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Discussion Starter #1
I have an 8-month-old American Pit Bull Terrier. He has always been so friendly with people and other dogs. Now, he is suddenly aggressive towards anyone and anything he is unfamiliar with. It seems like it happened overnight. He barks, lunges, and growls at passing dogs and children, and anyone who dare try to pet him is met with loud snarls and snaps. He is not trying to hurt anyone or bite them hard enough to cause pain, but this is a really alarming change in behavior. I have to muzzle him when we go outside, not because he is overly reactive, but because people think he is too cute to resist and will approach until their arm is right next to his face before asking me if he is friendly, or not asking at all. His parents and litter mates are not like this at all. Someone told me that the runts of the litter were more prone to aggressive behavior, but there are two other puppies his size in the litter and they are both friendly. He is the only one that is not. When we go over to visit his family, they will happily greet visitors with a few barks and a wagging tail, while he will howl, jump up, and nip at the intruder's clothing. I don't know what to do. I got him because I thought he would be a stable, friendly dog. He is an angel with my friends and family and warms up to people quickly. I would never dream of getting rid of him, but this behavior needs to stop - fast! Is there anything I can to to "fix" him, or at least make the behavior manageable enough so that I am not embarrassed to take him out in public?
 

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For any SUDDEN change in behavior (truly sudden, not just changing as a dog matures and you don't notice it until it become a problem) a vet check is in order. Thyroid issues can alter behavior for example.

After that, can you think of anything that happened to him? He's still maturing, and a traumatic experience could cause reactivity.
How much socializing did you do? Regular positive reinforcement around new and unfamiliar people/places/sights?
How old was he when you got him? You say "parents and littermates"- from a breeder with both parents on-site?

Not seeing the dog, take this as strictly an observation of what you have written, but I would say that it is something that you can work on but you'll probably want some help from a trainer. You'll want to work with reward based training for good behavior- keeping him under this reaction threshold and rewarding for calm moments. Some dogs are more aggressive/reactive when muzzled, esp. if they weren't conditioned to it or if they don't feel confident (a muzzle takes away their self-defense and if the reactivity/aggression is fear based, then feeling defenseless just makes it worse).

A lot of it sounds like puppy behavior that he just hasn't been trained on yet- things like jumping for example. A basic obedience class can help with that. I took a reactive pit bull through a basic obedience class and with plenty of work on my own time, saw HUGE progress in just a few months. This thread http://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/104329-luna-foster-pit-bull.html tracks her progress from nearly uncontrollable to adopted and able to live with another dog. Some places have classes like "Feisty Fido" or "Controlled Unleashed" that work with reactive or aggressive dogs in smaller groups than a typical obedience class.

Oh, and I think the "runt" being aggressive sounds like a bunch of BS.
 

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Has he been neutered?

What training have you tried so far?

What socialization exercises have you tried?

Is there some event that might explain his behavior change?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
We got him when he was 8 weeks old. He was a star at puppy class and we have always gone everywhere with him. We adopted him from my friends, whose dogs weren’t altered and had puppies accidentally before they were able to get the dogs altered. All of the other dogs in his family are stable, friendly, and I see them all frequently when we go there for play dates. Most of the puppies were adopted by their roommates, so out of ten dogs they still have five living there.

He was previously very well-socialized and friendly with every person and dog he came across. This behavior is very recent and only started about 2-3 weeks ago. I suspect he was traumatized when someone ran up unexpectedly from behind him, grabbed ahold of his face, stared into his eyes like he was a piece of meat, then looked at me and said “Ohh, he has such pretty eyes!” Mind you, this was a full-grown adult and not a small child. I didn’t have time to tell him that that was not a nice way to greet dogs and would startle any dog, regardless of temperament. It scared the crap out of him, and that was the first time he ever snapped at anyone. Now it is getting increasingly worse and is becoming chronic. He has gone from being a dog that loves meeting new people to a dog that doesn’t want to be approached by strangers at all, almost overnight.

We had him neutered at 16 weeks with no complications. We took him to the vet and they do not suspect anything is wrong with him, although he did have a skin infection that was taken care of with antibiotics. The veterinarian told me that he was the image of perfect health. I did ask her about the aggression, but she seemed confused because it was the first time she had ever met the dog and he was so friendly she couldn’t imagine why he was wearing a muzzle at all. He’s always loved going to the vet and doesn‘t mind people in uniform. I was thinking that I should have him tested for hormonal imbalances while I was there, but she seemed insistent that there would be physical symptoms if he did.

Right now, we are taking him out in public with a muzzle on and being very persistent that people walking up with their arms outstretched towards my dog back away immediately. However, some people are just plain ignorant and will wait a few minutes before sticking their hand in biting range again. I have been constantly monitoring him to avoid aggressive reactions and giving him treats for reacting appropriately towards strangers, and trying to walk him in less populated areas than the ones we usually take him to.
 

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Hmm.... there is a sticky about approaching strangers properly. You can do training exercises where people ("strangers") toss him treats so he learns their presence means good things. Of course for that he would have to be out of the muzzle so it wouldnt be appropriate to practice in the street with people you don't know. Muzzling him in public is definitely the way to go, hopefully you will be able to overcome this issue but until you're 100% sure safety has to be top priority. Also, since he is a pit bull ANY bite will be considered big news so its for his safety too... Wish I had more advice, there are some really good trainers here on the forum, maybe they will put in their two cents.
 
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