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I posted this in the general forum before realizing this is something a little more specific to animals from a shelter.

So I've recently adopted a 9 year old Catahoula Pitbull mix. She was at a no kill shelter for 5 years. She has a history of being very good with humans, including kids. She was first put up for adoption from a homeless family but never had a history of abuse by humans. The only downside to her history is she is an alpha female and was kind of given a bad rap around living with other dogs...which is fine. She has a big backyard to play in with a sturdy gate and she's the only animal here.

She was very popular at the shelter, when she was being walked out to my car all the staff was so happy to see her adopted and said things like "i'm going to miss you Sugar (her name) but so glad you found a home".

Fast forward, when I took her for a walk (granted early, 2nd day) she lunged at someone on the street. She's since gotten better, she'll now bark and growl and after a "no" she'll move on, but she's hyper alert when I put her leash on. At home she rolls around completely relaxed, other than trying to constantly please me and make sure she's acting good. She's never aggressive towards me at all...I can take away her favorite bone, pick up her food dish while she's eating, she never does anything but look up at me with those puppy dog eyes.

When I told the shelter manager about her acting that way during our walk she was shocked. She said she's taking the dog home with her during a hurricane and she stayed with her for weeks and never had any similar incidents. She said she's always been very good with both humans and children for the 5 years she was there.

Some of the folks I've told about this believe she's just very protective of me since she has a good home right now and wants to show her value/prove her worth as well as just protect me.

I'm just curious if anyone else has had a similar situation? She's very people friendly and has training with wearing a leash but when I put the leash on before a walk her tail goes from droopy to straight out and her ears stay up like she's alert. Even when I stop her during walks to love on her she's having none of it, she's too busy looking around and in guard dog mode.

I just want her to be her social self and relax on our walks. I don't want her to get a reputation in the neighborhood as a dangerous dog and heaven forbid...I don't want her to ever bite someone.

I'm told she should settle down over time as she starts to realize neither of us are going anywhere. I wanted to see what you guys think before I shell out the money required to get a trainer over here. She's by all accounts a social dog. When I visited her she let me walk/pet her at the shelter. She even got into a serious growling match with a dog in the walking pen next to us (other dog had a really bad upbringing) and after that dog left the pen she was nice and relaxed and came back to me for some petting.

Anywho, thanks for any help/counsel/or experience sharing! Love the dog, she's really been fantastic in every way since I've adopted her. She's so sweet, very good at not using the bathroom inside. She chews on her toys, not the furniture...she's super loving and attentive. I just want her to not be so protective and to be social like I know she typically was.
 

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People like to say their dogs are being "protective" of their owners, and thats why they'll occasionally be aggressive, but the truth is that is a load of bull. Your dog is aggressive because it's either scared, its territorial (resource guarding,) or it's part of their breed. That is not to say that all Pittys/pitty mixes are aggressive, because they are absolutely not, and I would argue they are some of the sweetest breeds out there. I just mean working dogs are bread to work. German Sheppards, pittbulls/rottweilers, terriers, etc. Anyway it sounds like your little girl is territorial, which is common with shelter/rescue dogs, and I would just watch other people/dogs around her if she has food or toys. She trusts you and you feed her, so she knows you're not going to take anything from her. That's not necessarily the case with strangers or strange dogs. If you wanted to work on, you should talk with an animal behavioralist (not a trainer) and they can help her and you so you don't have those issues when walking her anymore.
 

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I would suggest reading about leash reactivity. It is incredibly common. A dog that is typically very good with other dogs and people may suddenly become fearful and reactive when placed on a leash. They see the leash as a restriction. They cannot escape because of the leash. They are less able to defend themselves, which makes them scared and more likely to act defensively.

I would begin working with a positive reinforcement, force free trainer. Also try looking up the "Reactive Dog" sticky on this forum which has some good information. This a completely manageable behavior problem which may diminish as she gets used to her new digs, but should also be addressed by you!
 

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I would suggest reading about leash reactivity. It is incredibly common. A dog that is typically very good with other dogs and people may suddenly become fearful and reactive when placed on a leash. They see the leash as a restriction. They cannot escape because of the leash. They are less able to defend themselves, which makes them scared and more likely to act defensively.

I would begin working with a positive reinforcement, force free trainer. Also try looking up the "Reactive Dog" sticky on this forum which has some good information. This a completely manageable behavior problem which may diminish as she gets used to her new digs, but should also be addressed by you!
I couldn't find that sticky, could you possibly link it?
Our dog is over-protective too.
 
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