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Chris B

Bella just snapped at a childs face.... comments appreciated

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We have just got back from the dog park where Bella leapt at a childs (about 10 years old) face. Luckly she didn't connect and the parents were understanding, but it could have been much worse.

This is what happened > She had just finished exercise and was flat out on the field having a rest. A couple with a child, and another BC were walking past and decided to talk to us. The mother bent down to pet Bella, Bella didn't look nervous and everything look fine. The child slowly put his hand towards Bella and she lept for his face missing by an inch. The child was shocked but thankfully unhurt.

Bella is nearly 9 months old, and she has allways had a fear of unknown people. Until now the only place she was fully relaxed was off leash at the dog park. Walking round the sub division, she is stressed whenever a stranger passes especially a child.

We do not have children, or know many people with them so her exposure to them is very small (maybe half of the problem)

We have tried the treat method to distract her and it works to an extent, but sometimes things happen too quick to stop.

After this we now know to tell people to not touch her. It's not worth the risk of seeing what happens.

 

Some people have told me she will grow out of her fear of strangers. Is this true or will it get much worse?

We want to get this nipped in the bud straight away. We don't want to constantly be worried about what our dog could do to someone.

Does anyone have experience of taking their dog to a 'dog shrink' for treatment of fear agression?

She's the sweetest thing once you know her, but if you don't, she's high risk.....

 

Any comment, suggestion, or criticism is welcome

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We want to get this nipped in the bud straight away. We don't want to constantly be worried about what our dog could do to someone.
Yet, this might be what you will be facing for the life of this dog. If you're vigilant and the dog is under your control in situations where there is potential for your dog to do this again, you won't have to be constantly worried. By vigilant I mean being ever aware of your surroundings and your dog's body language.

 

You're lucky that it happened the way it did. As you said, it could have been a lot worse. You have your warning. Now it's up to you to take complete control and and not allow your dog in that sort of situation for her sake as well as the humans around her.

 

I've never sought the help of a behaviorist, but others here have, quite successfully.

 

Will she outgrow it? Possibly, but not probably. Once this sort of behavior has been exhibited, I wouldn't want to become complacent, thinking she has outgrown it.

 

I would seek the help of a professional and come to the realization that you might not ever have the outgoing, people-oriented dog that people like---not in this dog.

 

Vicki

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I would agree with Vicki. Oreo's wasn't that bad - but she did get nervous and growl warningly sometimes. I think you need to make sure people don't approach her in those types of situations. If you know she doesn't like strangers, you have to step in when you see that happening and say, "Oh, sorry, my dog doesn't really like strangers, please don't pet her." Luckily most times we met with people they asked first, even kids. If they don't, you need to be assertive. As you've seen, she might not give warning signs to those approaching her - it's up to you to know how she feels.

 

A behaviorist is certainly a good idea.

 

Good luck.

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A dog who is as fearful of strangers as Bella is, in my opinion, could benefit from a trip to a vet behaviorist. My fear aggressive dog has been under treatment since shortly after I got him (he was about 16 months old at the time, he is now five years old) and I have been pleased with the results.

 

I really do think you need professional help dealing with this. I wouldn't count on her growing out of it.

 

To find a behaviorist:

 

http://www.animalbehavior.org/Applied/CAAB_directory.html

http://www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/Diplomates.htm

http://www.inch.com/~dogs/behaviorists.html

 

This list includes trainers as well as behaviorists:

 

http://www.geocities.com/l_herf/behavior.htm

 

My preference is for a certified veterinary behaviorist (who will be able to use a more holistic approach and treat the behavior as a medical problem if there are indications that it is organic in nature -- fear aggression often is) and after that, an ABS certified behaviorist who is not a veterinarian. Some trainers are very excellent at dealing with fear aggression, but many are not even when they advertise themselves as aggression specialists, so a regular trainer would be my last resort.

 

You might also contact your vet, or the closest veterinary school, and ask for a referral to a behaviorist.

 

Good luck.

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I agree with what others have posted. 2 of my 3 have to be managed around children, Shoshone just because she's so darn fearful of strangers and Buzz because he gets very excited very quickly, jumping around and snapping at the air.

 

It's disappointing too to understand that a dog isn't outgoing and happy go lucky with everyone. It took me a while to accept that about my guys.

 

We've consulted a behaviorist twice, once recently for Shoshone's aggression towards Samantha, and about 4 yrs ago for Buzz's adolescent nuttiness - some of the best money I've ever invested in the dogs. I can't recommend it enough.

 

Good luck, and let us know how you get on with her.

 

Ruth n the Border Trio

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Thank you all for your comments on your experiences and your suggestions to improve the situation.

It sounds like a animal behaviorist is a good investment and worth trying out.

Thank you for the lists SoloRiver. It doesn't appear that a behaviorist is listed in the chicago area, but I will ask for suggestions from Bella's vet.

As Vicki said, we have now had our warning what may happen. It's not nice telling people not to pet your dog, but now I have no choice.

 

Yesterday was such a shock for everyone involved. We had gone from recent thoughts of moving to a bigger house, getting a bigger car and getting another dog in the future all for Bella, to thinking that we may have a 'dangerous dog' on our hands that may one day injure someone and have to be put down.... made us feel sick to our stomach.

Once again, thanks for your comments.

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Hi, Chris,

 

Please don't be too downhearted, there's every chance that by dealing with Bella's fear aggression now you'll be enjoying her antics for a looooonnnnggg time! It's a blow, believe me, I know, for your dog to snap at somebody, especially a child, but you're a long, long way from having to put your beloved girl down.

 

You're doing the right thing now, you've gotten a frigthening wake up call, but it really is doable, and perhaps more easily than you think.

 

Please let us know how you get on in your search for a good trainer or behaviorist.

 

Ruth n the Border Trio

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Originally posted by SoloRiver:

[QB] A dog who is as fearful of strangers as Bella is, in my opinion, could benefit from a trip to a vet behaviorist. My fear aggressive dog has been under treatment since shortly after I got him (he was about 16 months old at the time, he is now five years old) and I have been pleased with the results.

 

^^Do you mean he has been under treatment for nearly 3.5 yrs.?!!!!!!

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Patricia McConnell at Dog's Best Friend in Black Earth, WI may be the closest behaviorist.. Black Earth is about 20 miles west of Madison, so if you were on the northwest side of chicago it wouldn't be too horrible a distance.

 

Patricia is a PhD, not a DVM. She also has 3 border collies, so is familiar with the breed. I know she has a website-I think a Google search would bring it up.

 

Good luck.

Donna

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Bob,

 

Yes, in the sense that fear aggression is generally not something that you fix and never worry about again. When we are talking about this sort of aggression, which is pathological, we are talking about dogs who some people would choose to destroy rather than work with and were routinely destroyed in the past. These days we have better training and behavior modification tools so that owners who want to save these dogs can, while providing excellent quality of life for the dogs and keeping all the people around us safe.

 

I think it would be irresponsible to give the impression that you can take a dog to the behaviorist once and get the problem licked just like that. It isn't true. You may have only one or two appointments with a behaviorist over the dog's lifetime, but a dog with aggression issues is a lifetime commitment in terms of management and training, and remains a work in progress. So, while in our day to day lives it's not much of an issue for us anymore (because Solo has learned to do a pretty good impression of "normal" most of the time), it's not something that we can just forget about. That is why I say he has been in treatment this entire time and will remain so for the rest of his life.

 

I am glad to do this because I love Solo and because he has given me back 500% of what I've put into him. You may make different choices for your own dogs and that's your prerogative. Don't -- you -- DARE feel like you can pass high and mighty judgment on me and mine. I'm pretty damn sick of people like you armchair quarterbacking what I choose to do with my heart's dog, especially when it's worked and you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

 

If you're wondering if you've touched my last nerve, you have.

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I don't think some people understand the commitment involved with a dog that has aggression problems. Some people don't understand the commitment involved owning a border collie. Each person comes to their dog and their dog comes to them with a different self so to speak, I think a behaivorist is a great idea. I admire Melanie for working with Solo, I know what that is like on a small level. Some people would think I am nuts to keep my heart dog who doesn't like children. He is reactive. I watch him all the time. No children pet him, I have two kids, they know how to treat him. It takes an effort yes, but I get more back than most people imagine getting from a spouse. Does that sound extreme? probably. This dog is 13 now and has earned his place with us. I keep him safe and well taken care of and don't expose him to situations that could tempt a problem. Some people won't make that effort, or can't due to life circumstances. Don't overreact to your dog Bella, see the professionals. Talk about it, try some stuff, keep her out of a situation in which she can fail.

Caroline , Charlie and Luke

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Just about anytime that strangers ask to pet one of my dogs I "set up" the situation. I have the dog sit next to me and often I will have treats for them to give to the dog. The dog is also on leash and I am in control. I think a fearful dog gets confidence from the handler in situations like that.

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Setting up a situation works for some dogs. For some others, I would personally not take a chance. It depends on the dog and savvy on the handler's part.

 

I would also not label Belle a "dangerous" dog---that word, along with "viscious" is too liberally used---or misused. She is a dog with "issues" that she'll probably have for the rest of her life---and that's OK, as long as you commit yourself to successfully finding a way to live with those issues. First thing, is scrap the idea of feeling bad that some stranger can't pet your dog. Your first responsibility is to her. Life goes on for the stranger if they walk away without petting your dog. Life may not go on for Belle, though, if she bites the stranger.

 

I have a 95 lb. caucasian Mt. dog that is highly reactive and also dog aggressive to dogs outside her family. She'll never be a "dog park" dog, but I choose when and where we can go.-----to the park on a beautiful day when there are a lot of kids running around? Nope. We walk around the neighborhood early on a Sunday morning, or go hiking around the lake when the chances of meeting hikers and their loose dogs are minimal.

It's gotten better, but she'll never be a happy-go-lucky golden retriever---and that is OK.

 

You're a step ahead already by realizing you have a problem. Far too many make lame excuses often with tragic consequences.

 

Good luck.

 

Vicki

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Originally posted by bob aaron:

^^Do you mean he has been under treatment for nearly 3.5 yrs.?!!!!!!

I've been working with my aggressive dog for twice as long Bob. How many exclamation marks does that deserve?

 

Until you have lived with and dealt with a dog with "issues" you best not be making incredulous commentaries to anyone who has. And until you've had a dog who is worth every second of every bit of effort you put into him and then some, you just won't get it.

 

When Red Dog was in the hospital last year and we thought he was going to die, I was rather amazed at what a difference it was walking around in the parks with my other two non-problem dogs. It was as if being hyper aware of my surroundings and anticipating problems have just become part of my life, which I guess they have. I won't miss it when RD is no longer with me, in that sense, but it really made me realize how much I manage my dog with issues, and how much its ingrained into me now. So I would say that I have definitely been working with him for close to 7 years now, and as Melanie points out, it's an ongoing thing.

 

To the original poster - you will learn to manage your dog (I hope). It's amazing to me how easy it is to keep people from touching my dogs ... I no longer waste time with niceties, I just say "don't touch the dog please." Although this is almost never a problem with RD anymore. Once you learn to manage her, it'll become second nature. It's not as bad as it sounds.

 

RDM

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Wellll

I probably shouldn't give my opinion because I havn't worked with Pippin that long..but oh well here I go!..LOL

I got Pip from a rescue after he had bit a child in the face. Since that he has been lunging and has nipped again. If you look up a post under Lunging Border Collie there is alot of great advice I was given .

 

I pulled Pip out of agility even though he was in advanced level due to dog and human aggression and started back at step one in obedience and basically have just let him chill out. I miss the agility but he was getting way too over stimulated.

 

No one is allowed to try to pet him anymore or even looks at him and what a difference. He is now comfortable with strangers around, and has figured out that they will throw his ball if he brings it over. He has become a dog that will approach a stranger on his terms and show no aggression. Usually he just ignores people which is fine with me ..I have other dogs that want all the attention anyways!

 

He will now play ball with my nephew but I will never trust him so I am always right with my nephew. No other kids are allowed near him without me there and a fence between them. In public he has a nice comfy muzzle he wears which has 2 benifits.

(1) people don't approach a muzzled dog

(2) he can't hurt anyone or anything which is great in Ontario since we are now Banning breeds. So I have to be extra careful with my "dangerous" dog.

We are able to walk in public now and relax, it is nice and Pip gets alot more out of it.

 

We will be starting Ob class again in the new year and depending on how Pip reacts over the 8 weeks will determine wether we start agility in the spring.

A behaviourist is a great idea.

One nip doesn't make a dangerous dog but it is a big warning that there is a problem. Pip will always have to be watched and managed but that is what makes him Pip! Your lucky in that you know exactly what the situation was before the nip. I was Pip's 4th owner and he was only 6 mths and VERY abused. The boy has demons.

Good luck and keep me posted on your progress..I really would like to hear about it and learn from it.

Jennifer

PS..there are also some excellent books on the market dealing with these issues.

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PS...sorry to be so long winded..

The first thing I did with Pip was to make sure there were no medical reasons for the aggression.

Sore muscles, blood work results, eyesight and hearing checked. Sometimes a thyroid imbalance will throw a dog off. So you never know. I just wanted to check off the obvious first.

Jen

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It's really nice to see someone who wants to work with their "troubled" dog, and so many people who already do. I own German Shepherds and if a GSD every shows a sign of biting or actually bites someone (worst case scenario), people are quick to accuse and have the dog euthanized despite any circumstances. There are very very few people who want to take on a biter, much less a "vicious" GSD biter...

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My younger dog, Merlin, has issues with people he doesn't know and with children.

 

We work off-leash almost exclusively, but I always am very aware of who is around us and what they are doing. I have no hesitation in calling him over and putting him into a down-stay to prevent a situation from developing--an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

 

That being said, I also do not encourage people that I don't know to pet my dogs. Merlin, as I said, has issues. Turbo flinches when someone he doesn't know tries to pet him on the head (I can imagine what kind of puppyhood abuse that comes from :D ). In fact, I actively discourage it, unless the person is willing to squat down, turn their face away and extend their hand so they are totally nonthreatening and the dogs can smell them (which is what I do when I meet a strange dog). And I don't encourage kids...

 

On the subject of strangers wanting to pet your dog, a funny story:

 

A woman from my dog group was walking her dog, when a couple came up to them, and the woman of the pair (girlfriend) just grabbed her dog and started cuddling and petting it--so the woman with the dog grabbed her boyfriend and hugged him and messed up his hair--then told the girlfriend that she was only returning the favor.... :rolleyes:

 

MR

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Originally posted by MrSnappy:

Originally posted by bob aaron:

[qb] ^^Do you mean he has been under treatment for nearly 3.5 yrs.?!!!!!!

I've been working with my aggressive dog for twice as long Bob. How many exclamation marks does that deserve?

 

^^What did I say wrong? A few too many exclamation marks? I was asking a question, and was emphasizing astonishment that a behaviourist would be needed repeatedely for such a length of time. It's the handler who does the work, and the behaviourist who offers advice, I thought. What could a behaviourist possibly say after 3.5 yrs of visits was my question. That's not an unreasonable query, or critical, or "armchair quarterbacking" (whatever that is).

 

I had no intent to "touch nerves" of anyone, yet I met with aggressiveness and namecalling.

 

I KNOW that numerous problems with dogs sometimes can be dealt with over their lifetime only by maintenence. That's not news to me. I just wanted to find out what NEW info a behaviourist could offer after such an extended period of time. I guess I should have been clearer, and I must have come across badly. Sorry.

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Bob,

 

If, after reading the replies to your post, you still don't know what you said wrong, you're too obtuse for me to bother explaining things to you.

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Originally posted by MrSnappy:

 

 

Until you have lived with and dealt with a dog with "issues" you best not be making incredulous commentaries to anyone who has. And until you've had a dog who is worth every second of every bit of effort you put into him and then some, you just won't get it.

 

^^ I HAVE had such a dog. He lived till old age took him from me- I loved him. I DO "get it". I made NO "incredulous commentary" to anyone- I merely asked a question. There was NO commentary applied or insinuated. If it was interpreted otherwise, I apologize for not being more clear. I was in a hurry when I wrote it.

 

If you don't like me or what I say, fine. But don't outright assume you know me or what I've been through with my dogs, please. OK?

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Patricia McConnell would be an excellent resource. Her website is www.dogsbestfriendtraining.com and she is very familiar with border collies and working with dogs with all sorts of aggression issues.

 

My Nellie (ACD X) is very fearful but we manage very well. No, she'll never be unsupervised around kids but she'll sit and watch my little niece and nephew play and will perform her tricks for kids who give her treats. You develop a second set of eyes and, as RDM said, a keen awareness of your surroundings. You also learn that your first responsibility is to protect your dog and it's okay that other people don't know and love your dog the way you do.

 

I no longer feel uncomfortable reminding people - especially children - to ALWAYS ask the owner's permission before petting a dog. I also have no qualms about correcting a wayward person or child that makes Nellie uncomfortable (why people feel that they HAVE to be able to kissy-face and hug your dog I'll never know!). I figure that Nellie and I are helping to educate the public too. We have quite a group of human and canine friends that we have met in the park - we're just more deliberate about making introductions and taking things at a speed that Nellie feels is comfortable and I'm always aware of her body language.

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Originally posted by SoloRiver:

Bob,

 

If, after reading the replies to your post, you still don't know what you said wrong, you're too obtuse for me to bother explaining things to you.

^^Ok, Ok, let it go now please. Please?

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Guest Wolverine

I am not going to try to say anything authoritative on the initial subject. To be frank, I have been blessed with the fact that I have never had a mean or aggressive dog, even those that came from pounds or rescue. (No, it is not some special magic I have; it is strictly luck.) But I do need to comment on the escalation of the interchange between ?bob aaron? and ?SoloRiver.?

 

I am not going to be condescending to either of you, nor take sides. Oscar Wilde once quipped, ?Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.? Well, let me assure you that I have plenty of ?experience? in terms of misunderstandings on message boards. There is an old clich?: ?I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.? This is especially true with respect to the written medium. So much of interpersonal communication is dependent on tone of voice and body language (as much as 85% per some theorists), to the extent that the words themselves are secondary; but in this medium we only have words, and it is easy to misunderstand another?s intent. There is no reality, there is only perception. ?bob aaron?, I do not take issue with your assertion that there was no malice in your statement. ?SoloRiver?, I can understand that perhaps you are defensive about the topic, and potentially misunderstood ?bob aaron?s? intent. And you are correct; there are a few (albeit a very few, fortunately) on this board who tend to be condescending and judgmental (although I have not seen this attitude by ?bob aaron? in the short time I have been on this board). But the bottom line is this: You are more alike than you are different. You share what we all share: a love for our canine companions. This binds us all together in a special brotherhood. It pains me to see two people that I respect at odds with each other. So as a favor to me (although neither of you owes me one), may I suggest a truce? Thanks.

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By looking at Solo's website she has made for him, you can really see the amount of time, effort, patience and love she has put into him and given him...and why he is a work in progress and a unique dog and special case. Especially these pages:

 

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/%7Emlchang/solo1.html

 

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/%7Emlchang/solo3.html

 

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/%7Emlchang/solo4.html

 

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/%7Emlchang/sologot.html

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