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Im going to try to make this as short as possible, but I know its insanely long so sorry... My parents got 2 dogs 2 years ago, one which was an anatolian shepherd. They intended for him to be a guard dog, but all they did was stick him outside on a tie out. So he never got socialized to livestock or to people except for my family. I was away at college during this time so I didnt know what was really happening. Then I moved back in when the dogs were about 1 year old and Ive been training them since. Now they are amazing. They are perfectly behaved at home and even though the ASD is still is aggressive towards strangers on our property, if I am there to guide him he calms down and behaves. Pretty much, I became the leader and the dogs know they aren't allowed to mess around with me or with anyone if I am there. Both dogs live outdoors on tie outs, since my dad refuses to let them inside, but I try to make up for it by spending a few hours every evening exercising them, playing with them, and training them. I have been able to train both dogs to behave well around our chickens too.
Anyways, I intended to save up money then move out to a large rural property in a few years and take both dogs with me and have the LGD live out the rest of his life as a real working dog. However, I've run into some issues.
Neither dog is fixed yet, as I was waiting for them to finish growing first before doing that. Since they are both 2 years old now, I feel like now is a good time to do that. But my female dog went into heat a few day ago and I guess finally being grown up and sexually mature, my LGD started to become super aggressive these past few days. He has never reacted like this before during her previous heat cycles, but like I said, i think the fact that he is finally an adult capable of reproduction has caught up with him. These past few days he has started growling, barking, and lunging at my family members whenever they walk by him. Since he is on a tie out, he cant get to them though so nobody has been hurt. Whenever I walk up to him though he stops barking and sits down and behaves. But as soon as I walk away he starts barking again. I wasn't sure if it was aggression or not but when I look from the side, it is definitely unhappy frustration when he barks at my dad and brother. So I decided to keep him in a crate in the shed for now so that he stays a bit calmer. But when my dad and brother went into the shed to get some stuff today, he started barking and growling at them very loudly. I could hear it through the window in the house so I went outside to check what was happening and as soon as I came into the shed he stopped barking and started behaving again.
Anyways, I thought this was just an issue of him being intact still and reacting to my female dog in heat, so I scheduled an appointment to get him neutered tomorrow. But then my dad told me that he has been aggressive to him a few times already these past few months. He has also been aggressive towards my sister too (she lived here for a few months when he was a puppy, but then she moved out for a year, and then came back. He was aggressive at first but then recognized her and got all excited, but then has been trying to attack her at random moments that she passes him. I didnt think much of it at the time because I thought he was just having a hard time remembering her and would stop once he realized she was living here again). Now with his crazy behavior right now, my dad is insisting that we get rid of him. I absolutely do not want to do that, but I do understand where my dad is coming from.
The problem is that my dog is perfectly behaved while I am there, but if I am not there, he is becoming unpredictable, and once again, my dad refuses to let him indoors where I can watch him, so he is unsupervised often. My family is not dog-savvy (it was a mistake for them for get him in the first place) and they dont know how to be leaders to dogs. Ive tried to teach them how, but I dont know how to teach someone to change their body lanuage into something a dog respects. I love this dog with all my heart, and I have complete control over him and feel confident and safe handling him, but once again, only when I am there does he behave well. I am hoping that neuetering fixes the problems he is having, but I am not counting on it since he is an LGD breed. My parents are telling me that we have to get rid of him, but I want to make it work somehow and I am most likely going to change my plans and move out within a few months instead so that I can get him out of their life without actually rehoming him. I don't trust him if I were to rehome him honestly. Because of the way my parents raised him, he is aggressive to new people and also not socialized to livestock to be a proper working dog. In addition to that, he also has environmental allergies and hip dysplasia. I dont want to rehome him to a city home because I dont believe that is good for an LGD (plus he would hate all the strangers and dogs everywhere), but nobody on a farm will want a dog like him either that is untrained as a working dog, that also has health problems. So like I said, Im just going to move out asap instead and take him with me. However, in the meantime until I find a house and sort that all out, I still need to make sure he doesn't hurt my family when I'm not around. How in the world do I do this? I dont really understand why he is suddenly becoming aggressive towards his own family that raised him. Yes, rehoming him seems like the logical answer, but I truly doubt he will be safe around a new owner (unless they are a super experienced dog trainer/behaviorist that is used to dangerous dogs) and I really fear that he would hurt someone if he were rehomed and would have to be euthanized for aggression. And I know all this makes him sound like a horrible dog, but I know he, and everyone around us, is safe as long as I am there to guide him. I dont know how to say this without sounding like a narcisist. I am very animal-savvy and very good with animals. Ever since I was 8 years old, I was working with different types of animals, both training them and rehabilitating them. I can read animals way better than I can read humans. When I moved in with my parents and took responsibility of the dogs, I started taking dog training courses and learning everything I could. I was able to take my dogs from psycho hyper teenagers into well behaved, calm, and happy dogs. Thats why I am saying that I feel like my LGD will live his best life if he stays with me, but I really need some serious help with his aggressive behavior to my family when I'm not there. This is also important in case I ever need to travel and need my family to watch him for a few days. I cant have him attacking anyone while I am gone. I will try to move out within the next 3 months so that my parents dont get rid of him behind my back or shoot him (like my dad has threatened), but like I said, in the meantime it's critical for him to stop his random aggressive outbursts when I am not there. Please, does anyone have any advice here? Getting rid of him is obviously the easy solution, but I don't believe in giving up on my pets when there is a way around it. Plus, he is amazing with me. He respects me, doesnt challenge me, listens to me, and is bonded to me. I dont think he deserves to be euthanized or rehomed because he can have a perfectly happy life with me in a different house. But it's also not realistic for me to be watching him 24/7.
 

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There are a few issues here:

First, you've got an unfixed male smelling a female in heat, and it's obviously making him frustrated. Little surprise that he's lashing out more than usual. I'd suggest keeping them in separate areas and having them cross paths as little as possible until her heat is done.

Second, loud and aggressive is very late on the scale of dog warning behaviours. It's almost always preceeded by other signs and rarely is agressive behaviour truly "random". If this is what your family is seeing, they are probably missing a lot of the dog's more subtle communication. As such, they shouldn't be anywhere near the dog until they make the effort to learn those signs. I can sympathize with wanting the peace of mind in knowing that someone else can look after your dog when you're not able to, but realistically, without them making the effort to learn the dog's language, it would only put them at risk.

Third, when you talk about being a leader to your dogs, is it in the dominance-theory sense? If so, I'd caution that this particular style of training can actually exacerbate aggression problems.

Lastly, you're dealing with breeds which were designed to do a 24/7 job. A couple hours a day of physical and mental activity isn't likely to be enough. Some of the behaviour problems may be related to frustration caused by boredom.

Working with a reactive dog is a challenge. I wish you all the best, and a whole truckful of patience (in my experience, you can never have enough 馃槈).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yes I absolutely agree with everything you said. This was not the right dog for my family, and keeping them tied up outside is not right. I鈥檓 doing everything I can for them though.


No I鈥檓 not doing the dominance stuff. I agree that can have bad consequences. What I mean when I say that I鈥檓 the leader is that I let my dogs know i have things under control. I know a lot of the issues with reactive dogs is that they feel insecure so they lash out because they are trying to protect themselves or their owners. So the way I trained my dogs was in a way so that they know they can trust me and look up to me if they are feeling insecure. And now, like I said, my dogs are perfectly behaved when I鈥檓 there. I鈥檝e had reactive chihuahuas run up behind my LGD during a walk (I got lost and had to walk a new way so I didn鈥檛 know they were there) and my dog didn鈥檛 not even growl at them.

I also agree with you when you said my parents are not picking up the signs up aggression. They really don鈥檛 know how to read dog body language at all. It鈥檚 just that what I鈥檓 dealing with here is that our dog seems to be lashing out for no good reason. Like my dad walking up to him or past him. Or like today when he was in the crate and my dad and brother were by him and he started barking and growling at them. That shouldn鈥檛 be normal. I know LGDs are very protective, but they should never be lashing out against their own charge (in this case, family).

The good news is that I did some digging today and I will very likely be able to move out within a few months the and take him with me and away from my family. But in the meantime I do need some advice on if it鈥檚 even possible to get him to stop being aggressive when I鈥檓 not there. I do have trazadone that the vet prescribed me for vet visits to keep him calmer. If there is no way to change his behavior, maybe I should have him on trazadone until I move out? It should make him a bit calmer at least.
 

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This definitely sounds like a case of the wrong dog with the wrong family. Guarding behavior is hardwired into these guys. For what it's worth, lots of livestock guarding dogs don't actually enjoy living in a house. I don't think the problem is so much that the dog lives outside, as that he lives outside without ever having been taught to think of your family as his family. I agree that dumping him at rescue would be terrible. He doesn't sound like a great candidate for rehoming, and he would probably endure a period of confusion and distress before meeting his end. A planned euthanization, one that doesn't involve your father shooting him, would be far kinder. (Does your father really want to risk going up on charges for animal cruelty?)

You might be able to manage some of the behavior (as you have been doing), but this will always be a dog requiring careful handling. To be brutally honest, living with this dog may come to feel a lot like living with an emotionally abusive boyfriend. Everything you do will require you to plan around his moods. Every friend you bring over will be an excuse for him to be jealous. His every unhinged outburst will leave you feeling it's your fault. Yes, there is love, but it is hard bought love. Consider whether the cost of that love is worth what it might do to you. The constant management may well take a toll on your mental health. As I said, a planned euthanization may be kinder than many other options.

Getting both dogs neutered is a good plan if you want to try to make things work. However, the hormones won't wear off immediately, and neutering won't solve everything. Since it sounds like your family has not a clue, your best bet is to keep the dog separated from the people. Unfortunately, you and the dog are both living at your dad's house. If your dad doesn't want to cooperate in this plan, your options might be limited. If I was absolutely determined to keep an unpredictable dog in such a situation, I would buy myself a cargo van and equip it for camping. Then I'd take him with me whenever I went anywhere. The reason for a cargo van is that a large reactive dog is less likely to react to people passing by and launch himself through the glass if he doesn't have access to a window. You are also less likely to have a do-gooder attempting to rescue him (and getting bitten as their reward) after seeing him through the window.
 

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It鈥檚 just that what I鈥檓 dealing with here is that our dog seems to be lashing out for no good reason. Like my dad walking up to him or past him. Or like today when he was in the crate and my dad and brother were by him and he started barking and growling at them. That shouldn鈥檛 be normal.
In the case of a reactive dog, this is fairly normal - especially when they're in a space they see as theirs (like a crate) or can't back away (like tied out on a line). The dog is likely sending loud and clear signals (at least from their perspective) that they're uncomfortable with the proximity, and they escalate until they're heard. Usually, the person backs off at this point, which reinforces the vocal and aggressive behaviour for the dog.

With a reactive dog, learning how to de-escalate tension is important. If you can do so without having to back away, all the better. In this, patience is your friend: when there are signs of discomfort (tension, tongue flicks, staring, etc.), stop moving until the dog relaxes. Avoiding challenge behaviours (like looking them in the eye while in proximity or approaching, leaning over them, touching the top of the head or shoulders, etc.) also goes a long way toward building trust. Of course, none of this will help your family if they're not willing to put in the effort to put it into practice.
 

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With a reactive dog, learning how to de-escalate tension is important. If you can do so without having to back away, all the better.
Have to question this... why would you not 'listen' to the dog when they are clearly asking for space?
 

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With a reactive dog, learning how to de-escalate tension is important. If you can do so without having to back away, all the better.
Have to question this... why would you not 'listen' to the dog when they are clearly asking for space?
The way I read this is that you want to avoid reinforcing the scenario of human enters space --> dog goes nuts --> human leaves space. Because, what will happen is that the dog will learn to engage "go nuts" mode in any situation where he's uncomfortable and unsure how to react. I don't read it as the dog needs to learn to endure any and all forms of rude and inconsiderate behavior from humans. Rather, I think it would be nice (but likely not possible, given the previous behavior of the humans in this situation) if both dog and humans learn other ways of deescalating tension. For example, human enters space, human drops high value treat for dog, human turns to workbench and pays no further attention to dog.
 

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Do you then not run the risk of teaching the dog that his warnings will go unheeded, and over time he may stop giving warnings and escalate even more?

If my dog is reacting to another dog, is the appropriate solution to just stand there and wait until he gives up/stops?

If I move him away to a place where he can see the dog, and is no longer reacting - is that reinforcing to him that his 'behavior' is working, or is that teaching him that I am listening to him?
 

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Have to question this... why would you not 'listen' to the dog when they are clearly asking for space?
It's been my experience that a reactive dog's discomfort is usually less about how much space they have, and more about how quickly I'm encroaching on it and whether the approach is their choice or mine. By stopping at the first sign of tension, I am communicating to the dog that I'm listening and willing to give them the time to make that choice.

If I were to immediately back away, I'd deny them the chance to think things through and decide whether my approach is really something to fear. That, in turn, reinforces that reacting fearfully without first thinking things through produces a better outcome for them.
 

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Using a slightly different scenario, think about a common method of dealing with doorbell reactive dogs. The dog is taught to go to its bed and stay there while the guest is dealt with. This is a compromise to ensure everyone mostly gets their needs met. The dog does not get to tell the guest to go away. He might not fully comfortable with a stranger in the house, but he shouldn't be so uncomfortable he has a meltdown. The guest does not get to visit the dog's bed and make the dog more uncomfortable. Too bad; she'll just have to talk to humans instead. This is a compromise, not perfect happiness for everyone. Done right with appropriate training and rule enforcement, the dog becomes more relaxed as it learns that staying on its bed is the correct and safe decision when uncomfortable in the presence of guests.

Realistically though, I am not optimistic that the the adult male humans in the OP's situation will agree to follow any rules well enough to ensure this ASD's needs are met. A compromise won't work if the ASD can't trust the humans to behave consistently and considerately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I don鈥檛 think you guys are understanding the situation. Nobody is provoking him or getting into his space. Yes, my family is not dog savvy, but simply existing in the same space is not a good enough reason for my dog to growl at them or lunge at them. When my family could previously walk past him peacefully, now he thinks they shouldn鈥檛 be allowed to do that sometimes. They shouldn鈥檛 have to tippy toe around him in their own home just so that he doesn鈥檛 growl at them. LGDs are also different than other dogs in the sense that if they truly think something is a threat, they will not back down because they are willing to die to protect their flock or whatever it is they are guarding. If my family doesn鈥檛 know how respond to him properly like I do, it isn鈥檛 safe for them to just stand there and ignore him as he barks at them otherwise it can quickly become dangerous. He also rarely takes treats on a normal day, so offering him food rewards during tense situations never works. The only way I鈥檝e been able to reward him in a way he enjoys during training is with affection, but if he鈥檚 being aggressive, touching him in an attempt to reward any calm behavior is not the right thing for my family to do. When I took him to get neutered a few days ago, the vet tech wasn鈥檛 provoking him or getting in his space when he tried to attack her. He simply walked up to her, sniffed her, and decided that was enough info to attack her. He was muzzled and leashed so no one got hurt though. Then when I brought him inside, the vets standing across the room weren鈥檛 even looking at him and he decided growling at them nonstop was a good idea. He has always been very calm during vet visits in the past, only growling or barking if the vet did something he thought was scary, but at his neuter appointment he was going absolutely nuts. I had to physically restrain him while the vets injected him and he had to be the very first dog they neutered at the clinic because of how aggressive he was (which says a lot because they do hundreds of surgeries per day and always start with the most aggressive).
Anyways, I have things sorted now. I decided to move out in a few months to a rural city and I鈥檒l build an outdoor kennel that he can stay in if I鈥檓 ever traveling and need someone to feed him without risk. If I buy a property that is large enough and with no close neighbors, I may be able to 鈥榚mploy鈥 him properly outdoors too since I鈥檒l be i getting some sheep and goats as well. Until then, he is going to be taking trazadone daily that the vet prescribed him. I don鈥檛 know why I didn鈥檛 mention this in my initial post since this is pretty important info but he comes from a very questionable background. If I work with him on guarding sheep and goats and he turns aggressive towards them, then I am completely ready to credit that behavior towards a combo of improper puppy socialization as well as bad genetics. He is already an unhealthy dog with his physical health. But if that happens with any livestock, he will simply be forced to be a house dog. I will deal with any future issues as they come along, IF they do. That鈥檚 it for now then. I do appreciate the help and the suggestions from everyone. It would be easier if my family were more willing to work with him, but they have a very old fashioned mindset towards dogs and don鈥檛 think he鈥檚 worth the hassle. For them, if an animal becomes problematic, they would rather just get rid of it. I won鈥檛 ever give up on him though unless he turns on me and stops listening to me, as I鈥檓 the only one able to control him. I am hoping that never happens. If it does, I will know it is due to crappy genetics because a livestock guardian dog is supposed to bond with its family, not turn on them. Anyways once again thank you for the advice though. I鈥檝e had to do a ton of mental processing this past week regarding my dog and I鈥檝e thought of countless situations to make this work. It鈥檚 not all bad though. I鈥檝e been wanting to move out for a while already, but I guess this is the push to actually do it, so I am actually very exciting for the journey ahead and if buying my first home. I鈥檒l be able to do a lot with my dog there and give him a proper, happy life whether that is outdoors as a guard dog or indoors as a house dog.
 

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Nobody is provoking him or getting into his space.
A reactive dog's perception of 'safe' distance can be very skewed, and it's not always the same from day to day or from person to person. Often just walking by while minding your own business is enough to be considered a provocation.

They shouldn鈥檛 have to tippy toe around him in their own home just so that he doesn鈥檛 growl at them.
Sometimes tip toeing is the only way to make a dog comfortable enough with you to stop seeing you as a threat and start seeing you as a person.

When mine first arrived, we had a bit of a rocky start where she lunged and threatened to bite me (without making contact, but it's certainly terrifying to have 75 lbs of dog unexpectedly jump at you with mouth open) because I wasn't paying attention while walking into my kitchen on the first night. (Yes, I should have known better than to walk past a reactive dog on what was only our second meeting...with the light behind me, and with my hands in motion. Let's just call it the hazards of operating on autopilot at home with one's mind elsewhere.) After the initial de-escalation: setting down the glass I had in one hand on the counter, seeing that moving the hands down helped calm her and slowly dropping the other that had been reaching to brush my hair out of my face (and putting a knee up slowly instead as a compromise - because she was still threatening me at this point), talking to her calmly, and staying absolutely still as she poked her nose forward to sniff my ankle and decide if I was going to do anything else worrisome..at which point she 'Harrumphed' (which would have been funny, if not for the circumstances - she's got the most impressive vocal range of any dog I've met) and went back to where she'd been lying before I came in, I told her I'd be moving and which direction I'd be going...and continued doing so every time I walked past her for the next three weeks. During that time, I also warned her every time I got up from a chair, kept my distance as much as possible and knocked on doors before entering any room she was in. In the end though, it was well worth the effort to make her more comfortable around me.

I can understand thinking that you should be able to go about your business in your own house without having to worry about the dog - but with some dogs it's a long road to get there.
 
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