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Need advice on nervous/aggressive Doberman

2073 Views 9 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Ziva's Mommy
Hi all,

I have been involved in dog rescue for many years.
I have seen fostered, transported, owned, and helped a great many dogs.

Recently a general call went out to rescue groups about an 8 month old
Doberman that was getting towards the end of her stay at a kill shelter.
I felt very bad for the dog, and adopted it for myself.

I admit I have not had prior experience with the breed, and this dog
has some behavioral issues.

She is a beautiful Doberman, and she is very sweet and affectionate
to me. I have no problem training her to do the regular things,
come when I call, lay down, sit, etc. She pays attention and loves

I ensure that she gets enough exercise every day.

The problem is when I bring a friend over to my house, or we meet people when she is on a leash. She will snarl and bark at them, and in general
look pretty ferocious. I have to hold her to control her.

I have yet to get her to accept friends that come to visit.

I had a dog trainer that was supposed to help me work with her,
however I got laid off from my job of 11 years, and can no longer
afford to pay for the training. Once I have a new job I will.
The trainer said she was afraid, not aggressive.

I understand the breed as a protective trait, and that is normal

I also see she is very scared of big noises, moving boxes, new things
in the house, big dogs, new ppl.

I am doing my best to help her meet other dogs and be off leash and socialize.

I need help in how to help her, how to train her, how to improve her
behavior around my friends and people who visit the house with my
consent. Also people we meet when walking on a leash.

I do not expect her to change overnight, but if someone could give me
pointers on how to work with her, that would be awesome.

If someone can recommend a training video or a good book on the topic
I would be very grateful as well.

Some people I have spoken to say its wrong for me to have taken the dog
when I do not have experience with the breed and I understand the sentiment and I know it would have been better for her to be with an experienced
Doberman owner, but I was her last chance.
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PM me with your email address and I can send you some literature that might help you :) Also, I am sure plenty of people will reply with great advice to help work through some of these issues.
I recommend you take many things with a grain of salt. A lot of the times the poople who give you the hammer that you should not have rescued her are the same poeple who have never really trained a dog or who got involved and had problems and know how hard it is when you need help and have trouble getting it.

They are the same folks who would scream bloody murder if she was left in a kill shelter.
So you have a problem child and now you do like any responsible person would do and you seek help and learn to solve it.

First she needs socialization. She needs to be very calm and confident in your approach. She will pick up on your behavior. I always remind people that we are speaking of a baby. So she needs training, guidance and postive reinforcment and correction when she crosses a line.

When she meets people it is far less threatrning if they are sitting down - and do not rush her. Just have them come in and sit down and you tell her to sit if she does not sit tell her to knock it off - have the people ignore her. When they are sitting then you calmly go sit down and you guys just visit and let her take it in. Make her sit and teach her to remain calm. when she settles down move your chair closer.

If all is good have the poeple just put ther hand down and out where she could smell it if she wants. If not just sit and visit.

Next visit repeat the process each time having her move closer and closer do not pull back on the lead as that can be a clue to her to possible danger. You present a relaxed calm approach. If she smells theyr hand say good girl. and just remain clam. Next you can have them hold a treat so as she smells their hand she gets a treat.

It is a step by step process. It takes time. She is a baby out of control. She just needs to settle in and see that you will handle things - her job is to meet and greet and be calm.

If you are out and meet poeple then try to pick up before she goes off. Have her sit and treat her. If she starts to look back say NO watch and show her the treat. Teach her you are in control. If she just can't handle it then start with people out about 20 feet and just heel with her asking her to watch you. If she does well there then heave them move in 2 or 3 feet and keep this up. Heel her in short 4 to 10 steps and sit - If she is doing obedience and focusing on you she can't be a butt.

She is a baby. Now the training begins. Forget all the preconcevied ideas you have about Doberamsn. She is a baby and she now has a new game to learn. You will be fine and I think you for seeking help. We are here for you. Glad you care enough to ask for help that is the first step in making things better.
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Pretty much what Dobes4ever said.

I'll just add, if she's food-oriented, find out what she's absolutely crazy about. Teach her down/stay, then have a friend come over. The friend sits down. Put the dog's dish near the friend. Bring the dog on leash into the room and put her in a down stay. Sit down and begin the visit. Have the friend calmly get up, put a piece of treat in the dish (making sure the dog sees the friend do this), then return to his seat. Heel the dog to the dish and allow her to have the treat. Return to your seat and down/stay the dog. Repeat a few more times during the visit. Down/stay the dog when the visit is over and then the friend calmly gets up and takes his leave.

Repeat with other friends. Do not give this treat to the dog yourself. Reserve it for only when friends come to visit. The point of this exercise is to show the dog that visitors can be sources of wonderful things and thus, may not be such bad things. The visitors pay no attention to the dog at first. You can build up their interacting with the dog bit by bit.

Thank you for saving this DoberGirl. I wish you a happy and healthy resolution to this situation.:wavey:
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Bless you for saving this girl. Her fear reaction is like the feisty snarl yap of some small dogs I've seen. The advice given here is the same I've seen dog experts demonstrate on TV. It's really important to not reinforce her fear reaction in any way. Please keep us posted and good luck with the exercises dobes4ever and. Kenyaraine gave.
I think you may find Leslie McDevitt's book "Control Unleashed" very helpful.
The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller is always good. The positive approach is hard to beat. Also, you must realize part of your dogs problem could be genetic and she may never be completely trustworthy with people. Be very careful because if she ever bites no rescue will take her if the need ever arose. I suspect the other part of her problem is lack of socialization during critical stages of her young puppyhood. She may have left her litter too young missing lessons of bite inhibition from her mom and littermates. You really need help to understand her problems and how to help her. Hopefully someone can recommend books about how to help her. PM RedFawnRising if she doesnt see this thread and respond. Always be positive with her because she is hyper sensitive. Never pull back on her lease when approaching people and never babytalk or tell her, good girl, when she is acting out in an attempt to calm her. She will take that as affirmation that her attitude is correct.
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How is she out and away from home? It may be a case of resource guarding you and your home which she feels is now hers after hard to tell what life she led. If it was me, I would ask my friends, and those who come to your home on a regular basis, to meet you and your dog at a neutral place so the dog can get to know them without worrying about her space. Once she gets to know these people without the stress of guarding her "place" she may realize it is okay for them to share space with both of you. Plan to do something fun out and away like a nice walk with some play, etc. Of course, This is all assuming she is not as fear reactive away from home.
The problem is when I bring a friend over to my house, or we meet people when she is on a leash. She will snarl and bark at them, and in general. look pretty ferocious. I have to hold her to control her.
I think "holding her to control her" is making things worse. You are encouraging her protective, territorial response by holding her back. It's kind of like a police dog wearing a harness while pulling to track a suspect.

I'd suggest calling a friend over that isn't afraid. Ask him to come in and ignore her (no eye contact). If your dog keeps barking and growling get in front of her and block her response using your body.

In terms of her other fears, I would suggest exposing her every day to various things in her environment. It'll take a lot of time and dedication for her to improve in that regard.
OP~I'm not sure who's putting you down for getting her out of the kill shelter, but I certainly hope that it's not someone here on DT. Of course, it would have been ideal for her to have been rescued by someone with experience working with doberman's with her issues. Unfortunately, she didn't have that option. None the less, I'm sure that she'll be forever grateful that you got her out of there anyway! I commend you for rescuing her. I also commend you for coming here looking for ways to truly help her. Thank you for adopting, well not only adopting but rather rescuing may be a better fitting term. Thank You!!!
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