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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi all, this was about my Belgian Malinois that I got from a reputable breeder in the US. I ended up putting him down just under 10 months old, I realize people may judge me for it, but I believe it was the best thing that could be done. I’m writing this to describe what I did to raise him and hoping that someone could either point out where I went wrong or confirm that he had some brain issues.



I got him at 8 weeks, and did puppy socials (controlled at humane society, with breaks every 5 minutes and we separated with treats/distractions when overstimulated) until 16 weeks as well as puppy obedience and one-on-one training. I had only used positive reinforcement and clicker training and he got 3+ hours of fairly intense exercise (fetch, tug, dog park, running) and several 15 minute training sessions each day. It’s hard to really describe how much attention, time, exercise and love I gave him. He was a very smart and kind dog in so many ways.

He displayed, even at 10 weeks, a ‘snap’ in behavior where he would be happy and playful then turn to relentless biting. I could see the signs of it literally less than 2 seconds before it happened; happy then he would close his mouth, get still and side-eyed and lick his snout. This was somewhat rare to start but it became associated typically with girls/women but not limited to that by any means. It was always when he would be getting pet by someone and they would stop, he would typically lunge for a hand.

I socialized him with other dogs, and people; but perhaps too much. At 10 weeks I started introducing him to plenty of people during walks and potty breaks when I brought him into my office at school. Getting lifted up by anyone but me would prompt a tantrum so that ceased; however we reintroduced it slowly with treats for slowly being picked up but never fully allowed anyone else to pick him up. Anytime he would get overstimulated or have to be removed from a scenario, he would bite at anyone/dog he could.

The final incident was when I got back home from a summer internship. Before the summer I was living with my parents and my mom had helped raise him. Two nights back, he was getting pet by my mom; she was down at his level, head next to head and scratching his neck/ears as he always loved. I was sitting a foot away and saw his demeanor change as previously described and he went for my mom’s neck. I wasn’t able to do or say anything before it happened and he had so many great interactions with my mom and he seemed to be improving. I was able to get him off in an instant but she still had to go to the ER and got numerous stitches and he ripped her earring out. I took him to the emergency vet and put him down that night and did the post-mortem rabies test. Prior incidences weren’t a bite; they were mouthing and lunging but not biting down like he did.

I guess I’m wondering if it’s just that he was dealt a bad hand? He had a somewhat larger head than his siblings and I wonder in retrospect if it was a tumor; I’ve heard about that age is when brain tumors can exhibit behavioral changes? Did I overly stimulate him? I guess it’s really hard to describe; I raised him in a loving environment that should have made him confident, but he seemed to have a downright evil side to him. I suspect most will suggest fear aggression based upon afraid of being over handled. He had quite good ‘bite sense’ of not chomping down too hard when playing with humans or dogs.
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you’ve said a lot and i’m sorry for your loss as well as what your mom had to endure, but this really isn’t enough info.

why’d you choose the breed, what’s your experience level and/or previous exposure to the breed, where was he acquired, what’s his pedigree, what type of professional breed specific guidance did you have, did the breeder have an opinion at any point, were they contacted?

i mean, there are many things that i wonder about.... why did strangers need to pick up your puppy? what does “seemed to be improving” with your mom mean? it doesn’t sound like a dog she should have been head to head with...

again - too many unknown factors.

he was a handsome guy.
 

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@Benevolence

IMO, with the limited info, this was waaaay too much dog for you. If this was a reputable breeder not sure why they placed this pup with you.

I don't blame the dog...sounds like an excellent dog. This is another case of lack of leadership position and a dog not matched to the skill/experience of handler.

Further, you used only positive training with no corrections.

Sorry to tell you, this is not the dogs fault.
 

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What Fodder said.

I am not sure why your mother felt a need to get down and in the face of a problem dog. Her being bit is not the least bit surprising and is not uncommon among dogs of any breed. There is a reason that people tell you to never put your face in a dog's face. Nothing new about that piece of advice.

And really not sure why you felt that other people need to pick up your dog. Once again, I would have to say that your dog's response was normal dog behavior. I can see where a dog would react badly and bite.

I had an acquaintance that was a Chihuahua person. Sometimes she stunned me with bits of valuable dog knowledge that I did not expect from someone that is not a dog nerd. Anyhow, she once explained to me that Chihuahuas were often little poopheads and aggressive with people because people were always trying to pick them up and that the Chis essentially felt that they had no control of their bodies and this created the aggression. I have no clue whether that is true or not, but I can easily see where endless random people trying to pick anyone of my dogs up would provoke an aggressive act of some kind.

I am really not reading anything odd or aggressive from the information that you have provided. If anything, I am reading a mismatch of breed vs your expectations.
 

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I’ve read your post again and just wanted to add that I also don’t take away any signs of fear aggression just from what you’ve described.

If you look at it this way... person picks up puppy, puppy doesn’t want to be held so he throws tantrum, person puts down puppy, puppy wins. tantrums work.

Said puppy gets a little older... (and I’m assuming...) gets overstimulated and rowdy at the dog park, you step in to control the situation, grab puppy by the collar, puppy acts out by lunging and snapping and being a jerk because this has worked in the past.

Agree with the poster that mentioned lack of leadership... it’s a strong and intelligent breed - many of the well bred ones aren’t suited for novice handlers and wouldn’t thrive in most pet homes. Their popularity is increasing however... resulting in a lot of unstable dogs, calm/soft/easy going dogs (watered down for the pet market), or good dogs that are “too much” dog for where they end up.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I’ll try to not be defensive about this and I appreciate the input. To clarify, in the incident, my mom was sitting down petting the dog, not picking him up or any inclination of it. She spent many hours training and raising him as well. She had worked with obedience with him and had pet him like that countless times. We were trying to get him to be stable and social around people and dogs before introducing any bite work or more advanced training.

Perhaps I didnt explain the ‘picking up’ thing correctly, that was noticed and stopped by 12 weeks; I didn’t treat him like a toy dog. Sometimes it was needed for potty training or to remove him from a situation that was not his fault. He would run up and sit in our laps any chance he got. He also did really well with other dogs and was able to play in a respectful way. I didn’t ‘let him loose’ at the dog park, I found individual dogs for him to socialize and play with in an effort to not have him be dog aggressive. I did correct him and I didn’t let his aggression change the outcome in individual events.

My intentions with him were to do agility and schutzhund and see where he worked best. He also needed to be a dog in the family first; I don’t think that was asking too much, plenty of the dogs out of the litter and others from the breeder were working and stayed in a family, while some were in police work. I had the pedigree for the past 4 generations saw the health tests. I also visited the breeder’s place; plenty of well socialized dogs.

I realize the culture of this forum is to blame the owner first, and I understand. I did try to do my research and spent several years researching breeders and training techniques (obedience and working). I’ve watched countless videos and read books on training as well as worked with 3 trainers with him. We’ve had Akitas, Collies, border collies, cockers, GSD, Weimaraner. I’ve done obedience training with them. We’ve had extremely fearful dogs from rescues that we’ve worked with and I have experienced fear aggression several times and worked through it.

I guess it comes down to a dog biting a person without doing anything to trigger it that I could see and I was asking if people had input on specific things that I could have done better. In retrospect, I feel stupid for allowing that situation to be possible but anything before had clear triggers that I could associate with and learn to avoid or work to improve upon.
 

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I’ll try to not be defensive about this and I appreciate the input. To clarify, in the incident, my mom was sitting down petting the dog, not picking him up or any inclination of it. She spent many hours training and raising him as well. She had worked with obedience with him and had pet him like that countless times. We were trying to get him to be stable and social around people and dogs before introducing any bite work or more advanced training.

Perhaps I didnt explain the ‘picking up’ thing correctly, that was noticed and stopped by 12 weeks; I didn’t treat him like a toy dog. Sometimes it was needed for potty training or to remove him from a situation that was not his fault. He would run up and sit in our laps any chance he got. He also did really well with other dogs and was able to play in a respectful way. I didn’t ‘let him loose’ at the dog park, I found individual dogs for him to socialize and play with in an effort to not have him be dog aggressive. I did correct him and I didn’t let his aggression change the outcome in individual events.

My intentions with him were to do agility and schutzhund and see where he worked best. He also needed to be a dog in the family first; I don’t think that was asking too much, plenty of the dogs out of the litter and others from the breeder were working and stayed in a family, while some were in police work. I had the pedigree for the past 4 generations saw the health tests. I also visited the breeder’s place; plenty of well socialized dogs.

I realize the culture of this forum is to blame the owner first, and I understand. I did try to do my research and spent several years researching breeders and training techniques (obedience and working). I’ve watched countless videos and read books on training as well as worked with 3 trainers with him. We’ve had Akitas, Collies, border collies, cockers, GSD, Weimaraner. I’ve done obedience training with them. We’ve had extremely fearful dogs from rescues that we’ve worked with and I have experienced fear aggression several times and worked through it.

I guess it comes down to a dog biting a person without doing anything to trigger it that I could see and I was asking if people had input on specific things that I could have done better. In retrospect, I feel stupid for allowing that situation to be possible but anything before had clear triggers that I could associate with and learn to avoid or work to improve upon.
You may not have seen the dog's signs and you may not understand your dog's triggers. However, something triggered him.

Positive only training is NOT good... especially for strong dogs. Look for balanced training. Establishing leadership is THE most important thing. All dogs should be raised as if they have the potential for handler aggression.
Your dog was just starting to mature and show his real self.

I am not trying to rag on you. It is, what it is. And it is almost ALWAYS not the dogs fault but rather the humans.

The sooner people start taking personal responsibility the sooner there will be less dogs sent to shelters or put down.



"We feel the vast majority of the people who email us don't have dominant dogs but rather they have dogs that have never learned rules. For lack of a better description I call them dogs that have never learned 'pack structure rules'."

 

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I’ll try to not be defensive about this and I appreciate the input. To clarify, in the incident, my mom was sitting down petting the dog, not picking him up or any inclination of it. She spent many hours training and raising him as well. She had worked with obedience with him and had pet him like that countless times. We were trying to get him to be stable and social around people and dogs before introducing any bite work or more advanced training.

Perhaps I didnt explain the ‘picking up’ thing correctly, that was noticed and stopped by 12 weeks; I didn’t treat him like a toy dog. Sometimes it was needed for potty training or to remove him from a situation that was not his fault. He would run up and sit in our laps any chance he got. He also did really well with other dogs and was able to play in a respectful way. I didn’t ‘let him loose’ at the dog park, I found individual dogs for him to socialize and play with in an effort to not have him be dog aggressive. I did correct him and I didn’t let his aggression change the outcome in individual events.

My intentions with him were to do agility and schutzhund and see where he worked best. He also needed to be a dog in the family first; I don’t think that was asking too much, plenty of the dogs out of the litter and others from the breeder were working and stayed in a family, while some were in police work. I had the pedigree for the past 4 generations saw the health tests. I also visited the breeder’s place; plenty of well socialized dogs.

I realize the culture of this forum is to blame the owner first, and I understand. I did try to do my research and spent several years researching breeders and training techniques (obedience and working). I’ve watched countless videos and read books on training as well as worked with 3 trainers with him. We’ve had Akitas, Collies, border collies, cockers, GSD, Weimaraner. I’ve done obedience training with them. We’ve had extremely fearful dogs from rescues that we’ve worked with and I have experienced fear aggression several times and worked through it.

I guess it comes down to a dog biting a person without doing anything to trigger it that I could see and I was asking if people had input on specific things that I could have done better. In retrospect, I feel stupid for allowing that situation to be possible but anything before had clear triggers that I could associate with and learn to avoid or work to improve upon.
I don't think this is a healthy or productive path to go down. We don't know you, don't know your dog and didn't see the behaviors. I'm sorry for you, your mom and the dog. It sounds like maybe you weren't properly coached in your training. It sounds like maybe a lot of dog for you. It sounds like maybe the breeder over estimated your ability.
What did your vet think? Or your trainers?
Playing this what if game is not a good choice. What's done is done and we live with it, learn from it and carry on.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Fair enough, I suppose it’s hard to describe enough for an unbiased perspective on the situation, training, and his life. Trainers thought that was an unprovoked situation and sometimes it’s a bit of a roll of the dice. I suppose I was/am frustrated because the exact thing I tried to plan to not happen, did happen. I feel that I put in the effort and was proactive but it didn’t work out, meanwhile, I feel that others with BMs did much less work but had fine dogs that did great in families. I’ll let it go.

Thanks RT. That does make sense.
 

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Fair enough, I suppose it’s hard to describe enough for an unbiased perspective on the situation, training, and his life. Trainers thought that was an unprovoked situation and sometimes it’s a bit of a roll of the dice. I suppose I was/am frustrated because the exact thing I tried to plan to not happen, did happen. I feel that I put in the effort and was proactive but it didn’t work out, meanwhile, I feel that others with BMs did much less work but had fine dogs that did great in families. I’ll let it go.

Thanks RT. That does make sense.
" I feel that others with BMs did much less work but had fine dogs that did great in families."

Maybe you had the best dog :)

Seriously though, you must feel terrible about this and I'm sorry for your loss.

One thing I have learned (and I'm no pro- actually you could call me a newbie), is that even many so called trainers don't know jack about dogs - Victoria Stillwell is one

btw ... I do own a, genetically, handler aggressive dog with dominant traits, and they require more knowledge (not rocket science though) ... but they make the best dogs IMO
 

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There used to be a police K9 officer who posted fairly frequently on his forum, who had a BM police dog no other officer wanted due to his handler aggression. When frustrated, he would turn and bite his handler. Eventually, the officer was able to figure out how to correct this (sorry, I forget the details!) and make an excellent patrol dog out of him.

If anyone can help dig up those old threads, it may give the OP some understanding of what was going on with his dog.

BM's bite...a LOT! It's part of the breed. They can be a LOT of dog. Strong breeds do need balanced training, with corrections. They are not for everyone, and has been said above, many trainers do not understand how to work with them.
 

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A dog out of a litter with police dogs in it doesn't belong in an inexperienced home. Period.

The level of drive and willingness to bite in a good police dog is something that most people have never experienced. Your mom shouldn't have been near his gave if she was unable to see the same signs you had picked up.

These are not pet dogs. They require experience just to handle, let alone raise and properly socialize. They are as smart as any breed and have natural instincts towards dealing with any situation using their mouth.

No one here can say for sure that your dog did or didn't have neurological problems.

I'm sorry for your loss and the trauma your mother experienced. If you choose to get another working dog to keep as a pet, I suggest you get heavily involved in a club, before you get the dog, and learn about handling them.
 

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These are not pet dogs. They require experience just to handle, let alone raise and properly socialize.
But see, this is part of the problem because they are becoming pet dogs.

Lately I’ve been coming across these relatively calm, easy going, manageable BM’s and hearing comments from first time dog owners like “S/he is so much easier than I was expecting” or people describing their dogs as high drive / high energy when what I’m observing is relatively low for the breed... etc, because people have happened upon these easier dogs that have been watered down for the pet market. This creates the illusion that they’re suitable for pet homes with just “a little more work” than a Lab.

So, to go about things the right way... you look for a reputable breeder (not realizing that someone breeding to standard is not breeding the dogs you see in your neighborhood Petsmart classes). This is where I feel like we depend on the breeders to keep these dogs in the right hands. But, we all know how well that’s worked out with the GSD.

I found a stray Mal in 2006, turned him in to the pound but wanted to reach out to a breed specific rescue to give them a heads up... Google turned up 0 results. Oh how times have changed, California is now considered a hot spot.

OP, Just to be clear, I’m not directing any of my opinions at or saying that they apply to you or your experience... I understand that it’s a sensitive topic, these have just been my observations in my area, which may or may not be relevant, but nonetheless an additional perspective. I too have gotten in over my head and made mistakes too - we all start somewhere. I can only dream of how lovely my first GSD would have been if I had her now and not 20yrs ago.
 

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There used to be a police K9 officer who posted fairly frequently on his forum, who had a BM police dog no other officer wanted due to his handler aggression. When frustrated, he would turn and bite his handler. Eventually, the officer was able to figure out how to correct this (sorry, I forget the details!) and make an excellent patrol dog out of him.

If anyone can help dig up those old threads, it may give the OP some understanding of what was going on with his dog.

BM's bite...a LOT! It's part of the breed. They can be a LOT of dog. Strong breeds do need balanced training, with corrections. They are not for everyone, and has been said above, many trainers do not understand how to work with them.
This one?
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
I realize this is getting further from the original topic. His specific parents weren’t putting out police dogs. When we were working on training, he was extremely intense and focused. I was quite proud of where we got at such a young age and I put in an immense amount of time into training him. It seems that a breed/dog should be able to recognize very basic situations he has been in and when not try to kill someone. There were no triggers, just the change in behavior I saw that would occur once in a very rare occasion and I would only see the sign a second beforehand. Almost always he initiated social contact and was very pleasant and playful. The behavior change without a trigger was why I thought a mental issue and why I started this thread; to see if that had been observed in other scenarios. In retrospect it was stupid to allow the scenario to be possible after seeing the instance the first time, but I thought the work with trainers fixed it.

Meanwhile, the numerous ‘firm/alpha’ trainers that push firm correction, that I avoided, had GSD’s of their own that were so fear aggressive/resource guarding that you couldn’t acknowledge the dog until you had been in their house for 30 minutes. They were telling me to alpha role the puppy at 8 weeks and I nope’d out of those situations.

He was put down last August, and I was just revisiting the topic in my mind because I thought maybe I could come at it with a bit more clarity. I now have, through a relationship, a GSD that is one of the most intelligent and sweet dogs I’ve ever met. I guess I’ll end my posting there and try to learn more.
 

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Benevolence, you were right to 'nope' out of those classes that told you to alpha roll your pup at 8 weeks! Ugggh...sorry to hear there are still trainers out there that do that!

Corrections should NOT be abusive! They can be as simple as a firm 'NO' or a gentle correction with the leash.

I rescued a GSD that sounds a bit like your mal. She was dog aggressive, and would be wanting to play with the dog one minute, then in a flash, something would change, and she'd attack. You'd have about 2 seconds warning before it happened. I was told by several trainers that she COULD be fixed, but it would take time and more money that I had to spare. One of them said she was just the sort of GSD he'd want - she had no 'quit' to her when she felt threatened by another dog. (No, he didn't offer to take her off my hands, though I gladly would have given her to him! :rolleyes: )

She escaped from her enclosure one day, when a gate didn't close properly, and killed a small dog. I had her put down. It just wasn't worth the risk. :(

It's hard to judge a situation from a distance, but it could be you made the right decision. Assuming this dog COULD be 'fixed' it was not something that you were able to do. This dog needed a very experienced trained that understood just what was going on with him, and it would have been wrong for you to pass the dog on to someone who didn't have the right skill set, knowing he could seriously hurt someone.
 

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It seems that a breed/dog should be able to recognize very basic situations he has been in and when not try to kill someone.
My 2 cents...

You are absolutely right! A stable dog, a dog that is good for military or police work included!, would/should never ever do something like this!

You were ABSOLUTELY right to put the dog down IMMEDIATELY!

A dog out of a litter with police dogs in it doesn't belong in an inexperienced home. Period.

The level of drive and willingness to bite in a good police dog is something that most people have never experienced. Your mom shouldn't have been near his gave if she was unable to see the same signs you had picked up.
David, willingness yes, but this was just bad genetics! Even a hard ass dog, hard dog, or real dog, as some talk about, should not EVER turn and injure a family member without some sort of provocation!

No, this was was an unstable dog. END Of both, dog (correctly!), and problem!

I have worked with a few "hard" dogs who will, in an excited state, bite at me. It's all good, that's understandable!

But a dog that attacks someone they they know well??? For stopping petting, or some other minor thing?

That's unstable, and putting this dog down was the right decision!!!
 

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A good friend of mine, did 8 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan working dogs...all Malinois.

He fell in love with the breed, so that's what he wanted when he got home.

He told me, "you know how you see all of these videos of a person in coveralls running through a Malinois puppy area, and the puppies all latch on to him? He said, "I picked the one puppy that didn't"!!!

There you have it!
 
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