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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone here ever tried using a muzzle on walks to try calming a dog with fear aggression? My dog has FA towards most dogs and some people.

I've heard it can help for awhile now but haven't really considered it until the shelter I volunteer at started implementing play groups - some of the dogs who originally seem aggressive towards other dogs did fine in play groups if muzzled and eventually were weaned off the muzzles.

If you've done this, what were your results? Also, what is the most comfortable style of muzzle for a dog? I'm assuming a basket muzzle?

FWIW: I've tried a variety of methods with my dog and have used three trainers before considering this. He has a very low threshold and isn't food or toy motivated, so it's an extremely challenging situation. Hoping this might work!
 

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I hear you !

I have an extreemly FA german shepherd, who also had (had) an extreemly low threashold as well. Same as you, we went through 3 trainers before we found our current one, Joe, who's AMAZING!!

We bought a muzzle for our dog, and use it when we are going to be in unpredictable situations, and when he's officially going to meet a new dog. It does seem to help him. BUT, the reason it helps him is because it helps ME first. I'm much more calm and collected, knowing that if he should act out in a horrible way, at least no one is going to get hurt.
And because I'm a little more calm and confident, so is the dog.

A basket muzzle is the way to go. I think mine is a Baskerville, they are easy to find at most petstores and online.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I hear you !

I have an extreemly FA german shepherd.
My FA boy is also a german shepherd! They are absolutely my favorite breed but the one downfall is that they are so prone to being fear aggressive and don't bounce back easily after traumatic events.

My dog was super socialized and used to come everywhere with me, off leash when it was a safe area, even to fireworks shows and parades and such and he was always so friendly. Only took one bad dog attack to change him completely.

My husband doesn't really have much of a problem with him on walks as I do. I'm not sure if it's because he's more confident about it, or if it's because I'm my GSDs person. He's much more protective of me.

At the same time though, he goes berserk in the house when he sees a dog walking past, so I think it's more of a protective thing with me (/the house) than it has to do with my calmness, but I think it's definitely worth a shot.

My only worry is that obviously walking him with a muzzle means that if anything were to happen, he couldn't defend himself/protect me if needed.
 

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Muzzles are invaluable for a number of reasons but they have to be introduced properly and used in several different situations otherwise the muzzle make the dog predict a negative situation and it has the opposite effect of what it's meant to. For example if your dog isn't happy going to the vets so you put on a before he's going everytime he's going to predict going to the vet and become anxious about the situation before it even happens meaning they're more likely going to have a more severe negative reaction to the routine because of trigger stacking.

So you need to work a lot with introducing the muzzle and then apply it to all situations and make it random so there's no prediction of a bad event.
 

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My only worry is that obviously walking him with a muzzle means that if anything were to happen, he couldn't defend himself/protect me if needed.
Think of it this way, Have you ever been in a situation where he's needed to defend you or himself? (Other than that one unfortunate attack?)
Also, 99% of "protective" dogs are not actually protective, they are fearful. It takes proper training for a dog to be truly protective, and confident and solid.

A muzzle will be your best choice, by far. Make it a game to your dog. I held a piece of hotdog at the end of the muzzle, and the only way he could get it was if he put his nose into it. It only took him a day to figure out that Muzzle = treat.

Then we took him outside for a short period of time with it on. Literally, only a few minutes at time, so we could guarantee that there were no dogs in the vicinity to distract and scare him. Gradually took him out for longer periods and he has absolutely no issues if we throw a muzzle on him now.
 

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As long as you train the dog to like the muzzle, it's a great resource. But that involves some really heavy counter conditioning before stepping outside with it. It's also not a cure all. The dog is still FA, they still feel the same fears, have the same reactions and need training for that.

Have you checked out fearfuldogs.com? Also, have you considered trialing medication for anxiety? GSDs suffer from being popular, which means that many, many people breed them purely for money, which has resulted in a lot of seriously anxious dogs. If you're anxious at the genetic level, training will only go so far. It would definitely be worth it to at least try Prozac and see if it helps.
 

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We had Lako on Prozac for a while, and weaned him off of it. Honestly, there wasn't much of a difference in his behaviour. The vet wanted to add in some other drug on top of the prozac (Valium?) but we decided that it wasn't an option at $200 a month for the pills.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Think of it this way, Have you ever been in a situation where he's needed to defend you or himself?.
Yes, actually. One time protecting me. I don't live in *the* greatest neighborhood. I can say for certain that if I didn't have him, I would have been kidnapped and probably worse. I've never had an issue with it but I know my husband had a loose dog try to attack his dog on a walk recently with the owners right on the porch, he actually had to kick the dog because the owners wouldn't even come get their dog once it was attacking. My neighborhood really sucks and until we can get out that's the reality of it.
 

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As long as you train the dog to like the muzzle, it's a great resource. But that involves some really heavy counter conditioning before stepping outside with it. It's also not a cure all. The dog is still FA, they still feel the same fears, have the same reactions and need training for that.

Have you checked out fearfuldogs.com? Also, have you considered trialing medication for anxiety? GSDs suffer from being popular, which means that many, many people breed them purely for money, which has resulted in a lot of seriously anxious dogs. If you're anxious at the genetic level, training will only go so far. It would definitely be worth it to at least try Prozac and see if it helps.
Absolutely, training would for sure be a part of it. I'm really just hoping if nothing else it will make his threshold a little better. Once he sees a dog, all bets are off and he's so focused that there's really little training that I can do. It's so hard to do positive reinforcement to change a behavior like this with a dog who isn't food motivated.

Luckily I don't think desensitizing him to the muzzle will be too much of a challenge, he's a really laid back dog who is extremely well behaved in every other respect and is very eager to please me, he's one of the few dogs I've encountered who is truly praise motivated. Aside from FA issues, really just a displeased look from me is enough to correct him.

I'm not really sure medication would help him, as his issue was definitely situational. He's 5 years old now, and the issue didn't emerge until he was 4 years old, right after the attack. I only have issues with him really on walks as well (besides him barking at dogs walking by the house), so I'm not sure I would want him medicated for such an isolated occurrence.
 
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