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Hello All,

I’m brand new to this site. Looking for feedback, encouragement and wisdom for anyone willing to listen. A little about my background & my current situation. Here’s my story. It’s pretty long. You’ll need popcorn..,

I’m a mom of 3 boys (15, 13, 11). My husband and I have had dogs throughout our marriage. Our first was a chi-weenie named Bill. Bill was a rescue, riddled with medical and anxiety issues. I loved that dog for stinkin 17 years. Cried like a baby when he passed! Then when our neighbors had a liter of labs, Ted joined our family. We raised Ted from a young pup to a giant 100+lbs dog. We unexpectedly had to put Ted to sleep last year at just 9 years old. Losing our dogs has been like losing a close family member.

Having room in our hearts for another dog, we ended up welcoming a labradoodle, Maggie. Maggie was too little to leave her liter so we would often visit at the breeder’s home. When we finally received her, all the normal puppy musings were happening just as expected.

At around 12 weeks, Maggie started to bite us. Of course, we knew this was normal. It was an obvious part of puppyhood that understood and accepted, but with correction. As a family we knew we had to work on this with Maggie. We patiently used positive reinforcement, redirection, yelping, click training, timeouts..nothing seemed to fazed our girl. Sadly, we restored to a spray bottle, which Maggie thought was very fun. A co-worker suggested a can of coins...nah, it was useless. As Maggie grew, her biting increased. So we bought Maggie more chew toys, put up some fencing in yard with PLENTY of space to run, upped her walks and made a daily routine to engage in fetch & other play. Hoping exercises would help that “prey drive”, it did not. Maggie’s nutrition is on par since we went with our veterinarian’s recommendation. That was a huge investment for us since we have always used Pedigree with our other dogs. Which by the way, our Vet is aware of the biting situation and Maggie does has a clean bill of health.

Maggie is 5 months old, biting all the time. All the time. But my heart’s most heavy when it comes to my youngest son. Maggie seems to target my youngest. She attacks him daily. He has scars on his body. He walks away crying and bloody. He cannot be alone with her because Maggie will not let up. He’s now fearful of our family dog. My oldest sons no longer want to play with her because of the way she attacks their youngest brother.

Our trainer is suggesting that Maggie is asserting our dominance over my youngest and is displaying aggressive behavior. And it’s true! Maggie bites all of us, but not to the extend like she does with my youngest. She is highly recommending a behavior modification specialist. I have already reached out to a reputable BMS to start the process.

I desperately need feedback from those who have been in similar circumstances. I’m willing to follow through with advice. I’m thirsty for any encouragement. Our family very weary. And my protective instincts is telling me to relinquish Maggie for my son’s sake. My heart really is very torn.

On a side note, my husband thinks we should get Maggie a playmate, another dog. Is that completely nuts? I think it’s a bad idea.

Thanks for listening. I really appreciate any feedback you may have.
 

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So it's not about dominance. It's about the fact that Maggie is a dog that escalates when stressed. Sure there are plenty of dogs who will stop their behavior if corrected. And some dogs, like mine, will lunge harder and bite harder. It could be that Maggie is mouthier than the average puppy. But it does sound like her behaviors have been magnified through your responses.

The behavior can be modified. But any trainer worth their salt is going to suggest management first. Are you and your family prepared to spend 1-2+ months NEVER letting Maggie near your son unless she is deliberately being trained? Are you prepared to spent 1-2+ months NEVER letting Maggie free roam in the house or yard unless deliberately being trained, and then spending a chunk of time each day (likely a few minutes throughout the day) training her? That's what it will take to change this behavior. It will require a routine shift and heavy restrictions - you won't be able to work with her and also let her continue to live the same way outside of training.

Another dog may redirect her energy or you may have double the problems. Typically this behavior won't just go away with another dog.

To add, the best course of action is to seek the help of a certified trainer skilled in positive reinforcement based training. I would not go to any trainer who uses corrections, "dominance talk", or punitive tools as they will likely make the problems worse for your family, or even put you in the realm of seeing serious aggression issues towards your youngest son. This is not an issue that can be resolved online, as literally every action you take with Maggie including how you hold a leash (what kind of leash, how long, when, etc) and other meticulous details come into play.
 

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Yes, this behavior can be modified. But, as Canyx said, it will take a TON of management to keep her from practicing this behavior. She does sound like an especially mouthy dog, so every one of your family members needs to be on the same page.

If you don't already, I would suggest using baby gates, ex-pens, and the crate to keep her separate from family members if you don't have time to be working on this.

I would also recommend a positive trainer, and avoid any trainers who talk about dominance or resort to punishment. I would generally just give you the old "when pup bites, end all fun" method, but because three children are involved I think you should consult a professional, too.

For the record, she's likely going after your youngest son the most because she thinks he's the funnest. Kids have higher voices, they flail, they squeal. Great fun for a dense puppy who doesn't realize how badly those puppy teeth hurt. She's not asserting dominance, she's just playing with the person who reacts the most.
 
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