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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been having trouble recently with my 10 m/o Gunner. A little bit of background first... He was purchased from a BYB (I know - believe me, I have learned a lot since being on this board!). They said he was 12 weeks old but he was tiny and I think he may have been younger. He wasn't the smallest in the litter - they were all the same size. Anyway, he also had a lot of characteristics of a fearful puppy - afraid of everything! He did quickly bond to me and I most likely encouraged some of his behavior by babying him (again, I have learned a lot since then!!). I did take him out with me every opportunity I had - whether it was in the car, to PetSmart, to the park, walks around the town I live once he became less afraid, to the bus stop with my kids, etc. He always seemed to tolerate petting from strangers, even kids, but did not really enjoy it. I did try to make these interactions positive by having the neighborhood kids give him treats at the bus stop. He never growled or snapped at anyone (including the kids) but did growl at his vet - he has never liked her for some reason. So fast forward to a couple of months ago - I have experienced a couple of very disturbing incidents since then that have me very concerned:

1) On our way back from a several mile walk, we passed a woman walking a small dog about 15 feet away from us. With no warning, Gunner lunged at the dog. I practically jumped on him to keep him back.

2) My older daughter had some friends over for a sleep-over. The dogs were on the first floor with me and the kids were upstairs. I have a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and one of the kids approached the gate to ask me a question. Gunner went over to check things out and the girl held out her hand for him to sniff. He grabbed her hand in his mouth - no blood, but he did place pressure.

3) Had Gunner outside on his leash talking to the neighbors. Other neighbor's dog was loose and ran up to greet Gunner. Gunner immediately lunged at the other dog and went to bite him.

4) One day at the bus stop a girl with long hair arrived that Gunner was very interested in. I broke his attention on her and put him in a sit and everything seemed to be fine. The girl was standing about 6 feet away, not talking or moving or anything, when Gunner suddenly growled and lunged at her. I corrected him with the choke collar and then we left.

Gunner has not had formal training. My ex kept saying he was going to train Gunner but never did and honestly since October my life has been pretty crazy and we haven't gone. I have kept Gunner crated if kids come over and no longer take him to the bus stop. However, I have contacted a couple of trainers and have received some advice that I wanted to pass by you guys. Both trainers seem to think that much of his current behavior (such as the incidents above) are all due to his fear and are indicative of a natural progression (my interpretation, not the term they used) of this fear since I have not done anything to stop it. It was also suggested since I always immediately removed Gunner from the situations that I was reinforcing the fear/behavior since he got what he wanted by no longer being in that situation with whatever was causing him the fear/stress.

The trainers have different ideas on the appropriate collar for Gunner for training/corrections. One recommends a prong collar while the other recommends a rope choke collar. I know there has been quite a bit of discussion here debating prong versus choke, and I am thinking the prong may be best for him. The trainer recommending the rope collar no longer trains (due to some health issues) and has asked my friend, who was her training assistant at one time, to help me out with some tips at home. The other trainer has recommended I schedule an evaluation with them at their facility to determine whether Gunner can attend group sessions or needs private instruction. This trainer also told me that they cannot guarantee to fix Gunner and he may never be able to be "free" around kids, but they feel he will improve and everyone will be much happier with some obedience training.

So, I have contacted the latter facility regarding the evaluation and will hopefully have something setup soon. The only downside is if they decide private instruction will be better, it is $40 per hour whereas the group sessions are around $80 for a 6-week class - BIG price difference! But I know I have to do something. Is there anything besides the obedience training that I should be doing with him? Are there any good books/videos/etc. out there for dealing with a fearful dog?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Jamie! I will check out these links.

How have you seen things improve with your dog? I guess I am afraid that Gunner will always have to be locked away whenever we have kids come over.
I would love to have him trained to the point where he would either ignore the kids or remain in a down/stay if I told him to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wow, Liesje!! The trainer pretty much said everything you did!!
Gunner is fearful, shy, and borderline aggressive BUT she feels he can be worked with to be better. She showed me how to use the clicker and how to work on focus and "leave it". We did put a prong collar on him but he did not over-react to it and we are only using it in the beginning for mild corrections. The trainer brought in her Dobe (GORGEOUS dog!!) after a while and Gunner did okay, but we didn't get them close to each other - just kept practicing the focus with the other dog in the room. I was so proud of him for his first session!! I also learned that I have a lot to learn for myself, too!! I will definitely be reading up on the clicker training and on how to be a better leader. Thanks, Jamie and Liesje, for your help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have purchased the following books:

"Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog"
Emma Parsons

"The Cautious Canine"
Patricia B. McConnell

"How to be the Leader of the Pack...And have Your Dog Love You For It"
Patricia B. McConnell

I'm also still going to check out all the great links posted above. Thanks again for both of your advice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the idea! Because of Gunner's issues with other dogs at the moment, though, he will not be able to attend group sessions. I am going to meet with the trainer once every other week for now and then once a month or so as we both progress. She did say that Gunner may eventually be able to join a small group session once he is better trained and he has good focus. Otherwise it would be asking too much of him at the moment to put him in that kind of situation.
 
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