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Sally G.
Sally G., Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 9201
Experience:  Service /assistance dog trainer,Therapy dog evaluator and trainer, AKC evaluator, pet first aide and member of PAS Animal Response Team.
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I have a 5 year old St. Bernard mixed with shepherd and he

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I have a 5 year old St. Bernard mixed with shepherd and he has knee dysplasia on both hind legs. He feels insecure about this, I'm guessing. He has attacked a couple of people he does not know who have come over to my house. He doesn't like strangers. I also have a 9 year old female boxer/shepherd mix and she barks and gets excited about new people, but NEVER attacks. She loves everyone. How can I make my St. Bernard safe to be around people?
Carly Petz
Hello, thank you for using this site to help you with your problem. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I have been in the dog field for 25 years. It will be my pleasure to help you today. Please understand that I may send an information request so that I may gather what I need to better help you with your problem.

Is the problem with Spaten not liking people new?

When was he diagnose with a problem with the knees and is it the knees or is it Hip Displayasia?

What is his body language like when people want to say hello? Does he try to hide from them at first then if they get close he lashes out?

Where is his tail placed when people greet him , is it tucked between legs, down, straight out, or up high?

How about the ear placement , are they back toward the body,or picked up ( as if alert).

What have you tried so far to stop this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes, Spaten's problem is not liking new people. He is fine with the immediate family that lives here, my parents, then my brother comes over and he's ok with him because my brother yelled at him not to bite and ever since he has been fine with my brother. He was born with the leg problems. His back paws face out to the sides, instead of facing forwards. His body language with new people is a low growl, tail up, ears back with a forward stance. We had a trainer come by and she said to walk him around on a halty. That was it. So I put him away in my bedroom or outside when people come over.

Thank you Candy for that information, Please give me a few moments to type up your answer. Feel free to take a coffee break as you will be notified as soon as my answer arrives. I hate for customers to sit in a virtual waiting room, time goes so slow there!
I was thinking it might be a fear aggressive issue but Spaten shows no backing off instead he is ready to fend off right away so that can be a alpha aggression move. This can be dangerous as you have seen with the attack of your friends.

What may need to happen is that you and family members take more of a leadership role so that Spaten does not take over who comes and goes in the home. When you have a alpha type dog though they will always remain an alpha personality, the owners can and should take control of their home. Acting alpha is okay if Spaten was in a pack of dogs in the woods but he is part of your household and as such must behave for you.

I would do daily obedience training (I suggest clicker training) and do this in short sessions for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time but do them throughout the day as your schedule allows. This is not to teach Spaten how to sit or lay down but it is to firm up on commands so that he listens to you the very first time you give a command and it will show Spaten you as the owner are consistent in what you expect from him. If you give in to what you expect from him even once you will then undo any training you have done. So a down stay means that Spaten has to lay down and stay in that position until you give a release command. Always give release commands at some point because this tells the dog the command is over and he can go back to being an inquisitive dog . If you do not remember to give release commands then the dog does whatever it wants to within a few minutes and we can’t have this when a dog has already attacked.

Secondly put Spaten on the nothing in life is free training. This means he gets nothing , not even a pat on the head from you (and family members) until he obeys a command first. His feeing will be different also, you will put his daily kibble up high, call him to you throughout the day, have him obey a command then give him only a handful of that kibble. This puts Spaten on an even playing field with the other dog as well and it boosts you up a few notches.

I will direct you to sites that go over clicker training in case you are not familiar with it and to a site that goes over the NILIF training. There is really no force needed to take control, it’s more of controlling resources.

Once you see he is doing better in commands and his stays are stays until you release him then when company comes over, put him in a down stay and enjoy your company. When the company is ready to leave, have them drop a piece of hot dog on the floor for Spaten and continue walking out the door. This will show Spaten that when he behaves a particular way when company is there, the company leaves something very special for him.

Dogs see three things as threats, petting over the head, talking to them, and eye contact. It is okay to do these three things if you have a well adjusted dog that loves everyone, but if you have a fearful dog or alpha aggressive or even possessive aggressive dog the above are big no no’s.

So the company should not look at talk to or try to pet Spaten. It may be that this is as far as you can get him in his life because we can’t make a dog be what we want them to be, they have as individual personalities as humans , but we can get them to the point where they are somewhat comfortable and that should be your initial goal. IF as you go along Spaten does better and moves forward into actually enjoying people that is great. But I would say at this time do not really expect it.

If you see that once company is seated and been there a while and Spaten seems to be okay you can have him go up to people , but the three rules above apply, and they should totally ignore him.

Dogs will always do what is rewarding to them and right now Spaten is rewarded by his own activities, we want him to start being rewarded for what we would like to see of him. It took some time for him to get this way so it will take some time for him to learn a new way.

If by chance he is not neutered I would have him neutered as this takes down some of the testosterone and can help greatly as well.

I would also talk to your vet about the use of melatonin daily as this may help calm him, but it is not a drug that will tire him or make him sleepy. It is an ingredient that the brain already makes but may not make enough of. I will provide a site for you with dosing below if your vet gives you the okay.

Once you have rated my answer I would like to schedule a free follow up with you to see how things are going or if you need more help with this problem. Should any new problems arise, you can open a new question and request me if you wish for me to help you again.

Clicker training/positive method training

video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos

Nothing in life is free

melatonin and dosing

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Hi Carly,

I am just checking in to see how training is going for you.


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