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Hello all,

Unfortunately I have a very somber topic to this thread. My fiance and I got our chocolate lab mix puppy at 7 weeks old. At the time I was working a lot, often gone first thing in the morning and home around 8PM and my fiance was out of work. During the day he was caring for the pup. He started out as a very friendly energetic little guy and I've watched him progress into a snappy and skittish dog. He is now 6 months old and stays across the room from me, doesn't often come when I call him and is very flinchy, often fear biting when I try to pet him. Last month I found out that my fiance has been taking his aggression of being out of work out on the pup, hitting him (not punching, but still just as bad in my eyes), yelling at him, or just leaving him in his crate, which I had reserved for when we are out or night time until his habits are fully under control. I was absolutely shocked and furious. He has been attending anger management for a month now and has changed completely in my eyes, and has been nothing but kind to our pup since. I have always shown the pup love and have never hit him and have very rarely even raised my voice to him.

I know he may harbor resentment toward my fiance for a very long time for this, possibly forever, but will he always be this way toward me as long as my fiance is still around? Any steps I can take toward rehabilitating this poor little guy would be completely embraced. I absolutely love my dog and will do anything to be able to keep him, and my fiance is completely ashamed and remorseful of how he has been. The anger management classes are really helping him and he is continuing to take them until we both truly feel he is in control of himself.

Thank you so much everyone


EDIT: To be clear, according to him he was not just hitting the dog for no reason, but as "punishment" when he did something wrong rather than using positive reinforcement. No better in my eyes, just a clarification.
 

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Wow, not an easy situation. I'll leave the anger management issues alone, and try to keep comments centered around the dog.

Right now, the dog is feeling insecure in his home. He doesn't have any allies, because one person has hit him, and the other has been relatively absent. He has no idea that people can be kind. You absolutely NEED to gain this dog's trust NOW, before it's too late. Read some of the stickies here - in particular, "the bite stops here" is a good one, and "NILIF" (nothing in life is free).

Does the dog like treats? You should start carrying a treat bag (just attach it to a belt loop) and randomly drop treats near the dog whenever you think of it. The idea is that the dog will create a positive association: you=good. Have you tried a basic obedience class with the dog? Training, even just the simple stuff, can be a fabulous way to build a bond between dog and owner. Figure out what the dog loves more than anything (food? toys?) and use that as a reward for whatever behaviors you like.

Last point: don't expect a dog to "come" if you've never trained that. Dogs don't speak English, so you have to show the dog what you want and consistently reward the behavior until it becomes second nature.
 

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Yeah, I agree with GottaLuvMutts. IMO, I think it would be best for the three of you to enroll in positive reward training classes at a good facility in your area ASAP.

For recall, you can start with a long lead and some treats. Say "come" with the happiest voice you can muster, get excited and happy, if he doesn't make a move towards you, gently pull the lead towards you and show him the treat. Praise like crazy when he gets to you and give him the treat. It won't take long for him to come on his own. Then start over with the lead and "come" in your yard (or outdoor setting). NEVER call the dog when he's done something wrong and NEVER yell at him or get angry after he comes to you. You want this to be the most rewarding command he learns. (don't care if he chewed your $600 shoes, or your $ 5,000 sofa). Never call and punish.

You will need the guidance of a professional trainer to get you through the most trying times, (which have yet to come), as you have a fiance who doesn't know how to communicate well with your dog. Labs have a notorious teenage phase which lasts from about 9 months to as long as 2 years. The more you learn about positive training techniques as well as how to read your pup, the easier it will be to get through this phase without creating a negative environment. Communication is key. You will both need to learn to communicate on his level. You will both need to be patient as he grows and matures.

Also, keep in mind that Labs are generally eager to please, and need lots of physical and mental exercise. They also should be crated when they cannot be supervised. If you want, you can tether his leash to your waste as you move about the house, but don't leave him unsupervised. He is coming into an age where his teeth go exploring, and you don't want to set him up for failure or put him in a position where he can ingest something dangerous.

You might also ask one of the forum mods to move this tot he training thread. You may get more responses.
 

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I agree with everyone. Labs are also very forgiving. As everyone said, you can never hit him, raise your hand, or raise your voice to him again.... no one! And, he may be skittish with respect to those actions. But, your goal is for BOTH of you to regain his trust.

1. Ten minutes a day, 30 - an hour if possible, sit on the floor with some small treats. Don't stare at the pup, and at first maybe don't even say much, if he's scared .... You never really know how much your fiance shouted at the dog.
2. Toss one treat to the pup. He may ignore it. If he takes it, toss another and praise softly. If he doesn't take it, then toss the treat over his head behind him... and wait (if it is not a distraction you may want to turn on TV or read a book on the floor, while waiting.)
3. If he takes the treat, toss another behind him. After he takes 3, toss one in front of him. After he takes 3 of those, hold a treat in your hand, resting on your leg or the ground. This step may take a few minutes or a few days, depending on his trust. But it is a major milestone.
4. After he takes a treat from your hand, repeat 3 times. Then, leave your hand on your leg, with nothing. He may come and nuzzle you - "where's my treat?" Scratch under his jaw without moving your hand much, praise and treat from the other hand. Try not to move too quickly or to raise your hand over him. After a few moments, stop and wait. Make him ask for more.
5. He may ask by nuzzling, pawing, or barking. If you can do this 3 days in a row, then you've regained his trust, with reservations.
If all cases, no one else can be in the room or making noises. You can't stare at him, in fact looking away or ignoring him may seem less threatening. Don't raise your voice and don't raise your hand over his head. Don't force him... let him ask for it. And, don't give him as much attention as you want, just a tiny bit, to leave him wanting (and asking for more).
6. Advanced - you don't know what your fiance did, so you want to undo everything. A Lab is a very tough dog. When my Lab was young, I played with him by hitting him with small sticks, newspapers on the rump, chasing him like a madman, barking and yelling at him. We have dry weather, and I'd static shock him by accident when I pet him... The point is that he learned not to fear anything that I might do to him... because it did not hurt (I never hit him in the face ... on purpose ... I apologize when I did) and it was a game... Ask the behaviorist about these advanced behaviors for confidence. Don't let your fiance do these last exercises.

After you complete steps 1 -5, Have your fiance do them... with you in the room to help. Men tend to stare at dogs and rough house with them.... But this is not the time, yet.

If you get a trainer to help you with these ultra-gentle exercises, you Lab may relearn trust very quickly or it may take a few months. Let us know...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks you so much to everyone for your positive responses.

I have been spending as much time with the little guy as possible. Treats are by far his biggest motivator and he has been responding very well to me! I have enrolled the three of us in a positive reinforcement class at a local pet store-we will be attending next week. The 1 on 1 time was very helpful for the pup and I. Again, thanks so much for the encouragement, I look forward to a great relationship
 

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That's great news. May I suggest that you continue with training classes after this one is finished? The more opportunities you have to learn from a professional, the better your bond and overall relationship will be. I find the more classes we join (some are just for fun, like agility, treibball, nosework, etc), the more fun we have together. It's so rewarding to see a dog enjoying learning and doing activities together.
 
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