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Discussion Starter #1
I've posted about my 11 month old reactive puppy before and I really just need a place to vent.

We've been working with a trainer and the trainer told me not to expose her to triggers. Instead, work on her basic obedience and make sure that's solid before taking her to trigger heavy environments. So, she hasn't left my house in six weeks. Before working with the trainer I would take her to the park twice a day for a short period of time. Just let her be around unfamiliar things - sights, sounds, people, kids, dogs. I would take treats to reward her and give her good associations. If she broke threshold then we left. At that time (and maybe still) once she broke threshold she was done. There was no bringing her back down. I'm starting to think we need to start working on her triggers again but the thought of it turns my stomach in knots. It makes me anxious because it's alarming to others and embarrassing to me when she freaks out. I had one lady comment on my carelessness to bring an aggressive dog to the park. She's not aggressive but the way she carries on sometimes - I don't blame others for thinking that. When she's home and not triggered by many things - it's easy to pretend that she's normal. But nights like tonight make me feel so guilty because I take my older dog to the park and leave the puppy home. And she cries and cries when she's left. I feel so bad leaving her because it's obviously upsetting. She's in a crate while I'm at work and then left again at night when I take the older one to the park. We live in an urban area of a large city so it would be nearly impossible for me to find a trigger-free place to walk both of them.

I just don't see how I can integrate the puppy into my whole family. She's fine here with me. But she's triggered by my grandma. She becomes ridiculously excited and starts jumping and simultaneously swatting at her. The swatting has bloodied my grandmas arm twice. I have a family reunion out of town in two weeks and she has to be boarded because I could never trust her around kids. Her MO is to slap. I think it's play but her paws are enormous and powerful. They do a lot of damage and her nails draw blood. I go to my parents for Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas. Again, she'll likely be in a kennel because she can't be trusted around my grandma, babies, or children. I feel horribly guilty for that. My older dog has a stocking under the tree, wears a Christmas sweater, and is in all family pictures. She's very much a part of our family always and because of the puppy's reactivity I just can't integrate her. It sucks.
 

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I would get a leash and vest that says "In Training" and/or "Reactive Dog" so people know to stay away.

I personally would work on triggers. You need to take your dog on walks, and if shes not being exposed to the triggers, it'll take longer for her to get over them.
 

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There is also noting wrong with a muzzle when you are out in public working on the triggers.

Someone brought a muzzled dog down to the beach on a busy day and once everyone saw that it was the owner working on training and not just a mean dog, lots of us helped out with exercises and situations so they could work on his training.

If it is just crazy hyper aggression...remember, a tired dog is a good dog. Wear him out before working on the triggers.
 

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Two weeks is the normal cool down period before working with a reactive dog. The break is to allow the stress hormones to leave the body so that the dog has a chance to relax and the owner gets to start working with a less reactive dog once the 2 weeks are over. It's sort of step back, calm down, relax, then start again.

To work with her you need to stay far enough back from her triggers so that she sees them but is not overly alarmed by them, an example would be taking her to the park and standing by the jogging path, you'd stay back from it and as soon as the jogger came into view you'd start feeding her tasty treats, and keep feeding them until the jogger was out of sight. You don't need to cue her or anything like that, just let her see the jogger then start feeding. If she's reacting then you've gotten to close and next time stay further back. Once she's good at one distance move closer a step or two and try working with her at the new distance.

One thing I did with my reactive boy is teach him the "Let's Go" cue and I use it when I can see he's going to get worked up, at the first bark I tell him Let's Go and lead him away, as we walk away he gets a treat.

Is your Grandma willing to help you work with the puppy? If so what you can do is work to teach her an appropriate greeting for seeing Grandma, one that does not involve jumping up. What I'd do is put the puppy on a leash and have her sit, stand, or lay, whatever you want so long as no paws are off the ground, then have Grandma walk towards her, as soon as she starts to get excited and jump around, or rise from sitting or laying if that's your choice, Grandma leaves the room and only comes back when puppy is calmed down. It's sort of like red light, green light, only red light means evacuate the room. The first few times you try it are bound to be a disaster and Grandma my only get to set one foot in the room, but dogs are smart and puppy will figure out that acting up gets Grandma to leave, but being calm gets Grandma to come pet her.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I know it's probably time to start but I'm having a hard time doing it. I'm going to be honest - when I took her to the park frequently I didn't like her very much. It was very embarrassing and frustrating when people would say things. She was hard to bond with anyway because of the puppy behaviors. I couldn't pet her because shed immediately slap and bite me. Her bite inhibition was awful so she'd break skin. That's much better. She annoyed my older dog so much. Just constantly pestering and when she was corrected she would shut down. Things have been much better since we don't work on triggers. But I know I need to.

I don't muzzle her because she never offers to bite. I think the muzzle would stress her. Her reactivity is mainly barking. With some dogs and people she pulls toward them or tries to jump. But barking is the most consistent behavior.

My grandma is willing to work with her. However she lives 3 hours away. So we don't get to work with her often. Because our sessions are so infrequent I question if they help at all. But I do a variation of what you all are saying. When my grandma comes in I throw food on the floor so the puppy is occupied with that and doesn't have the opportunity to fixate and jump. When we're seated in the same room I put her in a down and give her a treat every time she looks at my grandma without reacting. But again, it may be pointless. The behavior seems like extreme excitement but who knows. It will be a long time before I let my grandma pet her. Last time the puppy slapped her and literally shredded her skin. Chunks were hanging off her arm. I can't risk that happening again.
 

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I believe you and the dog would both be better served if you re-homed him to a suitable family. It is clear from your posts what others think about your dog really affects you (embarrassed others see it eat grass, embarrassed what people say things when dog barks, etc.). If you are always worried about what others think it will be difficult for you to truly provide this dog with what it needs.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I believe you and the dog would both be better served if you re-homed him to a suitable family. It is clear from your posts what others think about your dog really affects you (embarrassed others see it eat grass, embarrassed what people say things when dog barks, etc.). If you are always worried about what others think it will be difficult for you to truly provide this dog with what it needs.
Oh please. Get over yourself.
 

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Oh please. Get over yourself.
Honestly, I agree with @TWadeJ

You shouldn't be embarrassed if your dog is reactive.

If you're embarrassed, then you're not going to take the right steps into helping your dog, and the problem will never get fixed.

Get over that embarrassment, and start helping your dog. It's for her, not you.
 
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Just trying to help. These are YOUR posts:

when a 50 lb dog is barking it's head off, people assume she's aggressive

reactivity looks like aggression to everyone who doesn't know her

I'm afraid to have people over because of the way she acts

her behavior is embarrassing

who really wants to engage a dog that acts like such an *******?

People say things to me in public (i.e. Why do you bring an aggressive dog to the park). I also get plenty of looks. It's both embarrassing and frustrating.

I feel very isolated. I moved in a new house two months ago. Guess how many people have come to see my house? No one. I've had no friends come over at all because I can't trust her. I can't live like this forever.

I typically cry multiple times daily.

I'm going stir crazy having not seen any friends this summer. No one has seen my new house because of her behavior. This can't be my future.

she guzzles water and throws up. It's beyond annoying at this point.

I just want to be able to take my dog around my family and to the park!

It's annoying to me because in the morning when she's supposed to be outside doing her business she's just standing around like a goof eating grass. And it looks dumb to house guests when your dog is in the yard grazing like a goat

It appears to me that this particular dog and you are not a good match. You have mentioned rehoming your dog on numerous threads in this forum. I am just agreeing with you that it is a good idea.
 

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I'm sorry for your frustration and guilt, which I think you describe beautifully. Owning a seriously reactive dog is tough. Sometimes it's amazing, sometimes it's just plain awful, and there are a lot of points in between...it's a roller coaster, and eleven months is likely to mark an especially low point. So if it helps to hear, I expect that things will improve for you as your teenager grows, matures, and (eventually) settles into herself, truly. And honestly, I think it is normal for our hearts to hurt when we love a dog so much, but don't feel like others get to see what makes her great.

FWIW, I have found more helpful online support in forums and mailing lists that are specific for reactive and/or fearful dogs, where the other people on the list are likely to have first-hand experience and more specific knowledge (and a much lower propensity to advise downright toxic things). I'm sorry to say that my resource list is probably out of date...there used to be a couple of good Yahoo mailing lists (shyK9s and functional rewards, the first aimed mainly at severely fearful dogs, the second a probably-defunct BAT-focused list). I think Facebook groups have probably replaced these, but I don't know for sure...maybe you could ask your trainer if s/he has any online reactivity communities to suggest, or maybe someone here has more up-to-date recommendations?

I know you weren't asking for advice, but two good books I like are Control Unleashed (either version) and the new BAT 2.0 book. You might already have them, but if not, they can really help offer a good framework for understanding and treating reactivity (and associated things, like impulse control) over the long-haul, and helped me a lot when I was struggling with my first dog, who was also severely reactive and more than a little bit heartbreaking. A good trainer helps even more, of course, and if you're happy with yours, then that's such a great place to start.

I think owning a reactive dog is an opportunity to let go of the idea of what dogs "ought" to be like, and that can be a painful process. We think dogs ought to like to going out to the park, ought to like visiting with people, ought to be a part of every gathering, and so on. But of course, as you know, not all dogs do like those things. Some dogs are calmer, and happier, when they are in familiar surroundings, when their social circle is small, when we enrich their environment with things like stuffed Kongs and scent games instead of visits to crowded parks, and so on. Finding the right balance for you and your dog can take time, I know, but it can also be something that brings you closer together in the end. Small comfort, maybe, and you have every right to vent once in a while! But as we let go of the idea of who our dogs "ought" to be, we get to see them more as they truly are, and sometimes I think that takes us to surprising places.

My current dog also used to bite hard enough to draw blood regularly. Oh, I do NOT miss those days!! Congratulations to you for helping your girl learn to use her mouth more gently...I know first-hand how it's so much nicer to live with a dog who doesn't leave you with an embarrassing set of bruises and punctures (to say nothing of the pain). It sounds like you're working with your girl and seeing good results, just that things are happening at her pace. That might be a slower pace than you'd like, and it almost certainly is going to be a slower pace than random people over the internet think "ought" to be happening, but as long as it's steadily working toward building a solid relationship with your dog, I think you're on the right track. Exposing a dog to triggers is not the be-all, end-all of living with a reactive dog (or even necessarily a good idea at every point). Setting up controlled situations so that a dog can have positive experiences around her triggers is important, eventually, but so is finding ways to have fun with your dog, to play games with your dog, to enjoy living with your dog.
 

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Oh, and as long as I'm offering unsolicited links, here's one more.

Owning a dog with serious behavior challenges is known to be a source of real stress, and I know of at least one mental health care provider who offers counseling for owners suffering from caregiver fatigue. It might not be what you're looking for right now, but I know I found it rather validating just to understand that I wasn't the only person struggling with a complicated task. More about caregiver fatigue (for companion animal owners) here: About Caregivers Fatigue | TACTdogs.com | Dog Training and Behavior Modification
 

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Here's a story for you, I'll use dog reactivity to other dogs as an example. Many times when I'm at the local off-leash parks, we'll come across dogs in muzzles and the owners trying to get the dog to socialize. The dog was recently adopted, needs to be socialized but they do it wrong, they do it in reverse, whatever.

Came across one guy with a muzzled - rather large GSD cross - on a long line but he was allowing the dog to meet other dogs - and the dog clearly wasn't ready for it. Showing aggression, fear and every other emotion depending on the dog it meets. I find many people tend to do things in reverse - and this particular ideal doesn't require training - just patience. Dogs do need corrections from other dogs to learn - but they don't tend to learn from constant corrections that they initiate, that's almost constant failure and can make things worse. This GSD came up to Jagger (a 10 pound confident minpin) very abruptly with aggressive play attitude and Jagger turned on the dog. I've never seen a dog dance in my life - but this poor GSD was up on it's hind legs moving backward. All the GSD wanted to do was get away from this scary thing. It was a correction from Jagger, there was no physical contact, Jagger didn't chase, just an abrupt correction. The GSD learned to fear - the GSD is now petrified of the pin, hiding behind the owners legs with tail tucked - that's not the way it should go down. See where this is going?

Sometimes you need to make your dog think, get those gears turning - when dogs figure out how they should act on their own - they tend not to forget and that's when they learn quickly.

I spent a half hour in the field with the guy, and some magic happened. We stood off to the side where 6 trails merge and there were a good number of dogs coming by. Now the GSD is leashed, no long line, dog needs to stay by the owner - let the dog do it's thing, don't correct it, just hold the dog. This is where the dogs gears are going to turn, this dog isn't allowed to initiate contact with other dogs. First dog comes by, stands 15 feet away with tail wagging looking at the GSD. GSD is amped up, wanting to play - other dog goes nope, he's not ready and goes on the merry way. Dog after dog after dog did the same thing, stood there looking at the GSD, nope, then kept on going.

What do you think is going through the GSD's mind at this point? You can see the confusion on the dogs face, head tilted to the side every time. Why don't these dogs want to play with me? Why won't they approach me? The GSD is going to start doing different things - and when the dog finally realizes that it needs to calm the heck down - that is when dogs came over and started sniffing. Starting out the GSD did the predictable - the GSD settled down, dogs approached - GSD reversed into the previous state of mind, got amped up and chased the dogs away.

It took a half hour before the GSD came to a realization "on it's own" - when I'm relaxed and calm, and stay that way, other dogs want to meet me. Was the dog cured in a half hour? No, it takes repetition in different environments, it takes patience and it takes a steady hand.

This is just one example, one trigger. If your dog has 50 triggers? One at a time - but you need to figure out how to apply it to your dog. Sometimes it's easier to let your dog come to an understanding.

Jagger spent too much time in the house in the first year, in the crate, he was just a toy raised like a cat. When I first met him and introduced him to the real world, he was reactive - barked at everything that moved, didn't know what anything was really.

Example of one trigger - he barked at a plastic bag stuck on a bush - flapping in the wind. He's on 10 feet of leash, I brought him over, took the bag off the bush, he's at the full extent of the leash - he made the concious choice to accept that I'm not afraid, I'm showing no fear - so he came over and sniffed it. He realized it's not something to fear, the bag isn't going to bite him - trigger terminated. It's not flooding the dog, it's me holding this thing that makes him unsure - I want him to follow my lead, I'm not forcing him. If it takes 5 minutes for him to decide that, totally cool - i'll stay in position for 5 minutes or more until he decides - but he needs to decide. Trigger after trigger, patience and time, he made the choices.
 

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It's okay to be embarrassed. :) I think the majority of people with reactive dogs get embarrassed from time to time. Especially if you have people equating reactivity to aggression. It's easy to get lost in what the "perfect" dog would be like to own (I haven't ever met this fabled dog by the way ;) ) I can tell you when Levi doesn't quite perform the way I want him to in class as a demo, I used to get so embarrassed. Now I recognize that people enjoy the fact that he's not a robot, he makes mistakes, and people can see how to deal with it.
I would get a little vest or a leash that says "in training" or something like that. If someone says something and you're feeling up to it, educate them a little on reactivity in dogs. If they are still jerks about it, nod, smile, and thank them for their advice. Sometimes you just have to turn the other cheek.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Oh please. Get over yourself.
Honestly, I agree with @TWadeJ

You shouldn't be embarrassed if your dog is reactive.

If you're embarrassed, then you're not going to take the right steps into helping your dog, and the problem will never get fixed.

Get over that embarrassment, and start helping your dog. It's for her, not you.
I shouldn't be embarrassed? That's like saying "You shouldn't be embarrassed when your toddler screams at a stranger in public". It's a natural reaction. You feel bad. I empathize when she barks at others in the park. It sounds ferocious and I know it's alarming to them to have a large black dog acting in a way that they see as aggressive. So yes, it's embarrassing.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just trying to help. These are YOUR posts:

when a 50 lb dog is barking it's head off, people assume she's aggressive

reactivity looks like aggression to everyone who doesn't know her

I'm afraid to have people over because of the way she acts

her behavior is embarrassing

who really wants to engage a dog that acts like such an *******?

People say things to me in public (i.e. Why do you bring an aggressive dog to the park). I also get plenty of looks. It's both embarrassing and frustrating.

I feel very isolated. I moved in a new house two months ago. Guess how many people have come to see my house? No one. I've had no friends come over at all because I can't trust her. I can't live like this forever.

I typically cry multiple times daily.

I'm going stir crazy having not seen any friends this summer. No one has seen my new house because of her behavior. This can't be my future.

she guzzles water and throws up. It's beyond annoying at this point.

I just want to be able to take my dog around my family and to the park!

It's annoying to me because in the morning when she's supposed to be outside doing her business she's just standing around like a goof eating grass. And it looks dumb to house guests when your dog is in the yard grazing like a goat

It appears to me that this particular dog and you are not a good match. You have mentioned rehoming your dog on numerous threads in this forum. I am just agreeing with you that it is a good idea.
I'm VENTING because it's HARD. Maybe it's a walk in the park for you - and hats off to you, but it's not been easy for me. Not only is it hard to have an adolescent puppy alone but it's even harder having an adolescent puppy that's reactive. But I'm TRYING. I could've sent her back instantly. I could've said this isn't working. But I've worked with her mutiiple times a day, hired a trainer, and am trying to do right by her. Just because I get to my wits-end with her behavior doesn't mean that I'm ready to re-home her. To insinuate that I would rehome my dog because I'm "embarrassed" that she eats grass is ridiculous. I see your flippant responses to others' posts as well. If you have nothing constructive to add then just keep your comments to yourself.
 

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@MorganE84

If you'd like to go back and read through my thread history you can see the difficult road I've walked with my own reactive dog, Chisum.

Having a reactive dog is HARD. I agree. My dog had some pretty major behavioral issues from a very young age. It's something that is very difficult to understand unless you've been there. I have to note I have a terrier mix who can be nervous in certain situations - sometimes even barking or growling, though rarely. It is NOT EVEN REMOTELY the same. My Chisum is only 22 lbs but having him barking and lunging and having a massive meltdown at the end of the lead is so, so, so, sooooo different from my terrier having a quick yip because a falling branch startled her, for example.

You'll also see from my threads that I've started my boy on medication. He currently takes a bit of a cocktail - trazodone, fluoxetine (prozac), and a supplement called zylkene. He's still reactive but is getting better in some respects. Even if you're not comfortable with medication, give the zylkene a shot. Side effects are almost non-existent, you don't need a prescription, and it really did seem to make a difference.

I think it's important to have a good, solid obedience foundation but controlled exposure is important too. Has your trainer said anything about that?

Some of her behaviors sound like they're based more in excitement than fear. Your trainer should be able to help you work on those as well.
 

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@MorganE84

If you'd like to go back and read through my thread history you can see the difficult road I've walked with my own reactive dog, Chisum.

Having a reactive dog is HARD. I agree. My dog had some pretty major behavioral issues from a very young age. It's something that is very difficult to understand unless you've been there. I have to note I have a terrier mix who can be nervous in certain situations - sometimes even barking or growling, though rarely. It is NOT EVEN REMOTELY the same. My Chisum is only 22 lbs but having him barking and lunging and having a massive meltdown at the end of the lead is so, so, so, sooooo different from my terrier having a quick yip because a falling branch startled her, for example.

You'll also see from my threads that I've started my boy on medication. He currently takes a bit of a cocktail - trazodone, fluoxetine (prozac), and a supplement called zylkene. He's still reactive but is getting better in some respects. Even if you're not comfortable with medication, give the zylkene a shot. Side effects are almost non-existent, you don't need a prescription, and it really did seem to make a difference.

I think it's important to have a good, solid obedience foundation but controlled exposure is important too. Has your trainer said anything about that?

Some of her behaviors sound like they're based more in excitement than fear. Your trainer should be able to help you work on those as well.

Thanks for the reply! I do think her behaviors are typically excitement and maybe barrier frustration. In the beginning it was more fear because she backed away. Today we were in the front yard and my neighbor came outside. First she stopped and stared. Then she started shuffling her feet and started the whole body wiggle. The bark was coming next but we went inside. I had run out of treats so I didn't want to take a chance on her barking.
 

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For me one of the saddest things is that she'll have to stay in a kennel by herself during holidays. I hate the idea of her staying in a kennel all alone and I hate even more that she can't be part of our family. But given that she bloodied my grandmas arm - Im not sure how she can be. She's never hurt a child but my sister has a newborn and I'm afraid she'd smack her. That'd be horrible. I hate leaving her. Leaving her to go to the park with my other dog. Leaving her to go visit my parents. She really is a sweet dog but just doesn't make a good first impression
 

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For me one of the saddest things is that she'll have to stay in a kennel by herself during holidays. I hate the idea of her staying in a kennel all alone and I hate even more that she can't be part of our family. But given that she bloodied my grandmas arm - Im not sure how she can be. She's never hurt a child but my sister has a newborn and I'm afraid she'd smack her. That'd be horrible. I hate leaving her. Leaving her to go to the park with my other dog. Leaving her to go visit my parents. She really is a sweet dog but just doesn't make a good first impression
Is she crate trained? Could you take her and keep her on a lead and away from the small children and/or crated?
 

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I don't have any experience with reactive dogs but I just wanted to send you some words of encouragement and let you know that you're not alone! You can do it!

Mia (my 8 month pitbull pup) plays with Molly a reactive pitbull (approx 4 years old) once a week. Though Molly isn't reactive with Mia, she's reactive with many many other dogs, strangers etc. Her problem is she gets wayyyyy too excited when she sees other dogs and then it turns into aggression. We always take quick breaks in between their play sessions so that Molly doesn't get too amped up.

We play in this high school field that is usually very empty but any time there are other dogs that come play, or ppl that use the field to play sports we have to walk to the other side of the field. The owner tells me every time how much work she is, how he never expected to have his first dog reactive, how he didn't realize what he got himself into, how embarrassed he gets when he can't control her in public, how he's "this close" to sending her back to the shelter (he's completely joking). But he just keeps working at it and there have been lots of improvements, just very slow improvements. Molly has already been through 3 homes before she came to this current owner.

One thing he does throughout our play sessions is he'll try to break her focus from Mia or any triggers with the "touch" command. Her recall isn't 100% but she'll come running and touch is palm when he says "Molly, touch!" in this super happy high pitch "doggy voice" haha I make fun of him every time. He also carries a treat bag every time they're out that's filled with really good treats (usually raw meats because she's on a raw diet and has many allergies). It gets messy with raw foods but it's really effective on her. Eventually, when Molly is too tired and doesn't respond immediately we know that playtime is over and she needs to go home.

He also takes Molly on group walks with other reactive dogs/dogs that used to be reactive which is held by a local bully breed shelter. The shelter helps give the owners tips/pointers and they learn to walk together.

Seeing Molly play with another dog has given the owner hope so don't give up!! There is still hope for your pup! Like someone mentioned earlier...one trigger at a time, one step at a time...eventually you'll get there. :)
 
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