When Is It Time to Seek Professional Dog Training Help with Aggression?

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severe dog aggression, veterinary behaviorists, my dog is aggressive towards me

Aggression is No Laughing Matter!

I have been a professional dog trainer for almost 20 years, and although I sincerely hate confessing to that because it ages me, it is also something that I am very proud of!  I have done many things in my vast career and I have seen even more things, admittedly good and bad.

Sometimes it is difficult to write blogs on dog training, especially dog aggression.  I have to assume a common medium in most of my writing, not only about the dogs but also about the dog owners.   Rarely are my articles geared to the most aggressive or the best behaved dogs because they are at the ends of the spectrum.  Usually I write articles that are geared for the owners and their dogs that are somewhere in the middle.

This article is for those dogs and their owners who are at the peak of the most aggressive end of the spectrum.  If you are afraid of your dog at times or his behaviors in any given situation, there is likely a good reason!  Never deny or refute the feelings of fear, if you do you are liable to end up in the emergency room seeking at the very least stitches and a tetanus shot.

It is difficult if not impossible to gage the aggression of someone’s dog by simply reading a post or hearing information.  The only true way to get a precise impression is to see it with your own eyes.  When I do in home training and behavior modification, I can’t give accurate information until I have met the dog and witnessed the behavior.

The aggression a dog shows can be as small and simple as raising their hackles, or snarling, or growling or it can be as frightening as showing all of the above listed behaviors with lunging and biting.

What one person thinks is a serious display of aggression another may shrug off as normal dog behavior.

The truth is that almost no signs of aggression displayed by dogs are tolerable in normal society.

That being said, I take all reports of aggression very seriously.  Even the smallest signs of aggression can escalate build on itself and lead to more serious and pronounced aggression.

severe dog aggression, veterinary behaviorists, my dog is aggressive towards me

Any Dog Can Bite! Thanks to Doganswers for the Picture

I have often worked with brutal and terrifying dangerous dogs; I have seen many bites, incurred a few and I have seen many successful rehabilitations.  However, rarely have I seen owners who were equipped with the knowledge and abilities to deal with these types of dogs.  And occasionally I have even referred my clients to other professionals, usually veterinary behaviorists, when I feel that my clients were unable or unwilling to heed my advice.

Several years ago I worked with a dentist and his family, when their Great Pyrenees died of old age their family had gotten a white German Shepherd Dog puppy; his behavior was much different and much more dominant than they had ever experienced from their previously beloved Pyrenees.  He was beginning to show some mild signs of aggression to their children, especially their youngest a girl of about 8 years old.

I had been called in and we discussed the seriousness of the behaviors and making the new puppy earn all of his privileges in life and the “nothing in life is free” principles then we set up a training regiment and I had their 8 year old working on clicker training, tricks and feeding the dog and changing their relationship with fun and games.

However, another trainer and a friend of the family suggested a different plan.  He took the dog to his kennel for several weeks for “obedience training and behavior modification”.  When he returned the dog he suggested having the 8 year old lay on the dog for a period of time each day.  Despite my very adamant, vocal rejections and warnings of this program, they continued to force both the dog and child to engage in this very hazardous behavior.

Unfortunately after several days of this the girl was mauled and the dog was eventually euthanized; both cheated out of a normal life and both were unwilling participants in a perilous situation.  Compulsion, corrections, force and pain are NEVER the way to treat aggression.

Aggression is no laughing matter, and even the smallest signs can escalate very rapidly into an uncontrollable dog.

What Can You Do?

As much as I would like to give you personal advice and information, I feel as if it would be negligent to expect to treat a dog with severe aggression without seeing it first hand.  I can, however, give you the guidelines you need to be successful in your training and behavior modification endeavors.

severe dog aggression, veterinary behaviorists, my dog is aggressive towards me

New Aggression may be a Sign of Something Else!

First

If this is a new behavior, take your dog to the vet immediately!  Many conditions can sponsor aggression.  Ear infections, urinary infections, dysplasia, seizures and many more conditions can cause aggressive behavior.   You owe it to your dog to do the proper verifying and make sure he is not in pain or suffering from other physical problems.

Second

If your dog has been thoroughly cleared of a physical cause of aggression, it is time to seek help.  The quality the help you find is in direct relation to how effective the behavior modification will be!

Sometimes what they say is true, “you get what you pay for” so don’t sell yourself or your dog short.  That is not to say, nor to imply, that the most expensive alternative is the best.  But don’t choose the trainer who is new to the field or has little experience.  You don’t want you or your dog to be an experiment.

DO NOT use force or compulsion.  I cannot say that enough!  I have seen and heard about deplorable things done in the name in dog training and expelling aggression.  Don’t try them, no matter how frustrated or angry you are!  Aggression incites and breeds aggression; learn to use your mind to get your dog to do what you want.  If it seems too easy, it probably is!

I almost ALWAYS recommend a veterinary behaviorist.  That is a veterinarian who specializes in dog behavior and behavior modification.  I recognize that you will probably pay a little more for such a service, but I also know that if they think your dog could benefit from medication you are hitting the “two birds with one stone”, so to speak.  I know, too, that no good veterinary behaviorist would recommend things like prong collars, or choking dogs out; vets are going to use proven methods of positive reinforcement and behavior modification with the addition of proven prescription medication if needed.

Third

Do not presume to treat severe aggression yourself or deny the work involved.  Understand that any behavior modification process is lengthy.  Be prepared to stick it out and do whatever you have to, to be successful.

Aggressive dogs are often not “re-homeable”.  It is a HUGE liability to re-home a dog, that has bitten or shown signs of aggression.  Even if you place a dog that “doesn’t like children” into a home without children, the odds of him never seeing or being exposed to another child is rare if not impossible.  So what happens if that dog you placed mauls a child and you had previous knowledge of a bite?  You could be in some deep trouble!

There are some tough decisions owners of aggressive dogs face; but I admonish you if you decide to work on the behavior, be willing to make some sincere changes.

Do not deny medication if your vet truly thinks it may help.  So many owners I have encountered were initially unwilling to medicate their dogs for an infinite number of reasons, some reasonable and some irrational; I can attest to you that I have seen the benefit of the administration of medications.

I can also tell you that if I was bi-polar, schizophrenic, or had other mood disorders I would want medication to help me feel better and better control myself and my environment!  Don’t deny your pet something that you would take for yourself or something that can make his struggle easier!

Fourth

Owning an aggressive dog is not only a huge liability it also demands strict adherence and maintenance of your dog and his behaviors.

Only you can keep your dog from biting or showing aggression again.  The safety of your dog and the public is in your hands!  One moment of relaxed behavior or negligence can end in horror.

NO ONE wants to have to meet with the sheriff’s office, animal control or stand in front of a judge and have to try and explain WHY a bite occurred, especially AGAIN.

severe dog aggression, veterinary behaviorists, my dog is aggressive towards meFifth

Don’t blame yourself.  The old adage that if only a dog was “raised right” it wouldn’t have shown aggressive behavior is an urban legend.  I have seen distinct and ruthless aggression from puppies as young as 6 weeks.  Sometimes good people get aggressive dogs.

There is hope!  If you are willing to adhere to the rules and the veterinary behavior modification plan, do your homework, and possibly administer medications there is a chance you can control the aggression.  Aggression is usually not “curable” but it can be “containable”.

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There are 99 Comments

  1. Ben says:

    Hi Chet,

    Nice article. Thank you for that.

    I know all about having to deal with Law enforcement, even to the point of having to defend myself in court due to my dog jumping on a neighbor and causing an injury…

    I;ve seen number of behaviourists and trainers and my dog is still aggressive.

    To explain briefly, he is too interested in strangers. When he sees a stranger he gets highly excited and wants to run to them… and if he’s restrained he’d bark at them….

    But I;ve had lot of strangers come to my place, and I tell them to totally ignore the dog, look away when he goes to them, not try to touch him…
    And he loses interest after a while and he’s ok….
    But until he’s done the ritual of checking out the stranger he’s not relaxed….

    He does not show aggression towards anyone he knows…. He is very very loving.
    He loves to play…. If stranger comes and throws the ball at him hed become straight away…. But he’d still want to sniff the stranger and “clear” him/her.

    Anything to help my best buddy, the best buddy I;ve ever had?

    [Reply]

  2. Robert Weir says:

    Ienjoyed reading this article,more people ought to have access to yhis and they would have a different outlook on their agressive dogs,and the vet involved.
    Bob Weir

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  3. Deborah says:

    Your article was informative and gave me increased hope for my new rescued puppy.

    Takoda is a 50lb, 6mo Husky/Lab with a touch of wolf, we believe. I’ve had him for three months and he has shown outright food aggression, lunging at me a number of times and actually biting a finger once.

    Just a couple weeks ago, he also showed situational aggression. He spilt a drink of mine on the carpet and was licking it up. I started to pet him and he attempted to attack me. I caught his collar (I’m getting good with this), and twisted him into submission. He always submits to me when I show that I’m the alfa. Unfortunately my arm got in the way of his mouth; a bite to the bone with two other punctures and a few scratch marks. This was reported secondary to me having to go to the ER for treatment.

    My thoughts after this; put the dog down. But, I couldn’t. There is just something about him that tells me that he can be rehabilitated. He is so loving and a beautiful speciman of a dog.

    I’ve never been afraid of dogs; my last two were a Rotti and a Shepherd. My new family member had me afraid, but now I know I must show him whose alfa – all the time.

    He is coming around. I stand my ground and he always submits.

    Just like a bad child; you can’t just throw them away. Just give them lots of love and direction and eventually they will convert to your ways.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I don’t agree with the “alpha treatment” for aggressive dogs, you could get seriously mauled! Alpha rolls, choking dogs or “twisting him into submission” often ends with serious damage and death. Even if it seems to be working now, it may backfire! At 6 months old, I am terrified for you.

    PLEASE contact a veterinary behaviorist who can see his aggression and keep an eye out for your safety.

    [Reply]

    Natalie Reply:

    I agree with Minette on this one. Your safety is paramount. “Alpha Treatment” is archaic and not part of dog socialisation and the canine group. We need to stop refering to this old style of training for the betterment of canine management. It has been proven time and again to be unsucessful long term.
    What people need to do is educate themselves on the management of your canine friend. Just as modern Zoo keepers manage each species of animal in their collection with appropriate environmental enrichment, food, socialisation and habitat so too must we provide those elements for our canines. Just because they live with us humans does not mean we should disregard what canines need to co-habitate with us. Educate yourself with what canines need to provide a safe secure and well socialised dog.
    Agression can be downright dangerous if not handled correctly. Take Minettes advice ansd seek professional Veterinary Behavourist advice.

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    Kristin Reply:

    Thank you so much for easing my guilt about my aggressive mini dachsund. I was told by our vet that Scotch’s aggression was our fault and it was because we “let him get away with it” for so long. So untrue. We have shown him love and affection since we got him as a pup and followed all the recommendations given as soon as he showed aggression. It is like you say, this is just who he is. It is so sad that we can’t always trust him. For a little dog, he can do a lot of damage. We can’t give him “good treats” without isolating him. Problems arise when he picks up things on walks (like birds or mice left as “gifts” by our cat). Trying to get around them or heaven forbid – take it away is extremely hazardous. It is like he sees red and goes crazy. Minutes later, he is a loveable dog once again. I really need help finding a good professional and possibly getting some doggie prozac:).

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    Minette Reply:

    Contact the nearest veterinary school near you and they should have plenty of resources and don’t blame yourself…I hate that everyone always blames the owner! Some dogs start to show serious signs of aggression at as young as 5-6 weeks!

    allison Reply:

    I also have a mini dachshund and he is aggressive with food and treats, but he is also aggressive with visitors. I feel your pain!!

    Doug Reply:

    You should never force a dog into submission unless you know exactly how to do it and the exact moment to do it. That is a last resort. A good way to start to slow the aggression (and in many cases completely reverse it) that your dog is beginning to display is to do some very simple and quick routines for him. First feed him 2 times a day (do not leave food out for him). When you feed him he needs to watch you put the food in the bowl, then mix the food with your hands for a minute or two to get your scent on it. Then when you place the food down for him make him sit and wait for a little time before you release him to eat. When you begin this process you will most likely need to block him from the bowl (do not hold him back..block him from getting to the bowl with your legs or your hand). Once he either loses interest in the food or can glance away then you can release him. Another routine you need to start is to have him sit and wait at any door you pass through until YOU invite him through. If you start with these two techniques and are diligent in it you will start to see results. Just remember EVERYTHING your dog get is because you gave it to him.

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    Lisa Reply:

    Can also take this one step further and hand feed the dog a portion of the dog food then when they are calmly and nicely eating one piece at a time put the rest in front and let them eat it. If you feel their teeth when feeding just keep hold of the food until you only feel their tongue on your hand then instantly let them have the peice of food.

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    schatji Reply:

    I used this idea after reading it on the internet and ended up in the emergency room. I would not recommend doing this. I still have the dog that bit me and he is still very food aggressive however I prepare his food in front of him and give him the command to eat, placing his bowl where he feels safe. No more bites. My husband and I are the only persons that feed him because of his aggression. We make sure anyone in the house know of his problem and are stringent in making sure everyone follows the rules around his food.

  4. Leslie Rayman says:

    My dog is a year old. Around dogs of her size she just plays unless a dog is mean to her…then she gets aggressive back. But she’s even aggressive around small dogs (I saw it’s aggressive while some say it’s play when the owner of the other dog yells for me to get my dog off of theirs) Ive seen it a number of times. She’s a boxer by the way. I did meet her mother and father and her mother was in a cage at the breeders house. The breeder said the mother is mean but that it shouldn’t happen to the pup I was buying.

    I don’t know when it’s playing and when I need to get control of her and how. Should I show her who is top dog (me) by putting her on her side on the ground or something else?

    I question if you can help me as you’re probably not in the L.A. County area and I am.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    NO Alpha rolls and aggressive treatment!!! This is liable to get you bitten and make her much worse!

    Is she spayed? In tact females are usually more aggressive with other dogs. I would have her spayed.

    Not all dogs are able to appropriately play with all other dogs. She needs her dog park card revoked and she should not being playing with dogs you don’t know or small dogs. If you are not careful she could end up seriously hurting or killing another dog.

    The breeder is wrong, aggressive dogs should not be bred and often pass the aggressive trait on to their puppies!

    Instead of letting her play with other dogs, teach her to ignore and tolerate other dogs while you are walking. Don’t let her look at other dogs and get control of her.

    At a year old, if you don’t act quickly this may get much much worse!

    [Reply]

    Name Reply:

    My boxer has been spayed. At the park she is usually great with other dogs. She needs to run. She calms down after she runs. I just need to know what to do when those incidences occur that she’s intense with smaller dogs. Actually when dogs of her size are aggressive, she usually bows down. She doesn’t bite other dogs when she’s, as I said, aggressive. She barks loud and is relentlous. She wants to play and they don’t. How can you tell when a dog is aggressive and when a dog is playing but scaring the other dog?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Dogs need training and supervised activities, not all dogs are able to run free safely!

    Leslie Rayman Reply:

    You are right. I got that.
    I just took her to the dog park and I was telling a trainer about her aggression. The trainer said she’s playing well with all the dogs there and that she looks healthy. She stated the same thing to me.. I need to work with her one on one. I need a trainer. If you lived in the L.A. area I’d ask how much you charge.

    Diane Reply:

    Can you train your dog to run on a treadmill? It works well with my Aussie and allows him to get out the energy he needs to release. It is easier to work with himahimater he runs. He sees it as a treat to run on it now. I started by giving him his breakfast one kibble at a time till he got the hang of it.

  5. Cathy says:

    Hi,
    I have a five year old German shorthaired pointer who has started to show aggression to younger, smaller dogs, usually cute and fluffy puppies that are not known to him. . The behavior is new, he has been well socialised and we also have a two year old female kelpie. We moved house recently and that was about the time the aggression started. He was not desexed, and as soon as he started showin this aggression we had him desexed straight away. Do you think this will resolve the aggression over time? We are keeping him muzzled on walks now and although he hates the muzzle it does actually seem to relax him and he seems much calmer around other dogs.
    Any advice?
    Cathy

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He needs to be slowly desensitized. Good job for muzzling him, that keeps him and the other dogs safe! Keep your eyes out and I will write an article about desensitization for you!

    [Reply]

  6. Angela says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this article. It came at the perfect time for us. Last November we lost our 10 yr old extremeley beloved shih tzu (even though he full-heartedly felt he was human) Berkeley, to a poisionious spider bite. Our 5 year old daughter took it indescribaly hard…much harder than we would have ever considered a five year old could. In May, we were gifted the most stunningly beautiful shih tzu/pekingnese mix puppy. Reluctant to admit, we had so much love to give and felt our hearts could mend as our family was complete, so we over-showered and totally spoiled this new addition (Maximus). We noticed soon into the relationship that when we would all be talking and playing around as a family, that he would try and be verbal…with a vast array of purrs and “growling sounds” that sounded more like he was mimicking the tones and pitches of our voices. Considering the fact that Berkeley was so kind hearted, gentle, and wouldn’t even bark a scoff, we just figured this little pup was a verbal little guy, and accepted him in, hoping he could be taught English ;). On about 3 occassions he has snapped at various people: a little 5 year old boy I keep (that I’m certain tried his hand trying to pester/provoke him , a very loud and large animated stranger, and he apparently did not like the vibe he received first impression with a neighbor; until the last 2 weeks or so, where he has snapped at friends that drop something on the floor, and go to pick it up; he has charged and snapped while growling at newcomers, and then the other night our daughter got down on all fours next to where he was laying in the floor and as she leaned in for a good night kiss, he quickly responded with a puncture on her cheek. His separation anxiety came out of nowhere..and if I walk to get the mail, he reacts like I have been out all day and is over-the-top excited to see me, but he won’t stop until I give him a FULL attention response of happy to see him. We thought we were just dealing with an “I want to be the dominant king and I must protect, and at the same time “test my limits”, stage, but we actually began seeking advise a few days ago. We have just began attempts at reconditioning his behavior, and he is responding quickly, but after reading your article I wonder if not only did we get the TOTAL opposite of the previous shih tzu, but are we to be in store for a “hound from hell in disguise”? or do we still have a chance?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Again I have a hard time giving advice on aggression without seeing it, but I can tell you that if my dog bit my 5 year old in the face, I would have to make some hard decisions.

    And, I would have to make sure that it would NEVER happen again even if that meant keeping him on a leash and under control all of the time.

    No more kisses to the face for him!

    Find a veterinary behaviorist in your area and see what they think. I have seen lots of dogs take to behavior modification and drug therapy. But it takes a lot of work on everyone’s part to make sure the behaviors are not seen again…and the dog goes through a very angry stage while his lifestyle is changing!

    Good luck to you!

    [Reply]

    Lisa Reply:

    Be very careful when your dog is near children, I think it assumes all children will tease it and it may mistake kisses, hugs, feeding ect from children as teasing, it does not trust children. Do not get tense or worried when dog is near children or it will feel it has reason to feel this way, stay relaxed and feel confident. Ensure before the kids get near dog (have dog in another room with door closed or on leash a safe distance away) they are totally educated. NO touch no eye contact for first bit until the dog feels comfortable enough that they approach the child and get to sniff them calmly – don`t force a relationship allow the dog to trust the child in their own time, under strict supervision (more to ensure the child is obeying the no touch no eye contact rule than for the dog to be aggressive). If you cannot supervise put the dog in another room with door closed, not in a cage the child can be near or the dog will feel exposed and vulnerable and the child will be able to get away with quick teasing when you are not looking – even a little tap on the cage to get a response out of the dog may seem like teasing to the dog and will trigger a reaction when the dog sees the child while it is out of the cage later. This dog needs to be around kids when the kids have lots of the dog`s favourite treats but don`t let the kids give it treats until it is calmly sitting and takes the treat with only the tongue touching their hand, you can put your hand over around the childs at first and only let it have the treat if you only feel its tongue. Have the kids play very structured games with the dog ie giving treats when the dog sits, lays, rolls over or fetches, ensure the dog gives the children at least 3 inches of space unless it is calmly sitting for a pet or a treat. Ask the child to step forward towards the dog and say off or un un or whatever sound they feel in control with, while looking up with hands to the side or on chest when the dog gets too close to the child, not every child is capable of playing safely with your dog but when you find the children that are, the more your dog is exposed to them the more the dog will trust other children. I used to have a daycare in my home and I did it incorrectly and it accually made my dog less trusting of kids instead of more trusting through exposure to the kids.

    [Reply]

    Brent Reply:

    Hi just curious what you ended up doing with Maximus?

    We just got a Maximus from a shelter that sounds similar. I’m sure it’s not the same one but sounded like a strange coincidence.

    [Reply]

  7. Wilma says:

    Thank you for a very informative article. It made me think of a situation in our family. My mother’s aunt’s dog is very aggresive. When we visit we are told not to get near her or even look at her for too long because he becomes very aggresive. At one such a visit he bit me when I made a sudden movement towards the aunt. End of the story… we don’t visit anymore! Very sad! Aggression in dogs should be treated and I agree whole heartedly with your approach.

    [Reply]

  8. bev padjune says:

    Our dog was an spca dog youe think you are doing a good thing adopting it but you don;t k now what you are getting he is very loving to us but at times he does growl if you go near his food we have to muzzle him at the vet he tries to bite

    [Reply]

  9. Becky says:

    I have had the pleasure of owning two wolf mixes (not at the same time). They were natural alphas, other dogs and even people deferred to them. They never forced it. I used alpha rolls and we had some rough times. I woudl never do that again! I wish I knew then what I do now about positive training. It would have saved us so much grief! Several times those alpha rolls aggravated the situation and escalated it to where I had to get really nasty. I have a very strong willed Malamute now and redirection and positive training is so much better than force! I get faster and longer lasting results.
    Read articles on wolf behavior. The leaders do not go around forcing alpha rolls on pack members of lesser stadning. The lesser animal rolls on thier own to show respect and smooth things over. It is appeasement that is offered. I it is not coercion by the leader.
    Alpha rolls are aggression on the part of the owner. It can very easily turn into a power struggle that you might very well lose! Think about it, you’re wrestling on the floor wiht a buzz saw.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Great analogy! I completely agree!

    [Reply]

  10. Warren says:

    I just wanted to thank you for this article! One of our rescues jumps on everyone and every other animal in the house. I just attributed it to his breed. After reading your article I now realize how unacceptable this behavior is.

    THANK YOU! I will immediately use my new insight to help my new baby.

    [Reply]

  11. Isabel says:

    Thanks for the crucial information.
    I tried 4 behaviorist vets before I gave up on a 2 year old poodle I adopted when I saw an ad that a family had placed saying they were moving and no longer had space for him. I brought him home.
    The first encounter with his ‘other nature’ appeared when he raised his leg to a living-room curtain. I quickly rolled a piece of newspaper and was about to correct him when he showed his teeth and took attack posture.
    He had never been taken for walks, so I realized he was aggressive when he saw dogs or cats. I hired the first trainer. She recommended Bach flowers but this did not change his reaction when he caught sight of dog or cat. She said he would be cured eventually with Bach flowers.
    But then he looked viciously at people or children who walked by so I started pulling aside whenever I saw anyone approach as if I were walking a pitbull. It was almost comical… at first.
    The second behaviorist’s “technique” consisted in presenting a glove simulating a hand in a broom stick and touching his head or back. This got him out of his wits and he screamed and bit furiously at the glove.
    He said the dog should be put to sleep that it was too dangerous to keep him, or much worse give him away to someone else.
    The third person trained police dogs and took him home. He brought him back after a month and said “he is as tame as a sheep”.
    Of course non of his habits had changed a bit.
    Then the fourth, a German lady who learned in her country to train city dogs, indicated that with time and patience he would turn into a good dog. She gave me a halty collar so that he would start getting used to walking with it, but first he had to use it when he ate his meals. This turned in a never ending series of yes and nos on his part so I gave up.
    What I finally did was to calle the first owners back and said I have a family problem and would they please accept him back. The lady was quite moved and agreed, so there he is. They do not take him out on walks they said “because he does not like to go out and he does not like other dogs”.

    [Reply]

  12. jeannie says:

    I have two pit bulls, female siblings rescued at 8 weeks, very sweet to each other initially but then at about 3 months developed sibling aggression. One of them has since displayed aggression toward our other dogs (we have six total) any time there was anything she interprets as aggression – even just puppy play. The only solution we have been able to come to is a crate and rotate schedule, with two separate completely secure dog yards. They have time with each of us one on one, but one of them cannot really interact with the other dogs. We do let her out in the house, leashed and with a basket muzzle, to have supervised interactions. Other than the dog on dog aggression, she is incredibly sweet, never at all aggressive toward people or toward our cats, very smart and obedient. We cannot consider rehoming her and we’ve made a commitment to keeping her safe and also keeping our other dogs safe. It’s a lot of work and constant vigilance, but I’m grateful she ended up with us or her life would certainly have been cut short by now – and she really is a great dog who has these tendencies through no fault of her own.

    [Reply]

  13. Candace Puffer says:

    My dog, Fritz, is a poodle Bichon mix. He had Lyme as a puppy, and finally recovered. About a year ago ha suddenly bit my neighbor! My neighbor got a gash on her leg and refused medical treament. I immediately took my dog to vet. He said dog had a fever, and did blood work, which came out fine. Now, about a month ago, he suddenly lashed out at another neighbor! I caught him in time, but why is he doing this now? Do you think it has something to do with his Lyme? I was hospitalized for qite a while with a stroke, he had lots of people watching him, and now is he just being overly protective? can you help?

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  14. Cynthia says:

    My biggest problem is that I need to be medicated. I have been told time and time again not to act negatively when my dogs get out of line & go after another dog. I need to chill. Sometimes, when I do it right, and I don’t get mad at them,(we walk away from the situation so they are no longer face to face.) I feel like I am letting them get away with it. We go to classes twice a week, but it is frusterating when at the start of each class, it takes at least half the class to get them to act right. Should I split them up and take them to different classes?

    [Reply]

  15. art behne says:

    I have a two year old yorki poo.
    He is very agressive when he first meets someone. after a few minutes he seems to start being friendly.
    I am very worried about him biting anyone. He must always be on a leash to keep controlled.
    I try to train him but this seems to take forever which leaves me with the feeling that he will revert to his past.

    These little critters do capture many hearts. People seem to not understand that dogs can at anytime become aggressive.

    PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF HELP CAN BE FOUND ???

    Many Thanks
    Art Behne

    [Reply]

  16. Linda Hengst says:

    My husband and I adopted two male mixed terriers. They love being together and playing but they have aggression over food. We have tried two dishes in separate places but we had to stay guard to see that they stayed with their own dish. They seem to prefer eating out of one dish but they have to go through a growling routine which sometimes leads to a big fight and the food being tipped over and strewn around. The only thing that seems to stop them is when I use a squirt gun on them. One dog is more aggressive than the other and barks a lot at a stranger. I don’t feel he is safe to pet, and would bite someone he doesn’t know well if they try to pet him. Do you have some suggestions?

    [Reply]

  17. Roger says:

    I owned a smaller dog that was flat out mean with strangers. He would bark, snarl, and bite (viciously)
    There seemed no stopping him from this. But when he chased three attempted muggers off me getting rid of or putting him down was unthinkable.
    It was suggested I get an electric back collar. The type that shock the dog when he barks. A dog will never bite without barking or growling and that sets off the shock with no human intervention to escalate into warfare.
    I did and it only took 2 sessions and he would not bark or bite with the collar on. When it was off he was back to his normal. But with it on he would come over and I would comfort him and he was totally docile.
    A rather extreme but effective cure.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Shocking is never the way, it makes some dogs more aggressive and it is never worth the risk to find out which dog it will make significantly worse!!

    I think most dogs would defend their owners if put to the test, aggression is never acceptable in our society.

    AND, plenty of dogs bite without ever barking 😉

    [Reply]

    Roger Reply:

    I would beg to differ with you that plenty of dogs bite without barking. It is true that many dogs bite with no warning, but they will always growl and snarl when biting. I have been around a number of guard dogs that were trained to attack with no warning. They always growled as they bit.
    Their trainers used electric collars too.

    [Reply]

    Laura Bailey Reply:

    Roger,

    I am sickened, reading your illogical, ignorant rationale for using shock collars. Your lack of knowledge of canine behavior and your refusal to learn from an expert on aggression, and your condescending tone: all repulsive. I am in the process of training and rehabilitating an extremely reactive and fear aggressive Jack Russell Terrier. I can tell you definitively that dogs do bite without snarling or barking or growling, and they do it ALL the time. What do you know about guard dogs? Police dogs are never “trained to attack with no warning.” As a police reporter who’s covered police dogs and dog training, I can tell you that your assertion is criminally uninformed. If nothing else, do you realize the liability such training would pose for municipalities?

    Securing a torture device around your dog’s neck is repellent. Further, dog owners like you are menaces to the rest of us — my dog was likely abused by an alpha idiot: shocked, pronged, alpha-rolled, or any number of dominance theory perversions we call “training,” and that’s why he’s so fearful now.

    Shame on you for ignoring good advice and for choosing the lazy route. Such methods should be illegal.

    Becky Reply:

    Dogs do indeed bite without barking or snarling. Some dogs learn that if they make a noise first, they get harsh corrections, so they make no noise, just bite. That’s just one example. Some dogs can be desensitized to strangers, whether dog or human. Genetics play into too, not just thier upbringing. It is long hard work to desensitize a dog. you must be patient, consistent, and vigilant. Unfortunately, some dogs cannot be desensitized. For those, you have to manage their environment at all times to protect them and others.
    Please dont’ think that because your dog makes no sound, he will not bite. The chow that bit me in the face made no sound what so ever, just nailed me. Body language will tell you a lot more about his intentions than what sound he is making. Is his body stiff? Is his head lowered? Is his mouth drawn tightly forward? Is he giving you, or someone else, that cold hard stare we call the Hairy Eyeball? Those are signals that he is getting aggressive.

    [Reply]

  18. Meagan Stoney says:

    I liked this article but I have a confusing situation and not sure what to do. We rescued a stray 1-1.5yr old 80lb pit bull that had pups within a couple months before. She was real skinny and had real saggy skin. We have 2 other pits, 6mo male and 1yr female both fixed. This new one was very food aggressive, she never bit or growled at me but her body language definitely showed that it was her bowl and didn’t want the other dogs near. Immediately after the first time I fed her, I started hand feeding her with the dish on the counter and petting her face. Not sure if that was the right thing to do but it really has worked. It took a lot to do that all the time but well worth it. Now she can eat with the others and let them walk by her while she eats without growling. They all have their own dishes but I still stay right there just in case. You can pet her head and kinda pull on her ears and tail and kinda nudge her a little while she eats and she’s not afraid of you taking away her food or nervous at all. Every time I touch her, I am very gentle as I know aggression can escalate quick. She listens to my commands and has learned so quick. She is such a sweet loving girl and gets so excited when we come home. She does great at dog parks and when we go on our daily walk/run.

    About 2weeks ago we took her in to get spayed and she had just started bleeding on the way over. The ladies there were so nice and gentle but when the vet came in he didn’t greet her. He told the ladies to hold her down and he went to her backside. I was holding my 7mo old son so I couldn’t help but I was up by her head petting her and he told me to step away or I’ll get bit. She struggled quite a bit when I stepped back and then he told them to muzzle her. He was real ruff when he examined her and said that she is going to bite somebody for sure so I need to keep a muzzle on at all times if I’m going to keep her. She could tell I was upset during this whole thing I think because of my demeanor and the way he was talking to me. It was really making her nervous. I decided to wait till her heat is done to get her fixed because of the risks he talked about and I just wanted to get her outta there.

    She is always so sweet when people come up and want to pet her and better with the neighbor kids than adults really. Whenever the dogs lick my son or want to be by him I am always there of course but I give them a tiny treat to associate something good with him. It’s funny cuz if he’s not in his car seat when we get home they will try to get in it and run around looking for him and then attack his legs with kisses when we show him to them. One time when her and I were out front the mail man startled me and she got defensive but I went up to him and shook his hand and she came over and gave him kisses(or I guess she was tasting him lol!)

    So a couple days after the vet incident my husband(6’3″ 280lbs so sometimes his tone of voice can make the dogs a little nervous) asked her to go outside and she hesitated so of course he raised his voice and I told him not to because she ran behind me. I told him to be patient with her and she’ll come. He said he shouldn’t have to ask multiple times and came over to grab her collar. She lowered to the ground and he pulled her body up off the ground by her collar and of course she started flipping out and showed teeth(did not try to bite him). He held her to the ground by her skin trying to get her to quit struggling and I flipped out telling him to let her go. He let her go and she hid behind me shaking. I hugged her & tried to calm her down. He got mad and said that I baby them and that’s why they don’t listen to him(which they do when he uses a calmer voice) and that they need to know who is alpha. So, I’m pretty sure, the dogs think I’m alpha because I do most of the walking, feeding, training, which, I feel is best because I handle them more.

    Is it bad that they hide behind me when they are afraid of something? He learned from his dad that you have to dominate them into submission to establish the alpha role but I definitely do not agree. He is doing so much better than he was with dogs we had that have passed from old age and realizing that patients is kind of the key and they learn quicker but times like this he gets frustrated and thinks it’s important to dominate just like that vet told me to muzzle and dominate. Now, I’ve never had issues I couldn’t handle till these 2 situations and I disagree with both of them. Please let me know if I’m doing the right things or if I am making the situations worse or should see a behaviorist?

    [Reply]

    Joanne Reply:

    Just a personal opinion, but I think for the most part you are right. I tried dominating my dog and all it did was prolong all the issues we had. To this day he does not like me to “alpha roll” him, even in play. He barks and jumps and lets me know he doesn’t like it. I think that train of thought is very old school. You are right to use patience with your dog. Yes, your dog should obey the first time, but being dominant is not the answer. And while I firmly believe that we must establish an alpha roll, I also believe a dog is much more apt to respond to Calm, clear, consistent training. (The fact that the dogs respond to him when he uses a calm demeanor just proves this.) That is what they need and expect from an alpha, be it dog or human. More training, not dominating, with your husband would correct the problem.
    However, “comforting” your dog in these situations will likely just encourage the shaking and hiding behind you, and possibly escalate the bad behavior your husband brought on by trying to dominate her.
    Both you and your husband need to be Clear and Calm when dealing with your dog. I think the best thing to do would be to remove the dog from the situation until she clams down and then praise her for being calm. (This might also work for your husband!)

    [Reply]

  19. Bud says:

    Please let me explain,that I am not a professional dog trainer. This will not solve aggressive dogs behavior,but it may help some. I have read many of the comments and questions on here and would suggest, that the dog owner get back to the obedience training skills with there dogs, and if there dogs have never had Obedience Training, then I recommend the owner do it. Obedience training should be given to all dogs. Many dog owners do not do this and should, I feel it makes the dog respect the owner more,and establishes the owner or the other people in the household as the Alpha dog. All people in the household should practice this also. I feel that all people in the house should work with the dog in and obedience training manner. People tend to get lax on this and not reinforce the obedience training that there dogs have been given. I know,I get lazy with my own dog and don’t do this enough. But then I start it again, and my dog becomes much better behaved,and it puts him in an obedient mode, instead of a lazy dog mode, that allows him to act like he is he is suppose to act instead of how he wants to act. Maybe this will help some of you , but is not a cure all.

    [Reply]

    Barbara Reply:

    I tried to enroll my 18 mo. female rescued cocker in obedience school and was refused as they would not take a dog that bites. She bites people when they immediately get their faces close to her, thinking she is like some dog they used to have. The trainer I was sent to by the obedience school put a prong collar on her and he really jerked on her until she cowered in to submission on sit and down. She does it now on command, but it is slow and cowerly. I love her, but cannot trust her w/ kids and strangers. She gets muzzles off faster than Houdini…She stiffens and does the eye thing, but moves very fast w/ no other warning.

    [Reply]

    Mandy Reply:

    Yes I agree that all dogs should have dog obedience training, but not as black and white as you think, like Barbara said It can be hard when you need that extra help as when you enrol for dog obedience you need to fill out a form with your dogs behaviour first and if there are any signs of aggression they won’t take you. My dog has been going to puppy school and dog obedience since he was 8 weeks old he now is 10 months I’ve had him in 2 obedience schools one he passed one he didn’t and with 3 dog behaviour trainers and he will still not be obedient he will only do it if he wants to , if the dog trainer tries to get him to do something he doesn’t want he retaliates and will bite them and me. Most things do work for most dogs but if you get a dog like mine especially as he is 50kg already with my full strength nothing seems to be working. I think I have tried everything and I think the only thing that may of helped was if He had of been left with his mother longer as I got him at 6 weeks old from a litter of 15 pups, if I had of known earlier that taking pups from there mums to early could result in some behaviour issues I would have least waited until he was 8 weeks. I’m very committed to my dog and he has alot of issues but I will keep pushing on for now and hope that we can get a well adjusted dog.

    [Reply]

  20. Victoria says:

    Thanks for this article! My puppy, Bartleby, had not been showing any signs of aggression whatsoever ever since we got him 2 months ago. He seemed like the sweetest dog ever. He is now 7 months old. My dad had been helping with trimming his nails but a few weeks ago he wasn’t here and Bert really needed his nails trimmed. I decided that we should take him somewhere to get them trimmed. They took him into a different room to trim them and almost instantly I heard barking. I looked in the window into the room to see him groweling and trying to bite the the woman. I offered to help but they said they didn’t want me getting bitten. They ended up trying to put a muzzle on him… twice. Both times he ripped it off. She had to call in the dog trainer for help. They ended up having to give up after he bit the trainer. It wasn’t severe but it did draw blood. Ever since he would bite when ever anyone tried to touch his paws. I wasn’t sure how to deal with his aggression but now, after reading this article, I hope to deal with it once and for all. He is also enrolled in a training program for dogs. Thanks for your help!

    [Reply]

  21. Sylvia says:

    The dog I’ve been with for 1 year and about 3 months is a shared dog with the family that actually rescued him. During the week when the boy of the family is in school, I take care of Rocky. Rocky is a Terrier/Chihuahua mix and up until he was one year old he was pure fun and very smart. He has learned to sit on command and wait for the cross the street signal. However he has gotten into the bad habit of growling at person he does not know. I would like to help and learn how to change this behavior. Any idea? Do I need to take him to a trainer and/or the Vet?

    [Reply]

  22. Helen says:

    We bought a 6 week old puppy from a pet shop – very cute but from the start was very timid. We took her – Evie – to Puppy school where she either ran under the chair or displayed aggression.She was the cutest puppy who then graduated to Dog training school. She was fine with all of us but with strangers ran and hid and growled loudly.
    Initially we bought her as our other dog was getting old and our vet advised it might be good to get a younger dog for her. In hindsight I wonder why as she continually jumped all over her and nipped her.
    In the end at about 10 months, although introduced to a delivery man she ran up behind him and bit him on the leg. We sought advice from the Dog School and the vet and were advised to permanently sedate her with medication and also send her to a 2 week school to be trained. As we live with no fences and 13 neighbours we made the very difficult decision to put her down. We all went to be with her and even now I am distressed to write this. We loved little Evie but ultimately we couldn’t trust her anymore and knew if anything happened we knew it would be our responsibility for not taking the tough decision.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You gave her a happy 10 months, and some dogs never get that. I understand! Sometimes good people get aggressive dogs and it is heart wrenching for them. Its not always about “how you raise them” sometimes it comes down to breeding. I am sorry for your sadness and loss.

    [Reply]

  23. Nancy says:

    Thanks for the GREAT article! I have noticed that sometimes that if you have more than one dog, and even though the person may not realize it, you could be favoring one over the other which could build some of that aggression up. I have seen things like that before and to the point of the dogs wanting to kill each other because of that as well. So, I also think that its about owners learning to be the “alpha-animal” in the pack and making sure each pet is loved equally!

    [Reply]

  24. Sharon says:

    I have a 2 yr old lab/blue tic mix.she is the sweetest thing you would ever want to meet. I also have a 7 yr old lab mix (rescue)and they get along great. However about a year ago I was visiting my brother who has 3 labs and she hates them. When we go to visit she is very nervous and constantly on guard. If one of them even looks at her across the room she gets this look in her eyes and starts to growl. She also did the same thing when we went to visit my sister who has 3 shelties. If any one of them even come near her she shows teeth and will eventually lunge at it. I have not taken them back to either of their houses since. I live an hour away so that means no visiting my family for the holidays this year. Ive talked to my vet and his suggestion is to leave her at home. She has never been aggressive to any perosn. She is the kind of dog who will sit on your lap is you let he. She loves to snuggle and altho you probably wouldnt approve, she actually sleeps on my lap when Im watching TV. She loves people just not my siblings dogs. If I take her to the vet she is fine if there are other dogs in the waiting room. My neighbor has a dog and she actually will sit at the back door and cry if I dont let her out and if the neighbor doent bring his dog to the fence to see her she will sit at the gate wagging her tail and crying until they go inside. Any suggestions?

    [Reply]

  25. Vanessa says:

    I have four dogs at home, a male Basset, male Daschund, female Retriever, I also have a eight month old Boerbull. My problem is that I got him when he was already 3 months old and he had no inoculations done so this took a further two or three months to do. Therefore I could not take him for training at an early age and now he is so huge and a little bit dominant. He loves the other dogs and they get on well except when it’s dinner time; I separate him from the pack. I try to play ball with him but sometimes I find that he is too rough and he “play” bites me, I can’t take him out for walks as I am too small to handle him should he try to run. He is the most loving and protective friend my family has ever had and he is always by my side when I am at home and I am very gentle, loving and attentive with him. I have quite a big property so there is plenty of room for him to run off his energy, I am concerned though as some dogs turn on their owners and he being so large and strong could do serious damage with just one bite! I am almost sure that he will never turn on me but how can I overcome him hurting me whilst playing? He also sometimes jumps up at me in excitement which I mostly can control by turning away, but I can read he’s body language which I think is saying “don’t challenge me”. Any guidance would be appreciated.

    [Reply]

  26. Suzanne says:

    It saddens me to hear such tales – much of this can be avoided by knowledge of our canine friends. Violence begets violence. I work with many severe cases and have found medication is not required – working with their mind is the tool. Educating humans is the key. Understanding how animals communicate and what their intentions are and how to make changes by using their unique natural ways is much easier, less stressful and much more fun. I dont use any harsh methods with any of my cases or use treats as bribery. Consider that we can travel around the world as a human and not understand each other, but a dog can go to any country and understand another dog… what does that say? We are just not in tune with their languages.

    [Reply]

  27. Jo Ann says:

    My husband and I live on 5 acre wooded property, about 5 miles from town. Our children live in other parts of the country. We usually meet friends for dinner, so rarely have anyone at our home except when the kids and grand kids visit. We rescued a fox hound/mix in Dec. 2010. He is about 19 months old. After the first few weeks he started to show aggression towards me only. We hired an in-home trainer, and tried using the “bah” command for his obedience training. His aggression, she told me to turn away from him and ignore him, as he wants attention. The dog sometimes came after me more. I tried ignoring him at times, but often spraying myself with Bitter Apple (I have bottles everywhere), and that seems to work best. My husband only has to raise his voice, and the dog listens–but with me, if I raise my voice, he ignores me! A lot of people use our road for bike rides, motorcycles, etc. He goes crazy when I am walking him and someone rides by. I use a small-sized choker chain to pull him back, even trying to make him sit (as he is too strong for me to control him otherwise). We have also taken him to a local obedience training, I thought he needed more socialization. That worked out pretty well, but I stopped the more advanced training after the 4th class as he hated the prong collar. I was nearly in tears, as he yelped and jumped numerous times, with the trainer. So, I didn’t finish the advanced training. When our kids visit, we put him in the kennel (they love him there!!) as I am afraid he is too active and may end up nipping at the 5 & 6 year old boys. He is getting better with his aggression with me, but occasionally shows he clearly wants attention, and tries to nip me or growl. I am not sure what else I should be doing. I am very affectionate to him, sometimes I think, that might be a mistake. He can be a love bug when he snuggles up to me on the sofa. Note: He is crate trained, and sleeps in there and we put him in the crate when we go out (or he would destroy the house!). Also, he has a large fenced-in yard to play in and we walk him 2-3 times daily (sometimes only 10-15 minutes). Do you have any suggestions what we can do with him.

    [Reply]

  28. D. Mills says:

    I ordered some dog training DVDs, aggressive dog collar and training leash from Leerburg. I was given an 8 month old Boxer-Rhodesian Ridgeback that weighs around 75 lbs now (1-yr old), so he’s large and very playful and his size sometimes causes problems because of his size and strength.

    I had prviously ordered an e-collar for an aggressive American Bulldog I adopted from a local shelter. Not much was known of his history but he got along well with my female American Bulldog mix, a very gentle and loving pet. For reasons unknown to me to this day, after 18-months of bliss the male began viciously attacking my female whenever he got the opportunity. It was blooday, scary and nerve-racking to say the least. He wanted to kill her. I was unable to rehome him and he was euthanized after 4 months. His previous owner was going to euthanize him but the vet called the shelter I went to and they rescued him.

    Back to my Boxer-mix: I use the e-collar on him and fortunately I only have to set it on the lowest setting with a slight chime that gets him to focus on me. He will also come immediately if I push the receiver one time with the chime. I was able to walk him late at night with a light leash and he would walk without pulling and only occasionally would I need to select the chime to re-focus his attention. I could also walk him off-leash using the e-collar as backup.

    I visited the Leerburg site a few nights ago and he said he always uses a pronged collar when training any dog. Well, I had an expensive prong collar that I purchased for the male American Bulldog and decided to put it on my Boxer-mix for our next walk. Wow! What a personality change. He didn’t like it at all and I was unable to control him without hurting him. I will never use this type collar again. Leerburg has lots of experience but his methods are very aggressive in my opinion. When I was researching how to rehabilitate my American Bulldog Leerburg suggests “hanging” him until he nearly passes out to prevent future aggressive behavior.

    My lesson: be careful of whom you seek advice from. Even the “Dog Whisperer’s” advice and techniques didn’t work on my American Bulldog and I was almost bitten several times trying to place him in a submissive position until he calmed down or doing that little back-kick he does to gain the dog’s attention. My dog didn’t like either technique.

    Buyer beware!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I agree! The only safe way to interact with any dog is using your mind, not your body to control the animal!

    How do people like this think whale trainers handle their animals, or dolphins, or tigers? It is much more difficult to force a wild animal to do your bidding…but if you are using your mind you have the upper hand!

    That is why I so emphatically recommend positive methods, it may seem to take longer, but no one will be bitten and everyone will enjoy the journey much better :)

    [Reply]

  29. Car says:

    HI – Our 7 year old shitzu-brussels mix has always been great around everyone and still is. For the past several months he has started growling and acting agggressive whenever he is sitting in his “bed” and we call him to go outside. First he will growl. Then, he will jump out of his bed toward whomever is calling him to go out. He will growl really loud, sometimes show teeth and then eventually goes out with some gentle coaxing, and is perfectly fine after that. He will sometimes do the same thing when one goes to put his leash on- not always- usually just when he has been “comfortable” on his bed. He has bitten my mother (elderly) when she went to put his leash on him- again he had been in his bed. Should we just leave him alone when in his bed? If tempted with treats he will not respond badly and will simply come to us, let the leash be put on and go outside quietly. He has never growled at anyone else or at any other time. Any thoughts? It sounds like with some consistent training we might be able to eliminate this behavior???
    thanks

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Actually I would take his bed away for a time and then utilize treats for going outside. I would also keep a leash or short tab leash on him, or you can clip the leash on him many times throughout the day to desensitize him with his leash. But, in my opinion he hasn’t earned the privilege of that bed if he is growling and acting aggressively in it. As you see the aggression diminish you may give him his bed back, but for now I would take it away!

    [Reply]

  30. Patti says:

    I was glad to see that there may be hope for our dog “Lucky”. She was aprox. 5 mos. old when we got her. She was a stray running loose in the N.M. State Parks. We took her in ’cause she was so sweet and friendly with out other dog. She’s part pitbull and looks to be lab/bloodhound mix too. Our other dog is pitbull and dingo we were told (gentle as they come too). Got him at the pound, his name is “Chance”…so they pretty much grew up together. Chance was just 2 years old when we brought her into the home. We were actually on a family relocation trip, living in a 6 sleeper trailer filled to capacity! Didn’t have any trouble with her in the beginning. Didn’t even have to worry about her taking off, but had to leash her anyway. Her aggressions didn’t start until she was old enough for her first heat. She never got hooked or anything but….whenever she seen other dogs she got very aggressive, and not while in her heat because she was ok with Chance “bothering” her. We’ve moved into an apartment since then and she is now well over a year and her aggression towards other dogs is very viscious. She even shows signs toward people now too. She also has a bladder issue. When she’s disciplined for bad behavior she pees where she stands even if she’s just been out. Now she has become aggressive towards Chance as well….it’s almost as though it is a territorial thing. Even though sometimes she’s ok with sharing some things with him. She will “out of the blue” attack him by surprise. It seems she’s getting worse with age and we don’t hit on her or even play aggressive with her like we do Chance, not because we are afraid of her…but because we don’t want to promote her aggressions. We really need help with her and are not sure what our options are. She hasn’t bitten a person YET, but the animals she’s attacked have been hurt slightly before we were able to get her off of them. None of them ever provoking her to attack. What can we do? Not sure if we can get a handle on this. People have told us that pitbulls brains grow larger than their skull, causing them to go mad with age, not sure of the truths behind that. Any insight on what we should do? The vetinariean behaviorist sounds promising, but just don’t know what is all involved?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Unknowingly people promote myths, the brain myth is an urban legend.

    Get her spayed!!! It might help to regulate her hormones and then have her checked by a vet, the peeing while standing is not normal. But submissive peeing when in trouble can be.

    Use a gentle leader and she is going to need a lot of desensitization around other dogs which a veterinary behaviorist can help you do slowly and safely!

    [Reply]

  31. Cindy Jacobs says:

    I have a 16 month old border collie/lab mix I adopted at 6 months old. He is a wonderful dog and learns very quickly. He was a jumper, but was learning he did not get positive reinforcement, so stopped. He stopped chewing anything he wasn’t supposed to, opens and closes doors on command, etc. I am a therapist and would love to train him as a therapy dog. He did well in training, but I stopped for a while and put him in daycare where he could socialize with other dogs. He wasn’t allowed to do this in his classes. The issue I have now, is he is starting to show aggression. This started prior to daycare, so it’s nothing he learned there. I am afraid that I am the problem and have instilled the need to protect me. I have never been in a situation where I felt threatened and he has never seen anyone touch me or even yell at me. Can you point me to a resource where I can figure out what I did so I can undo it? He is a great dog when he and I are alone. The neighbors he has gotten used to on his walks are fine, as are the daycare people, but any new person he meets is met with barks, pulling on the leash, and now growls. At times, he will let someone pet him for a minute, then all of a sudden lunge up towards their face. He has never bit anyone. He has nipped when excited and I am running with him, but I immediately stop playing with him, followed by a stern “no” and do not resume play until he calms down. I feel I need to hold the leash very close to his collar when we meet new people, so I am tense and I’m sure he feels it. The daycare recommended a trainer, but I was not comfortable as he insists on keeping them at his home for at least 2 months. He assures me he uses only positive reinforcement, but someone told me he is an ex police dog trainer and uses prong or choke collars. I will not subject my dog to this. He has never bitten me, I can take food from his mouth, touch him anywhere with no aggression at all. He has been spayed. He is 70 pounds, mostly black, so people are intimidated. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Cindy,

    First he will never make a safe therapy dog! So put that idea and stress for him and yourself away. It is not safe to have him interact with people on that level.

    Next find a veterinary college near you and find a veterinary behaviorist. Not a dog trainer, a veterinary behaviorist that specializes in behavior and aggression issues.

    I agree, I would not give this dog to someone else for training. The training you need is with YOU so giving him to someone else to train is just a waste of money!

    You need a good professional who is use to doing this all day long and can use drugs if need be.

    And don’t put this off, at 16 months this is liable to escalate into a bite if you are not careful!

    [Reply]

  32. Jillian says:

    My dog is two years old, she is a bluetick coonhound. She is my family’s first dog and we do not know how to correct her bad behaviors. One thing I would like an opinion on is that she gets really hyper and jumps at you runs around crazy in two situations: 1)There is someone new around and she is excited to meet them 2) When we give her treats. Can you help, she is not being aggresive, but it is scary and no one will go in her pen when she acts like this.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Put her on a leash and teach her what your expectations are! This way you can teach her to be calm and sit or lay down for treats etc.

    [Reply]

  33. willimaz says:

    I have an 11month old border collie (our family’s first puppy), she is very submissive and has been showing some fear aggression. She is very protective of our family,front door, and fence line. She passed Her C.G.C and is working on her 3rd obedience training class. I’m working with a behaviorist but I think she needs to be medicated at least for a while. I’ve have to children and though she has never shown any aggression to anyone in our family or home I don’t want to take any chances. She has never bitten anyone but she does snap,lunge at people and growl. She also recently got away from me a tried to charge a guy, luckily she is loyal and I got in between and gave her a leave it command. She is hearing impaired in her leaf ear, this make things even more difficult. I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing by keeping her. Everyone thinks I’m a good dog mom but I feel like she may need to go to a home that has more time and resources. I keep being told that this is what border collies do however I think she got a lot more going on than typical herding behavior.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    This is not typical herding dog behavior. Nothign is “typical” about aggression!

    Rehoming her sets up up for serious liability, even if she bites someone 8 years from now the owner can come back on you and say you knew about the aggression and gave her away anyway.

    I would talk to your behaviorist about behavior modification and drug therapy at least for a while and see if the combination of the two things helps! Drugs can be wonderful, it just usually takes some time to get the prescription and dosage just right.

    [Reply]

  34. Thomas says:

    Your advice is most helpful. Puppies who aren’t socialized can grow up to be fearful of other dogs, people, and just about anyone and anything outside of their routine. That can lead to aggression.For a dog, life is all about the moment, and you can at any time change the way it views its surroundings. Of course, it will require more time and patience.

    [Reply]

  35. I am hoping for some good advice here. I have an 8 year old rodesian ridgeback/boxer. She has been a well trained family dog for 5 years. Within the past year she is anxious and aggressive toward children that aren’t my own. She is forced to be in the bedroom each time a kid comes over. She happened to be out when another kid was over and when the girl went to jump next to her my for jumped up and bit her. This is the first time this has happened and now I am left wondering what my next step should be. If anyone has advice it would be greatly appreciated.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    The very first thing I would do is take her to a vet and have lots of health tests run. X-rays, blood work, urinalysis, ears checked to determine what has changed.

    Behavior doesn’t often just “change” after 5 years. Usually it is a problem of arthritis, thyroid, bladder infection, ear infection or something else that causes a change in a dog.

    At 7 dogs are considered seniors and things can change, which is just another reason to visit your vet.

    When you don’t feel good, your bite threshold is reduced!

    After your vet has done a thorough work up I would consider getting a referral to a veterinary behaviorist, to help you with the behavior changes.

    Whenever there are children involved I think it is best to get the help of a veterinary behaviorist so that there are no more bites incurred!

    [Reply]

  36. crystal says:

    I have read over this and another blog of yours.
    We rescued a boxer mix 2.5 year old dog from a co-worker. She states he was jumpy and typical boxer, but friendly. Primarily indoors and lived indoors with 2 other dogs.
    We took him thinking he’d learn to live outside in our fence with our 8 year old collie mix.
    Well, when we first got him, he was very friendly. Met babysitters,etc with no problem. Great with kids.
    Suddenly something changed. After about 3 weeks my mother came to visit and he was on his cable outside and he growled and barked very aggressively and jumped on her leaving her with a bruise on her eye. No bites, although he used his teeth.
    Since then he has been that way with all visitors and has jumped on my mother yet again (he broke out of his crate and ran upstairs while she was standing at the door about to take my kids so I could go to work) and I had to quickly get on top of him and control him.
    We tried obedience training a month ago but halfway through day 1 of the class they told us that they could not keep him in class because he became too aggressive towards the trainer and very protective of me.
    When we had a couple come to meet him today to look into rescueing him from me… I tried taking him for a walk and seeing how he would do approaching the house with them already there, but as soon as we arrive he was barking very aggressively and trying to jump on them (my leash kept him back). Once I put him on the cable in the fence he was only calm if I stood by him. I told him no everytime he’d bark but I wasn’t tremendously effective because I have to use every ounce of my strength to hold him back.
    He apparently was not anything like this with the prior owner and she has been shocked by this behaviour. He has never bit anyone, and he is great with my kids, and he is more obedient with my husband, and he’s even good on walks and in public, but he will not let anyone near our house.

    Is this fixable by meds? We are having a hard time finding a rescue that has space for him. Nobody is going to take him if he acts like that when they meet him. But this couple really wanted to meet him at our house to see how he was on his turf.
    Help.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read this article that I published today. http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/rehoming-cujo/

    If you take him to a shelter, tell them the truth.

    If you decide to work with him and get help, call a veterinary behaviorist that can prescribe medication. If you need help, call your vet for a referral.

    I don’t understand “No bites, although he used his teeth”.

    Unless he hit her with an over or underbite, anything that involves “teeth” is a bite. It may not have drawn blood but it was a bite.

    Be honest. There is a reason you are fearful, you know that the probability of him biting is HIGH. That is why you need a veterinary behaviorist to come to you.

    [Reply]

    crystal Reply:

    Thanks for your response. And thanks for that link. I’ve never dealt with this before and I’ve been uncomfortable deciding at what point was considered bad and what wasn’t. I find an issue because I don’t want to keep him, therefore I don’t want to go through the trouble of finding a behavioral vet. But the girl who gave him to me, whom I still work with, has told me she is ok with him going to a rescue or another owner, but not to the shelter. Problem is that according to her he was never like that. But she took him when he was a year old and he had been left abandoned in the house they bought for a week when they found him. So nobody knows anything of what his first year was like.
    I am increasingly getting more concerned… yesterday he broke the front yard leash and jumped our fence trying to get to the mail lady. Luckily she rolled her windows up quick and she’s kept an eye out for this to happen one day… and I was standing beside the dog when it happened trying to refocus him so he wouldn’t bark at her. I ended up chasing him down the road and finally caught him as he was running up and down a fence line of someone’s house with 4 big dogs barking on the other side. Perhaps this is our fault for not nipping this aggression earlier in the last month that he’s really gotten bad, but I’m now officially desperate.

    [Reply]

    crystal Reply:

    Just an additional tidbit- we’ve only had him since mid-July and this all started about 1 week into August, and has been progressively worsening.

    Minette Reply:

    From my experience it often takes about 3 weeks for a dog to get comfortable enough in its new environment to show its real behavior.

    However, tie outs and confinement often build frustration and aggression.

    His former owner has no say over what you do with him, as she is no longer his owner.

    If you take him to a shelter tell them the truth, so he doesn’t maul or kill someone!

  37. Sherrie says:

    Hello All!!

    I recently adopted a 7 year old Shih Tzu, he is a really great dog.
    Only problem I am having is that he growls and snarls if you pet him while he has a treat.
    Does anyone have advice for me on how to correct this??

    [Reply]

  38. Lucy says:

    Good blog, thank you.

    As a dog rescuer and dog owner for decades, I am really upset and wondered if you had any advice. About 2 and a half months ago I got involved with a Ridgeback x dog roaming on the streets whose owners once he was picked up by the local Pound for non-registration would not pay to get him back. So I adopted him with a view to fostering him, training him and getting him a new home. My own two dogs and cats do not like him – he chases the cats and any fight my Corgi would start, the rescue dog would finish – so he’s kept in a big, warm, connected garage with access to the garden. He’s bored despite walks and playing. He’s also been in a great kennels for 3 weeks to try and socialise him.

    However, he has big problems – he has gone for people 6 times to my knowledge, rushing them and snapping but not tearing skin. With no reason or warning, just rushing them. Two days ago he got out of the garage, ran around the streets, would not come back to me and ended up going for a young kid not once but twice, the boy did nothing and he tore the kid’s shirt.

    I have limited funds so cannot get a trainer all the time (have taken him to a trainer for a day and also sought advice from others) – with other people he’s been carted to the Pound twice, once for going for another couple walking down the road and he other time for non-registration but a witness said he attacked an old man! Now this attack on the boy. It really shook me (and the poor boy).

    I cannot have him inside the house because he goes for my cats and the other dogs won’t have him in there. The rescue Trust i am associated with can’t rehome him now because he has a menacing dog order on him and he’s got to be muzzled in public.

    The vets say he’s healthy.

    Am i just setting myself up for upset both for him, a passer by/kid and myself if I keep him around and still try to rehome him or is it kinder to have him PTS in case this escalates, he hurts someone and he gets himself into a worse situation? I am desperately upset. He is sweet to me and with training has become good indoors but outside he’s like a different dog – he will not obey, he loses focus and just runs riot like a thug.

    It’s heartbreaking to consider putting a healthy and often loving dog, to sleep but I can’t keep him and in all conscience rehome him where he might do damage. I wish i could afford major behaviour training for him but i can’t beyond what i’ve already paid for. He’s bored where he is, has no life (he’s about a year old) and if he does this again and gets caught up with the law he will be in a strange place, terrified and then euthanised which would also be heartbreaking.

    I have never had to consider something so difficult before on my own.

    What would your advice be? Thank you

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You have to do what is best for all of you.

    For you to keep him, he needs to be seen and probably medicated by a veterinary behaviorist. And, you can never let your guard down or he is likely to bite again.

    He is not rehome-able because he is a liability.

    Although it is sad to think about euthanizing him, I think it is more sad to think about him biting more people and ultimately meeting the same end.

    You have to make the decision that is best for you, but he needs the help of a behaviorist if you decide not to euthanize.

    [Reply]

  39. Stacy Keene says:

    I have a Golden Retriever puppy that is now 16 weeks old. We noticed resource guarding (although we did not know it at the time) right after we got her at 8 weeks. It has never been food and is so random when it happens. It started out when we were trying to pull her away from something…chewing on a comforter, pulling her out of the dishwasher, pulling her away from chewing a box. I have to be honest and say we have not tried your suggestions, but have been more on the defense and correcting when it happens. I know this has been our mistake. Until recently, we did not know it was resource guarding…just thought I was dealing with an aggressive puppy and wanted to take her back to the breeder. I have never experienced this before with any puppy I have owned. We have 3 small children and it scares me to death. We are in puppy classes and she is a smart dog, but not sure if we should give her back to be with a family that does not have kids and 8 kids that live next door. I trust my husband and I to work with her, but yesterday, after being told 100 times my 3 year old tried to get the remote out of her mouth. She snarled, growled and lunged like she was going to bite her. I grabbed her leash immediately as I was in panic mode. This was the first time it involved one of my kids.She is on a leash at all times as part of our puppy training and tied to our belt most of the time. Only recently have we given her a little more freedom but still has the leash on her. Is there help or will this be a life long problem? Is our family better off trading her in?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Puppies have a much higher rate of making this problem better… but I too am afraid for your kids prompting me to recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

    Read this article, but understand that I am concerned and think you need to have someone out to your house to help fix the problem before it gets significantly worse.

    [Reply]

  40. Andrea says:

    I am at a time when I don’t know if I made a mistake with a rescue adoption. My 8 yr siberian husky is almost too laid back. We recently adopted a 1 yr old husky mix amd he was on his second trip to the local humane society yeah apparently whomever bought and adopted this puppy clearly did not do their homework on husky behavior. Well needless to say. I am having a very difficult time getting this puppy to turn off his wanna fight ruff at every possible moment switch,when it comes to my older dog he acted like a good match for the first few weeks but this puppy has been very persistent at trying to get a rise outta him . The 8 yr old is more of a lover and not so much a fighter but also can on occasion be the instigator but then cowers when the puppy responds. help me do I let these two duke it out or keep intervening. I can actually feel my blood pressure go up when it gets to be about the 45th attempt at redirection or separation or verbal no cues and reinforced positve behavior. What is your advice taking him for trip number 3 is out of the question.so lay it on me please.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I keep my puppies on a leash until they are well behaved enough that they listen to me and stop wanting to instigate fights.

    I have a one year old dog that is on leash and is learning to stop bad behavior when I tell him to, but obedience is key

    [Reply]

  41. Anastasiya says:

    Hello everyone,
    I have a 1 year old Bouvier and he happened to be very aggressive. me and my boyfriend thinking of putting him asleep because he already bit him 4 times. He is very loving and he shows his love to us, however whenever you try to take lets say a piece of plastic from his mouth he will bite. or if you try to tell him to leave the room, or pull him away from something. we thought the problem is that he thinks he is the boss but im not sure. it also seems as a fear aggression because he does not let anyone to pet him unless it is someone he knows.
    Please help me out before we come to the conclusion of putting him asleep.
    Thank you

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Contact a veterinary behaviorist they are the only ones who can see the behavior and help you one on one with a known biter who is less than a year.

    [Reply]

  42. carley says:

    Hi I have a 9 month old American bull dog who I have had for just over 3 months but he his fear aggressive towards strangers and other dogs, he will bark,growl and lunge I have a dog trainer working with us were we are using treats to keep his attention on me just wondering if you have any other good tips to try

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I always recommend eye contact and focus. And, I recommend using a muzzle to give you both more confidence.

    Read this and I would look into our next aggression course. You can email Dana and she can probably put you on a list to be emailed when it starts again.

    I use a lot of videos and tricks for dogs with aggression.

    http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/eye-contact-focus-behavior-broken/

    http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/love/

    [Reply]

  43. Brandy says:

    I have a 2yr old American Bulldog, Cyrus. He is the sweetest, most loving dog I’ve ever had. I also have 3 Pekingnese Oliver,13, yrs, Sophie, 12 yrs and Layla 9 yrs old. In the past year, Cyrus has attacked all 3 dogs. Sophie twice, Layla once and old man Oliver twice. The girls weren’t hurt hardly at all, but he’s gotten Oliver twice really bad. I have to carry him to the vet again tomorrow because he got both his eyes and a huge laceration right above his eye. This incident was over the food bowls. We’ve never had this issue before, but I’m in complete distress b/c my husband says he’ll do away with Cyrus next time he attacks one of our Pek’s. Cyrus loves kids and never shows aggression. It’s just these random times he lashes out. someone please offer me some advise or maybe some suggestions. I’m lost and feel I’ve tried everything I’ve read on the subject! I am getting Cyrus neutered on Wednesday! he thinks he is as small as the other dogs!?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    No, no he doesn’t think he is as small as the others and he DOES have aggression issues. I worry for your children if they touch him or get in his face when he eats.

    First thing is first… he needs to be crated when he eats. HE HAS TO BE or he is likely to kill one of your other dogs. You are lucky up to this point that he hasn’t killed them. But ABD mature at about this age and not only is the fact that he is in tact making your problems worse, he is also likely to escalate his behavior since he is becoming sexually mature. Even neutering him at 2 is less likely to make a big change because he has created a bad habit. It is definitely better to have him neutered than not, but at this age it is no miracle cure.

    Not all dogs get along. I have 3 and one of the 3 hates everyone else and they in turn dislike him. I would NEVER EVER EVER feed him around the other two it would cause a fight.

    AND, I must keep him with me or on a leash if the others are in the house too. Otherwise they can do shifts, 2 out one in and vice versa.

    And, although this is super difficult and I spend oodles of time making sure there is no dog fight I choose this rather than getting rid of the naughty one because I know as a professional trainer that I can handle that and I can keep them from fighting. It is a life long condition and commitment. I hope that some day they can all co-exist but he is also 2 and I see no light at the end of the tunnel yet. I must be prepared to live like this or one of my dogs will die in a fight.

    As suggested in this article it is time to seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist or your big dog is likely to kill one of your smaller dogs.

    [Reply]

  44. Deb says:

    I have a 2 1/2 year old lab who is very aggressive. We have 2 other dogs, a rat terrier and a Yorkinese and they do not get along. He is food aggressive as well and is only fed in his pen. He is very strong and protective. He will lunge and go full attack mode when he is on a leash and encounters other people or other animals. Last night he bit me for reaching trying to pick up a piece of a tennis ball he had chewed up. I am open to any suggestions.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Find a veterinary behaviorist as recommended in the article

    [Reply]

  45. Hayley says:

    Hi !
    I have a 2 year old male Great Pyr. He is veryyy sweet with our family and children but he does not like the neighbours. He has been aggressive towards them on our property and theirs. He raises his lips, growls and crouches down. He has never bitten but I am worried about something happening. What should I do? An out of hand 150 lb farm dog concerns me!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    As the article suggests it is time to seek a veterinary behaviorist or enroll in our aggression program or both. If interested in our aggression program contact Dana at customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com

    [Reply]

  46. Flo says:

    We adopted a puppy for our 13 year old son. The pup loved on him so much the first few days, but now all he does is growl and snap at my son, my son (who I am trying to explain to not be agressive back) just acts back with aggression. He will not listen to me. The pup is also becoming agressive with other kids when they pet him (my grandkids and friends). The puppy has also bonded with me and I am about the only one he does not react negatively to. Where can I find professional help with this problem.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Most veterinary schools. By being aggressive your son is creating an aggressive liability, get help as soon as possible before someone is hospitalized.

    [Reply]

  47. Heather says:

    I have a wonderful and sweet 1 year old German shepherd. She is kind to us but she is very aggressive to other people. I feel I have to muzzle her when we go out because of her behavior. She is afraid of her own shadow I don’t know if the aggressive behavior is due to fear or just a behavior issue. I am at a loss the bigger she gets the more I fear for her safety with these aggressive behaviors.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    It is time to seek a veterinary behaviorist for help

    [Reply]

  48. Irene McGriff says:

    When My dog was a puppy he was socialized but when at age 1 year we got new neighbors with a small dog that would run free and into our yard every single day she was very aggressive with dogs and people. She would attack our 3 dogs and for a whole year the owner did nothing so my dog and my sisters two dogs became very aggressive towards each other and also other dogs. So we have had to keep my sisters’ two dogs and my dog apart for 2y long years and they are still aggressive towards other dogs. All three are German shepherd mixed with cane corso.

    [Reply]

  49. Emma Bliss says:

    I have a four year old male boxer. He has been breed twice to our female boxer and we recently got him fixed because we though it would help his agressive behavior. When he was a puppy we took him to training classes and he lunged and bit at the other puppies. We tried to take him on walks and teach him to ignore other dogs but one time when he was six months old he lunged and snapped at a full grown Great Dane. When our female boxer had her first litter of puppies he didn’t seem to have a problem with them, but we also kept him away from them as much as possible. When she had her second litter he started to attack one of the boy puppies. One day he jumped the gate into their pen and had the puppies mouth in his head and was trying to kill him. We just thought that he was jealous so we tried to give him more and more attention but after reading this I think that was the wrong thing to do. We recently got an eight week old Great Dane puppy who is very sweet and has no aggression towards dogs or people. Our male boxer has been attacking him and we don’t know what to do with him anymore. He seems to be going after him for no reason at all. He is a very sweet dog with people and re-homing him is not an option because I’m sure he would just get put down. We don’t know what to do with him anymore because he cannot be trusted anymore. He sometimes attacks our other three dogs but he never hurts them. He has been staring at either me or the puppy from across the room and he won’t look away. We don’t want to put him down, but if we can’t get the situation under control we’ll have to.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Euthanasia is certainly not the worst thing. I think suffering with fear, aggression or mental instability is worse. Find a boarded veterinary behaviorist for the best chance of help

    [Reply]

  50. sarah says:

    Hi we’ve adopted a 8 year old German Shepherd from a rescue centre. We’ve had him for 9 weeks he hadn’t been neutered and the centre said he needed to be done so he was done about a month ago. He came from a not very nice background and was in a car accident so only has 3 legs. Recently on walks he started to really bark at people, then jumping up on people and grabbing coats and sleeves with his mouth. He also pulled an elderly lady over as he jumped up on her.He has bruised my friends daughters arm (with mouth ), attempted to bite a friends hand and has gone for our youngest a few times but never actually hurt him. We have a trainer involved who is helping at mo with the barking and things at home. Techniques working to an extent but people won’t come round to implement techniques regards him and people and we are nervous with him and our youngest and our eldest is extremely nervous of him. Contacted centre where got him from and they have suggested a muzzle at all times for abit to calm him down and say he’s going through a blip. Vets are seeing him tomorrow but last time they saw him he was fine.We are thinking what to do and what’s best for everyone as we’d never forgive ourselves if he did break skin. Will the centre be able to rehome him.Hate beingadequate to feel guilty about it all.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You need a boarded veterinary behaviorist not just an average trainer! It is worth it. You wouldn’t go to your neighbor to neuter your dog or give it surgery, why go to an average trainer with such a concern? You need a veterinary behaviorist.

    [Reply]

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