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Discussion Starter #1
I need some help with this one...my sweet 2 yr old GSD and I live on a large family farm. My closest neighbors are my parents, two aunts, a cousin and her 13 year old daughter. To give you a bit of history, Gabby is a rescue and has only 3 legs. It seems the missing leg was either shot or became entangled in a tie-out and was neglected until she lost the leg completely. Long story short Gabby is a very gentle loving dog who has completed advanced training, and has her CGC. She is cautious but never aggressive to the UPS guy, Terminix man, or really any one for that matter EXCEPT my cousin's 13 year old daughter. The sight of this mild mannered girl turns Gabby into a snarling ball of terror. She lunges and growls, and bites at her completely ignoring me all the while. Part of the problem, I think is that the route to our house is through the woods, so she comes "out of nowhere" and when I'm out in the yard w/Gabby there's no need for a leash when you're surrounded by 100 acres (She tires out too quickly to run off very far). Her mother can be with her, but Gabby goes straight for the 13 year old. She has 2 dogs of her own and is fairly decent with dogs. I don't think she'd ever hurt one...she claims she wants to be a vet...but the funny thing is that my parents have a 9 year old aussie who used to have the same reaction to this girl. What is going on and how do I correct this???
 

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I really wonder whether the girl teased the dog...
Two dogs having the same reaction to one particular person and OK otherwise - it is suspicious.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I thought the same thing, but if she did I think it was out of ignorance. She is scared now...I think that may have as much to do w/ it as anything. I'm sure they sense her fear. Now my parents dog is fine with her...but that took years.
She does love animals, but I think she can be pretty ignorant about her behavior and how it affects them at times.
Gabby sometimes barks (no aggression, just barking) at kids when we're out and about. Not always, but enough that I figure if she has ever been around them it's not been the best experience for her...
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Regardless of whether she was teased or not, I need to know how to handle/control this at this point...this is a girl who loves to come help me clean, garden, etc. She's family and I can't forbid her to visit...I have talked to her..questioned her about whether she's been coming over to "visit" Gabby when I'm not home (on warm days Gabby stays out in a fenced side yard). She insits she hasn't...
 

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There are plenty of people on this board who are much more knowledgeable about dealing with these issues (I can't wait to see what Chris will say) but my opinion would be that you should first absolutely forbid your cousin's daughter to come unannounced. Maybe you can carry a cell phone so you can be notified wherever you are before she just pops out of the woods?

This is for her protection in case Gabby decides one day to actually bite the girl as well as so you can control how these meetings go. You want to set up visits that are as positive as possible. Have Gabby on a leash and calm, preferably in the house so she can see you allow the girl into your home. Wait until Gabby is calm, then have the girl toss yummy things from a distance and then leave. Gradually reduce the distance between her and the dog and increase the length of these visits. Give lavish praise and treats whenever Gabby is calm/quiet when the girl is around.

Hopefully Gabby will begin to associate the girl with only positive things, but it may take weeks or months depending on your dog. Good luck! My rescued GSD had lots of issues like this when I first got her, so I know how hard it can be.
 

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The only sure fire means of keeping the daughter and Gabby safe is to keep them separated. There are things you can do that may help change Gabby's mind about the girl, but it will take a LOT of time and I would never consider them to be 100% safe around one another.

It is interesting that 2 dogs have had the same reaction to a girl that supposedly loves animals. There is obviously something about her that bothers some dogs. She may be completely innocent, it could be as seemingly benign as something about her smell. But there's something there.

I would also suspect that given Gabby's unknown history, which obviously involved some sort of abuse/neglect, and the fact that she only does this around certain people would indicate that she has some previous bad experiences (possibly teased by kids/teenagers?) and something about your cousin's daughter reminds her of that.

To help Gabby get over this, the advice pinkanml gave is excellent. The only change I'd make is doing it in the house. That may work, or outside may be better. You need to determine what is most comfortable for Gabby. She needs to have many many positive experiences with the girl. Think of it as hard core, person specific socialization. To begin, turn the girl into a treat machine. It is very important though that you do not let the girl get close enough to elicit any anxiety or aggressive reaction from Gabby. So if Gabby goes off on the girl when she's 20ft away, work at first with the girl 25ft away. Have her throw Gabby treats from there, a dozen or so in one session, and then leave. Repeat as often as you can, but keep the sessions short and positive. Over time as Gabby gets more comfortable the threshold at which she gets stressed will decrease and the girl will be able to move closer. Above all, do not get in a hurry and try to progress too quickly. Take it slow. If Gabby has a bad experience or gets pushed too quickly it will mean many steps backward in progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
That's good advice! thanks! I'll definately be giving that a try. pinkanml, Gabby looks quite a bit like your Nico...wonder if she may have some Shiloh blood?? :)
She's about 75lbs and has a gorgeous plush coat.
I'll buy some training treats and we'll try taking it slow. If the girl likes animals the way she claims she'll be ok with putting in some time getting Gabby to know her better. I'll let you know how we progress. Thanks so much!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, yesterday didn't go well at all. Tabby, the 13 year old can't get close enough to throw a treat. Literally THE SIGHT of her sends Gabby of the deep end. How can I assert myself as alpha here? I know that I need to, but don't know how in this situation. Gabby is otherwise a well behaved dog withlittle need for correction. I'm no door mat, so I think she sees me as leader of the pack, but how do I remind her of that in this case?


I've tried to upload her pic onto my profile, but haven't figured out how. If you want to pm me your email address I'll send you some! I have tons! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Just tried to get the pic on there again...we'll see if it works...
 

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I think yelling at or correcting Gabby is going to make this situation worse. She already has a negative association with this girl for some reason and if you turn into the alpha bitch extraordinaire then she will think this girl turns you into a monster too!

I would work from a distance first, treating the girl as if she is scared of her. Keep things really positive and you feed her really high value treats (like cheese or pieces of chicken) for staying calm. You can gradually decrease the distance, making sure never to push Gabby to the point where she freaks out again. So the idea is to slowly desensitize her to the girl and changer her association from negative to positive.

T-touch might also work to help her stay calm.
 

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It really sounds so odd that she would be so upset with her for no reason. Maybe there is some sort hidden health problem that only the dog can detect, like a chemical imbalance?

I agree with Ruth, correction while she is in a berserk state of fear would only make it worse. I've corrected dogs for lunging/snarling, but those were dominant-aggressive type dogs that clearly knew what they were doing and blew me off.

Can you describe the set-up of the meeting a little more? Where did you have it take place, and how far away was Tabby when Gabby first caught sight of her?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
"I think yelling at or correcting Gabby is going to make this situation worse. She already has a negative association with this girl for some reason and if you turn into the alpha bitch extraordinaire then she will think this girl turns you into a monster too! "

That's really not my nature. I'm not a yeller and I don't hit. I was thinking maybe putting her in a "down" or something. Not alpha bitch, just "Hey, follow MY lead"
If anything I err on the side of not being forceful enough. Gabby's had a hard time in the past, and I'm not putting her through anything hardcore.

"T-touch might also work to help her stay calm"----what's T-touch?


...but you think the distance is ok? I was afraid that if I was standing there giving her treats while she freaked out that would be sending the wrong message...
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I don't know that this is fear...she gets really pushy with Tabby...the last time the "met" without Gabby on leash Gabby was biting at her..within inches. Lunging growling, snarling...really scary. It's like she's saying "Go back home, youre not allowed anywhere close to my turf!"
She forced Tabby back toward her own home and away from ours.

Last night I talked w/Tabby and her mom at legnth. told her about our "discussion" and asked for her to help try out the technique we talked about. I drove a bag of cheese crumbles (Gabby's favorite) over so that Tabby could throw them. I told her to start at about 40 paces away...well it's a good thing I had Gabby on leash already, because as soon as Tabby rounded the bend in our driveway Gabby just lost it. They were at least 100ft apart! There is no calming Gabby down until Tabby is well out of sight again...
 

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I wonder what would happen if they left, with a lot of pomp and parade, sumething really yummy (like a burger) packed into something bulky so that she could see it) at the end of the driveway so that Gabby can see them as well as the stuff they left and then leave. After they leave Gabby could inspect and eat the treat. I wonder if this would help her associate them with something good coming her way (as opposed to getting rewarded for being mean). If this were a daily routine, would she start looking forward to their arrival with a yummy meal. I have never tried this myself, I have to admit, just an idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
at this point I'm willing to try just about anything...wish I had Caesar Milan's number !
 

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Maybe you can really crack down on the NILF. That can help both dominance issues, and fear aggression. My girl had both when I got her, and I found that the more she began to recognize me as the alpha bitch, she understood that it was MY job to be on the watch for strangers, to protect HER when she is scared, and that she is to look to me before she reacts to a situation.

It seemed her fear of people (and the aggression that went with it) really diminished as I took on the leadership position, because she trusted that I would handle the stranger, and that all she needed to do was hang back and watch.

Now, she is perfectly neutral with strangers on the street and visitors welcomed into the home, and quite friendly whenever we get new employees at the daycare. She can even be pet in passing by people at PetSmart. Of course, she always gets lots of praise for this!

It will take time, but Gabby can get over this. Just tell that poor girl to hang in there!
 

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I have to start this post as I often do here--that I am no expert compared to many of the posters here.

But have you talked with Tabby/mom to make _sure_ she didn't do anything to Gabby? Maybe something she is now embarrassed to admit, especially since she wants to be a vet when she grows up? Try to convince Tabby that you won't be mad at her and she won't get in trouble. You just need to know so that you can have a starting point with which to work with Gabby.

When I was ~11 we had a beagle stray that we semi-adopted. One winter day I was out playing in the snow. I made a snowball, and being a stupid kid, threw it at my dog. My intentions were just to play but I smacked him in his nose pretty good with the snowball. He ran off and didn't come back until late that night. And he would have nothing to do with me for 3-4 days after that. I've been a dog-lover my whole life and a I certainly didn't mean to hurt him intentionally but that didn't stop me from making a silly decision.

The reaction from Gabby to Tabby just seems too severe and specific for it to be general aggression. It is certainly possibly this girl just sets of a "I'm dangerous" scent/vibe to dogs (which would be very sad for her, given what she claims she wants to do when she grows up), but I would more readily believe Tabby threw something/teased/hurt Gabby when you weren't around and Gabby can't forget/forgive.
 

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Ttouch is a way of relaxing, touching in circular motion training for horses, dogs,etc: http://www.TTouch.com
 
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