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Hi There,

My fiance and I just adopted our first dog, a female 5 month old Australian Shepherd puppy at the end of March. I've grown up with 2 Aussies and know a bit about their breed. So, we figured we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Of course, we did some research ahead of time and felt prepared. Made a plan to get her to see a vet right away and into puppy classes.

We came across her profile and fell in love. She was a rescue from an Amish Puppy Mill, so we didn't know much else about her background, nor did the adoption agency. We went to visit her at the foster home she was at (2 hours away) and knew we loved her so much. We adopted her the same day.

The first few days were great, she was fun, well behaved, and a great addition. Then her personality really started to show. She was bossy, liked to be in charge, listens when she feels like it, etc. We've been training her multiple times a day and reinforcing that we are the dominant ones of the house, but she continues to challenge us.

One of the worst behaviors she has is aggression towards other dogs. The foster she was with had a black lab that our puppy seemed to get along with totally fine while living there. After bringing her home with us, we introduced her to my fiancé's parents' dog, a golden retriever (3 years old), and they seemed to get along alright the first time. The second time we brought her over to play, she lunged, barked, and tried biting the retriever. I also brought our puppy to my parents' house for a weekend. They also have an Australian shepherd (13 years old) and the first day, the two seemed to get along fine. The next day though...my puppy was not playing nice...lunging, barking, trying to be dominant. We separated the two for a while. We tried again, and they seemed ok for a bit. Then my parents dog was walking from the kitchen to the living room, my puppy was following and then all of a sudden came from behind and bit onto my parents dogs' neck. Totally unprovoked and a complete surprise. My parents dog was ok as she has a lot of fur to block the bite. I was so upset. From then I've had a very difficult time liking her as much as I first did. She is nice towards my fiance and I (most of the time) but any dogs, and lately some people and kids, she barks mean, lunges, and tries nipping/biting. She won't even listen or pay attention to us when she sees people or other dogs walking by. That scares me a bit as I don't want her to one day harm another dog or person.


I hate the way she is acting and behaving. We feel that we are doing everything we can do to help. We take her on walks/ runs 3 times a day, train her a few times a day, but feel she may need more than what we can provide. We were supposed to get her in puppy classes, but with her aggression we were told she probably shouldn't come. So, we have a dog behavior specialist coming to visit and assess her next week. (costing more money than we planned). I'm hoping she can help, but I don't want to spend $500 on a specialist. I still have this thought in my mind that I just don't know if I can actually handle all of her behavior issues. I was expecting work with owning a dog, but may be over my head here. I've had multiple breakdowns because of her, stressing to an extreme level, and feeling like I have no life anymore. It's turning into a depressing issue. I don't look forward to coming home because I know I'll be exhausted trying to control her for the rest of the night. I don't like living like this. I'm also planning my wedding and work has picked up recently.

I'm to the point where I'm considering sending her back to the foster/adoption agency because I can't handle all of this. I thought she'd be easier and I could take on the challenge of owning a dog, but it's proving to be more challenging than imagined. I want what's best for me and the dog. Our puppy shouldn't have to be miserable, if there is a family better suited for her with more energy, time, money for training, then I feel that may be best. I feel awful because we really thought we'd be good at this and could provide her a life of love and happiness and thought we were a great fit! But, after a month, things just seem to be getting worse...

I need advice if I'd be doing the right thing or if I need to wait it out longer (I've read a lot of people suffer through these feelings for a while too). I never imagined I'd be considering sending my first dog back to where I got her from, but if it's best for the dog (and for my fiance and I) then it may be what we have to do.
 

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Hi badger94!

how has the puppy been? has the specialist come down to give his/her opinion?

do you think that her aggression could be a form of playing? it happens among puppies who need to be taught how to manage that. cheers!
 

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You should check out one of my first threads I posted here. I brought home an 8 week old Cocker spaniel puppy - also a rescue, from a hoarder/mill - and he had many of the same issues. Before him, I adamantly believed that puppies couldn't be aggressive. But he'd run across the room to attack our other dogs, body block them so they couldn't go up the stairs, etc. He also didn't want anything to do with anyone but me, so on top of the normal puppy blues I was overly stressed because I couldn't take a break and my puppy was so not normal. More than once I thought of taking him back. The rest of his "family" had issues as well and honestly I have NO idea what happened to any of them. I'm not overly optimistic about their fates.

Anyway, he still has issues but he's come a LONG way. I can read his behavior better now and redirect him when I think he's about to have a moment. It's almost always resource guarding related. He can eat in the same room as the other dogs now - a big improvement, considering he once attacked me when I was giving him his food and another dog walked past the doorway. We've worked a lot on obedience and just communication in general - he knows what "go away" means among other things and I always reward heavily when he makes awesome choices because I know they don't always come naturally to him.

He's not an easy dog, he's a lot of work. But four years in and I can't imagine life without him - I love him so much. He's my little boy. But he'll probably never be an "easy" dog.

I think you'll come to love this dog - but you do need to evaluate how much work/management you're willing to put in. It will probably take a lot.
 

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A shift in training mentality may yield you better results!

She was bossy, liked to be in charge, listens when she feels like it, etc. We've been training her multiple times a day and reinforcing that we are the dominant ones of the house, but she continues to challenge us.
.
In my opinion, the faster a person rids themselves of the TV show "I need to show my dog who the BOSS is" mentality, the sooner a person opens themselves up to really understanding how learning occurs ---and why dogs do the things they do. For example, if a dog growls the dog is usually saying, "Hey, I am stressed or nervous or uncomfortable or afraid!" The dog is NOT saying "I am trying to dominate you or challenge you... or be the boss."

If you punish the growl (or bark), the dog can then go straight to biting, since the owner has taken away the dog's warning system. If the dog is growling or biting, it is best to remove the dog from the stressful situation and then start working on what is stressing the dog.

Example: My new 5 month pup barked/growled at kid on a bicycle yesterday. Did I yell no? Heck no! instead, I asked the people if my pup could go up and sniff the bike bc she was a bit afraid/stressed by bike. So since I have taught Puma "touch" we walked up to bike, I asked her to touch it and then I rewarded heavily with yummy food/praise. We did this a few times and then she was fine. Problem solved..for that moment at least:) Hopefully next bike will be fine and if not, we repeat until all bikes are fine and not stressful to Puma.

Sounds possibly like you are training your new pup in a method much like TV's famous old, outdated, debunked, non scientific pack leader mentality.

Whereas it makes for good TV because it looks fast and easy, and results are obtained quickly, but in most cases this is simply not how animal training works. A dog may look well behaved if trained by physical or emotional force/intimidation, but many times the dog is over stressed and may comply just to avoid the punishment that it may be about to receive. And then this stress or fear of the handler (or family) may lead to bigger issues down the road such as fear biting.

Proper training takes time, patience, knowledge of how learning occurs, mutual respect, and trust (and FUN!!) between the dog and the family. Using force, whether physical or mental or intimidation may obtain fast results, BUT usually at a price. Much better to use positive reinforcement training and form a long lasting trusting BOND with your dog.

If you learn to reward all the GOOD behaviors your pup offers, soon you will see that your dog will offer less of the undesirable behaviors to get your attention.


So many folks spend their time saying "no, no" constantly to their dog-- but forget to tell their dog what TO do!! Teach your dog what you like, and then reward the good behavior heavily!

If you hire a trainer, please ask a lot of questions to make sure they are using positive reinforcement as many trainers out there are still using force/ fear inducing methods.

My pup Puma is 5 months old, we have been together since March as well.
And she, too, showed some "aggressive" behaviors also, such as resource guarding of chewies/bones, etc. Pretty common stuff. But we have worked it out together and she is so much better than two mere months ago. We still have more to work on, but the progress is wonderful!!

Dogs can have fears and anxiety, like people, and you DO have to help them to learn that they can trust you... and a person should teach your dog better, safer methods of coping with their stress.

Remember, most "aggressive" behaviors come from stress and fear. Not dominance BS. If you can think in this light, I guarantee you will have much better results with your new pup!

Keep us updated, ok?
 

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I completely agree with AthenaLove. Great advice.

I'll also share a little of my current experience. My puppy (German Shepherd) is now 5 months old. She's sweet and gets along great with other dogs and people. However, for the first month or so after I got her I was worried about aggression. Whenever I picked her up, and she didn't want to be picked up, she'd flip her head around and "bite" cause she wanted to be put down. She would growl and show attitude. I started to consider looking into a trainer to help with possible aggression. I was very worried about having an aggressive dog (been there, done that. Loved the dog, but never want that stress again). Anyway, she's great now. I don't have those concerns anymore. I made sure to socialize her by bringing her to the pet stores and letting her have puppy play time. I take her to Home Depot and Lowes and the local nursery that allows dogs. I'm not sure how much that helped, but I feel like she is really benefiting from being around so many dogs and people.

Good luck with your puppy. I hope it gets better for you soon.
 

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In my opinion, the faster a person rids themselves of the TV show "I need to show my dog who the BOSS is" mentality, the sooner a person opens themselves up to really understanding how learning occurs ---and why dogs do the things they do. For example, if a dog growls the dog is usually saying, "Hey, I am stressed or nervous or uncomfortable or afraid!" The dog is NOT saying "I am trying to dominate you or challenge you... or be the boss."

If you punish the growl (or bark), the dog can then go straight to biting, since the owner has taken away the dog's warning system. If the dog is growling or biting, it is best to remove the dog from the stressful situation and then start working on what is stressing the dog.

Example: My new 5 month pup barked/growled at kid on a bicycle yesterday. Did I yell no? Heck no! instead, I asked the people if my pup could go up and sniff the bike bc she was a bit afraid/stressed by bike. So since I have taught Puma "touch" we walked up to bike, I asked her to touch it and then I rewarded heavily with yummy food/praise. We did this a few times and then she was fine. Problem solved..for that moment at least:) Hopefully next bike will be fine and if not, we repeat until all bikes are fine and not stressful to Puma.

Sounds possibly like you are training your new pup in a method much like TV's famous old, outdated, debunked, non scientific pack leader mentality.

Whereas it makes for good TV because it looks fast and easy, and results are obtained quickly, but in most cases this is simply not how animal training works. A dog may look well behaved if trained by physical or emotional force/intimidation, but many times the dog is over stressed and may comply just to avoid the punishment that it may be about to receive. And then this stress or fear of the handler (or family) may lead to bigger issues down the road such as fear biting.

Proper training takes time, patience, knowledge of how learning occurs, mutual respect, and trust (and FUN!!) between the dog and the family. Using force, whether physical or mental or intimidation may obtain fast results, BUT usually at a price. Much better to use positive reinforcement training and form a long lasting trusting BOND with your dog.

If you learn to reward all the GOOD behaviors your pup offers, soon you will see that your dog will offer less of the undesirable behaviors to get your attention.


So many folks spend their time saying "no, no" constantly to their dog-- but forget to tell their dog what TO do!! Teach your dog what you like, and then reward the good behavior heavily!

If you hire a trainer, please ask a lot of questions to make sure they are using positive reinforcement as many trainers out there are still using force/ fear inducing methods.

My pup Puma is 5 months old, we have been together since March as well.
And she, too, showed some "aggressive" behaviors also, such as resource guarding of chewies/bones, etc. Pretty common stuff. But we have worked it out together and she is so much better than two mere months ago. We still have more to work on, but the progress is wonderful!!

Dogs can have fears and anxiety, like people, and you DO have to help them to learn that they can trust you... and a person should teach your dog better, safer methods of coping with their stress.

Remember, most "aggressive" behaviors come from stress and fear. Not dominance BS. If you can think in this light, I guarantee you will have much better results with your new pup!

Keep us updated, ok?


I got a three-month AmStaff/AmBulldog mix from a rescue. At five months, he was growling at me in my room. Didn't have any experience and had been trying to d the whole "I need to show the dog who the BOSS is" thing. I see now that it was making my dog scared, which was causing him to become aggressive. Tried a new tack, positive reinforcement and picking my battles wisely, and taking him to the dog park regularly, and I have a dog that people walk up to me and say what a w
 

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I got a three-month AmStaff/AmBulldog mix from a rescue. At five months, he was growling at me in my room. Didn't have any experience and had been trying to d the whole "I need to show the dog who the BOSS is" thing. I see now that it was making my dog scared, which was causing him to become aggressive. Tried a new tack, positive reinforcement and picking my battles wisely, and taking him to the dog park regularly, and I have a dog that people walk up to me and say what a sweet dog he is. He is a bit stubborn at home, but wow what a change he made from 5-6 months to 14 months! ATHENA IS CORRECT!
 
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