Dog Problem

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by alan halvorson, Jan 28, 2005.

  1. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

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    Last July we adopted "Moose", a 4 year/9 month old, 80 lb. lab/shepard mix dog, from a shelter. We were looking for a an older dog who was calm and and non-aggressive, in contrast to our previous dog who attacked nearly everyone, including us sometimes, and this one seemed to fill the bill. A real charmer. Everyone, adults and children, liked Moose and Moose seemed to like everyone. For many months he was exactly what I wanted. I finally had a dog I could take everywhere without fear he'd attack or bite!

    That was then. Since then Moose has become very much my dog. Too much my dog - he's become extremely protective of me and our home and has gotten aggressive towards strangers on his walks and anyone who enters our house, even those he knows. It's not just exuberance. He means to attack (you can tell). He's a big, strong, quick dog and it's inevitable that he'll bite someone. I cannot keep a dog with that potential.

    The shelter we adopted him from didn't know much about Moose when they took him in. As a reason for surrender, the former owners said he had a tendency to run (he doesn't), but that is all they said. He had been an outdoor dog but we made him into an indoor dog. Moose seemed to make a successful transition - he didn't even need to be housebroken. We noted one odd thing - he wouldn't play. Won't chase a ball or stick, won't roughhouse, won't anything. I have a theory that his former owners simply kept him in his kennel from a pup and never socialized him and rarely interacted with him at all.

    Anyway, anyone have any suggestions about curing Moose of this aggessiveness he's developed? I don't know what I've done wrong. We've never hit or been mean to him in any way, rarely yell at him, pet, scratch and talk to him all the time, given him treats and rawhides to chew every day, etc. Treated him like a member of the family. But if I can't change his behavior pretty quickly, I'm going to have to give Moose up to the shelter.
     
  2. Walt N

    Walt N Second Unit

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    This is a common problem and can be solved if you are willing to do a bit of research and follow it up with training.

    There are many good dog training books out there. One I like is called "How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend" by The Monks Of New Skete. A quick Google search should pull that right up. The ideas from this book combined with a couple of others I picked up helped me solve the same problem with my adopted German Shepherd.

    The better training guides are written by experts with years of experience in the field, and the advice you'll receive is proven to work. You'll have much better success with a studied and fully developed approach than by relying on a few anecdotal tips posted on an internet forum by people like myself.

    Dogs aim to please and can be trained to do pretty much anything you want them to. The hard part is learning how to communicate to them what you want, and establishing your dominance or the Alpha male role. Fortunately no pain, yelling, incarceration, etc. is needed (or even advantageous.) Positive reinforcement only, and it works.
     
  3. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    I'd also work on teaching him to play and exercise. Dogs and cats both are not so very far removed from their wild roots ... they have a lot of energy that evolution gave them for hunting, that doesn't get used when we dump plenty of kibble into the bowls.

    Since you have made him an "inside" pet, trust me, he has a lot of energy he has never learned to channel properly.

    Personally, I find I snap at people too when I haven't worked out my stress/aggression in a while [​IMG]
     
  4. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    I hate to say it but sounds to me you have adopted a dog with problems, it may of been the last owner put this dog in an outside kennel but it might of been subjected to abuse from there from maybe a neighbor's kid (thus the hostility to strangers). The other part of the problem (this seems to be with last owner which affects the dog) is that the dog didn't either get an opportunity to learn to socialise with people (it always bugged me about the people who get a dog to just put on a chain in the backyard, what's the point?). You may have to seek a professional on this one.
     
  5. Carl Miller

    Carl Miller Screenwriter

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    There are lots of good books, but if you're seeking a quick fix, the best shot at that would be to call a local professional trainer.

    Ask your vet for a reference as they'll probably know of a decent trainer. They're usually not expensive, come to the house, and work with the dogand you together.

    Chances are pretty good that if Moose was mellow previous to this change, that his temperment can be restored through training.

    As a precaution, you might also consider taking Moose in for a vet check. Sometimes, sudden changes in behavior can be caused by health problems. Hope this helps.
     
  6. Keith I

    Keith I FoS

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    I saw a TV show on Animal Planet (I think) called The Dog Whisperer. It's an interesting show and can possibly give you ideas on how to proceed with your dog. A few of the dogs on the show sounds like what your dog is going through. However, they recommend you don't try the techniques done on the show yourself.

    My wife and I are dog-lovers and were very informed about dogs in the two shows we watched even though our dog doesn't have any problems except getting old.

    If your dog is really troublesome, I agree that a dog trainer might be the solution.
    -
     
  7. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I agree with Walt. Moose is a good dog who thinks he's making a contribution to the pack by being your protector. Bottom line is that he needs a job to do so that he feels like he's earning his keep. The good news is that Moose's job can be pretty much anything you want it to be if you can just get it through his head what you want him to do.

    I also agree that if you can't change his behavior on your own, consulting with a hired trainer may be in order.
     
  8. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I have a similar problem with my 6 month old and agree with brian, he's just protective of you just as my pup suddenly thinks she's little mrs watchdog and has to bark at every bump in the night, or me when I come home from work in the morning.
     
  9. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    If you get the National Geographic Channel, Keith is right...although I think the name is pretty lame, the Dog Whisperer is an excellent show to pick up tips. The guy's name is Cesar Milan, and his whole approach is learning the pack psychology of the dog and using it to establish who is the pack leader. 99.99999% of the time he finds that the owners are inadvertently causing the dog's problems by reinforcing the unwanted behavior when they think they're helping. What is your response when he lunges at people? It's not a blame game, it's just that people instinctively try to use human psychology to fix these problems and that doesn't jive with the dog's mind. If you try to pet him and calm him down in those moments, that's reinforcing the behavior. If you're mad, anxious or tense when those situations present themselves then the Moose picks up on that. It's natural to be anxious when you've seen him lunge before, but you have to try to fight that instinct.

    Granted, it's encapsulated in a 30 minute (sometimes 1 hr.) show, but the owners testamonials are amazing. We haven't had any major problems with our dog, but there were a few things like lovingly accosting people at the door that we wanted to work on. So far, he's responded like a champ.

    There was one episode of a boxer mix (I think) that had already killed more than one small animal. By the end of the episode, Cesar had the dog laying submissivly right next to a rabbit and a kitten he had brought. Of course, it's up to the owners to diligently keep up the routine he laid out...no quick fixes, but once he gets the dog in a calm, submissive state then their mind is open to the work. He advocates long walks...1 hour minimum, every day. Large yards, according to him, are simply bigger, nicer kennels and the yard doesn't allow the dog to expend their energy. That leads to behavior problems.

    We've been dog owners all our lives, and we've been amazed at how responsive our dog has been with some small changes in our behavior. Don't focus on your dog's previous owner or treatment. Dogs move on...it's us that dwells on the past and that is usually at the root of the problem. Pay close attention in those situations and put a stop to the agression when it's first forming. Once the dog lunges, it's too late. You have to be able to snap the dogs mind out of it before it develops so they learn that even thinking about it isn't acceptable.

    I may sound like an infomercial, but everything Cesar Milan says rings so true when you hear it. Then when you see him using the techniques on dogs who have been misbehaving for years it really drives it home. I know there has been more than one episode where he's dealt with protectiveness in a dog like you're describing. Something about your behavior is telling Moose that he's in charge of protecting you. That's the key IMHO. If you get to see the show, you'll hear him over and over again that dogs need 1. Exercise 2. Dicipline 3. Affection...in that order. And the dicipline isn't corporal or anything like that. It just refers to the other thing he'll repeat is Rules...Boundaries and Limitations. If Moose is getting affection during those episodes, that's reinforcing the aggressive behavior.

    Don't give up on Moose. He wants to please you, he's just confused. Get your hands on some Cesar Milan material and you and Moose will be a lot happier.

    Best of luck to both of you.
     
  10. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Good luck man, that's a toughie! While I hate to discourage treatment, that may be possible as well.

    A freind had the same problem with a dog. No matter how well the dog did, it would almost always attack someone if you got too close to the owner. They had to have the dog muzzled anytime people came over. It was sad, and the dog really wasn't a bad dog, it was just EXTREMELY over protective.

    I'm not sure how you break a dog out of that, but definitely good luck to you.
     
  11. Jeff Savage

    Jeff Savage Second Unit

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    My dog was a stray and wandered into the yard of some friends of mine. After they spent several weeks trying to find the owner I took her.

    Anyway the same thing happened with her. She was fine until she understood that she was my dog and then became very protective of me.

    I agree with everyone saying to read up on books and training. They really helped me out. First I let her know I was in control through simple exercises like always walking in a different direction then she wanted to do while on a leash, clipping the leash on my belt and having her follow me around the house, having her on her back and saying "I am the master" while rubbing her belly etc..

    Once this was established and she understood how to sit and stay I always made her sit and stay when people were approaching on our walks or at the door. As much as she wanted to do otherwise the need to please me with the sit and stay overcame that. I made a point of shaking the hands of people that entered the house and introducing them to her. I also did a lot of "sshhh" and "its ok" during barking fits of people walking in front of the house.

    So now it is a couple of years later and she understands that she can bark when the doorbells rings or if someone is on the front lawn. She is still protective of me but instead of rushing people she takes my lead. If I am friendly with them then she is too. Otherwise she is cautious and protective but not attacking. Most of this works because she knows that I am the Alpha dog of the pack and she needs to follow what I do. That is the most important part of the training. Everything gets easier after the pack order is established.

    Hope this helps,
    Jeff
     
  12. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    This is not that unusual, especially on dogs who were neutered late in life. Our new dog Tucker is this way. Loves pets and lovin' but doesn't have any idea what do to with toys or fetch.
     
  13. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    I was just re-reading your original post and I saw this. That makes me think even more that somehow the dogs are getting this vibe from you.

    BTW...[​IMG] [​IMG] Good for you for rescuing. Our current dog is a shep/lab mix too. Charlie is a great dog, but he had his problems at first.
     
  14. Al.Anderson

    Al.Anderson Cinematographer

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    I'm going to second what Paul and carl mentioned. Specifically, get a dog trainer to come to your house, and you might be giving signals you don't realize.

    We have a dog that is super mellow - but would out of nowhere snap at particular people. The trainer gave us some decent advice that has seemed to work so far (about 2 years later). For instance, the dog would hang out in the central hall, on the steps. The trainer thought that the step's raised position and the constant location made him over-protective of this area. Plus I gather my saying "good boy" when he barked at people coming to the door wasn't a good idea. (Don't tell the wife, I still do it!) But it was countered by having anyone coming into the house throw him a small treat. We were also advised that a lack of socialization with other dogs was a likely contributer, so we had to make time to slowly have him get used to other dogs and more people. (He would mostly just be around us - so the theory went that he took stronger defensive position when others came by.)
     
  15. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    Breed matters. Post a picture of the dog so we can see. Some dogs are naturally protective.

    Sometimes the dogs early socialization makes a big difference. Bringing it back can take alot of effort if not be totally impossible.

    We recently adopted two pups from a shelter. Based on their early experiences I predict that these dogs will be able to eliminate any forest fires which threaten my home.
     
  16. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    Careful...that's the same preconception that has led to BSL...breed specific legislation in some states. "Pit Bulls and Rotweillers are illegal because they are protective and turn aggressive and attack people." Thousands of dogs have been destroyed because of these laws but it's not the breed, it's the owner. Nature abhores a vacuum and all dog breeds can be protective if they sense that the humans in their environment aren't in charge. (Besides, the OP already said Moose was a Lab/Shepard mix.)

    Breeds like these get bad names because they're extremely strong and when their natural urge to be dominant isn't quelled early in their development, it can lead to bad things. But those breeds aren't any more protective or aggressive than a Chihuahua. In fact, think about a Chihuahua and multiply their strength by 100 and their size by 15 or 20. Poof...you have a Rot with all of the same urges to be dominant. It's just that now, he can make it happen through brute force if the owner allows that behavior to develop. A dog's natural urges take on an inertia of sorts and if they aren't slowed down early in life it takes that much more energy to bring them back to a neutral state where they're happier, but it's not impossible. The larger and/or stronger the breed the more trouble they can get into in this regard. Bulldogs aren't that large, but they're extremely strong and with their low center of gravity they can be difficult to handle, but the same behavioral rules apply. When a Chihuahua is aggressive and out of control, we can just pick them up. We may sustain a puncture or two, but the argument is over with. That technique is obviously a problem with a large dog. Combine all of that with the dumb SOB's who actually want their large dog to be aggressive and you have an extremely dangerous situation, but the breed itself still is not the problem.

    It is owners who are responsible for understanding their dog's behavior and curbing protectivness and agression early on. Short of a neurological disorder, socialization is never impossible...pack animals always feel more stable with a pack. When there is no question in the dog's mind that the owner is a strong pack leader, problems with aggression are essentially eliminated and once the dog believes and understands that he no longer has to be in charge, he can relax and will be much happier.
     

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