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Dog escalating aggression.

(12 Posts)
shggg245 Tue 31-Jul-18 23:15:14

I'm very worried and upset about my dog. He's a one year old pointer whom we rescued from a breed specific rescue charity. We're had him 4 months and have been attending weekly one to one training ever since. He loves agility and is reactive, but manageable in a controlled environment like the training yard. However out on a walk its a different story.

He's very timid and has recently started biting when he comes across people or tractors whilst out on a walk. He wears a halti harness. He spins on his lead in a frenzy and will bite the handler's arm or leg when we hold him back.

He bit dh on the thigh causing a very nasty, large bruise. Today he bit me on the forearm when I prevented him attacking a tractor, we moved well out of the way but he still went nuts. Its very swollen and hurts like hell.

He appears fit and well but I'm obviously going to take him to the vets to rule out physical stuff. The trainer (who has also nipped) thinks he demonstrates strong guarding instinct and fear aggression. I agree it comes from fear but is now offensive rather than defensive iyswim.

I don't know what else to do apart from getting a muzzle. I'm loathe to give up on him but can't have him biting people. He also bit a farmer who admittedly ignored my advice not to put his hand out, but even so I realise how serious this is.. ..

I'm gutted - we're experienced dog people, he's walked alot and very odediant in the home. It's like he's in a frenzied state of mind and will lash out from sheer frustration.

Any advice would be gratefully received. He's not neutered yet.

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gettingtherequickly Tue 31-Jul-18 23:17:38

I'd suggest neutering and a muzzle, then find a behaviouralist who specialises in fear aggression.
I hope you can get this sorted, it's very stressful for everyone.

shggg245 Tue 31-Jul-18 23:23:45

Thanks I'll do that. I'm conflicted re neutering the vet and trainer said he'd benefit from some testosterone, however, that was before he started biting. Vets first and I'll take it from there. Yes it's awful.

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AvocadosBeforeMortgages Wed 01-Aug-18 00:04:29

Firstly, yes, muzzle him - it is at least an interim solution that will reduce the damage he is able to inflict - and give such farmers a big clue that they shouldn't be trying to touch him! It needs to be a basket style muzzle (not cloth) as it allows the dog to pant, drink and receive treats. A muzzle isn't giving up on the dog, but it keeps everyone safe (including the dog - imagine if the police got involved) while you work on his issues.

Your trainer's advice that the dog is fear aggressive sounds very plausible. The technical term for the dog turning around and biting you would be called redirection - FWIW it's nothing to do with the fact that it's you - it's the fact that you're nearest - my own reactive dog has redirected onto my legs and my suitcase on different occasions!

I know there's a debate around neutering for dogs with issues around fear and anxiety - I haven't looked into it in great detail because DDog came already neutered. However, I believe it's related to lower levels of testosterone causing less confidence - but you'd need to do your own research. I believe there is a temporary / chemical castration option so you can see the effects before committing, but again I have no details. Certainly neutering is not a cure-all as it's sometimes believed to be.

You mention you're walking him on a Halti harness. Is it one of the ones that tightens if the dog pulls? If so, I'd stop using it. Right now, every time the dog sees the trigger, the dog pulls, so the harness tightens, so the dog feels pain / discomfort, so the dog learns to associate the triggers with feeling pain / discomfort, which doesn't improve matters. I would suggest a Perfect Fit harness (or Dogmatic, if you feel you need the added control of a headcollar) instead, as neither tighten.

Taking the dog to the vets to rule out pain as the source of the behaviour - in both humans and dogs, pain can make someone act abnormally.

After that, I would seek a well qualified behaviourist. Anyone (literally anyone) can call themselves a behaviourist, and some of those will make your dog irretrivably worse. So it's important to seek someone who has actually qualified. APBC and CCAB are the most well respected set of qualifications for behaviourists

shggg245 Wed 01-Aug-18 08:23:31

Thanks avocados a very comprehensive answer. I'll keep trying.

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Freezingheart Wed 01-Aug-18 08:34:30

Ok so apologies as this is going to be a semi unhelpful answer (although I am trying to help honest). There was a tv programme recently where people with troublesome pets visited specialists to help them resolve the issue. In the one episode I happened to catch of this programme there was a little terrier who had EXACTLY this problem. I don’t think he’d bitten anyone but did go into an absolutely mad frenzy on walks barking and barking. With the help of specialist training they managed to fix this issue - basically the dog was scared and reacted to everything as though it was a life or death threat. In the same programme was an aggressive parrot. I’ll see if I can remember the programme but wanted to mention as clearly this is causing you issues and you love your dog and maybe it’ll give you some hope, and a direction for help.

fivedogstofeed Wed 01-Aug-18 08:42:16

He's nervous already so neutering could easily make him worse. I am firmly in the neutering camp for all dogs, but not when there is this kind of issue.
A good trainer or behaviourist can definitely help you. A lot of it will be about building confidence - for the dog and you.

NicoAndTheNiners Wed 01-Aug-18 08:43:13

I had my fear aggressive dog chemically castrated for six months to see if it helped or made things worse before comitting. It made no difference but worth a try.

psicat Wed 01-Aug-18 08:44:48

Second everything avocados said. Get him off the halti - that's not the cause of it but it doesn't help. Get a good harness (recommend the Perfect Fit by Dog Games, escape proof!) with two points of a attachment - usually one on back and one on chest. Use a double ended lead or two leads to have the two points of contact. Stops pulling kindly. The Mekuti harness was designed for this specifically but I prefer the strength and design of Perfect Fit.

Muzzle, yes immediately. If he bites someone you could be prosecuted and end up with a criminal record. Introduce the muzzle carefully and it will be no different to him than his lead. Use a basket type muzzle NOT the Mikki muzzles so he can drink/pant and you can give him treats through the gaps. The Blue Cross have good muzzle introduction details on their website. Peanut butter in the end is good 😉

Neutering - normally I'm all for neutering but there has been a lot of interesting info recently how it can make a nervous dog worse. Don't do it until you've spoken to a behaviourist.

And yes tread carefully with looking for a good behaviourist. They must use positive reward based, should come up with a long term plan and if you are ever concerned anything they suggest or do is putting pressure on him then talk to them or walk away. Worse thing for him would be "flooding", basically forcing exposure to something he is fearful of. I don't know a single good behaviourist that uses this but plenty of bad ones - even if they don't know that's what it's called.

Nothing will be a quick fix, anyone who promises that is a fraud. You will have miracle days and days when you have taken 10 steps back but as long as you manage the situation (muzzle, keeping him safe) you can gradually work through this - although he may never be a "normal" dog. I have had very fearful dogs including a very reactive dog due to previous bad treatment. It did take years but we were able to take her pretty much anywhere in the end, she even won some dog shows 😊 but we were always aware of her mood, never put her under pressure and managed the situation around her

Freezingheart Wed 01-Aug-18 08:49:14

shggg245 Wed 01-Aug-18 09:28:11

Thank you - I'm not going to give up without a damn good try.

Don't know his early history, according to the rescue he was bought as a cute pup /accessory by a very inexperienced owner and became destructive so she gave him up to rescue as she had a young child and couldn't cope. Makes me cross that breeders would sell to an inexperienced owner.

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shggg245 Wed 01-Aug-18 09:33:10

Thanks freezingheart I'll check it out.

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