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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My sister and brother-in-law adopted a large 5yr old Pitbull who I adore. He is the sweetest dog and for the first few months had few behavioral issues. However, over the holidays he showed some concerning behaviors that has my brother-in-law worried because he has had family members bitten by dogs before. A few of us were talking with the dog by our feet and my dad reached over to grab something near the floor. The dog had been watching him and jumped up at his face out of nowhere (He's a top heavy dog so jumping is not normal for him). Their heads bopped and in the rush it didn't look like there were any teeth bared. He was quickly grabbed and he didn't try to continue. Because he is a rescue Pitbull his ears are cropped and his tail normally hangs really low so it is hard to tell if there were any warning signs of aggression. We wrote it off until later that day he tried the same thing with other male family members. The more concerning part was later that evening when he seemed to fixate on my dad again, following him around which is unusual, staring at him, and waiting for him to bend over. We had to keep him on a leash that evening to keep him from my dad. He has been around my dad and this hasn't happened before. My dad is a soft-spoken guy who mostly ignores the dog with occasional pats. Again, the behavior didn't seem aggressive in the defensive sense-- there was no growling, snapping, ears pinned back. To me who is not an expert, it seemed more assertive. He is fine with other dogs, but does tend to hump I think out of social dominance. As I said, my brother in law is seriously concerned whereas I think it may be an assertive/ humping behavior that requires training. Any advice?
 

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Sounds like dominance aggression to me.

What's important now is to not engage in the confrontation. Ignore behaviours you don't want to see and reward acceptable behaviour. Members of your family may need to ignore the dog unless the dog comes to them (this turns the tables and flips the dominance script) and try working on basic obedience commands like come, sit, stay.

Whatever you do, try to avoid "correcting" the dog with a dominance based approach like "positive punishment" (alpha dog crap). This stuff doesn't work and will only stimulate the dog to assert further dominance.

It's a good idea, if he isn't already, to crate train him so you have a plan-B for keeping people around you safe if the dog is acting out. Also, if he isn't fixed then I would recommend discussing this with the vet. Neutering can literally make a night-and-day difference in some dogs.

Good luck.
 

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I don't see assertiveness either, I would like to know more about what your dad was grabbing from the floor (or more importantly, what the dog thought your dad was grabbing).

Then, was it something the dog thought was valuable, or could it have been clumsy play?

does tend to hump I think out of social dominance
That is very unlikely - dogs hump more out of lack of confidence (I'm not sure what to do, so I'll do this) or non-sexual over-arousal.

How long have you had him, are there any other clues you can give us?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
He has been neutered and normally is crate trained, but was in a new environment without his crate. I don't know much about any of this, but it maybe seemed like that was a trigger. When he was in his home environment, he didn't have the same problem with the same people. That and maybe overstimulation with all the holiday hustle and bustle could cause him to act out?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I don't see assertiveness either, I would like to know more about what your dad was grabbing from the floor (or more importantly, what the dog thought your dad was grabbing).

Then, was it something the dog thought was valuable, or could it have been clumsy play?



That is very unlikely - dogs hump more out of lack of confidence (I'm not sure what to do, so I'll do this) or non-sexual over-arousal.

How long have you had him, are there any other clues you can give us?
I guess maybe assertiveness isn't the right word then-- I'm still learning about all the right terminology! It definitely wasn't a play thing. I think he was grabbing something mundane like a piece of paper. And when it occured later, there were no objects in sight. It happened with both my uncle and my grandpa and they were just standing and talking, maybe bent over a little. Later that evening with my dad, we were keeping a closer eye on the dog and it looked like he was watching for my dad to get low. My brother in law was making him sit and holding his collar and the dog made a move again when my dad was sitting and reaching for a present. And all of those times it just looks like he is jumping for the face so it freaked my brother in law out. He held him away and the dog barked a little which is out of character for him-- more like his bark when he wants to see another dog. I'm sure he doesn't intend to bite, but it does look intimidating. I think as you said it might be the overstimulation thing, but he doesn't get wound up before these events and overall he is a very laid back dog. He also doesn't seem to be clumsily doing it either since you can almost see the wheels in his mind thinking about it beforehand. After the first one, we could catch him at it every time. And I don't know if it's his attempt at humping a human since he has just been jumping so maybe that is not even a good assumption. He is my sister and brother in law's dog and they have done a great job about training him and caring for him for about 4 months now. The main thing is my brother in law's fear that it is out of aggression and it will turn into biting.
 

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I think if your brother in law is concerned, the best course of action would be to have him assessed by a behaviourist in person.

It is very important to choose carefully. Because there are some terrible unqualified people out there.

Look for someone who uses expressions like ”reward based”, ”force free” and ”positive reinforcement ”. If anyone talks about dominance, pack leadership or alpha roles, run a mile.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think if your brother in law is concerned, the best course of action would be to have him assessed by a behaviourist in person.

It is very important to choose carefully. Because there are some terrible unqualified people out there.

Look for someone who uses expressions like ”reward based”, ”force free” and ”positive reinforcement ”. If anyone talks about dominance, pack leadership or alpha roles, run a mile.
Thank you for your help! It will be something to look into. Unfortunately I don't know if an assessment will be helpful since he normally is so chill. In 99% of situations, he is calm and laid back. He will let anyone touch him, take toys, and food. He doesn't bark and will just plop down for petting. But maybe they will have some advice anyways.
 

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Ah - there might be a major clue here.

Describe please, exactly the circumstances when you might take his toys and food?
I pick up all my dogs toys when I clean my house, my dogs used to growl at me, but they know that I put them back out when I am done cleaning. I started doing this because I vacuumed up a squeaker toy once, and I couldn't get it out and had to buy a new vacuum. Anything other than that I wouldn't really know.
 

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I pick up all my dogs toys when I clean my house, my dogs used to growl at me, but they know that I put them back out when I am done cleaning. I started doing this because I vacuumed up a squeaker toy once, and I couldn't get it out and had to buy a new vacuum. Anything other than that I wouldn't really know.
Yes, but for this dog, taking stuff might cause tension.
 

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Yes, but for this dog, taking stuff might cause tension.
I understand. @Pk9h7, you said the dog was adopted from a shelter, right? If so, the aggression could be caused by fighting other dogs for food on the streets. He may just think you are taking it for yourself. Even so, if a dog is eating, let it eat. Don´t touch the bowl unless its empty, and you are filling it, or your dog likes to pee in it (One of Ollies most famous antics lol)
 

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Hello! I am new here & I want to ask question regarding to Parvo because My pet have it on Monday.... Plz someone help
 

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Hello! I am new here & I want to ask question regarding to Parvo because My pet have it on Monday.... Plz someone help
Please stop putting this in unrelated threads.

I'm sorry your dog is unwell, I'll bump your own thread up in the hope someone can help but please bear in mind we are just dedicated pet owners and may not have the answers you want.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yes, but for this dog, taking stuff might cause tension.
I was just using that as a hypothetical to say he isn't defensive and doesn't usually respond negatively to almost anything. I was just imagining the kinds of things a behaviorist might look for as a parallel to the situation I mentioned in the opening post. The dog only has a few toys and they aren't withheld from him. He also isn't super attached to toys. And there isn't a situation where we would take his food away. I've just been told that that is something they test for at shelters, including the one he was at, as a trigger for negative behaviors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I understand. @Pk9h7, you said the dog was adopted from a shelter, right? If so, the aggression could be caused by fighting other dogs for food on the streets. He may just think you are taking it for yourself. Even so, if a dog is eating, let it eat. Don´t touch the bowl unless its empty, and you are filling it, or your dog likes to pee in it (One of Ollies most famous antics lol)
As I was trying to say, this is not the problem-- he is very easy-going and we wouldn't do this anyways. If anything, he is reluctant to eat unless someone is next to him and usually only eats some of it at a time. The behavior in question, at least to my naive human brain, was out of nowhere and not related to any particular thing cause other than maybe the flurry of activity that day. So potentially stress or over-excitement? He does have scarring on his sides so there could be some history we don't know about.
 

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that is something they test for at shelters, including the one he was at,
That is a pretty bad practice, the sure fire way to make an animal protective over his food or other resources is to make him fear they might be taken away. If you were in a lovely restaurant eating a favourite meal, and someone tried to take it away from you, you would try damn hard to make sure that didn't happen. The harder someone tries to take something, the harder the owner will try to keep it. So that 'test' in the shelter could have even caused the problem. And, the precious thing might not be something we see as valuable. So a torn paper bag could even be the trigger.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
That is a pretty bad practice, the sure fire way to make an animal protective over his food or other resources is to make him fear they might be taken away. If you were in a lovely restaurant eating a favourite meal, and someone tried to take it away from you, you would try damn hard to make sure that didn't happen. The harder someone tries to take something, the harder the owner will try to keep it. So that 'test' in the shelter could have even caused the problem. And, the precious thing might not be something we see as valuable. So a torn paper bag could even be the trigger.
Totally agree! But again don't think this is the issue since he also jumped at other male family members just standing around. Appreciate the thought though! In summary, he is a very gentle unbothered dog who has what seems to be a weird, sporadic, maybe aggressive (ie fixation and jumping at) behavior without any obvious triggers.
 

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I think your brother in law would be wise to trust his gut and he should at least talk to a certified canine behaviorist, describe in detail the events that occurred, express his concerns and 'gut' feelings about what happened. He is, after all, the one living with this dog on a daily basis, and responsible for whatever may (or may not happen) in the future.

Keep in mind it can take some time, weeks to months, for some rehomed dogs to truly settle in and for their 'true' selves to emerge. It is not 'normal' behavior for any dog to lunge at someone's head or face, regardless of circumstance. Keep in mind also that some dogs are 'taught' not to 'warn' through punishment 'training' methods, or have learned that their 'warnings' go unheeded, so they no longer bother to offer them. When a dog that 'fixates'/stares at something/someone it is a 'warning' in itself - fixation/staring is often a forewarning of something more physical happening.

I have a dog reactive dog, and one of the key behaviors that I watch for, and work to divert his attention, is 'fixation'/ staring at another dog, - which tells me that he is preparing/prepared to physically react to that dog.

Again, a discussion with a certified, qualified canine behaviorist, would be, at the very least, a good first step in trying to understand what is going on with this dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I think your brother in law would be wise to trust his gut and he should at least talk to a certified canine behaviorist, describe in detail the events that occurred, express his concerns and 'gut' feelings about what happened. He is, after all, the one living with this dog on a daily basis, and responsible for whatever may (or may not happen) in the future.

Keep in mind it can take some time, weeks to months, for some rehomed dogs to truly settle in and for their 'true' selves to emerge. It is not 'normal' behavior for any dog to lunge at someone's head or face, regardless of circumstance. Keep in mind also that some dogs are 'taught' not to 'warn' through punishment 'training' methods, or have learned that their 'warnings' go unheeded, so they no longer bother to offer them. When a dog that 'fixates'/stares at something/someone it is a 'warning' in itself - fixation/staring is often a forewarning of something more physical happening.

I have a dog reactive dog, and one of the key behaviors that I watch for, and work to divert his attention, is 'fixation'/ staring at another dog, - which tells me that he is preparing/prepared to physically react to that dog.

Again, a discussion with a certified, qualified canine behaviorist, would be, at the very least, a good first step in trying to understand what is going on with this dog.
This is very helpful and exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for the advice, @CachetheBC
 

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That is a pretty bad practice, the sure fire way to make an animal protective over his food or other resources is to make him fear they might be taken away. If you were in a lovely restaurant eating a favourite meal, and someone tried to take it away from you, you would try damn hard to make sure that didn't happen. The harder someone tries to take something, the harder the owner will try to keep it. So that 'test' in the shelter could have even caused the problem. And, the precious thing might not be something we see as valuable. So a torn paper bag could even be the trigger.
Right. I would for sure bite somebody if they tried to take my salad
 
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