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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Just recently adopted a stray dog, non-neutered male, supposedly 3 years old, supposedly border collie. Everyone in the neighbourhood says he never attacked anyone before, he used to be a smart, gentle dog. But since the adoption his behaviour has become assertive. He did attempt to attack a few other people on the street, those who attemted to cuddle him. But also we had three biting accidents so far, where his aggression was directed towards me, his owner.

The first was right when I put the collar and the leash on him for the first time. He started to pull, trying to break free. Frustrated that he couldn't, he growled at me, then attempted to bite me by the hand. He only managed to grab the glove, I let him have it, then shouted at him.

The second was entirely my fault, I suppose. He was chewing the bone the next day at home. I was in a hurry to take him somewhere, so I pushed the bone away from with my leg. He suddenly bit my leg and barked once (the first and only time he barked so far). I yelled at him, he sat and left the bone alone.

Then for a few days he didn't show any aggression towards me at all.

The third, the most recent one, happened today. We were on the walk, then he noticed a small doggie approaching. I couldn't see the owner, so I decided not to risk it, and pulled him away with a leash. He started growling (I'm not sure if he was growling at the dog or at me at this point), but complied. Then he stood on his hind legs and put his front legs on me, as he loves to do all the time. I started cuddling him, and he suddenly growled then bit my left forearm. I yelled at him, pulled the left hand away and pulled him away by the leash with my right hand, probably enough to strangle him a bit for a second, but I'm not sure. After he was back on the ground, he growled a bit, then calmed down. We continued to walk as normal then. After coming home, I noticed that he actually managed to bite through my coat and leave one small puncture on my skin. First time he had any success biting me.

I'm worried. What was that? Was that his desire to mate (provided the other dog was a female) or typical border collie attempt to challenge his master? Or is he simply not happy with me for some reason? What is the chance he will launch a full-scale attack (you know, bite to kill kind)? What can I do then? Or if he attacks me when I'm home without the protective coat and he's not on a leash so I can't pull him away? Can I trust him not to attack without provocation? And finally, can I inhibit his aggression?
 

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Are you in an area where you can find a decent trainer? One that is both experienced in dealing with dogs with aggression or guarding issues and uses positive or generally positive methods?

I don't think biting or trying to bite a person is part of a border collie's personality. I've met some that nip to herd and one who is a resource guarder that will bite (over a resource, but not human aggressive out of the blue) There are very few breeds specifically bred for human aggression. But a street dog could be very wary of humans easily enough.

I notice that you mention cuddling him; not a lot of dogs like to be cuddle. Friendly and well socialized dogs will tolerate it- for ex. my dog Chester will put up with being hugged and held close by me or a stranger, but he is simply tolerating it. Luna the Pit LOVES to be cuddled and will seek it out, pressing herself against me or crawling into my lap etc. If a dog doesn't seek out cuddling, don't do it.

It sounds (but of course none of us can see what happened) like there was "provocation" each time. For example, in the most recent incident, you cuddled him (stressful probably) and he growled to warn you to release him, when you didn't, he bit you. Not appropriate of course, but not completely unprovoked (in his mind) either.

Many dogs that bite can be rehabbed, some bite from resource guarding, others from stress, and some from medical problems (pain can make a dog touchy, thyroid problems can cause aggression) etc. But it sounds like you have more on your hands than internet advice can deal with.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Are you in an area where you can find a decent trainer? One that is both experienced in dealing with dogs with aggression or guarding issues and uses positive or generally positive methods?
A trainer? Yes. Experienced with aggression? Yes. Positive methods? Unlikely.

I notice that you mention cuddling him; not a lot of dogs like to be cuddle. Friendly and well socialized dogs will tolerate it- for ex. my dog Chester will put up with being hugged and held close by me or a stranger, but he is simply tolerating it. Luna the Pit LOVES to be cuddled and will seek it out, pressing herself against me or crawling into my lap etc. If a dog doesn't seek out cuddling, don't do it.
I am under impression he likes it very much. He stands on his hind legs and puts his front legs on my chest, looking me in the eyes, letting the tongue out and wagging his tail. Does that mean he's asking for cuddling or could he be possibly asking for something else? He also has a nasty habit of attacking from that very position.

But it sounds like you have more on your hands than internet advice can deal with.
You're probably right. Too bad I'm low on money for the trainer, but I guess I will have to manage somehow.
 

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I am under impression he likes it very much. He stands on his hind legs and puts his front legs on my chest, looking me in the eyes, letting the tongue out and wagging his tail. Does that mean he's asking for cuddling or could he be possibly asking for something else? He also has a nasty habit of attacking from that very position.
Well, I can't say what your dog is asking for, but it isn't necessarily cuddling/holding closely. Chester does something similar when he wants dinner (if I am sitting, he comes up and puts both paws on my lap or shoulders if he can reach). My opinion is that unless a dog is basically crawling into your lap and settling down there, then they probably aren't asking for cuddling.

Since you've only had the dog a week, start with building trust. Don't do anything forceful- no cuddling, no dragging along on a leash etc. Sit near the dog and drop treats for him to take. Let him choose to come to you. Let him initiate interaction and if he growls, remember that is a warning sign to STOP whatever you are doing. Never punish a growl.

Don't take any food or treat away from him- remember that if he has been a stray, he's had to defend his food from other dogs and animals. He doesn't yet know that you are any different from those dogs on the street that would take his food. Slowly start the trading-up: don't start with taking away a bone, start with something like just coming near his food while giving him a really awesome treat like cheese or a hot dog piece. Don't reach down, just walk by and drop the treat.

Take EVERYTHING really slowly. Finding a good trainer would be best, I really don't know how well someone can give advice like this in text and I wouldn't want to encourage something that makes things worse (as in, something might have worked on one dog but maybe your dog has a completely different issue); but taking things slow and calm and building trust cannot hurt to begin with.

Everything above is just my suggestions, I'm not a trainer and cannot see your dog's actions.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Well, I can't say what your dog is asking for, but it isn't necessarily cuddling/holding closely. Chester does something similar when he wants dinner (if I am sitting, he comes up and puts both paws on my lap or shoulders if he can reach). My opinion is that unless a dog is basically crawling into your lap and settling down there, then they probably aren't asking for cuddling.
Interesting, I'll try to watch him closer. Sometimes after getting a good walk and enough food he stops that practice and just goes to sleep. Could this mean?..

Since you've only had the dog a week, start with building trust. Don't do anything forceful- no cuddling, no dragging along on a leash etc. Sit near the dog and drop treats for him to take. Let him choose to come to you. Let him initiate interaction and if he growls, remember that is a warning sign to STOP whatever you are doing.
I'm trying to do just that. Except that I didn't consider growl a warning. He has a very short growling period, too. He would growl no more than a second before biting. Also, he's very good on the leash, seems like he received leash training before. He needs only a gentle pull to change direction. Generally, I prefer him to lead the way while walking, unless our interests contradict each other. He was pulling regularly for the first two days, but now these cases are rare and exceptional, when there's something very interesting for him. Come to think of it, there was another possible aggression case when he was standing just like that and I was cuddling him, he growled and I let him go. He stopped. I thought I mistook something else for a growl, but what if I didn't?

Never punish a growl.
Huh? Seriously? Okay.

Take EVERYTHING really slowly. Finding a good trainer would be best, I really don't know how well someone can give advice like this in text and I wouldn't want to encourage something that makes things worse (as in, something might have worked on one dog but maybe your dog has a completely different issue); but taking things slow and calm and building trust cannot hurt to begin with.

Everything above is just my suggestions, I'm not a trainer and cannot see your dog's actions.
Note taken. Still, thanks very much for your input. You gave me something to ponder. I will try to find a trainer.
 

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You never want to punish a growl. A grown is the warning that comes before snapping and biting. Punish a dog for growling, and he will skip the growling and go straight to biting.

And I don't think he was being aggressive when you were cuddling him and he was growling, he was simply telling you to back off. You only got this dog recently, he barely knows you. Give him time and go slooooow. Like others said, don't force anything. Some dogs are just never comfortable with cuddles and close affection.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hey, also my good friend who had some experience with dogs just told me that if the dog is aggressive at that age, he cannot be "reconfigured" and that he wouldn't risk keeping the dog. This is not true, is it?
 

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Hey, also my good friend who had some experience with dogs just told me that if the dog is aggressive at that age, he cannot be "reconfigured" and that he wouldn't risk keeping the dog. This is not true, is it?
Absolutely false. Don't believe that for a second, especially since your dog hasn't really shown signs of aggression. He is just settling in and needs some training, in my opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Absolutely false. Don't believe that for a second, especially since your dog hasn't really shown signs of aggression. He is just settling in and needs some training, in my opinion.
Thank you :) And thanks to you and Crantastic for clearing out the matter with growling. I wonder if the growling reflex can somehow be restored? Should it be restored then?

By the way, when he lies on the floor, and I reach out to him, and he is on his back then, spreading his legs, does at least that mean "cuddle me please"? Or can it have other meanings too?

Is there any general way to figure out whether the dog likes whatever I'm doing or just tolerates?
 

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Some dogs like being hugged, but many don't. He may want you to rub his belly, but probably not "cuddle."

"The Other End of the Leash" is an excellent book by applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell. You may want to check out -- it taught me a lot about how dogs communicate. They are so different from us humans in a lot of ways! :)
 

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Skip the "cuddling". When he rolls on his back, try gently rubbing his belly and between his front legs. Avoid 'hovering" directly over him. Don't hug him. Do hand feed him treats/dinner. it'll help with resource guarding (like with the bone).
Practice trading up games. Give him something of much higher value, while saying "drop it" or "give". Then give him back whatever you traded for and let him enjoy it in peace.
 

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typical border collie attempt to challenge his master?
Huh? Border collies are bred to cooperate with their master, not challenge them. They're generally highly biddable, and although they are often challenging to own, it's usually because they try to outsmart their owners at every opportunity, not because of aggression. I would say that yours is probably an exception, rather than fairly typical of the breed.
 

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These three situations don't sound too alarming to me. They all happened under stress. They all involved resourses or re-directed frustrations/aggression. All of them sound like they were the result of a nervous/pent up dog.

My guess would be that if you exercise the dog more, give the dog another couple of weeks to adjust, and work on your dog's leash reactivity, you will be fine. You have a new relationship and (it sounds like) a dog with few training skills. It's pretty "normal" for an amped up dog to grab whatever he can when he is focused on something that's revving him up.

Now, this assumes that your "bites" did not result in skin-breaking puncture wounds and that the dog let you go as soon as he came to his senses.

I would try to exercise your dog in low-traffic areas or at low-traffic times until some of the newness of the relationship wears off. I am a big fan of training classes to help desensitize a dog to the presence of other dogs. And while border collies are certainly biddable, they also have a reputation for being on the reactive side. Most of this sounds like reactivily, especially if they were soft bites.
 

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Is there any general way to figure out whether the dog likes whatever I'm doing or just tolerates?
Yes, for sure I would say that if he bites you chances are he doesn't like it. Time is needed, more distraction free quiet time for you and your new dog.

I missed something, how come everybody in the neighborhood know your recently adopted dog. You do realize that if you keep this dog there will be plenty of time to cuddle since this seems to be very important to you. Leave it go for now.
 

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I'm trying to do just that. Except that I didn't consider growl a warning. He has a very short growling period, too. He would growl no more than a second before biting. Also, he's very good on the leash, seems like he received leash training before. .
NEVER EVER punish a growl, it IS a warning and the more it gets punished the shorter it will get until he goes DIRECTLY to bite!

You need to desensitize to the collar and to anything else he shows fear (yes, this is FEAR) toward. He needs POSITIVE associations to new things.

Where are you loacated? We can try to find a behavioral trainer (or veterinary behaviorist) to help you. I also highly reccomend you desensitize him to a muzzle for his safety and the safety of others and get a FULL veterinary exam INCLUDING BLOODWORK for Thyroid, tick-born illnesses, eye exam (especailly for glaucoma) and heart exam. Often fear and anxiety (resulting in aggression) are a result of underlying health conditions.

I also HIGHLY reccomend you get some information on dog body language so you can recognize his stress signs BEFORE he starts growling. Look in hte training section under the "reccomended reading" thread, there are several good books and book/video combos that could help listed there.
 

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If someone placed a stack of $100 bills on your desk and then started walking by and taking one away how long would it take before you'd slap their hand when they reached for the money? Resource guarding. Now if they walked by and added $50 each time you didnt smack them you'd start to relax, right? Its the same way with our dogs, especially one that may have had to defend his food from others. Now teach him its okay, walk by and drop those $50's...probably better to use yummy treats ;)

My 3 year old Saint Bernard will resource guard certain things. He will give a warning growl and lift his lips if he has something so high value and someone tries to remove it. This does not make him mean, vicious, aggressive or a bad dog it makes him a dog that wants to keep what he has. For the safety of the children in my home, those things I know he resource guards are only offered when the kids are at school or in bed. As these items are given regularly he's learning he doesnt have to guard them, that even though I may remove them I will give them back another time and that when I take them I give something really yummy (freeze dried beef liver is very high value to him).

With Buster there are a lot of warnings before he growls. He'll stiffen and get this really tense look to him. Ignore that and he'll start to lift his lips. Then you'll hear him rumble. No one has pushed him beyond that. We then go back and try to figure out WHY he felt the need to give these warnings. In one case it was my teenage daughter taking him by the collar to move him when he was laying somewhere comfortable. When SHE stopped using his collar to guide him, he stopped growling at her. She can still move him, she just has to use the right cues (treats while we were teaching him to listen to her didnt hurt). I dont believe he had a desire to harm her or even scare her, he was simply telling her "I dont like that". Retrain the kid, get her more involved in his care (build TRUST between them) and the issue has disappeared. This is a 125lb teenage girl handling a 140lb male Saint Bernard.

I cant comment on the redirected aggression, thats something I have never experienced.
 

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I think the thing to remember in re-directed aggression is that the bite is really going to the object the dog is focusing on. Emotionally, the dog is biting the on-coming dog or the squirrel. It's about loss of focus, wigging out. It's not human aggression in the least.

Now, biting isn't okay. I am not suggesting that it is. Success lies in managing the dog better. Use the leash instead of a collar grab. Avoid craziness or provoking situations. Desensitize the dog. Burn off excess energy. Teach behaviors that focus and calm (or at least distract) the dog.

And sometimes you just learn to deal with it. I have a spicey female. I know that if I grab her when she's tustling with a dog, I WILL be bitten. So, I keep her from tustling with other dogs. If there's an accident, I use the collar she's wearing. If I can't get to the collar, I will be bitten. And that's just plain my fault for not managing the situation. My fault.
 

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You are moving WAY TOO FAST. This is a problem I see again and again. People get a new dog and expect that the instant they get the dog, they're going to have this perfect, close, loving relationship. Instantaneously.

This is not going to happen.

Those relationships take a long time to develop, they don't just happen. They're based on time and trust and experience. Which you don't have because you've had the dog a week. What's a week? It's no time at all.

Back off. Stop cuddling. Stop pushing things. Stop insisting on this relationship that doesn't exist, and may never exist if you don't give the dog a reason to trust you- by not doing stuff that scares him, like cuddling and taking away his stuff and yelling at him when he reacts to scary things you do.

Read anything by Ian Dunbar and Culture Clash. Do not get a trainer if the methods aren't positive. Punishment based training is not going to help you with a stray that doesn't trust you.
 

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You are moving WAY TOO FAST. This is a problem I see again and again. People get a new dog and expect that the instant they get the dog, they're going to have this perfect, close, loving relationship. Instantaneously.

This is not going to happen.

Those relationships take a long time to develop, they don't just happen. They're based on time and trust and experience. Which you don't have because you've had the dog a week. What's a week? It's no time at all.

Back off. Stop cuddling. Stop pushing things. Stop insisting on this relationship that doesn't exist, and may never exist if you don't give the dog a reason to trust you- by not doing stuff that scares him, like cuddling and taking away his stuff and yelling at him when he reacts to scary things you do.

Read anything by Ian Dunbar and Culture Clash. Do not get a trainer if the methods aren't positive. Punishment based training is not going to help you with a stray that doesn't trust you.
I make a bunch of replies telling people to back off their new dogs and expecting instant trust/love etc etc etc. If I let a couple strangers in my house I'm an idiot if I go out to watch the sunrise while strangers are there. Would you meet an attractive stranger and then just immediately start hugging/cuddling/whatever with them, trust me it's just not gonna happen. The difference is your new strange dog does not have many options. Read the above quote then read it again
 
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