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I have a dog who is dog aggressive. He was socialized as a pup, training, etc. Even as a puppy, he has never loved other dogs, never sought out their company beyond occasional wrestling/romping or to attempt to take their toys from them, but has recently become near-lethal to a dog (one of our own). He is an 80 pound Pyrenees mix, about 2 years old. No medical issues. Eats good food, gets adequate exercise. He was our first dog, adopted as a puppy.

We have always done NILIF because we knew he was going to be a big dog. He has always been very aloof with dogs and people (he likes us, but he doesn't "need" us, and prefers to be left alone most of the time). He was incredibly easy to train -- like, freaky easy. He's possessive of us only when there are other dogs present (he's never attacked another dog for getting close to me or anything like that, but when strangers are in the house, he'll only seek affection from them if the other dogs do), and very possessive of anything other dogs are interested in. It doesn't matter if it's a ratty old towel or a raw bone; he wants it with the same intensity. We have worked with him these behaviors (possessiveness especially) since he was a pup. He's great at "leave it" unless it involves another dog, no matter how much we work on it.

We have 3 dogs now (the other 2 were adopted as adults, everybody is vetted and altered), one who he tolerates (occasionally they play, but it can get too rough in my opinion so I don't let them play unsupervised, esp now in light of recent events) and one (recently) that he loathes. We are rehoming the dog he attacks, and while the most recent attack was my fault (I was with them so I thought a supervised potty break together would be okay), he absolutely would have killed the other dog if I hadn't been there. As it was, I tried everything I could think of in the heat of the moment and I could not get him to release the dog's throat (luckily the other dog is okay, though it's really just a matter of luck that he is). If I sound matter of fact it isn't because I'm not terribly ashamed of assuming I was in control of the situation or very worried about both of my dogs.

He does not attack every dog he sees by any means, he walks well on a leash for the most part and has never "gone after" another dog in a public place. (He's been to the dog park, the store, etc, [before the attacks started], but of course he won't be going to those places ever again.) He does not growl when he attacks the other dog. He just tries to kill him -- it's very business like, and when it's over he acts like nothing at all happened. He shows no signs of agitation before or after the attack. The attacks started out on a level of violence I never would have expected from him, and have only escalated. I won't make the mistake of allowing him near the other dogs again.

We don't have the kind of money right now to invest in a behaviorist (it's not out of the question in the long term, but it is not an option right now), so I'm just looking for your informed opinions. Is this a dog who is a good candidate for "rehabilitation"?

Is rehoming my other dog (which probably won't happen because my spouse loves him very very much and they are very bonded, whereas not so much with the Pyrenees mix) the only option as far as making 100% sure he is safe? I can see how the way the Pyrenees mix "plays" with that dog is similar in tactic (though not intensity) to what he did to the other dog, and I worry that it would only be a matter of time before something could go very wrong there. Is it most likely crate and rotate for the rest of his life, as we have been doing?

Thank you in advance for any guidance or advice you can give.
 

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You know, as I read this I kept wondering if there was something neurologically wrong with your Pyrenees mix. It sounds like he's always been a loof, but much of what you wrote sounds out of place or a new set of behaviors.


I have a dog who is dog aggressive. He was socialized as a pup, training, etc. Even as a puppy, he has never loved other dogs, never sought out their company beyond occasional wrestling/romping or to attempt to take their toys from them, but has recently become near-lethal to a dog (one of our own). He is an 80 pound Pyrenees mix, about 2 years old. No medical issues. Eats good food, gets adequate exercise. He was our first dog, adopted as a puppy.

We have always done NILIF because we knew he was going to be a big dog. He has always been very aloof with dogs and people (he likes us, but he doesn't "need" us, and prefers to be left alone most of the time). He was incredibly easy to train -- like, freaky easy. He's possessive of us only when there are other dogs present (he's never attacked another dog for getting close to me or anything like that, but when strangers are in the house, he'll only seek affection from them if the other dogs do), and very possessive of anything other dogs are interested in. It doesn't matter if it's a ratty old towel or a raw bone; he wants it with the same intensity. We have worked with him these behaviors (possessiveness especially) since he was a pup. He's great at "leave it" unless it involves another dog, no matter how much we work on it.

We have 3 dogs now (the other 2 were adopted as adults, everybody is vetted and altered), one who he tolerates (occasionally they play, but it can get too rough in my opinion so I don't let them play unsupervised, esp now in light of recent events) and one (recently) that he loathes. We are rehoming the dog he attacks, and while the most recent attack was my fault (I was with them so I thought a supervised potty break together would be okay), he absolutely would have killed the other dog if I hadn't been there. As it was, I tried everything I could think of in the heat of the moment and I could not get him to release the dog's throat (luckily the other dog is okay, though it's really just a matter of luck that he is). If I sound matter of fact it isn't because I'm not terribly ashamed of assuming I was in control of the situation or very worried about both of my dogs.

He does not attack every dog he sees by any means, he walks well on a leash for the most part and has never "gone after" another dog in a public place. (He's been to the dog park, the store, etc, [before the attacks started], but of course he won't be going to those places ever again.) He does not growl when he attacks the other dog. He just tries to kill him -- it's very business like, and when it's over he acts like nothing at all happened. He shows no signs of agitation before or after the attack. The attacks started out on a level of violence I never would have expected from him, and have only escalated. I won't make the mistake of allowing him near the other dogs again.

We don't have the kind of money right now to invest in a behaviorist (it's not out of the question in the long term, but it is not an option right now), so I'm just looking for your informed opinions. Is this a dog who is a good candidate for "rehabilitation"?

Is rehoming my other dog (which probably won't happen because my spouse loves him very very much and they are very bonded, whereas not so much with the Pyrenees mix) the only option as far as making 100% sure he is safe? I can see how the way the Pyrenees mix "plays" with that dog is similar in tactic (though not intensity) to what he did to the other dog, and I worry that it would only be a matter of time before something could go very wrong there. Is it most likely crate and rotate for the rest of his life, as we have been doing?

Thank you in advance for any guidance or advice you can give.
 

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I wouldn't consider DA to be a manners issue. DA is largely genetic and often shows up unexpectedly as the dog matures. My old dog was great in every way, except for his desire to kill every dog he saw. Also no barking or growling, just straight for the throat.

Other than separating the dogs or rehoming the Pyrenees mix, I don't know what to tell you. I trained Muggsy to behave on walks, but I certainly could not have had another dog in my home.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for your replies. I don't think it's a manners issue, either. And I didn't mean to sound negative about Pyrenees dogs or mixes. I live in the south and Pyrs are everywhere, and plenty of them are great dogs kept as pets, but many of them are working animals who are a lot like my dog. Aloof and dangerous (to other animals) when they feel they need to be.

As far as a new set of behaviors -- I don't know. I look at it, now, as sort of a continuum. Not really interested in other dogs as puppy, to possessive behavior and excessive roughness, to this. It's my fault for not reading the signs and thinking that his personality was just aloof, but not potentially dangerous.

I guess I have some tough decisions to make.
 

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Great Pyrenees were bred as guard dogs in the Pyrenees Mountains. Left out in the fields guard the flock - they were bred to protect them from bears and wolves.

Great Pyrenees are known for high instances of same sex aggression. Almost all Pyrenees maintain a high amount of independence and aloofness with strangers and are fierce protectors of their family (pack/flock/herd) - it's within the breed. A properly socialized Pyrenees should be tolerant of other people/dogs but will always remain somewhat aloof. Everything about his personality from being aloof and independent and "not "needing" and they are extremely intelligent - these are all traits of the breed.


If these other two dogs are relatively new to the family (as in weren't adopted when the Pyrenees mix was still a puppy) it would explain some of the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Great Pyrenees were bred as guard dogs in the Pyrenees Mountains. Left out in the fields guard the flock - they were bred to protect them from bears and wolves.

Great Pyrenees are known for high instances of same sex aggression. Almost all Pyrenees maintain a high amount of independence and aloofness with strangers and are fierce protectors of their family (pack/flock/herd) - it's within the breed. A properly socialized Pyrenees should be tolerant of other people/dogs but will always remain somewhat aloof. Everything about his personality from being aloof and independent and "not "needing" and they are extremely intelligent - these are all traits of the breed.


If these other two dogs are relatively new to the family (as in weren't adopted when the Pyrenees mix was still a puppy) it would explain some of the problem.
When we adopted him as a puppy, we were told he was a lab/GSD mix. For a long time that's what we thought we had. His litter came from a very rural area. Mostly he was just a big ball of fluff for a long time. He looks nothing like a lab as an adult dog, and not much like a GSD at all either (except that he is not white and obviously not as large as a pure Pyr). Some of his qualities also fit the description of a GSD, but I think Pyr is the predominant element in his mix. I do know now that these qualities are inherent in the breed that is predominant in him -- I don't blame him for being the dog he was bred to be. I wish I hadn't underestimated it, though.
 

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You were told it was a mix it was not and you raised him thinking that's what he was without thought to what else he could be. There is no harm in that so don't beat yourself up wishing you had done more when in reality you couldn't because you didn't know. Now you do and you can hopefully work towards fixing the situation.
 

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Since he's 2, that is right about the age of maturity that dog aggression can really come to light.

I don't see dog aggression so much as a rehabilitation thing as a management thing. You can't really change who a dog is, you can only control the environment (to a degree) and manage it. Him not giving a warning isn't a good sign in my opinion, he's not trying to avoid fighting by growling, snipping and finally when he's really annoyed biting but rather jumping right to the full attack.

I would not trust him with your other dog. Crate and rotate and if you need to walk them or transport them together, there needs to be an adult on the end of each leash and (IMO) he should be muzzled. Dog aggressive dogs are very hard to re-home as they should really only go to an experienced dog handler and yet contradictory to that, should be only dogs. Obviously most "dog people" already have a dog.

For walks, I would get him used to a comfortable, quality basket muzzle and keep him on a 4 foot leash or a 6 foot leash with a traffic handle. You really never know when you'll turn the corner and run into an off-leash dog. I'm in a city, semi-urban area, and probably about 1-2 times per month have a small off-leash dog run up to mine (thankfully very friendly large dog). Your Pyr could kill a small dog before you could do anything about it and seriously injure a larger one.

Learn how to safely break up a dog fight. I'd consider having him wear a "dominant dog collar" when there is any chance he could have access to another dog; this is not a collar for walking, this is a thin tight collar worn high on the dog's neck that basically allows you to choke the dog (take their air away). It sounds harsh, but you'll never use it unless its needed to prevent him from killing another dog. It is not meant to give corrections with or to cause pain.

2 barriers between him and other dogs all the time: leash+muzzle; crate+door; leash+door etc

All of this is strictly my opinion and I am not a professional trainer; you have a tough issue on your hands and you'll need to work carefully to keep everyone involved safe.
 

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You know, as I read this I kept wondering if there was something neurologically wrong with your Pyrenees mix. It sounds like he's always been a loof, but much of what you wrote sounds out of place or a new set of behaviors.
Never hurts to have a vet check. But honestly, the behaviors described wouldn't be something unexpected in a livestock guarding breed. Also, at 2, the dog is approaching social maturity, which is a time when behaviors tend to change. If you only have the one dog he hasn't attacked, I'd not allow them together unsupervised, and manage their time together to avoid conflict. Sometimes a dog will have conflicts with a particular dog, but not others. I'd also do a crash course in body language so you can anticipate a problem before it happens. Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas is a good start, but there are several others. Brenda Aloff has one called Canine Body Language which is mostly pictures, with an emphasis on reading the dog's whole body.
 

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Sounds like typical breed behavior. I'm a fan of working dogs being used for work. Problems can arise when not given proper outlets for their instinctive behaviors.

Is it possible to rehome him with a goat or sheep farm? Though now, the concern would be how he would react to a flock or herd, since most are raised with them. Other than that, I would keep him away from other dogs. Usually, they tend to he neutral away from their areas, but not always.
 

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Thanks again for all these thorough replies -- it really has helped a lot. And thank you all for being so kind.

I think it's pertinent to add that we have a child, too. He's 4, and the Pyr mix was raised around him. He's usually very patient with my son, does not act possessively about toys/bones with him (he can give the Pyr the "leave/drop" command himself and he will listen), and has never attacked him. Never even growled at him -- but now I know when he attacks, he doesn't growl at all. They aren't allowed to be together unsupervised, and in light of recent events, they really aren't together at all anymore. It's just too risky, especially when the other dogs are out too. Maybe that's not fair, but I don't think I'm being too harsh.

A friend of mine knows someone who works in rescue (he runs a small pitbull rescue out of Manhattan), and his advice was basically that if the dog cannot be placed in a knowledgeable home, it is time to start seriously considering euthanization. Part of his reasoning for this was that there was a child in the home. I know we are clearly not the ideal home for this dog, but ... I don't know. I'm sure many of you understand the complex emotions that rise up. It breaks my heart to think about it.

As far as rehoming him to a working home, I don't know if that would work, since as was pointed out, he was not raised around farm animals. Plus, if a farm wants a Pyr to do that job, they're sadly about a dime a dozen here.

I will definitely look up more about body signals.
 
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