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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I am new to these forums, but I'm reaching out for some much needed support. I have a 4 year old Australian Shepherd that has picked up a habit of biting, as of approximately one year ago. It began with random snaps at strangers and new visitors (only males). More specifically, when we would be on a walk and a man approached, every now and then he would snap at said man (not every man though). Same went for his selectiveness on biting new friends that came over. Some men could pet his head and others would get a scary snap. The unpredictability of this behavior is very stressful for my wife and I, and gives us an ever-present worry of inviting guests to our home.

This behavior began to show itself as separation anxiety-like biting shortly thereafter. So the typical bite if we happened to pet him before we left. Clearly, since then we have completely ignored him when leaving the house, so we didn't know for sure if it was still present or not. Until about 3 weeks ago when my wife ran back home after leaving for work to grab something, ran back out the house, and when walking by the dog he lunged and snapped at her. Oh no, that problem is still around too.

About 4 months ago, we moved to a larger home with a large yard. Previously, we were in a shoebox for an apartment in a city, and we attributed a lot of this high energy dog's anxiety to our shortcomings on space and activity. He now gets fetch or other cardio exercise twice a day, and the occasional mind game dog treat puzzle in between. He has seemed happier, but unfortunately he is still biting and it is becoming quite the stressful conundrum for us.

Last week, I pet his head in his dog bed before I went to bed. 5 seconds in, a very aggressive growl and attempt to bite my wrist. No more dog bed for him in our room. Just now (what motivated me to get on here), I was doing work on my couch with him lying on the arm chair next to me looking cute, so I reach over to pet his head. 5 seconds go by, and another snap!

I am completely lost on how to combat this behavior. How do I correct/punish him when he bites? Normally, I stand up and tell him no, and send him to the guest bedroom for 15 minutes. Most of the time when I scold him with "no", he will bare his teeth at me as well.

Just a little more background on his anxiety: he doesn't like to walk in certain spots of the house, including entire rooms, so he traverses them by building up enough courage followed by a full out sprint to get to his next "safe" location. He used to have an issue with eating food in his food bowl where his head would bob in and out of the bowl, swoop around the bowl side to side, and even lift up a back leg while doing it. Possible signs of OCD?

Please help!
 

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Has he been to the vet? If it's specifically his head, I wonder if he's having pain in that area (maybe ear pain?) that makes him not want to be touched there. What about when you pet other areas?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have not been to the vet recently for this. Our last vet brushed off the significance of it. We are trying to see our current vet, but they require a behavior consultation first; however, their therapist has a very infrequent schedule which hasn't been lining up with my wife and I's schedules.

I can pet him all over the majority of time without any conflict. I can rub both his ears, pet all over his head and neck, but out of nowhere sometimes he just snaps. I don't know what he's trying to communicate with us.
 

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He sounds very anxious. I would contact a veterinary behaviorist, and be prepared to talk about possibly starting meds. The meds don't fix the problem on their own, but bring down the anxiety level to a place where your training can be effective.

I would also stop yelling at him and punishing him, as it's just making him more anxious. Not that you should just sit by and let him snap at you, but you should find a qualified professional who uses positive reinforcement to help you fix the root of the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the advice. I just shopped around to find a new vet with more convenient hours, and I've got an appointment for a behavior consult next week.
 
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