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I don’t know if I’m just being a paranoid, so I was hoping for some outside perspective (this gonna be long. Sorry in advance).

Angus is a southern mutt (APBT, lab, AmStaff, border collie. 20 no, 85lb) who came to me (MA) from Arkansas. Angus had bitten another dog while in foster up north. Because his southern foster had described him as dog-friendly, I figured it was largely stress related and circumstantial. However, within the first few weeks, I began seeing reactive behavior while we were on walks...lunging and barking. A couple of times it was really intense.

We started basic obedience with Obedience Trainer. We started off with her coming to the house, and then decided to try him in the store, as he wasn’t really reactive at all to other dogs while she was working him.

He went to the store 3 times. All 3 times there were other dogs around. He didn’t act out. There was enough stimulus that he wasn’t all that interested in the other dogs...even two chihuahuas that were barking furiously at him.

Even still, Obedience Trainer suggested I take him to socialization classes with a trainer that she is currently apprenticing under. He specializes in aggressive behavior, so I gave it a shot and went for a first appointment evaluation yesterday. Here’s where I get iffy.

Angus was pretty anxious when we got there. He was never that anxious going into the store to see Obedience Trainer, but you could clearly hear big dogs barking in the trailer. My appointment was at 1:00. Trainer came out and greeted me and said he was wrapping up with someone and would be with me shortly. Ok cool. We wait in the car. Angus is whining, which he does when bored or anxious.

About 1:30 he finally calls me in. He didn’t ask a ton of questions about Angus when I called to make the appointment, so I kind of expected him so ask about his behavior issues in more detail and not just “he’s dog aggressive”. Like ask me if I’ve noticed a pattern or something. He just kind of dove right into this regurgitated diatribe that was almost the same speech verbatim that was on his website video. All good info, but clearly well rehearsed. Then he moves into evaluating me. We spend the first hour going over prong collar use, my muscle movements, my cadence, the pace of my walk. The whole time Angus is wandering around the enclosure whining and wet, as it was raining pretty hard and there was only a partial roof. He spoke very quickly, physically correcting my posture and shoulder/feet position. It was sensory overload.

Finally after an hour he fits Angus with the prong and starts working him, which he responds to wonderfully as we’ve been working on obedience. He likes this. It’s a fun game for him. Trainer tries to present him a treat and Gus won’t take it. Turns his head completely away. This is a dog who will literally walk through fire for old pizza crust, so a perfectly stinky treat having no appeal told me immediately that he wasn’t comfortable. I made sure I said out loud “that’s bizarre” and tried to say that he’s generally very food motivated, but this wasn’t a two way conversation. I barely got a word in edgewise.

Then Trainer says it’s time to involve another dog to assess the behavior. Ok. And I expect him to leave Gus In the enclosure, select a balanced dog from his pack and start a distanced introduction. Instead, he takes Gus on the prong inside of the trailer, out of my eyesight, and the whole time Gus is looking back at me like “where is he taking me”. He’s gone for a few minutes. Then a floppy white dog comes bounding out, Gus close behind, still On prong and lead. And he was the most reactive I’ve ever seen him. Like “move in for the kill” reactive. He wanted to hurt this floppy white dog very, very badly. It was absolutely terrifying and I was close to tears.

He then tells me I have a very big and dangerous dog on my hands. That he’s not sure he can help, but his recommendation was for me to drop him off for some immersion, where he puts a muzzle on him and floods him with other dogs for the sake of desensitization. Bargain price of $100 a day. Of course, shaken, I agree and schedule for Tuesday, and drive home terrified of my dog. $175 later.

Gus was not himself for the remainder of the day. And today, he still seems a little withdrawn.

Upon reflection, it all seems a little fishy for me. He knew my dog was anxious and agitated. Why would you bring him into the trailer with many other dogs instead of attempting a slow controlled introduction? Wouldn’t the expectation be a negative reaction considering where his energy was already? Was it an attempt to get my dog to act out in the worst possible way so that I’m frightened and say “here take my money I’ll do anything to fix him”? Might that be the same reason he spoke so fast and was physically correcting me so much? To jumble my senses?

When I called for the evaluation initially, he texted Me the address to confirm and asked me to send a picture of Gus. When I did, his response was “oh yes, I’ve helped a dog just like that. I can help”. Just like what??? A brown one? You’ve helped a brown dog?

What do you think? Please.
 

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Please, under no circumstances bring your dog back to that person for any further 'training'. Lose the prong collar. Immediately. The last thing you want to do with a seriously reactive dog is cause them pain - all that's going to do is make things worse, not better.
You need a highly qualified trainer who specializes in behavior modification & who uses modern, science-based, humane methods (not aversive methods and flooding)
 

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Run. Run away so far.

Every single thing that trainer did was bad or worse for a dog-aggressive/dog-reactive dog. Heck, it was bad for your average happy go lucky dog.

He set your dog up to fail. There is no way a reactive dog at that stage could have handled what was thrown at him.

If you make the (very bad) decision to leave your dog to train with this dimwit, you will have either a very shutdown dog who has basically gone non-responsive (and thus appears "cured") until he goes completely the other direction OR a dog with a serious bite history which risks mandatory euthanasia from a legal standpoint.

Reactivity and even dog aggression can be worked with and fairly well managed with the right tactics.
 

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Don't just walk away from that "trainer", run. Flooding a fearful dog while using a prong or e-collar to suppress reactions is a recipe for disaster.

When searching for a trainer, while certification doesn't always mean they are a great trainer, or even the right trainer for you, it's a good place to start. Certifying organizations that I'm familiar with are The Association of Professional Dog Trainers | APDT , Certification for professional dog trainers and behavior consultants , International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants , and Become A Professional Dog Trainer Courses - Certification Program Also, keep in mind that a really great trainer might not be certified at all.
 

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Dear God, no. Don't even think about letting your dog near that macho idiot again. Sounds like you were doing fine before you ever went there, and he probably could have made a dog saint aggressive. Don't ever let a trainer take a dog out of your sight. It's bad enough we all have to do it with vets these days. You are your dog's advocate and protector. If that means being rude to someone occasionally, gear up and be rude.
 

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JFC...

its never ok to flood a reactive dog with other dogs, as a way of training?

a prong is a great tool for sharpening Obediance skills, but it shouldn't be used to correct a dog for reacting.

find a positive, or a LIMA based trainer.
 

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You are your dog's advocate and protector. If that means being rude to someone occasionally, gear up and be rude.
This is my first experience dealing with training to modify a negative or dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until the session was over that I thought to myself “why did he bring my dog inside instead of bringing another dog outside where I could observe and understand?”. Because I’m not a professional, I wasn’t sure if what felt abnormal to me was indeed abnormal.
 

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This is my first experience dealing with training to modify a negative or dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until the session was over that I thought to myself “why did he bring my dog inside instead of bringing another dog outside where I could observe and understand?”. Because I’m not a professional, I wasn’t sure if what felt abnormal to me was indeed abnormal.
In general, if it makes you feel abnormal or uncomfortable, its something that needs to be put on pause and evaluated more carefully.

Thst probably goes for most of life including human relationships. Someone, a stranger, getting physically up in your space without due cause? Red flag.

When looking to modify a behavior, the important yet difficult part is not to find what can modify the behavior but to find why the behavior exists. That is a starting point to work up from. I don't mean "why" in some deep human thought kinda way but more lik, is it fear or stress or pain ?
 

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When looking to modify a behavior, the important yet difficult part is not to find what can modify the behavior but to find why the behavior exists. That is a starting point to work up from. I don't mean "why" in some deep human thought kinda way but more lik, is it fear or stress or pain ?
I think that contributed to my general discomfort. He asked very few, if any, questions about Angus and seemed primarily focused on teaching me proper prong use.....all the while, the dog’s body language and whining are showing serious anxiety.
 

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I think that contributed to my general discomfort. He asked very few, if any, questions about Angus and seemed primarily focused on teaching me proper prong use.....all the while, the dog’s body language and whining are showing serious anxiety.
He was not going to use any different training method regardless of what you told him about your dog or what he briefly observed of your dog.
 

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It almost sounds as if he deliberately set your dog up to react in the worst way so he could sell you an expensive 'training' package. The kinder interpretation is that he's 50 years behind our current understanding of dog behavior and how they learn, and thinks a dog who's too scared to function is 'fixed' (and if they do eventually blow up and hurt someone it's the dog or owner's fault, never the trainer's).

I'm so glad you saw red flags and asked. As everyone else has said, run. Fast and far. I'll strongly second @LeoRose's list of resources, and will add you can also check with your vet to see if there's a veterinary behaviorist they can refer you to (some are working remotely now, thanks to the pandemic). They'll be more expensive than most non-veterinary behaviorists, but you know they've got a high standard of education.

The sad fact is, in most countries - the US included - anyone can call themselves a 'trainer' or 'behaviorist', even if they've never held a dog's leash before. They're not protected titles. So I always encourage people to start with a third party certification organization which maintains high standards of up-to-date education and practical experience - like the CCPDT, IAABC, ADPT, etc. - and go from there. Even if there aren't behaviorists in your immediate area, reaching out to someone with this certification and seeing if they can recommend a more local professional is a good idea, because they're very likely to only suggest people who also value using scientifically sound behavior modification techniques that help change the dog's underlying emotional state into something more positive, rather than just suppressing the 'bad' outward behavior.
 

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I am not impressed with this trainer either.. from what you have said.

I will say that you need to be aware that your dog could very well be dog aggressive. Certainly the mix you describe could have dog aggressive genetics. Just know this.

I would take my time and keep distant from other dogs. I would do that regardless.. socialization is not actually meeting other dogs (or people). Socialization is giving your dog various environmental experiences and working on getting him to focus on you and to learn that if things seem a bit scary out there coming next to you and focusing on you is his "safe place." Work on that. If you see another dog, move away and work on focus. If someone starts to get too close warn them off. It is OK to be rude if need be and have your dog's back.
 

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I am not impressed with this trainer either.. from what you have said.

I will say that you need to be aware that your dog could very well be dog aggressive. Certainly the mix you describe could have dog aggressive genetics. Just know this.

I would take my time and keep distant from other dogs. I would do that regardless.. socialization is not actually meeting other dogs (or people). Socialization is giving your dog various environmental experiences and working on getting him to focus on you and to learn that if things seem a bit scary out there coming next to you and focusing on you is his "safe place." Work on that. If you see another dog, move away and work on focus. If someone starts to get too close warn them off. It is OK to be rude if need be and have your dog's back.
He is dog-aggressive, but in a selective way. This morning we walked past another dog and a truck full of a pack of dogs, and I was able to refocus him and move him away. I’ve also invested in a basket muzzle (just purchased yesterday, so we haven’t started getting him comfortable with it yet) to use when we hike as we frequently encounter off-lead dogs. He’s been approached by off-lead dogs a number of times with some posturing, but without incident.
 

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He is dog-aggressive, but in a selective way. This morning we walked past another dog and a truck full of a pack of dogs, and I was able to refocus him and move him away. I’ve also invested in a basket muzzle (just purchased yesterday, so we haven’t started getting him comfortable with it yet) to use when we hike as we frequently encounter off-lead dogs. He’s been approached by off-lead dogs a number of times with some posturing, but without incident.
Your job is to get between your dog and off lead dogs and NOT allow the contact. Advocate for your dog.
 
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