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She is a 3 year old shep mix that we got from a rescue, who had gotten her from a bad situation. evidentally she lived on the streets and some men used her for breeding with their pitbulls. the foster mom told me she was initially scared of men but that she was over it now. the dog has been perfect and gentle with everyone she has met, men and women alike, until Sunday afternoon. she was leashed sitting on the porch with me and a neighbor when another neighbor came across the street to talk and my dog lunged and bit him in the leg! I am so horrified and ashamed I can barely stand it, I feel like a terrible dog owner already. I have every intention of taking her to training classes (she currently can't leave the house- under quarantine) but my question is this: can this dog be helped or will she continue to bite? thanks for reading my first rambling post and thanks in advance for any advice.
 

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Since I don't know what led up to the bite (how he was approaching, how he was dressed, what he looked like etc...) my dog, who has been wih me since he age of 6wks from a breeder (she's 9 now) doesn't like most ppl lol, every once & a great while she will warm up to someone, but its very rare. What method have you been using to desensitize her?
 

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You might have to involve a behaviorist, but to start I wouldn't allow people your dog doesn't know to just walk up to her. She's come from a bad situation, and will need your help understanding that she can trust your judgement on what constitutes a threat. Until then she'll act to protect herself and you against whatever she thinks is a threat. Also, read up on dog body language. Dogs give off all sorts of signals that precede an attack. These signals might come only seconds or less before the attack, but you'll be able to see them if you pay attention while someone approaches. Most people will walk straight towards a dog with direct eye contact and stretch out a hand to get sniffed. This is a perfect way to get bitten. Dogs don't greet this way, and unless your dog has been properly socialized and has good nerves, this kind of direct approach is very threatening to them.
 

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From your description of the incident, it sounds like she was terrified but couldn't get away because she was leashed and felt backed into a corner with a scary man crowding her. I don't know how much experience you have with dogs, but she was probably giving off multiple signs that should have alerted you that she was scared and was going to bite. If you really want to help her, you should contact a veterinary behaviorist in your area. Make sure to find a behaviorist, not just a trainer.

Regarding the fear of men, she's never going to be just "over it now". Even if she gets used to one man, dogs don't generalize well and yours will need to be introduced to scary things (i.e. men) slowly and in small increments. In the meantime, don't force her into any new situations for now. She's new to your home so she needs time to get used to that. Work on developing your bond and help her to trust you. Good luck to you and thank you for giving her a home.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Since I don't know what led up to the bite (how he was approaching, how he was dressed, what he looked like etc...) my dog, who has been wih me since he age of 6wks from a breeder (she's 9 now) doesn't like most ppl lol, every once & a great while she will warm up to someone, but its very rare. What method have you been using to desensitize her?
He's a tall man with a loud deep voice and he's very hyper and moves erratically. he came out between two parked cars yelling and holding a paddleball SIGH and he had the nerve to blame me -.- I hate to sound ignorant, but what do you mean by desensitize? The few other male neighbors that have approached her have done so cautiously and she's been very good and let them pet her.

I will read up on dog body language. I wasn't paying much attention to her at the time (my fault) but to my untrained eye she appeared to be just sitting calmly. I missed her warning signs. I should probably also mention that when she bit and he jumped back she stopped and came to me immediately. is it possible she was trying to protect me or my daughter who was playing nearby?
 

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'Desensitize' refers to getting a dog used to accepting something that used to scare or upset them. If your dog doesn't like men that well, have men over that understand how to approach her. If you're walking her and she sees a man, give her a treat for this. If she starts to show signs of stress, you're approaching her threshold and need to calmly walk her away or have your male visitor leave. The trick is to give treats and praise while she's somewhere around what scares her, but not to push her into it until she's freaking out. Over time this will reset her fearful reaction to one of pleasure, or at least that's the goal. How successful you'll be depends on how patient you can be with her and the extent of her emotional trauma.

Be aware of your own emotional state as well. If you get upset when a man approaches, she'll get upset and might even think she needs to protect you. And yes, it's completely possible that she interpreted his movements as a threat to you.
 

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He's a tall man with a loud deep voice and he's very hyper and moves erratically. he came out between two parked cars yelling and holding a paddleball SIGH and he had the nerve to blame me -.- I hate to sound ignorant, but what do you mean by desensitize? The few other male neighbors that have approached her have done so cautiously and she's been very good and let them pet her.
I might have bitten that guy if he came near me. Of course your dog was scared of him. Dogs are also known to be far more reactive while on leashes than off leashes, so this could have contributed to her behavior.

Like others mentioned, you need to learn her warning signs - when she's uncomfortable, she's not just sitting there doing nothing. Her ears may change positions, she may start breathing more heavily, she may lower her head or tail slightly... These are all warnings of stress.

Also, it's your job to make sure people approach her calmly and cautiously. When you have her out and someone is approaching, call out and warn them that the dog is nervous of strangers. It is your fault that you let this man approach your dog without first telling him HOW to approach. You can desensitize your dog to strangers by having several friends your dog hasn't met help you - arm them with treats, and when they meet your dog, have them feed her. This way she will begin to equate strangers with positive things happening, as opposed to fear.

Is this your first dog? Honestly, rescuing a problem Shepherd mix for a first dog isn't really advisable. The breed is large and strong and can be difficult to handle. You need to make sure to spend some time researching Shepherd body language. Training classes will help, as well :)
 

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This ^^^^ this is what I meant by desensitize. But the important thing is to do this OUT of her threshold overload, no matter how far away from the trigger (I.e. Man) is in the beginning. You csn even use a clicker for this (just load it first, which means have a handful of yummy treats in your hand, then click, treat, repeat til they are gone) this lets the dog know that click=treat for something good ;). So after you have EST that, every time she sees a man just click & treat & praise also if u want to (I can't help finding myself doing this :D). If you want to jut use a marker word (anything u want, like "look at that!" or "watch!") partnered with a yummy, high value treat (cut up hot dog works fabulously) then that's ok too. :)
 

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Thanks so much for all the helpful advice! I'm going to get us to a behaviorist asap. I would agree that this isn't an ideal first dog, however the s/o I mentioned earlier is a former marine who worked with a k9 unit so I do have a bit of help :)
 

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In this case, another word for desensitize may be socialize, exposing her to lots of dog savvy men (other K9 marines?), 3 at a time, until she's met about 50 people, expand her circle of friends to include women and teenagers. Then, if you trust her you could try some calm children. The behaviorist can help with this.
 

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I have a dog who isn't so friendly with strangers as well so I know what you are going through!! Don't stop taking your dog out for walks and getting the excersize that it truely needs or you can make the problem worse. Just inform people that he isn't good with strangers and that you don't want them to approach him.
 
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