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Hi all - one of my dog's wonderful trainers suggested asking around these forums.

Six months ago I got my first dog ever from a rescue that seemed really conscientious. He's a big, beautiful, awesomely athletic lab/shepherd mix. He looks pretty lab at first but behaves all shepherd. Bonded with me instantly, but I suspect as much out of terror as anything.

His defensive or territorial aggression is making life unlivable. He is an angel outside and anywhere he has never slept. He is adored at his daycare. He is great at dog parks at least until some poor goofball dog comes barrelling towards me, in which case he guards me (though I'm quick to intervene).

He came to me afraid to be indoors, basically, having been outside pretty much his entire life in the South. I've managed to get his separation anxiety down to minimal, to crate train him, to find a dosage of fluoxetine that makes him responsive, curious, and attentive rather than glazed over and panic-stricken (nor zombied out). We've done obedience and nosework classes, which he LOVES. We go on 1-2 hour hikes each morning in the woods because his greatest joy in life is bounding at astonishing speeds through the woods to chase a chipmunk and then to come speeding towards me like a joy banshee, tongue flopping. If he's not actively tearing apart a rotten log to get a chipmunk, then he comes bounding to me when I whistle. Watching this dog fly is like seeing a hymn. Can you tell I love my dog? This is why I'm so torn up.

Anyway, he's the best buddy in the world except that he is explosively territorial in the house and despite two trainers, a behaviorist, a rescue person, and a really fantastic daycare full of trainers working with him, I'm not getting him confident enough to not terrify my houseguests. Just passing from one room to another is enough to set him off. He has backed people against walls, stood over my boyfriend in bed barking and snarling in his face, and chased a friend of mine upstairs to bark at her. While I've managed to get him to at least deliberate and look at me for a moment before flipping out, and while he has shown impressive restraint and bite inhibition (he'll occasionally mouth someone's hand) OBVIOUSLY this is not at all okay. He has never shown the least bit of aggression towards me. If he doesn't like what I'm doing (like handling his paws) he'll just pull away, flip up his belly and be cute to change the subject.

The problem is that I'm a pastor and I live on church property, which includes a lunch for vets (so a population with high incidents of PTSD) and a preschool. My anxious buddy has exploded and even nipped anyone who touches (or threatens to touch) his paws. It's only a matter of time before he decides my office at church is "territory" that he has to defend like he does at home. So while it's easy to say "just keep him away from people" that means a lot of time alone for him, more daycare than I can afford, and no personal life for me.

Having read a bunch of threads here it's clear many of you could figure out how to make this work, as it's not nearly as serious as some of the aggression described, but the kind of behavior modification required is beyond my capabilities. The fact is, I am doing this alone, the people closest in my life are completely out of patience with being terrorized either in my home or theirs, and while I have learned so, so much in six months, I am still a very new dog person.

And if I'm honest, this level of emotional energy and attention needs to be reserved for the hundred or so people I belong to, and frankly a good number of them need pretty intensive behavior modification themselves in order to play nicely with others. That's my job.

So now after agonizing deliberation I am trying to figure out the right steps toward a new home for my boy. I know he has to go back through the rescue, but I've lost confidence in the rescue because I was so, so clear about my life and responsibilities. So I'm trying to do my own research as well.

I am in Western Massachusetts. I've seen that there are such things as a board & train for aggressive dogs with pretty big claims for success in Maine, for instance, but I don't know how to tell what's good from what's not. I suppose people here will also be pretty split on issues like prong and e-collars but I can also see that it takes a LOT to interrupt a driven behavior. I just don't know enough.

I have gotten to love a good dog to the best of my ability; now I think I need to love him by doing every thing I can to find him a safe life in which he can thrive with an owner/handler who can give him more "jobs" than I can. Right now he assigns himself the job of protecting me from all other humans and dogs. I just don't have a regular enough schedule (or even a fenced yard) to give him the structure he needs.

At the advice of one of his class trainers I'm going to start muzzle training him in hopes of making him more appealing to potential new homes. While I continue to work with his rescue to find him a good option, I thought I would reach out to see if any of you know of reputable rescues in the Northeast who would be willing to work with a really great dog whose humans have failed him.

Thanks in advance. Any good thoughts you can send our way would be appreciated, too.
 

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For now and since your dog was used to being outside, I would get an outdoor kennel so he can stay there when you are at work or have company. Since you have made the decision to rehome and he was a rescue dog, I would start with the rescue where you adopted him from.
 

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That is a great idea. I wonder if that would tempt people to mess with him. It's a rough neighborhood and I live on a very public corner.

I am working with the original rescue, but they've only got one lead a long way away, so I'm wondering if there are rescues in the Northeast that people like or have experience with.

Thanks so much.
 

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Since you live on a busy corner in a rough neighborhood, I wouldn't advise the outdoor kennel even if it were locked. But the kennel could be used inside if you have room which would give your dog more space than a crate. I can't recommend any rescues since I'm not in your area, but perhaps looking on the FaceBook pages for rescues, could give you some leads. Also ask your vet or one of the trainers that you consulted for recommendations. Since you have a picture in your mind of the kind of home he needs, and given as many people as you meet during your pastoral duties, there maybe someone close by who would be interested. Considering the neighborhood, a dog with his protective instincts, would be an asset to someone who lives alone.
 

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In rereading your post, I was reminded of a lady I knew who after her Yorkie died, got the dog of her dreams, a gsd puppy. But like you, she did not have the experience to train him. By a year, her dog was acting very much like yours and there were also difficulties with her family. She did decide to send her dog to a board and train. But when the dog came back, he quickly caught on that she and her family didn't know the commands. So he had to go back again and this time, they had a training session afterwards. I would suggest that you consider the board and train. At the very least, it would give you all a break. Your dog could be taught basic obedience and the place command. With the place command, he would be trained to go to his place like when company comes. For finding and evaluating a board and train, you could request references and/or post a thread asking for recommendations.
 

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A dog that has to have 'muzzle training" is not appealing to most new homes. I suggest you give him back to the rescue he came from before he bites someone. Its not if but when. It seems you have enough on your plate without this. Maybe you could get a nice black lab. They usually love everybody.
 

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Thanks all.

He's already obedience trained and while we're still working on staying in his bed for, say, the entire time I'm cooking or eating, it's not obedience that's the problem. It's not even self-control. I can put him in a down, stick a meatball chunk on top of his paw and do 'leave it' for as long as I ask (even while the drool runs out his doggy lips).

What do people do with nervous dogs if company comes for more than a few hours? If it's just people coming over for dinner, it's easy to put him up in my room out of sight, and he does fine, though it drives him nuts if he can hear me but can't get to me.

The problem is houseguests, like for 2-3 days. I can't isolate him that entire time except for walks and dogventures in the woods. There's no daycare on Sundays and it's only open til 4 on Saturdays, and weekends are of course the most likely time for me to have people. And unfortunately the presence of my scary threatening friends (oh right) makes him less tolerant of not being able to see me. I have a medium-distance relationship and that's basically on hold until I figure out this situation because this dog is sweet to my friend one minute and then he's barking him up against a wall the next, and then in 2 seconds it's over and he's asking for treats and scratches again, and it's like the dog doesn't even know anything happened while the rest of us are still catching our breaths. So I pretty much have to board him at this point every time I want to spend time with humans.

I gotta say this is really making me never want to work with a rescue again. It's all a guessing game as to when I'll hear or what is happening, and now I'm in limbo with a dog I can't keep and there's nowhere to return him to.

I wish I had $2600 for a board and train but I just don't. The behaviorist I ran it past said she didn't like the fact they used shock collars. I can't say it makes sense to me either to do that with an anxious, fearful dog. It also doesn't make sense to me how a board & train would be able to deal with behaviors that only occur in reference to me - the daycare staff were so surprised to hear that he was having such problems at home because he's such a sweet, if timid, boy at the daycare. I think he thrives there too because he's never alone and when it's time to do something there are other dogs doing the same thing, so he knows it's the right thing to do. He had a brother he lived with his whole life - rescue was like "oh it's not a problem" - but it seems very clear his brother did all the thinking for both of them, and now that he's having to think for himself it's just enormously anxiety-provoking. I just can't sit around and give him directions and tasks all day. So he gives himself the job of guarding me from everything. Including the printer, which would be funny if it weren't sad.

Sigh. I really appreciate everyone here.
 

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Thanks all.

He's already obedience trained and while we're still working on staying in his bed for, say, the entire time I'm cooking or eating, it's not obedience that's the problem. It's not even self-control. I can put him in a down, stick a meatball chunk on top of his paw and do 'leave it' for as long as I ask (even while the drool runs out his doggy lips).

What do people do with nervous dogs if company comes for more than a few hours? If it's just people coming over for dinner, it's easy to put him up in my room out of sight, and he does fine, though it drives him nuts if he can hear me but can't get to me.

The problem is houseguests, like for 2-3 days. I can't isolate him that entire time except for walks and dogventures in the woods. There's no daycare on Sundays and it's only open til 4 on Saturdays, and weekends are of course the most likely time for me to have people. And unfortunately the presence of my scary threatening friends (oh right) makes him less tolerant of not being able to see me. I have a medium-distance relationship and that's basically on hold until I figure out this situation because this dog is sweet to my friend one minute and then he's barking him up against a wall the next, and then in 2 seconds it's over and he's asking for treats and scratches again, and it's like the dog doesn't even know anything happened while the rest of us are still catching our breaths. So I pretty much have to board him at this point every time I want to spend time with humans.

I gotta say this is really making me never want to work with a rescue again. It's all a guessing game as to when I'll hear or what is happening, and now I'm in limbo with a dog I can't keep and there's nowhere to return him to.

I wish I had $2600 for a board and train but I just don't. The behaviorist I ran it past said she didn't like the fact they used shock collars. I can't say it makes sense to me either to do that with an anxious, fearful dog. It also doesn't make sense to me how a board & train would be able to deal with behaviors that only occur in reference to me - the daycare staff were so surprised to hear that he was having such problems at home because he's such a sweet, if timid, boy at the daycare. I think he thrives there too because he's never alone and when it's time to do something there are other dogs doing the same thing, so he knows it's the right thing to do. He had a brother he lived with his whole life - rescue was like "oh it's not a problem" - but it seems very clear his brother did all the thinking for both of them, and now that he's having to think for himself it's just enormously anxiety-provoking. I just can't sit around and give him directions and tasks all day. So he gives himself the job of guarding me from everything. Including the printer, which would be funny if it weren't sad.

Sigh. I really appreciate everyone here.
I bolded the part in your quote, because after reading that, I would try getting another dog to be a companion for him. But I would suggest that you foster the second dog so in case it doesn't work out, you can return the foster dog.
 

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How old is he and did he show signs of this aggression prior to or after starting the Fluoxetine. Agression is one of the side effects at the top of that list to be aware of especially if he is having the look that you describe he has after an aggressive episode.

The thing that confuses me is that you have had two trainers and a behaviorist. Did any of them come to your home and witness an agression episode? As you said, you can't duplicate what goes on in the home.

The only rescue I know of is German Shepherd Rescue of New England but I only know of them via what I see on their site. Their adoption process via site info is quite extensive with strict guidelines.

Your plans to muzzle train him is a wise one because right now it sounds like he doesn't have a bite history and that status needs to be kept. His future depends on it. Make certain that you introduce and train him to accept it properly. There are some good YouTube how to that you can look up. Also, since he is crate trained, use the crate inside your bedroom if need be but use it every time someone comes over. A door can be easily opened by human accidentally.

It sounds like you are in a really tough spot. It is hard to send a dog back to rescue especially when you have a gut feeling about them and a bond has occurred. but ultimately, either they ignored your requirements and were not forthcoming of this dog's issues or they did not test this dog before adopting him out and they need to be accountable.

One other thought if you haven't done this already is to let your veterinarian know of your dogs aggression issue and the concern of the side effects listed.

I'm just a novice so these are just some of the things I picked up on in your post.
 
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