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I have a 3 yr old blue heeler/shepherd mix, named Oki. I rescued him in December. He was fear aggressive when I got him - would air snap at boyfriend then run and cower in the foyer (tail tuck, slow movements, closed mouth, ears back, "wild" eyes).

Using positive reinforcement, we stopped the air snapping. Now it seems this behavior has leaked over into guarding me - particularly on the couch and in the bedroom. To help combat this, we do not allow him to sit/lay in front of me (guard), he is NEVER allowed on furniture, and he now is crated in the living room at night for bed time instead of sleeping on his dog bed in the bedroom.

That helped - worked his fear response down to a growl if he is uncomfortable. He does not like being "cornered" and sometimes when my boyfriend and I are close in a small room, like cooking in our small kitchen, Oki will pace a little or close his mouth and have "crazy eyes," until we move away from his exit - then open his mouth (smile) and relax, or run out of the room.

For some reason this week he has started guarding high value treats from my boyfriend - growled when he tried to take his Himalayan chew away - which he has NEVER done before. Plan to use pos. reinforcement and offer treats and praise when he "drops it." No biggie - he is a quick learner if we are consistent. It worked like a charm when my boyfriend tried this today.

I AM worried about him guarding me though. And now he likes to "invade" the kitchen. Tonight he was laying in the kitchen in front of his food which he never does. We try to keep him out of the kitchen because it is such a crowded space which makes him likely to growl already, but he sasses my boyfriend when he tells him to leave. If I say "out!" Oki will go with no fuss, boyfriend says "out!" and Oki will leave and respond just as quickly as he would for me, but he growls too. Like it's a retort or something... and he'll nip his hands in a not playful way. Like a quick soft nip, and we say no, but he looks all pleased with himself like it released his anxiety. Eric will pet him and all of a sudden he'll just nip very quickly... looks different from his "I'm excited" nip...

Oki has been wary of men since we've had him. I know nothing about his history. I thought about having my boyfriend hand feed him? He is active in caring for the dog, never too firm or too loud with him since he is a fearful/anxious dog, but firm enough to get the message across. I have no idea where this new stuff is coming from, but my boyfriend says he is afraid to move around the apartment because Oki growls at him. Tonight it was a lot... we say no and take him out of the room, but... his body language is starting to get very scrambled to me...

Any ideas how to help? Do you think giving him a "job" like getting him a backpack might help him let go of his "guard mommy" job?
 

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Also, he is very obedient. Sits and waits to eat until we say "okay," when we go on walks he will stay in the doorway until we say "okay" to invite him out. The only thing he could really do better on is walks - he gets distracted and is very excitable - but once he's spazzed for a few minutes and tires himself some he settles into the walk.

Don't think this is a dominance issue at all - he'll roll over for my boyfriend, show his belly. Wiggles over to him, head down, ears back. Seeks him out for affection and puts his head in his lap.

When he's growling he does slow, deliberate movements, tail tuck, ears back - not at all dominant posturing. The new thing is he just paces doing the slow walk and growls, no more of the other more obvious markers. Getting harder for me to stop the behavior before it starts because his signals are getting more subtle...

No idea where the food guarding is coming from. In fact I think he's getting a little chubby! lol He even lets other dogs take his treats/foods without complaint.

And as an aside: I don't want to use dominance methods. We tried that once and his behaviors became worse. He is obviously a fearful, submissive dog and I will only use positive reinforcement methods.
 

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I'm certainly not qualified to answer this, so I'm going to let someone else take the lead BUT..from everything you wrote, and IMHumbleO, you seem to know what you're doing and it sounds like you're doing-and have done-very well with him. Positive reinforcement is definitely the only way to go with a fearful dog (Malachi is, as well). Being too punishing or rough only exacerbates the issue-like you said. And Kai learns very well with Posreinforcement and consistency like your Oki.
I think chances are pretty good he had an abusive man in his previous life. He probably really WANTS to trust and love your bf (it sure sounds that way from what you wrote) but it will just take some time and effort on your bfs part. I think hand feeding may be a great idea-but I can't be sure. It would certainly build the bond between them. Probably any activity that your bf can engage in with Oki that is relationship building would be a great thing.

I hope you get some good help from some more qualified folks on here, and awesome job with all you've done w your rescue pup so far! It sounds like you are an amazing mama making amazing strides with him! :)
 

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Thanks so much :) it's so hard to read him sometimes. He is a very subtle, sensitive guy.

Forgot to add an important feature to this behavior - it ONLY happens at night. Also leading me to believe he was abused or he was in a household where his female owner was abused. He is very protective of me, but his posture and defensiveness leads me to believe it's fear based.

Just this morning he was "smiling," tongue-lolling out letting Eric rub his belly. He wants so badly to trust him. Even when he growls, later once he calms down he comes over and sits next to Eric and put his head in his lap like he's say sorry... so odd....
 

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No need to thank me-I don't feel like I helped much! Haha.

I can only speak on my experiences as a former vet-tech (less than a year) And my experiences volunteering at my local animal shelter (and being a doggy mom, of course!)..

It just sounds to me like he really, really wants to trust your bf, he's just scared.

You can probably find quite a few archived threads on here that would help, here's just one that you MIGHT find something useful in-just to get you started..

http://www.germanshepherds.com/foru...ession-i-really-dont-know-looking-advice.html

Hopefully you'll get some great answers, as well!
 

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Just a little update. My boyfriend started hand feeding Oki at meal time. All I can say is WOW... this has helped TREMENDOUSLY with his guarding issues.

We also distract him from guarding by offering food rewards or a toy so he does not "hone in" on things to guard me from. *knock on wood* he has not growled at Eric for probably 2 solid weeks now when before it was 2 or 3 days without incident and then it would cycle.

We also make him sit outside the kitchen at meal time - when he is waiting for his food and also when we cook OUR food. This has also cut down on the growling - he knows if he sits right outside the kitchen he will get treats :) so now he is behaving and not trying to sneak into the kitchen when we aren't looking.

All of these things have made things go much smoother and much faster. I can't believe how much of a difference the hand feeding has made though. He is in LOVE with my boyfriend - now he accepts him as part of the family unit and he loves us both equally.

And as an aside - we took him to the dog park a week ago and he went up to 2 men he had never met before and let them pet him! I was stunned! Normally he'll run past people for a "drive-by petting" (women and children only) but he actually STAYED for a decent pat on the head for TWO strange MEN!

In December we'll have had him for one whole year. I am SO pleased with his progress so far... I hope he becomes friendlier as time goes on. Because of his breed mix I don't expect him to be a happy-go-lucky lab, but it would be nice to see him more comfortable with strangers... more aloof than afraid at least.

Thanks so much for listening - sometimes it just helps to hear "you've got this - you're doing the right training" and to hear that other people have been there too. :D
 

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Aaand just for good measure, here's some pictures ;)


This was the day I brought him home :)

Don't worry - just letting him lick the remnants of the empty Greek yogurt container lol

Sunbathing on the patio

World's Cutest Beggar
 

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See? That's awesome! I'm so happy for you guys!
I have YET to hear that hand-feeding didn't help to form a stronger bond between dog and person. So glad it worked for you guys as well...
Isn't it great when the workings of a home run smoothly and everyone is content?? My house may seem chaotic to outsiders, but it's organized chaos to me :) And everyone is happy MOST of the time--which is good in my book!

Oki sure is a cute pup! Handsome guy for sure. He's lucky to have such great parents that love him so much. It sounds like he's coming along nicely--keep up the good work!

and keep me posted!
 

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Thanks!!! I will definitely keep everyone posted :) he's our little work in progress lol. My first rescue and my first dog as an adult so there is a LOT of learning going on!

Thank yooou - he's my handsome guy :wub: It's so funny - we're not quite sure what mix he is, heeler for sure - but I swear there is shepherd. He's very leggy for a heeler, but still very stocky. When he's at a good weight he looks like a lanky shepherd, but when he's a little pudgy he looks more like a heeler. He stacks too if he hears something that catches his attention. And he was twice the size of the pure heelers in his foster home @[email protected]

Works out for me since I really had my heart set on an older mellow shepherd for a first dog. He's a funny bird - that's for sure :)
 

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So awesome to read of your progress. Gives me hope for future dogs if I ever encounter this. He's a handsome one too :)
 

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So awesome to read of your progress. Gives me hope for future dogs if I ever encounter this. He's a handsome one too :)
Thanks :) it is so amazing. I knew he had it in him - he's a love bug at heart. VERY smart and VERY eager to please. I knew if I could just get him to do the behavior I wanted and distract him from his fear behaviors that he would come around. I'm just surprised at how quickly he is learning!

My family had a black lab when I was a kid, and most of my teenage/adult life we had a pug, so having a blue heeler/shepherd is DEFINITELY a change lol. But I liked both breed standards and I wanted a smart, mellow, obedient dog. I looked on petfinder for months before settling on him - I wanted an older mellow boy. I knew I couldn't handle a high drive or high energy dog as a "first dog."

He's younger than I wanted, but so far he's worked out well energy/drive wise :)
 

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UPDATE - somehow Oki got hookworm even though he was on Revolution. I think it may have been when my boyfriend pet him and smeared it a bit that it may have reduced its effectiveness one month...

Anyways, he is now being treated for hookworm and he is on Trifexis since the vet confirmed he is heartworm negative (he was only on Revolution because it was easier on his system until he could be retested after his immiticide shots). We've also changed his diet to Nature's Variety Instinct LID Lamb.

Between the better quality food and getting rid of the hookworms, he has been MUCH happier. Very giddy and bouncy when he wasn't before. He seems much wigglier and friendlier with other people and us.

I think some of this fear aggression and food guarding was coming from the pain he was in with the hookworms - feeling sick made him feel vulnerable like he had to defend himself. He never showed food aggression before a month or so ago, so growling when we took a treat away was a WHOA moment. Think it might've had to do with him feeling like he was hungry all the time because the hookworms were basically eating his food.

He is doing much better now - just minimal pacing/growl-n-run near the bed or if I'm in the tub. Still working on it.

Just hard to keep my boyfriend on it... he keeps stopping the "treatment" because he wants him to be better NOW. Oki was having a particularly bad week after I came back from a trip and I found out my boyfriend had stopped hand feeding. Well - there ya go lol.

3 years of abuse and neglect won't go away with a few weeks of hand feeding. Once boyfriend gets that through his thick skull we should see some more "permanent" progress :rolleyes:

Just wanted to keep you guys with fear aggressive pups in the know. I have learned 1.) get your dog checked out if they have behavioral problems - medical problems make it worse! and 2.) Keep working on their behaviors! Don't stop! lol
 

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So, of course by saying he's doing well I jinxed myself.

Last night there was a bug in the bedroom. I was laying in bed, Eric saw it and went to kill it (it was next to the bed). He hit it with a magazine, which made a loud THWACK. Oki was on the other side of the room, growled and got up and nipped Eric bad in the back of his leg and then ran away. Eric is bruised and a drop of blood... not a "serious" bite, but a HARD, serious heeler nip.

I know Oki thought he was protecting me - he thought Eric hit me because all he heard was the smack near the bed and I was on, and that was enough to set off his protection radar.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can counter-condition him to situations like this? I didn't even expect it - it was over before I knew what even happened. It's hard to know where his threshold is to make sure he doesn't go to guard dog mode... I seem to be the defining factor. If he perceives it as a threat to me, it has to go - in his mind.

But I can't have him making judgement calls of what he considers threatening to me. And I can't have him thinking it's okay to "protect me" from a family member. Does anyone have experience with something like this?
 
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