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I have a chow mix, he is approximately six years old. I got him when he was about a year from a rescue. He has always been very high energy, and for the first few years, he did not listen at all. Now he is somewhat settled, and extremely friendly and affectionate and sweet with family members and close friends of the family with whom he is familiar. I am a single mom with three young adult children who are extremely attached to the dog. About a month ago, my boyfriend, who has always been fearful of dogs, met Teddy for the first time. Teddy must have sensed his fear, and attacked him. He bit him on the face, very close to his eye. There was a good amount of blood, but it turns out the bite was superficial and healed quickly. My boyfriend is moving in with us soon, and he is still terrified of the dog. When he comes over, we put the dog in the basement. We've been trying to work on this, we go on walks, and now he is at the point where he is comfortable walking him, and giving him lots of treats along the way, as long as I am right there. Once, he sat on the sofa, and was ok with Teddy walking around. Once Teddy is comfortable with a person, I don't believe he would ever turn on them, but the problem now is my boyfriend becoming comfortable with him. It's going to be very difficult for him to live in a home with a dog who terrifies him, and it will be difficult to always have the dog locked in the basement. Does anyone have any suggestions to help with this situation? Thank you!
 

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Before you do anything else I would buy a basket muzzle (something that he can eat treat through, like a Baskerville basket muzzle) and muzzle train your dog. Even if Teddy doesn't have bad intentions toward your kids, dogs will totally redirect aggression to the nearest warm body if they are freaked out enough. One very likely scenario is if one of your kids is sitting on a couch with Teddy when your boyfriend approaches. If he feels trapped, he may bite the person next to him rather than trying to get at your boyfriend.

www.muzzleupproject.com has great walk-throughs on pre-muzzle training and muzzle training.

After that, I would recommend consulting a professional. A solid skin puncture is a bite no trainer wants to see. When dogs bite, they tend to do so with escalating severity. Usually they will snap, then bite without puncturing, then bite with small punctures, then bite and rip at the skin, and so forth. The next bite this dog gets in could very possibly disfigure or maim someone.
 

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I agree- this is something to involve a behaviorist in. A dog that bit for the first time and bit hard enough to puncture skin, especially since it was a face bite, is a dog that means business, IMO. Given that he has chow chow in him, I would not mess around on it. Aggression towards strangers is not an uncommon trait in them, even when they're well socialized, well trained, and impeccably managed. Chows are also relatively powerful for their size, and the dog has shown he will bite with true intent to harm. This isn't something that people over the internet should or can help you with, though we can point you towards resources for learning more about why dogs are aggressive and how to train it out of them.

We are definitely not a replacement for a behaviorist, and working with cases of aggression on your own is IMO a really bad idea. There is a huge learning curve in dog training, and the main thing that makes you a better/more efficient and competent trainer is experience. In behavior modification, very, very few people are equipped to modify this kind of aggression on their own, even if they put their all into it, and you may well may it worse instead of better, or just make no progress at all. A good, competent trained can help you come up with a reasonable management plan and a good behavioral modification plan. I would suggest looking for a trainer who promotes themselves as using "science based" or "reinforcement based" training. Avoid anyone who talks in terms of "dominance" or "pack leader" jargon- all that has been scientifically disproven; dogs do not think that way and status seeking is very rarely the reason for behavioral problems. Fear and anxiety are more common problems, and true "I want to control the world" type behavior is very uncommon. I would probably want to work with a force free trainer, but anyone who exhausts force free methods before moving to aversive/coercive methods would be acceptable to me. This is a force free forum, so most people here are going to share this ideology. I will say: I myself am not a 100% force free trainer, so don't think I'm drinking the koolaide and just following the crowd. Truly, I think that force free methods are most often the best way to modify behavior, even though I include some aversives (ie, adding a stimulus that the dog does not like to make a behavior occur less often) in my own training toolbox.

In terms of advice for helping you/the dog/your boyfriend... At the end of the day, your boyfriend is going to WANT to get comfortable with him. I would give it time, and work on making it as safe a transition as possible. You're right- it is going to be hard to live with a dog he's afraid of. I would work on making the basement as comfortable for the dog as possible. Give him a crate down there if he likes crates, get him plenty of toys to occupy himself with, and then sit down with your boyfriend and have a talk about where he's at right now with fear of the dog, how quickly he feels he's ready to move, and what he's willing to do to get along with the dog.

I would suggest getting the dog used to a basket muzzle and have the dog muzzled every time he interacts with your boyfriend. This is as much for the dog's safety as your boyfriend's- he already has 1 (not really bad, but still notable) bite to his name, and I would think it is unlikely that your boyfriend will continue to be OK with living with him if he bites him again, especially in the face. Basket muzzles are really great- they allow a dog to drink and pant normally, and aren't restricting. Most are hard to give treats in, though, so if you're doing training with treats (which a lot of behavioral modification training will involve to some extent) I'd recommend getting a soft muzzle as well for him to wear during training, though soft muzzles tend to make it harder for a dog to pant normally and they can't drink in them.

Scheduling when the dog is upstairs and loose in the house might help make your BF less anxious about it, especially if he's muzzled. I'd probably have the dog drag a short leash tab as well, just so you can easily grab him and move him away if your BF gets uncomfortable/ the dog starts getting riled up.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you so much for the ideas. I have asked my vet about a behaviorist, but she only knew of one, whom I used when we first got Teddy, and I didn't feel that she was a good fit for us. I live in southeastern Pennsylvania, is there a website or database of good behaviorists that I can trust? It sounds like this is the way to go. Thanks again for your help!
 

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Depending on exactly where in SE PA, there are a few veterinary behaviorists: Member Directory « ACVB

Laurie Bergman in Villanova
Ilana Reisner in Media (I've seen her and liked her quite a bit)
Carlos Siracuasa at Penn

There are also some very good behavior consultants in the area.
 

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I'm not sure you need a trainer (although its hard to say over the internet). I thought so when I started reading your post but by the end it sounded like your dog is already accepting your boyfriend. Its not unlikely that he was bit because he was a stranger and now is becoming familiar.

Ironically the advice that goes for the dog also goes for the human. Its just a question of time, controlled socialization, and could be helped along by a trainer- I mean therapist.

How did he get bit in the face? Was he sitting down, holding the dog (that's a no no) or kneeling down to greet the dog (possible trigger) or something else? I ask because chow's aren't huge dogs and a face bite, one that landed to boot, is quite a feat.
 

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Let me guess, you were nearby when the bite happened? Chances are good your chow didn't respond to your boyfriends fear - but yours.

The Chow side of your dog is protective of family - and not apt to be great with strangers coming into your home. The bite has dropped your boyfriend down a few notches in the pecking order of your family - and continued fear on his behalf won't help any matters.

Do you think your dog respects your boyfriend? I highly doubt it. Sounds like the dog is higher on the totem than it should be.
 

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Let me guess, you were nearby when the bite happened? Chances are good your chow didn't respond to your boyfriends fear - but yours.
yes
The Chow side of your dog is protective of family - and not apt to be great with strangers coming into your home.
yes

The bite has dropped your boyfriend down a few notches in the pecking order of your family - and continued fear on his behalf won't help any matters.
No

Sounds like the dog is higher on the totem than it should be.
Just no
 

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You know what I find funny Esand?

People raise their children to behave, be respectful and when kids get out of line, parents generally correct them.

Don't know how many dogs I know that get away with more than the kids do.
 

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Want to know what I find funny? That you think a dog being aggressive to strangers is indicative that it doesn't respect its owner.
 

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Want to know what I find funny? That you think a dog being aggressive to strangers is indicative that it doesn't respect its owner.
A respectful dog knows when to protect it's owner. This is part chow - and this is the reason I'm forever asking "what breed is your dog". Every dog has universal traits - and unfortunately many realize too late that "cute" can be a handful.

Like it or not, people are bringing a dog into their family - their pack or their team so to speak. Call it what you want - someone has to lead - and someone has to follow. If the dog takes the lead... See it all too often but that's just my opinion.

Teach the dog some respect. If someone enters my home - and my dog bites - that's not very respectful.
 

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The first part of your first paragraph contradicts the second part. If it's an instinctual behavior then how is it disrespectful. Disrespectful implys that it knows what it's doing is wrong but does it anyways.
 

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I'm on board with 'finding a good trainer/behaviourist', with relevant experience.
It sounds like you are trying that.
Teaching your dog to enjoy wearing a basket muzzle is a great idea, and I do mean, enjoy, as in Wow! Yum! Liverwurst, chicken, whatever, until he thinks basket muzzles are cool.
This buys everyone time.
It may reassure your boyfriend and make him feel safe. A face bite that lands is serious. He is being very tolerant and accommodating. He has my respect for that.
Fearfulness is a very real and justified danger signal to a dog. A fearful dog may bite another dog and do damage. So fear can trigger fear. If a human is afraid of a dog, bad things will happen to the dog, so getting everyone calmed down is a start, but with a bite like that, and a fearful human (justified now) moving in, this is not a DIY project.
Find someone with real experience in handling aggressive dogs. But so far, sounds like you have all done well (the three of you) under the circumstances.
If you find trainers, interview them, observe classes, observing them working their own dogs, ask lots of questions, etc...
oh, and you probably already know this, but staring at the dog is bad (can trigger more fear). And there is a difference between looking and staring, we all instinctively recognize it, but fearful critters (including humans) will stare.
 
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