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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings all,

I'm new here and joined because I need some advice and perspective.
Here's the issue. Our 1 year old rescue is starting to bite our dog walker and is generally nervous and fearful of people (children included) other than myself and my husband. At this point she hasn't been able to leash him up but made great progress with playing with him in the back yard over a months time. He would let her pet him and play ball. He had comfortable body language. But something changed in the last few days and now he is uncool with her. Why and what do we do?

Is there a way to train him out of this behavior?
Is this just the dog that he is and I have to accept that he will not change?
Is this a display of how he will act toward children that are new additions to our family?

The things we know:
-1 year old

-Pung-San/Jindo mix

-First owner gave him back to the breeder and the breeder lost track of him

-He was found on the street. Probably on the street for over a month or more during the age of 7-9 months old.

-Initially he was very fearful when he moved in with us but became comfortable within a week. From pacing around and no touching and then getting better by learning play and training with commands. Finally, now he knows his name, can do sit, stay, come (touch).

-We did additional training with a dog trainer for about a month

-He is very independent
-House broken
-super affectionate and cuddly with us
-He is reasonably comfortable with people at a sidewalk cafe (I think because we are with him)
-he is happy for anyone to walk him once you pass off the leash

-His problem behavior seems to revolve around our house exclusively, the back yard. Anywhere that you can assume he has deemed "his turf"

-The dog walker was making progress with him. Playing in the yard, petting, no growling or biting...but then we installed a doggy door. We wonder if he feels like the backyard is now more "His turf" . than is was before? That is the only thing that changed since the biting started with the dog walker.

-plays with mouth on our arms very gently with no pressure though we have deterred this for the last few weeks and will continue to do so even though it seems affectionate.

-From a scale of 1 being the gentlest bite to 10 being one that draws blood, I would say the bites on the dog walker are on a 4-5. I know this because we have video of him doing it and it's what the dog walker felt. Also, his body posture and tail position all show that he is uncomfortable and in a nervous stance so it's clear that these bites are different from his mouthy, playful biting which is always very gentle.

-does NOT bark almost ever unless he feels threatened. I think I have heard him bark 4 times since we have had him

-he growls if threatened or uncomfortable but sometimes in play mode. In this latest instance, he air bit first, then soft bit and when told NO, he growled.

-he occasionally growls at the dog park if he finds a play friend that is a good wrestling parter and it sounds like play sounds rather than warning growling.

-he sometimes get outnumbered at the dog park and become the submissive dog. This can rise to him barring his teeth if he is cornered or pig-piled by dominant dogs. Would you define this as "fear- aggression?"

Other issues in the past:
-In the 3rd week of his life with us he soft nipped at my mom when she was visiting. A toy was involved and we were inside the house.

-a second incident happened in the backyard with a toy too when my mom tried to play with him, throwing a toy his way and he rushed the toy and barked loudly at her. It was confusing because his body posture was "play" (belly on the ground, front legs splayed in front of him and hind legs bent under him.) . But the fact that he barked was alarming. Maybe it was as confusing for him as it was for us, being that he was new to this place, people and healing from his neutering surgery.

He is such a joy and 99% of the time he is everything I dreamed of in a dog. I really want to make this work. But I also want to live a life where the mailman is safe to walk into the front yard. Where friends can come over and the dog doesn't have to be hidden away for safety. And most of all that children will be safe around him. (of course you must always be vigilant with children and dogs but to this degree is too much for my comfort) . At this point I don't think any kid even an adult is okay to be around him at the house because he seems to perceive everyone as a threat somehow.

If you made it through this long post, thank you. I feel heartbroken at the thought of finding him a different home if that is what it comes to. Maybe that is the solution but I'm desperate to keep him if there is some course of action that could help.
Thank you. So grateful for any advice.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
When he bit my mom in the first 3 weeks of living with us, we worked with our trainer right away. The trainer taught us to use treats as a way of giving positive reinforcement . For example, if he was pacing around the livingroom because of my mom sitting on the couch, we would throw treats near my mom. This seems to have helped a little bit but I'm not sure how lasting the effect was because she was only visiting for a few days and we haven't been able to test it again.
But in general if he is meeting a new person on the sidewalk I try to have that person offer him a treat so that he knows there is a reward when meeting new people.

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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
2,841 Posts
I would suggest using the treats differently. I would also not let people approach him, especially if he seems uncomfortable. Let him tell you whether he wants to greet or not.

First of all, don't have the person offer a treat. I made this mistake with my fearful dog when I first got her. It puts way too much pressure on the dog to interact with the person. If your dog is a biter it also puts the person in potential danger. Lastly, people are really bad at following instructions and understanding dog behavior. I used to tell people that they could *toss* Delilah a treat and instead they would lean over her and start chanting "sit, sit, sit" which is ridiculous- I don't know why they think my dog would obey them or why a dog has to sit in order to be given food- and also scary for my little dog.

To effectively counter condition a response to people, you should be the one giving food. When your dog notices a person, start feeding treats to associate the presence of a stranger with food, which should eventually get the dog to start making positive associations with strangers. Your dog has to notice first. If you see a person and start giving your dog treats, and then the dog notices after he starts getting treats, that could actually cause the dog to become anxious when you start feeding him because he learns the treats are a precursor to a stranger approaching, not vice versa.

Also look up the Look At That game online. Basically you need a clicker or a conditioned marker word (like "yes" or "good"). A sound that will mark a behavior so the dog knows what specifically you're rewarding for. As soon as your dog *looks at* the trigger (stranger), you click/mark and treat. Even if your dog is reacting like barking. The goal is to reward the dog for seeing a strange person. If your dog is reacting you can always try stepping back to increase the distance. Eventually your dog will start looking for strangers because they want you to reward them. Again, the point of this is just to create a positive association with people.

As for biting the dog walker specifically, if you weren't there you won't know why it happened. Maybe she reached over his head, or moved too quickly. Maybe she visits a new client before your dog now and he doesn't like the smell of it (intact male, aggressive dog, sick dog, something like that?). If it has gotten colder or warmer out and she is dressing differently (coat, hat, sunglasses, scarf, boots) that could be a trigger as well.

Is she a professional or a neighbor/friend/kid who is doing you a favor? Does she seem to have a good understanding of dog training, behavior, body language? Is it only after they start playing, is he really riled up, is it when she first arrives, or at the end when she's trying to get him to go inside? Was she able to read the uncomfortable behavior you mentioned when he bit her, and how did she respond to it? Was he cornered, did she approach him, did she turn away and he approached her- did it seem defensive or aggressive?

If he has a dog door now and she only takes him out to the yard anyways, do you need a walker? Or is the goal to be able to get her to bring him out on real walks?

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for your thoughtful response. That is very helpful to hear about the Look game. We will start implementing that right away.

To answer some of your last questions... I have video of the whole interaction with the dog walker and his body looks like this image. though he does not lick his lips and when she would turn her body away that's when he would lean out and bite. He would stretch his body forward to bite as though he is trying to stay really far away from her but also make contact with his mouth.

She is a little bit new to dog walking but supervised by the owner who takes turns walking the dog during the week. So she is a little inexperienced but not enough to explain this especially because NEWS flash, he bit the OTHER dog walker today too. This is the supervisor. She was not her badly and is not deterred from finding a solution...which is heartening.
So my point is, that Dog walker #1 may be a little inexperience but the fact is that he is being weird with BOTH of them out of the blue. They both made progress over the last few weeks and he got to the point of playing and petting. But all of a sudden he is biting them both. The only thing that has changed is the doggy door we installed.
We want him to be able to roam and go to the bathroom during the day but if that is changing his behavior is some way then I wonder if we should stop letting him use it?
Its nice for him to come and go but not at the expense of how he behaves when strangers come around.

Do you think that practicing the Look game diligently could really be enough to help him get over his fear of strangers or it it just too deep seeded? If territorialism has something to do with it?
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