I feel like we are spiraling downward at an uncontrollable speed. Between the recent many health issues Titan has displayed to the random "I'm not listening to you" episodes to the back tracking on simple OB and now to nipping someone.
Any time we are off lead and someone approaches or we are going to meet the group, he generally greets everyone the same... with excitedness and barking.. always barking. It's about the only time he barks obsessively outside the home.. when he meets people. Until recently he has always just been excited.. once he meets said person.. he gets all hyped up and tries to play and we play and all is well. A few weeks ago, we were ending a search and one of the other handlers, whom I had never met before was approaching us and Titan stopped to look at me and her.. his way of "Can I go meet her?" which he always does before meeting someone. So as normal I said "ok, go say hi" Which I always say when we meet new people. Only this time his "excited" bark had a more aggressive tone in it and scared the living daylights out of this poor woman. That was enough for me. He was no longer allowed to meet people off lead. Too close to comfort for me, and since then has been leashed when meeting people.
This incident today:
We were at SAR training this morning. We train at a college campus and it's not uncommon for Titan and I to be approached by joggers and walkers. We've been there training for 2 years with no issues. He does get overly excited when people approach us so I always leash when we are being approached or he isn't in a search. Today in particular we were approached by an elderly couple who he had met last week and he was thrilled to see them again. After intro, he was off lead playing with no problem. We were approached later by a female jogger who saw Titan and wanted to make sure it was ok that she be here. Titan was leashed and he was VERY intrigued by her, wanted to meet her but she took off before anything. When he was unleashed to start our search he maybe looked back once but was put to work and never made a second thought.
After training we had gone for a hike through the woods to search a lost radio. He was off lead and was sticking with me as always. When we got to the open field, there was a man walking toward us. Neither myself or my back up knew him, regardless I grabbed Titan to put him on lead, who was already in "Alert" mode, and as I grabbed to leash him, he ripped out of my hands and took off aggressively at this man. I mean I have never seen him act that way toward anyone, ever. He jumped up, the man blocked him, Titan jumped again growling and nipped his side. (meanwhile I was running toward him trying to call Titan off.) When I finally got over there, Titan stopped and came and sat next to me like he did nothing. This man was scared out of his mind.. rightly so. He said he was fine and Titan didn't break skin and pretty much just so scared that he wanted to get away, and I didn't blame him. There was a verbal correction involved immediately following the incident but I was more wanting to make sure that the man was ok.
I got back to base and told my trainer exactly what happened. He has been working with us for over 2 years and was so surprised to hear it. Did warn me though that with this incident I have one more shot at SAR. If it happens again, I am out, which I undoubtedly agree with. This is not a job Titan can do if he can't approach strangers or let them approach him. We do a lot of wandering victim cases here and that's just not something he can do if he is going to bite someone coming toward him. My trainer also thinks with Titan's recent medical issues ( (Text Heavy) Partial seizures/muscle spasm and Weight loss
), that it could be health related and wants me to call the vet.
SO where do I go from here? My trainer said I was welcome back but I have to have an e collar on hand and do a lot of work with him before they will trust him again. But I am terrified to go back. Only because I don't want this to ever happen again, but I don't know how to fix that since he's never done that before.
Oh.. and just fyi.. not sure how much it matters, but my back up for the search, who was with me, is also my roommate who helped me raise Titan, so she has been a steady part of his life, she is pregnant. So something made me wonder if it was a protective instinct sort of thing.