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Discussion Starter #1
So I'm at a bit of a loss with my rescue dog. He's part pitbull part ridgeback (his name is Eastwood) and a sweetheart with me and the people he interacts with on a daily or weekly basis. I got him from the pound when he was just under a year old and have had him for approximately 8 months now.

When I first got him, he loved everyone and would walk around and just meet people with no issues. He has never shown aggression toward myself or anyone whom he sees on a regular basis. Over the last few months he seems to be developing a fear aggression towards people and I can't identify what the issue is or how to stop it. An example of this is seeing someone he doesn't know, or has met maybe once before briefly and going up to them fine, then the person embraces him and starts to pet him, once the person stops petting him he instantly switches and barks and opens his mouth (though he has not bit anyone and does not actually bite, it looks to be a show to either say I'm the boss of you keep petting me, or get away from me). It's really strange to me that he lets people pet him then snaps when they stop. This isn't always the case however; most males he doesnt know he will do this behavior when they acknowledge him and try to pet him.

This is steadily increasing in severity over the last 4 or so months, where he would originally only show some aggression toward stranger males he had never met, to now doing this with people he has met on multiple occasions but hasn't seen for a few weeks. He first started to show these signs of aggression at a summer party at my parents house with about 30 people. He was inside and I was outside, we had been there for about 3.5 hours already and he was doing great with everyone until someone came outside and said hey Jeff Eastwood just snapped at someone. So i ran in to see what his deal was, and I could easily see he was scared. He had enough with all those people, and I took him into a room with just him and I and we hung out until we both left the party.

It's sad because he used to be a very social dog with people and i made sure to slowly socialize him with both people and dogs after I took him home from the pound (this isn't my first dog) but this behavior is very strange to me. He is still great with other dogs that he knows (though I have had 1 incident in a dog park where the other dog was the aggressor and once the other dog bit mine, mine fought back, we don't go to dog parks anymore because of this). He socializes with other dogs in the neighborhood incredibly well.

I've instructed people to completely ignore him and let him warm up to them when coming in contact with him but for some people this is apparently harder then it sounds as my step sister got a startle from him performing this behavior at thanksgiving.

I'm looking for any advice anyone may have on how to correct this behavior or if this is even a well known issue with dogs? I haven't been able to come up with any that revolves around the late development of what I assume to be fear aggression.

Thanks!
Jeff
 

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Take him to the vet first. Any change in behavior warrants a vet visit. He could have thyroid problems (specifically ask for this test, it's a blood test), he could be in pain, he could have an infection.

Once he checks out medically, if he does, contact a behaviorist. A large dog acting aggressively is nothing to play around with. iaabc.org has a search feature for behaviorists in your area. You want someone who works positively, avoid anyone who uses choke chains or dominance techniques or uses words like "traditional" or "balanced".

Until you have the appointment with the behaviorist, stop exposing Eastwood to people. On walks, simply tell people not to pet him. Don't take him to parties. When people come over, put Eastwood in another room or his crate.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure all of this is aggression. I can't quite tell how you're using words.

then the person embraces him and starts to pet him, once the person stops petting him he instantly switches and barks and opens his mouth (though he has not bit anyone and does not actually bite, it looks to be a show to either say I'm the boss of you keep petting me, or get away from me). It's really strange to me that he lets people pet him then snaps when they stop.
Is he air biting (snapping) or just opening his mouth? You say both. When you say "embrace" do you mean "hug"? Also, "I'm the boss of you" isn't the message any dog is sending. It sounds to me like he's either afraid because hugging is a very aggressive gesture to a lot of dogs, or he's just overly excited. Not all barking is aggression.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply. I should have added he was at the Vet a month ago for a round of shots and check up and he checked out completely as 100% healthy. This included a blood test as I had specifically requested one.

As for the clarification on the aggression. It is air biting with barking, though not the same bark as I've heard him make in an actually aggressive situation (When we had a run in at the dog park his aggressive bark was clearly very aggressive with snarling). He does not snarl at people, just air bite and bark. He is well within the range and ability to actually bite the individual when this happens but he never does, which what makes me believe its a fear reaction. I Immediately correct him and he instantly comes over to me with his ears down in a submissive state.

The embrace that i refer to is simply gesturing to pet him or have him smell a persons hand. With males he does not know, that warrants this aggressive reaction.

What I meant by the "im the boss of you comment" is it almost seems as though he doesn't want the person to stop petting him and since this individual isn't in his "pack" or an individual that he interacts with a daily basis the aggression is his way of telling the person not to stop petting (albeit a completely unacceptable reaction).

I am looking for a behaviorist currently as I don't want the behavior to progress any longer. It's just very strange to me how this behavior has developed over months, when he was initially great with all new people.
 

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Also to note. I've never used negative training techniques with Eastwood. He has never had a choker collar and never been hit. All training we have done is positive reinforcement. When he is out of line I get his attention (with a finger poke to get his attention on me) and correct the behavior. I don't know his past, so this may be very different to how he was brought up as a puppy, which I guess could cause confusion and result in the behavior developing?
 

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Is the finger poke similar to Cesar Millan's 'touch'? Dogs are very sensitive to intention and he might be reacting to the poke. Also, a poke and a verbal correction (as I assume you mean) is in fact negative training. I would stop poking him. He may think that the stranger is about to poke him or he has associated that poke with the stranger and is provoking that reaction. Definitely see a behaviourist and in the meantime don't let strangers pet him, air snaps are a warning that he is uncomfortable, best to keep him out of the situation until the issue is resolved.
 

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Is the finger p similar to Cesar Millan's 'touch'? Dogs are very sensitive to intention and he mig rea to the poke. Also, a poke and a verbal correction (as I assnouno y mean) is in fact negative traokining. I would stop poking him. He may think that the stranger is about to poke him or he has associated that poke with the stranger and is provoking that reaction. Definitely see a behaviourist and in the meantime don't let strangers pet him, air snaps are a warning that he is uncomfortable, best to keep him out of the situation until the issue is resolved.
Hi, no the poke isnot aggressive and its not even a "poke" in the sense, its simply me touching him to get his attention away from what hes focused on, then say his name with a firm no. No one else has ever tried to correct him in this situation so a fear of being corrected seems a bit strange as a cause.

Im definitely keeping him out of a situation where he is uncomfortable until this is resolved. I was hoping someone may have heard of this sort of specific behavior developing and what they did to solve. Hes scheduled to see a behaviorist this weekend.
 

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I'm not sure that I would correct him, just get his attention to something else. If he's using that as a warning that he's uncomfortable, and then you punish him by telling him no, he's just gonna stop warning people and go straight to more drastic measures, like actually biting.

I'd avoid letting strangers pet him or to at least get to that point of excitment. Before the person has stopped petting him is when you need to tell him "let's go" and move on.
 

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What happens if someone that stopped petting him, starting petting him again ?

My dog is friendly, but he teaches people to keep petting him, using negative reinforcement: he stops barking while people pet him :)
 

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I have a three year old Rottie that does the same thing. I’ve had her since she was 6 weeks old. I’d love the suggestions to help correct it as well
 

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1. How do you know that he is a Pit x Ridgeback? Could he be a Pit x Lab that gets excited and raises a ridge (hackles)?
2. I ask "Lab", b/c Retrievers will bark to say 'Hello", "pet me", etc. It can sound aggressive, but shouldn't look bad...
3. One training approach without more info is "It's Yer Choice": When the dog [Pit or Rott, etc.] barks [or jumps, etc.], then you ask the person to back up. When the dog settles, or sits [but stops barking], then ask the person to step forward one step and wait, then two steps and so on. If the dog barks or acts up, the person backs up five steps and stops, then another five, etc. until the dog settles. And repeat the process. It may take a few days of doing this for the dog to learn that he has the choice - He can bark the person away or be quiet to be petted. Some dogs pick it up quickly - Look up the term: "It's Yer Choice" for more information.
 
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