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Hi everyone, (long post, sorry)
My name is Jay, and my Doberman is named bear. I’m new to Dobermans and new to this site but felt I needed some help from people that actually own Doberman. My boyfriend and I already had 2 dogs but fell in love with this little guy, Bear, and got him about 2 months ago. All we know of his past is he was a stray and he was in the shelter for a couple of months. We already own a female boxer 11 years old and a male dachshund 13 years old. The shelter said Bear was 8 years old and was great with dogs. We thought rescuing a senior would be just fine. Well, we are not sure if this guy is really 8 years old, in some paper work given to us from the shelter has him as being 2 years old. WAY DIFFERENT!!!! This guy chews a lot, is constantly playing with toys and won't stop moving. I love walking/running and take him out for 2-3 mile walk/runs every day. A friend who said he was a trainer came to help us out with him with training. well, not sure where he got his training from but he took the leash and yanked him and bear bit him twice and wouldn’t let go. after that we were shocked and kind of scared. we decided to give him another chance because we think it wasn’t his fault as he was not introduced to our friend. Fast forward to this past Friday night and in the dark I thought I saw him ready to attack our boxer (which he has never done) well I grabbed him and he freaked out. I went to pet him and make amends and he nipped me. I was shocked, the next day he didn’t want to be touched or petted in any way. after that day we are BFF's again, but fast forward to Wednesday my boyfriend was playing with him and grabbed him gently but he felt Bear was different and wanted to make sure he was ok and bear tried to nip him. he was very timid after and decided to hide in our room. Today I took him to the gym (we have done this before, it’s a CrossFit gym) and I usually run with him before the class begins and then he gets to sit/lay next to me while we work out. everyone comes over after the work out and pets him and he loves it. today he was acting very weird with a guy friend who has petted him before. He read him and decided to walk away. all the girls went to pet him and he was fine. Due to corona virus I haven’t been able to enroll him in obedience school but I finally got him enrolled but it starts Oct. 8. I know dogs from a shelter usually have baggage and I’m not sure if we are equipped to handle his baggage. I have so many questions!!! Is this normal? will it go away with obedience school? do I need to hire a behavioral therapist? does an 8 year old act this way or is it more of a younger dog actions? Are we making him fearful of men? He's normally with me so I don’t think he gets that way seeing how I’m a female and usually have treats for him when he has good behavior. he’s great with our dogs but should we socialize him with other newer dogs too? HELP, I have researched the bread and they always talk about "puppies" but never about adult problems or shelter Doberman. I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to get nipped or make him feel uncomfortable in our home because it’s his home too. thank you in advance.
 

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First off, no, I don't consider this normal. I would get in touch with a trainer through here: https://www.canineprofessionals.com/find-a-professional

I would also crate and rotate dogs until you can find someone in your area who can deal with what sounds like an aggressive dog. He's already gone after your two senior dogs, and crating him when they're out is the only guaranteed way to keep THEM safe.
 

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Definitely will need professional help with this issue to get things on track ASAP.
Meanwhile do everything you can to prevent those episodes from happening.
Take it real slow in everything you do because trust needs time to develop.
Each of those unwanted episodes will set you back in the area of good canine citizenship.
So go shopping for a trainer that specializes in this area.
When you find the one you want get references and make sure it will be a good fit for your dog.
If its a training center go do a walk around first and talk to people that attend the classes.
Good luck with this and stay in touch.
 

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Yes, THANK YOU, Di.

Prevention/safety right now is absolutely critical and I should have said that in my post. He needs to not be in situations that might provoke a bite. I would absolutely avoid trying to "socialize" him to new people in close quarters right now. You can take him to open places and allow him to observe from far away, but don't try to have him interact. He's definitely not ready for that.

I also HIGHLY recommend muzzle training him. The Muzzle Up Project has great step-by-step guidance for helping dogs learn, in a positive way, to wear a muzzle. All dogs should know how to wear one. Good dogs wear muzzles, too - you never know if your dog will need one at the vet, or in another circumstance. https://muzzleupproject.com/. Follow their directions for making it positive. Greyhound muzzles are inexpensive and tend to fit Dobermans well. It will prevent him from injuring someone and it can also be a sign for people to keep their distance while you train.
 

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Has your own vet seen Bear--a vet would usually be able to tell you from looking at Bear's teeth if he's closer to 2 years and 8 years.

I wouldn't try to socialize him with more dogs--at either age Dobes don't always get along with other adult dogs. Usually (but this is not a guarantee) they will get along with dogs in their own home. And Dobermans have reputation for often being same sex aggressive--it's well earned. A good many of them are.

And I'd look into a behaviorist to assist you in training and how to watch for signs that Bear's body language is indicating discomfort.

And I'd definitely let him make the approach to people. I had an Afghan Hound years ago who loved his family but as an adult he grew to really dislike strange women--they tended to stick their hands in his face (sight hounds have great distance vision but if you suddenly stick something in their face they need a bit of time to adjust to that--women often don't listen when they are told to let a dog approach them--men are more likely to listen and let the dog approach them. You may have something like this going on with the men issue--you really have no idea what Bear's life was like before you got him.

And there's also the fact that you've only had him a couple of months and there is usually a "honeymoon" period with adult dogs and you may be seeing more "normal" behavior from him now. Or perhaps you just aren't being as careful as you were initially.

Doesn't really matter which is going on--I agree with the other posters who thing you do need more help in this situation.

I'll add that I think Dobes tend to age differently than many other breeds. I got my first Doberman in 1959 and have pretty much had them most of the years in between then and now. Some of my Dobes played with toys and chewed on things all their lives and several of my guys have run agility and loved it until they were very old--9, 10 and would run and play with other dogs (dogs they knew and lived with) all of their lives.

Good luck with him--I've had Dobes that weren't particularly friendly to strangers but all of them showed in conformation and in a variety of performance venues but they were tolerant. That's all I expect of my dogs--they don't have to love everyone--I don't always even like everyone but I'm pretty tolerant.

As an afterthought--boy do I agree with MeadowCat--all of my dogs learn to wear muzzles. Some only because even though we laugh about Dobes being Dobergoats--they aren't and I've seen the aftermath of that too many times (I've worked in a vet clinic for the last 16 years and seen too many blockage surgeries--Dobes aren't as bad as Lab's and Golden's who seem to be the worst offenders but a muzzle will prevent that kind of stuff) and because I keep multiple males and while they get along well when they play--like most Dobes they are rough and if one gets too rough and bites too hard it's more than like going to start a fight--and you really never want to have to separate a couple of 80 pound adult males--muzzles keep them polite and while I am out in the yard if I have more than one dog out a muzzle makes sure no one gets mad at anyone else.

Good luck with you addition--hope it works out for you and Bear.

dobebug
 

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Thank you everyone for your advice, I have contacted a therapist and will be starting some sessions soon. obedience class starts in 2 weeks and I’m super hopeful for it. I wanted to clarify that Bear has never hurt any of our senior dogs and totally respects their space and toys. he’s actually very playful with one of them and he shares his toys with her. I think we might have sort of figured out that he doesn’t like being scared or grabbed and reacts to it by nipping and going away. I think he is getting more comfortable with me (I’m the one that takes him out every day for long walks and we have lots of petting sessions) and has showed no aggression at all. With my boyfriend he has randomly stayed away from him and the moment he picks up one of his toys he loves him again. we don’t understand why and we think he might be getting over a past fear of men. either way we have decided to talk to a professional about it just to make sure it won’t be something that will come back later.

I’m super curious to know if anyone has ever had any experience with working with an animal behavior analyst? I just wanted to know if it helped or not?

Thanks again!
 

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I’m super curious to know if anyone has ever had any experience with working with an animal behavior analyst? I just wanted to know if it helped or not?

Thanks again!
Depends on what you mean by "animal behavior analyst?" I've worked with a board certified veterinary behaviorist (https://www.dacvb.org/search/custom.asp?id=4709). These are veterinarians who have additional training in behavioral medicine and have passed board examinations - similar to a vet who specializes in dermatology, or orthopedics, or...

I've also worked with trainers who are behavioral specialists. You need to use great care when you select trainers who call themselves "behaviorists." See the link in my first post about what different certifications mean. And not everyone is certified...doesn't mean there aren't amazing behavioral trainers, but there are also terrible ones. I would be very, very picky with trainers. Some people simply "suppress" the behavior with punishing methods, and that's not what I want.

The dog I had did benefit tremendously from intervention, though her story was unique and ultimately a hard one. Each dog is different. A dog's personality is a combination of genetics and experience. It's not "all in how they are raised" and genetics play a very strong role. I would absolutely, without a doubt, recommend intervention with a professional. I wouldn't do things differently than I did and my dog absolutely got many, many more years of quality life from the help we got.
 

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Hi Jay & Bear

First I want to thank you for rescuing this dog Bear is very lucky to have you. Along with training it couldn't hurt to get Bear a complete physical and have his thyroid checked. Before I had a Dobe I owned an English Springer who suddenly got aggressive. He had a borderline Low Thyroid and after taking Armour thyroid was back to his old friendly self again. Good luck with Bear! Dobes are usually very high energy and if bored can get destructive but should never be aggressive like that.
 
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