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Hello,

I'd really like some help...
We got a wonderful dog named Tessa a couple months ago. We fell in love with her, I was really excited. Until her bad side came out within the few weeks after adopting her. It started after she nipped at my grandfather, and then after that she would bark like she's going to kill unless we restrained her, only more recently has it gotten worse. I think it all stems from fear, and she calms down after a bit and doesn't bother anyone as long as they don't touch her.
We think she was abused, and she's just recently a year old.
Just today she tried to bite a two year old after he reached out his hand to let her sniff, I picked her up and smacked her on the head.
She also chased this two year old after he ran down the hallway before the biting incident and growled at him. I don't know what to do, and the "method" my mother is using isn't working. She just calls her and then baby talks to her and says "Your ok, don't be mean Tessa... be a good girl..."
That dog is lapping it up and it's teaching her nothing. She's extremely badly behaved and it's embarrassing as hell whenever someone comes over, especially now that my own grandparents don't ever seem to come around anymore "conveniently" enough... this started after she nipped at my grandfather.
Please help, I don't know what to do! I would never tell my parents this but I'm seriously regretting adopting her, she's caused nothing but stress in my family ever since the adoption. I'm really uncomfortable inviting friends over. And my mother won't listen to me when I tell her we need to train her differently because it's not working, she's brainwashed herself to think that coddling her is working. She yells at me and we get in an argument every time I mention that I don't feel comfortable having people over because I'm afraid they'll get bit.
I don't trust Tessa around strangers.
Please help!
 

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You need to get a behaviorist ASAP. You are right in that her aggression stems from fear. Most likely she was NOT abused, most of these dogs simply were not socialized at all, especially during the window of puppyhood that is so important for socialization. She is obviously very fearful of strangers and children. Smacking her, yelling at her, that is not going to help her get over her fears, it is going to make things worse--please stop that right away. The coddling your mother is doing isn't helping, but it doesn't hurt (you can't reinforce fear through coddling).

Find a behaviorist that uses positive reinforcement techniques only. Run away if there is any talk of dominance, pack behavior, or punishment of any sort. Those training techniques are "old school" and are ineffective at reducing the fear that she is feeling. She needs to start learning to feel more comfortable with strangers, children etc.., and have some default behaviors that you can cue to help her deal with these situations. This is going to take a lot of work--I am dealing with the same issues with my dog (though not as severe as yours sound). Until you can make headway with her fears, you need to manage the situations by keeping her away from individuals that she reacts too, it doesn't help anyone when she goes over threshold and reacts.

Please read the sticky above (on Forum page) regarding Reactivity, On Leash Aggression, and Barrier Frustration. I will try to find more info on locating a suitable behaviorist.
 

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You think the dog was abused and you smack her on her head? You don't hit dogs. Take her away from the people until you are able to work on her fear. Think of it like this if you were walking down the street and someone who scared you came at you and started touching you how would you react?
 

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Okay, here is a website with information to get you started:
Finding Professional Help | ASPCA

If your dog is anything like mine (which is sounds very much like she is), she will be a lot more comfortable with people if she is introduced after they have gotten in the door and are sitting down. Put her in another room until they have come into the house, and you've had a chance to give them a "heads up". They should completely ignore her, let her approach them on her own terms. Find some special treat that you can give her, only when strangers are around. Tell children in no uncertain terms that she cannot be touched--if they are too young or strong-willed to obey, she must be kept in a separate room (not worth the risk).

There are obviously things about this dog that you love, and now is the time to focus on these qualities. Sometimes in life we are presented with challenges that we have to overcome, but the reward is great. This may not be completely the dog that you wanted, but she is probably the dog that you need.
 

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I like the suggestion to find a highly qualified professional.:)
Here are direct links to 2 of the organizations discussed in the ASPCA link that pappi pup gave you.:)
Search for Professionals
Find Dog, Cat, Parrot and Horse Behavior Consultants | IAABC

I also agree that this is likely fear based behavior. And as such, no more hitting or otherwise punishing your dog. Really take a moment to think about it. I understand that many people do such things thinking it will teach their dogs that growling and snapping is unacceptable. But really it only increases the dog's fear and anxiety which often makes the problem worse.;)

Best thing you can do for now (while finding a pro) is to make sure you don't put your dog into a situation she finds stressful or scary. If you have guests just crate her or put her in a different room where guests are not going to bother her. Management and prevention is key!

And I definitely recommend that you read through these threads and links.
Really pay attention as all are going to be important in one way or another to really helping your dog and helping her to succeed in your home. :)
Learn about dog body language
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/calming-signals-10084/
Dog Body Language Diagrams
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/reactivity-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/growling-86338/
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776/
 

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I totally agree with all that has been said.I have had similar issues with Jesse and with help on this forum and seeing a behaviorist we have made great progress.However,it does take time and commitment and until the behavior improves I agree you should crate him or there is a possibility he will bite.Under no circumstance should you hit him,it will only make his behavior worse.
 
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As others have said, I agree the behavior is due to a fear of strangers. I'm sure it's difficult to deal with, so I can understand your frustrations. Definitely seek help from a trainer in your area. I don't want you or anyone else to get hurt.

I agree with you that coddling the dog is not the right answer here. Many trainers will say you can't "reward" fear because fear is an emotion that you either experience or you don't. I agree with that, however I also believe it's important that we give affection to our dogs when they are showing us a more appropriate behavior such as sitting calmly. For example, when my own dog barks at a stranger on a walk, I calmly switch directions and then reward him with treats or praise for sitting or making eye contact with me.

I also agree with others that for the time being, you should do all you can to prevent your dog from biting someone. Keep her in a kennel or in another room when people first arrive, and then keep her on a leash if you do take her out. Make sure to tell people not to talk to her or touch her. It's best if they just ignore her and maybe she will begin to feel more comfortable if there is no pressure to interact. She may do just fine if no one approaches her. You could even give all your guests a handful of treats and ask them to simply toss the treats in her direction without trying to pet her or make eye contact with her.

Best of luck to you. I know it must be very stressful.
 
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