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Hi All:

The Dog: Rialto is a new rescue, approximately 2 years old. He's a Cattle Dog/Terrier mix, best we know. I have had him for 2 months now. I was told that he had aggression problems by the rescue, but was lead to believe it was just around children who played too roughly with him in the previous family.

He's an absolute dream with me. Has been from the first moment. We were quickly and it seems very strongly bonded. I work from home and it's just he and I all day in my house.

But any other human who approaches him to pet him will get a small growl and a very quick snap. It's scary as hell. I have noticed that it is in certain situations, and I'm working to minimize those. He gets very aggressive when there are visitors to the house.

That said...at the dog park, he'll approach every human and seek their attention and petting. Same at the pee station in our building. If you bring another dog with you, you're pretty much golden.

I've been working very hard to bring him structure and discipline. And I've been trying trying to invite friends over to socialize him more. I bought a muzzle and put it on him prior to their arrival (he thinks it's a peanut butter delivery system).

I spent two weeks trying to socialize him to a woman (the concierge) in our building who he snapped at; she'd put treats on the floor near her for him each time we came in from a walk. Then after two weeks, with the muzzle on, we tried to let her get close to him again and the snap came almost immediately.

Searching the internet, as with most issues, has provided so many contradictory theories that my head is simply spinning now.

I'm a very determined guy, and I really love this dog, but it's stressing me out and making it so my visitors simply do not want to come over. And that stresses me more.

What are the odds I can fix this behavior? Does spending a lot of money on a trainer provide better than even odds it can be fixed?

Any other experiences or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. He just snapped again in an unexpected context and it is shaking my resolve.
 

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Hi All:
The Dog: Rialto is a new rescue, approximately 2 years old. He's a Cattle Dog/Terrier mix, best we know. I have had him for 2 months now. I was told that he had aggression problems by the rescue, but was lead to believe it was just around children who played too roughly with him in the previous family.
Wow, it's really hard to believe (not questioning you) that he only had issues with children playing too roughly. Did you get him through a rescue group or a town/county shelter? I would be calling whichever back up and asking to see what temperament tests they did before they adopted him out to you. I wonder if they only took the word of whoever surrendered him?

Good luck with him, I hope it all works out
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Wow, it's really hard to believe (not questioning you) that he only had issues with children playing too roughly. Did you get him through a rescue group or a town/county shelter? I would be calling whichever back up and asking to see what temperament tests they did before they adopted him out to you. I wonder if they only took the word of whoever surrendered him?

Good luck with him, I hope it all works out
My guess is they took the word. And even though I live in a large City (Seattle) he's from a small rescue in Eastern WA. To be fair, they did warn me that he had some aggression. I just didn't really know the complexion of it.

Thanks for the encouragement!
 

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But any other human who approaches him to pet him will get a small growl and a very quick snap.
So the dog solicits a fear response, and when people don't expect the snap, people move away or give the dog distance. The dog gets the negative reinforcement it expects, - and nothing changes. Right?

That said...at the dog park, he'll approach every human and seek their attention and petting. Same at the pee station in our building. If you bring another dog with you, you're pretty much golden.
Most dogs are different off leash than on - why? Because they are meeting and greeting on their own terms with no barriers.

I've been working very hard to bring him structure and discipline. And I've been trying trying to invite friends over to socialize him more. I bought a muzzle and put it on him prior to their arrival (he thinks it's a peanut butter delivery system).
So are your friends trying to pet the dog while giving treats while he's muzzled? Cause that is the incorrect way to use a muzzle. The dog doesn't like being approached and petted for whatever reason. You're making him do what you don't want him to do.

I spent two weeks trying to socialize him to a woman (the concierge) in our building who he snapped at; she'd put treats on the floor near her for him each time we came in from a walk. Then after two weeks, with the muzzle on, we tried to let her get close to him again and the snap came almost immediately.
Put away the treats and apply some common sense. It seems to be the dog is mostly OK with people being around him, close proximity. It's the reaching or touching that triggers the snap. And if you watch your dog closely, you'll probably notice his eyes aren't quite right from the get go, then a growl then the nip. It could be barrier frustration - or it could just be the dogs default behaviour by now.

Try this one... Bring some friends over to your place, muzzle if you feel it's safer. Tell your friends to leave the dog alone, no treats, no nothing. Sit and chat, have a beer or whatever and see what the dog does after a bit. You might realize the dog will eventually realize there's nothing that's going to hurt him, and start getting curious.
 

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TimTimothy,

You ask great questions and follow them up with better questions such as "Do you have specific experience with a trainer significantly reducing aggression in a dog? "and that is where the advice ends.

I'll be very general with my opinion. I've worked with dogs that have aggression and in my experiences I would answer your questions as such: "What are the odds I can fix this behavior?", I'd say pretty good. "Does spending a lot of money on a trainer provide better than even odds it can be fixed?" Learning from people that know how to deal with unacceptable behavior in dogs is well worth the monies spent. You may find that one training protocol is worthless in your situation or maybe get lucky and find the savvy trainer first, there's lots of mentalities for sale out there, just as you have discovered.

From your post " I'm a very determined guy, and I really love this dog," that's a huge plus as commitment is paramount when working through these situations. However, your " but it's stressing me out and making it so my visitors simply do not want to come over. And that stresses me more." needs to be genuinely put to bed, as it's doing more harm than you might think. It isn't easy but since you are a determined individual, it might be the first change you make in yourself so you can get to where you want to be with your dog.

I hope you find a quality trainer right away instead of some lesser capable "trainer" and end up spinning your wheels which might add to the frustration and stress on your end.

The dog you have is an interesting case, somewhat similar to another situation being discussed in here recently. Once again, what I find fascinating about your dog's fickleness is your comment " But any other human who approaches him to pet him will get a small growl and a very quick snap. It's scary as hell. I have noticed that it is in certain situations, and I'm working to minimize those. He gets very aggressive when there are visitors to the house.

That said...at the dog park, he'll approach every human and seek their attention and petting. Same at the pee station in our building. If you bring another dog with you, you're pretty much golden.
" This might be a great question to ask any potential trainer you might hire and see what they have to say. If they are somewhat indifferent about it, I might look elsewhere.
 

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Haha sounds like a dog I got from a few hours outside of Seattle. She came with "cobfidence issues"... yeah she was teetering on the verge of where your dog is. I learned some hard and fast lessons about how unforgiving some dogs can be of being pushed over thresholds!

It sounds like you are pushing too far too fast. You would definitely benefit from a trainer who can coach you in dog body language so that you can work with him when he is in a "yellow" zone ("green" for him is probably a big, grassy field without a stranger in sight for miles) without steering him into orange or red territory. By working with a dog when they are at this very specific point-- perhaps about nervous but curious and open to investigation, you can expand their comfort zone gradually up to and including head-pets, being leaned over by strangers, and so forth. It's a fickle art. That's why it's best to have someone experienced in aggression teach you personally.
 

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So the dog solicits a fear response, and when people don't expect the snap, people move away or give the dog distance. The dog gets the negative reinforcement it expects, - and nothing changes. Right?
Yeah. I get that. But that's part of the question I have. In the moment, he gets what he wants, and I need a strategy in that moment to negatively associate the experience.

So are your friends trying to pet the dog while giving treats while he's muzzled? Cause that is the incorrect way to use a muzzle. The dog doesn't like being approached and petted for whatever reason. You're making him do what you don't want him to do.
No. At this point, I've invited a lot of friends over, and the rule is to not approach him yet. I simply want them all in the same room. I live in a large apartment building and have put the call out for lots of visits, short ones, long ones, etc. And he's showing progress. Initially I have been putting him into time out as soon as he growls; into the bathroom for just a minute or two. It seems that after 2-3 of these, he settles in.

It seems to be the dog is mostly OK with people being around him, close proximity. It's the reaching or touching that triggers the snap. And if you watch your dog closely, you'll probably notice his eyes aren't quite right from the get go, then a growl then the nip. It could be barrier frustration - or it could just be the dogs default behaviour by now.
Yes. I can recognize most of the signs now. He snapped at a woman today who approached faster than I could tell her not to. He has this very docile, inviting look and it fools people. But over the past couple of weeks I've been keeping him mostly out of situations that stress him. But that can't be a long-term solution, as I don't want this behavior with random people when I can't control every minute. And I certainly want people to feel safe in my home.

Try this one... Bring some friends over to your place, muzzle if you feel it's safer. Tell your friends to leave the dog alone, no treats, no nothing. Sit and chat, have a beer or whatever and see what the dog does after a bit. You might realize the dog will eventually realize there's nothing that's going to hurt him, and start getting curious.
Yeah...that's exactly what I'm doing. I've stocked my fridge with beer and my bar with spirits, and I've invited anyone and everyone to stop by. And as I said above, my rule is no approaching him right now. Funny how everyone thinks they can break through and approach him; I have to be somewhat firm that he's not ready for that yet.

Thanks so much for the response.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
TimTimothy, I'll be very general with my opinion. I've worked with dogs that have aggression and in my experiences I would answer your questions as such: "What are the odds I can fix this behavior?", I'd say pretty good.
That's encouraging. :) I've had some sleepless nights already.

Learning from people that know how to deal with unacceptable behavior in dogs is well worth the monies spent.
Yeah. I had just been pricing it out and some of the seemingly better ones seemed pretty steep up front with a requirement to buy 10-sessions at a time. But I'm going to shop around and try to get as much information from them up front as I can.

needs to be genuinely put to bed, as it's doing more harm than you might think.
Yeah...I no my stress can affect him. Honestly, the muzzle in my house is more for me than him, because I can keep him separated from my guests. But I just relax more knowing he can't do any harm.

This might be a great question to ask any potential trainer you might hire and see what they have to say. If they are somewhat indifferent about it, I might look elsewhere.
Good idea. I've kept a log of every snap so far with as much of the surrounding circumstances I can ascertain.

I appreciate the guidance.
 

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It sounds like you are pushing too far too fast
Likely true, as I was learning his boundaries at the same time he was showing them to me. So I certainly chock some of this up to operator error ;-)

By working with a dog when they are at this very specific point-- perhaps about nervous but curious and open to investigation, you can expand their comfort zone gradually up to and including head-pets, being leaned over by strangers, and so forth. It's a fickle art. That's why it's best to have someone experienced in aggression teach you personally.
Yeah...that's the element that I just don't yet know; how to push him safely, without pushing him over the edge.

Good advice all!

If any of you live in or near Seattle, as I said above, I've stocked my bar and my fridge for visitors. Come see us! ;-)
 
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