Dangerous and capable. Severe aggression help.

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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"Stubborn" dogs- don't need- corrections
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 2:10am PST 
Oh goodness. That sounds terrifying. I'm so sorry. ):

The one and only time I've personally dealt with this, was a Basenji/Heeler mix named Zoe. But it happened over toys, not food. She left an awful mark on my back, bruised my arms worse than Lobo does during play, and bit at my face.

But I think Zoe and Atlas were very different in their emotional responses. Zoe simply got over-excited. Atlas sounds like he's guarding resources - comfortable sleeping place and food.

Lobo had some issues with getting him to move, as well. For Lobo, I taught him nose touch, and then moved on to using nose touch to move him. That way, I don't have to touch him at all and none of us are worried(me because I don't want to get bit, and him because he doesn't want to give up a sleeping place).

As far as the food aggression, again, I don't have any personal experience with something this severe. I agree with Lucille; look for a veterinary behaviorist who can better evaluate Atlas.

I truly hope that everything works out for you and Atlas.

Let's play tug!!
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 3:18am PST 
I have to start by asking a really ugly question. What are you really looking for? Are you looking to have people give suggestions so that you can say tried that, that won't work, tried that, and give him away or put him down without feeling guilty? Or do you believe you can commit to management, consistency with all family members, and time and effort to work with him? It takes a lot to work with an aggressive dog. It takes a lot for me to work with my mildly reactive and non dangerous dog, and I don't have a family or a full-time job to balance. I'm certainly not going to judge you for being unwilling to make your family live in fear.

That said, I'll try to give some general advice. First, condition him to a muzzle using high value treats. Stop using "no" or any kind of corrections or negative reinforcement. No shock collars, ecollars, pinch collars, hitting, leash corrections, or any other kind of pain. It jeopardizes your physical safety and sets back your training. If he does something you don't like, ask him for an incompatible behavior, like come or sit. Don't use roll over, as he's unlikely to comply with that when he feels unsafe, and it's likely to make him feel even more vulnerable and fearful. On the management side, make sure that home is a safe place. That might mean taping wax paper over the windows or drawing the curtains, playing soothing classical music or running loud fans. It is virtually impossible to get anywhere with a dog who's reacting all day at home- it causes his stress hormones to be higher and causes a wildly fluctuating threshold. Even something like frustration about seeing squirrels and not being able to chase them can have a large effect on the dog's mood and ability to listen. You may also want to look into an antidepressant or benzo. Make sure you have really good treats with you all the time. My backup treat is a Slim Jim. It's full of garbage, but it doesn't need refrigeration and is an extremely high value treat to most dogs. Natural Balance duck and potato is also good, you cut it up into small pieces, or little pieces of meat or cheese. They should be tiny, and you should slide it directly into his mouth- don't give him the chance to bite or guard.

On the resource guarding, I'd suggest reading the book "Mine!". You'll want to work on that at every mealtime, teaching him that human interference with his food means a tasty treat is coming. Since he has a bite history, start at a great distance and/or with him in the muzzle. Since it's important to slowly increase the intensity, both for his progress and everyone's safety, no one should try to take food out of his mouth, drive him away from something that falls on the floor, etc. You want him to be choosing to turn away from his food bowl to get the treat, not having food forcibly taken from him. If he turns away from dropped food on his own, praise and treat like crazy. If a situation starts to escalate in spite of doing these things, I'd recommend that everyone disengage and ignore him. Stand still, look away, lick your lips and yawn. The looking away, lip licking and yawning say "there is nothing to worry about, I am not threatening you" and the standing still says "making a fuss is not going to work to get what you want or scare people off." Insure your physical safety as first priority, but otherwise start thinking of him as a toddler having a tantrum rather than a vicious beast. When he's calmed down enough to listen to commands, quietly send him to his crate for a timeout for at least half an hour. What he needs most after a reactive episode is a nonstimulating place where he can calm down.

As for the leash reactivity, it's very, very unlikely that it's not fear aggression. Particularly for a dog who reacts more intensely when on leash or otherwise trapped. This is not the behavior of a dog who just likes being dominant. Keep in mind that even a dog who puts on a confident-looking display of lunging and snarling is most likely afraid, but has figured out that a big nasty display makes the scary things go away. I'd get the book Behavior Adjustment Training. The gist is to start with him at a distance from his triggers that won't cause him to react, reward him for calming signals, and teach him to walk away instead of lunging and growling. But the specifics are crucial. When you realize that you are too close to something for him to remain calm, immediately turn around and walk or run away, even if you are dragging him. If he disengages and comes with you willingly, praise and treat like crazy. You can do it even if he lunges and growls- as soon as he stops his display and turns toward you, praise and treat.

Keep in mind that acting chagrined presupposes a certain amount of calm. Many reactive dogs get labeled as stubborn or stupid because they are in fight-or-flight mode, the hindbrain is dominating, and they just can't process the situation. With some dogs, When they're way over threshold, they literally can't hear. They've done studies with brain scans, and after a point, it is not even a choice. The odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that he is not a sociopath who thinks violence is fun, but just a very overwhelemed boy.

"Stubborn" dogs- don't need- corrections
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 3:37am PST 
Smokey, everything you suggested sounds superb. Thank you. (:


Miss- Pig!
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 6:20am PST 
I don't have enough experience to really offer you any advice, but from the little you've said, he sounds quite stressed and insecure. I wouldn't consider him dominant. Resource guarding usually stems from fear, fear of losing that very valuable resource, not dominance. With the other stuff you've said, the aggression towards other dogs, the barking at everything he sees/hears, the clingyness...it all points towards insecurity IMO.

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 9:13am PST 
Smokey's advice is spot on. And I would second looking for a behaviorist to help you.

Cave canis- vigilo omnis
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 9:53am PST 
I recommend a vet check-up to rule out any medical issues, then a qualified behaviorist... But whatever else you do, you need to muzzle your dog, ASAP. You cannot allow him to continue to bite people.

Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 11:30am PST 
I'm sorry if it's not what you want to hear, but I think having him put down would be the kindest thing for him at this point.

The details here are fine for exploring why he might have ended up like this, but in the end the only question that really matters is what is best.

What is best for the dog, what is best for the immediate family, what is best for your extended family and friends, and what is best for the general public.

I don't see where getting a behaviorist to work this is really going to be of any reasonable benefit. You can attempt to retrain his guarding to the gills, to teach him a different response when he encounters food, but the key word there is attempt. And what is the level of liability if you do? What are the odds he could seriously hurt (or worse) someone while you do? Because fact is management is going to be next to impossible here. You cannot control the rest of the world. You have no idea if a mere crumb is going to set him off, you have no idea if/when the cat is going to vomit again, if just the smell of a wrapper or the trash can is going to be enough to trigger him. Heck, what if you forget you have a piece of gum is in your pocket one day? The only thing you know for sure is that he will react and to an extreme degree when he does. It's one thing if a dog hovers over food in an attempt to guard or even just has a sort of space around it that as long as you stay out of you're safe. This guy doesn't seem to have any sort of boundary limit and will literally pursue a perceived threat just to get a bite in.

I think it would be incredibly dangerous to rehome him. Not only that but how bad would you feel if you did, and even with full disclosure and the other party taking extreme management measures, he still bit, maimed, or killed someone else? Full disclosure and the other party openly acknowledging what they are taking on still wouldn't keep you from being sued and potentially losing everything. And when I say everything I mean everything, everything.

I realize many here are gung-ho about rescuing aggressive dogs, but this isn't a chihuahua and you need to be realistic. Resorting to multiple and hard bites after a full on retreat is about as bad as it gets.

I am very sure no would fault you for releasing the dog from his angst and you from any further harm and liability. Sometimes dogs just aren't wired right and that's not your fault. You've offered him far more chances than most would have at this point and you deserve some serious credit for that.

Whatever you decide to do from here I wish you the best.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 11:47am PST 
Hi, OP wave

I will contact my AB rescue contacts for you. I may be able to solicit support for a *breed savvy* (!!!!!, can't say it enough, lol) trainer or behaviorist to work with you.

Save for the fact that he has not killed your cats, this is within the realm of this breed. I don't know if it is a comfort or not, but sometimes it is easier to not feel alone.

I do not mean to add to your worries, but you do need to muzzle him, and this includes when you are not home. It is utterly NOT unheard of in this breed for the dog be fine with the cats, and then one day you come home and the cats are torn apart. I am really sorry to give you that imagery, but it happens and you need to know.

The pivotal question I have for you in this interim....and I know you have owned this breed before so please forgive me if it sounds like I am talking to you like an idiot...how much exercise is your boy getting? I have found a HUGE amount of problematic AB behaviors link to a lack of exercise. If you can describe to me your exercise regime, this will be most helpful.

Most of this sounds like resource guarding type behaviors, linked to the highly protective nature of this rather drive-y breed. This is why you need a breed savvy trainer. They are a high prey drive protection breed, so when they feel they have something to defend, particularly when they are a little pent up to start with, they can react in this way....very strong defensive drive on this breed.

If it is any solace, if he had wanted to really harm someone, by now someone would have ended up in the ER in serious condition. He's highly likely doing what he's doing in a functional, working mode. No offense intended to anyone here, but an AB is an extremely powerful dog with a very, VERY hard bite. If he was not in control of himself, injuries would have been far more severe than they have been. He's just "letting you know" right now. Makes it no less serious, 'natch.

Let's please talk about the exercise if we can. Also, can you let me know his level of training? I am talking about obedience, which obviously he has been schooled for. Just let me know where he is at, what he can do.

You have mentioned, also, that he needs to warm up to strangers. Can you describe this to me more fully? Is he cold or indifferent, or are you actually seeing anxiety or avoidance response?

Ok, that's it for now. We'll see what we can do smile I don't mind Trigger's post, and let me put my cyber hand on your shoulder and say I know your intent is not to find excuses to not stand by your dog. Let's see if we can avoid this.

Your one solace right now....this is not untypical for this breed. Alas, but still....you are not alone. I am in RI, and sometimes head your way. My mom grew up in New Hope. I'll see where things unfold, but am here to help. I adore this breed, but they can become a big problem very fast.

Finally....sorry, but ground covering here....did you get him from a breeder? If you do and have a pedigree or can tell me something about the parents, this will be helpful also.

Edited by author Fri Nov 9, '12 11:53am PST


Woo-woo- whineybutt
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 11:50am PST 
I think.. I'm going to have to agree with Trigger on this..

Hes 3 years old, I feel like this is a very young age to be displaying this behavior. Are you prepared to manage and be on top of him for the next 10 years?
You've also had him since he was a puppy.. So its not like he was beaten/abused or something you don't know bout.. More like bad behavior that continued to escalate. Honestly if it is a case of fear, I'd feel that even attempting to put a muzzle on him will get you bit. A behaviorist is going to have a hard time doing anything unless they witness these episodes and can find something you couldn't.. which would be dangerous especially because once hes in the state of guarding, he seems to be a bit unpredictable.

If you get a behaviorist and get him the training and care he needs, I praise you. Idk what I would do in your situation. If Nare growled/snapped at me I don't think I could look at him the same and I'd be so stressed. It takes a certain kind of person to handle aggressive dogs. hug


Thank you Tiller. You're surely a lot more help than I lol. hail I wish you lived over here on the West Coast!

Edited by author Fri Nov 9, '12 11:54am PST

Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 12:37pm PST 
Take Tiller's offer of help... Euthanasia, in my opinion is the easy route... Yes, sometimes it's for the best but only when you have exhausted all other options and nothing has helped.

If you are willing to put the time and effort into Atlas, there is nothing you can't achieve...

Please, please get help... In any way you can.

You are probably the last hope for Atlas, no rescue would rehome a dog with his behaviour problems, and even in the future if you do have to admit defeat at put him to sleep, at least you can live the rest of your life knowing you did your best and tried your hardest to help him and that's all he or anyone else can ask of you.

Good luck and please, please keep us posted...

Take care x
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