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So my Australian shepherd is 3 years old and ever since we got her, she has been aggressively barking at men, including my dad. Its been going on for 3 years and now its just getting out of hand since my dad will be living with us. Every time she sees a man while I take her on a walk outside, she barks uncontrollably and growls. This is probably due to the fact that her past owners probably abused her.

I need some advice on how to deal with this problem, since if we can't fix it we might have to give her up. I dont want to do that. Shes not very trained either...could that be the problem?
 

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Patience and time.

There's a lady in this building pulled a small cross breed out of our dumpster last year, don't know what that poor dog had been through. She took to her owner very fast but was absolutely terrified of any men. First time she laid eyes on me, it looked like she tried to disappear. The owner asked if I would work with her, definitely. Lots of me worked with the dog.

The owner is quite confident, and doesn't nourish her dogs fear. Every time I met this lady, I ignored the dog, stayed calm, made her realize there is no threat here. I didn't try to pet her, didn't force anything on her - but eventually she came out and had a sniff. Even then, ignore her then walk away. Other men did the same thing.

It took a few weeks, but eventually she would come out to sniff - and I was able to pet her. Didn't force myself on her, she had to want it. About 2 months went by, the dog actually ran to me, allowed me to pick her up - the owner was shocked.

Patience and time - and the right people. Now she's a happy go lucky dog, loves everyone. I've seen many a dog come around due to this approach.
 

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Patience and time.

There's a lady in this building pulled a small cross breed out of our dumpster last year, don't know what that poor dog had been through. She took to her owner very fast but was absolutely terrified of any men. First time she laid eyes on me, it looked like she tried to disappear. The owner asked if I would work with her, definitely. Lots of me worked with the dog.

The owner is quite confident, and doesn't nourish her dogs fear. Every time I met this lady, I ignored the dog, stayed calm, made her realize there is no threat here. I didn't try to pet her, didn't force anything on her - but eventually she came out and had a sniff. Even then, ignore her then walk away. Other men did the same thing.

It took a few weeks, but eventually she would come out to sniff - and I was able to pet her. Didn't force myself on her, she had to want it. About 2 months went by, the dog actually ran to me, allowed me to pick her up - the owner was shocked.

Patience and time - and the right people. Now she's a happy go lucky dog, loves everyone. I've seen many a dog come around due to this approach.
Ok thanks!
 

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IMO, hoping that waiting the behavior out will make it disappear isn't something that seems super likely to work, given how long you're saying this behavior has been going on. If it's been three years will little/no change in the behavior, I would not hold any hope this is going to go away on its own. For some dogs in some situations, letting them take things at their own pace and not pushing anything IS something that will work. For many more dogs, ignoring an issue is just going to cause it to continue or worsen. After 3 years, if this was going to go away without pointed effort and training, it would have.

In order to change the behavior, you first need to figure out what the most likely cause is- the underlying emotional conflict that is causing the dog to react with aggressive threat displays like growling and barking. Most commonly in this kind of a situation, the cause is fear and/or anxiety. The root of this aggression may be from past trauma- such as being abused by men in the past- but IMO is just as likely to be rooted more in genetics/poor socialization/ a generally nervous temperament. In changing this behavior, it would be very helpful to you to seek the help of a professional behaviorist or trainer that has experience working with behavior modification/aggression issues. Yes, you COULD conceivably find the information yourself and try to fix it without help, but if the dog is truely at a point where this behavior is something that you may need to rehome it over if it does not go away, you're likely much better served paying the money for the professional help. Dog training has a steep learning curve, and I like to say that at best you're going more slowly in training then you could with professional help and at worst you may be setting yourself up to exacerbate the issue.

I would suggest looking for a force free or balanced trainer, though I will always try force free methods before using force-based methods as IMO the risk of fallout (unintended consequences) with force free methods is always less than the risk of fallout using force-based methods. In order to get rid of the behavior, you need to isolate the underlying emotional cause of this behavior, change the underlying emotional state causing the behavior (fear, anxiety, protectiveness, territoriality, resource guarding, whatever) and at the same time work on teaching the dog alternative behaviors (sitting quietly and looking at you instead of the "scary men", for example). The main difference between a force-free trainer and a "balanced" trainer is that the balanced trained may also be likely to use force such as leash corrections, a prong, and/or electrical stimulation from a shock collar in order to "shut down" (ie, stop) the problem behavior before they address the emotional root of the problem and work on teaching alternative behaviors. Not every dog will fall to pieces or be ruined by these methods, and I'm not saying that anyone who uses them is a bad trainer or that they never work, but this is a force free forum that does not advocate for the use of aversives or force in training and you're not likely to find many people who are going to suggest shutting down a behavior first before working on behavioral modification on this board. I do urge you to at least look into the fallout/consequences that can come from the use of force in training dogs- such as redirected aggression, exacerbation of aggressive behavior, and associating the corrections/stimulation of the leash/training collar with stimuli in a way that creates more triggers for the dog as opposed to associating the correction with the behavior it's meant to stop- so that you are making an educated choice on the matter. Google will yeild a great many results to the search "the use of force in dog training", many of which will likely be heavily biased, but it is an informed decision every person training a dog (whether for sport or pet, or in general manners, competition, or for behavioral modification) should make.

I will note that just going by breed- an Aussie is not a breed I would consider taking physical corrections well and one I would consider more at risk of unintended fallout when using those methods, just from the "vibe" I've gotten off the Aussie's I've been around. I've seen some who reacted very strongly just to harsh verbal corrections.

In terms of what to look into to help in the short term, I would suggest familiarizing yourself with the procedures of Desensitization and Counter Conditioning (Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning: Overcoming Your Dog?s Issues) and also familiarizing yourself with the concept of "threshold distance" which is a VERY thing for anyone trying to change an animal's behavior to understand. It means the distance at which an animal can be from their trigger(s) (the thing or things that upsets them) BEFORE they start reacting. When working on modifying behavior, you're primarily working on getting a closer threshold distance- getting the animal to be able to be nearer the thing that upsets them without them reacting aggressively and eventually without being stressed, and you're ALWAYS working BELOW an animal's threshold distance, meaning in behavior modification training, if you've gotten close enough that the animal has started acting upset (aggressive or stressed), then you've made a mistake and gotten too close too fast, or above the animal's threshold. This is the #1 mistake people make when trying to work with aggression or reactivity without a professional- they start out too close to the trigger and are giving treats to a dog that is acting aggressively- in that situation you're either giving treats to a dog who isn't in a mindset to understand what they mean OR you're actually reinforcing the out of control aggressive behavior the dog is offering in that moment. Neither of which will work on making the dog less upset about the trigger, and the latter may make them respond even more poorly in the future. Behavioral Adjustment Training (B.A.T) is also a really great tool, but like counter conditioning and desensitization, it is much harder to put in practice than it is to read about, and it is something that IMO is best done in concert with a professional well-versed in it.

This kind of reactivity isn't super uncommon in Aussies- often they have issues with motion sensitivity and fear and anxiety are both not uncommon in some lines, especially back-yard-breeder/poorly bred ones. They also are not a breed that seem to be the kind of dogs that will eventually realize the stimulus they're afraid of isn't going to hurt them because it hasn't hurt them in the past X days, months, or years. They will continue to react poorly to the stimulus until their dying breath, unless you set them up to change their opinion of it, IMO.

In terms of her being untrained affecting the aggression/reactivity- training her isn't likely to make the reactivity lessen or go away, but her being untrained also isn't going to help the situation.

Part of the problem with an untrained, adult dog is that they often don't have much of an idea of how to work with people or even how to learn. You can totally teach an old dog new tricks, but it helps if he understands the currency of reward in training and concepts like offering behaviors so you can reward them. This kind of thing usually has to be taught, to some extent, even in the smart, willing-to-please breeds like Aussies. Also, Aussies being smart and willing to please means they really thrive off of mental stimulation and can go kind of stir crazy when they don't get it. Even intense physical exercise is not going to cut it for this kind of a dog, IMO, and you're going to experience behavioral problems because of it, often begun because the dog has shoddy nerves and exacerbated by mental frustration. A beginner's obedience class, or even a fun beginner's sport class or trick class can only help a dog in this kind of a situation. Scent games and little tricks are also good things to work on to tire her out mentally as well as physically.

Also, and this is very important- when you have a reactive dog, and you put it in a situation where it can practice that reactivity, it will, and the reactivity will become all the more ingrained in her behavior because of it. It is important that if you KNOW your dog is going to react aggressively to a man on the street or your father, you bring her far enough away from them that she isn't reacting and doesn't get a chance to practice the behavior, because especially when this is driven from fear, this can cause a gradual increase in the level of aggression the dog displays, slowly moving from something like a warning bark or growl, to lunging, to a full on bite. I there's a man on the same side of the street, cross the street. If there's a man going to pet her, stop him before he comes close. Don't bring to her crowded public places where you know she will have to be close to men. Walk her at less busy times of day, and if you have less busy areas that are still safe, walk her there. Don't let her be out while you father is around the house. Have a space where she can be that is away from him, and instruct him not to interact with her AT ALL. If she comes up and sniffs him, great, but have him purposefully ignore her. That is often the best thing for a fearful dog (I am obviously proceeding under the assumption she is fearful, which could be wrong- an in person professional eval will tell you with more certainty), as a fearful dog will often see ANY attention paid to them as a threat, even if they show intital curiosity.
 
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