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Pawsitivtrainr, Dog Trainer
Category: Dog Training
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Experience:  35+ years Training Dogs
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In January, I adopted an 8 month old 1/2 OES 1/2 St.

Customer Question

In January, I adopted an 8 month old 1/2 OES 1/2 St. Bernard. Because he was such a gentle giant we named him Buddha). He and his brother were rescued from a farm family who owned both of the parents and they were the last 2 left after their dogs had a litter. The only behavioral issue he had when we got him was food aggression because all 4 dogs, parents and both large pups were fed out of the same bowl. Once he realized that food was plentiful he got over it pretty quickly.
If anything, he was very calm, almost aloof. He didn't ever really get excited about anything. He almost seemed depressed and looking back on it I think he had limited interaction with his humans because he wasn't very comfortable getting a hug and didn't want to snuggle. Now, he's a big snuggler once he got the hang of it. His only other quirk was that he doesn't like loud noises and isn't a fan of the groomer dryer or storms.
Right away, I take him to training and the trainers suggest that I use him for therapy work since he had such a great disposition and temperament. At 8 months he was 80lbs (now at 1.5 years he is 115lbs) he was getting a lot of attention anywhere and everywhere we went. He loved everyone and wanted anyone that he could see to come and pet him, especially kids.
Now that we have completed his training and he is certified he's acting a bit crazy. He now barks at everyone and seems terrified of people. Because of his size and the tone of his bark he scares people to death and then I'm sure he senses their fear. So the dog who let everyone pet him won't let a lot of people near him. He also went from loving every other dog to acting like he wants to rip other dogs (even across the street) to shreds. Because of his size, he is difficult for me to control. I've resulted to having to walk him with a pinch collar or a harness to maintain control or he will literally drag me down the street to get to what he wants. This is night and day over pup we got who couldn't care less about anyone or anything walking around him.
My last dog was an Akita (so trust me when I say that I understand big, mean, strong, aggressive dogs) and where as he was loyal and gentle with me he was a nightmare with everyone else. I was constantly worried that he would bite someone. There was only one other person besides my daughter and myself who could handle him. The Akita we adopted as a pup and he seemed fearful from the get go. He refused to be kennel trained which was my only experience as a pet owner. You're a dog, you will love your kennel and it will provide a safe place for you to be contained while we were away. Throughout the 7 years I owned him, Monty ended up biting several people and severally attacking my adult daughter who was home from college and we had to put him down. Over the years, we spent thousands of dollars and hours in to trying to train/rehabilitate him.
So, my OES was a breath of fresh air and it was so wonderful to have a dog whom everyone could be around and I didn't have a care in the world when people approached to see him. I purposely stayed away from the aggressive breeds despite the fact that I wanted a large dog. In the past few months he has completely changed his behavior and he now seems scared of everything.
I own my own business and my office is at home so he is with me 98% of the time. Occasionally, we take him (and my daughters lab hound mix) to day care if the weather has been bad or we've been too busy to take them on their daily walk (1-3 miles a day). The last two times Buddha had been at daycare they complained that he wasn't well behaved and that they had problems with him and the other dogs. In fact, this is the first I had heard of his behavior change. Just last week, was the second time he was at daycare and they reported him as being a problem.
I'm not sure if something happened with him at daycare or if I'm doing something terribly wrong as a pet owner which causes all of my dogs to become fearful. We are very loving towards our dogs and they have every luxury a dog could want. We don't hit them and both of our current dogs are fearful in temperament. To avoid this from happening with Buddha I even changed training philosophy and he was training using only positive reinforcement and never negative.
I'm certain that our dogs feel that we are alpha to them and there doesn't seem to be an issue of them thinking they are the boss. For the most part they are well behaved in the house and do as instructed.
Buddha, who had no problems sailing through all training required for Therapy certification now can't even work as a therapy dog. In just the last few months (since September) his behavior has changed that dramatically.
I'm at a lose as what to do. Is this a confidence issue? A teenage phase? Am I making a terrible error as a dog owner and if so, how do I find it and correct it?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

Hi there. My name is ***** ***** I"m happy to help you with your question. Just like an in person consult, I have a couple questions of my own to help ensure I give you the best advice possible....

Does he act aggressive mostly with you, or with anyone?

How much exercise does he get daily?

Is he on a schedule at home at all?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He is always with me so I don't know how he would act if I 1) wasn't home or 2) if I wasn't handling him. Interesting question because I wondered if perhaps he now feels it necessary to protect me. My male dogs are always very bonded to me and for that reason I almost got a girl.He exercise everyday and plays with my daughters dog when they are together at work (she works for my company). We don't exercise as much as I've exercised other dogs because my vet suggested that OES's don't need and aren't interested in so much exercise. He also hates walking in the heat so if it's above 60 it's a struggle. Cooler weather we go between 1--3 miles a day.It's a loose schedule but yes, most days are the same.
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

Is there a possibility of someone like your daughter or even a dog walker who could take him out for a bit to see if this is actual aggression or just protection?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Lisa,Yes, but it will take me a week or so to accomplish this, can I test out a few scenarios and let you know next week?
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

That would be awesome. Ideally I'd like it to be someone he knows and then someone or two that he doesn't know very well.

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