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I have a two year old German Shepard/lab mix....maybe some boarder collier in her too. She has been spayed, we did all of the training classes and overall she is a very smart, well trained dog. She plays well with other dogs, she is dominant but hasn't gotten into a fight or anything with another dog. She is very sweet, will let people she knows do anything to her (I.e. Take her food away, take treats away, accidentally step on her...oops!). She listens very well and knows 30+ words. She is extremely smart!

She is also very protective, especially of me, and especially of our home. She has bitten a couple people who came over who were strangers. Most recently, she bit an insurance adjuster who came out to our home this week. It was a small puncture on his hand and ultimately he was fine, but since he was at work it became a workers comp case and they made him go to the hospital. The hospital then reported it to animal control and this is her second offense so she had to go to their shelter and be quarantined for 10 days to ensure she doesn't have rabies.

I don't know what to do because she is so super sweet to me and our family but is very protective and biting is an issue. If she has a third offense, they will want to put her down. I'm just not sure if we are the best suited home or her, but I definitely do NOT want to give her up. I also don't want to be sued overa bite nor do I want her put down if she gets a third offense. We've tried training and all sort of various methods. Once she sniffs the new person it's usually less than a minute that she's warmed up, I can take her off the leash and she's completely fine with them...will even let them let her. It's just that initial entering into our house or property that makes her addrenalin skyrocket and her protective nature kick in. She also has anxiety and is currently on florextine to help with this.

Any advice? Anyone have a similar issue?
 

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What have you done when she's bitten?

Does she ever growl? What makes her growl, and what do you do when she growls?

Also, because this is a very serious issue, your best bet is to contact a positive-reinforcement based behaviourist to assess her and help you devise a plan that will have her learn that she doesn't have to bite.

In the meantime, acclimatize her to a basket muzzle, and make sure she wears it whenever strangers are around.
 

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Agree with Dia. Condition her to wear a muzzle. Look up Chirag Patel's video tutorial. Get a trainer. Find one who does not use punishment. Look in the behavior and training section for a sticky on finding a trainer. In the meantime, when you have any stranger in your home, put your dog in a room where she will have absolutely no chance to interact with the person. If there are others living in your home make sure they know that no one can be admitted to your home until your dog is put safely away.

You mention that you've tried training and all sorts of various methods.What type of training and methods have you used to address this behavior? Are you confident in your ability to read your dog's body language when she encounters a stranger?

An anxious fearful dog may very well be biting to keep herself safe. It may appear that she's protecting you but she might be protecting herself. When a fearful dog bites, almost always, the person immediately retreats. This reinforces in the dog's mind that the way to keep people away is to bite.

I'm in favor of using behavior medications for fearful dogs but without the right behavior modification program, it's doubtful you'll see any improvement with this behavior. Please try to find a force free trainer to help with this.
 

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You say that if she sniffs someone first she's ok later? Where where the people when they were bit. Is she outside in a fenced yard, is she inside?

Does she only show this behavior at home or is it a problem on walks?

To be honest though if you know she is this protective you need to keep her separate when other people come over, period. If you bring her out it should be on a leash and with a muzzle.

Also Grabby has a very good point. Are you sure its protectiveness and not fear? There are difference to deal with both so accurately identifying which behavior it is is very important.
 

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Hi,

We've practiced positive reinforcement with her and after her first class, we had the trainer come to our home to see what we were talking about. She showed us some techniques for making her sit and stay until she was calm.

She mostly shows this behavior at home, she's only bitten when someone new came to our home. We took her to a 5K run once and she was very anxious with all of the people around. She doesn't like if someone reaches out to start petting her before she can snif them.

The first bite was outside in an electric fence, she bit the boy who walked into our yard and chased him straight through the fence. Since then we have gotten a wooden fence and she has certainly improved. This second bite was in our driveway while she was on a leash. She doesn't act quite this bad when my husband is around, but if it's just me, she's very protective. Even when I took her to the get, she stood in between me and the vet the whole time.

When she's bitten or even growled, we pull her away from the situation and verbally correct her. We also will make her sit and stay until we stay she is free. She will sit there but will whine and be very anxious.

Anytime she thinks a person is at our house, she barks and goes crazy. The mailman, UPS man, if the doorbell rings or even if she hears a knock on the TV.

I think I answered all of the questions.
 

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So a lot of this could have to do with the electric fence. Or it could not, but consider this.

She sees someone new passing by, she's not scared nor protective. She runs up to greet them and gets shocked. This happens a few times. Now she associates strangers with getting shocked.

After that she gets nervous when people come up because she's expecting a shock, even if she doesn't get one she growls to warn them not to hurt her. When she growls you "pull her away from the situation" in other words choking her with her collar, reinforcing the notion that strangers cause her pain.
 

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Correcting a dog, even if it's only a verbal correction, has a high probability of increasing aggression. Look at it from the dog's point of view. A new person is in your home, she shows aggression, she gets punished. New people are the reason she got punished. All the more reason, in her mind, to keep new people away. I do hope you can find a trainer to help your dog. Keep her and everyone safe in the meantime. Good luck.

Take a look at this site. Care for Reactive Dogs
 

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I very much hope that you enlist the aid of a very experienced trainer or behaviorist. You need to get a better handle on what is motivating your dog and how to best manage and work with him.

Since you wrote about your dog "protecting" you, it occurred to me that, in addition to being generally fearful, he may be "resource guarding" you. I don't think he's protecting you from potential harm from others, but he may be protecting you as his number one resource. In that case, he's motivated by his own self-interest. Awhile back, I had to rehome a dog because he was resource guarding me against my other dog.

Clearly, it's next to impossible for us to make a clear determination and the forum rules prevent us from giving out training advice once a dog has started to bite. Therefore, my best advice again is to seek professional help.
 

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Agree with @Esand, @Grabby and @SusanLynn. When you correct her for exhibiting discomfort by growling/barking, you make her think she has to work harder to demonstrate her discomfort - so the growling/barking escalates to nipping, and she may start to nip in many more situations, not just the ones you've identified so far.

If you see she's whining/anxious, your goal should be to find ways to reduce her anxiety. She can't reason her way through stuff the way humans can; she can only associate certain situations with feeling "bad" and she'll try to make herself feel better any way she can. Unfortunately, this is likely to be in ways that aren't pleasant for humans.

It's really important that you find a positive behaviourist to help you with this dog.
 

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I agree with earlier comments, time to condition for a muzzle.

Also unlike what Cesar Milan says, if you comfort a frightened dog it will NOT encourage the scared mindset! When your dog is upset, comfort her instead of dragging her off or scolding her. Reassure her that things ARE okay and she doesn't need to worry. I had a pup with baaad fear issues, who'd snap and growl and bite, and pulling him away always made things worse but treating him like the scared 'child' he was helped him calm down at least a little.

If she's learned strangers = pain and unhappiness... yeah you're going to need professional help. But it's not the end of the world and she can definitely be helped!! Don't give up!
 
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