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Title says it all but my post may be dramatic. Still though, the words and feelings are true.

(TL;DNR: Seeking help/advise in how to train/rehabilitate my dog with his reactivity with people and dogs. Attempting to prevent future bites and putting him down. I'm in danger of losing my house but I don't want to lose my dog. I've attempted at least two trainers and had many free consultations. Everyone but one has told me "Your dog can never...." or "You may never....". I WILL and he WILL....but I need help. Any training advise/help is welcome.)

Here's a 'short' (or as short as it gets) background on myself and my dog. Firstly, I am not someone who owns their own house or apartment. I'm young and still live with my parents because I literally survive paycheck to paycheck. My family is getting close to losing the house and we're still debating on what to do (selling or trying to keep it). The animals I own I pay for by myself. Vet visits, food, litter for my cats, flea/tick/heartworm preventatives are all out of my pocket. All the things my animals own I pay for. In a sense, it helps lessen the amount my parents have to pay.....So let's get talking about my dog who's thought to be a Rhodesian mix or a Rottweiler/Pit mix. No one knows but I am definately leaning to Rot mix, he's got a lot of Rottie mannerisms.

My dog came to me in mid February of 2013 this year when he was abandoned at my job. The people who left him 'claimed' they found him wandering the streets and couldn't keep him at their house because their own dog hated him. So, as I have before, I took him home and attempted to find his owners for the next few weeks until I discovered the very people who claimed to have found him were in fact his owners. I have had him ever since due to no one wanting him and the shelters here claiming they'd only give him 3 days before euthanizing him!...But since the very night I brought him home, I knew right away he had some very serious issues.

The first was the obvious separation anxiety. I noticed he seemed very attached to the young boy the mother had but once they left and he was with me, he instantly latched on to me and has been my shadow since. His separation anxiety was horrendous - worse then I had ever seen. Through some training and a crate though he is no longer howling, trying to eat his way through the metal, and generally just carrying on for hours in a distressed manner. He still shows some signs of anxiety but it is no where NEAR the severity from before. I can now leave my room for a few minutes and close the door behind me without him trying to bust a hole through it. Now he'll tap the knob with his noes but just sit there and stay quiet.

The other issues he had as far as behavioral was resource guarding and lack of any obedience. Both were very easy for me to fix. I can ask him to leave anything he has whether it's his food bowl or a bone and he'll drop it on cue and sit. Obedience is always a work in progress in my opinion and his biggest issue is staying. He tends to crawl in a down, and if I'm out of his view, he'll replace himself in another spot just to see me.

What's really disturbing me though has been his reactivity during walks towards people and dogs. The aggression is towards people but the hyperactive desire to meet and greet and dominate is with other dogs. I first noticed his issue with other people when I took him to the vets for the remainder of his shots about two weeks after discovering his owners abandoned him. I explained the anxiety to them and one of the techs wanted to see it. So I handed her the leash and took about 5 steps BACKWARDS. My boy proceeded to have a meltdown - screaming, jumping, growling, and barking. Then when another tech came out to greet him, one he had previously seen the night I got him his rabies (Day two of having him) he growled at her and whipped around and bit her. He has since bitten anyone who has touched him. It has now escalated into acting aggressive on the walks. (Lunging, snarling, hackles rising, etc.)

I had attempted several times after the second bite to tell people 'please don't touch him', but we all know how that goes. I always ran into the people who were like "Oh it's alright! Dogs love me!" Whilst my boy is frozen stiff, eyeing them with a stretched neck, ears back, and licking his lips. The moment they stopped, he'd bite them.

I can't have this so I tried working with a few trainers. One of which was very helpful and who even managed to STOP my dog's lunging in ONE session and another who I had to walk away from when she refused to even reward my dog for acceptable things. The issue with the trainer that I like is that she's almost 2 1/2 hours away from me! The gas alone is a payment I can't always afford along with the amount of a one hour private session! And it sucks, because I REALLY saw an immediate change within him in ONE session! He didn't even lunge at the second trainer who seemed scared of him! She would have advised I put him to sleep had I brought him to her first! She also told me things like "He can never do search and rescue. You might never be able to take that muzzle off of him with how aggressive he is." LADY! He didn't even ACT aggressive with you OR your dog OR your horses! He wasn't even nervous - he was having a blast in the horse pen playing ball with me and you and doing tricks!

Aside from his behavioral issues his physical issues were not limited either. He can't have grain and anything with preservatives is out of the question. He's allergic to certain types of grass I noticed, and any shampoo I use to bathe him HAS to be hypoallergenic or Burt's Bees natural shampoo. And his hips....His hips were horrendous.

He is aged at approx 1yr and 2-3mths now as when I first acquired him his testicles were just dropping (yes, he is neutered now and has been since March). But his hips have always been a huge concern of mine. He sways quite a bit in the back end - not like that puppy swagger but more like it sucks to walk. Before a mere 15 minutes of running would have him radiating so much heat at his hips, you could feel it when he walked right by you. One day I took him out to swim and he played so much within an hour that he would lay down, cry, and snap at his hips. They were killing him. I immediately put him on Nupro: Silver Joint and Immunity Supplements and I have since seen a HUGE improvement in him. He no longer cracks and creaks when getting up or sitting down! (Yay!) Still though, I limit him to 2 hours of play as per my vet suggested until I get money for an x-ray on his hips.

I'm stuck and feeling the weight of helplessness. I am alone when it comes to my animals - my dog especially. I might lose this house and I might lose a lot of my belongings, but I don't want to lose him. He's taught me so much about myself and I don't want to fail him. His medical problems I can handle, I was a vet tech student, but his behavioral issues.......I was told by my mother that he's a walking liability and she's right. If he bites someone and actually breaks skin this time....he's gone. I'll be sued and he'll be destroyed. I'm terrified of going outside with him in public and working with him.

I'm seeking advice in how to rehabilitate him by myself if I can no longer work things out with that first trainer I went to. My boy is trained with a clicker but I prefer my voice. He can learn any trick within a minute and know it forever. He's easily trainable but his reactivity and the stupidity of people frightens me. It only takes ONE bite and ONE person to press charges to lose him just like one of my best friends lost their own dog.

Please, if anyone knows anything I could try, I'll do it. If anyone knows someone who'd truly help me and my dog, I'll do it - any distance, any day.

Here's what I am currently using/doing:
- Pos/Neg reinforcement with/without treats. (mostly without as they tend to arouse him too much.)
- Large prong collar (properly fitted below his ears)
- occasional click work; almost never
- Buying a DO NOT APPROACH vest next month
- Buying neon yellow leash that says DO NOT PET
 

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I'm hesitant to give any advice with a repeat biter without professional help. I will say that you need to muzzle your dog and start going out when there isn't likely to be a lot of people out if you cannot stand up for your dog and tell someone not to touch him. Even if that means up and running the opposite direction or having to be very blunt or rude , you need to stop allowing people near your dog to be bitten. I'm honestly surprised he has not been reported multiple times if he is biting that often, even if they're inhibited bites, but it's your job to protect him AND protect people from him.

You can look into Look at That as it does not involve interacting with other people/dogs but combats reactivity. You do not need a prong to work on reactivity. That's about all I'm comfortable with recommending without a professional.
 

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am sorry for your situation I will add that health and behavioral issues are related. So that is something to consider of what you are working with and if it is interfering with your progress or the base cause of his reactivity. since you like the first trainer see if she can give you a list of exercises to work on between the times you can meet in person (like homework) accomplish lower level task that you can build on for the next assignments. Agree With "Best" advice adding .... Find areas that have the lowest level of traffic, it may be on certain days, and certain times of the day that are better for you to go to them. You have to be honest with your limitations with your dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Whenever I am out in public with him (which is very rare now) he wears his muzzle. I became extremely rude with people when I was literally walking by someone after the first time he bit someone (which was the vet tech) and she suddenly was like "OMG! DOG!". I thought her and her bf were going to continue walking on by us when suddenly, and out of the blue, she rushed right at his side. He jumped up on her and I yanked back on the leash (bad...I probably escalated things there after) thinking he was going to bite her in the face. Luckily, he was perfectly fine with her but I had no qualms with lecturing her to not approach stranger dogs, especially mine who had JUST bitten someone yesterday!

But I've lost confidence being outside with him and that's the most hindering thing in the world right now. I'm discouraged, honestly from the people who approach him and those who criticize me concerning my methods. I think once I get the vest and leash, I'll have a little more courage and a safety net should something go wrong.

Also, concerning the BAT with LAT cue, which method do you or anyone else recommend. My only concern with this is that he already looks a little too intensely at things but if I do get him trained on the cue, which method would be best to follow? The LAT cue then walk away with a treat or the LAT cue, treat, and then proceed forward till going over threshold?

And because I forgot to mention this so people don't think I just have a nasty aggressive dog who wants to eat everyone's faces off, if you come to my house, if you walk up my driveway - even if you come into my home, he will love you. There is 0 feelings of insecurity or aggression. Anyone at all could come in, and he will greet you like you are family. It's only when I step off my property with him or take him into the car and somewhere else, where he is on high alert and scouting his surroundings for scary people.
 

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I think one of the most important things in training and living with a "problem" dog is quickly learning to not give a crap about what any one thinks or says. With my own dogs I have worked through reactivity and fear aggression. My reformed reactive gal is overly friendly, but my dude Jonas was fear aggressive and at one period of time would bite with little inhibition. He's also small and very cute, so I had to avoid heavily populated areas and be extremely curt. I didn't often have to be short with people as we would cross the street and put a ton of distance between us because I'd rather had been seen as rude rather than risk his life.

I personally prefer LAT. It's fairly easy to work on and doesn't put any direct pressure on the dog. If he's great with any one on your property, that's a pretty good place to start LAT. The biggest part of LAT being successful is keeping the dog comfortable and under their threshold. Is it possible to people watch while on your property or recruit friends to help?
 

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You need to bring a professional in, this is way beyond internet forum abilities. I understand money is tight but with a powerful dog and multiple bite history your mom is right, you've got a walking liability.

The first thing is that you *have* to stop putting him in situations where biting is even possible. I would not get within 20 feet of people and train him to a muzzle (do this with treats and positive reinforcement so he doesn't feel trapped). *Never* let anyone get within lunging or petting distance. I live in the city so I sympathize with how difficult that is but its not impossible by any stretch. If someone walks up to you walk in the other direction, run if you have to. If they follow a firm "He bites!" is important. Don't worry about politeness, be as rude as you have to to keep everyone safe. If necessary walk him at night, early morning or in fenced areas alone. Whatever you need to do to completely avoid people.

I'm not qualified to recommend specific exercises but Click to Calm by Karen Pryor, Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, anything by Ian Dunbar or Patricia McConnell are good places to start your own education. Regardless of how much you learn though, much more important than any gear you can buy is a proper trainer. This is *well* beyond a DIY internet fix.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yes it is possible to get people to walk by my driveway. Actually where I work there is one dog trainer who's been throwing many ideas my way and trying to help me out with him but she is a dog TRAINER and not someone who deals heavily in behavior. She can teach tricks, but definitely isn't comfortable with modifying behaviors like his. I respect her for her honestly, but I think she and a few of her friends could help me with people watching while sitting on our driveway. Thank you! I didn't even think of that!
 

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You need to bring a professional in, this is way beyond internet forum abilities. I understand money is tight but with a powerful dog and multiple bite history your mom is right, you've got a walking liability.
You are so right, you really are....but money is not just tight. Money is almost nonexistent right now and talk of selling and moving has been frequent. (Something I am hoping for actually to start anew.)

But I didn't fully explain this in my earlier post, but the trainer/behaviorist I liked and worked with does rehabilitation work and she was very nice the first time we met but even she advised I find someone closer to me as the ride alone gets him worked up and nervous. (I will train him to be calmer in this field). But as I said, she was very nice and I loved what she did and how she showed me things. She even had me come to many of her seminars despite not being in those group classes. She was incredibly kind and allowed me a two hour private lesson with only paying half for ONE session the first time we met after I explained my situation. I did call her yesterday (Sat) but I did not get a call back from her facility. Either the girl at the desk didn't give her the message or (as I am thinking) she doesn't wan to help someone who is broke! (or maybe I'm being negative)

I am willing to pay. I really am. I will pay anything but no one where I live is willing to at least give me a payment plan - I will get it notarized if I have to but no one will cut me a break. I am still trying to find someone - anyone who will but I don't want to be sitting here doing nothing and not trying to work on these issues. I've even tried pulling a personal loan out JUST for my dog and I can't due to lack of credit history. But I am HOPING and PRAYING that my tax returns will give me enough money to not only help my parents with our house but possibly send money the trainer's way and perhaps build up for the next weeks if this is going to be a long rehabilitation. Do you think that'll work perhaps?
 

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Yes it is possible to get people to walk by my driveway. Actually where I work there is one dog trainer who's been throwing many ideas my way and trying to help me out with him but she is a dog TRAINER and not someone who deals heavily in behavior. She can teach tricks, but definitely isn't comfortable with modifying behaviors like his. I respect her for her honestly, but I think she and a few of her friends could help me with people watching while sitting on our driveway. Thank you! I didn't even think of that!
At this venture I would do LAT, within your property where he is comfortable, and ONLY with friends you know will follow your instructions. That way the risk is minimal and you can get the basic foundation for LAT down until you can afford professional help. There are a few DFers in your state that may have recommendations for trainers that can help.
 

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Thank you so much ThoseWordsAtBest! An Angel on the internet. I'm so broken by the fact that I can't even get someone to at least try to help me when they can SEE me or HEAR me crying on the phone yet you can't even see or hear me and you're doing something for me. I appreciate it so much, I really do. Thank you for your advice and your note to this other person. I have a bit more hope now regardless. ^-^
 

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You are so right, you really are....but money is not just tight. Money is almost nonexistent right now and talk of selling and moving has been frequent. (Something I am hoping for actually to start anew.)

But I didn't fully explain this in my earlier post, but the trainer/behaviorist I liked and worked with does rehabilitation work and she was very nice the first time we met but even she advised I find someone closer to me as the ride alone gets him worked up and nervous. (I will train him to be calmer in this field). But as I said, she was very nice and I loved what she did and how she showed me things. She even had me come to many of her seminars despite not being in those group classes. She was incredibly kind and allowed me a two hour private lesson with only paying half for ONE session the first time we met after I explained my situation. I did call her yesterday (Sat) but I did not get a call back from her facility. Either the girl at the desk didn't give her the message or (as I am thinking) she doesn't wan to help someone who is broke! (or maybe I'm being negative)

I am willing to pay. I really am. I will pay anything but no one where I live is willing to at least give me a payment plan - I will get it notarized if I have to but no one will cut me a break. I am still trying to find someone - anyone who will but I don't want to be sitting here doing nothing and not trying to work on these issues. I've even tried pulling a personal loan out JUST for my dog and I can't due to lack of credit history. But I am HOPING and PRAYING that my tax returns will give me enough money to not only help my parents with our house but possibly send money the trainer's way and perhaps build up for the next weeks if this is going to be a long rehabilitation. Do you think that'll work perhaps?
This is a rough situation for you! I'm on a very tight budget myself so I understand the 'blood from a stone' problem. With your parents in difficulty too its hard to choose priorities. What will help a great deal is a management program. Before you worry about making him 'better' (which you will need professional advice for) just worry about getting a rock solid management plan for the state he's in now. Try to imagine every situation where he could possibly come in contact with dogs or people and come up with a game plan for avoiding it. You'll be better able to judge the intricacies of your dog and situation but here are a few management ideas off the top of my head.

- Use positive reinforcement to teach him to love a muzzle
- Only walk in places that are relatively low foot-traffic and where dogs are always leashed (city streets for example)
- Don't pass parks, busy streets or trails where people, dogs and children will be loose
- Walk in off hours (late at night, very early in the morning etc.) when fewer people are out
- Always keep half a block or across the street from any dog or person
- If you get boxed in by people call out to them that he's not friendly and ask them to cross or walk down someone's driveway while they pass
- Exercise in your own or a friend's backyard
- If neither is available exercise in an outdoor tennis court (fully fenced and unused in winter). Find a way to lock the door shut or put up a sign warning he's not friendly.

Training is what will eventually make him safe, but a good management plan will give you the time to save up and figure out what needs to be done. There are some good resources and ideas here to help you. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I live in East Stroudsburg, PA

BUT....I have wonderful news! I JUST got off the phone with the 1st trainer/behaviorist I worked with. Again, she was extremely thorough in asking me questions such as what has improved, what has gotten worse, where have you seen a block. She set up a date with me again Dec 14 with every possible thing in mind (such as my dog becoming highly aroused and over reactive due to a million dogs barking in her facility) so we are planning to meet on neutral ground at a park! (I'm so happy!) She has left me with a bit of homework till the training day in working his energy out.

I did mention the BAT: LAT training method and she told me to attempt it and see how it works with him. If it does, call her back and let her know so we can start implementing it together. She also told me to check out everything you guys said as well and see how it works regardless of how my dog is. (He's easily aroused with treats/food and loses interest once he's mastered something in a few seconds) If it seems to make things worse, stop. I did mention to her I'm still int he same financial pit but if I could always have my classes at the reg price every same day of the week after I get paid, I can definitely do it. She seemed ok with that and said let's see how things go first in this session and maybe a few more, and then we'll talk about payments for classes in the future. (I guess she was hinting to monthly classes or rehabilitation at her clinic if things hit a wall)

Again, I'd like to say thank you so much for everyone's advice and encouragement (as well as sympathy, you have no idea how cruel and cold people are where I live). I will definitely STILL look at the advice you guys gave and if it works, I can bring it to my trainer's attention so we can implement it and work with it.
 

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That is awesome news for getting to work with the first trainer again ! thanks for the update that everything is moving forward again for yall
 

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That great news! Hope things work out for you. Please keep up updated.

You're not too far from some really great trainers / behaviorists. Pam Dennison is in Washington, NJ and runs reactive dog camps occasionally. Ali Brown, who specializes in reactive dogs, is in Slatington (not super close, but she could probably refer you to someone, if needed). Ms Brown is conducting a seminar in Exton in February that you might be interested in attending.
 
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