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.
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