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-   -   Is it too late to stop biting/fear aggression? (

Chris K 01-16-2014 10:55 AM

Is it too late to stop biting/fear aggression?
I have a 6yo female GSD who is generally good natured (with big caveats below). However, every couple of years, I manage to do something or other that triggers a bite - not a nip. Most recently, I accidentally hurt her while trying to put on a new harness that turned out to be too small - result = a nasty bite to my hand, which in fairness was right in front of her teeth at the time that the incident occurred. A couple of weeks later, I went down to give her a stroke on top of her head, as she lay down in her basket. Something that I had done several times in the past with no trouble. This time, another bite - not as bad as the earlier one, but still painful (and on the same hand, which didn't make things any easier). I suspect that the first incident may have made her more wary of me, which meant that the second case was something that was waiting to happen.

She is generally very well behaved, apart from pulling on her lead and jumping at visitors (all in a friendly way). The one thing the really doesn't like is her paws being touched - *unless* she explicitly presents them during a sit, which is nice when it happens. And yes, I know I sound like an indulgent parent of a spoiled child. She is good with strangers and is always respectful of children.

So, can I train her to acquire a soft bite and to allow more generalised touching? Have I left it too late? I really want to get her back on the right path, and I've even become nervous myself of getting bitten again (it is NOT a pleasant experience). Any advice will be real appreciated.

My personal thoughts are: more formal training; counter conditioning of the things that she currently doesn't like; and more exercise, which is a general 'Good Thing'. I'm not a big fan of dominance theories including alpha rolls etc, so I would not be happy applying that approach.

Blanketback 01-16-2014 11:05 AM

I don't think teaching a soft bite really helps in this context. I teach a soft bite to my puppies, but that's so that they can mouth me, when they're playing. It's not about using their teeth to snap at me when they're unhappy about something.

The instances you're mentioning sound easily preventable though. Don't bother her when she's sleeping for one. "Let sleeping dogs lie." And when you want to teach her to wear a harness (or whatever) introduce them to her in a different manner instead of just ramming them on her.

MadLab 01-16-2014 12:31 PM

You can practice handling the dog more and get it desensitized to being rubbed and touched. Every day do it.

You can passively put a dog onto the ground with having to use force.

You need to put a dog onto the ground in many different situations.

You can use food and gently lure the dog onto the ground. Then rub it's body. Desensitize the dog to being touched on the feet and ears.

Turn the dog over and do the other side.

Sometimes a dog will resist if it is sensitive to touch in a particuler area. You can stop and work on another area or pause relax the dog and continue what you are doing.

Over time the dog gets used to this contact and accepts any contact. If this process is not carried out you won't be able to handle the dog with out getting bitten when needed, ie injury or health issue/ nail cutting. ear cleaning/ body check/ going to vet etcetc.

Chris K 01-17-2014 10:23 AM

Thanks for the comments/feedback
Helps to confirm my thoughts - she's actually pretty good about ears (seems to enjoy ear massage) and willingly lies on her side for petting. I'll need to counter condition for paw handling, but I think I'll use a muzzle until I'm confident that she's ok with that - cowardly I know, but it's important that I get her used to it.

Thanks again.

Lilie 01-17-2014 11:04 AM

Have you had this dog her entire life?

Chris K 01-17-2014 11:38 AM

From puppy (8 wks?)
Unfortunately, I was advised to delay her socialisation training, since she had gastro enteritis. With hindsight, I'd have probably gone ahead and taken the risk.

Also, again with hindsight, I should've put more effort into getting her used to all-over handling when she was younger. Wrt biting/nipping - that was never an issue when she was a puppy, so not something we ever needed to address.

Lilie 01-17-2014 11:50 AM

I was curious if she was a new dog to you or if you've raised her. If this was the first bite, I'd rush my hiney to the clinic to find out what is medically wrong with my dog.

I would seriously consider a behaviorist and/or trainer to help you through this. There is no excuse (outside of an illness) would I ever allow any of my dogs to protest through a bite directed at me. Never. Ever. Never.

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