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Feeling very hopeless - dog lunging.

March 8th, 2006, 05:21 PM
Some of you may already be aware of some of the problems I'm having. Today I'm so frustrated, I'm in tears. My dog seems to be beyond help...he lunged at a neighbour today trying to bite and started showing really aggressive behaviour toward other dogs (previously he was always good). I'm following my trainers advice and give him his space around people...I usually pull him off to the side when I see someone approaching (before he starts barking and growling). If he is quiet, I praise him. If he starts barking I say no and take him further away. Sometimes, after someone passes by and is walking in the opposite direction, he approaches them very close and sniffs them...this only happens when they are walking away from him. I then praise him. Now I'm not even sure I trust him enough to do this as I'm afraid he'll wind up biting them. I love my guy but I don't know I'm doing would crush me if he had to be put down because he bit someone. :sad:

Feeling very overwhelmed...

Lucky Rescue
March 8th, 2006, 06:47 PM
I don't know the history of your pup, but you must keep him away from people or risk a lawsuit.

Lunging at dogs is one thing, but doing it to people and trying to bite is another and is dangerous. It could result in someone being hurt, you being sued and your dog being seized and killed.

I know this is horrible for you since you love your dog. It may not be anything you did, or failed to do, at all. Some dogs are just like this and the only answer is to either keep them isolated or euthanize them if they cannot be rehabilitated.:sad:

doggy lover
March 8th, 2006, 06:57 PM
I have always made my dogs walk by people on the grass and with me in the middle. Not only for the dog but some people are scared of dogs and I don't believe in forceing my dogs on people. Try keeping up the training but put a muzzle on your dog, better to be safe than sorry.

March 8th, 2006, 07:02 PM
Last summer I was going through the exact same thing as you are now so I completely understand how you feel. Not only was my dog lunging at people and other dogs she was also snarling at me and my family. When she bit a neighborhood child for no reason I stopped walking her altogether. I had tried a trainer, giving her a job, positive reinforcement ,disciplining etc... Nothing worked. When she jumped off an 8 foot deck to get to the Fed Ex guy trying to deliver something to our cottage I came to the decision that I would have to put her down. It was a very stressful time and there were many days I drove home from work in tears thinking about what I would eventually have to do. One day someone sent me an article about a study on thyroid and aggression. A light went off and I decided to get her tested. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and began taking meds. No one could tell me how long it would take to see an improvement. I heard immediately from some and others said 4 weeks. For 4 weeks I prayed I would see an improvement and kept her in the house at all times as she was a ticking time bomb. I made a silent pact that if she was still snarling at me after 4 weeks I would put her down. As the 4 week mark approached I began to stress out about what I thought had to be done. The date came and went with no improvement. I contacted a fellow rescue member and talked to her. I asked her honestly what she would do. She put me in touch with another rescue member who happened to be a dog trainer . I had had a trainer who I now know was an idiot. After speaking to the new trainer and explaining Chloe's behaviors she met with her and diagnosed her to be a bully. She suggested training and some ways to stop the bullying. After 6 weeks on the meds I noticed a difference in her behavior. Her snarling at me stopped and she appeared to be back to her old self. We also started obedience training at the same time so I believe the combination is what worked for her. She is now a changed dog and much happier. She had not snarled in months but last weekend I forget her meds at home and went away for the weekend. It made a huge difference and within two days the snarling began again. It only took a day to get her back on track when I re-started her medication.
If you are not satisfied with the training methods being used by your trainer, find a new one. it made a world of difference for me.
I did not mention but about two months after we started obedience classes we had a Christmas party and there were over 25 dogs present. Chloe did not know most of the dogs and was an absolute angel and did not lunge once. I was so proud of her.
Another important thing to remember is that dogs take their signals from us. I became so worried about her lunging, snarling and biting that I was reacting with fear when someone came over or when we met someone on the street. I would pull back on the leash and Chloe picked up on this. She would then react accordingly. I now have more confidence in the way I handle the situation and I believe this is a major part of her rehabilitation.
Sorry for this long post.

March 8th, 2006, 07:07 PM
I agree with Doggy lover, aas much as I hate muzzling my dog (pit bull) not aggressive,(but at leaast I am saafe from false accusaations by some of my aggressive neighbours, it does have its advantages, sorrry btw for this post but Im on a windows 95 computer and its not going well, anyways, there are muzzles for the misunderstood that are mainly for the pit bull ban but they are cuter and less intimadatiing looking to humans anyways. That way you could socialize your dog without the worry. It is possible that lyour apprehensioon is making the situation worse. Im surprised at myself for reccomending muzzling but in your situation it could be the safest thing you can do. That way you can be calm while walking your baby and keep up the training, hopefully one day you wont need it.

March 8th, 2006, 07:11 PM
Wow thats a great post Copperbelle! I suppose there could be a number of medical reaasons that could caaause the behaviour.

March 8th, 2006, 08:41 PM

Thanks. By the way a muzzle was suggested to me by a few people including my trainer who thought it might be a good idea until we were able to solve the problem.
I was not comfortable with a muzzle on her and decided I would rather keep her in the house. I have 4 acres of land at our cottage and she gets tons of exercise so I was not concerned with her not being walked daily until we got the situation under control.
I would agree though that wearing a muzzle while the dog is being socialized may be a good idea however if your dog is sending off signals that he is looking for a fight and comes across another dog that will fight he will not be able to protect himself.

March 8th, 2006, 10:33 PM
I can really sense your anguish - I am so sorry! I don't know your dog's history either so I cannot suggest too much! I don't want to be repetitive if you've already tried what is usually suggested! :grouphug:

Click to Calm has been an invaluable resource for me...Dodger has been air-snapping at certain dogs and Emma Parsons book is truly amazing.
Other books that have been helpful are "Fight..." by Jean Donaldson (deals with dog-dog aggression only); "Aggression in Dogs" by Brenda Aloff and "How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong" by Pam Dennison.

I sincerely hope that things work out.

March 8th, 2006, 10:45 PM
I think getting a thorough check up is a great place to start. That could be a very reasonable explanation in the behaviour. Yes our dogs definitely sense when we are tensing up they feel it right down the leash. The muzzle is a good idea, I am not a huge fan of them but it will lessen your anxiety if you know that the dog cannot actually bite anyone. I hope things improve keep us posted and lots of praise for good behaviour.

March 8th, 2006, 11:36 PM
Copperbelle raises an excellent point - a throrough exam and CBC (and complete thyroid panel) is in order.

I just did a quick search. Your pup is the product of reservation dogs? Most dogs on the Rez are not cared for and must struggle to survive. Rez dogs are certainly a "breed" of their own BUT if he wasn't exposed to it, I doubt very much that it explains all of his behaviour. Your puppy is about 9 months old now, right? How much obedience training have you done? Training is important with any dog but clearly, it is vital for both of you.

Have you really tried to desensitize him to people? It can't just be done sporadically, it needs to be a consistent, positive experience and your pup can NEVER win (ie: if he barks and someone leaves = he got what he wanted). Obviously you don't want to put anyone in danger but if your dog wants to keep people away and succeeds by barking or lunging, it is reinforcing (instead of extinguishing) that kind of behaviour.
I noticed that you said "I usually pull him off to the side when I see someone approaching (before he starts barking and growling)" - I know you need to keep him away but I think pulling him to the side is making the behaviour worse. Dogs act differently when they are on-leash and often become aggressive when they feel tension (because they know they cannot escape or defend themselves properly). Personally, I think you need to work in a controlled environment where you set up a situation for success. It needs to be somewhere your dog feels comfortable and with someone who you've instructed to walk towards you two and then away (all the while completely ignoring your dog). Out on the street their are too many variables and you have no control over who you meet. If possible, I would walk him early in the morning and late at night ONLY - while you try to desensitize him to strangers in a controlled environment.

Have you tried a head halter? A muzzle is the best option if you really think he might bite. I suggest a head halter because you have better control over your dog's head/muzzle (you cannot pull or jerk your dog with one of these on).

I understand he is your first dog? I am sorry that you are having to deal with this as a novice dog owner. It is hard enough when you have experience! Right now, the best thing I can suggest is to train and then start socializing from the beginning. Assuming there is nothing physically wrong, training is key. Have you tried to implement NILIF??

db7 posted this and I find it very useful:

For problems consider this from Shirley Chong

Leading The Dance - Building A Better Relationship [Printer Friendly Version]

Leading The Dance is designed as a problem-solving tool. Some of the items will be used for the rest of the dog's life - we particularly suggest the feeding regimen, possession, and the roadwork. Other items will be done only until the dog understands his position in society. When he graduates, release him from the items one at a time over a period of several weeks, watching for him to go back to his old ways. Many people do Leading The Dance one month in six as a preventative measure. If there is any part of Leading The Dance that is liable to get you bitten while you're doing it, DON'T DO IT and GET HELP from a competent trainer!

1. Umbilical cord - As much as possible when you are at home, keep the dog on leash and with you. Put a 6 foot leash on the dog, and attach the other end of the leash to a sturdy belt around your waist. Ignore the dog and go about your business. Having to constantly watch what you do and where you go will not only bond the dog to you, but will help make you important in his eyes.

2. Eye contact x 2 - twice a day, sit down with the dog sitting between your knees, and use a command such as Watch Me, or make funny noises, or tap the dog's nose and then your own, or whatever you have to do to get eye contact.

3. Obedience x 2 - Twice a day, run quickly through an obedience session using whatever the dog knows how to do, Sit, Down, Come, Stay, Heel, repeat as needed. Train for a couple of minutes each session. Do NOT touch the dog to praise him.

4. Feed x 2 - When food is left down for the dog to eat ad lib, the dog owns the food. Ownership is what dominance is all about, so we must take possession of the food. Feed the dog twice a day, in a confined area such as a crate or the bathroom. Use a Feeding Ritual. Ask him if he's hungry, ask him to help find his dish, to help find the food, ask him again if he's hungry, tell him to go to his area or get in his crate, give him the food. As soon as he's finished, or as soon as he turns away from his food, or if he doesn't begin eating immediately, take the dish away, throw away the food, and clean the dish. If the dog is not successful at eating (doesn't eat his whole meal), give him half the regular amount at his next meal, until he is cleaning the bottom of the dish. A successful meal means he gets more at his next meal, until he is eating the amount that will keep him in optimum condition. The food must be high-quality and low-bulk. Water should be freely available all day. Give no treats in the food or by hand. Dogs love rituals and you are teaching his body to get ready to eat when he hears the beginning of the ritual.

5. Possession is 9/10 of the Law - At least once a day, handle the dog. Repeat the words These are my ears! This is my paw! This is my muzzle! This is my tail! as you handle him. If he fusses, go slower. It's important that the dog has a positive experience - that he comes to see that you will be handling him and it's of no concern to him. When he is completely relaxed and accepts your ownership, say OK and release him. If your dog will not allow you to handle him like this without getting angry or getting away, DO NOT do this exercise. Do the rest of the exercises and use the clicker to teach the dog to allow this handling later.

6. Long Down-Stay - Do one 30-minute Down-Stay every day. You can watch TV but the dog must be in plain sight and you must be aware of him. He can roll over, go to sleep, and look annoyed or bored, but he cannot get up or walk away.

7. I'm-The-Mommy Down - At least once a day, just because you felt like it, tell the dog to lie down. When he does, use your voice only to tell him he did a good job, say Okay, and walk away.

8. Bosshood Is In The Eye Of The Beholder - Consider life from the dog's point of view. He sleeps where he wants, he eats when he wants, he leads you around. Any wonder he gets the impression that he's the Boss? Don't allow him to go through doors ahead of you. Don't allow him to go up or down stairs ahead of you. Don't allow him to lead you down hallways. Always position him or yourself so you are leading and he is following. If he's lying down, don't walk around him. Put your feet on the floor and shuffle right through him (note you don't kick the dog, merely push him gently out of the way) - make him think about where you are and what you're doing. When he orders you to let him out, take charge of going outside. Build a ritual around the door. Focus his attention on you: Do you want to go out? Sit! When he sits, you go to the door. Want to go out? Sit. Down. Sit. Stay. Then open the door and order him out: Okay, go outside! You change the situation so you are in charge of it. Keep the dog on the floor. Not on the couch, not on the chair, not halfway up the stairs surveying his domain, not in your lap, not on the car seat. On the floor. Don't leave the dog loose in the house or yard when you're not home. Free run of the house when the Boss isn't home allows the dog to feel powerful and in charge. Don't allow the dog to sleep on your bed, or on a child's bed. Dogs recognize the bed as a throne for the Boss. If he sleeps away from you, however, he will think that you own the bedroom, but he owns the rest of the house. The dog should sleep in your bedroom. If you can't have him sleeping in your bedroom (allergies, for instance), confine him to his crate.

9. Work Off Energy - Roadwork the dog 4 days a week. Start small, but work up to a mile for small dogs, 2 miles for medium dogs, and 3 miles for large dogs. Many problems will disappear with no more effort than roadworking. You can jog with the dog, or ride a bike, or longe him with a Flexilead, or use a motorised trike, or lend him to a jogger who's afraid of being mugged.

10. Busy Hands Are Happy Hands - If you want to pet the dog, he must first do pushups - Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit, Down - then you can pet him for a count of 5 only. He never gets petted because he wants to be or because he demands it, only because you want to and he earns it. Then you pet him for only a moment, and turn away with him wanting more.

11. My Game, My Rules - Give the dog only one toy. If he wants to chase the toy, bring it to you and let you have it, throw it again. If he won't chase it, or won't give it to you, turn your back and walk away. He has two choices, he can play with you and the toy, or he can play with the toy alone. Do not, under any circumstances, play tug-of-war. When you can get the toy without chasing him or playing tug, pick it up and put it away.

12. Eliminate Hormones - Have problem dogs neutered. Some problems will solve themselves with no more effort than this. Not only will the dog be healthier and easier to live with, but your life will be made simpler.

Susan Finlay Ailsby, Tue, 31 Mar 1998 20:12:11 -0600 (CST)

Again, good luck:grouphug:

March 9th, 2006, 07:33 AM
I'm following my trainers advice and give him his space around people...I usually pull him off to the side when I see someone approaching (before he starts barking and growling)...

We had this exact problem with Kaos snapping at strangers (this was, however, due to the neighbour whacking him with a hockey stick, and Kaos became very afraid of anyone new), and sought the help of a trainer. This guy worked miracles, one of the things he was telling me is that by pulling back on the dog and avoiding people, you're teaching the dog that the snapping and aggressive behaviour is okay. Kaos is now on a prong collar (I know some don't agree with this training, but it works on him), and as soon as he makes any type of aggressive movement, he gets a correction with a sharp NO.

Worked wonders, he now lets anyone get near him. (except the neighbour, but that jerk DESERVES a bite):rolleyes:

March 9th, 2006, 03:09 PM
Thank you all very much for your responses. There is a lot of information here to digest. I was thinking about a muzzle as I feel it would help me relax more. I'm not sure if he would actually bite hard if he bit someone but I don't want to wait to find out. My trainer confirmed that I have good reason to believe that he might bite based upon his behavior around her. She also said fear biting is often very severe compared to other types of bites.

As far as desensitizing him around people, I've tried and tried. A while back, someone suggested I take him to a super busy place and when I tried this he was just frantic. As my trainer said, he can't learn when he is in this fight or flight state. So since this time I've tried to gradually take him closer to areas with many people. So far, he only seems comfortable on side streets & parks. I pretty much have to pull him off to the side when we are on narrow sidewalks. Otherwise, he will bark and be too close to people. I try to leave room so I don't have to tense up on the leash.

We spent an entire week on vacation with family. It wasn't until the very end that he would only let some family members pet him. Still today, he is afraid of some family that he spent an entire week with. It just seems to take him a very, very long time to be comfortable with people. He is very shy yet tries to be demanding with us (we never reward this) and is often a bully with smaller dogs. It is difficult to know how to handle him...he is so independent and doesn't seem to be people oriented. He never wants to be pet and would rather do his own thing (with our disapproval) than do what we want with our praise. He seems very sensitive so we try to not raise our voice. He definitely lacks patience which is something I'm trying to work towards. I think I read what Lissa posted somewhere before and have been trying to get him to stay for longer and longer periods.

I work from home & am able to spend a lot of time training him. He knows all his basic commands. We are working very hard with watch me and touch so I can try to distract him when outside. This is still a challenge outside. My husband & I eat first & do a sit-stay before his meals. He sleeps in a crate (which we now moved out of our bedroom) & is not allowed on the bed or couch. He is only able to a few toys at a time and we go through doors first (although he always tries to dash out). I try to push him gently out of my path as well. I'm pretty sure he knows who leads but it doesn't seem to matter...he is just rebellious.

I'm going to try the umbilical cord soon...I think this might be a good idea. Also I sometimes let him out to run free in the yard for about 10-30 minutes but am thinking this is not such a good idea anymore. I will take him to the vet soon to get checked out as well...he is young but you never know.

March 9th, 2006, 03:22 PM
I just wanted to add that I was thinking of getting dressed up in a padded disguise to test him and try to get him used to a "stranger". Maybe put on a ski mask, and bulky you think this would work or would he recognize me?

Lucky Rescue
March 9th, 2006, 03:33 PM
She also said fear biting is often very severe compared to other types of bites.

She is right.

By all means, get a complete bloodwork done on him, to see if it's anything physical.

In the meantime, as I said, keep him away from people. They don't care why he bites and will not likely excuse it.

I just wanted to add that I was thinking of getting dressed up in a padded disguise to test him and try to get him used to a "stranger". Maybe put on a ski mask, and bulky you think this would work or would he recognize me?

He won't recognize you until you get close enough for him to smell you. But I don't what the point of this is, since you said he wouldn't even let people pet him until he'd been with them for a week.

March 10th, 2006, 12:04 PM
Yes Lucky...not sure what the point would be either. I just don't understand why he is the way he is...I'm pretty sure he's never been hit by anyone. I'd like to know for sure if he would bite a stranger but would never ask a friend to do this. If he does bite me then maybe there is a way to make stop, so he won't do it again?

Thanks for your help. Feeling a little more determined today to try to work even harder with him...and I thought a dog was way less work than having a baby! :)

March 11th, 2006, 11:23 AM
I agree with everything written by other posters, but just wanted to add - as I have been through this - be very, very careful when your dog wants to sniff the person from behind after he/she has passed - this is often when the dog will lunge and bite before you have time to react. Our dog was a bit different - she would look with loving eyes at a person - couldn't have been sweeter - and then just before the person was out of reach - grabbed and bit. Not pleasant. Hope everything works out for you.

March 11th, 2006, 12:06 PM
Wow! Can't imagine what I'd do without any type of warning! I kind of wondered about him being that close. I'll get him to keep his distance. I'm not sure if people like him being that close anyway. Thanks for that warning Snowdancer.