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Hey everyone,

I joined this forum back in 2014 or 2015 when I adopted a 3-4 year old GSD mix (now named Wheelie) from a rescue. I can't find the original post, but in a nutshell, it turned out he had been very badly abused. Someone had smashed the side of his muzzle hard enough to knock out or break several of his teeth, including his upper right canine. He was fine when I met with him, and after the adoption process, he was to go to the rescue's vet the next am for mandatory neuter and checkup.

The vet called the next morning saying that when they had attempted to give Wheelie an injection prior to his surgery, he "tried to take my face off" and she thought I would want to send him back to the rescue instead of continuing on. I decided to continue on.

He was extremely fear reactive and afraid of almost everything. He would vomit just sitting in the car with it not driving at all. With positive reinforcement, I was able to get him used to the car and driving and now he loves to go places. I was in the process of moving from Chicago to rural Washington, which is nice in that we live in the woods and are outdoors in nature a lot. The bad news is because I live so remotely, there was never a lot of resocialization. He is still terrified of loud noises, any fireworks, etc. etc. His Thunder Shirt, Acepromazine, and Trazadone do not really help.

Even more concerning, is that once, several years ago, he bit a friend of mine who had been visiting. It was on day 2, he had been quiet and fine with her up until then but she bent to lace up her boot and he lunged at her and bit her face, drawing blood. After that, I did go to a training specialist, but that person was more of an old school type trainer who advocating using increasingly stringent corrective methods for dogs, which I did not feel would be useful in Wheelie's case. In remote WA where I live, there are not many behaviorist or training options.

Anyway, things have been that way for about three years until I started dating a woman. I was extremely reluctant to have her over to my house at all, and explained in great detail why, but she was undeterred. She came over with a treat for Wheelie, and we did all the "right" things--let him come to her at his own pace, etc. and he seemed to accept her right away. He still exhibit some signs of anxiety when she is over, but he also lays close to her and enjoys being petted and snuggling with her.

That has been going on for awhile, and now she and I are considering blending our household. She has two daughters who are 13 and 14. They have grown up around all sorts of animals and are very keen to meet Wheelie. And here is my dilemma--I am extremely cognizant of the fact he has bitten someone before, and that incident was not when he was seemingly overtly being threatened or anxious.

I was very hesitant to let the woman come into our house and meet him but everything has been fine thus far. However, an adult is far different than children. It may be possible that he has become better in the last three years, but there is no guarantee. We are thinking of introducing him slowly at her house, where Wheelie can go and sniff around and get comfortable and then the kids will come out in a non-threatening or overwhelming manner and leave a treat for him and let him come to them if he feels so inclined.

I realize this is along post, and I have already tried to edit it down to the bare bones. My question is what advice do fellow forum members have for this situation? Because of his rough past before he came to me and the bond we share and have built over the last 4.5 years, I would not want to rehome him to anyone else. Is it possible to ever feel that he would be "safe" around two teenage girls? Even knowing his history, at some point they are going to yell, scream, smack each other, run, etc. etc. Could something like that incite the earlier fear reactive behavior? I am looking forward to hearing what folks here think. Thank you.

Bill B.
 

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Take the introduction very slow. Zero interaction at all and have the children 100% ignore the dog. I’m talking don’t even look at the dog. Also do not have the dog off leash with them. Do things like go on walks all together to build up trust. Take things very slow and cautiously.

Is the dog muzzle trained?

I don’t know your dog, but it is certainly possible that rowdy children may incite a fear response in the dog.
 

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I'm not a trainer nor a seasoned dog owner but my first thought before any introduction would be to buy and positively acclimate you guy to a good quality basket muzzle. Make sure he is 100% comfortable putting on and wearing the muzzle in many areas and scenarios.

And yes, imho, young children playing and doing normal child play and happy running/squealing could set him off but that can set many GSD off with or without special problems and back history. I think with his history, you will always have to take the extra precautions and never take his good behavior for granted.

Get the muzzle and take your time. If it doesn't work out, then you have protected both the children and your dog.

I wish you luck with this
 

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Take it slow. Use baby-gates, separation, and a muzzle. I agree with asking the teenagers to ignore him completely at first. No touch, no talk, and no eye contact. It's good advice in this scenario.

Condition Wheelie to a muzzle and use it any time the girls might have physical contact with him (unbidden or otherwise) to start with.

Take it really slow and don't let Wheelie make a mistake. A secure outdoor kennel and run is another option for when you can not be supervising. The girls are old enough to understand and follow instructions and to leave him alone in the kennel when asked.

I don't think you could or should give him up, but I also think you need to think through the introductions very carefully. It sounds like you are starting a new human family, and you don't want the dog to interfere with what will already be an emotional and challenging (but very rewarding) time.

If you can find a good dog trainer to help guide you, even remotely, that would be helpful. But until then, take zero chances. It is your responsibility to keep the dog and the kids safe. Make sure Wheelie gets one-on-one time with you and plenty of exercise as well.

Good on you for sticking by your dog and congrats on the new relationship.
 

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All the above and realize that you can never let your guard down and trust him, which is tough with teens in the house. FA is the most unpredictable form of aggression IMO. He can do a lot of damage in a flash of a second. I would be hesitant about this plan if I were the mom but love is a powerful thing and can blur good decisions.
 

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Nbdyuknow, you can find your original thread by clicking on your name and then clicking on "other posts". I offer this info also so that others who wish to respond will have a clearer picture of what had gone on with you and your boy.

With this in mind, if your lady friend has not read your original post, I urge you to offer it to her before any introduction to the girls. Even if you have told her everything (as I'm sure you have ) seeing it written may drive home what you have told her. There was a reason why "No children" was written at the top in red on his adoption papers even though you never found out why.

You have kept your dog safe from himself and his agression and that says a lot about you, but also because of your lifestyle. He really hasn't had to change too much because of the solitude that you and he shared. There has been no daily practice of good behavior while under threshold and training to shorten the threshold distance, there has been no daily practice of good behavior from a distance while watching children.

My concern is that no matter how careful you are and how good the girls try to be, something will slip. My concern is that your guy may not show his typical "freeze first then lunge" at this point in his life. He may decide to just lunge. My concern is that since there has been no need of routinely using the muzzle that you purchased in your very first original thread, you may think that just putting it on now for a couple of days will be a good enough acclimation and along with that, you may have forgotten that your guy was able to nip a little through that muzzle.

All I can offer is what I would do if I were you and coming from my standpoint as a parent, crate at all times when the girls are with you.

I don't mean to sound harsh but My first response was prior to reading that very long original thread and the fact that you have been basically working on his issues on your own with the only help being meds from the vet who wanted to euthanize him originally.

Fwiw, I have recently had to come to grips that my guy will never be 100% trust worthy around other dogs. All the work and all of his good behavior I have had to own up to the fact that he is managed well but not changed. I can Trial him successfully near other dogs, I can walk him around town without incident but I can't have my adult children bring their pups over for a visit. Not ever. Maybe with a trainer it could happen but it won't change who he is. The home quarters are to tight for him to be successful and to many uncontrollable variables would exist. Plus I know my limits as painful as this is, I can live with my decision that all pups stay home when the kids visit. You may have a hard decision to make. Make it honestly and without emotional thoughts that enter.

My best wishes to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you very much to everyone who wrote offering their thoughts. It is very stressful for me, both because I obviously am concerned with everyone's safety, and also because I don't want to put Wheelie in a position not to succeed.

We've done some recent work (extreme positive reinforcement) with his Baskerville muzzle, he is relatively comfortable and does not try to remove it. I think the plan is to take things very slowly and be extremely patient. I have a good sense for his body language and can tell when he is feeling very anxious, so I definitely do not want to tax him too much. Of course, there will never be an unsupervised moment.

I love this dog more than anything, he got me through some very difficult times where who knows what would have happened if I did not have him with me to help keep me going. I want to give him every chance to succeed that I can.

Thanks again for all of your comments, I will try and post again with updates as they occur.

Bill B.
 

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I agree take it slow and use a muzzle. A couple of other things:

--Is the dog crate trained? Depending on him, it may or may not help him to sit in a crate and watch the girls just act normal as long as they are instructed to ignore the the dog and have no interaction or staring at him while in the crate.

-consider making an indoor crate or kennel in a quiet, private place ( totally different purpose than above) so the dog can be put away to rest and relax if he is overwhelmed by the kids.

-Don't assume the kids feeding the dog treats even through the muzzle is a good thing. Plenty of dogs will come forward, take the treat, then be very upset at how close they got to the thing they are afraid of and blow up. It is safer for a trusted handler to reward the dog for calm and tolerant behavior at a distance from the kids.

-teach the dog a place command--there are tons of videos on this on youtube. You can use a place command to help the dog know what to do--lay down, relax and mind his own business, when the kids are in the room. I would not allow the kids to acknowledge or approach the dog while on his place, that's his safe spot.

-I agree with total disclosure to the mom if you have not already.

-it's good to me that these kids are teenagers, they are old enough to have a conversation about this and understand rules. BUT...realize how unaware most adults are of what they are doing or not doing, assume that's true of the kids too.

You might consider trying to enlist the help of a veterinary behaviorist--you felt uncomfortable with the punitive training but behaviorists are usually reward based and can prescribe meds that might help. Short of that, a very good CPDT might be able to help you with some good positive reinforcement training if counter conditioning and desensitizing will help in this case.

-I'd be trying to gather information from watching the dog observe the kids---at a safe distance, wearing a leash and a muzzle, to try and get a sense of what the dog thinks about the kids and then you'll know a lot more about what your chances are to pull this off

-remember sometimes dogs act differently with a muzzle and leash on, and he may still be different if you start to phase those things out. Don't be in a hurry to phase those things out.

You can always do something later that you haven't done yet, but you can't take something back once it has happened.
 

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Do the teens have any voice in this decision? And what about their dad, if he is in the picture? How dog-savvy are they? Are they respectful of instructions from their mom? Many teens have a romantic picture of living with a large dog. Just trying to view this from the teens' point of view.
 

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Dogs can muzzle punch a person and it hurt. It’s not a bite but they can hit hard. You may always need to keep him separated from new family members.
 

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Some more to add, work on a "stop" command, of some sort, to use when or if you see Wheelie "ramping up" to possibly bite. I personally like to use something other than just a "no", although certainly I've used this in the past. But a solid "down at distance", maybe a "place" or "climb" command, even just a here, and heel. It will snap the dog out of the mindset fight or flight, and into the working dog mindset. Work on this OB until it is so solid you could throw water on him and he'd still perform. It's your obligation, keeping a dog like this, to train to this level.

Touch command is also great for this. I use this all the time with my dogs. It works great. Just teach the dog to nose your hand when you hold it by your side. Really simple and fast to train.

Sometimes, an agitated dog will get more aggressive if you yell "hey" which is why I like using something different like "here" or "platz" or "touch". I try also to keep my voice very neutral and breezy. It takes practice and training for you (the handler) as well.

This way, if a door is left open and you have an "aww, shoot" moment, you have a rehearsed solution that will de-escalate the situation and lead to a good outcome.

Try doing fun stuff with the girls. A walk (muzzle and leash for the dog) or hike tends to be a nice intro.

And also just a safeguard measure- make sure the girls know how to act if something does go down. Hands at their sides, no eye contact, turn away from the dog, and stand still. It is the rare dog that will attack a person in this position. Maybe the dog will bluff, but unless trained specifically, this is a good way to prevent a serious incident.

All this to say- these are safeguards that you absolutely should make sure are in place, but please muzzle, manage and contain the dog so that you don't get into any sort of dangerous situation with the children. It goes without saying that this could end so badly for everyone involved. Have a serious discussion with your girlfriend and her kids about the dog and lay out the rules very clearly. And double check all to make sure nobody is in danger, every time. I am hoping that the introductions will go smoothly and overtime Wheelie can accept the kids as family, but in the meantime (for months at least) don't take a single chance. The kids must be kept safe, there is no other option.

I've had much success with these techniques... but you have to accept and be up for the challenge and be very consistent. Training doesn't ever stop with a dog like this.
 

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Some more to add, work on a "stop" command, of some sort, to use when or if you see Wheelie "ramping up" to possibly bite. I personally like to use something other than just a "no", although certainly I've used this in the past. But a solid "down at distance", maybe a "place" or "climb" command, even just a here, and heel. It will snap the dog out of the mindset fight or flight, and into the working dog mindset. Work on this OB until it is so solid you could throw water on him and he'd still perform. It's your obligation, keeping a dog like this, to train to this level.

Touch command is also great for this. I use this all the time with my dogs. It works great. Just teach the dog to nose your hand when you hold it by your side. Really simple and fast to train.

Sometimes, an agitated dog will get more aggressive if you yell "hey" which is why I like using something different like "here" or "platz" or "touch". I try also to keep my voice very neutral and breezy. It takes practice and training for you (the handler) as well.

This way, if a door is left open and you have an "aww, shoot" moment, you have a rehearsed solution that will de-escalate the situation and lead to a good outcome.

Try doing fun stuff with the girls. A walk (muzzle and leash for the dog) or hike tends to be a nice intro.

And also just a safeguard measure- make sure the girls know how to act if something does go down. Hands at their sides, no eye contact, turn away from the dog, and stand still. It is the rare dog that will attack a person in this position. Maybe the dog will bluff, but unless trained specifically, this is a good way to prevent a serious incident.

All this to say- these are safeguards that you absolutely should make sure are in place, but please muzzle, manage and contain the dog so that you don't get into any sort of dangerous situation with the children. It goes without saying that this could end so badly for everyone involved. Have a serious discussion with your girlfriend and her kids about the dog and lay out the rules very clearly. And double check all to make sure nobody is in danger, every time. I am hoping that the introductions will go smoothly and overtime Wheelie can accept the kids as family, but in the meantime (for months at least) don't take a single chance. The kids must be kept safe, there is no other option.

I've had much success with these techniques... but you have to accept and be up for the challenge and be very consistent. Training doesn't ever stop with a dog like this.

All good in theory (in red) but once he has the intention to bite, you are already too late. The initial signals predestining a bite are very subtle and the sequence, leading to a bite, only takes a second.
This dog will never be trustworthy. Example at a training center decades ago: a Rottweiler with a bite history was (seemingly) rehabilitated to the point that he could be in public and didn't show any sign of aggression (according to the pros) with strangers. But..when he needed a physical prior to adoption, he bit the vet in the face. To me this shows that you can't always predict the triggers. I realize that the OP's dog is a different case but still...
Wait 5 more years and these teens will probably have fledged. What would be the OP's liability with a dog with a bite history.
 

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Thanks again to everyone who has responded, your posts are very helpful. Here is a brief update:

Brought Wheelie over to the house last evening. He was wearing his muzzle, harness, and leash. The introduction of him to the girls went well, he sniffed and wagged but did not seem overly interested. He was much more keen to explore the house and all the new smells. I held his lead and walked him around the house for a bit. He was not acting anxious or fearful at all, but I could tell after awhile that he was definitely overstimulated by the environment. So, we left and drove back to our house, which is about 1 hr. away.

This made me realize something I had completely overlooked in my concern about setting up the meeting, and that was the unfamiliarity of the new/different house. The next step is to take him over on a day when the girls will not be there, and just let him hang out with me and their mom (who he is very used to and loves) and get acclimated to the environment so he can feel less stimulated before adding in more people. We are trying to go very slowly and carefully to allow him the best chance of success.

For those folks who asked, the girls' mother knows the entire story, as do the girls. They are both animal lovers and used to animals from their 4H work and various projects. That does not mean anyone will be lax or less mindful as we try to make this situation work for everyone.

Again, thanks for all the feedback. He's a good dog, and I am trying to put him in a position to succeed and make sure everyone is safe.

Thanks,

Bill B.
 

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Thanks again to everyone who has responded, your posts are very helpful. Here is a brief update:

Brought Wheelie over to the house last evening. He was wearing his muzzle, harness, and leash. The introduction of him to the girls went well, he sniffed and wagged but did not seem overly interested. He was much more keen to explore the house and all the new smells. I held his lead and walked him around the house for a bit. He was not acting anxious or fearful at all, but I could tell after awhile that he was definitely overstimulated by the environment. So, we left and drove back to our house, which is about 1 hr. away.

This made me realize something I had completely overlooked in my concern about setting up the meeting, and that was the unfamiliarity of the new/different house. The next step is to take him over on a day when the girls will not be there, and just let him hang out with me and their mom (who he is very used to and loves) and get acclimated to the environment so he can feel less stimulated before adding in more people. We are trying to go very slowly and carefully to allow him the best chance of success.

For those folks who asked, the girls' mother knows the entire story, as do the girls. They are both animal lovers and used to animals from their 4H work and various projects. That does not mean anyone will be lax or less mindful as we try to make this situation work for everyone.

Again, thanks for all the feedback. He's a good dog, and I am trying to put him in a position to succeed and make sure everyone is safe.

Thanks,

Bill B.
You obviously have a good attention to detail and are very devoted to your dog. I was able to integrate a rescue with two older kids after he turned out to be a resource guarder and had some other issues and willingness to growl or snap. I was not working and was able to very strictly manage and supervise him. The kids were old enough to understand instructions on what to do and not to do around the dog, they also loved animals and were very motivated to do their part to make it work. That dog became a treasured member of the family and died an old dog of cancer, in our arms. I am sure it helped that his issues were fairly predictable--and ultimately he really did not want to be nasty, he was just sort of behaving impulsively because he didn't know any better. He was really very willing to try acting a different way. I've met dogs where that definitely isn't the case. He was not a fearful dog at all, and when it is fear related I do think it is potentially harder. And lastly, I definitely feel that we just got lucky. We took a huge chance, and it all worked out. It could have gone so different.

Anyway, the first meeting sounds promising, wish you luck with it. Also remember tense leash is no good, leash should always be slack.

Also don't forget that with kids come their friends, who are a whole other story. Really strongly suggest you come up with safe places for this dog in each house unless you are moving in together--- quiet door that can be locked with a crate in it for instance, where the dog can get some peace and rest and/or be kept away from strange new kids.
 

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Hey Everyone,

It's been a little over a year since I posted, so I thought I would provide a brief update on Wheelie and the two teenagers.

(the short version is everything worked out even better than we could have hoped, and everyone is happy.)

We ended up purchasing three of the swing-open baby gates, to create areas which we could close off sections of the house, at the entry hall, the kitchen, and the hall going to the bedrooms. We made sure that Wheelie could see and smell the girls, but only have access to them as controlled by us. For (human) dinners, he sat on the other side of the gate and we had the girls give him treats for sitting, etc. through the gate. He became very acclimated to them quite quickly. We still kept a close eye on things and proceeded with caution, but we probably did not need the gates for more than one or two weeks, even though we kept the "airlock system" for longer.

Fast forward a bit more than a year, and the girls have a dog they love--but are still respectful of his space--and Wheelie has two girls he loves and plays with like he has been around kids his whole life. Of course, every dog and every situation is different. I just wanted to once again thank everyone who offered advice, and to let everyone know of the happy result. "Miracles" can happen!

Thanks,

Bill B. (and Wheelie)
 

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