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Old 12-19-2012, 08:28 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help! Rescue aggressive toward our 19 yr. old son

Hi all...we have had our rescue, Gracie, for 3 months ( she is estimated 1.5 to 2 yrs. old). She immediately bonded with me, and subsequently my husband, and 15 year old daughter (all living in household). Our 19 year old son is a college student who lives away. He was home a few times for weekends since we got her. She would bark every time he entered a room when he was home, but that was understandable as these were short visits. Now he is home for the holiday break until late January. The problem - every time he comes up the stairs, she is there barking, and lunging. She will get a bit comfortable around him when he is in the room with us, but the minute he gets up or makes a move, she is barking, lunging again. She is relatively well trained (professional training scheduled for after the holidays, had to postpone due to death in trainer's family), but we need help in the interim. We had tried treats, the "no barking" command, settle, etc., which all help short term, but she just won't warm up to him. He is a big guy ( 19 yrs. old, 6'2"). She was definitely abused in her past and I am unsure about the specifics. She is still easily spooked by loud, unexpected noises, etc., but is otherwise great. Any suggestions, ideas, to get us through until training commences. I am at my wit's end...Thanks so much for any input.
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Old 12-19-2012, 08:37 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi, welcome and thanks for rescuing!

There is a very good chance that she was not abused, other than by having someone create dogs of bad temperament.

Regardless of the why she is giving lots of good and clear warnings that she is not comfortable with your son yet. And just like with us, you can't make someone like someone else - that takes time and trust.

I would join this group: shy-k9s : shy-k9s and start reading the archives.

Have you contacted her former foster family for any input?

Does she crate?

Because this has potential for bite you need to proceed very carefully - using safe containment, crating and rotating - when your son goes out, she can have free run, he needs to call before he comes in, so she can be contained again. When he is home, she is tethered to you or crated.

If you have a clicker, that is something fun he can work with her using. Tossing her treats when she is showing appropriate behavior (that you will be able to shape because she will be tethered to you) feeding her, and other things will help to build that trust and relationship BUT - I would be focusing more on safe containment, not expecting too much from her and looking at this as a longer term project so keeping their interactions limited to keep them both safe.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:05 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks for the quick response. Yes, I am in touch with her foster family. She was with them for 5 weeks, before we adopted her. She came from a kill shelter in Georgia (we adopted her from CT). She never exhibited any aggression while with them. She was crate trained, but I stopped crating her about a month ago, as she was so comfortable and well-behaved in all aspects at that point. I have kept her confined, while he is coming and going in and out of the house, and limit their contact to only when me or my husband are with them. I have not tried letting him use the clicker, and will try tethering in the interim. I just feel like I am making so many mistakes! (she's not our first GSD, but our previous girl was a puppy when we adopted her)..I will also investigate the site your recommended. Thanks again.
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I think Jean's advice is great. Getting her used to your son is probably a project that will take longer than the couple of weeks he'll be home for the holidays, so I would not worry about it too much and instead just focus on keeping her contained and away from him. If it's only been a month since you've used the crate last, she shouldn't have much problem going back to it.

I'd definitely recommend tethering her to you or your husband when you have her out while your son is home, even if you guys are there to supervise. It only takes a second for a situation to get out of control and result in a bite, and you really don't want that to happen.

I would also do what you can to prevent her from barking/lunging at him while she is tethered to you (either by keeping her out of situations that trigger her, or by training her to pay attention to you on command and using that whenever he moves). The more dogs "practice" a behavior like this, the further ingrained it gets. Plus, it can't be fun for your son!

Kudos to you for adopting her, and for hiring a trainer to help. I am sorry for the extra stress this must be causing during the holidays. Don't worry about making mistakes, we all do it. Just take this behavior seriously and manage it so she never has even a moment's chance of biting your son (which she might never have done anyway, but you don't want to risk it), and then when you are able to work with your trainer I am sure a lot will fall into place.
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:34 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thank you. Definitely going to try tethering, and lower my expectations. It's definitely a process!
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Do you treat when the dog acts out? That could add to the problems. Lets say you had a young child that wanted to run across the road, would you beg them back with a cookie or tell them "no" and direct the way they are suppose to get back. Dogs are protective of their environment to be sure, but anyone I except in my home is just that, even by my dogs. Sounds like a young one there you still have a big chance with, It is not all kisses to have a dog like that , hope I helped. Only treat when a dog acts like you want them to.

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Old 12-19-2012, 06:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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you've gotten great advice, I am just curious..How is she with other people who come to your house, or people she's doesn't know out in public??
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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In response to Harmony-we definitely don't reward or try to stop her.behavior with treats. She gets a firm "no" or "no barking" command, as per the direction of the trainer when we spoke on the phone. My son will give get treats when he is seated, and she is okay with that. It is really when he moves around or enters a room....responding to Diane - she is generally ok when out in public, on leash. She does better in a setting with lots of people around, but less so when someone approaches her in a one on one situation. She has barked aggressively at a few men who have approached appropriately, but I have been keeping her very close to me in those situations as I am not comfortable with her behavior. She is not aggressive with other dogs or cats (we have two cats). I still want to keep her socialized, but it's definitely not carefree at this point. She's a work in progress!!
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:34 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I would have your son just basically ignore her unless he is tossing treats randomly to her. No eye contact or frontal approach. If he ignores her consistently for a few or several days, she will observe his movements (hopefully he'll be on board with this), so he can show his body language is not threatening ever. If she makes the first approach to him, just tell him to remain neutral, not show affection, but again, toss a high value treat, then see if she'll take it from his hand.

Hope he will help with this, I have a son the same age and he isn't into my dogs whatsoever!
Not sure you've read this link, but it would be good if everyone in the household were on board with the concept: http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm
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Old 12-20-2012, 01:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Ok, why no answer to a question ? So what do you want? And, we all have something good to add . I don't know about it but where is your answer to the mods question?
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