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Thread: Agression

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    Puppy (New Member)

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    HI all,
    I have a 6 year old Pyr mix. She is a pet, but has always had extreme guarding instincts. I have been able to manage it for the most part by not letting strange dogs into our house, and having her wear a basket muzzle when she meets new people. 90% of the people that come into my house she likes, but the other 10% she will lung and growl at. There are no common factors in the people she doesn't like. She has had good obedience training.

    I always keep her on a leash, so if she lunges at someone I have control. This week we were walking our normal route on a 20 foot rope. Every day we see the same guy and I say hello. Some times she barks at him sometimes she doesn't. This week I wasn't paying attention, and when she saw him she pulled on the rope and it broke! She chased him growling and barking. He jumped in his car and she made no contact with him. She felt no remorse when I yelled at her (which is normal) Im sure she thinks she was just guarding her territory. IS THERE ANY WAY TO TEACH HER WHEN TO GUARD AND WHEN NOT TO? I know she will always want to guard, and living by myself I am ok with it a lot of the time. Thanks!

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    Old Dawg (Senior Member) mikelg84's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lunathebear View Post
    IS THERE ANY WAY TO TEACH HER WHEN TO GUARD AND WHEN NOT TO?
    I really don't think so. This is a DNA thing. Think about your DNA. For example, your skin cells express very specific genes to instruct your cells to produce collagen, melanin, etc... which explains why your skin color is one way or the other, or why you have wrinkles or not.

    These dogs have been around for thousands of years and this guarding behavior has been shown to be linked to their DNA.
    Yes, human personality can be modulated by a modification of environmental factors, but we are a lot more complicated creatures than dogs.

    So to answer your question, from what I've seen with my dog and what I have studied in college, I believe that a DNA linked behavior in dogs cannot be modified by human nature. I wish it was as easy as switching the light on and off.

    HOWEVER, what you can do - and I find this very helpful - is understand why your dog acts like that when she sees certain people. My dog has been guarding my house since day 0. She might be sleeping, but her guarding instincts are, in a way, present. She is a barker. A very loud barker. Showing her when there is no need to bark because there in no threat outside, is helping me to control the barking problem tremendously. Making your dog trust you is extremely difficult and it's the area that I am working with my dog right now. Perhaps someone with more experience - a behaviorist? - can help you on this topic. You can't change your dog DNA, but you can teach your dog to trust your words.

    I hope I made sense.

  3. #3
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Jewel's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lunathebear View Post
    She is a pet, but has always had extreme guarding instincts. IS THERE ANY WAY TO TEACH HER WHEN TO GUARD AND WHEN NOT TO?
    Your girl is exhibiting entirely inappropriate behavior. She's reacting to non-threatening situations. That's not normal or acceptable behavior even for guardian dogs. Guardian dogs will protect their charges with their lives but that most certainly doesn't mean they are aggressive dogs.

    Behavior can be modified, to a certain degree. How much you can modify behavior also depends on the methods you use and the time you commit to working with the dog. For certain the first thing I would suggest is she should never be put on a 20 ft leash. She's known to not exercise socially acceptable judgment. By giving her that 20 ft leeway, you are telling her she gets to make her own decisions with that 20 ft. I would venture to guess that what you've been doing has been mostly physically managing her rather than actually teaching her what is acceptable behavior and what isn't. If you are only reacting to her behaving inappropriately, you are allowing her to practice the bad behavior over and over and over. When you react to her behavior with alarm, you are actually validating / reinforcing her bad judgment. That is, she's all riled up, and you react by getting all riled up yourself, so she thinks she's behaving the way you want her to.

    Human aggression is a very serious problem. First thing I would do is shorten that leash. Nothing longer than 6 ft. I would even suggest 4 ft leash. That is not to punish her, but to give you the control you need to react quickly when you are trying to prevent her from going aggressive. If you are not well versed in reading body language, you should start learning immediately. There are books and resources on the internet to show you body language. The key to behavior modification is to prevent the dog from engaging in the bad behavior in the first place. By being able to read body language correction, it allows you to redirect her attention before she goes into aggression mode.

    But I really do think you need a professional to help you with the behavior modification. This absolutely doesn't mean an obedience trainer. Most trainers are not trained in behavior modification. Hopefully SebastiansMom will come in and provide some websites where you may locate proper behaviorist.

    edit to add: My old boy Bro, the one on the right in my avatar pic, exhibited aggression to humans when he was young. That was when I started reading books on dog behavior and I never allowed him to be on long leashes where I could lose control of his behavior. I worked with him for years. By the time he was senior dog, the people who never knew him as a young dog could not imagine that he was ever aggressive. Thus my suggestions here aren't from theory, but rather they are from experience.

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    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    I second the recommendation that you seek the right kind of professional help for you and Luna. I strongly recommend starting with someone from either of these two lists:

    http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org...-directory.php
    http://www.dacvb.org/about/member-directory/

    These are the true experts in animal behavior. For them, the certification process begins with an advanced degree (in most cases a DVM or a PhD) in a related field. Then, they undergo a rigorous fellowship to be eligible for certification. I have worked with the average trainer-type “Behaviorist”, as well as a CAAB. While I found their rates to be comparable, our CAAB was the only person I have worked with who was able to understand my dogs’ behavior and formulate an effective treatment plan.

    If there is not someone on those lists, fear not. Some do offer remote consultations. The last time I checked, the dACVB in Austin, TX did.

    Both of mine are dog aggressive. I use the Freedom Harness with them, and it helps a lot to keep them under control when they see a dog and both want to go batty. I am not a large person, and my dogs are roughly 65 and 115 pounds, so that says a lot.

    https://www.amazon.com/Freedom-No-Pu...005OPZXZ8?th=1

    I also strongly recommend learning to read Luna’s body language. This will help you learn when she is about to lash out at someone so that you can prevent the behavior before it starts. I have found this app to be very helpful:
    http://www.dogdecoder.com

    On a final note, I suggest popping on over to Patricia McConnell’s website. http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/learning-center

    Her books, “The Other End of the Leash” and “For the Love of a Dog” are both fantastic if you are looking to understand Luna better. They are available in print form as well as in e-Book form.
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    Puppy (New Member) Wolfgang's Avatar

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    I will add to Mike's post by saying, this is a guardian dog, that at a point very early in it's breeding, became aggressive. That was then bred out of them, and they turned back to guard dogs without aggression towards humans.

    Perhaps your dog has genetically bounced back in time to the more primitive breed of pyrenees, and is aggressive.

    All posts above me are correct. I only wanted to add the history of the breed. Personally, this breed and genetics, good luck to you. There is hope, but since this dog breed wishes to think on it's own, it will take a lot of work on your part, I believe. (see above advice)

    Pyrs are very loving, intelligent dogs/pups. My newest member amazes me at how smart he is. A six year old has some set-patterns in mind, these things-will take work on your part to break the old habits.

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    Puppy (New Member) Crazydogmom's Avatar

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    Hi all,
    I'm relatively new to this site and have really enjoyed reading all the advice and experience shared by you all. This post caught my eye because I have a 2 y/o Pyrenees mix (Cosmo) that we've had since he was 2 mo/old who is exhibiting similar behavior - does fine about 95% of the time (cuddly, lazy lovable dog) but becomes reactive to (barking, growling, sometimes lungeing at) certain people on walks. He has done well in obedience and was well-socialized to people and dogs as a puppy. In fact, we had been encouraged to have him certified as a therapy dog when this behavior started abruptly one day when he was about 15 mo/old.
    We were out walking and he started barking at one of our neighbors (stranger to him) as she approached. She stopped where she was and then once he had calmed down and was laying in the grass near my feet (opposite side to her), she was able to come close enough for us to chat. We talked for about 15-20 minutes and then for some reason, Cosmo got up and jumped up on her, grabbing her shirt. He didn't actually take a big enough bite to get her arm but it startled me as this was very atypical for him. Since then he's had intermittent instances of barking and lunging at people but we haven't figured out what these people have in common - some are walking, some are jogging, some are old, some young, etc. A couple of weeks ago we were walking on a nature trail and an elderly couple stopped to talk to us and when the man stepped slightly forward, Cosmo let out a little growl and then yipped as though the man had bitten him.
    Just an FYI - we're relatively inexperienced dog owners. We've had trainers come out to walk with us in our neighborhood and he has never had an episode when the trainer is present, nor has he done it when the trainer takes him out to the park or other public places. So we thought it was us. We've tried NILIF and even started attaching him to us by leash in the house and making him "work/obey" for affection. I feel like I've talked to every trainer in our area! I've read Patricia McConnell, watched numerous videos on counterconditioning and have just found it very difficult to set up a controlled situation in order to try to rehab his behavior. I've looked for a behaviorist to help but there are none in our state.
    Does anyone have any ideas about best training method?- i.e. I feel like some people say using negative reinforcement for barking/pulling may make the reactivity worse. However the behavior is infrequent and hard to predict so not sure if we should walk back and forth on the street corner and wait for him to react and then try to counter condition... might take weeks to get him to do it.

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    Puppy (New Member)

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    Crazy Dog Mom,
    This is exactly what I have been dealing with, except I did not have her as a puppy. She was a certified Therapy dog I could take anywhere, and then one day she went after my roommates friend. After that she randomly goes after people (2% of the time), but there is no telling who it going to be. Now when she meet anyone new she wears a basket muzzle because she can't be trusted. Have you found anything that works?

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    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    Crazydogmom,

    I’m going to second what I said before about learning to read body language. It can help you to determine the underlying emotions that are eliciting Cosmo’s reactivity, and help you to prevent future episodes. The DogDecoder app is very helpful, as well as Patricia McConnell’s book, For the Love of a Dog. If you haven’t read it, yet, I highly recommend it.

    The biggest objective in behavior modification isn’t to “correct” the reactive behavior, but instead to change Cosmo’s emotional response to meeting new people, so that he learns that they aren’t scary/frustrating/threatening/etc. enough to warrant the reactive behavior. This works best if you learn what his threshold (amount/intensity of exposure to new people he can tolerate without reacting) is, and work to keep him BELOW threshold while you are teaching him that new people are no big deal. When he goes over threshold, he is so focused on reacting to the scary/frustrating/threatening/etc. person in front of him, that he loses the ability to focus on the counterconditioning exercises. Reading his body language is going to be key in keeping him under threshold.

    I would also recommend keeping a detailed journal of Cosmo’s reactive episodes. Write down as much as you can remember about where you were, what was going on, who Cosmo reacted to, what they were wearing, what they were doing, what they were carrying, etc. What was the weather like? What was your mental state at the time? Were you nervous or upset about anything? What was Cosmo’s behavior like leading up to the incident? This can be helpful in establishing patterns to help you prevent future episodes.

    Although I haven’t personally read it yet, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Grisha Stewart’s book, B.A.T. 2.0. The B.A.T. Program teaches you to empower the dog to make his own decisions in avoiding situations that might provoke reactive behavior. As we all know, Pyrs love to make their own decisions.
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    Puppy (New Member) Crazydogmom's Avatar

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    Thank you for all the advice!
    Just wanted to update y'all and confirm that forceful submission is definitely NOT the way to go.
    Cosmo had an episode this past weekend when we had family in town. He was barking aggressively and obviously fearful of my sister-in-law; actually backed away from hotdogs. I was able to get a trainer to "help" but now I'm worried that it was counterproductive. She used a couple of leash corrections with a prong collar and initially he seemed to respond well at least outwardly - stopped barking and actually allowed "strange" family members to approach and walk him on loose leash and pet him. He even flopped himself down and asked for belly rubs. But.. after the trainer left, he became more aggressive and actually jumped up on my SIL. (It was a really stressful afternoon for everyone.) For a couple of days afterwards, even without any strangers in the house, his behavior continued to be "off" - barking at "nothing", running up to my son and barking at him as though he was a stranger (would only settle after my son would tell him "It's me!"), pacing, etc. Thankfully, he seems to be settling down now.
    I had talked to a different trainer (probably the only one in our area we hadn't yet consulted) who was very assertive, telling me that I should not try to help him with his fearful behavior; that he needed to learn to submit to the pack leader or else we might lose our homeowners' insurance and he would be euthanized.
    I know I need to protect others and I fully intend to use a muzzle when he's around anyone new, crate him, etc. but I know her program is not the right one. Even I was scared of her just listening to her talk.
    I'm continuing to read some of the references posted above but we really need someone to help us put the techniques into play.
    Looking at vet behavioralists in nearby states....I'd rather drive him a few hours away than continue to go from trainer to trainer. I hope they can at least lead us in a different direction that will be less traumatic to him.

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    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Jewel's Avatar

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    Absolutely without doubt those trainers will NOT help Cosmo. They are more likely to push Cosmo down the road for euthanasia faster than anything else.

    Cosmo is showing very over the top stress reactions. You cannot modify stress reactions by forcing the dog into even more stress and pushing him into panic mode. He should have never been forced to walk with the strangers and forced to be pet by strangers that he had clearly communicated he didn't want to have anything to do with.

    Your best option is to consult a behaviorist from the sites that SebastiansMom listed. If in person consult is not workable, go for telephone consult. I would urge to do this sooner rather than later.

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