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Hey everyone, we just adopted a dog from the shelter about 6 weeks ago. Within 24-hours of adopting the dog, we took him to a barbecue and he got super nervous and uncomfortable while we were there, given that people would not leave him alone and we were not as wary as we should have been with a new dog we did not really know. He got scared enough that he started shaking so we took him further away from people and a little girl ran up behind him to pet him, and the dog got scared and snapped at the girl's face causing a cut that needed stitches. Since this issue we have had very little problems, besides occasional nervous growling, until this week. Earlier this week he started getting super weird around my girlfriend's brother, who lives in the same house, he will growl and bark at him in certain situations, as well as he won't stop staring at him when he is around. The other day the dog tried to get at him when he stood up "too close" to the dog but was on a leash so nothing more happened. Then last night we had a friend over and he took treats from her and played fetch with her and seemed more than fine. Then when my girlfriend took her into the bedroom while he was in there, he snapped at the girl's hand and broke her phone with the bite (her hand had no punctures). This morning my girlfriend let her roommate (who usually gets along with the dog) in the bedroom with her and the dog, and started feeding the dog treats by tossing them on the floor. When the girl knelt down to give him more treats, the dog air snapped at her. I could really use some advice with this. I do not want to have the dog euthanized and would like to take whatever necessary steps to keep everyone safe. It may also be worth noting that in both situations with my girlfriend and her friend/roommate, they both appeared very timid and almost scared of the dog which is why I think it caused a reaction. However, I would like to not worry about how peoples' body language is and somewhat trust the dog. Any help is appreciated. Thank you
 

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Also note that the dog is 5-years old and we are pretty sure hes mostly American Bulldog and he weighs about 75lbs.
 

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I really think you need professional help with this, a bite that needed stitches and one with enough force to break a phone are serious.

A behaviourist would be able to assess him properly, please look for someone who uses reward based, force free methods, because aggression almost always comes from fear and the last thing this dog needs is someone who uses dominance to scare him even further into submission.

In the meantime, I suggest you train him to wear a muzzle - that will at least help keep people safe meantime. Don't just slap it on him though, use the method described here.

 

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Our muzzle just got in yesterday. I appreciate the helpful video.

We are in the process of getting a behaviourist to come to the house and help us out with him.
 

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I suggest that you really look over your ability to handle and train a dog with these issues. The kind of dog you’re describing needs an experienced owner who knows how to deal with these issues. I’m afraid that it won’t be enough getting a trainer/behaviorist.

The dog needs a home with minimal amount of visitors and absolutely no kids around. And you as the owners needs to be able to handle the situation, keeping the dog and people around the dog safe.

The incidents that already have happened are very serious, but it can get even worse. Keeping a muzzle on is definitely a necessity for now, but the dog really needs someone who knows what they’re doing. For the sake of the dogs wellbeing as well as people’s safety.

It won’t do anyone good to keep a dog that you can’t handle.
 

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We had a similar issue with one of our dogs. Not only would she get very worked up around new people, but she was rather aggressive toward other dogs.

We tried a lot and even had a behaviorist come in. In our experience, they were mostly unhelpful and expensive.

We ended up having to adjust our lifestyle in order to accommodate her needs. We had another dog in the household, so we began separating them 100% of the time. They took turns coming out for exercise and we alternated nights in bed with us. We dedicated a space in the house that could be “hers” and limited intrusion into this space. When guests came over, we would keep her there and inform our guests that she needs time to warm up. Once she calmed down (which could take hours), we’d let her out and ask our guests to be mindful of her needs - mostly, we were asking them not to overwhelm her and to let her do the approaching. We avoided children and other dogs at all times.

I’ve had her for 12 years now and have been making these accommodations for 11 of them. In the last year or two, she’s gotten a bit easier.

Bottom line is: there’s no quick fix, in my experience. Take precautions, be careful and be mindful of the dog’s needs. If you are not able to give the dog what they need, do not euthanize. They are complex creatures, just like we humans. I’d suggest giving up to a no-kill shelter and offering them a donation so they can care for the pup while they search for a forever home.
 

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Thank you everyone for the help.

We did not realize all of the knowledge you need to have when dealing with a new dog. We have started reading books and taking notes and learning more about why he does some of the things he does. He has not had any problems with other dogs, just new people and others that act anxious around him. We have him comfortable with his muzzle now but are not sure how much we should try to start socializing him now. With a muzzle it will protect others but do not want to increase his anxiety anymore.

We plan to keep him forever and continue to make whatever accommodations are necessary. Any extra resources to help with keeping his attention and how to get him to listen right away instead of making us repeat ourselves several times would also be helpful.
 

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Thank you everyone for the help.

We did not realize all of the knowledge you need to have when dealing with a new dog. We have started reading books and taking notes and learning more about why he does some of the things he does. He has not had any problems with other dogs, just new people and others that act anxious around him. We have him comfortable with his muzzle now but are not sure how much we should try to start socializing him now. With a muzzle it will protect others but do not want to increase his anxiety anymore.

We plan to keep him forever and continue to make whatever accommodations are necessary. Any extra resources to help with keeping his attention and how to get him to listen right away instead of making us repeat ourselves several times would also be helpful.
I want to empathize that you need to be extremely careful and take on needed precautions when caring for a dog with these issues. Often for the rest of the dogs life.

Like I previously said the dog should be able to avoid having to deal with visitors and people in general. You need to reassure the dog that he doesn’t have to interact with people.

When and how to start socializing him depends on the situation. But you need to be aware that you might never overcome this issue and you have to take precautions throughout the dogs life. For instance I wouldn’t allow kids around the dog ever.

What’s the situation regarding getting his attention and getting him to listen? When does this issue occur and how does it take place? When do you not get his attention or in what situation does he not listen?
 

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He knows basic commands but chooses when he wants to listen. He listens to me a good majority of the time but will sometimes get distracted on his ball or smelling the bushes when we are on a walk and will struggle giving me eye contact. Also, it seems there are "random" times where he just does not want to listen and will just look at us like he thinks its pointless? Another time is when he is excited and will watch us telling him to sit but he will just keep kind of ignoring the command and happily prances around. He listens to me pretty good but rarely listens to my girlfriend, and its technically her dog; not sure how I can help her be in more control of him.

I believe the biggest issue is keeping his attention in high-energy moods, and getting him to listen immediately rather than waiting to see if we are actually going to sit there and make him listen before moving on.

Another thing I want to add is that he really is a sweet and loving dog that loves attention. When people have been able to take their time and let him trust them without him getting anxious, he ends up asking them for their attention as well. In the past we have not listened to his warnings as quickly as we should have, but now we know to get him out of those situations once he starts getting weird. We are aware that we may never have a "normal" dog and we are content with that. However, I really do believe that he has a lot of progress that can be made if we manage the situations he is in better.
 

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He knows basic commands but chooses when he wants to listen. He listens to me a good majority of the time but will sometimes get distracted on his ball or smelling the bushes when we are on a walk and will struggle giving me eye contact. Also, it seems there are "random" times where he just does not want to listen and will just look at us like he thinks its pointless? Another time is when he is excited and will watch us telling him to sit but he will just keep kind of ignoring the command and happily prances around. He listens to me pretty good but rarely listens to my girlfriend, and its technically her dog; not sure how I can help her be in more control of him.

I believe the biggest issue is keeping his attention in high-energy moods, and getting him to listen immediately rather than waiting to see if we are actually going to sit there and make him listen before moving on.

Another thing I want to add is that he really is a sweet and loving dog that loves attention. When people have been able to take their time and let him trust them without him getting anxious, he ends up asking them for their attention as well. In the past we have not listened to his warnings as quickly as we should have, but now we know to get him out of those situations once he starts getting weird. We are aware that we may never have a "normal" dog and we are content with that. However, I really do believe that he has a lot of progress that can be made if we manage the situations he is in better.
A dog will do what’s beneficial to them. If they see no reason in following your command or find some distraction more interesting they won’t listen to you. This might demand a higher value treat and/or for you to gradually train the dog on the specific command in different situations.

Sometimes when not focused or distracted I often use to get the dogs attention in the same way you would try to get a persons attention that’s distracted. Higher voice and or a touch (Obs, not to cause pain) to regain their attention

When you train in a low distract environment when the dog is calm and focused It will of course be easier for the dog to follow your command. Hence you need to gradually build up the difficulty and established the commands well in different situations.

The reason why he doesn’t listen might also be because he doesn’t understand your command. You haven’t established it well enough.

Clickers are great to precise the behavior you want to reward and in my experience dogs get the hang of things a lot easier when using a clicker. Do you know how to use a clicker?


In the past we have not listened to his warnings as quickly as we should have, but now we know to get him out of those situations once he starts getting weird.
I must say that he shouldn’t be in those situations where he is starting getting weird. He shouldn’t be put in those positions in first hand.
 
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