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Hi,

I am new to these forums and I need a little help or advice. Anybody willing to read a long post, please.

My parents adopted a red heeler puppy in September of 2015 and she was approximately a year old. They are experienced dog owners, this being the 10th dog that has come into their lives together, either through ownership, assistance in training, or their kids adopting their own dogs. Some have worked out, some went to different situations for various reasons. They adopted her following the death of a beloved red heeler who developed cancer.

They were excited to give another puppy a good home, especially a red heeler because they had come to love the breed. All of their kids are grown, with only one still living at home. They live with my maternal grandmother, who also loves dogs. They have one other dog, a male border collie. I lived with them for a few months after the adoption for a new job. I brought with me my 5 year old red heeler, female. My brother's male border collie also lived with them some of the time since he worked out of town quite a bit.

Lily, the new puppy, came from a previous home with a young couple in a small apartment. Lily was too much for them to handle, plus they were moving to New York. My parents were willing to put in the training of a difficult dog, but didn't know she was aggressive.

After the adoption, we started seeing problems early on. Lily would show aggression and dominance over the other dogs. Only the oldest male put her in her place, the other two unfortunately are too timid and just took it.

My dog and I came to stay a few weeks after the adoption, so Lily had already grown attached to the rest of the family quite a bit. Upon first meeting Lily, she instantly decided she didn't like me. I was not able to pet her or approach her without some show of aggression. To this day i can only get her to come close if I offer a treat and show i am not dangerous. But she can quickly change her mind and nip at me or growl.

She liked my poor dog even less. There have been innumerable dog fights which ended in bleeding and a few vet visits for stitches (mostly my dog.) My brother's border collie has gotten it a few times too.

Lately, she has grown bolder and actually bitten a few people. The saddest is the attempt she made on my parent's only granddaughter (whom they adore!) when she was visiting, along with her mother, my sister. My parents simply cannot have this.

This is not the first aggressive dog in our family. We adopted a male puppy years ago. We think he was a pit bull, heeler mix, but never knew for sure. He came from an abusive home. When he got older he started to show aggression towards strangers and other dogs. We received professional training and worked hard to train him to improve. Ultimately, however, we had to let him go. He had gotten out of the yard and bitten somebody. We decided to put him down. But my mother and I developed a lot of experience in training for this.

For Lily, we did everything we knew. We used a correction collar around strangers, and my mom bought a zap collar when more traditional methods didn't work. This helps some but has not had a lasting effect. They kennel trained her from early on. They firmly corrected her when she growled or nipped.

Now, she is biting at friends and family and will not tolerate anybody but my mom or dad to get her out of her kennel. She barks and gets really aggressive when any of us approach.

Its getting to the point that my mom and dad don't know what else to do, so we are reaching out for help. They don't want to get rid of her because we all really see the potential in her. There are times when she is good, and she is really smart. They just don't have the time or resources to keep training. But they also don't want to put family in danger and want to be able to have their beloved granddaughter visit without fear of being bitten.

They really don't want this to come to the worst either, like it did with our other dog. That was painful for us all.

We are interested in re-homing her, or finding a rescue that takes dogs like her? Not sure what there is available. Or if anyone else has had similar experience and has something we could try. I am just basically looking for any advice or anywhere we can go to find out more about humanely and safely re-homing her. We want to do the best we can for our family but also for Lily.


Thanks.

P.S. this is in Utah, for any advice on specific places to go to.
 

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This sort of thing needs responsible IN-PERSON evaluation and training from a professional behaviorist (not just any trainer) who uses modern, research based methods. If she has a legal bite record, you're likely to have an uphill battle to responsibly rehome her.

Unfortunately for Lily, you've appeared to have set her up for failure in several ways.

There have been innumerable dog fights which ended in bleeding and a few vet visits for stitches (mostly my dog.
Dog aggression happens; but once you start seeing that a dog isn't getting along with other dogs, allowing them to continue to interact in ways that open up a chance for repeated dog fights is just building on the problem. Every time a dog gets the chance to attack another dog, there is more stress and more antagonism between the dog-aggressive dog and other dogs (both the household dogs and strange dogs). Management isn't a dirty word in a multi-dog household when one dog is dog-aggressive. Things like crate-and-rotate, leashed walks and maybe CAREFULLY supervised play can keep the peace and keep dogs safe.

For Lily, we did everything we knew. We used a correction collar around strangers, and my mom bought a zap collar when more traditional methods didn't work. This helps some but has not had a lasting effect. They kennel trained her from early on. They firmly corrected her when she growled or nipped.
Aggression begets aggression. Correction collars and zapping a dog around strangers causes a dog to fear strangers, to feel in moreso that they have to bite first to protect themselves. Correcting a growl means a dog jumps right to a bite. After all, why should a dog warn a person that they are stressed or are guarding something (the growl is the warning) if they are just going to get in trouble for giving a warning?

Heelers can be nippy dogs, so it is possible that "normal" nipping as a puppy and younger dog being repeatedly corrected harshly has lead to more full blown aggression.

In the meantime, you NEED to manage this dog carefully. Muzzle training, kenneling around strangers and young family members, secure yard with supervision when outside. Etc.


ETA:
Best Friends Animal Society is in Utah and they are known for taking dogs that are otherwise un-adoptable or potentially un-adoptable.
 

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I'm a little confused about what you're looking for.

If you want training advice / advice to help keep your dog, Shell's comments are spot on. If you're looking for a rescue to take a dog with a bite history, that is going to be very difficult. Rehoming privately is risky due to liability issues.
 

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Hi,

I am new to these forums and I need a little help or advice. Anybody willing to read a long post, please.

My parents adopted a red heeler puppy in September of 2015 and she was approximately a year old. They are experienced dog owners, this being the 10th dog that has come into their lives together, either through ownership, assistance in training, or their kids adopting their own dogs. Some have worked out, some went to different situations for various reasons. They adopted her following the death of a beloved red heeler who developed cancer.

They were excited to give another puppy a good home, especially a red heeler because they had come to love the breed. All of their kids are grown, with only one still living at home. They live with my maternal grandmother, who also loves dogs. They have one other dog, a male border collie. I lived with them for a few months after the adoption for a new job. I brought with me my 5 year old red heeler, female. My brother's male border collie also lived with them some of the time since he worked out of town quite a bit.

Lily, the new puppy, came from a previous home with a young couple in a small apartment. Lily was too much for them to handle, plus they were moving to New York. My parents were willing to put in the training of a difficult dog, but didn't know she was aggressive.

After the adoption, we started seeing problems early on. Lily would show aggression and dominance over the other dogs. Only the oldest male put her in her place, the other two unfortunately are too timid and just took it.

My dog and I came to stay a few weeks after the adoption, so Lily had already grown attached to the rest of the family quite a bit. Upon first meeting Lily, she instantly decided she didn't like me. I was not able to pet her or approach her without some show of aggression. To this day i can only get her to come close if I offer a treat and show i am not dangerous. But she can quickly change her mind and nip at me or growl.

She liked my poor dog even less. There have been innumerable dog fights which ended in bleeding and a few vet visits for stitches (mostly my dog.) My brother's border collie has gotten it a few times too.

Lately, she has grown bolder and actually bitten a few people. The saddest is the attempt she made on my parent's only granddaughter (whom they adore!) when she was visiting, along with her mother, my sister. My parents simply cannot have this.

This is not the first aggressive dog in our family. We adopted a male puppy years ago. We think he was a pit bull, heeler mix, but never knew for sure. He came from an abusive home. When he got older he started to show aggression towards strangers and other dogs. We received professional training and worked hard to train him to improve. Ultimately, however, we had to let him go. He had gotten out of the yard and bitten somebody. We decided to put him down. But my mother and I developed a lot of experience in training for this.

For Lily, we did everything we knew. We used a correction collar around strangers, and my mom bought a zap collar when more traditional methods didn't work. This helps some but has not had a lasting effect. They kennel trained her from early on. They firmly corrected her when she growled or nipped.

Now, she is biting at friends and family and will not tolerate anybody but my mom or dad to get her out of her kennel. She barks and gets really aggressive when any of us approach.

Its getting to the point that my mom and dad don't know what else to do, so we are reaching out for help. They don't want to get rid of her because we all really see the potential in her. There are times when she is good, and she is really smart. They just don't have the time or resources to keep training. But they also don't want to put family in danger and want to be able to have their beloved granddaughter visit without fear of being bitten.

They really don't want this to come to the worst either, like it did with our other dog. That was painful for us all.

We are interested in re-homing her, or finding a rescue that takes dogs like her? Not sure what there is available. Or if anyone else has had similar experience and has something we could try. I am just basically looking for any advice or anywhere we can go to find out more about humanely and safely re-homing her. We want to do the best we can for our family but also for Lily.


Thanks.

P.S. this is in Utah, for any advice on specific places to go to.

You need in person help by someone that knows ACDs/ Heelers... OR you need to re home the dog.

From what you describe the dog is not so much being aggressive as being a young snarky Cattle Dog that does not have (or know?) the rules. OR... Does not believe the rules will be enforced.

Utah is off my mark a LONG WAYS.. .But I am trying to get you a rescue contact.
 

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I agree that this kind of behavior sounds pretty unsurprising for a young, not super well socialized, snarky Cattle Dog that just doesn't know the boundaries, especially one who has repeatedly been corrected with an aversive training collar when displaying any level/kind of warning/aggression. I would also let go of what you think of as "dominance" for a moment, and instead consider it more from a purpose-and-experience-begets-certain-behaviors perspective. It has become pretty clear through recent study that dogs aren't constantly trying to be "top dog" and that most dogs aren't super interested in social rank, they just sort of fit in where they fit in. Generally, a dog is displaying a behavior because that behaviors has been reinforced in the past, and there is a lot of support for the idea that they're basing their social interactions off of associative learning. This dog has been taught that threat displays do not work to make the pressure (person or other dog) go away, and indeed often cause a spike in pressure due to a correction and has learned she has to resort to more extreme measures (lunging, biting, snapping) to get her point across. Also, she sounds like she's probably just lashing out at other dogs because unfortunately that is what Cattle Dogs tend to do to other dogs when they aren't well socialized/are frustrated/are afraid or scared.

Cattle Dogs have been bred to control things. Big, several ton, sometimes dangerous things with sharp hooves and a lot of power and weight behind them. The way that they control things is primarily with their mouth, as well as their voice (bark/growl) and their body language. Unfortunately, when they aren't told from a young age how they are and are not allowed to control things by consistent training, they tend to be snappy, snarky, and oftentimes at least borderline reactive. Heck, the tend to get snappy and snarky anyways, but they especially do when they haven't been given clear boundaries and socialized well. They also do tend to be more likely than a lot of other breeds to respond with pressure (ie, corrections from a leash pop, prong, or e-collar) with pressure of their own, because this is just the way they're wired. They also tend to like their personal space, not generally have an affinity for strangers, not generally have an affinity for other dogs, especially strange ones, getting in their space, and not like people or dogs taking their toys/food/things, and can have issues with genetic predisposition to fear and anxiety. All this gives you a dog who does best with a very specific training approach, a well-prepared owner, and who also has the propensity if not tendency to react very badly to corrective/traditional methods. They are scrappy little dogs that, if engaged, will often not back down.

I would also suggesting finding a professional to evaluate this in person- I'd also move away from the corrective collars, which clearly have been making this worse, and try some other methods (counter-contioning, Behavioral Adjustment Training, and "Look At That" are all commonly used force-free behavioral modification techniques you might consider looking into).

Alternatively, you can try to find a rescue to take her, but this isn't necessarily something that is going to be likely to happen or easy to do. Most rescues are not going to take a dog who will bite people and other dogs, and this isn't a dog I would suggest re-homing privately because of aforementioned liability issues.
 
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