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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I cannot believe I'm even on here posting this as he lay next to me peacefully. I'll describe my problem as concisely as possible as to not draw this out.

My dog Maska is an absolute joy...............except for his aggression toward other big dogs. Sometimes a visit to the park goes okay if the other dog(s) is submissive. But sometimes, something in his head just clicks and he feels like he has to attack the other dog! And it turns into a nasty fight because he's so huge and obviously trying to kill the other dog. On top of it, I live in one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country! Bozeman, MT.

He's about 3 1/2 - 4 yrs old now and 90 lbs of muscle. I found him at a park when he was about 1 yr old and still considered a puppy. So incredibly sweet to all people and a big cuddler. But something must have happened that first year of his life that set in an antisocial behavior. Little did I know I was acquiring a dog-aggressive lab/bird dog mix.

Well, I have worked and worked and worked with him. Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer dvd's), and 2 professional dog trainers, a ton of money, and constant exposure to other dogs as to work on his skills. He is so well mannered and smart, he can do anything I've ever attempted to teach him..............except socialize with other dogs normally! He even has to wear a muzzle to the park to prevent outbreaks with other big dogs. (It's actually a very non-threatening muzzle with a smile and tongue hanging out on it that everyone laughs at and thinks is adorable). The 2nd trainer said that this is something like PTSD in a military veteran. That sometimes, there's a trigger that's gonna get set off and it can never be totally controlled...that is the saddest thing for me to hear regarding my dog.

SO...I've been stuck with a dog-aggressive dog. And I love him so incredibly much, but the stress of not being able to take him to anyone else's house...or to the dog store...or to the park...or camping...or ANYWHERE without constant worry is totally wearing me out. I love this boy like he's my own child. And I want what's best for him and for me. Once before I seriously considered adoption and had made an unofficial commitment to find a good home for him, but all I could do was feel an incredible guilt and sadness thinking that adoption would be the beginning of the end of his life, as he shifted from home to home possibly being abused or not wanted. I'm tearing up thinking about him getting mistreated if I give him up. I'm so stressed...I just don't know what to do. I never intended on acquiring a dog-aggressive dog. I'm stressed enough as it is. It affects every part of my life.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post, and please if you have ANY advice or suggestions as to how to go about this, I'm right here waiting for answers. Thank you. Jake and Maska
 

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I think im gonna jump on this first. Other´s will come on and explain to you their opinions of milan and the methods that he uses and alternatives. There are certainly some things that can be done in this situation, although a cure might be unlikely.

I won´t talk to you about managing DA dogs, Ive never done that. I have however had a dog who you could never take anywhere. It was a constant source of anxiety when people came over, when we went camping ect. We took him to classes, talked to experienced dog people, we tried all their training tricks which served only to make him worse. Looking back I understand the issues with our methods. The guilt and feeling of failure stays with me even though it was 7 years ago and he was not my responsibility (i was a child/teenager).

If you don´t feel mentally equipt to deal with his problems then try to find him a good home. There is no shame in it. You are not just dumping an adult because he´s no longer a cute puppy. You have put enourmos amount of resources in him. Not only the financial aspect but in emotional commitment.

There are things that can be done, there are members here who have had DA dogs but I suspect that it is mostly coming down to managament in this case.

Some may tell you, as would I, that the methods used by ´trainers´such as cesar milan might have actually done more harm than good. But don´t blame yourself. We, to my great regret, used a choke chain on our dog at the advice of an experienced trainer.

There is no good decision here, there will be some heartbreak just try to do what is best for you and him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@spotsonofbun thank you for the kind words and consolation. I know not all methods are best but I do know I have tried my best and continue to do so. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to think about doing it feels like.
 

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Dog aggression can't always be fixed but it can definitely be managed. If you cannot live with it, a rescue should be able to pair your dog with someone who can. If your dog was human-aggressive, that would be a more difficult situation-- but generally both humane organizations and municipal law agree that so long as they are leashed and muzzled in public, dog-aggressive dogs are no threat.

A lot of quacks like Cesar Milan would have you believe that any sort of aggression in dogs is related to dominance and that these 'dominant' dogs make uncooperative and problematic pets. The truth is that aggression in dogs, who are typically highly social creatures, is a response to fear and it has no bearing on their obedience or temperament outside of that scary situation.

I'd urge you to think carefully about whether its necessary to euthanize this dog. Especially if he has a lot of obedience under his belt, he could be a great companion for someone who doesn't encounter dogs all that often.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@kelly528 no offense, but EUTHANIZE?! Not at all. Where are you even getting this idea? I've barely posted anything and you're suggesting I consider euthanizing?! The reason I'm considering adopting him out is because he would be a magnificent companion to the right owner. If I were older and not so active, or just not in such a dog-crowded city, he'd be great for me. He is extremely well-behaved and obedient with the exception of DA toward other big dogs. That's all! That by no means deems euthanizing him. That would be a wast of resources and a waste of a good life. Please carry on, and if that's your suggestion, I'd prefer you not join in on this discussion any further. Thank you though for your efforts, truly.
 

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I do have a few pointers to give you.

First off no more dog parks, ever. It's just not worth the risk, and for a DA dog like yours it's way to stressful.

Second, no more dominance based, alpha based, techniques. All that does is teach him to suppress how he's feeling, and creates a ticking time bomb because you've taught him that growling, lip lifting, etc is not to be done but you did not address why it was that he was acting that way. You also teach him that he's right to feel the way he does because the EVIL, BAD, HORRIBLE dogs are causing you to treat him that way.

Third check out this website, it'll teach you how to appropriately work with him, Care for Reactive Dogs.

I'd also consider hiring a positive reinforcement based behaviorist. one that is a certified applied animal behaviorist is best. This link will help you find a good one http://www.dogforum.com/training-be...ainer-behavior-consultant-behaviorist-113946/

This is an old thread that's sort of a support group for those of us with reactive dogs, mine is people reactive and large dog reactive. http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/reactivity-progress-techniques-suggestions-78554/

Good luck to you!
 

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We've had DA dogs before. One was a pure bred lab even. It's not something 'wrong' with the dog... it's just how they are. Like how some people really don't like being around other people. It doesn't require trauma or a bad past any more than it requires horrible experiences for us to not like something.

Is he ever a danger to people? Does he chase small animals or like cats? If not ... well, he really has that going for him. DA is manageable, and a lot of people are definitely up to it. If he's well trained otherwise, obedient and friendly, then the next home he goes into, if they're warned of his dog aggressiveness (and make sure they know it's NOT the same as people aggression, they are very different things) and they know how to handle it then he'll be alright, not getting shipped to different homes.

Our local rescues have a lot of DA dogs. They just advertise those dogs as a one-dog-only household. It doesn't prevent them from being adopted out.
 

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Oh yes since I can't edit... don't feel bad. Not every dog is for every person. Somewhere out there IS the dog for you, who'll be a companion and stress-free. It just isn't this dog.

And somewhere out there is a person this dog is perfect for. It's normal to feel bad, feel guilty. But the dots didn't line up this time.
 

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@kelly528 no offense, but EUTHANIZE?! Not at all. Where are you even getting this idea? I've barely posted anything and you're suggesting I consider euthanizing?! The reason I'm considering adopting him out is because he would be a magnificent companion to the right owner. If I were older and not so active, or just not in such a dog-crowded city, he'd be great for me. He is extremely well-behaved and obedient with the exception of DA toward other big dogs. That's all! That by no means deems euthanizing him. That would be a wast of resources and a waste of a good life. Please carry on, and if that's your suggestion, I'd prefer you not join in on this discussion any further. Thank you though for your efforts, truly.
Oh sorry, I thought the title read "considering putting my dog DOWN"

Reread with that in mind.

Yes, definitely there are many homes for dog-aggressive dogs out there. I think that petfinder even has a category for dogs that must be placed in a single-dog family.
 

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Was he like this when you got him or did he become DA in your care? First, have you had his thyroid checked, thyroid issues can cause behavioral problems. This will probably not go down too well here, but the rabies vaccine is notorious for causing behavioral changes in dogs, so if he were mine I would consult a homeopathic vet to detox him.

I also agree no more dog parks, leave him at home when you are visiting people with other dogs, no point in stressing him out. DA can be managed, don't put him in situations that set him up for failure.
 

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Don't beat yourself up. You were not aware of his DA and it seems like you have tried different avenues. Milan is my least favourite, but at least you've tried different things to see what works and what doesn't. If you truly feel in your heart and brain, that you and a dog would benefit from being active together in public, rehoming through a rescue/shelter that carefully screens potential adopters and who will be upfront with his DA would be the safest way of finding the perfect home for him.

There are so many different types of homes out there. Perhaps the rescue/shelter would be able to find his a home where the person/family are more indoor type people and who don't go out all that often or don't mind leaving their dog home when having to go out in public, and who may live somewhere less condensed with other dogs/homes (suburban or rural). Private rehoming can also be an option, but I would personally prefer to privately rehome only to people I know and where they would be more inclined to giving updates as opposed to a total stranger who may stay in touch or disappear out of your life forever and leave you wondering how he's doing.

You are not a bad owner at all. Quite the opposite, you are aware of what is best for both your dog and yourself. Sometimes the best decision is the hardest one, and that can be having to rehome. I believe it's better for both sides to find the best match as opposed to just sticking to it just because and never being truly happy. Dogs can sense this in their owners and make their lives not the most happy either. Plus, I am a firm believer that dogs can enrich our lives so much, so why settle for a dog that doesn't suit you when both can be genuinely happy with another owner/dog? It's ok to have made an honest mistake and adopted the wrong dog that doesn't suit your lifestyle, wants, and needs. It's recognizing this and doing something to make quality of life better for both.

I know I didn't give any advice on actually dealing with the DA, just seems like you would be happier with a dog that is more laidback and easygoing with other dogs.
 

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I have a DA dog and we manage it well, we also did numerous training with a few trainers. We don't go to dog parks anymore (for many reasons tho) he is fantasic with people and kids, so that's a plus and its good your guy is good with humans too.
I have to put a muzzle on him too if I think I'm going to encounter other dogs.

Just avoid other dogs where you can, go for walks where there is likely to be minimal dogs.
Good luck
 

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I'm really glad that so far (and I hope no one will) has beaten you up over using Milan's tactics. He's a very public figure with a supposed high success rate so for first time dog owners he's the first one we turn to. I might get slammed for this, but not everything he says is garbage. I think it's great that you tried one tactic, saw that it didn't work, and have moved on to others instead of being so grounded and swearing by one type of method.
I agree that if you need to rehome him and feel that it's best for both of you, then follow the above advice and find him a loving home. We had to rehome a dog this past summer. My family had a small, 7 year old lab/dachshund mix that was dog aggressive and a 2 year old German Shepherd who was not really people aggressive, but didn't trust strangers at all. For two years the smaller dog bullied on the GSD and finally, when I brought Tucker home, he was being bullied by the mix and the GSD started attacking her. The two couldn't be together at all after that (GSD was inside and mix was outside ((we tried her inside, she was much happier running around the acreage and sleeping in the garage than being inside)) )so we rehomed the one that was easier to rehome, the lab mix. One of my mom's clients said that they'd keep her until we had found her a home, and ended up becoming her home. They have small children who absolutely love and adore the dog and now she gets more attention than what we ever gave her.

Long story short, rehoming isn't bad. There's good and bad ways to do it, but if you do it with the dog in mind then you can't go wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We've had DA dogs before. One was a pure bred lab even. It's not something 'wrong' with the dog... it's just how they are. Like how some people really don't like being around other people. It doesn't require trauma or a bad past any more than it requires horrible experiences for us to not like something.

Is he ever a danger to people? Does he chase small animals or like cats? If not ... well, he really has that going for him. DA is manageable, and a lot of people are definitely up to it. If he's well trained otherwise, obedient and friendly, then the next home he goes into, if they're warned of his dog aggressiveness (and make sure they know it's NOT the same as people aggression, they are very different things) and they know how to handle it then he'll be alright, not getting shipped to different homes.

Our local rescues have a lot of DA dogs. They just advertise those dogs as a one-dog-only household. It doesn't prevent them from being adopted out.
He is only DA toward NEW dogs. For instance, my gf's dog and he love each other. They get along great and can be left unsupervised. Just new dogs that he gets insecure around and deals with by fighting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Oh sorry, I thought the title read "considering putting my dog DOWN"

Reread with that in mind.

Yes, definitely there are many homes for dog-aggressive dogs out there. I think that petfinder even has a category for dogs that must be placed in a single-dog family.
Ok that makes much better sense! Thanks for clarifying!
 

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He is only DA toward NEW dogs. For instance, my gf's dog and he love each other. They get along great and can be left unsupervised. Just new dogs that he gets insecure around and deals with by fighting.
I'm not sure I see what the issue is then?

I had a severely DA, 100 lb GSD mix for 12 years. He couldn't be around any dogs, ever. I just didn't take him to parks, or camping, etc. That's all. You change your routine to suit the dog's needs.

I was able to walk him, with some training. LAT/BAT training is where it's at with reactive dogs. Until you've had some success with it (it does take time, like months), walk the dog late at night or early in the morning and avoid other dogs.
 

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I cannot believe I'm even on here posting this as he lay next to me peacefully. I'll describe my problem as concisely as possible as to not draw this out.
Hi, and welcome to dog forum. I feel your pain, and I wanted to say that up front because my words further down might seem less than sympathetic.

Sometimes a visit to the park goes okay if the other dog(s) is submissive. But sometimes, something in his head just clicks and he feels like he has to attack the other dog! And it turns into a nasty fight because he's so huge and obviously trying to kill the other dog.
You need to stop taking him to the dog park, now. Once past puppy-hood, dogs don't need it. My dog loved the dog park, got along well with the other dogs, had some good friends to play with when they were there. But then around 18 months old (adolescence), his attitude changed -- and while nothing really terrible happened, I decided it was risky so I stopped taking him for several months. But I remembered how much he enjoyed it and I wanted to give it one last try: unfortunately, on that visit he went after a two-month old puppy. To be fair, he didn't physically hurt the puppy - didn't even draw blood - but it was terrifying for me and even more so for the puppy's owners, and no doubt for the puppy as well. I haven't taken him to a dog park since.

To meet his exercise needs, you can walk him on leash -- good for bonding, good for teaching him self control. You can also use training to help him get rid of excess energy, and there are good puzzle toys for dogs. A very good tool is a Flirt Pole. In case you don't know what it is, here's some info from a dog-walker: The Flirt Pole: Dog Toy or Life Changer? | notes from a dog walker

Well, I have worked and worked and worked with him. Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer dvd's),
I made the same mistake with my dog, set back his bonding with me for probably several months. Didn't help with his reactivity; in fact it made him worse.

and 2 professional dog trainers, a ton of money,
I started looking for alternatives, learned about positive reinforcement, and started looking for trainer. Found one who advertised herself as 'positive', and then recommended a prong collar - me, not knowing any better went along with it. Seemed to work for two weeks or so, and then my dog got much, much worse. I stopped using the prong collar.

Eventually, I did find real, positive trainers - and that is what helped my dog. But yes, it costs money and it takes time.

He is so well mannered and smart, he can do anything I've ever attempted to teach him..............except socialize with other dogs normally!

My dog is also smart, and for myself and my BF, very well mannered. He can meet other dogs, if I'm very careful, but it can go wrong at any moment so it's not something we do. He's also scared of people; my BF and I are the only people he's allowed to touch him in nearly 5 years. He doesn't wear a muzzle because I use management and avoid situations where he might feel he has to bite.

That sometimes, there's a trigger that's gonna get set off and it can never be totally controlled...that is the saddest thing for me to hear regarding my dog.
My dog's life is basically predicated on 'making sure nothing bad happens'. Can you imagine the stress of always being on guard? He very rarely relaxes, and it breaks my heart.

We don't take him to people's houses, he's afraid of buildings he hasn't been in before. My BF and I don't take trips together, because we can't leave him with anyone, nor can we take him with us. Yes, he limits us -- but he also trusts us and relies on us, because for him the world is so scary - how could we let him down by giving him to someone else?

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post, and please if you have ANY advice or suggestions as to how to go about this, I'm right here waiting for answers. Thank you. Jake and Maska
I understand your pain; I did consider trying to find Boone a home back when he was at his worst and it didn't seem any progress was being made. A few years later, despite the hassle/stress/limits, I'm really glad I never went through it. I can't tell you what to do, I can only tell you my experience.

Once I'd become educated on how harmful 'aversive' affects are, and how often they make issues worse for dogs, I had to find a trainer who really didn't use aversives -- not even a water bottle, or a collar correction or a sharp tone. I found her here - Modern Dog Training and Puppy Classes. She may not be able to help you personally, but she does have some very good videos on youtube, and if you do decide to go for one more trainer, this could give you an idea of what to look for.

Anyway, Kris started by having me stop taking Boone out to become stressed - for him, that meant no walks except for long enough to pee/poop. I was to do this for a week, to allow the stress hormones in both of us to dissipate. I did this, and sure enough - both of us became more relaxed.

Then, we had to work on counter-conditioning to his triggers. This meant ensuring that he saw things that bothered him from a considerable distance, and was given delicious treats and praise while they were in site. The goal here was to change his emotional reaction to these triggers. Over time, we could move closer to the trigger without him reacting.

Eventually, Boone's reactivity to people reduced by about 98% so we can now go on walks with him, and not have him act like Cujo anytime someone got within 25 feet of him. He still will react to certain things - people in hats or with umbrellas, for instance, but the reaction is very brief and mild - maybe a bark or two. Dogs have been harder, because I think he actually wants to meet them but he's also anxious about it. Still, there has been improvement there, about 50%.

Boone's history is that of a feral dog from a long line of feral dogs, in a third world country. His fear/wariness is probably genetic, possibly made worse by gestational starvation. I continue to work with him, but honestly I don't expect him to ever become friendly to people. Heck, if he'd let just one other person pet him, I'd be over the moon. :)

You don't specify in your post what kind of trainers you've consulted, but I think giving it one more go with a qualified, positive-only behaviorist would be worth the time/money, before making the decision to rehome. Anyone you consider should not use terms such as dominance, leader-of-the-pack, status, etc. Research over the last two decades and especially the last 10 years, shows ever more clearly that dogs do not operate much like wolves at all, in terms of their social behavior, so anyone who tries to explain your dog's behavior in terms of wolf-pack behavior is working off inaccurate information.

There are lots of very knowledgeable people in this group as well, who are more than willing to help, but someone who can assess your dog in person is really your best bet.

(Ha! When I started this post, I thought there were only 2 replies; now I see there are actually two pages! Hope I didn't repeat too much of what's already been said).
 

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Hi there - just a sympathetic post here... I don't have a DA dog but I have a people aggressive dog. We aren't sure what happened to him when he was a puppy, but we do know he was found at about 3 months running with a pack of feral/stray dogs in Kentucky, and it's likely that his first contact with people was Animal Control and then thrown in a shelter, so... traumatizing. :(

We put in a LOT of work with Riley too, and have gotten him to a point now where he is fine around people, relaxed even, but people just can't come up to him and pet him (which is difficult for them sometimes as he is freaking adorable), and he's super guardy in the house. In the first few years we had him we weren't able to go on vacation as no one could come to the house to watch him, and he is definitely not boarding material. I finally found a dog trainer who also does pet sitting out of her house and felt comfortable enough with her to try it out. So far we've only had him over there for a 2 night period and he did good, but that is only because she understands him and isn't afraid of him. Anyway though, I stopped taking him to family and friends houses, no more dog parks (though that's actually for other reasons.... I am not a fan of dog parks at all)... at one point I'd even stopped walking him in our subdivision that had a lot of kids running around as it was just too stressful (for me more than him, though). Since putting in the work now I am more confident which makes him more confident. Life is basically now just pre-emptive. I don't knowingly put him in situations that I know is going to stress him out, and I know how to deal with them when they happen. Now granted, 90lb dog is a little harder to physically manage than my 50lb dog, but still. :)

Good luck - rehoming was never really an option for me as I knew with Riley's issues he wouldn't have a chance and would more than likely be euthanized. I would never let that happen to him. In your case I would say that if you truly feel that you have reached your limit, and you think his quality of life would be better somewhere else, then don't beat yourself up too much. It sounds to me though that he is perfectly happy with you and his life, and it is more of how you feel things should be that is causing your heartache. ♥
 

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I think you're pretty lucky that his DA is only towards strange dogs as I deal with a household in which the dogs are DA towards each other. That's when it can be somewhat challenging. In your case, I think if you just can't accept him for who he is, rehoming might be the best option. In my case my dogs have so many other great qualities that I just have learned to love and accept them for who they are.
 

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You talk about giving the dog up for adoption.

What would this change? You have devoted time and resources and professional training. If "Bob's Bozman Dog Rescue" takes your dog, what is Bob going to try that you haven't?

You have to decide, do you think the dog's issue is fixable by ANYBODY? If yes, then seek that person or people out and get the issue fixed.

If not, time for a whole different gauntlet of questions.

1. Is it fair to someone else to saddle them with this dog with this unfixable problem?

2. If the problem cannot be fixed, can you 'manage' the problem? (This could be simply not going to dog parks anymore, avoiding other dogs on your walks, or something extreme like the dog living the rest of his life in a 4x4 cage)

3. Is the management of the problem a kind where the dog still can live a quality life (spending time with his human friends, but never any dog friends probably is, living in a cage 24/7 probably isn't)

It's one thing for people to surrender a troublesome dog if they think it can be fixed but they just don't have the time, money, or skill to address the issue. It's not acceptable to surrender a dog you think no amount of time, money, or skill can fix.

If you can fix it, fix it.

If you can manage it, and that management provides a good life for the dog, then manage it.

If management only happens in a way that drastically reduces the quality of the dog's life, put the dog to sleep. Remember there are 2 million perfectly fine dogs that get put to sleep every year. Dog overpopulation has pushed adoption/shelters into triage conditions, why waste a ton of resources saving 1 dog when those same resources could save 100 dogs?
 
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