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Hi, I have a 15 month old male Doberman. Pretty well behaved except when he feels threatened. We leave close to a forest and there are bears walking on the street and even coming in the backyard. It happened a couple of times that he snapped at us. First on there street he started sniffing around and became agitated and when I tried to pull him away he snapped and bit my hand. Second time my wife was walking him and while waiting at a light 2 big dogs came sound the corner and jumped at him. Again my wife tried to pull him away and he turned around and bit her hand. Tonight I was in the backyard with him and started sniffing around and barking and when I got his collar trying to bring him inside he snapped at me again. He doesn't mind if we take the food away or his toys but if he has something that he likes, like a stick, he becomes possessive and growls at us if we are trying to take it away.Either than that he is very obedient, friendly with everybody,he is ok to be patted while on walks. Any suggestions on what we can do?
Thank you and looking forward to any advise
 

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A dog's only defense is to bite. when faced with something really terrifying the only thing they can do is bite. when a dog is in a fight with another dog and is grabbed from behind they don't know what is grabbing them so they turn around and bite. when they see something like a bear they know the bear can kill them, something grabs them from behind while they are fixated with the big scary bear they turn around and bite. what you are seeing is a natural reaction of a dog who is scared for his own life. If you were surrounded by a gang who is armed and all of a sudden grabbed what would your reaction be? even if you are talking to your dog they may not be hearing you.
 

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A dog's only defense is to bite. when faced with something really terrifying the only thing they can do is bite. when a dog is in a fight with another dog and is grabbed from behind they don't know what is grabbing them so they turn around and bite. when they see something like a bear they know the bear can kill them, something grabs them from behind while they are fixated with the big scary bear they turn around and bite. what you are seeing is a natural reaction of a dog who is scared for his own life. If you were surrounded by a gang who is armed and all of a sudden grabbed what would your reaction be? even if you are talking to your dog they may not be hearing you.
I don't disagree with you, RMcIntyre, but the dog is also snapping when the owner grabs his collar as well as growling if the owner takes something like a stick from him. I think there are multiple issues going on here and they need in person help.
 

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I absolutely agree. I'm just saying there is a lot to look at. It is hard to get a full picture from one or two paragraphs to be able to fully understand what is motivating both dog and person. But the dog is obviously terrified and reacting out of self preservation. taking that into effect and the owner isn't seeing that they obviously need some outside help which can't be given from a forum page. but the owner needs to try to start seeing things from his dog's perspective. The dog will never have the capability of seeing it from the human perspective.
 

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Hi Reggie..

Your words: "A dog's only defense is to bite."

I always respect your opinion, but I am going to disagree here.

In my opinion a dog has 2 innate defenses prior to physical contact....

The first is to back off.. This may involve a variety of signals to the perceived aggressor. We all pretty much know what they are. Basically it says "I a not a threat to you, I am not worth your aggression". It is the most common response when a dog feels threatened by another dog.

The other involves "posturing". Large direct frontal stance. Hair raised. Guttural noises. And ultimately, teeth bared growling and serious physical advances.

I have owned some pretty secure and protective dogs and rarely did an "uncomfortable encounter" result in "biting". Most was "posturing".

There have been some significant exceptions, but those were rare.

John
Portland OR
 

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John in the situation described. a dog is facing a perceived threat and is grabbed from behind. retreating is not an option. It has no where to retreat to if it perceives a threat from in front and behind. It perceives a threat in front of it and then is grabbed from behind. it is going to turn and bite. we are looking at this situation as described.
 

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If you see something truly terrifying in front of you and are grabbed from behind you aren't going to be thinking "ok now I am safe" you instead are going to be thinking you are being attacked from the front and from behind and are going to be reacting instinctively. which means you are going to be doing all you can to survive. well so is that young dog.
 

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I have two German shepherd females. one that knows it is the top dog. and the other one who hates the other. the first one when confronted with the second can be grabbed and restrained. she doesn't feel a threat from the other female and so doesn't feel scared. the second female when confronted with the first, if you go to grab her she will turn to defend herself. She is Scared and feels threatened. When a person or animal is scared their first instinct is survival at all cost. We have to remember to look at this from their limited point of view. some dogs never will have a retreat mechanism. A certain amount of each personality is genetics not just training.
 

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I have two German shepherd females. one that knows it is the top dog. and the other one who hates the other. the first one when confronted with the second can be grabbed and restrained. she doesn't feel a threat from the other female and so doesn't feel scared. the second female when confronted with the first, if you go to grab her she will turn to defend herself. She is Scared and feels threatened. When a person or animal is scared their first instinct is survival at all cost. We have to remember to look at this from their limited point of view. some dogs never will have a retreat mechanism. A certain amount of each personality is genetics not just training.
Yup... If you have read some of my previous posts, you are aware that I have been involved in some serious aggression between dogs. My point, was simply that "biting" is basically a measure of last resorts. That is, of course in most dogs.

I have owned Doberman males for 4 decades and have never had a boy whose "only" defense was to bite.

Now, that being said, as I type, I am looking at 4-5 scars on my wrist and hand that involved dozens of sutures. But that was from a profound and unexpected SAS situation.

My current boy (3yo) is extremely protective. I trained him to avoid encounters that makes him uncomfortable. He now, when feeling "uncomfortable" comes to my right side and lies down. The I sit next to him until the "threat" passes.

We all do it differently!!

Best to you

John
 

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A dog always has options. I was speaking from the 15 old pup's point of view for this situation. When I was growing up one of my older brothers would walk up behind me, grab me, and yell. I would Jump because instinct told me I was in danger. Even though my rational mind knew I was in no danger I still jumped because of instinct. My older brothers being who they are thought that was so much fun that they would do this regularly. Over time it no longer surprised me and I no longer jumped when they grabbed me. So basically I had been trained to know that there was no threat just annoying older brothers. They never did this to my father because of his military training if you grabbed him from behind he would grab you and flip you so fast before he even realized who he had grabbed. Again instinct that over time he quit doing that. My Mother on the other hand yet to this day if you walk up behind her and yell and grab her she will crumble to a ball on the floor. Now while I never did that to my Mother I did do it to my younger sister who would react in the same way my mother did. She would crumble to the floor and scream. Now once she realized what happened she would get up and attack. Every one acted by instinct, reacted differently to the same circumstances. My sister reacted the same as my mother because of genetics. She inherited a response. My father's response was due to training that over time he overcame. My reaction was instinct that was over time retrained. I too have had Dobermans for over 4 decades. First one was Sabbath in the mid 70's. Mine from the time they are a pup I spend a lot of time with them so that they feel safest with me. I do a lot of training just as you do, just as the owner of this pup needs to do. To a 15 month old pup seeing bears, having two aggressive dogs attack him this things are going to enforce the danger instinct and the need to defend. when I'm walking a pup and see other dogs coming up, I pick my pup up off the ground. I would rather be bit then have them bite and scare my pup. And in this case possibly be part of the cause for it to have fear issues. I have never had a pup encounter a bear though I have had adult dogs that treed a couple of bears. One time I was down visiting my sister and had one of my large Dobermans with me. (Boaz) she took us over to a woman's place that she knew down near Trenton Florida. The woman had a big cat rescue. when we pulled up the woman's house a lion roared Boaz was in the back of the truck which had a full cap on it. When Boaz heard the lion roar he went to the corner of the bed right behind the driver's seat. He laid down and didn't make a sound. When we left and went over to my mothers house he didn't want to wander the yard like he normally did but wanted to just go straight to the house. He went in the house straight over to the side of the couch in a corner and laid down. He was scared because of the lion's roar. Obviously he had never seen a lion before but just from the noise it made as possibly the smell in the area he knew he wanted nothing to do with it. I imagine a young pup who saw or smelled bears could have a fearful reaction without actually having a confrontation. And while it is smelling this if grabbed from behind it could be startled. Especially if this happened after being attacked by the two dogs it wouldn't have that feeling of safety.
 

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RMcIntyre and 4x4...my assumption with your dogs is that you are both working with temperamentally sound dogs. Given that we (on the forum) know *nothing* of the OP's dog, I wouldn't make the assumption that it's necessarily a temperamentally sound, predictable dog, which is why I'm recommending an in-person evaluation by a qualified trainer. Maybe it's just because I've seen too many dogs over the years that are not good representations of the breed, but... I just really think they need someone to look at the dog in person.
 
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