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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19765
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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I have a shelter dog who is 2 years old. He is an Aussie Shepherd

Customer Question

I have a shelter dog who is 2 years old. He is an Aussie Shepherd and Golden Retreiver mix. I got him when he was 12 weeks old. I worked from home at the time, so I was able to be with him every day. In the last year, I've had to transition to working outside the home. Buddy was always rather independent, a little skittish and head shy, even as a puppy. And he barked quite a lot as a puppy, but that has settled down...EXCEPT for when someone comes to the door. He is very territorial and goes crazy. He has also started showing aggression toward people on walks, especially children. And he bit a child that approached him suddenly in the pet supply store, though it didn't break the skin it really surprised me. He seems very fearful, anxious and reacts to any noises. I have done basic obedience with him...he is not the first dog I have owned and trained, but he is definitely the most challenging. I try to remain calm and confident when he freaks out, but his aggression is very concerning. I can't have people over to my house. If I crate him while visitors are there, he barks incessantly. I tried working with him using an e-collar that vibrates, but it seemed to worsen the problem. I have tried taking him to daycare while I'm at work so he has social time with other dogs and he did fine with the employees and other dogs, but after going there regularly for a while, he started going and hiding under the bed as soon as we got home for the day. He didn't want to be with me. I took him to the vet for a full check up and they said medication was an option. I live alone and have a full-time job. I love my dog so much, but I don't have hours to train him. I am committed to him and what he needs and will work with him when I can, but right now I am running myself ragged trying to make sure he is walked during the day when I'm at work and getting enough exercise. I took him out of daycare and he is spending more time close to me like he used to and not hiding much anymore, but I'm at a loss. I tried to hire a professional dog walker to come during the day to walk him and when she visited for a consultation he acted like Cujo when she came to the door. She called later to say she didn't feel comfortable walking him. Please ask any information I have left out that you might need to advise me. Buddy is my best friend.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years 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.
Did you notice whether his tail was up or down when he bit the child?
What do you do when he is acting aggressively on leash?
Are you keeping the leash tight when he starts displaying abnormal behavior on the walk (when people approach)?
Is he neutered?
Do you walk her when you get home at night and in the morning?
How does he act on walks if someone else is walking him?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Did you notice whether his tail was up or down when he bit the child? [He doesn't have a full tail, since he's half's just a nub]
What do you do when he is acting aggressively on leash? [I will pull him back or grab his collar and step in front of him and tell him to sit.]
Are you keeping the leash tight when he starts displaying abnormal behavior on the walk (when people approach)? [lately I try not to walk closely past people because of his behavior. If I see them coming and can avoid it, I cross the street. If It is inevitable that we are going to pass, I do shorten the leash to keep him close, but he walks with the leash loose. It is a leash that goes under his chest so when he pulls it squeezes him. I attached a photo of him with it on. ]
Is he neutered? [yes]
Do you walk her when you get home at night and in the morning? [yes, I walk him once in the morning and two or three short walks at night]
How does he act on walks if someone else is walking him? [no one else walks him except for my boyfriend and my daughter and he acts the same for both of them. My daughter was with me when he bit the kid in the pet store. She doesn't want to walk him now because of that and an incident when she tried to bring a friend over when I wasn't home. They picked him up from the daycare and her friend rode in the car home with them and then when she tried to come into the house with my daughter and her friend, he went crazy. She ended up having to leave.]
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
At daycare I thought he would get more exercise, so that is why I chose for him to go there during the day, but since he's been aggressive and hiding under the bed, I decided to keep him home and try to walk him more. Like I said before, I tried to hire walkers to come during the day, but he went nuts when they came and they wouldn't take him as a client.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the additional information. Even with a nub you can see if the nub is going up or straight out or down a little. Down is harder to see than the others. I know you think he is a little scared, but he sounds territorial and dominant in his behavior.
The first thing that should be done is to rule out a medical cause for the aggression. You can read about these here:
If there is no medical cause for the aggression, then it is strictly behavioral. 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).
In addition, 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. This is definitely contributing to the situation. You may want to have the 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.
I know you have done obedience work, but he needs daily training that is structured meaning the same time and place each day. The following site is helpful. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
This obedience work establishes you as the boss and 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.
You might also try the BAT method. You can read about that here:
Your method has you stopping and distracting him or having him sit after he is already displaying the behavior. Instead you want to distract him with treats or other things such as a beloved toy before the people get close and keep him walking quickly past them while he is distracted by the treat or toy. You can also have a helper move past in the distance and as long as he is not lunging, pulling etc. reward him with a hot dog treat. Gradually have the helper move a little closer when walking past. Each time the dog ignores them, give the treat. If he focuses on them and starts to get keyed up, give a short tug and firm no but keep walking him. When you stop, he gets your attention. Eventually he won't respond to them because he knows he will get more praise and treats that way. It won't happen overnight and will take a lot of work on your part but it can be done.
He is just becoming a mature adult so he needs the training so as he matures further, he will be well behaved. You might also consider a group class as well at one point.
Unfortunately, at this point, I would seriously consider having a behaviorist anyway available to evaluate the dog and determine the aggression level. In the meantime, institute the techniques I have recommended.
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.