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Dog community,

I need some help with my precious boy, Duckie! He is suddenly lunging and acting aggressively towards strangers. Can you help me figure out what the problem is and how to solve it? :huddle:​

BACKGROUND: I have a 4 year old red-tick coonhound (maybe mix) named Duckie that my family adopted a little over a year ago. We are his third home. His previous adopters gave him up to a rescue group because they claimed he was "too anxious and destructive" and too much work with a second child on the way. However, they kept him in a crate all day from ages 1 to 3, so of course he was anxious and destructive when let loose! They described what sounded like devastating separation anxiety, but as soon as Duckie came home to a household with a dog-door and two other dogs to bond with, we found that he had no trouble at all with us coming in and out of the house. The previous owners definitely did not socialize Duckie properly, but through patience and persistence, the dog park is now his favorite place on earth! However, we've always been extra careful around new folks and common intimidators to dogs such as children, mysterious men, bicycles, etc.

For a year, the only major problem he had was with our maids' vacuum. This turned into territorial/fearful aggression towards the maids once he learned that they wielded said vacuum. We found that the only solution was to remove him from the house when the vacuum was present, which was not at all a problem. He's also had issues with being grabbed around the belly and being smothered; this leads him to make some nasty noises and bare his teeth. He has gotten much more comfortable with our touch, though.

However, a month ago at the dog park, he was attacked by a another dog. He had to get stitches and underwent a pretty nasty procedure (the puncture was millimeters from his spine). He spent two weeks inside with the cone, unable to play with his pack, and unable to release his energy. This lead to a very anxiously wound up dog.

We got back into our dog park routine and BAM! two weeks later at the dog park, we get into an incident with a man at the park...


THE INCIDENT: The man's puppy was already inside the park with his wife, and the man, wearing sunglasses and a hat, decided it'd be a great idea to "amp up" his pup by hollering at it while going through the gate. He was flinging his arms around. (NOTE: Duckie and Doodle are already highly suspicious of anyone without a dog at the dog park.) Duckie runs to the gate and immediately lunges when he enters, snapping and grabbing at his shirt. The man kicked him off and stared him down, grimacing. We promptly left after making sure he was okay.

Since then, we have had a second incident in which he mouthed at and barked threateningly at a really kind woman who came over to help organize our house. She was using the excited dog voice and was throwing her arms over him, which also tends to overwhelm him.

VULNERABILITIES: In therapy, we talk about vulnerabilities that lead to a problem event. To better understand our problem, I've considered some of Duckie's vulnerabilities. They are the following:

-Higher level of emotional distress in the household (we just decided we are moving back to Atlanta, and there has been a lot of grieving in our household. I have also been in relationship turmoil with my boyfriend of a year, and I'm sure Duckie is sensing how distressed and fearful the boyfriend, a large male, is making me feel.)
-undergoing treatment for lyme disease
-misunderstanding of feeling punished when he was injured
-poor socialization as a puppy

PROBLEM SOLVING: What do y'all think about Duckie's aggression? How do you suggest we handle it? I'd love any comments or advice. Just talking about this situation in general is so helpful. I love my sweet boy to death, and I want the best for him! :eek:


On behalf of Duckie, Thank you!
Love,
MK
3DogNightNut
 

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Update: today Duckie tried to attack our close family friend, a tall male in his 60s. Duckie is usually fond of this man. We are bringing him to his vet tomorrow.
 

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It sounds like you have been doing a great job with your adopted dog that had little previous socialization. Yes, you're right... if a pup has not been exposed to some things at an early age, they can fear them at an older age. It's not impossible to overcome the fear though...just takes some work for an adult dog.

Please check out this video on counter conditioning with Dr. Sophia Yin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI13v9JgJu0

She took a dog who reacted negatively to stimuli (blowing in the face), but then turned the same dog around into thinking positively to it. I do think you can apply this same principle to many things - tall men waving arms, people wearing big hats, etc. Reward with high value treats and praise when the "scary" objects are close by. Keep him on leash and gradually have the scary object get closer and closer. Take it slow and the sessions short...
 
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