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DavidT

Aggression with no sign of relief

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Hi all,

I'm hoping you can help me as we are running out of ideas, patience and bandaids.

We have a 16 month old male BC who has been desexed. Over the last 4 months we have been having a terrible time with his aggression and behaviour.

I will break this down to his triggers and what we have been doing.

His triggers vary greatly from not letting you open a cupboard door, not let you open the baby gate, not let you pick anything up off the floor, not let you near him when he's around food. He's resource guarding anything from toys, to food, even to guarding a space. There are times when he will simply corner you in a room and if you move he will jump, lunge and bite.

All of the above results in him jumping and nipping / biting having drawn blood a number of times. These bites are often with intent and force. This is regardless if it's myself or my wife, however he tends to attack me more often. This is a daily occurrence to both of us.

We have had to put in a second baby gate to stop him coming into the lounge room otherwise he would jump at the tv, barking at it, nosing it and scratching at it and if we step near him to get him down he will bite. He ignores all our commands when he is in his "zone".

Is currently on 2 different types of meds following multiple sessions with a behaviorist (which the meds were recently changed as the others weren't doing anything), we also have a force free trainer who has been working with him for about 8-10 weeks and whilst he is ok with her, she has been bitten a couple of times, however I think he views her as the lady that come occasionally and always brings treats. If she does something he doesn't like, he will lunge and bit as well.

We also have a 7 month old female lab x BC that contributes a lot to his behaviour. They are friends and play well together (generally... there have been a few fights) but she is always at him, barking, pulling on his scruff, all in a playing sense. If you go to tell her off or take something from her, he will lunge and bite. He does get frustrated with her though when he is trying to have a sleep or rest and she's at him, I think this adds to to anxiety and stress levels.

We are at a loss, every day we are confined to spaces of the house out of fear of being bitten... again.

Any help, advice, experiences or the likes with anything similar are welcomed.

Apologies for the long rant, we are just at our wits end... the last thing we want to do is re-home him (if that's even at all possible) or even worse..... we won't go there.

Thanks all.

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Three words. Put Him Down.

Though there is one word that jumps out  from your story, the "force free" trainer. Does this positive only approach go for your entire interaction with this animal? He is clearly the boss of all of you, and this behavior is pretty much ingrained by now. He even  confines you in spaces in your house, and you let him out of fear of being bitten, that pretty serious. A dog bites me only one single time "with intend and force"; immediately a ton of bricks will come down on his head! Off course one would ideally not let it come to that...

Your story is very detailed about how the dog is pushing everyone around, including the trainer ( bitten multiple times?!) I read nothing about what consequences there are for the dog when he has just bitten someone. 

To be honest, I don't think you have much of a chance to change this dog. You would need imo a rather draconian approach, nothing in life for free, you call the shots. All the shots. All the time. At the moment your dog is the boss in your household. His aggressive behavior will worsen first  when someone will try to put him in his place. And you are afraid of him as it is, even with him doped up. Hence my rather harsh first sentence. I do agree it is not an option to rehome the dog.

EDIT; Looked up your history on the boards, and see you had a topic on this, called "biting". I even posted there arguing for a more corrective approach. Sorry to read things have escalated this way.

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There have been numerous posts on a few threads recently dealing with nipping and biting. Do a search and read those threads. 

First, I will say that although I don't know how long you have had this dog it is clear from what you say that you have allowed this dog to dominate the household for some time and it will be difficult and time consuming to change his behavior. One thing that stands out is that your younger dog is harassing him at times. Stop allowing that. Take the younger dog and put her in a different room, in her crate, or outside when she starts this. You say it is contributing to his stress, so stop allowing it!

Next, I want to ask if you have worked with this dog with a crate. Usually the best way to stop nipping in a young dog is to crate the dog every single time that the dog lunges or nips or bites. But this is something that should be started with the very first time that the dog behaves this way. You don't say what you did at the beginning to curb this behavior, but apparently whatever you did did not work and it would have been better if you had sought help much earlier than this. At this point you have, by lack of correcting the problem, created the dog that you have: a dog who thinks he runs the house and will harm anyone who gets in his way. No need to tell you how dangerous this is, as I suspect you know. I hope you never, ever allow this dog to be in any contact with other people.

Unfortunately, it will take a very long time and a lot of work to change this dog. I am interested to know what techniques the trainer you are working with is suggesting, and how you are implementing them at home.  What are the results of the training you have been doing yourself with this dog? Are you 100% consistent with what you are doing, no matter the time or circumstances?    I wish you the best of luck.

 

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So sorry to hear this has gotten so bad. 

One other thing to think of is whether or not there might be an organic reason for this or contributing to this - for instance, a brain tumor, a vision problem, an unknown pain issue, or a thyroid issue. Any of these things can result in unexpected behavioral changes and/or escalations. 

I have to say that I am fearful for your safety and that of your wife and any other person he could come into contact with, especially should he escape from your house/yard. I agree with Smalahundur that euthanasia might not be out of the question before something tragic happens. 

It is obvious that, for whatever reason, this behavior is ingrained and escalating, in spite of seeking help from a behaviorist and a trainer (who, if she has been bitten multiple times, seems to me to be out of her depth in this case and not capable of dealing with this problem safely). 

As a temporary "fix" while you try to determine what you are going to do, have you considered a humane muzzle? Something like the Baskerville muzzle will allow him to eat and drink, pant and make sounds, but not bite. It has to be properly fitted so that you are ensured it will stay on. Just getting it on might be too dangerous to attempt, though. And I worry about the use of a crate for the same reason - if he is not trained to go into a crate on his own, and leave the crate when released in a mannerly and safe way, you might be putting yourself in a position to be badly hurt just trying to put him in or lure him into the crate, or letting him out. 

I wish you the best in determining what to do but my feeling is that your and your family's safety outweigh this dog's future; he is not a suitable candidate for rehoming *at all* because he has a definite bite history; and he poses a threat to anyone with whom he might come into contact (veterinarians, vet staff, passers-by, and especially children). This dog has learned that his answer to anything that bothers him for whatever reason is to get aggressive and bite - it works and it's become his default. 

I may be wrong but I hate to say it - I think the answer is obvious and you don't have much of a choice, and I wish you did. 

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Sad to say, I agree with Sue and Smalahundur. It would be wrong to re-home him. Knowingly putting other people in danger is not a good thing. 

Putting him down might be the most humane option. (I know I might get jumped on for this.) It seems to me that this dog has little, if any, quality of life. He's fearful to the point of lashing out at his humans repeatedly. He's aggravated by the puppy in the house. He might even be teaching your puppy very bad habits.

From what you write here, you and your family are at repeated risk from this dog. Medications and a trainer are not helpful. If my opinion, that he is lashing out from fear, is indeed fact, then it might be the kindest thing you can do for him. At this point, I believe that it's the safest thing for your family and your other dog. 

If he's not getting better, then he's going to get worse. More fearful, more reactive, more violent and dangerous. This is not a suggestion I make lightly. I can't remember ever advising a person on these boards to put a dog down, except due to extreme illness or old age that has deteriorated the dog's quality of life to an extreme degree.

You have my sympathy for this difficult decision.

Ruth & Gibbs

 

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Thanks to all that have responded.

Some additional info that people have asked. We have had him since he was 8 weeks old, he is crate trained and has been since day 1 of having him. He is fine going into his crate and coming out he is ok as well, no major dramas.

Outside of the house he is a very very different dog. Taking him on walks he is calm and sedate, plays well with other dogs and wouldn't think he is the same animal.

When he was younger we did do a lot of "uh uh's" and "no biting" along with time out when this occured and it curbed a lot of it when he was a pup.

Smalahundur asked what consequences there are for his actions as I hadn't mentioned that... yes, there are certainly negative consequences, the training isn't all rainbows and fairy floss. Once we are able to distract him out of his "phase" for lack of a better term, he is secluded outside, or crated, depending on the situation.

I understand what all of you have said about sending him over the rainbow, but it just breaks my heart to do it knowing that outside of the house (whilst on walks or out and about) he is an amazing dog, yet in the house environment he is fearful and anxious.

 

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23 minutes ago, DavidT said:

Outside of the house he is a very very different dog. Taking him on walks he is calm and sedate, plays well with other dogs and wouldn't think he is the same animal.

This is intriguing. I wouldn't think a dog that is fear/bite aggressive and resource gaurding so much at home would play well with random dogs. Is your other dog with you on these walks? I'm wondering if seperating the two is why you would see a different dog in your problem dog?

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1 hour ago, highway61 said:

This is intriguing. I wouldn't think a dog that is fear/bite aggressive and resource gaurding so much at home would play well with random dogs. Is your other dog with you on these walks? I'm wondering if seperating the two is why you would see a different dog in your problem dog?

That's what makes this very confusing and my hesitance to do anything of drastic action.

They mostly get walked together... ocassionally separate, but mostly together... this is both on leash and off leash (except for the younger one, her recall isn't good enough yet)

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Hi David

I just wanted to offer my take on this and a suggestion (if applicable) - You say the problems started 4 months ago and that your puppy is 7 months old - so the problems started a few weeks after your new puppy joined the household (assuming you got her around 8 weeks old?)  To me it would seem that your boy's problems are rooted in this.  Your boy has been pestered and bothered by the pup and you've allowed her to do this (by the sound of it) to the point where he has lost all faith and trust in you.  He's had to start assuming the leadership role in the house as he didn't see you as doing so.  He even objects to you telling her off now as he sees it as his job! He's at an age, just approaching maturity, when he's very vulnerable to any changes in the pack dynamic.  I had this happen when I lost my old girl who was very much an alpha female.  My young male at 16 months was suddenly floundering - he became reactive to other dogs and people.  It took me a while, I'm embarrassed to admit, to realise that he had picked up on my emotional state and didn't see me as strong enough, so with my old girl gone, he was taking the law into his own paws.  Once I stepped up and proved to him that I was there to protect and lead, he became a different dog.  Very different circumstances I know, but the result is the same - a young dog feeling let down and taking charge.

I'm not going to attempt to try to advise you how to deal with this on your own, I'm no behaviourist!   But I was wondering if (from your spelling) that you're in the UK?  If so, please try to talk to Barbara Sykes at FOSTBC (Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies).  She has worked with many BCs with fear and aggression issues and I think she is the best person to help here.

Best of luck, I hope so much that you manage to work this out

Edited to add that: since my reply this morning, I've had chance to have a look through your previous posts - this has really been bothering me as I hate to see a young dog that people are recommending is best PTS because of fear issues.  It would seem this issue has indeed been building since you introduced Millie, your younger dog.  You've also been advised to try separating them and stopping her pestering him before.  This bullet point from your post in November seems to answer quite a lot - and you yourself wondered at the time....

"What we did notice last night is that Millie was have a bark and snarl at him if he tried to get a toy, or come under the coffee table so he would back off and almost back himself into a corner and stay there. It seemed he was too afraid or too anxious to move as he was afraid of being snarled at again. I’m not sure if the above points are him lashing out because of this?"

YES!!!! if you haven't already done so - stop her - separate them.  Add this to the constant bothering him whilst he's trying to sleep etc and Kobe has been under serious stress.  Your boy has been crying out for you to do something.  A behaviourist feeding him treats once a week isn't EVER going to do anything to help him.  You need to help him get his confidence in you back and you can start by removing the cause of stress from his life.  

I have a young pup and 3 older dogs - the pup is in her crate right now and the others have the run of the house.  She comes out to play with supervision and is never allowed to persist in bothering my others.  It's not their job to defend themselves or teach the pup manners; it's mine to ensure they don't have to

Edited by Dinkle
additional info

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I would suggest contacting his breeder.  There are definitely some behaviors and tendencies that are genetic.  Not saying his are but they should be aware of them no matter what.  Some behaviors are rather typical of a pup, at least at the start -  like jumping, nipping, food guarding...I find when these behaviors are corrected right away they do not develop into an issue.  When not corrected, in the eyes and mind of the puppy, they escalate. When correcting the pup has to feel it is a correction so I look to them to tell me if my correction is effective.  The dog once corrected should say - with behavior - that they know you are unhappy and sorry for doing whatever it is.  I do not find meds helpful, at best they are a bandaid.  I would talk to the breeder then find someone who is experienced with border collies.  Possible contact a border collie rescue to see if someone would be willing to come to your house and give suggestions.

 

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This may be a complex problem. Or, it could be simple but the triggers and causes have not yet been discovered.  I would very highly advise you never to let your dog off leash outside in public. I know you are saying that he is a different dog outside, but a dog who will bite is a dog who will bite. If he bites someone else you are in a world of trouble and so is your dog, as you no doubt know. Please do not take that risk or risk the safety of other people in this way.

If it is something inside your own home that is causing this I would look first to the other dog you have, and for starters I would keep them apart all of the time. I am not saying this will be your life from now on; I know keeping dogs apart in the same household is hard. But how about keeping them strictly apart for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, and see if that makes him relax and if his behavior in any way changes. This would give you a lot of info.  It is necessary for the human beings in the household to make sure no animal is harassing another, and if you remove the dogs from one another completely you may see a difference in behavior. 

What are you doing these days as a consequence for him when he bites or threatens to bite?

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I agree with Denice that you might want to contact the breeder and see if this is something that has been experienced with other pups from this or related litters, the parents, etc. However, you might find the breeder reluctant to admit if that has been the case. Hopefully, the breeder will be totally honest with you. On the other hand, if anyone with pups from that or a similar litter have never given feedback to the breeder, the breeder could honestly be unaware. 

I do wonder if the younger dog is a major contributing factor somehow, just looking at the timing. 

Something I have noticed in certain dogs is that they can be apparently completely relaxed when they are outside and especially unrestrained but when in closer quarters, any form of animosity or fear is much amplified - similar to a dog that responds well to other dogs when off leash but aggressively when on leash and feeling more restricted and therefore more "vulnerable". 

Could there possibly be something new in the house (other than the younger dog) that is a stressor - an appliance that makes a sound (high-pitched, maybe even something you can't hear) for instance - that puts him on edge? Household chemicals? 

Have you considered a vet visit to check out a medical possibility - vision or thyroid? I realize that if it was something like this, it should not be "just in the house" but be a problem outside as well. A vision problem can cause a dog to be reactive in a pre-emptive way - not seeing things clearly may cause a dog to react because he can't see if a movement is a threat or not, and reacts to protect himself (we had a mostly blind dog who could be like this around certain strange dogs because he could not see for himself what their body language was saying). A thyroid problem can cause a dog to be aggressive who otherwise might not be (a family member's dog was an example of this - once on the right thyroid medication, she became much less irritable and snappy). 

The suggestion of contacting Barbara Sykes, who has a well-known history with Border Collies, sounds like a good one. If you are not in position to consult with her, perhaps she could recommend a behaviorist. I don't know how it is done where you are but over here, anyone could hang out a sign calling themself a "Canine Behaviorist" but that doesn't mean they have any reasonable training and/or quaifications. And, as with human therapy, one size does not fit all - if the person you have been seeing has not been able to help, perhaps you need to find a different person to consult, who might be a better match for dealing with your problem. And, most certainly, they should see your dog at home and outside the house, to get the entire picture of what is going on. 

One other thing might simply be that, in the time frame since this behavior started, something (new dog, new appliance, new something, who knows what?) happened and your dog learned that he could protect himself from an imagined fear (losing a resource, an opening door, insecurity with the new and bothersome pup in the house) by using his teeth, and this has become his default. If he is more relaxed outside the house, he may just never have felt the need to respond like this. 

I really feel for you, your wife, and your dog. I am hoping you can find a livable answer to these issues that will make things work well for all of you. In the meantime, I hope no one gets hurt. 

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Only like it at home? Wonder if it is the home dynamics or more environmental (eg the building, a sound driving him crazy that humans can't hear, something chemical). Am wondering if you took him on holiday somewhere for a few days, literally just you and him (no other dog) and followed his usual routine (same meal, exercise, crate and training timings) if he would behave like he does at home or like he does when out. I read something recently about a tea tree oil diffuser causing neurological problems in a pet dog.

Like others have said, it does look from your posts that the problem coincided with getting the new puppy and got worse over time. If you can't get him out of the house and somewhere different for a few days, could you send her somewhere for a few days to see if his behaviour changes without her?

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Thank you all so much for the input... certainly some interesting points and to be honest... a lightbulb moment for me thanks to Dinkle. 

Dinkle, you said "To me it would seem that your boy's problems are rooted in this.  Your boy has been pestered and bothered by the pup and you've allowed her to do this (by the sound of it) to the point where he has lost all faith and trust in you.  He's had to start assuming the leadership role in the house as he didn't see you as doing so.  He even objects to you telling her off now as he sees it as his job! He's at an age, just approaching maturity, when he's very vulnerable to any changes in the pack dynamic."

That to me is a lightbulb moment... and could be a major instigator. When the other dog was a puppy they are so cute and jumpy and mouthy and bitey... but cute and you think it's all in play... but Kobe may not have seen it this way and now his behaviour is taking a leadership role. Thank you so much for that insight... really invaluable.

P.S... no, not from the UK, I'm from Australia.

jami74, you mentioned taking him away or taking the other dog away... this is happening. in 2 weeks we are taking him for a "weekend away", and we are looking to send the other dog to relatives for 2 weeks. This will give us a much better idea of where we stand.

Sue R, you mentioned vet check, yes we have done this, had all is blood tested, thyroid etc looking for abnormalities but all came back normal. Eye sight has been checked and all ok.

Denice, we have been in touch with the breeder and also the owners of his brothers and sisters and none of them are having the same issues.

Again... thank you all so much for your advice!!!

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Good luck David - He's very lucky to have such a great family who are prepared to keep trying and make things right.  It will no doubt take a lot longer to cure the problem than it took for it to start but with patience and understanding I'm sure you'll get there.  And at the end of it you will hopefully have a dog who trusts and respects you and you in turn will have a much stronger understanding and bond with him as a result.

As you're rather a long way from Barbara Sykes...I'd still recommend reading her book 'Understanding and Handling Dog Aggression' - (it's available in e book edition too) even if you are working with another behaviourist - this will give you a great insight.  It's beginning to look like I'm on commission from Barbara!! I'm not! but I do respect what she has achieved and what she continues to do for Border Collies...

keep us posted!

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