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Old 11-23-2012, 10:31 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Reactivity Much Worse (Long Post)

I hate starting threads, I always have something bad to talk about when I do.

Two days ago, while exercising and training on a long lead in a field, a man showed up and started talking to my mother across the field. Riley saw him and freaked out, so I tried to get his focus and calm him down (we were probably 100 feet away from them), when he calmed down and seemed okay, I let him go meet the guy with no tension on the lead at all, since he has always been fine off-leash, and my mother was with the guy, showing him "it's alright", but Riley went up to him and started to bark and growl and fake-bite at his pants and boots. My mother tried to pull him back and got bitten herself. I was terrified as he has never done that before and he's only a puppy.

Last night relatives that he has seen many times before came over, and I had Riley wait in another room until he got used to their voices and smells, etc., didn't want to take any chances. I gave him treats for being calm, and then I let him enter the room to go meet the relatives (again, he KNOWS THEM and has played with them many times) and after a quick sniff and wag of his tail, he play bowed once, but then "snapped" and went back to growling and barking aggressively like they were strangers. Again, I was in complete shock. My relatives now call him too aggressive and don't want to come over anymore.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed his leash reactivity got worse again (I am just going to say he has general reactivity now) so much so that I can't even leave the house with him without him getting upset over anything that moves 100 feet away. We've been trying to go to secluded areas to work with him because of that. His focus is simply... not there... anytime we leave the house, even in our own back yard it's like we don't exist anymore. Treats, toys, nothing works. Only thing I have not tried is a prong collar at this point.

He ran away a few days ago and it took 2 hours to catch him in the woods.

I feel like I cannot socialize him anymore, because of how he acts whenever we try to introduce a stranger.

In the house he's a dream dog, save for reacting at stuff out the window, but he has gotten much better with that since I've been working with him. He's very obedient, has no possessive issues, gets off furniture when asked, knows leave it, etc., and gets plenty of exercise and games/training everyday (I'm home almost 24/7 with him). He even goes in his kennel on command. Doesn't hurt the cats.

I just don't understand why he is so bad otherwise. We socialized him a lot when his was younger, and he has seen multiple trainers who all showed me to do the same techniques, which I have been, and one worked with him themselves, but he isn't getting better. We used BAT/LAT/NILIF/etc.. I want to get his thyroid tested, I almost wish/hope it's a problem like that so I don't feel so bad about myself at this point. He is underweight for his age which I heard is a symptom.

But I am starting to think I can't handle this anymore. The others who live here aren't cooperative at all, and I'm not sure I can give him the extreme help he may need at this point. I'm not sure what to do. I love him so much, but I don't want to be responsible for a dog that could have tenancies to bite. He was supposed to be a walking/jogging buddy and someone I could take everywhere with me, to meet new people and have fun on travels. I can't do anything with him now and this new behavior is starting to scare me.

Have others had puppies this age who show such extreme aggression at anything that moves? Is it even... normal? For a doberteen? He gets pissed off at flying moths on the window and birds that are miles away. He puffs and growls pacing around the yard when there's nothing there. He tried to chase planes and everything.

Is this still "fear"? Or is it a rare dominance puppy case?

Right now I honestly can't travel into another state to see another behaviorist, things are very complicated. And I don't know if yet another trainer can help.

What should I do when introducing him to people? Outside? Inside?

What should I do when he reacts in such a way where he growls and barks at people's legs and tries to nip them?

Should I even take him out of the house anymore right now when he can't focus with the help of treats? I was thinking of re-training him on a leash in the garage for a while until he was 100% good in there.

Would a prong help outside to snap him out of it? I've heard it work for others pups around his age who were this bad and couldn't focus.

I've already considered giving him up to a rescue in the past, but decided to press on and keep working with him, but it's only getting worse to me. I've wanted a doberman my whole life, and this is killing me inside. He's such a sweetheart to me and I love him dearly. I really don't want to see him turning out this way. But if I really can't handle it, I'd rather he go to someone who can, so that he has a better life.

I'm just also afraid that any future dog I get will turn out this way for some reason. I don't know if it's my fault or just genetics. I really wish I knew what was wrong.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm really sorry. I wish I had words of wisdom for you. If you really, really can't get to see a veterinary behaviorist I'm not sure what your options are. Can you do a phone or online consult with one of the veterinary behaviorists? Do you have a reasonably competent vet who can talk about medication options with you? I'm certainly no vet, but in your shoes I would be discussing medication options with my vet. Often, reactivity escalates during adolescence. Dogs who were fearful and likely to retreat from scary things may become fear aggressive. I think you need veterinary intervention here. I also would be micromanaging his environment. Every episode of reactivity he has will make it that much harder to stop it, so if it means you don't take him off your property for a while, so be it. Read through my trainer's blog post on the "cortisol vacation": The Cortisol Vacation | Paws Abilities.

A prong collar is only going to make things worse. I know how you're feeling - you sound desperate. Believe me, I know, and I've been there. Don't start blaming yourself; some dogs are born with off-kilter brains, just like some people.
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:44 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If I were you I would email Beaumont on the forum who has alot of knowledge about dobes...........

I know how you feel I took my females brother to the vet for blood work and a little dog walked into the lobby. He lounged and growled at the dog and the owner freaked out. I had my arm around his neck and pushed him into a empty office. I have never seen any aggression from him before. The girls in the office said good work. I made sure I had my hands free phone in my pocket with my keys. No purse with dobes!! When we walked back out no dogs in lobby we went right to the car. He's a big moose!!
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Old 11-23-2012, 02:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Is this dog about 18 months-2 years?
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Old 11-23-2012, 02:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Gee, I was gonna say welcome to the world of dobermans. There's a reason they're not for everyone. Sorry if I'm no help but some are more high-maintenance than others.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Oh I am so sorry you are having this problem.

My boy Toby is fear reactive, but thankfully he is becoming a little mellower as he ages (he is 2 now) which could be due to the work we have put in or sheer luck, I am not sure what is the truth however, what I am sure of is you cannot give up.
I first began to notice Toby's reactivity around your boys age 7 or so months. (he wasn't socialised due to prejudice against Dobes in this country). When it started I thought he would grow out of it, but as time went on and he got worse I realised I had to do something. Like you I didnt have the option of a behaviourist, (they just don't exist here) so I turned to a trainer who lives locally who believes in the ethic 'NILIF'.
I know you have been to see trainers all of whom have told you to do the same thing.
But what is that thing?
Is it distract?
That is all well and good if your dog is willing to be distracted, Toby wasn't, his fear overtook any desire to have a treat or toy handed to him which meant it was like talking to a brick wall.
The way we dealt with Toby and his demons was to first find out what they were.
We had to assess what it was that was setting him off.
We considered men, trousers, how the people were stood, (yeah I know how daft that sounds but over here the men all stand real close and tend to speak with their arms waving around as if they are doing an impression of a windmill).
We also considered historical events.
Has anything happened to your boy?
I am not talking about an earth shattering event it can be really, really tiny.
You say your boy ran over to the man talking to your mother and reacted adversely, okay, did the man do anything, move forward, how was his demeanour? Did your mother give off the wrong cues, Dobes I have found are very, very sensitive to even the slightest change in demeanour. If your boy is fearful then he may misread someones actions and over react.
When your guests arrived, first your boy ran over to them nub wagging and suddenly he changed. Did they step forward? Did they move their arms.
All of these actions are none threatening to us, but to a fearful Dobe they may seem as scary as hell.
What I did and what you might like to consider trying (and boy do I know it is hard) is to find a person or persons who will stand still, not react when your boy is showing aggression. What I asked folk to do was blank him. Not to engage Toby by looking directly at him or anything in the meantime I approached him, took hold and removed him on leash whilst telling him, 'NO, Leave it!'
What ever happens you must stay calm.
If you are concerned he is going to bite someone then keep him on a leash all the time, do not let him go, even to say hello to folk you know and perhaps consider a muzzle.
No they are not nice things, but they do stop a dog from biting and if you want to be able to take your dog out then maybe you need to consider one until such time as you have ironed out his aggressive issue.

I apologise if I am telling you stuff you already know.

Just know you are not alone in this, others have gone through it, are going through it alongside of you. Chin up, don't get disheartened.

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Old 11-23-2012, 04:39 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cathy43 View Post
Gee, I was gonna say welcome to the world of dobermans. There's a reason they're not for everyone. Sorry if I'm no help but some are more high-maintenance than others.
The OP said the dog actually bit his (her?) mother...that sounds like more than high maintenance to me. Am I wrong there?
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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7 months eh, does this dog have any playmates?
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Old 11-23-2012, 06:24 PM   #9 (permalink)
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MeadowCat - Thank you for the link, I've read the post and I do agree he probably needs time to decompress for a while before we try to work (slowly) again. I am thankful he is not as bad with the window barking as he used to be, I've been doing a lot of LAT/counter conditioning sessions daily with him and it seemed to have helped, so at least he can relax more in the house.

Sherryh - Went through the same thing. He's totally friendly with the vet we use because she's good with dogs and he knows her a bit, but we can't stay in the lobby at all because of other dogs or kids.

Cathy43
- Yes, I know I got a "hard mode" dog when I started, I did a ton of research prior and thought I was ready for it breed-wise, but even at 8 weeks he was "different" than other doberman puppies. He was different than the rest of his litter in that he was always the last to check anything out, or he was hiding, he would rather be in his kennel than out playing with the rest, etc.. The breeder kept using excuses like "He's just tired." and I was ignorant about picking puppies correctly, I researched about taking care of the breed, but not much about puppy personality in general. I do believe now that he was a fearful puppy before I even got him.

At puppy classes and socialization groups, he was the only one who would act up, barking and growling at everything. The trainer there told me to ignore it, because "He'd see that I was calm, and stop." but he never did, nor did he ever look up to see what I was doing. I went through 2 months of this before the trainer finally told me to start doing BAT sessions prior to entering the group. That means we went through 2 months of him practicing bad behavior prior and it was all during fear period... and he was rewarded for it, by being able to play. He was always great when he was loose and played well with the other dogs, but awful from a distance.

I've also had extremely bad luck on our walks. Idiotic people allowing there children to rush my dog when I tell them not to, people with invisible fences who let their giant labs out to say "hi" - and then the lab crosses the fence and scares Riley, loose dogs in public areas where there is a LEASH LAW, etc.. Just very bad luck with jerks and idiots. I'm sure nothing helped.

What really got to me was when I saw another doberman puppy from the same breeder at Petco one day, and hers was totally different temperament.

Toby'shuman - Yeah, distraction was the key with most trainers. And it worked for a while, but I think he has become desensitized to it or something. He no longer cares about the treats. I believe I have lost trust by doing it. It has been hard finding his threshold, because it always seems to change, and it's hard to read him because he never seems relaxed outside.

When he was upset at the stranger, the stranger was standing still, hands in his pockets, and didn't even turn around when Riley was behind him barking and growling. The man was extremely understanding though, didn't get upset, just said "It's probably my clothes, just came back from hunting." When he was upset with my relatives, I do believe part of it was because they bent down to see him and we weren't in a large area. I'm always taking notes now.

Thanks for the support.

Matt Vandart - Haven't had playmates for a while. Between 4-6 months we went to a dog park that not many people go to, and we became friends with "regulars" there, and Riley made friends with a few dogs and got along great. We've actually never had problems at the dog park, he always liked the human strangers and tried to get all dogs to play with him. But after reading so much about dog park dangers we decided to stop going. Unfortunately that was the only place it seemed like he was GOOD at being social. He reacted poorly everywhere else at that time. Couldn't even bring him into Petco anymore. Part of me wants to go back to that park with the regulars we've met there, because I don't want him to lose that socialization with the dogs and people he was okay with, but I am also terrified he'll have a severe experience there and wind up worse, so we haven't gone back.

Other than that, no. We live in rural area and don't know anyone nearby with pups or playful dogs. Most of the dogs around here are guard dogs or unsocialized.

I will say I've calmed down a bit since this morning. We went back to the secluded field and this time nobody showed up so we had a lot of fun and Riley has been napping most of the day.
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:53 PM   #10 (permalink)
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OP, I'm so very sorry you're going through this, and I'm sorry for Riley, who must feel compelled to react this way for reasons you may never know.

I had a very similar experience with my late dobie, Levi. At 11 months, he'd already been returned to his breeder, who stated he was "having problems" in his household. They tried neutering him around Riley's age, and it obviously didn't help matters [These statements are based on conversations had with his breeder and not the former owners].

I brought him home at 13 months old, and it was around 15 months that he really started to escalate. By 24 months and many exhausted approaches to the situation, I made the gut-wrenching decision to put him to sleep.

MeadowCat
, thank you for saying this and for also saying that "some dogs are just born with off-kilter brains".

Quote:
Originally Posted by MeadowCat View Post
The OP said the dog actually bit his (her?) mother...that sounds like more than high maintenance to me. Am I wrong there?
I have given what happened with my dobe a lot of thought and I am convinced that he was born with a propensity towards aggression.

Despite all my efforts, nothing could be done to resolve it. Those who say ALL dogs can be rehabilitated and "there are no bad dogs, only bad people" are fooling themselves. While Levi was with me, he had a very fulfilling life in a stable home. And it wasn't enough to stabilize him.

I've always had dogs and still have a Doberman, and never, not once, have had the issues I dealt with while having Levi. Believe me, I questioned myself as a dog owner and a Doberman owner and beat myself up over the whole thing, just like you are now. But then I realized that while I may have made some mistakes along the way with him (as he was a hard dog and a real challenge), I certainly wasn't anything close to what would be considered a "bad person/owner", and his behavior was NOT a direct result of being in my care.

It will likely only escalate from here. I'm not sure a Vet behaviorist will be able to help you resolve this. I suppose it depends on how much time and effort you're willing to put into it. I put everything I had into it as soon as he started showing signs of aggression and he still sent my mom to the ER with three bites to her face.

I wish you all the best, and please keep us posted on your progress with Riley.
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Old 11-24-2012, 02:33 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Hi I've been through similar situation with most of my rescue Dobies. I tend to take on dogs that have had multiple homes with bad history.
Crystal I got when she was 10months old. From her birth Mom she then had 2 homes, 1 foster homes before we got her !!
We travelled north for 3 hrs through snow blizzards to go get her.

When we arrived at her foster home she greeted us with constant low growling, she stayed out of arms length and didn't want us to touch her.
We took her for a short walk with my other Dobes and she appeared ok.
The long drive back with the snow worsening she just screamed her lungs out. Wish we had know, no ear plugs !!!

The first walk we took her on in a local park, the minute she sniffed the ground she started screaming again. Getting really excited and agitated. We kept her on the lead but when she saw another dog even though it was 100s of yards away boy did she react. Lungeing toward it barking, screaming, spinning around !!! Most embarrassing thing I've ever witnessed. Everyone one staring at us.

At home she still had a thing about being touched, especially near her face and would growl at us all the time.
She hated the other dogs coming too close to her and would growl at them too.

We've had her nearly a year now.
We can touch her all over. Pick her up, cuddle her, sleep with her. My other Dobes and dogs I board can all snuggle up to her.
She is walked out everyday with lots of other dogs and is now great when we have guests over. She even allows them to stroke her and actively looks for it.

She doesn't react much now whilst out walking if she sees something in the distance. A quick grumble then she comes instantly back to me when I whistle.
She used to scream at everything. And I mean everything. People, cars passing, cyclists, horse riders ( still working on this one ). When I say a scream I mean SCREAMING too.

I consulted a behaviourist for her but he told me what I already new, that it was fear reactivity.

How we dealt with her was to take things slow and I mean slow, we haven't rushed her or forced her to face situations until she gained more confidence in herself.
This has taken nearly a year and I think taking off the pressure really helped her.

It would be hard for me to tell you how to handle your dog and what to do because I think you both need to gain trust in each other first.
The only advice I can give you is don't rush things and expect miracles. There is going to be no fast solution and you will have many steps forward but even more back before you see improvements.

Another thought is do you have a local ringcraft near you. One of my dogs that was just dog/lead aggressive was cured by going to show classes.
Having him stacked and staying still whilst other dogs were around plus different people going over him really helped.

Good luck.


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Old 11-24-2012, 04:38 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Another thought is do you have a local ringcraft near you. One of my dogs that was just dog/lead aggressive was cured by going to show classes.
Having him stacked and staying still whilst other dogs were around plus different people going over him really helped.
I spoke to the behaviourist in the local rescue this morning when I was over there and this is exactly what she suggested.

Don't panic, you have some things in your favour such as age. You can do it.
I havn't got time to go into detail atm but if you could make as descriptive narrative of everything that has happened that you can remember including the good stuff since you had the dog it will help greatly.
I always say this but no one seems to bother, make a vid of you interacting with your dog, it doesn't have to be when she is emitting the bad behaviour just a normal day.
This will help greatly for people to help. Try and get a play session if you can. Either set the camera up on a tripod or if you havn't got one or she is afeared of it, get someone else to SIT DOWN and film or set the camera on a surface to film.
Please do this because I wan't to help. Don't loose hope don't think about euth or re-home just yet.
If there was something really terrible with this dog then the behaviourists/trainers would have said so (if they were any good).
Once you have done this I and others here can help you with confidence games.
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Old 11-24-2012, 04:57 AM   #13 (permalink)
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At this young age, he's still a baby and likely going thru a fear stage at that. I wouldn't allow him to approach people on his own(long line is the same thing) or make him approach with me. If 10 feet away is good for him, then I'd stay 10 feet away. I'd still take him everywhere and work on sit, down, touch, stay,etc, always staying in his comfort zone.

this is exactly what I mean by high-maintenance. He's still a baby, not even a finished product yet.
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Old 11-24-2012, 06:37 AM   #14 (permalink)
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It's sounds like fear based aggression, when you said he play bowed and then got defensive. When he reacts to things moving, what is his bark like? Are his hairs standing? Does he pace around or just lunge?

Since he now has a bite history, I think you should train him to wear a muzzle when out on walks, for his and other people's safety.

I agree with everyone else about a behaviorist, in the mean time, try and stay within his threshold before going the next step, even if he does seem to be ok (don't let him say hi to strangers).

Maybe focus on other things like Nosework, obedience, or agility. It can make a huge difference on confidence and focus in other areas of his life.
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Old 11-24-2012, 03:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Old 11-24-2012, 04:38 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I forgot to mention, I have given up trying to get Toby to be friends with folk. All I look for now is for him to ignore them. This is what I have been working towards and thus far we are getting there. This includes people who visit our house regularly.
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Old 11-24-2012, 04:49 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I don't have experience with a super fearful/unsure dog, but if I were in this situation I would put him in a training routine and crate when your not actively working with him or exercising him...which I would do 3-4 times a day. A dog that presents behavior like this is dangerous, so until you see some change I would consider him unpredictable and definitely would not allow him to be free around other people, even family members.

You should definitely seek a new obedience trainer...and I would start in private lessons.
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Old 11-24-2012, 04:56 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I have a "puppy" (she's about 18 months) that was EXTREMELY fear aggressive. It started as normal puppy fear stuff, then she got severely injured right before she turned 1, and it escalated to the point where she would lash out to any perceived threat. It is a horrible, soul sucking, embarrassing, miserable, time consuming thing to work through.

We spent MONTHS working on this, almost daily. The most effective technique I have found is a modified "look at that", which I turned into "pay attention to me". Same concept, getting her attention but instead of focusing on the other thing, she focuses on me and I approach whatever it is with her attention on me. I'm not sure I'm explaining this properly...

It has worked. We went from a truly fear aggressive (seriously, not just reactive, she would aggress) to a heightened "alert" dog who still needs management but can safely interact. We can take her places and she can actually relax and be comfortable.

I'm so sorry you are going through this. It is SO MUCH work, but the reward... Every little step where they become more confident, it's so rewarding. I actually broke down with joy a few weeks ago, after a brilliant weekend attending a rescue event with her, I could trust her a little more. So, I took Mac to have lunch with a rescue friend at a restaurant with a dog friendly patio. She was fine. She laid there and watched the world go by. I have had several dogs, far more accomplished with letters behind their names, but this one moment brought me to tears on the ride home.

Don't give up. Just keep working at it. It can get better
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