How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Sally G. Your Own Question
Sally G.
Sally G., Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 9559
Experience:  Service /assistance dog trainer,Therapy dog evaluator and trainer, AKC evaluator, pet first aide and member of PAS Animal Response Team.
Type Your Dog Training Question Here...
Sally G. is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I adopted a 2yo Dobermann from a rescue. He was surrendered

Customer Question

I adopted a 2yo Dobermann from a rescue. He was surrendered as an intact male at age 1 to a shelter and then given to the rescue. He was neutered and essentially kept in a large crate for 8 months. No behavioral problems on adoption; loving, quiet, calm. settled in quickly, even w/ 3 cats and 6 horses in the home. young kids no problem. after 2 months, w/out any warning, while my granddaughter was petting him, he went into attack mode. didn't bite, just growling and threatening. he knows her well and never displayed anything but love towards her. last weekend, he repeated this behavior - this time grabbing a 4yo child's arm. left scratches and fear. He has a great life w/ us; plentiful good food, lots of exercise, and security. he has put on good weight, beautiful coat and the vet has pronounced him in excellent health. I do not want to give him up; he is a perfect fit in every way. however, I think I know why he was surrendered in the first place. how to analyze and fix this problem?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I have been in the dog field for 25 years. I am a Therapy Dog & AKC Evaluator/trainer/ specializing in behavior. It will be my pleasure to help you today.
Rescues are often given up for such reasons but these reasons are never passed on to the new owner or the old owner never tells the rescue the real reason.
The fact that the dog wet itself and acts scared tells me there is much fear aggression. This is sometimes a problem that dogs cannot get over , sometimes they can get over it to a certain extent but, they cannot be trusted to be around strangers because there are triggers that can set it off,.
Most dogs give a warning, whether it be a low growl, the looking away, the showing of much of the whites of the eyes, yawning. etc. There are many signs , but you have to know what to look for.
Try to get well versed in a dog's body language so you know the signs, don't allow the dog around children at all, and don't allow the dog around strangers. YOu have only had him two months before the incident and it takes much much longer for a rescue to become acclimated in a new home. IN the beginning they are scared and it is what we refer to as the honeymoon period where everything they do is right. They are gathering information as to routines , habits, amount of people around, type of people, etc. so unless really distressed they may not show their personality up front. But little by little and you really have to watch closely , you will see small changes.
As far as it being fixed, you can work with the dog in general obedience using strictly a positive method to help build the confidence. By using a specific method of training (including fun things like tricks and games along with obedience) you set the dog up to succeed each time. Succeeding can build some confidence. I would use the clicker method and I would train daily several times a day in short sessions. Again you don't have to stick with just obedience, anything you can build on that your dog already does and praise and reward that will help to build confidence.
I would say given what you have stated about being in a crate for long period of times he was never properly socialized to help that scared behavior in very formative months and this is why some dogs can never fully trust humans. Kids in themselves are a dilemma to dogs because they are not consistent in anything they do. Inconsistency breeds fear and it is the fear that makes the dog lash out.
Try to build as much consistency in the home and routine as you can, do not trust the child and dog together,even after you have done some confidence building. Kids run on impulse, what they desire at the time with no forethought, dogs run on instinct and that instinct is to lash out before something happens to it.
I will direct you to sites for clicker training and I would suggest maybe getting a book of tricks if you have the time to teach something new to the dog. But always set the dog up for success. By putting the dog in an uncertain situation you are setting him up or failure.
Clicker training/positive method training/ print off
video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos
You may also want to contact your local ASPCA or the shelter you got the dog from and ask if they offer reactive rover classes. These can help greatly both the dog and new owner.
Also know that there are three things that humans do which are natural to them but are seen as challenges to a dog. Eye contact, touch, (reaching out to pet, especially over the head), and continued talking while the dog is in an uncertain state. We do this because this is how humans try to make other human's calm down when they are scared or hurt. To a dog all of this is seen as a challenge and a frightened dog will act out if it all persists.
I will also include below my article on how to have others treat a dog that is fearful of strangers or fearful in general. Very important that the dog sees all humans as always good things and that good things happen when they are around.
Shy/ Fearful dog
Copyright Sally G
*Start clicker training. The clicker is about 3 dollars in a pet store. Use human food such as hot dog slivers for training.
*Don’t make direct eye contact, turn your head to the side looking away from the dog but keep the dog in your peripheral vision. (For street training: Tell people when they approach, that the dog is in training and to ignore the dog no talking to, no eye contact ,no petting. )
* Do not talk to the dog. Constant talking no matter how sweet of a tone of voice you use will still be a threat to a dog. The dog that is scared just wants to be left alone. (For street training: Once conversation is over with a person give them a treat to drop on the ground for the dog. They should not try to hand the treat to the dog, just drop treat and walk away. This will start to tell the dog good things happen when people come near.)
* Do not reach out to pet the dog especially over the head. This is another threat to the dog. A dog has no idea what your intention is when you are standing over it with your hand extended.
* Do not stand over a fearful dog. Try sitting on the floor at home and wait for the dog to come to you. Sitting at the dogs level is less threatening. You can put a treat in an open palm and lay your hand to the side of you to entice the dog but any sudden head turn or movement may move the dog back. Have patience and when the dog is feeling comfortable enough with you then you will see it approaching you in a happy manner.
Over time, as you see that the dog starts looking forward to people coming up to it , you will have people call the dog’s name and drop a treat. But still do not make eye contact or try to pet. All of this may one day lead up to a stranger being able to pet the dog but at this time you won’t know until you see a change in the dog’s demeanor and body language so don’t get ovet confident until you see the dog actually approaching the person in a happy manner.
The goal would be to eventually have a person hold the treat out to the dog and the dog take it with no fearful reaction.
Also below is the ASPCA's hints on fearful dogs
Look under fearful dogs
If you have any additional questions or if there is something you are not sure of please come back and ask. IF you are satisfied with my service please don't forget to rate before you leave.Also, of things arise in the future, come back and we'll figure out a plan.