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Hello! I've decided to give this forum a try to see if any of you have any advice for me...

In October 2017, me and my dad drove out to Ohio and adopted a 4 month old female rat terrier puppy, Hattie, shortly after the death of our older beloved rat terrier. Hattie is a very sweet, playful dog with a big personality and lots of love to give. She's very spoiled and has all the toys in the world. However...ever since we first brought her home, Hattie has been incredibly, extremely aggressive towards my mother, and none of us have been able to determine why. She is extremely overprotective of me in particular, barking at my mom whenever she approaches me. She also barks at my mom whenever she speaks or moves. We thought that with time, Hattie would grow used to her and stop. However, as time went on, it just seemed as if Hattie's aggression got worse and worse, so much to the point where she lunges, snarls, snaps and even bites (not enough to draw blood, but still a bite) my mom without any sort of provocation. At 2 years old, she is still just as aggressive toward my mom and is terrified to approach her unless she has food. We've tried pretty much every tactic -- my mom feeds her, tries to play with her, tries to bond with her in general, and even when it seems we've made a little progress, everything ultimately reverses and goes back to square one in the end. My mom has never harmed Hattie or intentionally tried to scare her or anything of the sort. My mom is a huge dog lover and is miserable because she doesn't understand Hattie's behavior and has never had a dog act like this toward her before.

It's probably worth mentioning Hattie's backstory, since I feel it contributed somewhat to her behavior. We adopted her from a breeder that I believe to have been irresponsible based on my experience at their home. Most, if not all of the puppies and dogs were kept outside in cages in the cold October weather. The dogs that were indoors were not supervised and were constantly fighting over food and toys, so much that one of the members of the household kept having to break them apart while we were there. Hattie was extremely timid and stiff until we left the house, after which she became relaxed and playful. The breeder was an adult woman of a similar age and appearance to my own mom. I don't know what happened behind closed doors, but I worry that Hattie may associate my mom with the breeder. Our vet believed that something occurred to her in her puppyhood that caused irreversible psychological damage, making her how she is today. It is entirely my fault for not better researching the breeder before adopting, and I feel terrible about it to this day, especially seeing how it's affected Hattie.

Hattie also has a number of other issues besides her aggression. She has an extreme barking problem, and will bark constantly at even the slightest of noise. We've tried all sorts of tactics to help combat this and train her to stop -- beeping collars, vibrating collars, flashing lights (anything besides a shock collar because I personally believe them to be cruel) and just plain verbal discipline, but nothing has worked. It has gotten to the point where we have to put a muzzle on her when she barks too much. She also has not yet learned how to pee/poop outside, despite all of our efforts to train her. She loves going outside, but she only ever wants to bark and run around, not do her business. We have trained her to use potty pads inside the house, but we are getting tired of having to buy them all the time and I really want to get her to go outside, but it is hard when the only thing she does is bark. She also has extreme separation anxiety, worse than any dog we've had before. However, all of the issues are a little lower on the priority list, since her aggression is what's doing the most damage.

I feel like a terrible dog owner for not knowing what to do or how to deal with these problems. My parents don't want to take her to a professional trainer out of fear that she would attack them. I love Hattie dearly and want to help her get better, because I know she's scared and uncomfortable. Does anyone have any advice on what I should do to combat her aggression? Thank you all so much in advance.

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I don’t have the answer - but I do feel your pain... I posted a similar thread and the forum combined ours as similar posts so I happened to see this. Like you I have tried it all, INCLUDING shock collars and what I found with my dog at least is she will bear the shock and still do it anyway because she’s trying to protect me from the thing she perceived as a threat. All your doing is adding a shock to the experience for her which she’s gonna endure anyway and still do the thing knowing she will get shocked because she thinks she’s being protective of me. So I gave up on that and threw it out. I have never hit my dog but I suspect it too would have zero effect on this behavior. They are not doing it to please us they are doing it to protect us and anything we do as a result is just something they will endure and continue the aggression because they think that it’s required to protect us from the threat. I totally feel your pain and hopefully someone out there has some good ideas for both of us :).
 

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My parents don't want to take her to a professional trainer out of fear that she would attack them.
Honestly, an attack is not likely to happen. This shouldn't be a a reason to not take her.
Your dog has some serious issues that no one in your household can remedy on their own. Seek professional help.

I'd start by consulting with a certified behaviourist, and examine whether medication may also be an option..
 
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