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#1 of 16 Old 09-09-2013, 12:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How to handle my aggressive dog

A little back story on my dog. We got T as a puppy. He is a St.Bernard and Rottweiler cross. As a puppy, we often took him to pet parks and on walks. While working, we kept him in a large kennel and then would walk him when we got home because he was a chewer. 

When he was about 1.5 he started to become a bit aggressive so we went through a training program to help. This was pretty intense leadership training program that involved hand feeding every meal. He was getting better until he broke free from me while walking in our yard (while 6 months pregnant). He attacked the neighbors dog who would often come after him while we were on walks. The dog had some bite marks but made a full recovery. However, another witnessing neighbor shot Titan twice. He barely lived but became more fearful. 

After being shot, we moved him to my parent's farm. There he had indoor outdoor access and was sometimes with other dogs. We played with him whenever we came out (several times per week). He is still very friendly with us.

We recently bought our own farm and fenced off an area for him. He has his own large garden shed. We also adopted another small Cavalier King Charles that is mostly a house dog. The two dogs know each other but do not really get along. They both like our baby but got into a fight over him and our attention the other day.

I know that banishing T to an outdoor pen will only make his problem worse, however I fear that his life depends on him not hurting anyone or any animal. I have contemplated buying him a muzzle so he can get used to the other dog and be safe around my baby. I can bring him in to our laundry room at night to sleep, but then put him out when the other dog is inside. I would love to rehome him because he is a great source of worry for me, but I know he would be euthanized.  I often worry so much about him I can't sleep and get headaches.

As far as more training, we have already put thousands of dollars into this free dog that still cannot be trusted. Any ideas for how to make is life less miserable while keeping everyone else safe?


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“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” -Paulo Coelho 

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#2 of 16 Old 09-09-2013, 07:34 PM
 
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I'm sorry, I don't have any ideas for dealing with the dog.  I am sorry that your family, the dog included, are going thorugh this. (((hugs)))

 

I have a suggestion: you mention how much this is effecting you.  I wonder if speaking w/ a caring therapist might help you to deal w/ this, ideally one who has helped others w/ their animal situations.  When we first became parents, dh & I felt like our dog was our first baby.  She was as much a part of the family as our biological child was.  IT sounds to me like perhaps you're feeling that way.

 

I think there is a pet's subforum or a spot where maybe more pet owners will see, if you haven't posted it there also.  

 

Perhaps contact a local rescue organization (maybe one that deals in one of the breeds he is?) to ask for suggestions?

 

Lastly, and I say this as gently as possible: is it possible that euthanizing the dog would be the most humane thing to do if you feel that he is that much of a danger & he is in danger?  You said he's been shot at already.

 

Best wishes to your family.

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#3 of 16 Old 09-09-2013, 07:53 PM
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I know it isn't what you want to hear, but I would support putting him down.  This last year, my daughter was bit by a dog.  It happened while the family introduced her to their dog.  He lunged at her and got a good bite in & knocked her down before the dad was able to pull him off her.  It wasn't too terrible of a bite (on her stomach) but it did penetrate deeply and left a scar.  She LOVED dogs before this!  Now, she is paranoid when taking our dogs on a walk (with me).  She still loves dogs, but that fear will take a long time to dissolve.  

 

I know that you are taking all sorts of precautions.  Yet, accidents happen.  As your child grows up, he/she may wish to say hi to the dog or show it to his/her friends.  Something might spook it, and with its history. . . I don't think it would handle that well.  I know that you love this dog.  You will feel terrible if you put him down.  However, you will feel worse if he harms a child.  

 

There is a forum for pet owners.  There are some more experienced people there (trainers too).  They might be able to give you professional advise.  I am just the mom of a child with a minor bite.  I am thankful it wasn't any worse. 

 

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#4 of 16 Old 09-09-2013, 09:43 PM
 
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What you are describing sounds like aggression that may be managable, but considering that the dog has attacked twice already, I would be wary of letting him have contact with your family. Even if he doesn't attack a person with malice, it is very common for a dog to bite anyone that represents a threat in the midst of a dog fight, simply out of fear. My little Boston Terrier nipped my daughter on the finger when she was a toddler, because she was possessive of her chew toy. I thought I would have to euthanize our first "baby" until we talked to a canine behaviorist.
I would recommend consulting with a canine behaviorist before doing more training. Training isn't going to do you much good if you don't get to the root of the problem. IMO, you would be better off rehoming him to a family with no small kids or other pets. I don't think a rescue would necessarily euthanize him for having bitten other dogs -- people, yes -- but check with your local laws.
I would have a harder time with keeping a dog I had to muzzle and keep in confinement, because I think he would be more stressed by that, and considering the anxiety you are already having, that arrangement would likely aggravate it. Its hard not to feel guilty when considering rehoming or euthanasia, but consider how guilty you may feel if someone does get hurt and you then have to put your dog down.
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#5 of 16 Old 09-10-2013, 06:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your responses.  Yesterday I was in a bit of a panic over the situation.  I took him for a long walk and swim last night and let him run our back pasture.  Fortunately, we have 30 acres surrounded by farmland so we have no neighbors.  Although he is kept confined, he has about 1/2 acre to run.  Eventually we think we'll fence all the land so he can keep predators away from the chicken tractor and our pig fences.  

 

I have been doing some reading about the muzzle and I guess many dogs get used to them and are not bothered.  Greyhounds often wear them all the time because they can be very aggressive towards other dogs and it becomes part of their uniform.  He would only wear when he is with the other dog or around my son under strict supervision.

 

I do not have to worry about him escaping his pen because he is actually very big and lazy and does not test fence.  I will never let him alone with my son and he will be penned when any other stranger comes around.  

 

I was hoping to get some encouraging stories about how people managed dogs such as these.  I could never euthanize him unless he had a history of hurting people.  Again, thank you for your responses.  I am going to take a big deep breath and just visualize a happy farm dog.


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“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” -Paulo Coelho 

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#6 of 16 Old 09-10-2013, 08:28 AM
 
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He's a mix of two very large, and both potentially dangerous working breeds.  Don't get me wrong, I love both breeds, and trained a huge rottie to do search and rescue work and I am looking at a Saint Bernard right now to start training for canine carting and some other fun work with.  They can be amazing dogs.

However, they are both breeds that really NEED work to be happy, they need direction, and they both thrive on constant contact with their people- without that they are pretty insecure.  This poor dog has had a rough go of it.  I don't know how you can ensure that a toddler won't go visiting him to a tragic end.  I would probably consider euthanasia unless I could find a rescue where he would be able to be rehomed into a pretty specific setting.   

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#7 of 16 Old 09-12-2013, 09:26 PM
 
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I recently had to re-home an aggressive (herding behavior) Border Collie. I've also worked with other breed specific groups and they are always wonderful. Is he mostly St. Bernard or Rott? I would try to contact either a SB rescue or Rott rescue in your state. Both times, the dogs I re-homed were put into appropriate homes for them (ie: no kids) A good rescue should come and do a behavior study and then decide after that whether the dog is re-home-able. If they deem him so, great! If not, euthanasia is the answer. There is always mistakes to be made and with a dog like that at your home, your chil is never truly safe.
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#8 of 16 Old 09-12-2013, 09:26 PM
 
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#9 of 16 Old 09-12-2013, 09:58 PM
 
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Has he had an evaluation from a behavior specialist? I would do that. It may put your mind at ease a little.

I have a dog that can never be trusted. He bites. He is a sweet dog but was very damaged before we rescued him and he has a threshold. Because of him we have gates all over our house to keep my child separate from him if I am unable to supervise. I am extremely diligent with the supervision.

The difference is my little dog is only ten pounds. The only thing I can tell you is that I understand your feelings. It sounds like all things considered your dog has a pretty good life. If you can get regular exercise for him and give him a "job" that would be great. :-)

Sorry you're having to deal with this. <3

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#10 of 16 Old 09-13-2013, 06:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you.  He is actually a really sweet dog and has never shown aggression, more than just barking towards humans.  He is bred to be a guard dog and so behaves as one.  We have become his pack, I guess you could say.  I spoke with the trainer who has helped us with him in the past.  She said it would be fine to mostly keep him as an outdoor farm dog.  She suggested setting up an agility course to with with him on so he has a job to do.  I will carefully supervise my child while outside on the farm as we have many dangerous things, a large lake, 600 lb Boer and rattlesnakes.  My muzzle came in the mail today.  I am going to work with him on the muzzle so that he learns it is a good thing.  We will use that so he can safely play with the other dog when we are home.  I do nightly training sessions with him also so he is very obedient to me and listens well.  It is crazy how one accident can really label a dog as a bed aggressive dog.

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“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” -Paulo Coelho 

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#11 of 16 Old 09-19-2013, 06:29 PM
 
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Do you have kids? If so, I'd advise utmost caution...We "rehabilitated" a dog that had had a history of mild aggression, snapping when nervous...He was pretty large, like I bet yours is...I loved him deeply. Sigh. Long story short, he snapped at my toddler, not going for attack type violence or anything, just a a small irritable snap. Sadly, a swift minor movement from big dogs jaws plus a toddler's browbone equaled hours of plastic surgery. Gosh, I can hardly stand to write about it, it was so scary and painful. Thankfully, years later, my son doesn't' remember and isn't scared of dogs, and the scar faded to a rakish slash. But it was milimeters away from a permanent disability for my child. Better safe than sorry...if you have kids and a dog with problems, don't take any chances...If I could go back in time I would have at very least rehomed him to a childless house before it was too late.

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#12 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 07:28 AM
 
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Originally Posted by VEforlife View Post

 It is crazy how one accident can really label a dog as a bed aggressive dog.
With all due respect, you started out by mentioning the dog showed signs of aggression at 1 1/2 years and had two fights since then. Regardless of the instigators, it sounds like he was the aggressor. I worked at a vet clinic with a client that had a Rottie which started out much the same way, attacking other animals when provoked, etc., and ended up euthanized (after several attempts from the vet to do so) after it tackled and attacked the adult daughter in the hallway because it was startled.
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#13 of 16 Old 09-24-2013, 11:57 PM
 
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It sounds like the dog is robbing you of peace of mind and you have tried many things and spent a lot of money to keep people and animals safe from this dog. You can never trust this dog or relax around it. If you have the resources, try to build a dog run with a shelter for the dog to be in when not directly being supervised and on a leash by someone who is able to handle it. The dog does not deserve to be stuck in a dog run-- but other people or animals don't deserve to be attacked by this dog, either. You have to weigh the risks. You could be sued big time and know that someone was harmed by this dog that you know is aggressive. If you can't either turn the dog over to a shelter/organization that could work with the dog properly, or build a dog run for it, then the next best choice is to put it down. 


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#14 of 16 Old 10-29-2013, 05:34 AM
 
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I volunteer with a rescue.  Since you have already worked with a behaviorist and the dog is still aggressive, I would also support having him put him down.  He is not a good candidate for rehoming.

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#15 of 16 Old 10-29-2013, 06:13 AM
 
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I haven't read all of the thread, but a physical exam is often a suitable place to start.
A thyroid blood test can be useful as hypothyroidism can lead to behavioral problems, and hypothyroidism is inexpensive to treat with pills.
A simple T4 test is not adequate as many dogs are hypothyroid with normal, even elevated T4 levels. A T3 test would be better. Jean Dodds site has a lot of useful information regarding canine behavior and thyroid imbalance.
Quote
"Of the 1500 cases presented for behavioral problems, 921 (61 per cent) were determined to be hypothyroid or have suboptimal thyroid function" http://www.dogs4dogs.com/JR_Articles/dog-thyroid-and-behavior.htm
Quote
"Another interesting association which as been increasing in frequency is the link between thyroid dysfunction and aberrant behavior. Typical clinical signs include unprovoked aggression towards other animals and/or people, sudden onset of a seizure disorder in adulthood, disorientation, moodiness, erratic temperament, periods of hyperactivity, hypo-attentiveness, depression, fearfulness and phobias, anxiety, submissiveness, passivity, compulsiveness, and irritability."
http://landofpuregold.com/the-pdfs/thyroid-behavioralchanges.pdf

The age at which your dogs aggression began is also of significance relating to hormonal changes and thyroid. Jean Dodds does thyroid testing for under one hundred dollars which includes her professional interpretation (she is well known for her expertise on canine thyroid dysfunction and behavioral changes.
You may wish to even phone her first before putting forth the money to test. Explain your dogs history. She is a good woman.

Quote
"Because hypothyroidism affects many body systems, clinical signs are variable, non-specific, and often slow to develop. The most classic signs (significant weight gain, lethargy, and cold intolerance) do not appear until more than 70 percent of the thyroid gland is destroyed. Other symptoms may appear earlier, such as behavior changes (lack of focus, aggression, passivity, or fearfulness), minor weight gain despite caloric restriction, and apparent food allergies or intolerances."
http://dogaware.com/articles/wdjhypothyroid.html


Vision should also be examined, as vision problems can lead to behavioral changes.

Sources of possible pain, such as dental, should also be considered.

A certified behaviorist can be helpful but after ruling out health issues that lead to behavioral changes.

Edited to add: I have gone back and retread your posts and the entire thread and your child's safety is paramount and you know your dog best. If you choose not to rehome your dog and are inclined...you may wish to contact Jean Dodds for her opinion and take perhaps about thyroid testing. I know you have invested a lot already, so it is something to think about.
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#16 of 16 Old 11-20-2013, 09:42 PM
 
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I know this will sound trite, but have you watched the Dog Whisperer? When you start watching the episodes over and over again (they are on Netflix) you start to see the same pattern of problems and solutions. 

 

I have a heeler mix who is aggressive toward other dogs. We now live in a rural area and she is kept in a small, fenced area when outside but I am a runner and avid walker so she gets lots of exercise. If we could afford to fence our property she could run more free, but for now the exercise keeps her happy. 

 

I have done work with her a la Cesar Millan and his method really does work. However, we don't run into dogs very often so we get little chance to practice. I could pack her off to a busier part of town and I'm sure I could fix this but honestly I've decided to just live with it, since I keep her on leash when on the main trail, and we have some more remote trails where she can go off leash for a while and really we simply don't run into many dogs here (strangely, she loves the next door neighbour's dog and the neighbours across the street's two dogs; they are her "friends"). Of course, she is not the least bit aggressive toward humans so that is one fear I don't have.

 

I don't think you should put the dog down because I think you are in a low risk situation, and I don't think you should spend any more money on trainers. I would suggest that you read Cesar's books but really, you have to see it in action, this concept of the "calm, submissive state" and the effect of "having a job" on a dog's mind is so critical. Binge watch his shows and you will get the idea. You can practice with your dog. 

 

But in the meantime, you live in a rural area and the dog is safe and has lots of room to run around and you are unlikely to have people coming by and getting bitten. Yes, a muzzle would be a great idea for when he is out of his pen. Get it fitted properly and have him wear it. Bring him into the home, have him wear his muzzle, and have him sleep in a crate if you like. Or not. As much as I love having dogs in our house, they are animals and are fine with living outside. Livestock guard dogs do.

 

just my two cents, a bit rambling as it's getting late.... 


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