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Discussion Starter #1
We have a two year old male GSD. We got him when he was about ten weeks and has been in our home with myself, my wife and our 17 year old son. He is the most loved and loving thing you would ever see. My work takes me away for weeks at a time and he spends every minute of every day with my wife. She walks him four to five times a day. She takes him to the field by the house three times a day to play catch. She feeds and cares for him like he was another child of ours. He is our baby.

Since he was old enough to bark he would defend the vehicle and the door very aggressively. We have had a difficult time having friends of our son stop by for this reason. He is very intimidating and very loud. Although to this point it was all more bark than bite, he is avoided by all but one or two of our son’s friends.

About three weeks ago he started growling at our son. It was like just one day he wouldn’t want him in the same room with him. The dog would hide from the boy and he was visibly shaking. We tried to have the boy feed him some of his treats and the dog just would growl at him. We separated the two and it has been hit or miss ever since. Sometimes he would be fine and loving on the boy. Other times he would growl and move towards the boy.

Fast forward another two weeks and he has started the same behavior with the wife. He will love her by kissing her and licking her like only these puppies can do and the next minute growl at her. Several minutes later he would sit next to her and lick her face then start growling at her again.

We LOVE this dog. He has NEVER been mistreated. He is loved, well fed and well exercised. Up until a few weeks ago I would say he is well adjusted. Fiercely protective of the home and when he is in the car but obedient and well behaved.

Now for the bad news. The dog bit our son. Fortunately it was not a bad bite but it wasn’t a nip and he did intend to do harm. He has been to his vet and there appears to be nothing obviously medically wrong with him. We are urgently trying to find an animal behaviorist to meet and hopefully give us an idea of what may be happening. The problem is that there are no openings in our area. My schedule keeps me away for weeks at a time. I cannot leave my home with the dog alone with my wife after he went after the boy. Our choices are limited. We will not rehome the dog and pass this problem onto another that may mistreat him for this horrible behavior. We do not want to put him down as it is an unthinkable thing to do if there is a chance we can figure out what is wrong. I am afraid the unthinkable may be what we need to do.

If anyone can give us information that will help us and our puppy please help.
 

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My quick take on it is that he is 2 now & feeling his oats. But at the same time unsure of himself. (defensive [and testing what he can get away with] yet alternting with shaking.) He has now ramped it up a notch.

It's a hard one to recommend training from a distance. What I would do right off the bat is remove all privileges. I would implement what I call "hard core nothing in life is free". For details on this, I'd google Bill Campbell's "earn-to-learn" - and hope it took you to his website for the good information posted there on this very technique. If nothing showed up on google, I'd go to the library & get his The New Better Behavior in Dogs. book. NOW.

Doggo would loose all privileges and the NILIF/earn-to-learn program would be followed by all members of the family. [In the initial 10 days or so, the dog gets fed, watered, let out & brought in. No eye contact, no rewards, no treats, no attention.] Things like being on the furniture are considered rewards. If he's been sleeping on the bed or on a chair, his butt hits the ground. etc. This is doggie boot camp without a fight.
 

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I agree with that recommendation completely. Your dog is now testing the waters and it's time you pulled the life jacket off and make him sink or swim.

The problem with being the leader is that you are always being tested to see if you still rate being the leader. The dog has to be reminded that he/she is the follower, and NOT the leader.

Some dogs are harder than others to convince of this after they grow up.
 

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The problem with being the leader is that you are always being tested to see if you still rate being the leader. The dog has to be reminded that he/she is the follower, and NOT the leader.
This seems like it is it in a nutshell. Did your son's voice recently get deeper? Maybe he is interpreting that as a change in the structure of the pack. It seems like he think he's the boss when you are not around.

My Belgian Shepherd tested me at the two year mark... would defy commands and get aggressive. Just remain consistent and restrict privileges and that should do the trick in a few days.

Maybe the poor guy is in heat. haha.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you

We appreciate the help. The last thing we want to do is have anyone hurt including the animal. In addition to being heartbroken, my wife is very scared when he comes at her. He is so strong and very capable of serious damage.

What do I do to get him to understand that this is unacceptable behavior. I refuse to hit him. Expecially with an agressive dog, voilence to correct violence doesn't seem the answer.

How do we correct this and immediately get him to understand his attacking will not be tolerated? I can have him on the leash when he does this and when I correct him he looks right through me. He acts like I am not even there.

Yelling "no" no matter how loud or stern seems to have no effect. Pulling him back removes him from reach but he just lunges with more strength and ramps up the ferociousness. I have heard a 50/50 mixture of white vinager and water in a spray bottle onto his snout may help. Any thoughts?
 

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I don't think physical correction is the way to go. Best would be to avoid putting the dog in a situation where he can react.

I'm surprised you said he reacted fearful toward your son first? Is he usually a fearful dog? Are you sure nothing happened? (even something as silly as your son stepping on his tail etc)

If he was my dog I'd be looking into some serious training classes, he seems to have worked out that he can make people afraid of him- which often then makes the dog more reactive because they feel they need to be in charge.
If he isn't neutered I'd be calling for an appointment right now to get him cut. It's not going to make things perfect but after a few weeks he won't have as much testosterone in his system which could help.

Definitely start with "noting in life is free" he sounds like he's had a lovely spoilt life so far.
 

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It may help if you describe in detail the bite incident with your son.

I would have also run a Thyroid test on the dog, as sometimes an out of whack thyroid can cause aggression issues.
 

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Keep in mind when beginning hard core NILIF - which is needed - there may be a temporary increase in the behavior, so be prepared for that.

While in the middle of one of these events, it is hard to remember but do your best to not 'pull back' on your dog, instead to the side. Pulling back will kick in his natural instincts to go forward - exactly where you don't want him to go. Instead, correct to the side and put him off balance.

Post where you are located. Someone may be familiar with an experienced trainer/behaviorist in your area.
 

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Any recent vaccines? Is he on any meds at all?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Great questopns. Please keep them comming. I will answer in order.

We are searching for the book Bill Cambells book and are reading up on NILIF and will be implementing it.

When you say removing the dog. Are we talking crating the dog? If so when? How often? Are we to place him in a room where he is separated from the family? Please explain.

The boy tells us he can not remember anything like stepping on his tail or anything mildly tramatic for the dog? I was with him the first time he showed any signs of agression. The kid doesn't lie. He doesn't even exaggerate. He knows what is at stake. We actually had him scheduled to be nuetered. Our vet while a proponent for nutering for many reasons but curbing agression is not one of them. He recommended taking the 400.00 and seeking the help of a behaviorist. We are doing that this morning. Nutering is not off the table but we hope to get the opinion of the behaviorist and combine that with the advice of our vet.

He has definately been spoiled. Totally spoiled.

I will describe the bite incident after I answer the remaining questions.

Thyroid test? I will discuss this with our vet. We asked about any tests we could run; he said there were none outside the MRI. Which is 4,000.00 and may not show anything. We love him and would do what we can but we cannot afford 4K for a maybe if there are other things we can do to help him.

Pulling ot the side. Makes sense. Will do.

We are in Portland OR.

Biting...
THe boy walked in the door. There is a hallway where the dog sits to watch both doors. When Seig saw the boy he got up and ran towards him growling and snapping. Sam loudly told him "NO: and the dog slowed. I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to the side to let the boy pass. Sam went to the kitchen and the dog to the living room. The dog walked into the kitchen a few minutes later and started growling again. As I moved towards the kitchen the dog lunged for the boy. Sam grabbed him and put his head on the floor. As I reached in to grab him by the collar Sam let go of the dog and he bit his hand. Two holes on his pinky finger to the bone.

Replying to a post above.

I am asking for help and do not mean to offend but defying commands and attacking seem a bit different. Is this a case of simply defying commands and progressed to where we are or something much more?
 

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Definitely make sure you eliminate health reasons.

Any trainer you find needs to be able to give your son and wife their confidence back. I may be reading too much into your comments but it sounds like they are understandably very fearful. If so they need to honestly assess whether they can ever completely put that fear away. A constant tester will never believe you are in charge if you don't believe it. It's mental, not physical.
 

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My bet - "put his head on the floor" is what triggered the bite. You have a hierarchy concious dog who feels his equal or lesser just attempted to pull rank on him. He was protecting his perceived position in the pack.
 

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Agree on the no fear...letting him know we are not fearful and we are in command.

The issue for my wife is that again, I will be leaving for work soon. I am gone from the home overseas for a period of 30 days. This clearly is not something that can be "fixed" by the time I leave for work or even the next few months I am guessing. Leaving her in the home with Sieg alone is a frightening idea.

He is completely current on all vaccines and and his trifexis as well. He is extremely well cared for.

This is by all accounts a switch flipped and completely surprising and disheartening.

Any help is appreciated.
 

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About three weeks ago he started growling at our son. It was like just one day he wouldn’t want him in the same room with him. The dog would hide from the boy and he was visibly shaking. We tried to have the boy feed him some of his treats and the dog just would growl at him. We separated the two and it has been hit or miss ever since. Sometimes he would be fine and loving on the boy. Other times he would growl and move towards the boy.

Fast forward another two weeks and he has started the same behavior with the wife. He will love her by kissing her and licking her like only these puppies can do and the next minute growl at her. Several minutes later he would sit next to her and lick her face then start growling at her again.
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This behavior isn't 'testing the waters'. Testing the waters might involve the dog growling when asked to be removed from the couch. Or when you attempt to remove a toy / food. Not aggressive behavior that has no trigger.
 

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When they did a health eval, did they look for any signs of epilepsy, etc?

Your description of the sort of lightswitch behavior makes me think of something seizure induced, or rage syndrome.

On the other hand, the bite occurred after being pinned to the ground while in an already excited state. Hmmm....
 

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Good luck with the behaviorist later today. There seems to be a disconnect in training theory going on - you say you don't want to hit him because you don't agree with using violence and yet you're telling us about your son pinning him. There's a problem. And also saying that the dog is very spoiled, which is another problem. Hopefully the behaviorist can work with your entire family to get things back on track.
 

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Sorry to hear of this problem. I'm no expert but I have a few thoughts.

Every time one of these threads starts there are always people who say get the thyroid tested. I don't ever recall seeing anyone post a reply saying "Oh, it was his thyroid! We got some medicine and the dog is back to his old self!" Not saying not to do it, just that I'd be real surprised if it anything other than behavioral.

Reading between the lines, I'd say that your dog is testing you. I get the feeling that you have spoiled him (as you admitted) and let him have his way often in areas where many would have chosen to discipline him (such as barking at your son's friends--since when does the dog choose who is welcome in your home?).

You refer to him as "your baby." I respectfully disagree. Babies can't crush your hand with one bite. Babies won't attack your son. This is a dog, an animal, and you and everyone in your family need to realize that and begin to treat him as such.

You don't want to hit him (absolutely correct) but sometimes this attitude translates into a failure on the part of all in the family to be strong leaders --disciplinarians-- to the dog. As he matures he senses this weakness and asserts himself.

He is apparently a strong-willed and dominant male (which is ok) but you have to relate to him as such. NILIF is a great start, but you have to change fundamentally how you relate to him. This doesn't mean that you can't be nice to him, but you have to maintain control--he has to know that even when you are hugging him, it is always, always on your terms.

If he regains his respect for you and your family I suspect he will calm down and accept his rank as last in the pack of 4, and follow your lead on what goes on in your household. Good luck.
 

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By the way, when you have to leave, you cannot and should not leave your wife and son alone with the dog. I don't understand why that is even an option for you. He can maul both before you are back. Are you in contact with the breeder? Ask him if he can at least board him when you are gone. Then your family has an opportunity to see what normal life is like again.
And don't have anyone's face close to the dog's for obvious reasons.
Personally I would give this dog to someone else who can handle him and maybe get another breed. It is very hard for people who treat their animals like babies to suddenly become assertive dog trainers, especially if the dog knows he can take and has taken them on in the past.
 
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