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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Ava & Nix

Suburban Farm- Dogs
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:07pm PST 
There's nothing wrong with "taking the easy way out" (not that there is anything even remotely "easy" about having a dog you care for put to sleep) when it involves such severe behavior problems.

This isn't simply hovering over food and showing teeth. From the way you describe these attacks, Atlas means serious business. He's not warning you. He's going straight in to the fight, with the intention to do harm. I have to say, OP, I applaud you for sticking with him even this far, because if one of my own dogs attacked me or someone I love to that degree, that would be it... I'm not the type of person who can work with a dog who I'm honest-to-goodness scared of, and as much as I love my dogs, if one of them attacked me to that degree I would have them put down. I don't believe in rehoming a dog who has shown serious aggression issues like that. It's a huge liability. And the fact that you really believe your dog could potentially kill a person shows that you're more than fully aware of how severe the situation already is.

I've said what I'd personally do in the situation, but rest-assured I'm not going to tell you what to do with your own dog... but I WILL say that if you feel you've exhausted all your efforts--and keep in mind that everyone has their own individual breaking point. One person may feel that you could do more, but if YOU don't feel like there's anything else you can do, then that is YOUR call. No one has the right to fault you or make you feel ashamed for any decisions you make. hug

Edited by author Fri Nov 9, '12 1:14pm PST


Miss- Pig!
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:19pm PST 
As the behaviour seems to suggest fear and/or insecurity i do think there are other options to explore. If you try and deal with the underlying cause you might have something to work from. I agree with contacting a breed savvy behaviourist, either with Tiller's help, or by your own but that's a good starting point. I also agree with conditioning him to a muzzle if he isn't already and using that at all times right now.

Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:24pm PST 
"There's nothing wrong with "taking the easy way out" (not that there is anything even remotely "easy" about having a dog you care for put to sleep) when it involves such severe behavior problems."


After enduring what the OP already has and still sticking by the dog I'd imagine it would be the hardest of all of the options to pursue.

I would never, and I mean NEVER, fault someone for not being able to confront an issue this serious.

I honestly question if I could too, and it would have absolutely nothing to with whether it was "easy" or about the level of love and commitment I have for them in my heart. It's because of that love for them I could let them go and it would be by far one of the hardest things I'd imagine I'd ever have to do. A dog living that life, feeling the need to respond like that though.......there is just no way it's any sort of relaxed or happy existence.


Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:32pm PST 
hug to the OP. You've gotten some great advice here, and if you are determined to keep trying to help Atlas, Tiller's offer to help you sounds wonderful.

I too, am curious about Atlas' breeding. Aggression can be highly genetic and I would like to know if you purchased Atlas from a breeder and if so, if you have contacted that breeder in regard to Atlas' aggression.

Let's play tug!!
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:48pm PST 
Do keep updating, even if to say 'this was a disaster,' people might be able to help you figure out why. Talking to people is crucial for me- almost every day I find some kind of management tool I can use, some way I am being inconsistent, something I can do to make our lives easier, that I am stubbornly putting him in a situation just because it's "normal" and I'm used to doing it, etc, and it's usually by conversations in person or online that I figure it out. Like, for awhile I was running the air conditioner 24-7 because it was loud enough to cover outside noise, which was really expensive, and then it broke. I felt like I was going to lose it if I listened to any more "Classical Music for Dogs," so sometimes I did nothing and just let him bark at noises, then felt guilty about letting him practice bad behavior and stress himself out. A lot of times it meant that doing any exposure that day was a bust, because he would immediately go over threshold at an intensity level I thought he could handle. I wasn't taking into account that barking at the window for half an hour that morning while the maintenance guys mowed the grass changed his threshold. I ended up buying some "cyclone fans" that I found on Amazon, and they are a godsend. If it's hot, I open the front door and put the fan in the doorway, and lock us in the bedroom while it cools off, then move us to the living room and open the window in the bedroom. It's it's cool, I just face them toward the wall. Sometimes books or trainers will tell you to do things that seem impossible, and coming here and interacting with people can be the difference between coming up with a solution that fits your life or getting overwhelmed, feeling guilty, and giving up. Being persistent with my vet led her to prescribe meds and recommend an obedience class at the Humane society. The teacher recommended taking him to visit to get him comfortable with the grounds. Genius!! It took two visits before he would take treats, but when we went for our real class, he did fantastically, even with people constantly invading our personal space. Even if I knew how to teach basic commands, the opportunity to socialize, build confidence, and work on focusing with distractions is wonderful. This experience made me aware of how very important it is to let Smokey walk around and sniff new places before expecting him to pay attention to me or interact with strangers, like at the vet for example. And this is doubly true if there is an onslaught of dozens or hundreds of dog smells. Talking to one of the substitute teachers after class, we talked about desensitization for leaving cues, and I said I think he's desensitized to most of them, but there's a quantum leap when I open the door, even if he seems totally calm. She reminded me that opening the door is not one action- it's a bunch of little actions, from touching the doorknob, turning the doorknob, etc. Duh!! I've given similar advice to other people; why didn't I think of that? I get so focused on how I feel and what I'm trying to accomplish that I lose awareness of what I'm doing and how he's responding. In the car, it's taking out the key, grabbing my purse, turning my body, etc. Her tuning me in to leaving cues also makes me aware that the point he starts to get upset is different based on where we are. When I did a trial at In N Out, he didn't even stand up until I was all the way out of the car. He's used to me parking and eating after going through the drivethru, and I've never gotten out of the car there. At home, he starts to freak out as soon as I park the car. He knows we're getting out, and that there will be cats, other dogs, people carrying stuff, all of which he feels the need to protect our home turf from. Being more aware makes me better at desensitizing him to leaving cues. And generally just not feeling like I am alone makes me emotionally able to keep going and try different things and sometimes figure stuff out on my own- ok, trying to make him pee at the bush right outside the apartment door isn't working because he's trying to protect the house from everyone that walks by. The back side of the complex isn't good because there are barking dogs and stray cats everywhere. But the front lawn seems to be working pretty well right now, so I'll try that. I'm very grateful for the reactive dog community here, at the BAT group on Facebook, and the people I've met through meetup and class.
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:56pm PST 
Smokey and Tiller have given great advice. I, too, wouldn't be so quick to put him down UNLESS you feel it's best for your family, him, and the safety of all others and you simply cannot or don't feel safe trying to work him through it. You WILL NOT be judged for that, here. You will be offered opinions, advice and help, and what you take from it is entirely up to you.

I will, however, say that while my dog was NOT an AB, my dog was TWO years old, showing these severe issues. I managed to work through it with him. But it took TIME, effort and lots and lots of rewards and praise. It took distracting him with a treat while the food dish(or other object) was removed so that he got something BETTER in return. He began to look at me taking things away as "Oh yeah! I'm going to get something even better!" Teaching a really strong Leave It command is always helpful, too. My foster dogs bites were more severe - forcing a couple of people to get stitches. I was the only one who NEVER got bitten by him, even when he had the chance, because I taught him that EVERY calm/good behavior was to be rewarded with something high value. I also NEVER gave him anything that he could guard. He got food from my hands. He got to lick out Kongs that I was holding. Etc. And he had to offer something(such as a sit) to get something in return. Please know that if you feel unsafe, and don't feel you're up to the task of helping him through these issues, you should NOT feel guilty, or ashamed.

We're here if you want to try to work through them, and we're here if you decide to put him to sleep.

That foster dog I had? A year and a half later and he's now adopted by a couple with no children, that can continue to help him move forward in his progress, and he hasn't bitten anyone since before I had him. He learned to bark if he got uncomfortable, instead.

He DOES sound like an insecure, uncomfortable dog.

Please, do take him to the Vet and rule out ANY health issues. My friend was fostering a dog with extreme aggression and very random aggression(she would attack if a wrapper was on the floor that my friend would walk by), and had other behaviors about her that were outright DANGEROUS. My friend is a trainer, who exercised her consistently daily, and managed to work through many of her issues. One day, the dog dropped into a cluster of Grand Mal seizures, and when she took this dog to the Vet, she discovered that the dogs dangerous aggression previously had actually been attributed to Psychomotor seizures. They are rare, but they do exist. I'm not suggesting this possibility just because I have a dog who is epileptic, but because my friend had these SAME behaviors, and then some(snapping at invisible flies, spacing out, etc) with her foster(who she refused to rehome due to the danger). If you would like her contact info, just shoot me a message and I can give you her contact info so you can talk to her about what she did to work through these issues before she had to put Zoey down for her seizures. She won't admit it, but she did progress a lot with Zoey on many of her issues, and managed her without her being a danger to others.

You're not alone. hug
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 1:58pm PST 
Have no argument with that.

I suppose in parts because I am shaded by my childhood dog being very volatile and very serious about it. Part of me looks back and thinks my parents were nuts. Part of me, though, was very grateful. It was this great lesson about responsibility, facing life's challenges and not whining about it. I had always wanted a dog, had one, and this is what he was....and what a loo loo laugh out loud But they stayed the course, found me a great trainer.

I've got no issue with those who part with their aggro dogs, although fairly/ethically they should only euthanize, rather than stress the dog to relocate to a rescue and have who knows what happen. Some rescues are great, some are not so great. But in any event, a very loved pet is also taking space for a breed very much prone in the shelter system and have better pet candidacy than a loved family member gone awry.

Totally feel what you are saying, Trig. Have no issue.

At the same time, I know this breed....this is within the range of normal. And if that scares some.....then GOOD! Dammit, this is why I say have a good match, for some breeds have this range of normal. Giant Schnauzers do. They have the capacity to really mess you up if you go wrong with them. Seen it many times.

With the AB, the striking thing to me is no serious injuries yet. That in itself says something those with smaller dogs or mixes....and I am not digging on anyone there, just saying that this is a breed with an iron trap for a jaw and also a kill instinct. They can do UNFATHOMABLE damage. He "knows what he is doing," in other words in control of himself mentally.

In a family setting with kids and kitty cats? Ok, then you are toeing a pretty serious line. That is where I totally feel you, Trig. You can risk assess, and once you throw in those facts, the balances really can shift. Probably ought to frown

To the OP, if you want to endure, you can. The most pivotal point to me is to learn about his behavior around strangers, which may or may not be unsettling....dependent on what you say.

If you are on an unstable dog, you really need to let him go. No life for him, no life for you. If you are on a stable dog run amuck, you have options, although you are not under obligation to take them.

I am here for you, no matter what direction you need to turn. I have a lot of heart for your breed, and have personally lived with a ginormous dog capable of doing rather significant damage on his whimsy, so I do feel this and the quandaries you face. The bumps and bruises you have endured only mean you've been lucky. So far.

It ain't over- till the fat- kitty sings
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 2:24pm PST 
I'm so sorry you have to go through this. I wish I had any advice to offer. Callie merely mouths in play and I have bruises. AmBullies don't have the demon monster bite of legend, but they ARE strong and have mega mouths.
Is there any local shelter or rescue group or vet that might be able to give you training tips or referral to someone who could help? I wish you the best

It ain't over- till the fat- kitty sings
Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 2:31pm PST 
I just want to add the other consideration-like human teenagers,companion animals can really mess up a family if they're out of control. If it comes to it you have to make the horrendous decision "Am I afraid for my safety if this child/companion animal continues to live here?". Of course you can't euth teenagers...but it might be something you have to weigh down the road

Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 3:08pm PST 
"He has attacked me as well as my other family members. I believe he may permanently disfigure or kill someone."

If he were my dog and that was a possibility I was concerned about, I would have him put to sleep.

Yes, you can put all sorts of training into him, and maybe improve him, but you can NEVER treat him like a normal dog and you will likely always have that worry in the back of your mind. Will you be able to forgive yourself if something like that does happen?

It may sound horrible to some, but consider that your dog has had a good chance at life. There are so many dogs at pounds that are put down daily that are NOT aggressive, and you could give one of them a chance instead and not have to live in fear that someday someone you love will be terribly hurt by this dog.
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