devastation. please please, someone help me with this. AMAZING happy update!!!! #104 - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 03:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am absolutely devastated right now.
I had a trainer come today to help evaluate Thorn.
He brought his dog.
He put a "remote collar" (I guess that means shock collar with varying levels) on Thorn.
He worked with him for awhile.

Then he brought out his dog.

Hell breaks loose.

Thorn's dog aggression has gotten unbelievable.

Trainer was very shocked at Thorn's level of aggression as well as the level of stimulation required to get T's attention.

I don't know what to do.

I have two little ones. Thorn goes out of his head around other dogs. What if he bites one of the kids when we're surprised by a dog coming around the corner or something? I can't keep him locked up at home. I may have to talk to his breeder about returning him???? NO - UNTHINKABLE - or is it something I need to consider???????

I am so upset. This is one of the worst things that has happened in my life. I truly don't know what to do. Sometimes I think this will be okay. Then I think, I'm kidding myself. I need to take this more seriously. Then I look at the perfectly behaved dog in my house and can't imagine the way he behaves outside the home. The reality is that I don't think I can afford the $1000+++ it takes to train him with no guarantee since his aggression is so bad.

Please please someone just tell me what I need to do. I am beyond having the ability to make the right decision.

I had dreams of doing agility with him. I love him so much. I don't know what to do...
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#2 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 03:56 PM
 
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It sounds like you're very scared....I'm so sorry that you're having such a tough time with him. Being a cat person, having been raised with dogs though, I just wanted to offer you some hugs.

Definitely I think you should talk to the breeder. It doesn't mean you have to return him, but I think she would be another excellent resource for information/advice. This has to be nothing like you expected to deal with, I remember all those posts about how excited you were about him early on...and I can imagine it's been heartbreaking and frustrating to deal with some of the things that you have had to recently.


Perpetually breastfeeding or pregnant ENFP mom to a lot of kids...wife to a midwestern nice guy...living in tropical paradise...pink cats and homebirths rock!

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#3 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I feel like I've done everything one is supposed to do. Established myself as alpha, trained him, we've not socialized him formally but he has always gone everywhere with us, around other dogs and people. He's gets lots of exercise. I adore him.

I have always been so judgmental of people who would consider rehoming their pet, and here I am, aren't I? I just pray some solution can be found. At this point I'm scared that I'll be advised to put him down. You can't imagine how aggressive he was. I feel traumatized.
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#4 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 05:21 PM
 
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Do you live in an area where you run into dogs a lot on your walks - or not?

If you do live in a high doggy area - can you put doggy in a car and drive to a less doggy area (we often go to a deserted ball diamond - I tie the dog on a really long lead and we play. It is so cool and would be so much more relaxing that walking tensely in fear on seeing other dogs)

I would not bring your children on walks with the dog. You are tense - that transits to the dog, and it may not be safe. Tie him up outside for a few minutes to do his business - or wait until another adult is around to watch the kids.

I must admit I am a little suprised (although I am NO trainer) the trainer brought his dog over so early in the game. I would be more inclined to slowly desensitize the dog to other dogs. (one idea - your dog is on a leash - another dog walks by from 50 feet away. The world does not end. Repeat. Do this a bazillion times and then move a little closer)

Definately call the breeder - he/she may have ideas!

Kathy
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#5 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 05:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I must admit I am a little suprised (although I am NO trainer) the trainer brought his dog over so early in the game. I would be more inclined to slowly desensitize the dog to other dogs. (one idea - your dog is on a leash - another dog walks by from 50 feet away. The world does not end. Repeat. Do this a bazillion times and then move a little closer)
Yes, he would slowly desensitize in training... but this was an evaluation. Even during the evaluation, though, he spent an hour bringing the other dog closer. Thorn was on-leash, other dog totally voice-controlled.

I've climbed a little bit down out of my tree. I'm calming down a bit. I'm committed to making this work. It's going to take time and money (lots of both, I'm afraid) but I love Thorn too much to throw in the towel already...
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#6 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 05:59 PM
 
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I don't have any further solutions, but wanted to say I'm so sorry you're going through this. We had to return our Gordon Setter to his breeder after a year and a half--he went back this past August. I won't go into detail, but it was related to dominance/aggression issues, and someone did get hurt. I drove 16 hours each way to return him, and in our case it was clearly the right thing to do. I was worried about the kids getting hurt (someone else was bitten, not any of our kids), and it's really such a relief to not have that worry anymore. I'm not saying that this is what you should do, just that there can be positive outcomes to a painful decision. We have since adopted a wonderful adult cat, and he's a much better fit for us than a dog.

I hope you can work things out one way or the other, and wish you the best whatever happens!

Heather, Mama to DS(10) DD(7.5),DD(6)
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#7 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 06:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't have any further solutions, but wanted to say I'm so sorry you're going through this. We had to return our Gordon Setter to his breeder after a year and a half--he went back this past August. I won't go into detail, but it was related to dominance/aggression issues, and someone did get hurt. I drove 16 hours each way to return him, and in our case it was clearly the right thing to do. I was worried about the kids getting hurt (someone else was bitten, not any of our kids), and it's really such a relief to not have that worry anymore. I'm not saying that this is what you should do, just that there can be positive outcomes to a painful decision. We have since adopted a wonderful adult cat, and he's a much better fit for us than a dog.

I hope you can work things out one way or the other, and wish you the best whatever happens!
Oh, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I really am. I remember when you were getting Aengus, and all the plans you had. I'm in the same situation. Like yourself, I wouldn't say I'm your average dog owner, in that I did tons of research into breeds and really dug deep to find the right, ethical breeder. And then I saved the exorbitant amt of money he cost, and went to extensive lengths to help mold him into a wonderful dog. I wonder if sometimes we need to accept that sometimes all that is not enough. I mean, I had a backyard-bred, horrible inbred example of a boxer, and she was an awesome dog. I hope there is another option for us besides re-homing or returning. I hope he can recover. He did try to bit a kid in our 'hood. Fortunately he was on-leash and it didn't happen. What has your breeder done with Aengus, do you know?

You can't imagine how gentle Thorn is with our little ones. DS (3) stepped - hard - on his neck the other day. Thorn looked up, grunted, and DS moved. He didn't even try to bite him. They roll around on the floor with him all the time. No aggression. It's unthinkable that he can get so aggressive. I'm in shock. He was the "runt" and there is a small part of me wondering if he has a screw loose somewhere. He also had a congenital abnormality resulting in retained testicle. I wonder if something is really wrong with him to make him so unpredictable. Well, he *was* unpredictable. Now I expect this behavior.
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#8 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 06:53 PM
 
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Have you asked about doggie meds to reduce his aggressive behavior?

And I assume he is neutered? More than a few months ago?
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#9 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 07:15 PM
 
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Have you done a full thyroid test on him? Just popped into my head since I know it often manifests as agression.

I have to say I'm also surprised at the trainer's approach. He was using the shock collar on him during the evaluation? Was this the first time Thorn had the shock collar? Honestly, it doesn't sound like the best setup anyway having Thorn on leash and the other dog loose, many reactive dogs would go ballistic in this scenario...

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. I'm glad to hear that he is so gentle with the kids though, I'm sure that means a lot to you. Such a hard decision, but no one can make it but you.
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#10 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 07:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your suggestions. His thyroid is normal.

I know that the shock collar scenario seems scary. I actually didn't know this was his approach. I have consulted with numerous trainers and I have to admit I never considered that an option but I really was impressed with him. He created a pretty calm introduction scenario. He had Thorn under good control, too, which I was surprised by. I had him "stimulate" me and was not concerned about the level - it was more of a "take notice" level than a downright shock. He was able to get Thorn to sit after about 20 minutes so I'm hopeful that we can get to some level of consistency with him.

I am a biologist with significant animal behavior and neuroethology experience, and know that negative reinforcement - where you take something unpleasant away in response to desired behavior - is NOT as effective as positive reinforcement. BUT, in some cases, animals do respond better to this type of training. I'm thinking Thorn might be one of those types, because today was the first time I've seen any sign at ALL that he might, perhaps, crossing fingers and toes, be able to get over this. But seeing it, having another professional confirm it - that was Terrifying. I've been a wreck all day. I'm on my 3rd glass of wine now and I'm feeling a little better.
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#11 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 07:37 PM
 
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I have to say I am also surpirsed at how the evaluation went down. Dont most just watch how the dog reacts to different stimuli?. say take you to the park have a dog walk by at a safe distance and watch the doggy language?

regadless I wouldnt re-home a severly agressive dog. I would see if you can get another evaluation with a different trainer/behavorist, ask them on the phone, what they are going to do before they get there. after they tell you, explain what happened at this one, I wouldnt mention the other trainer, just to get there opinion on it.
Does your dog have agressions towards your cat?

I would get a second oppion, then if its the same outcome in a different situation, call the breeder and ask what they recomend.
What exactly is it he does when he sees another dog? are there certain dogs he can see or hear and not have this reaction?
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#12 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have to say I am also surpirsed at how the evaluation went down. Dont most just watch how the dog reacts to different stimuli?. say take you to the park have a dog walk by at a safe distance and watch the doggy language?

regadless I wouldnt re-home a severly agressive dog. I would see if you can get another evaluation with a different trainer/behavorist, ask them on the phone, what they are going to do before they get there. after they tell you, explain what happened at this one, I wouldnt mention the other trainer, just to get there opinion on it.
Does your dog have agressions towards your cat?

I would get a second oppion, then if its the same outcome in a different situation, call the breeder and ask what they recomend.
What exactly is it he does when he sees another dog? are there certain dogs he can see or hear and not have this reaction?
Thorn wouldn't be "re-homed' per se; more of a retirement to breeder.

No, he's not aggressive toward the cats. He would like to play with them but he hasn't tried to "eat" them, and if he chases them at all, I can call him off immediately.

This is the 2nd opinion

When he sees other dogs he goes completely apesh*t. I mean for real. Snapping, jerking around, trying to get off-collar/leash, seriously lunging and trying to get at him. He is dominant; bristling fur and stiff wagging tail, ears forward.

The trainer did start with the observation situation you describe. He later did a brief training session to demonstrate the techniques he used, at my request.


Hope I answered everything in a way that helps those of you who know dog behavior well to understand what is going on and help me come to a solution.
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#13 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 07:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, and he behaves this way around all dogs IF HE IS RESTRAINED. He has been permitted to interact with my older dog, Toby, who my MIL fell in love with and adopted - so he doesn't live with us.

When he sees Toby he runs up to him with the stiff-wag bristle going on, but he doesn't attack. He seems to want to play. Toby is about 15 years old and arthritic. He don't take no sh*t, if you know what I mean. So he snarls at Thorn, and Thorn becomes submissive instantaneously.

I think Thorn just feels his dominance is threatened when he's restrained which is when he goes nuts.

Forgive me for the cursing, I'm pretty much in the bag at the moment
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#14 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 08:58 PM
 
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My dog is aggressive with most other dogs, with the exception of 2-3 that he gets along with (not sure why he likes those few though). I just have to be more planful when exercising him but it's doable.

Kim, proud CPS mom to Marnie and my 4 legged kids, Jess, Zander, Oliver, Stumpy and Eddie.
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#15 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 09:23 PM
 
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Just skimming this thread....

Did Thorn have any kind of socialization with other dogs as a puppy? Were there any traumatizing events with other dogs as a puppy?

Thorn is an ACD correct? I don't know much about ACD's, the few I have been around seem to either just barely tolerate other dogs or were off the charts dog aggro. I don't know if this is normal ACD behavior or not. There is nothing "wrong" with him. Dog aggression is pretty low on my dog behaviors to be concerned about list. Thorn doesn't have to be around other dogs, there is no law saying all dogs should love one another and always be in anthers company. You cannot train dog aggression out of a dog but it can certainly be trained to a manageable level. Having a dog aggro dog is all about management, if you need to walk him, walk him early in the morning or late at night. A relative brings over their dog keep them separate etc... It can suck and be an inconvenience at times but it not the end of the world.

I know people that have put a lot of titles on dog aggro dogs it is just a matter of hard work and management. In fact my one dog was almost ripped to shreds by 2 border collies with MACH titles : Don't give up!

I know different types of dogs respond to different training methods, I have no experience with herding breeds but I have had APBT's (dealt with differing levels of dog aggression). I would look for a trainer with bully and molosser breeds experience in your area as they have more than likely dealt with dog aggression and it wont wont be such a stigma.
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#16 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 10:06 PM
 
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Oh, and he behaves this way around all dogs IF HE IS RESTRAINED. He has been permitted to interact with my older dog, Toby, who my MIL fell in love with and adopted - so he doesn't live with us.

When he sees Toby he runs up to him with the stiff-wag bristle going on, but he doesn't attack. He seems to want to play. Toby is about 15 years old and arthritic. He don't take no sh*t, if you know what I mean. So he snarls at Thorn, and Thorn becomes submissive instantaneously.

I think Thorn just feels his dominance is threatened when he's restrained which is when he goes nuts.

Forgive me for the cursing, I'm pretty much in the bag at the moment

Drink away

What type of collar are you using?

My dog goes nuts if strangers or dogs are nearby - he is not agressive so much as he wants to greet them and jump on them. It is annoying and the more I pull back the more lunge-y he is.

We switched, at a trainers suggestion, to a prong collar and I LOVE it. He does not lunge as he know it will hurt a bit. He is a joy to walk - and we are walking further than ever before. We even passed a tied up dog the other day on our walk and the other dog was barking and lunging - but my dog just kept on trotting. So cool.


kathy
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#17 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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ok, will get prong collar. he was on the gentle leader before all this started getting out of control. it worked amazingly well; actually, it still does. but i don't trust it to stay on him and i'm not comfortable with his head sort of jerking around. i'll try the prong.

girl in the fire, thanks for your thoughts re: dog aggression. you bring up a good point. he is wary of human strangers, but much more manageable with this. albeit i have to manage the stranger, too, and tell them not to reach down to pet him or he may try to bite. with humans it seems to be more about fear (where he gets this i have no idea) than about aggression.

however, we like to go camping etc., and we want him to come with us. i don't see that as being manageable when other people like bringing their dogs too.
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#18 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 11:21 PM
 
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I'm so, so sorry that you are going through this.

My mom and her boyfriend had several ACDs, most were great dogs (suspicious of strangers but still manageable), but one (their favorite!) was aggressive towards strange dogs and unpredictable to the point of being unmanageable around strange people. He was a beautiful, brilliant dog other than that. They had him evaluated by several trainers and eventually had him put down. He couldn't be trusted and they were afraid he would seriously hurt somebody. It was very sad!! I am so glad you would have the option of rehoming Thorn with his breeder if it gets to that. It was a really difficult decision for my mom and her boyfriend.

Edited to add:
I didn't mean to sound like I was saying Thorn is the type of dog that would need to be put down! I'm glad he isn't aggressive with strange people like my mom's dog was. I'm just mentioning this story in case you might have a tiny thought that it might be your fault somehow... I think some ACDs just have a little wildness in them that can't be trained away.
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#19 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 11:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thank you tamagotchi; i know what you mean...
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#20 of 114 Old 01-17-2009, 11:37 PM
 
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Another thought would be a muzzle - and least for the short term. Frankly, there is a dog around town who is walked muzzled and most people cross the street to avoid it. It might make your life easier.

I know what you mean about camping....I had dreams (pre-dog) of being able to bring my dog places and it all being good. However, that is not how it is - he would get way too wound up at events, so I have to let that dream go.

I guess we get to deal with the dogs we get.

Kathy

Edited to add: When my dog jumped on a woman and hurt her (the incident that caused the call to the trainer) I was devasted. I cried for at least 1/2 day and was weepy for a week. It was really stressing! Big hugs to you - you are not alone - a lot of us know how hard this can be.
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#21 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 12:30 AM
 
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Alison,

Thank you for your kind words about Aengus, and for remembering him. The breeder hasn't found him a new home, but he's doing well there with her back pack of Irish and Gordon Setters. She has 5 acres for them to run around on, and he looked so happy to be with a big, friendly pack.

Heather, Mama to DS(10) DD(7.5),DD(6)
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#22 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 12:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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you know how kindness sometimes makes you cry? That is what's up with me right now. But thank you - for real. I feel a bit nutso, but have literally been cuddling with Thorn on his fluffy bed that I hand made him, crying with my arms around him. Begging him to please behave. I know, I'm totally crazy. I really do love him. You just can't imagine how sweet and smart he is. It's so hard, my mom is totally like, "get rid of him, he never has been sweet, you're kidding yourself." but you know, no one has really witnessed the dynamics of our family when it is just him and us. I pray we can get through this.

I'm going to take him to another training facility and get a different perspective. I'll take one of the PPs advice and make them aware of the situation and ask them how they want me to bring him in, and what they will do for training. He may just really need some attention focused on his interaction with dogs. But this may just be my wishful thinking.
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#23 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Another thought would be a muzzle - and least for the short term. (snip)
I know what you mean about camping....I had dreams (pre-dog) of being able to bring my dog places and it all being good. However, that is not how it is - he would get way too wound up at events, so I have to let that dream go..
The trainer advised me to get the good wire kind that they can pant and drink through. I found one on line and I'm going to measure him tomorrow for that. I agree, the biggest difference is that strangers etc. may avoid us. Good for now, but I agree with you that it would be best if it could be short term or in situation where we know we will need it. I'd like to cure the illness, not just treat the symptoms...

Oh, what do you do when you go places? Will boarding kennels or pet sitters even consider working with a dog like this? I think we could pay for an extra couple of days to get a pet sitter to come, in my presence, and play and get to know him. I wonder if it would help me not feel like we can't go anywhere or do anything as a family because of Thorn if I knew I had a pet sitter I could trust.

I really believe you can't expect things to be perfect when you get a pet. This is testing my resolve to make accommodations when you encounter challenges like this. I'm really trying to figure out a way my family can work with this.

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#24 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 12:55 AM
 
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Thorn reminds me a little of my Mom's dog. He's a great dog, gentle as can be with people, but pretty aggressive with other dogs. If he's off leash, he's much better, assuming the other dog doesn't want to fight. What's worked for him is lots of work so that his response to heel is bombproof. He knows if he's been told to heel, he is not to pay attention to other dogs. To train him they did use a prong collar as he needed a reminder not to be an @$$ without yanking Mom's arms off. The other thing that will probably help is neutering him - something planned for the near future. I assume Thorn is neutered though?

anyways, it sounds to me like Thorn is far from a lost cause and that you are taking the right approach. Good luck!

Carlin blowkiss.gif - loving life with DH guitar.gif and 2 amazing daughtersenergy.gifbaby.gif

 

 

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#25 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 12:57 AM
 
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Thorn reminds me a little of my Mom's dog. He's a great dog, gentle as can be with people, but pretty aggressive with other dogs. If he's off leash, he's much better, assuming the other dog doesn't want to fight. What's worked for him is lots of work so that his response to heel is bombproof. He knows if he's been told to heel, he is not to pay attention to other dogs. To train him they did use a prong collar as he needed a reminder not to be an @$$ without yanking Mom's arms off. The other thing that will probably help is neutering him - something planned for the near future. I assume Thorn is neutered though?

anyways, it sounds to me like Thorn is far from a lost cause and that you are taking the right approach. Good luck!

The prong collar really worked for Aengus, for pulling, when we had him. Instantly. We didn't use it for other behavior problems, but I think it could help if used correctly.

Heather, Mama to DS(10) DD(7.5),DD(6)
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#26 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 01:02 AM
 
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I just wanted to mention that a prong and a head halter both need to be used with a backup collar. We use a loose slip collar for this.

Also, I noticed my reactive girl would react more after a while on the prong (she lunges at squirrels and cats, mega prey drive) - I think it can have a stimulating effect. The head halter has the opposite effect on her, it makes her more subdued. I do still use both, depending on the situation. Just wanted to mention so you could observe Thorn and see how he does with it.

End of PSA.
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#27 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 01:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I looked into the prong collar, will get one tomorrow for sure, and a back-up in case it pops open (I remember reading this in another thread I think? Good grief, we do get tons of great advice here don't we?)

Yes, he is neutered. As of about 4 weeks. I know that neutering doesn't help too much with learned behaviors but I'm hoping that since this behavior is relatively new (2 months I think, but could have been building up and unintentionally reinforced?) that when the testosterone levels drop (between 6 and 8 wks post-op I believe) that things may not be quite so... dramatic.
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#28 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 01:45 AM
 
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Alison, I'm sorry to hear you are dealing with this right now. It is surprising how upsetting something like this can be, but I understand it completely. You are grieving the loss of the dog you hoped and dreamed to have. Allow yourself to do that. It is a very real loss.

I was the owner of a female German Shepherd named Shiloh who had SEVERE dog aggression issues starting around age two. It got worse as she aged, and by the time she was about four she was simply unsafe around other dogs. She had an incident with a larger dog at the vet's office when she was a pup, and despite intense socialization to try to offset the effects, she never recovered.

Shiloh remained very dog-aggressive into her senior years. Around age 12 she wised up a little bit and realized that if she picked a fight she probably wouldn't win it, so while she still didn't like other dogs, she at least didn't try to attack them. But we basically had 10 years of accommodating her aggression. She was friendly to the point of goofiness with our family and the *small* circle of people she trusted outside of the family, but unpredictable with strangers.

You mentioned that Thorn tried to bite a person, and to me that is a huge red flag of increasing aggression. Shiloh did bite a neighbor girl who was riding her bike past our house. We worked with trainers and our vet to save Shiloh from being put down after that incident, but looking back I think I may have chosen differently.

You asked about how one goes about dealing with a dog-aggressive dog in regards to boarding, pet-sitting, etc. We never boarded her, and when we had to go somewhere over a period of days we would have one of her trusted people to come take care of her. Never had a problem with that system. Vet visits were a challenge, as sitting with her in the waiting room had the potential for disaster if another dog would come in. We chose a vet clinic in the next town over that had a side entrance and would allow us to go straight through that door and into an exam room, bypassing the lobby altogether.

Like you said about Thorn, Shiloh's level of aggression was shocking. She went insane when she saw another dog - she would lunge and spin and snap and snarl. She didn't bark, she roared. At her prime she was about 85 pounds and it was difficult to control her when she got like this. Mind you that her behavior in the absence of other dogs was impeccable. Obedient to a T - any task she was asked to perform she would do it beautifully. She was an absolutely different dog.

The worst was when we would have her out and someone walking a dog would just keep on approaching despite her display, and I would be trying to shout - it's not safe, please don't come over here (like, shouldn't that be obvious?) but they couldn't hear me over her roaring and continue advancing and I would be horrified at the thought of what could happen if I lost control of her. That never happened, thank goodness, but it easily could have.

Next step was the muzzle. She wore the muzzle every time we were out of the house. It was great peace of mind for me, but it didn't stop her threatening other dogs. Heaven forbid we ever met up with an unleashed dog who would respond to her aggression with matched aggression after realized that she was incapable of fighting. We narrowly avoided a couple such confrontations, and the thought of that was always on my mind when we were out.

Then the kicker. My son was born when she was nine years old. She did not accept him as part of the family. She snapped at his head when he was just a tiny infant and I was left with the decision to either put her down or make it work. I know for many people there wouldn't be any decision to make - the dog would die, but it was agony for me and I couldn't put her down. Again, looking back I may have made a different decision at that point.

Any time she and my son were together, she wore a muzzle which she quickly got used to. She could drink and breathe through it normally, and I promised myself that if I thought her quality of life declined that I would make the decision to put her to sleep, but she adapted and things went on. She spent maybe 10% of her day wearing a muzzle, as the rest of the time she was either on another level of the house or playing outside.

Like I said earlier, her aggression declined considerably in her senior years, and she ended up living a long, mostly happy life. We had her euthanized this fall at age 14 when her health declined severely. I cherish the memories I have of her and often wonder if I made the right choices for her life.

I share this story to hopefully give you another perspective. I don't want to sound doubtful, but I do know from the vets and trainers we worked with that dog-aggression is extremely difficult to correct, and sometimes it is truly impossible. My girl was one of the impossibles, and at that point the experts can simply offer their guidance on how to accommodate the aggression safely. My huge disclaimer is that we did not have children at the time. I fear that if we had, the expert's advice would have been a resounding call for euthanasia. Unpredictable dogs are a danger to children. There is no way around that.

I hope and pray that you are able to find a solution to this heartbreaking problem. Feel free to PM me if you want to. I've been there, and it sucks.

CPST ***I can help keep your child safe in the car. Ask me a car seat question!***
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#29 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 06:26 AM
 
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I haven't read any of the replies.

Do you have a yard to speak of? Are walks really necessary (not asking Cesar, asking you )

If so, can you walk him late at night? Become a little more nocturnal?

Agility might be out of the question. Can you make a section of your backyard into your own private agility course and give up the competitive aspect of it? Can you channel your desire for agility into something else, like lots and lots of trick teaching instead? Or something else that can be just between Thorn and your family?

If these are insurmountable, a call to the breeder might be necessary. But I know that you love this particular dog, so I offer the following:

I used to have a dog who I got at exactly 8 weeks of age. He came from a lovely, caring home. He was practically housetrained when I got him, he never even pooped in the house once, and only peed about three times total. His mother was a purebred Boxer from champion lines. His father was a purebred Golden Retriever from excellent lines, he jumped the fence the ONE time that the mother was accidentally left unattended with access to the yard for a few minutes. Both parents were shown with good results, so they were unaltered.

About 3 days after I got him, he barked at a passerby (!). So I redoubled my socializing of him, took him absolutely everywhere with me. Exposed him to many different types of people in many different types of situations. It worked great, I ended up with a dog that I could take anywhere and he was perfectly steady.

But.

In my car, or on my property, he was very territorial and protective. I had no doubt that this dog was willing to bite. It never crossed my mind to give him up, he was my heart. So I went to huge lengths to work within my parameters with him, and it was fine. Totally worth it to me.

But this is a heavy decision that you have to make for yourself. Are your feelings for Thorn deep enough that you won't resent giving up agility with him? That you will be okay with not walking him during normal hours?
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#30 of 114 Old 01-18-2009, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Good morning, everyone.

Mandy, thank you very, very much for your perspective. Am I willing to live the life you've described? Yes. You've provided me with valuable information. I am concerned that he could hurt the kids - but not convinced he would, even by accident. He's very "mouthy" like all heelers and has been conditioned from birth not to bite. He will put his mouth or nose on them but knows he can't bite them. Though he has obviously worked out in his head that strangers aren't human. That said, Thorn will never, ever, be alone with my children. We started this a few weeks ago and it hasn't been a huge inconvenience. When I take a shower, he goes in the gated area. When I come inside to get a drink while the kids are outside with us, he comes too. Etc. Having a reliable muzzle will keep me from having to be so vigilant every second of the day. Do you think I'm overdoing it? I just feel that a dog that has shown aggression should not be trusted, even with those he's shown absolutely no aggression toward.

But even when he was freaking out about the other dog yesterday, a small part of him seemed aware of the need to keep from biting me: I put my hand on his back to calm him and his head jerked toward my hand as if to bite. Then he simply stopped everything for a second rather than bite me. So I think this is a two-fold sign; (1) he has the ability to be trained because he's not completely gone over the edge, and (2) if not trained he probably *will* someday lose it and bite a human during a dog-aggro freakout.

I've e-mailed his breeder - the first was a total "I'm completely devastated and freaking out" e-mail, the second was a "okay, I'm calming down, sorry I was freaking out" e-mail. Much of my decision will depend on her recommendations. She's a very conscientious breeder and has been breeding and showing ACDs - successfully - for over 20 years.

(sigh) day two of reality.
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