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Hello,
I'm hoping someone can help. I have a Spanish water dog and have had him since he was about 14 weeks old. He had a rough start in life and was dumped in a bin with his siblings shortly after he was born (In Spain, Malaga). He was then rescued by a lady who kept them until she found homes for them. We have little idea of what his life was like with her but we don't think that he was socialised properly at a young age.
When we first got him, he was a little shy and unsure but friendly and sociable. He seemed to adapt well to his new home.
When he was about 6 months old, he started to have quite a strong reaction to certain people and would bark and lunge at them. He chased a few people in the park (children, runners) but nothing serious happened. As the months have progressed, his behaviour has become worse and worse. He has bitten (nipped) many different people and is scared of absolutely everything (bugs, the dark, the wind, his own shadow...but most of all people). We have a trainer who has suggested behaviour therapy with the use of a clicker. We have been using this method for about 3 months and although she thinks he is improving, he still reacts the same way when people come too close. I am terrified every time I take him outside when it is too busy. He bit me the other day because a man came too near (during an observation session, where we sit on a bench and watch people passing by, this is apparently to increase his levels of self control and also his self confidence) and I tried to walk him away calmly but as I did it, he snapped at the air.
It's heartbreaking because he is the perfect dog with my partner and I. He is well behaved and loving, sooo cute. We love him so much! However, I am pregnant and due in about 3 weeks and we need to be able to trust him with the baby. In addition, we have to be able to trust him a little more outside or we can never go out with the pram and him together.
Any words of wisdom would be very much appreciated!!
 

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Hello,
I'm hoping someone can help. I have a Spanish water dog and have had him since he was about 14 weeks old. He had a rough start in life and was dumped in a bin with his siblings shortly after he was born (In Spain, Malaga). He was then rescued by a lady who kept them until she found homes for them. We have little idea of what his life was like with her but we don't think that he was socialised properly at a young age.
When we first got him, he was a little shy and unsure but friendly and sociable. He seemed to adapt well to his new home.
When he was about 6 months old, he started to have quite a strong reaction to certain people and would bark and lunge at them. He chased a few people in the park (children, runners) but nothing serious happened. As the months have progressed, his behaviour has become worse and worse. He has bitten (nipped) many different people and is scared of absolutely everything (bugs, the dark, the wind, his own shadow...but most of all people). We have a trainer who has suggested behaviour therapy with the use of a clicker. We have been using this method for about 3 months and although she thinks he is improving, he still reacts the same way when people come too close. I am terrified every time I take him outside when it is too busy. He bit me the other day because a man came too near (during an observation session, where we sit on a bench and watch people passing by, this is apparently to increase his levels of self control and also his self confidence) and I tried to walk him away calmly but as I did it, he snapped at the air.
It's heartbreaking because he is the perfect dog with my partner and I. He is well behaved and loving, sooo cute. We love him so much! However, I am pregnant and due in about 3 weeks and we need to be able to trust him with the baby. In addition, we have to be able to trust him a little more outside or we can never go out with the pram and him together.
Any words of wisdom would be very much appreciated!!
Sounds like your trainer is on the right track.

My boy is much like you describe yours, fearful of strangers and acts aggressively to try and get them to go away. If he gets close enough he'll try to bite them, when he is alone with those he trust and loves he's incredibly sweet and loving.

I do something similar to what you do, but no clicking is involved, he gets a treat for simply seeing the person, treats keep on coming as long as the person is in view, then end when the person is out of view. I make sure to keep as far back as I need to from the people so that he's not reacting violently towards them. If he does act out then I lead him away. What I follow is the CARE protocol, you can find it here Care for Reactive Dogs . It's extremely helpful in helping owners with dogs like ours how to help the dog overcome their fear and reactivity. If you are a member of facebook there's a group on their that is full of people that will be able to help you with your dog, I'm a member of it and they have helped me a number of times to know what I was doing wrong, or how I could be doing something better. The name of the group is Reactive Dogs. I'd also consider muzzle training your dog, it may help you be less tense to know that he's not able to bite someone. Basket Muzzles are the ones I recommend because the dog can still pant, drink water, and take treats while wearing them.
 

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My Austrailian cattle dog is similar. I rescued him at a year old it seemed the first two months were fine, he wasn't exuberant around people, even us, but we didn't think much of it. After two month he had gotten to know is much better and he was healthy again and THATS when we began to see his "true colors".

The two biggest tools that have helps us so far are: 1. the Halti head collar. I can control his HEAD and he cannot get any leverage on it. Bonus, when pulled it will close the jaws but it is NOT a muzzle. 2. A DO NOT PET vest. It's seriously cut down on the awkward "no, you can't pet my dog" "I'm sure you love dogs, be he doesn't love strangers" "and please don't come any closer to him" conversations. I got it on Amazon, just type in "do not pet".

We work with a veterinary behaviorist, who had proscribed my dog Prozac. Yes, prozac. It will not solve your problems, but it take the edge off your dog's anxiety to help him get over his fears. I've noticed with my own dog that he doesn't bark like mad when he hears anyone come through the door, he doesn't pace anymore, and he doesn't seem to "look" for something to get worked up about. It really has been a God send! Beside the medication she has given us a behavioral plan to follow.

Kudos for sticking with training! I know it's not easy, we've been on a roller coaster for 6 months now, but this probably wasn't created in a day and it won't be solved in one either.



Sorry, bad photo!

 

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Personally I would recommend putting the dog in a muzzle when you're training- soft muzzles will usually allow you to give the dog treats, basket muzzles can be more difficult to use. I would also recommend allowing minimal to no interaction with the baby for awhile, and also would consider muzzle-training him for indoor free-range time as well.

I recommend a muzzle because the dog has shown a tendency to redirect towards others when he is scared, like when he bit you for trying to move him when someone walked close-bye. Redirected aggression is dangerous, because a dog may not be completely aware of their behavior, especially if they were startled/hurt in any way (ex: a dog redirecting because of a prong collar tightening, or because of a leash correction/the leash getting tenser/giving a tug to get them to move, or because someone touched them suddenly). Personally I'd get a basket muzzle for indoors, because they're sturdier and allow a dog to pant/drink while they're on, and a soft muzzle for training outside so you can give treats, or find a basket muzzle that is easy to give treats in (which most aren't, and some you can't at all). IMO, this takes some of the stress out of having a fear-aggressive dog in the same house as a small baby and eventually toddler, because small children are liable to do things to make a dog uncomfortable at some point in their life together, and you don't want that to be a situation that ends in a bite out of fear. Note that muzzles do require training before use; you have to condition the dog to be OK with it prior to using it. Some links explaining/showing that process:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw
Muzzles—Not Just for Aggression Anymore! | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Also, a "Do Not Pet"/"I Need Space" vest, leash, or leash wrap (like a sleeve you slide on the leash) is a good idea. I assume you're in Spain, since that's where the dog came from, so I don't know where you would get something like that, but a google search should find it.

Is the dog on any kind of aversive training gear, like slip collars or a prong? If he is, get him off them. IMO a dog that is redirecting aggression towards the handler is probably not being well served by being on an aversive tool. I would be careful with a head collar, as well. They are a good tool, but I would worry that a dog with a low pain threshold (ie, they react at small levels of pain/discomfort) that is already on edge because of fear-based reactivity/aggression might be provoked to redirect in a head collar as well. That said, they do make for better control. Another thing you might consider is a front-clip harness. Shop around to find one he can't get out of, for sure, and I'd also suggest a saftey clip to attach the harness to a collar in case he did get out. I find front-clip harnesses are great to control a dog and gain leverage when you need to hold them back/when they pull, though.
 

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You asked for words of wisdom, I am giving my opinion. There is no way I would have a confirmed biter in the same house as a newborn. It is hard enough to have a regular dog in the house those first few months when you are sleep deprived because your baby is waking up at all hours. There is no way that you are going to have enough training done by the time your baby arrives, and it would not be a safe situation for the newborn, who depends on you for everything.
 
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