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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi there. We took on a staffi mix rescue dog about 4 months ago. She was 6 months old at the time, had been beaten and was very nervous. We spent lots of time coaxing her out from under tables, petting her and teaching her to trust us. We now have a problem however. In recent weeks she has become very aggressive (particularly towards men) and even chases runners/ cyclists in the park. I am scared it is a matter of time before she will do something bad. Any advice?

further more...

the dog barks at my part time house mate, who is not often in the house, she really growls at him all the time, and even tried nipping his leg when he turned his back, i have tried various punishments but nothing seems to work :(

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i have tried various punishments but nothing seems to work :(
Here lies your problem. Your approach to the issue is completely wrong. The nipping, growling, and barking happen because she is scared, how does punishing her help her? You got it, it doesn't!

What you want to do is try desentization and counterconditioning. Always try to solve the problem in a positive manner and you'll come a long way. This how you go about desentization and counterconditioning:

You have to have a male volunteer. Have them stand at a distance at the point to where your dog no longer takes notice of him or doesn't bark. Play with her, or do something which she really enjoys; get her to relax.

After a little time take a couple steps closer to the male individual and notice the reaction, if her attention is still focused on you thats great! Play a little more and take a couple steps more.

Slowly take more and more steps closer but don't rush things. If at any moment she begins to growl or bark then you've reached what is called the 'threshold' or the point where she becomes aggressive. Should this happen take a couple steps back and distract her.

Teach her that there is nothing to fear and that she is able to play with you even when a man is near.

Another approach you can take using Counterconditioning only:

First this will require you to teach her a new command: "Watch Me!", this is a command that should make her always look back at you and forget about other things in her surrounding. You teach this command by saying "Watch me!" Quick and audible, if she looks up at you then you give a treat. Repeat over and over until you can get her to look at you 100% of the time. Then slowly phase out the treats and use only verbal praise.

Only once this command is deeply ingrained is when it will become effective. When she begins to show signs of aggression when near a man say "Watch Me" and if she stops growling and looks up praise her and give her a treat. No, giving her treats is not reinforcing the aggressive behavior its reinforcing the looking at you. If the other person shows signs of fear or walks away, then THAT reinforces the aggressive behavior because she knows that the scarey man will go away if she acts aggressive.

Teach her that other people mean good things are coming:

Does your pooch like walks? If she does then it might be beneficial for you to have your house mate come on walks with you guys, make him keep his distance at first and then slowly near her. If she growls use the Watch me command. As training progresses you can allow your house mate to take the lead and then you start backing off slowly to show her that she has nothing to fear.

Have your house mate give her tidbits on occasion, make sure he isn't too loud, or stares at her.

Keep in mind:

NEVER allow a person she is barking at to leave while she is barking. As I mentioned before this only reinforces the behavior. Have them wait until she is quiet.

Don't use punishment, even though this may temporarily suppress the problem on the surface, she still has that fear and will not hesitate to react on it. Not to mention that it doesn't make things better for her.

NEVER use flooding in order to get her fears to stop. Flooding involves forcefully making the dog meet the fear causing stimulus. An example would be that your dog is cornered against a wall and your housemate is trying to pet her. Flooding not only has similar effects as punishment but it also has a high chance of injury both for dog and human alike.

I know this is long but I hope it helps!
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