2 weeks, 6 days ago Maria LivingstonParticipant
This question is regarding my dog Navy – I’ve added him to my profile. I don’t want to spend too much on background but he is a 4 yr old pitbull. Anxiety is a main thing, and he has two modes, 0 and 11. A very large bark when anything happens he doesn’t like. Completely wild and untrained. Sound sensititivity issues. The biggest thing though is he had “nipped” 3 times. I don’t know what to call it. First time was in the shelter, grabbed a worker by the calf and left a bad bruise. Second time was in my home, worker came into the living room (where Navy lives) – he jumped up and bit his arm. No puncture, again a bad bruise. Third time was last week and this time I really got to watch the behavior. It has me puzzled. I would like feedback and what you think I saw, and a course of training. Of course obedience but other than that I’m puzzled where to start.
My BF, who is very irregularly in my home, is a bit afraid of him. So he was standing quietly in the room. Navy shook his rope and hit him in the leg. My BF said ouch – a little too loud and Navy instantly went to 11, charged the gate/door of the room where my other dogs were, and on the return running back, suddenly jumped up at my BF and bit his arm – like a surgical precision nip, quick. No hackles, growling, he never does that. BF had a sport jacket on fairly thin but it protected. There were two tiny teeth marks very close together so he had really just done a nip with his mouth almost closed. My BF had his back to him and was not moving or saying anything. Navy jumped at him from the side.
Any thoughts much appreciated.
2 weeks, 2 days ago Kim JamesParticipant
from the knowledge base…
This may help shape your thinking towards solutions for Navy’s instincts.
If you can anticipate these moments in time or notice any lead up behaviours, try and redirect navy’s focus essentially to protect navy from “himself”.
The general rules for safety for my dogs are to do what i can to prevent the dog from :
injuring another dog or person.
and to prevent them from escaping and becoming lost.
Hope this helps mate 🙂
2 weeks, 2 days ago Maria LivingstonParticipant
Thanks Kim that is interesting. I have been trying to work with him. I have construction workers at the house on a regular basis and Navy goes wild at the sounds. I tried to work him some in the yard and he really wanted to go after the one worker who is there all the time, just pulling and barking very loudly; I think he associates him with the sound of the framing gun. Seeing that in full force again yesterday has me overwhelmed as to whether I can handle any kind of retraining. He bonked me in the face while in that state yesterday; he is absolutely uncontrollable no matter what I do in that state.
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2 weeks ago Kim JamesParticipant
Glad to help 🙂
Great advice from Davis 100% echo his thoughts.
A lot to take in at first, take your time with this one there is no rush.
Definitely play out the scenarios in your mind that your going to put him in, before you actually put him in them just to make sure its not beyond his reach.
For instance, you know that when the workers are outside and he is there with you that its hard for him to remain focused on you.
You can now use that as his threshold.
Do you want to test his threshold now? probably not. You really want to set him up for success.
Absolutely take notes and keep a little diary. Little things will surprise you when you sit back and review the days.
Now to be fair to the dog for its safety, yours and the workers. I agree with Davis you may need to implement some control measures.
Remember these workers are on his “turf” .
But also his turf is “YOUR” turf so he needs to understand and respect that fact, and this is where the leadership piece comes in.
Have a read of this..
I believe Navy is in good hands, I admire you very much for taking on the responsibility and effort to help Navy through these times. Well done to you !!! 🙂
2 weeks, 2 days ago Davis TranSpectator
I’m glad to see Kim has already pointed you toward the “clear headed” page. The biggest thing to take away from those videos is to see that regardless of whether your dog is clear headed or not, with proper obedience training (among other things), obedience training should and can override and manage most dogs. This should give you confidence and motivation to obedience train your dog. Please don’t undermine the value of proper obedience training. No, it is not a cure, but it is a necessary form of management (and ALL dog need management on some level, but dogs that bite DEFINITELY need a solid management plan). Additionally, it can also be used as a tool to further help behavior modification plans.
I would also like to add a few things.
Knowledge: Before we do any training: knowledge, understanding, and respect for who our dog is, is always the foundation of our relationship and goals with them. This is why “canine behavior” is the foundation and first layer in the pyramid of our training system.
It is important to understand that the trait you explained which sounds to me like “excitability”(a trait that makes dog extremely responsive to external stimuli) and “sound sensitivity” (a trait that makes dog show excessive fear when confronted with loud or sharp sound) are inherited traits, meaning they are genetic. This in modern society in the average pet home is usually considered an undesirable trait, but we must understand that from a survival standpoint in wolves and wild dogs, this very trait is what allows them to survive. A dog or wolf that is aware of its surrounding, cautious, and quick to act usually live longer than the one that “takes risk” and ignore it.
Like all behavior, it is always a combination of nature and nurture. We cannot change genetics, but with proper training we can do our best to help him be the best he can be from a nurture(training) stand point. Then we can manage what is left that is genetics. Nurture/training plays a HUGE role in a dog’s behavior, so there is definitely hope for lots of improvement.
On top of the excitability and sound sensitivity, I think a lot of his “aggression” is fear base.
He seem to be a mix of what we call a “fear biter” which is a dog that feels he has no way out and is “forced” to bite. This would make sense in a shelter environment, where he is already stressed, environment is loud, and he don’t have much space.
He also sound like a case of fear aggression, which is aggression directed at a seemingly “irrational threat”, usually with the mentality of “I’m going to get your before you get me” reasoning.
Question: is he territorial? I ask because you mentioned he bit the workers that came into the living room where he lived. Was their presence the trigger of the bite? Or was it because he was caught off guard with them showing up? Or did they make a loud sound, etc that triggered Navy to bite?
Does he bark or show any aggression to EVERYONE that is not part of the family when they come near your home? or is it only directed at people that make loud sound or move unexpectedly close to him? etc
First and most important thing is to muzzle train your dog. All dog can benefit from muzzle training, but dogs that have bitten before should definitely be muzzled train for the safety of others as well as themselves.
Secondly, I recommend obedience training. We have video instruction that can be found here:
start with phase 1 and work yourself up from their.
Obedience will help with management.
A dog that is in the down, sit, placed, heel position etc cannot charge and bite someone else. it’s black and white. one or the other. which is why absolute obedience is a good tool of management.
Obedience also help create impulse control. From your description of him being completely “wild and untrained”, it will definitely help him in that department. I believe lack of impulse control also play a major role in his issue which means if we can teach him to control himself better, he’ll have more success at controlling his impulse for aggressive behavior. But it starts with the simple thing. If he can;t control his impulse to break the sit, or down, how can we expect him to have the impulse control to control himself from charging at someone?
lastly, obedience will give you a tool to use for behavior modification exercise.
For example, you can put him in the “place” command while strangers walk by (at a distance at first) meanwhile praising him and giving him high value treats. This can help desensitize him.
This also works with sound. Place him on the “place” command while you play sounds at a low volume first, rewarding him with high value treats (or his meal) to associate sound with something positive. Over time, you slowly increase the volume of sounds to increase his threshold.
You are more than welcome to create a journal and add text or videos so we can further help you.
I also recommend going through the self help section:
This will give you more information and help on how to troubleshoot your dog behavior as well as training. There are many layers that need to be addressed before “obedience” such as “leadership” so please check that link out before training. Every layer is dependent on the previous.
There is so much more to add and I’m sure more trainers will happily chime in to give their opinion and advice. Feel free to give us more information, since the more information and detail we have to work with, the better hold we can get of the situation and better help you.
But hopefully I helped you a bit and pointed you toward the right direction.
Keep us updated 🙂
2 weeks, 2 days ago Davis TranSpectator
I went back to read your first post and missed the part of him barking at anything that he doesn’t like on top of the “way” he have bitten.
From the barking description as well as him being described as “wild and untrained” it sounds like there is a huge imbalance in your relationship.
Please also check out the leadership page
Having the correct relationship, leadership, and pack structure goes a long way in changing your dogs behavior.
This also leads me to believe perhaps there is also some dominance aggression going on?
I originally was only concerned and focused on his sound sensitivity making me only think of fear aggression, but after re-reading your post and the way you described how he bites, it sounds to me like it can perhaps be a “correction” bite. Which is not meant to injure, but only correct hence no one has a serious injury. The right to “correct”of course is a trait of dominance.
Hard to say because I cannot see the whole picture, but just wanted to correct myself and throw in that possibility.
Hopefully Mike or someone else can also chime in!
But please do include more information if possible since it’ll give everyone a better picture.
1 week, 6 days ago Maria LivingstonParticipant
Thank you all so very very much for your feedback. I have started phase 1 obedience and add journals and videos as time allows. I have read all that is available on the site and youtube (which is a lot!!!). I have ordered a muzzle and will be training him on that. I have another dog who is dog aggressive who is muzzled often so I have experience with that.
Absolutely Navy does not see humans as leaders. Navy is 5 years old; I’ve had him for a year. I do naturally assert leadership with my dogs but most of my dogs are good pets and have not required the strict hand in leadership that Navy requires; and also with Navy I am undoing 4 years of non leadership. Navy came to me because he bit a kennel worker (bruised calf) in a shelter and was going to be euthanized; a positive based trainer assured me he did not have aggression issues but was just kennel crazy (he had been there 4-5 months) and begged for him to be saved. The idea was to adopt him out as I need another dog like a hole in the head. However, it quickly became clear that Navy would not be easily adoptable because he had separation anxiety, severe allergies, bad hip dysplasia and valgus deformities. The first year I spent just getting him to get used to being confined in a room, being able to leave for extended periods of time, getting him to be more relaxed in a home setting, and sorting out his various medical issues.
Navy is extremely demanding in his interactions; he literally “forces” himself on you to kiss your face (and this is a shower). I am now working with him to only do this when I allow it, and for him to be more gentle. He also has a tendency to bark at me when I do something he doesn’t like, like leaving his area. I am now taking the time to make him sit whenever he does this. I would be interested in feedback on whether that is the right action. When he barks at me like that, and I approach him to make him sit, he continues to bark and starts running around. I continue to block him and ask him to sit. We will go often through two rooms during this routine. I will make him sit for some time and then free him, and then leave again. Often he then barks at me again, and I do the same. I find that the third time when I leave he does not bark at me. Is this progress and should I continue doing what I’m doing, or is there another solution I should implement?
With regard to meeting people, he is a bit unpredictable. He does well with women although he is too wild (jumping at them trying to kiss them). He is also fine with most men off property, but not with all. Because our town has strict “fierce” and “aggressive” dog ordinances I have stopped taking him into town for his own safety. In addition I live in the town where Best Friends Animal Society is located and you can only imagine the stares when you use a muzzle or starmark/prong collars. That I can ignore, mostly, but I do feel I need to build on his controllability before endeavoring town visits.
The incident with my worker was that once when I was away longer than expected I asked my worker to let Navy out for lunch. He reported he could not enter the room because Navy attacked his boot vehemently. The incident occured when I invited my worker into my living room (which is where Navy lives). Navy had met this worker before in other areas of the property offleash, and although he wildly jumped at him, he quickly diverted his attention elsewhere. When my worker came in the house, Navy wildly jumped at him as he did before. My worker raised his arms in front of his chest and stood quietly. I attempted to grab Navy’s collar, and just at I did, Navy was up in a jump and bit my worker on the lower arm below his elbow. He did not break the skin but it was a large, painful bruise.
When I was working Navy outside Friday with the two workers onsite he reacted very strongly to the worker he had bitten, but not to his brother. His brother is not on my property that often, Navy has never met him. But it was very interesting to see the difference. Both men love dogs and have a nice, calm demeanor. My guestimate is that Navy has often seen the one worker with the framing gun in front of the windows making noise and that he associates him with the noise. But that is just a thought.
Navy does bark wildly at any man who comes around the property – it’s all been men so don’t have a reference point with women. But I think he is clearly territorial.
My one concern is with my BF, who will be here again next week; in addition, I am due to go back to our house in California for the winter where I have to reintegrate 8 dogs which will need to be in 3 packs due to dog aggression. In addition, my BF is now not comfortable with Navy. So I think you can see the pressure I feel in that respect. My BF has a much softer hand with the dogs so I will not only have to train Navy to see me as a leader, but also to train my BF to act has a leader. Luckily I do have a foundation style trainer in my area who is willing to help. So I have two months to do as much work as I can.
I have found that Navy will submit fairly easily although I find that in offleash situations around the house it takes me raising my voice which I hate to do. But it appears when I do that, he responds instantly. Mostly he appears to think it’s a game until I raise my voice. I must admit I find him very hard to read. I have worked with many breeds of dogs but never a purebred pitbull (at least I think he is) and maybe it’s just Navy in particular but often I have no a clue what he’s thinking.
One question I have is more input on testing a dog out of phase 1 – how do you know a dog has a solid phase 1 base. Can you start phase 2 on phase 1 commands that are solid, or do you first complete all of phase 1 commands before moving onto phase 2.
I hope this is helpful info, just tried to give at much as I have observed. Any and all thoughts greatly appreciated.
1 week, 1 day ago JudyModerator
Hi Maria, Davis and Kim have both directed you with great advice. First understanding why Navy is doing what he does is the first step. The leadership that they directed you to is a huge part of achieving your goals with him. His world needs to make sence to him all the time. Leadership doesn’t even need to mean a firm hand or being loud. It just means who has the first right to limited resources. If sometimes Navy does and sometimes you do, you will have conflict. His bossy behavior is likely a result o leadership conflict. Affection, play, feeding, resting places, and travel all need to be initiated by you. If he is calling the shots and the time comes where you don’t wabt to be bothered he’s going to start doing what he has been already, barking and being bossy. Once you get your leadership in order it may get worse before it gets better. It’s like giving a child what it wants all the time then when you finally dobt let the child get what it wants you get a tantrum. If he is being bossy your best bet is to ignore it. At this stage where you are trying to reverse the roles I wouldn’t try to implement obedience when he is acting up at home. It’s just the result him believing it’s his job to call the shots. You just wait it out and ignore him. If he’s barking and being bossy for attention you have patince. Once he finally gives up and walks away…..you get down and you call him over and give him love and attention. When he’s looking for attention you don’t give him any. Attention is attention good or bad. He will start to learn oh if I bark mom comes over and gives me attention. That you don’t want. Really go through the leadership. You know that he is territorial so you set him up for sucess. Dont put him in any situations where he can fail. If he has bitten someone for coming onto the territory….next time you put him away so that he can’t get into trouble. Then we can work on obedience and a good place command. A good place is golden! Also going along with leadership you wabt to make sure he has nothing to worry about when people are over…..a toy in a room, a bone in the floor…..he should own nothing and you should have nothing around that he needs to worry about. You will own everything and you will pro use him with play and things to chew when he needs to. Like mentioned before. Write down all his behaviors. Good and bad. Everything. Like mentioned you will see patterns and it will help you or will help us to help you troubleshoot.
As for phase 1, you will know they are ready for phase 2 once they have a full understanding. This means that first the understand what you are asking of them. That they clearly know what you want from them without the use of body language and they can hold the command for an interval reward. Every 1 sec he gets a treat, every 2 sec he gets a treat, every 3 sec he gets a treat and so on while still remaining in the command. Then once you can get a few second interval, you should be able to get a duration for the same amount of time. If he can stay in position for a 3 second interval the. He can do a 3 second duration. So now for the duration you may put him in a sit and instead of giving him a treat every 3 seconds…..you make him wait 3 seconds then give him the treat and free him up. Once you can do a short duration with him. You mix it up. You now put him on a variable reward schedule. Sometimes he gets the treat and or love for doing the command, sometimes he gets it for waiting the duration, maybe sometimes he only gets it on the “free”. You mix it up. So once you know that your dog knows a command without body language, for a duration and is on a variable reward schedule then you know it is fair to start phase 2 which starts off with escape conditioning. If you have any questions on this please reach out to us and let us know.
Be patient, fair and respectful as we always preach. If a dog is off leash and does not respond for various reasons it is because we have not yet taught them. I would only do formal commands on leash or not order commands off leash because we will end up finding yourself yelling when all we need to do is teach first. You can even start a 6 foot formal recall if you are having trouble getting him to listen and come to you at times. Remember motivation is key too. What motivation does he have to listen? If he comes over for attention whenever he wants it’s not valuable when you call him….if he wants to go chase something or smell the neighborhood ….anything. ..whay motivation does he have if you have nothing. You always want to be more interesting that what he wants. You call him…you want him hungry for your affection. You have a treat you want it to be valuable so he cares …..you want rewards to on a dense but variable schedule so the 1 time you don’t have one it’s ok. These are all little things to think of. We can’t expect what we haven’t taught so we just need to teach. Always set the dog up for success not failure. If we put them in a situation and the dog has an accident is usually on us. Take note of everything and mark it down.
Davis and Kim have great advise and I’m glad we can all collectively be here to help. I don’t always get a chance in between work to thoroughly read through all the posts but I get eager to write lol…..so this may all be repetitive and I’ll find out after I send it.. Then read more thoroughly lol but if anything just ask questions. We are glad to help!
Remember leadership is first right to limited resources and doesn’t mean that we necessarily need any type of loud or firmness. I’m a softy too. A big one. But I implement full leadership over my big 90 lb (gorgeous might I add) lol German Shepherd Orfeo. When You work with certain dogs you will learn that you may actually have to be softer so to speak with them. He knows I provide and initiate everything we do. We have no conflict. If he ever yelled at him or was stern or blocked him from doing something…..hed kill me…..well….thats dramatic lol….but he is capable of doing so or capable of hurting me at the very least. You always want to remember safety first. Dogs all bite for the same reasons so don’t get into habits with one dog just because he allows it so to speak. If you form habits like body blocking one dog and it’s ok… it may not be for the next and we don’t want anyone getting hurt. Calm confidence, poise, and patience and consistency is the key! You will do great. You have great support here and the one thing we all have in common is we love dogs for sure !! I hope that helped a little. Sorry for the long rant. Keep us posted!! 🙂
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