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Hi everyone,

I know there are a lot of posts on this topic, but I wanted to post my situation and see what I'm doing wrong, what I can do to correct it, etc... Max has been growling and snapping lately and it has to stop. He growled and snapped at my daughter over the weekend and this morning, I put him in his kennel with a bone and went to say good bye before I left for work and he snapped and went berserk in the kennel. If he wasn't in the kennel, I'm sure he would have bit me.

A little background... We brought Max home at 7 1/2 weeks. He's been raised on raw and I hand fed him chicken necks, etc... when he was younger so that he wouldn't wolf them down. Now that's he's bigger, 58 lbs or so at 5 and a half months, I've been feeding him outside as he gets chicken quarters, chicken backs, turkey necks, etc... If I feed him inside, he makes a mess :) But I've noticed over the past 2 months he would growl if anyone approaches him when he has a bone/food, but with toys, he's fine.

I feel I've been lax with training due to my schedule lately and not sure if that has anything to do with it. I do give him run of the back yard when he's out with me. He has several toys that are always out and he can play with them whenever he wants... which goes against what I should be doing.

I've noticed that he seems to be more agressive towards people walking by the yard as well lately. I took him to petsmart for the first time over the weekend and he was really agressive towards other dogs there... not sure if that's part of it as well, or the fact he may have been overwhelmed with the smells, other dogs, etc... He socializes fine with the neighbors dogs and I don't take him to dog parks.

I really need to do what I can to curb this behavior and will take any and all advice. As much as we love Max if he ever bit anyone, especially my daughter, I would end up rehoming him. Which is the last thing I want to do...

Thanks...

Alex
 

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Up his training. Practice NILIF. It sounds like Max has too much freedom. Use Mind Games. I attached the link. I adopted a mix pup from a high kill shelter. He had some resource guarding issues and can be snarky. He just turned one. Mind Games worked wonders to change his behavior.

Mind Games (version 1.0) by M. Shirley Chong
 

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Up the training. As for barking at people/dogs - mine is recently going through a phase of doing this at times. We have parked ourselves somewhere where people walk by with a clicker and a bag of mixed treats (cheese, hot dogs, etc) for a 1/2 hour- hour a day and tell her to leave it and then click/treat. Lots of desensitization. After about a week, when someone walks by, she usually will just look at me now. She isn't perfect, but tons better (she was previously fine, so I am thinking it is a phase as she is still young).

You might try hand feeding part of the meal. And yes, you can hand feed a chicken quarter - we used to do it when we taught our older dogs to eat raw and we wanted them to learn to chew the food. Also, tossing treats (high value ones) while the dog is eating so he sees people approaching food = yummy treats. Obviously, set up the situation so your daughter or the person tossing treats is safe (maybe have him on a leash or behind a baby gate).

A trainer would be a great idea as well. They can help you work on these situations in a controlled environment. Your dog is still a pup, but the teenage years can be just as challenging and a trainer will be able to help you through it all.
 

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Aggression in puppies is something that needs to be considered carefully. My first thought is whether or not your raw feeding regimen is balanced. Is he getting all the nutrients he needs.

I would definitely get a full physical on the dog first, with bloodwork. If he is low on something that is causing his thyroid to be out of wack or something else, then all the training and leadership in the world is not going to help the situation, in fact, it can make matters worse.

What is happening when he is eating? Is he an only dog? Does he have to compete with other canines to keep possession of his high value meat and bones? Is he given peace to eat his food? Do people mess with him when he is eating?

5.5 months old is might young for him to be so reactive to members within the family and outside of the family. Have you consulted the breeder? A dog might view a child as a competitor or equal critter to play with or bully. And a dog might develop resource guarding behavior if he has to fight to maintain ownership, or is lacking in vital nutrients. But the reaction to people walking by and at PetsMart also puzzles me, as 5.5 months seems a bit young to be seriously territorial or guarding.

It is possible that you have a pup with very weak nerves. And his only way of expressing his discomfort in every situation is to aggress. This is kind of like Eddie Murphy and Gene Wilder saying, "That's right! We Bad!"

Physical with bloodwork, and maybe discuss his diet with others that have fed raw for years.

Consistent leadership and management.

Training to increase his exposure to people places and things and boost his confidence.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the replies.

He's on a fairly well thought out raw diet. 45/45/10 and gets Vit E and Salmon oil daily. Eggs 2-3 times a week, green tripe, liver, etc...

He's an only dog and like I said, he's typically outside when he eats. When he snapped at my daughter, we gave him the crust from her pb&j sandwhich and he was eating those from his dish, which was near the back door. My daughter went to look out the back door and he growled and turned around and snapped at her. She was 2-3 feet from his rear.
He's never had to compete with any other dog for his food/high value treats and no one ever disturbes him while he's eating. I started giving him turkey necks 2 months ago and if I went to walk past him while he was eating it, he would turn and growl at me. Since then, i've tried to approach while he was eating, talking gently to see if he reacted the same way, which he has.

I don't think he has weak nerves at all...

Besides this behavior, he's a pretty good pup. My daughter, who is 4, will play tug with him, play with him, etc... and he's always gentle with her otherwise.

Not sure if it's related, but one thing that has changed, is that he wants to chase cars while we are out on walks and in the back yard...

He really scared me this morning... and i"m 6'2, 225lbs and in good shape. But when he snapped in the kennel this morning, his hair was up, his teeth were showing and he was out for blood... he actually snapped and bit the wall of the kennel. I feel that if it were in that frame of mind around my daughter, he would hurt her... which is my main concern.
 

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First question I'd ask is. When he barks at strangers going by or dogs in petsmart is it a deep bark or is it a high pitched excited bark? Deep barks are defensive. A dog that has weak nerves almost never uses a bark like this. The deep bark is a sign hes starting to develop the beginning stages of a defensive drive. High pitched excited barks could be fear, unsure excitement, or something of that nature.

It really sounds like he needs to be run through a groundwork period. He probably views himself as higher ranked than you or your daughter and that needs to change. He should be fed in his crate from here on out. He should also spend any time he isn't under direct supervision on a leash in the crate. You should control every aspect of his life 100% of the time until it becomes absolutely clear who is in charge.
 

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Thanks for the replies.

He's on a fairly well thought out raw diet. 45/45/10 and gets Vit E and Salmon oil daily. Eggs 2-3 times a week, green tripe, liver, etc...

He's an only dog and like I said, he's typically outside when he eats. When he snapped at my daughter, we gave him the crust from her pb&j sandwhich and he was eating those from his dish, which was near the back door. My daughter went to look out the back door and he growled and turned around and snapped at her. She was 2-3 feet from his rear.
He's never had to compete with any other dog for his food/high value treats and no one ever disturbes him while he's eating. I started giving him turkey necks 2 months ago and if I went to walk past him while he was eating it, he would turn and growl at me. Since then, i've tried to approach while he was eating, talking gently to see if he reacted the same way, which he has.

I don't think he has weak nerves at all...

Besides this behavior, he's a pretty good pup. My daughter, who is 4, will play tug with him, play with him, etc... and he's always gentle with her otherwise.

Not sure if it's related, but one thing that has changed, is that he wants to chase cars while we are out on walks and in the back yard...

He really scared me this morning... and i"m 6'2, 225lbs and in good shape. But when he snapped in the kennel this morning, his hair was up, his teeth were showing and he was out for blood... he actually snapped and bit the wall of the kennel. I feel that if it were in that frame of mind around my daughter, he would hurt her... which is my main concern.
Hair up is usually a fear-response. But you are right, the dog might hurt her if for some reason he is afraid and aggressing out of fear -- this is the majority of bites. Your puppy sounds like he is becoming very reactive, and whatever you are doing is not working. Do not talk softly to your dog when he is eating. He takes that as though you are trying to get it back from him. Frankly, I can take anything from any of my dogs including high value treats. I do not practice this with them or condition them to this. Occasionally, I have had to go in and get something back, and I can do that. I think that is just leadership, and no inherent food aggressiveness in the dogs. But there are many resources for dealing with food aggression on this site.

I think you really should call in a trainer, and start getting all of this under control. Do not be closed-minded to a puppy giving a fear response. If you do not have the response diagnosed properly, how you deal with that response will cause issues.

Your pup is 5.5 months old, and he is in danger right now. If he does bite you, a neighbor, a person at PetsMart, your daughter most rescues will not touch him. It could be a death sentence. Right now is the time to take care of this before he gets any older and any more dangerous.

Good luck.
 

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I would use the same click/treat method when cars go by. It is much better to retrain/desensitize to this now vs. when he is a year old and closer to 80 lbs.

As for the food, start from a long distance and throw food at him (as long as he is behaving - you should know where his invisible bubble is). Slowly work closer to him. He needs to learn that people walking by while he is eating = good things. Start doing this yourself and then do it with your daughter (to ensure her safety) until you can work up to her doing it alone. Just keep repeating this lots and lots - at each meal.

And a trainer (can't stress this enough). He is only going to get bigger and stronger.
 

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You are probably right selzer but hair up is sometimes just excitement. I've seen lots of ring and protection dogs go hackles up before and during bites. Either way it seems he has learned to control his family through aggression and that is not a good lesson to learn for a dog.

He needs an extensive groundwork period regardless. The treatment in this case is largely the same regardless of what the source of the aggression is. Leerburg | The Ground Work to becoming Your Puppy's Pack Leader

Try there.

You should probably get a trainer but make **** sure it is one that is focused on training you guys and not the puppy. You could ship him off to obedience school and as soon as he's back home hes going to relapse back into his old ways if you guys don't change yours. Not trying to sound mean, but you guys created the problem you are now dealing with. Don't kid yourself otherwise. In the meantime don't allow your daughter to get anywhere near him. He lost that privilege.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
As far as the hair up... say someone is walking by the back yard. He will run across the yard and start barking, hair up... I can't see it being fear, as he is approaching the other people... and I think it's as deep a bark as he could manage at 5.5 months.

One other thing that is weird, is that he will take treats from me very gently, will eat out of my hand with no problem, but once the food is in the bowl and placed on the ground, or if I give him a big RMB, that's it... you can't go near him. One of the reasons I hand fed him the first two months was to build a bond with him and avoid the food agression issues.

He's never been clicker trained... what are your thoughts on introducing a clicker and starting training from the ground up?
 

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I agree with Selzer's advice. Can't add much to it other than find a trainer, as long as your dog gets clearance from the vet. Shop around and sit and observe some training classes and different methods used in training. Some trainers use treats, prongs, clickers, praise, hand signals - see which will work best for you. I think group and private lessons would be good. It also seems like once you get some basics covered, to get out and socialize your dog more often. Go on walks instead of using your backyard for exercise. Look for nice places to hike, see if there are dog social groups, meetup groups, etc in your area.
 

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i hate when people give advice of "you should get a trainer" but in this case you really need to find a good trainer fast! he is becoming reactive and defensive. he's already starting to claim the yard as his. the thing you should concentrate on first is the food resource guarding. it can get really ugly. a dog protecting his food will bite you like he's never met you in his life. there's a lot of issues with this dog and advice from a forum isnt much help without seeing the dog. you should get a trainer quickly and nip it at the bud while he's still a pup. if it isnt fixed soon i bet the dog will be gone from your house by his first birthday.
 

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Never a bad idea to get a vet to check it out but that probably won't be it.

A dog that age is perfectly capable of being aggressive and showing a limited defensive drive especially if it is working for him and getting him what he wants. Food aggression falls under the category of defensive drive. It isn't common but can be intentionally or unintentionally nurtured.

One of the ways we get puppies in dog biting sports to get their defensive drives and confidence up is to pretend to cower when the dog does something aggressive on the sleeve or tug. If they see something is working for them like deep barks scaring off a helper, or something like that, they very quickly put it in their little bag of tricks. The more it works the more confident in it they become. If you guys are cowering or showing fear when he gets aggressive on you guess what? You are encouraging him.

If hes using deep barks when a stranger goes near the fence and they leave then he sees that as successful territorial defense (or more likely at that age self defense) and becomes emboldened. He doesn't know they were just passing through and had no intention to invade or threaten him. All he saw was intruder came, I got aggressive, intruder left so next time I will repeat the behavior with more gusto.

As apart of your groundwork with him I wouldn't allow him into a fenced in backyard by himself without supervision. He hasn't earned that yet. He is back there learning. You need to make sure he's back there learning what you want him to learn, and not bad behaviors. He needs to be in a crate when unsupervised.
 

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The hackles thing is excitement. If you see hackles up and tail tucked then you have fear but hackles by itself is an involuntary reaction to excitement of some sort. I saw my puppy go hackles up chasing a stick during fetch.

If you've ever been an athlete and gotten a chill up your spine during a game cause you were excited to compete its the same thing.

Tail wagging is the same way. Just because a dog is wagging his tail doesn't mean hes happy. More often than not police K9s I've seen will wag their tail right before they hammer you. Although in their cases they might be happy to do it.
 

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Being that I know Max's breeding I can tell you that he is a very high drive and dominant dog. Many would say potentially too much dog for a first time handler. My advice is to seek professional training from someone who understands these types of dogs. Also, leave him alone when he eats. How far are you from Falcon? It might be a good idea to take him to see Art Collins at the Fayetteville Schutzhund club. IPO really helps you learn how to handle your dog, especially a strong dog like Max. Put a BH on him. You will may be surprised how much better he respects you, when you learn to communicate with him.
 

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Confirms my suspicions.

Mog, I'm actually in Durham. I'd suggest you start with the research with the link at the Leerburg site, but if push came to shove and you hit a wall I can help you with this dog. He sounds like a winner. Is this your first dog?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the replies.

Baillif, yes, he is my first full breed GSD and first dog in ages...

I spent a lot of time over the past few days considering the way I've been raising him and realize it's my fault for giving him too much leeway and letting him have run of the house/yard. I did a lot of research prior to bringing Max home on the proper way of training him and most of it went out the window so to speak once we got home. Not intentionally, but due to my situation. I'm a single father of a 4 year old, home owner, have a 45 min commute each way to work, etc... and it's difficult to dedicate the time I had planned on, with Max with all of the above.

Last night when I got home, I tried to get back on track with Max. As soon as I got home, I picked up all his toys and had him watch me put them away in his chest. Then I took out his 6' lead, had him sit before he came out of the kennel, tied him to the lead, took him to the back door, made him sit before he could go out and then took him out to go potty. We stayed out for 10 minutes and then went in and I tied the lead to my belt and he had to follow me while I worked around the house. I spent 20 minutes working on a solid down and leave it with the lead still on. He did great on the leave it, not so great on the down... still need to work on it daily. I cut as much meat off of a chicken quarter as I could, hand fed him, having perform a command before each bite and when he was done with the meat, took him outside on a 20' lead and let him finish the bones while still tied to me. He was fine the entire time, but I didn't approach him while he ate. I just sat on the stoop and let him finish. After eating, I told him to go potty, which he did and then we went on a walk. He would pull rather hard, but I would just stop and not let him advance when he did. He eased up quicker than usual... I would tell him leave it as a car approached and he still lunged, but I kept the leash short and he couldn't pull much... towards the end of the walk, he wouldn't pull when a car went by... this is how our walks typically go, but he seemed to be listening more.

After we got back, I took out one of his favorite toys and we played with that for 15 minutes or so still on lead. Then we went out back and played fetch for another 10 minutes. Since he was well behaved, I let him play off lead. Each time when he came back with the ball, he would stay by me. After ball time was over, I put him back on lead and we went back in the house. I took him into the living room and had him lay at my feet. He tried to get on the couch twice, which I told him off and he got off right away and laid at my feet again. The kitchen is gated and I usually let him have roam of the kitchen with his toys... since he was listening, I took him into the kitchen and let him off lead; he drank and then laid down and went to sleep.

This morning, I did the same thing. Downstairs and on lead immediately. Went out to potty, then in to eat. I cut up his food and put it in his dish. Instead of giving him the dish, I had him sit and I hand fed him most of it, performing a command before each piece. I then put a chicken back in the dish with the tripe and a few pieces of chicken so he would eat his vitamins, took him out back, let him finish his food and then went potty, all on lead.

He behaved a lot better and seemed to respect his place in the pack more... I know I have to keep working with him and find the time to train him properly. I just find it weird that he gets aggressive when he has the dish to himself, but if I hand feed him from the dish, he's just a big happy puppy. I'm going to keep hand feeding him and work into putting the dish down as his leave it gets better and see if I can get to the point where I have him eating while my hand is in the dish. I'm not going to make a habit of putting my hands in his food or bothing him while he's eating, but I do want to be able to if I have to... and he has to learn to respect that.

I'm still willing to take advice and going back to square one with his training as I know his attitude is due to my lack of training/improper training.

Just wanted to update and say thanks for the replies.
 

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And Rob, I would love to go down to Fayetteville with Max and had initially planned on taking him every weekend... unfortunately, my financial situation took a turn for the worse and I'm struggling to keep my house right now. So the membership fee and gas each trip is something I can't afford right now. Also why I can't afford a trainer...
 

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Sounds like you're on track. I still do this kind of thing with all my dogs regardless of age. It becomes a ritual, and the dogs respect it.
 

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sounds like you're doing a great job. most people would just make excuses but you took action. pretty impressive. i wouldnt put my hand in his bowl while he's eating to test him though. just walk by and lean down and put a treat in his bowl. if he doesnt growl or tense up or look away or start eating faster when you lean over and put your hand into the bowl to give him a treat then you'll be able to take something away when you need to. putting your hand in the bowl for no reason falls in the same category as messing with his food. why do it if it isnt necessary?

also have you tried a prong collar to help with the pulling? when my pup turned 6-7 months and starting pulling like crazy i just yanked his leash and walked the opposite direction. after a few times he'll be more conscious of your movements. its not a quick fix but it'll help you control your dog more easily.
 
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