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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 18961
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My dog is 3 years and red healer he just recently started

Customer Question

my dog is 3 years and red healer he just recently started nipping at people and barking for no reason i cant figure it out he was really nice to people now he just started growling at kids and people
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.
Hi Jacustomer,
My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.
Is he neutered?
How long ago did this start?
What obedience training has he had and when?
Can you describe the circumstances behind the nipping?
Are you tensing up or worrying when you are around people now that he is acting this way?
Is he nipping at their heels and ankles or hands?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
no but for the last 3 1/2 year hes been friendly but the barking at people he not ever bark nipped at somboy hands after he growled but hes never growled at people so it all so strange
yes i am
worried because he is my best freind
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
about a month ago
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.
JaCustomer,
Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful.
Usually in situations like this there is some incident or event that preceded the dog's change in behavior. It may have been a case of a person that jumped at your dog or even inadvertently rode too close to your dog. Without having been around your dog all the time, I can only guess. If your dog is allowed outside in a fenced yard, you might even have some kids that have teased your dog. This is actually more common then you would think. Kids don't think it is teasing when they poke sticks through the fence or run them along a fence, but it is teasing a dog and will make a dog more aggressive.
Dogs are aggressive toward people for a variety of reasons. It might be that they are fearful of people and thus are aggressive before the person can be. In other cases, a dog is aggressive in order to dominate the people. Other causes could be that the dog feels they are the alpha member of the pack and as the alpha member they must protect the pack (you) from threats (people).
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Owners sometimes make the situation even worse by tensing up and worrying about what will happen. The dog senses the owner worry and feels that he is justified in his aggressive stance because you are obviously worried about the people. They don't know you are worried about them attacking, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the people. So you need to try and not anticipate his aggression if at all possible.
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If it makes you feel calmer, you can have your dog wear a basket muzzle anytime he is not in your own house or yard. This will not only prevent bites but also allow you to feel more at ease when walking him or having him loose.
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You will need to have him obedience trained. The following site is helpful at teaching you how to train your dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
http://www.schutzhund-training.com/training_theory.html
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Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). You should also start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
http://www.pets.ca/articles/article-dog_nilf.htm
http://www.cairnrescue.com/docs/NILIF.pdf
This obedience work establishes you as the dog's boss and leader. As the boss, it is your job to protect the dog and not the dogs job to protect you. Now the dog will still protect you if something should happen because you will be protecting yourself and as part of the pack, he will follow your lead and protect as well. But if you are calm around someone, he will see that you are ok and there is no need to help. This is why being the boss works well.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.
The BAT method might also help the situation as well. Read more on that here:
http://functionalrewards.com/BAT-basics.pdf
http://www.petexpertise.com/behavior-adjustment-training-dog.html
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Unfortunately, at this point, I would seriously consider having a behaviorist evaluate the dog and determine the aggression level. In the meantime, institute the techniques I have recommended.
Neutering may help, but at his age, there is no guarantee it will. One other thing is that it might be medical in nature. You can read about these here:
http://www.petplace.com/dogs/medical-causes-of-aggression-in-dogs/page1.aspx
. http://www.apdt.com/veterinary/assets/pdf/Dodman_MA10.pdf
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you need more information or clarification, please reply and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you are satisfied, please take the opportunity to rate.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

I'm writing to see how things are going? Did you find my answer helpful?

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