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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi. I really need help. We've had our Beagle for over a year. He is a rescue. He is extremely attached to me but has bitten my father 3 times and growls at my 12 year old son. Things are mild now that he is on anti anxiety medicine and my father NEVER initiates contact with him. It breaks my heart thinking about finding him a new home. I am not the primary care taker. The vet put him on meds, we had a trainer (6 times, each for 1 hour sessions), we socialize him at the dog park and Petsmart camp once a week, and took him for a study at a University in Philadelphia. I would hate for my son to continue to be afraid to be near him. Is there a way for maybe my father to establish a dominant position with my Beagle? Can dog behavior really change? I don't fear him biting my son because his whole demeanor is different around my father than when he's around my son. I'm sorry for the long post but I am very discouraged and my Beagle is like my 2nd son, I can't imagine a life without him! Any help or advice would be greatly valued! Thank you everyone.
 

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Certainly dog behavior can change, but it won't happen overnight and it definitely won't happen (at least not for the better) if you or your father try to establish dominance.

Since your dog has bitten, the only advice we can offer is to seek assistance from a qualified, positive reinforcement-based trainer or behaviorist. Here are some resources for finding someone qualified to assist you: Finding a Trainer, Behavior Consultant, or Behaviorist
If you're in the Philadelphia area I could possibly make recommendations for trainers I know or know of.

Before / while you're working with a trainer, you might want to read some of the training and behavior stickies. Some appropriate ones include growling, dominance in dogs, and safety with dogs, children, and babies. This site, fearfuldogs.com, might be helpful to you, too.
 

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Hi JenBlm1,

First of all, a big welcome to you! I'm glad that you found us. The resources that Cookieface has provided to you are a great place to start.

I'm wondering about the kind of training your dog has received up to now. Not all trainers follow the same methods and if your trainer spent a lot of time talking about "alphas" and "dominance," then you may very well have worked with a trainer who suggested approaches that had an opposite effect of what you desire. Your dog may very well be biting and growling out of fear, and any attempts to assert "dominance" will only make his fear stronger.
 

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I would hate for my son to continue to be afraid to be near him. Is there a way for maybe my father to establish a dominant position with my Beagle?...... I don't fear him biting my son because his whole demeanor is different around my father than when he's around my son.
Can you write in more detail how your father and your son have attempted to interact with your beagle, and how your beagle has responded?
 

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I can almost guarantee you that 'establishing dominance' is how this beagle got where he is in the first place. Guys being guys are more given to this training mistake than females I find (it takes a big man to train a puppy positively LOL) because some feel a little silly and like they are being too 'soft' on the animal if they establish behaviour and boundaries through positive means.

If he is growling and biting, he does not think that he's the top dog by any means; he's extremely concerned for his safety and afraid that he might get hurt.

While you get in touch with a behaviourist (a good idea, considering that there's a kid in the picture), check out the sticky on http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/calming-signals-10084/ . Watch for them in your dog when you're interacting with him. Calming signals are given by the dog to calm both himself and you down. He uses them to basically say "I'm friendly, okay? I promise I won't hurt you!" If a dog feels the need to constantly be telling you 'lookit me, please don't hurt me, I'm too small to take you on' then he is a little stressed and intimidated by you. Could be something in his history precipitating this fear. Whatever the case, excessive calming signals should be taken as a sign that the dog is a little leery of something you are doing and that you need to back off and show him that you didn't intend to make him uncomfortable.
 

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Who is the primary caretaker? Do you live with this dog? What did the trainer advise?

Ditto the advice to find another trainer. It's important that everyone involved with the dog be on the same page in order to facilitate positive changes. Run away from any trainer who advises that you need to be dominant. Good trainers understand that most biting and growling is done because a dog is fearful. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Wow, I am so grateful for all of the advice and resources, thank you! My father interacts with my dog by doing small exercises like sit, then treat, and come, and treat. He will do that just fine, even if I am in the room. However, if I'm sitting on the couch with my dog next to me and my father approaches (maybe going to sit next to us) he will growl. He will sit in my bedroom doorway while I'm getting ready for work. My dog used to approach my father and lay between his legs and rest for hours (he's retired.) But now, my dog will spend all day in my room while I'm at work and completely ignore my father. My son will throw the ball when he feels that the dog is in a "good mood." It's odd, because we really can tell his mood, the entire household atmosphere changes. If he is fearful, can that change? We don't know his history b/c he is a rescue. I've done a lot of reading since my first post and know for sure not to try to force dominance. Every animal that we have ever had has loved my father, he's the animal lover of the house. I just don't understand. I do think we need to be on the same page, agreed. Thanks bunches and I'd love to hear more!!!! And Kelly528, I think you are probably right, he probably has experienced fear in his life/home before he came here. I can't imagine any other explanation. Grabby, my father is retired and feeds him, medicates him, walks him (all though I take him for much longer walks in the evening), and is just plain in the house all day with him. The trainer had a difficult time understanding our problem since he never sees the aggression when he has visited. Murphy has benefited by learning to sit, stay, and look during the training sessions. I think I'm the one that became dominant during that time....I guess I'm off to read more!
 

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Jenblm1, I wonder if your father would be willing to work on changing how the dog feels about him. The same advice applies to your son. You might want to look into Counter conditioning and desensitization. Several of the links provided have info on how to do this successfully. In the meantime, I'd limit the interactions between your dog and the people he's growling at. It's important to help the dog feel safe while you work on the problem. Preferably with the help of a good trainer. Good luck.
 

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I had a similar experience when I rescued my pup at 4mo. He was terrified of and would growl at everything, the flag waving across the street, people walking past us on our walks, every noise. He would even roll over on his back when I would come up to him to pet him as if saying see I'm a good pup please don't hurt me. Through reading posts on here and research I began teaching him a lot of tricks and working with him every day. This built up his confidence, decreasing his fear and anxiety. He now goes for walks and never makes a sound. There has been occasions on our walk where he will pause if he sees someone walking toward us and looks up at me to see my reaction. I simply say it's ok and just keep on walking. I'm not saying that this is a fix all. Just stating my experience in what helped Azar.
 

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