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My anatolian shepherd is becoming aggressive to my family. Please help

989 Views 12 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  emeraldecho
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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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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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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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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