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Rescued dog aggression problems

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Ana_T, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Ana_T

    Ana_T PetForums Newbie

    Dec 1, 2018
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    My family recently rescued a dog who had been living in the streets for a while. He was at the vet for almost a week before we could take him home with us. At first, one of the times my father visited him at the veterinary, the dog (Koshei) bit my father. We have two other dogs who are also rescued, but they were still puppies, so we never had to deal with training an adult dog before. Koshei has no problems with my two other dogs, even though they are smaller Koshei has learned to leave them the space they need. However, the same is not true for the rest of my family. He sometimes keeps on growling to my father for no apparent reason. He has also growled to my mother and sister several times and attempted to bite them. The most recent occasion was today, when we found him resting on the couch, even though he isn’t allowed to be there. I was trying to get him to get down, but he kept growling and showing his teeth. I was scared to touch him because I know he does bite and leaves puncture wounds…

    We do not think that this is a good sign, we can’t socialize with him correctly because we are scarred of him lashing out and hurting someone. We haven’t been able to establish boundaries, when we try to Koshei turns aggressive. My father thinks we have to get harsher with him and impose physical punishment… My sister and I do not agree with this, because we believe he was abused before and he is now being aggressive out of fear. If this is the case and we impose physical punishment, would things just get worse? What is the best way to deal with the situation? Do you have any ideas of what could cause the aggression? I really don’t know what to do because I feel if we follow what my father suggests things will get worse for us and it would be a horrible thing to do to Koshei. I just don’t have any ideas or arguments to counter what my father is saying. Any help at all is greatly appreciated.

    (I’m sorry if there are any spelling or grammar mistakes, I’m not a native English speaker)

    Ps: both my other dogs usually growl at him if he gets so close it’s uncomfortable for them. Koshei usually whimpers a little bit and walks away. So, my father says that our two other dogs are doing something right because the new dog respects them but not us. So, the thinks we should follow the example of our dogs and “establish our dominance”.
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

    Feb 1, 2016
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    He is in an environment which for him is very alien, strange, new and frightening. There are 'rules' which he doesn't understand, he doesn't know what is expected of him. Understandably he is afraid and anxious and he is communicating that anxiety by growling. The growl is an important communication, saying stop or go away, and you shouldn't ignore it because if you do ignore it he will have to tell you to stop or go away with his next form of communication which is the bite. If you regularly ignore the growl he won't bother to use it, he will go straight to the bite.

    To get him off the sofa, lure him with something like a piece of food. Make sure he has a comfortable place of his own where he is never disturbed. Maybe he growls at your father because he associates him with the vet.

    Dominance is definitely not the solution. Apart from everything else, the theory of dominance is WRONG. It was based on a flawed study and even the person who created it admitted it was wrong. This article explains it well


    If you go harder on this dog, he will go harder on you, you will have to go harder still and it will end badly. Your family are not dogs, your dog knows your family are not dogs so suggesting you act in the same way as your other dogs is not going to work.

    You could try muzzle training him. Look on YouTube for Kikopup- she has lots of short training videos including one on muzzles. Your dog should learn that the muzzle is a great thing, meat paste or soft cheese smeared on the inside for him to lick is helpful.

    Can you get Adaptil where you live? It comes in a spray (for blankets etc., not for directly on to the dog), a collar and a diffuser. It replicates the hormone a bitch has after having puppies and has a calming effect on dogs. Failing that your vet may have an alternative.
    #2 JoanneF, Dec 1, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
    Lurcherlad, kimthecat, Ian246 and 2 others like this.
  3. Jamesgoeswalkies

    Jamesgoeswalkies PetForums VIP

    May 8, 2014
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    Your sister and you are correct. To be honest, if your father attempts to 'get harsher and impose physical punishment' the inevitable result of this confrontational approach is that he or someone else in the family will be bitten and the dog will be blamed and either rehomed or put down. Dogs that feel threatened will protect themselves.

    Sometimes it is hard to take on street dogs who have no concept whatsoever of living in a domestic environment and whose only experience of humans is that they are often threatening and abusive. You really do have to start from scratch to teach your dog that living with you isn't like that. If your father resorts to being physical he will simply reinforce in the dogs mind his previous experience that humans are not to be trusted.

    Street dogs have often learned to live alongside other dogs so the fact that Koshei has immediately been able to accept and respect the space of the other dogs is understandable. It has nothing to do with dominance. The fact that Koshei can not understand and respect humans in the same way simply reinforces that he has never lived with them - or at least never lived with kind ones.

    Start to teach Koshei that he will be rewarded (with food) if he does as asked - not that he will be punished if he doesn't understand. This will help him relax. Don't try to 'make friends' with him by approaching him to pet him as you may do your other dogs as he may not understand the concept. Instead call him to you and reward him (treat) for coming and then pet him (if he is happy to be touched). If he is on the sofa or somewhere he shouldn't be, do not be confrontational (cross/firm/grab collar etc) instead (as Joanne says) call him off from a distance and offer him a treat as reward.

    Take him training on his own out in the garden. Use rewards and praise. Build up some trust. Take him walking when it is quiet and no one else is around for a while.

    You will need to give him time and space to learn that nothing nasty is going to happen. And for many dogs that have been rescued in this way, time may mean months not weeks. If you can get some professional help who may be able to observe and advise. Good luck.

    Lurcherlad, Ian246, Burrowzig and 2 others like this.
  4. Ian246

    Ian246 PetForums Senior

    Oct 27, 2018
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    I have little to add to what has been said above, other than it is great advice. Having said I have little to add, I will just reiterate that Koshei is simply frightened. Imagine if you were suddenly taken from your home and made to live in the streets - and with some creature that has only kicked you and frightened you in the past? You would be terrified and if you could not run away and felt your only option was to fight, that’s what you’d do. That’s a bit like how Koshei feels. And remember that dogs do not think like humans do - they cannot see immediately that you are good people - he has learnt to fear all people. Punishing him will only make him more frightened and make him feel your father is a bad person. So, as has been said, you need to start getting Koshei to trust you - and you can do that. The way to do that has been described above. It will take time, but you obviously care about him - you found this group, registered and described really well what the problems are (and your English is very good). Well done. I congratulate you for the way you are thinking about this dog and I wish you and Koshei good luck for your journey together. :)
    #4 Ian246, Dec 1, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
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