoked. I was walking across the yard and he ran after me, jumped, grabbed my arm and then continued to do so until I could get away. He also ran full speed at me today from across the yard and ran into me nose first and then proceeded to bite my feet much harder than previously. He has torn my shoes at this point.

I am at a loss of what to do. Other times he is extremely gentle and kind.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or otherwise. I am concerned to let me kids out at this point with the dog.
 

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Have you considered consulting a professional? That may be prudent at this point. (Veterinarian or Behaviorist, although a regular trainer could be helpful)

Have you tried redirecting him to a toy? He may not understand how to appropriately play.
Can you tell if this is inappropriate play/herding-type behavior or if it's actual aggression? If it's play, asking for a sit as mentioned before and redirecting will likely be helpful (teaching acceptable behaviors) What had you been doing before? If you had been playing or paying attention to him, this could've been his way of asking for your attention back, or perhaps he was just to riled up after playing. Or, is it possible he saw a wild animal/cat/dog in the distance, knew he couldn't reach it, and channeled his excitement onto you?
If this is true "aggression", you'll need to determine what is causing it. Did you go near something he felt protective of? (a toy, a spot he likes to smell, his pee-spot, a pile of poo he left, etc.) Did you do any behavior that might have been perceived as threatening, or that could've surprised/startled him?

Have you spoken with a vet to determine if there is a health concern?

Daysleepers asked about your pup's exercise- if you answered, I totally missed it. Especially with a high energy dog/ herding breed, this is ESSENTIAL. (believe me, I know from experience) If he isn't getting enough exercise, he could manifest behaviors like you are describing as a result. He will need a sufficient amount of walks and play (my dog gets 2-2.5 hrs of walks, and at LEAST 30min-1hr of frisbee/agility/tug/fetch, but it varies from dog to dog)
Even more important: mental stimulation. Again, especially with herding breeds, this is absolutely necessary. Does he get daily training sessions (tricks and basics)? Do you play games like find-the-treats? (hiding treats about the home- or outside in the grass, for a harder challenge- when the dog is out of the room and having him find them with his nose) The shell game is another popular one. Does he have a puzzle toy (not necessary, but often helpful)? Do you let him sniff on walks? Does he get interactive play every day (tug, fetch, or AGE-APPROPRIATE, he's still young agility-type play)? These are all important things to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Kensi,

Great response and questions. And all valid points about interaction, activity, exercise etc. I am sure we are not doing enough at this point and could do better. I will try to be brief and answer in a big picture way some of the questions and provide a couple of things that happened last night and this morning.

Last night: My wife and younger son (13) came home and walked through the gate to get to the house. The second they got through the gate our dog was in their face, jumping, nipping and biting at their feet, arms and even my son's face. Yes, the dog jumped high enough to nip my son in the cheek/chin. The dog would not settle down at all. I had to physically remove him from my wife and son to simply let them in the house. That was 100% unprovoked. There were zero distractions. I witnessed the entire thing as I knew they drove up and wanted to see what happened.

This morning: I took the dog for a walk. Sniffing, walking and having fun. He was great. The second we returned home he literally jumped up in my face. Grabbed my arm multiple times and started biting my feet. Again, nothing would stop him. No "SIT". No "OFF". Nothing. I had to grab his collar to get him to stop jumping, biting and barking at me. I put him on a long tether we have in the yard and just walked away. Again, 100% unprovoked. We had just entered the yard. Not two feet inside the gate and he went after me.

Now, is he "attacking" or just rough "playing"? It is hard to tell. I don't believe he is "attacking" but is certainly very aggressive.

Distractions with toys: We have intentionally gone out with his favorite tug-o-war toy to try and get him to look at that. On a couple of occasions it has and on others he simply goes straight for our feet, jumping and arms. We have also tried treats. He will settle just long enough to eat the treat and then he is back at our feet, arms and jumping in our face.
Professional help: We have reached out, just last night, to a couple of trainers and have yet to hear back.

Even last night after he went after my wife and son he calmed down a bit later and sat at my feet on the porch simply wanting to be pet and scratched. He was great.

Thanks for the thoughts, comments and questions. We do need to make sure he is exercising more and with mental stimulation. We also need some help. We hope it all works out. He is a great dog and we want to have him around for years.
 

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This does sound like inappropriate, overaroused play rather than aggression, made worse by those herding breed tendencies to nip, but that's only a guess. I'm glad you're seeking out professional help because with the intensity you're describing I'd want someone experienced who can observe his behavior to make a proper assessment and help you design a solution, rather than relying on our best guesses.

I just want to give you a heads up that 'dog trainer' or 'dog behaviorist' are not protected terms, and anyone can claim to be one and charge you money for their services, so be judicious when choosing a professional to work with ('veterinary behaviorist' is protected - you have to be a fully trained vet who then specializes further in behavioral science and medicine to call yourself one). Look for someone who bases their techniques on a modern, scientific understanding of dog behavior. Anyone who talks about you needing to be 'alpha' or your dog trying to 'dominate' you is working with old, debunked ideas about dog behavior that can be actively harmful to trying to work through behavioral and training issues. Avoid someone who tells you to exclusively use punishment or pain to suppress these behaviors, as this won't address the root cause of the issue and can lead to behavioral fallout like anxiety issues or increased and/or unpredictable aggression.

Reputable third-party organizations that certify trainers/behaviorists can be a good place to look, as you know that at the very least those trainers have some basis in modern knowledge and practice, although bad apples can still pop up - I like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (ccpdt.org and iaabc.org) as starting points. Many trainers and behaviorists have found ways to work remotely in the current global situation, so consider searching farther afield if you don't find anyone local to you right away.
 

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Last night: My wife and younger son (13) came home and walked through the gate to get to the house. The second they got through the gate our dog was in their face, jumping, nipping and biting at their feet, arms and even my son's face. Yes, the dog jumped high enough to nip my son in the cheek/chin. The dog would not settle down at all. I had to physically remove him from my wife and son to simply let them in the house. That was 100% unprovoked. There were zero distractions. I witnessed the entire thing as I knew they drove up and wanted to see what happened.
There was one MAJOR distraction/trigger- people getting home. Most dogs will go crazy when this happens, until they are taught. To fix this, have people approach the home, but when he starts to go crazy, have them turn back around. When he's calm, have them continue approaching. (you then progress so they can get closer and closer, and then maybe even be able to open the gate or come partway through.) Eventually, you slowly progress to where people can come inside- if he gets excited at this point, have them go back out. Eventually, he learns to greet calmly, because going crazy makes the guests leave. (Feel free to ask for further explanation if I was unclear)

This morning: I took the dog for a walk. Sniffing, walking and having fun. He was great. The second we returned home he literally jumped up in my face. Grabbed my arm multiple times and started biting my feet. Again, nothing would stop him. No "SIT". No "OFF". Nothing. I had to grab his collar to get him to stop jumping, biting and barking at me. I put him on a long tether we have in the yard and just walked away. Again, 100% unprovoked. We had just entered the yard. Not two feet inside the gate and he went after me.
Here, it sounds like he was excited following a walk, and hasn't yet learned to calm down after something fun. Try playing a calmer game, like find-the treats, when you get home (you can just throw a bunch of treats into the grass and have him smell for them.) He was too excited at that point to listen to your instructions- so telling him no won't help. Just ignore him completely until he calms down.

This is almost certainly (there is room for error here, since I can't see him) no aggression or ill-intent here. He is just overexcited
When redirecting, don't just show him the reward and give it to him- wait (keeping hands out of reach to avoid hand-biting) for him to calm down, and then give it. Gradually build up so that he has to be calm for several seconds before getting the reward.
And be sure never to inadvertently reward for this excitement- this could be talking to him, (even just saying "no" or "stop") unclipping his leash while he's crazy, opening the door to your yard while he's crazy, continuing or leaving for a walk while he's crazy, allowing him to wildly pull towards something, or just showing him a toy to distract him every time he gets crazy.

When you find a trainer, avoid one that requires any kind of punishment as a solution to everything (training collars, yelling, nose taps, water bottle sprays, penny-can shaking, etc) or uses "dominance theory" (people who use this bad technique say things like dominance, alpha, pack leader, submission, and prove your authority).
 

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Ah, yes, the overexcited, fairly large herding dog. I have been there. The dog in my avatar and signature...he got his name because 1) He was named after the Christmas Story movie, and 2) he jumped up and BASHED PEOPLE IN THE EYES with his snoot because why not?!

Management is your best friend here. Allowing him to practice the behavior so often has really exacerbated the problem, unfortunately. When you can't actively work on training alternatives (Kensi offered some really great advice) to these bad behaviors, your dog should be leashed/locked up so he can't herd people. No more letting him loose in the yard when you know people will be coming home. If he's on leash and starts acting out, step on the leash so he physically cannot jump. Ralphie FLAILED and ran in circles at the end of the leash because he thought it was fun. Stepping on the leash and waiting for calmness had the behavior extinguished in a few weeks because he wasn't allowed to do it in the first place and when he behaved the way I wanted the fun continued.

If he's hanging out in the yard with you, have him dragging a leash. If he starts that herding business, step on the leash and wait for calmness. Then he gets released. Immediately end any poor behavior. And, of course, reward any good behavior he offers.

When my dog was a pup I religiously followed the "Nothing in Life Comes Free" mantra because he was a terror and would take a mile if a I gave him an inch. He had to sit before we went out the door. He had to sit before he got food. People did not engage with him him until all four were on the floor. Misbehavior resulted in an end fo fun. The result was a dog who generally defaults to offering a sit or puppy eyes when he wants something because jumping/nipping/flailing was never rewarded, but he would almost always get rewarded with treats or attention for offering a calm behavior.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you both for the great responses and information. We have been implementing the "SIT" the past few days and he SITS almost every time, the first time. We have him SIT for food, when I go out the door to greet him, when I try and come in the gate, when I go out the gate. He does really know SIT. I have even been trying it when he gets a bit rambunctious and starts his over excited jumping and nipping. A few times he stopped pretty quick at SIT but many other times he does not. I know it is a process and will take patience.

Overall, the past few days have been "better" (mostly). He has gotten into a few "spasms" where he is just so excited that it has been frustrating. We have been trying to get him on a leash when that happens. A few times he just runs away and will run circles around us if he thinks he is getting on the leash. Frustrating and fun in some weird kind of way.

We are signed up for classes. Unfortunately, they are not starting until Mid August. Everyone around us is backed up 6-8 weeks right now.

I will give some updates over the next week or so and ask more questions.

I like the suggestions about the leash time and having him on a leash when we are playing.

Would you suggest a "slip" type leash? I only ask because his regular collar leash doesn't seem to get his attention at all when he is on it and he pulls like he is a profession tractor puller. We also have a hard time, at times, getting a leash on him because he will start nipping and grabbing with his mouth when we try and put it on. If I had a "slip" type leash for play time etc I could easily just slip it over his head.

Thoughts?
 

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Would you suggest a "slip" type leash? I only ask because his regular collar leash doesn't seem to get his attention at all when he is on it and he pulls like he is a profession tractor puller. We also have a hard time, at times, getting a leash on him because he will start nipping and grabbing with his mouth when we try and put it on. If I had a "slip" type leash for play time etc I could easily just slip it over his head.
Probably not. In fact, definitely not.
If you wanted to use it to go for walks, it could be dangerous- they are marketed as "training" tools, and they tighten if the dog pulls (similar to a choke chain) which puts the dog at risk for throat problems, or even passing out. Leashes really aren't for getting attention. They're a safety net while you train your dog. A gentle tug-tug may be occasionally helpful to tell him things like "hey, pay attention, we're going this way", or with a trained dog, to gently remind them to focus on you, or to stop pulling if they had a momentary lapse in good behavior. But for the most part, again, it's a safety net, not part of training.
If you use it to catch him, it could tighten very quickly if he is still running around wildly, almost like a noose, which could turn dangerous very quickly- as you can imagine, I'm sure. Additionally, trying to lasso him could serve to make him even more avoidant of being caught, firstly, because it's unpleasant, and secondly, because he may see it as a game.

You'd have better luck (and a safer method of control) if you just left the leash dragging, so you could grab it. Additionally, it's important to work on recall, and while you don't want to (especially in the early stages) call him in order to end the fun, if you build a solid recall, you can practice "catch-and-release", making it easier to call him back when necessary. Another thing that may help is the collar-grab game. Basically, you just touch his collar, then treat or begin play, and repeat. Then, you start actually grabbing the collar and holding before giving a reward. Repeat this A LOT over several days to a week, then you can start doing it a little less frequently. Eventually, he learns that your grabbing his collar is an awesome thing, making him more catchable.
In regards to him nipping when you put it on, this should be trained out/dealt with quickly. If he does it frequently, it could be that he is startled by or nervous about this long rope that you are suddenly moving towards him, and may need to be re-acclimated and desensitized to having the leash put on. Or, maybe he's just excited, and thinks you're playing. Either way, don't come at him with the leash, lean over him, or try to wrestle it onto him. Call him over, and make the leashing process fun. And practice catch-and-release here, too. Put the leash on, then release him to play, and do it a lot. This way, he has no reason to avoid being caught, because he gets a treat, ear scratch, or interactive play AND gets to o back to what he was doing.
 

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To clarify a bit on what Kensi said - never leave a leash dragging on an unsupervised dog, indoors or outdoors. When you're out there playing or training with him, that's fine! But otherwise, there's a high risk of the leash snagging on something and tangling the dog up, wrapping around one of the dog's limbs and injuring them, or even the dog essentially hanging themselves by getting the leash so wrapped up in something that it pulls their collar in a way that cuts off their airflow. Dogs die this way. I know you say it's for play times only, but I wanted to be double sure that you're aware of the risks!

I agree about the slip collars. For a dog that pulls or fights the leash, they can become dangerous and are able to put way more pressure on the neck than a flat collar. You may have better luck with a martingale or limited slip style collar, which can be slipped on over the head and tighten enough to prevent the dog from backing out, but cannot tighten infinitely like a slip/choke lead and are therefore easier on the neck. I personally prefer harnesses for dogs that pull very hard because a well-fitted harness will take most or all pressure off the neck and distribute it more evenly, but they're more fiddly to put on so you might not be there yet.

What part of the putting the collar on process seems to trigger the nippy, grabby behavior? That will tell you where you need to focus on teaching him putting on his collar is fun. Some dogs don't like the sound of the buckle snapping, some dogs don't like hands reaching over their heads or people bending over them, some don't like putting their heads through things, but each of these can be worked on individually in small steps to make everything easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
First, I appreciate the time that you all have taken to try and provide information and help. Thank you.

Let me help clarify a bit of the situation that may help as well (not that anyone may have misunderstood but just to be clear).

Collar: We use a flat collar that has a quick buckle to put it on. The ring for hooking up the leash hangs on the bottom like any normal collar.

Neck touching: 90% of the time he doesn't mind any sort of neck touching. In fact, like many dogs, he loves his neck/ears rubbed. When it becomes an issues is when he is in one of his excited states. If I try and either pet him, get to the collar to put a leash on him or lanyard him to our tree on a long leash, he will immediately start nipping at my hand/arm. He wont really let me get my hand close to his face/head/neck. He nips and nips. So it makes it very difficult and frustrating to leash him or "put him away" since play time is now over because of his behavior.

Feet biting: This is really one of the biggest issues when he gets excited. When I (or my family) come outside, in the gate, or are just in the yard at times he will sprint up and immediately go for our feet/shoes. His head is down on the ground and he will almost sit or lay on your feet while grabbing them with his mouth. He literally wont let you move. If you do, he starts biting harder and then grabs your feet with his legs. No kidding, like he is trying to bear hug your legs. Now the problem (besides the fact that he has destroyed some of our shoes) if we try and get him away or off in any fashion he will either run, jump or move around to where there is zero chance to get a leash on him. We have tried many times. Yes, he may think it is a game, but it isn't anymore. He literally wouldn't let my wife move her feet yesterday. If she even attempted to move, he would bite/nip her ankles even more. Then, if by chance, I can even get his collar to try and put a leash on, he will go into an alligator death role (no kidding). If I "miss" the collar and he gets away, he then will sprint around me and stay about 2-3 feet away. Again, he thinks this is a blast. So I really don't know how to stop the behavior when I cannot "put him away" from play time, cannot get a leash on him and he doesn't just stop. Although, a couple of times he will stop if I say "SIT". He looks at me and as soon as I try and give hime a "good boy" pat on the head or side he will bite/nip me again. So if I was to keep a leash on him so I could grab the leash right away and take him over to the lanyard in the yard and "put him away" the leash would need to be on him 24/7. I know that is not what you are suggesting. I don't know how to get him to stop or let him know that this behavior is not right. He would not leave my son alone yesterday at all. My son's arms are scratched like crazy from teeth marks simply by trying to put a leash on him or put him on the lanyard.

Jumping: I get the "stand on the leash" when he tries it. We have done that WHEN the leash is on him. But again, the trouble is when he is already in a frenzy of excitement or he simply rushes us and we cannot get a leash on him before hand.

Again, we love the dog. He is awesome. We do not beat him, hit him or hurt him in any way. It is frustrating that we are struggling to stop the behavior and let him know it is not appropriate but we physically cannot at times due to the biting, jumping or running away.

I like your thoughts and ideas. We are implementing them. Although, I am not sure what to do about the foot biting and how to handle that when he basically "herds" us and won't let us go. I have no way to stop the behavior when he won't listen and when I cant get him off.

Yes, as stated in previous responses, we are signed up for classes in August (the earliest date available).

Thanks again for your time. We truly appreciate it and enjoy learning.
 
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