Scared for my puppy, please help!
January 5, 2016 2:35 PM   Subscribe

My beloved puppy (male, uncut, 9 months) is growling and being aggressive. We received a call from our apartment manager that there had been a complaint. I am terrified that this will happen again and they will try to evict us, or report him as a dangerous dog and try to kill him. Please help either with strategies or anxiety management or sanity check. I love him and am desperate.

Prior Ask

The trainer suggested some "look at this" training and said to call her back after some weeks of that. I am going to call her, but am worried this is moving too slowly or I am fucking it up. He is sometimes better with far away people but when they get too close he is still reacting. Also to people with hats, or various other differences.

The veterinarian said she would like to see him a little less aggressive before she neuters him - I had a muzzle on him at the vet but he still growled when she was too close and she didn't feel comfortable physically examining him. She said he'd definitely require sedation which she wants to be able to administer.

I have also been so afraid of people reporting him that he has been getting less exercise, which I know is possibly exacerbating the problem, but I don't know what to do to handle both concerns.

My anxiety is at fever peak about this - I have been having nightmares about someone calling the cops and them shooting my dog, or ordering me to have him put down. I have made an appointment with my therapist but the fact that some of this is maybe real world fear is paralyzing.

Please help any way you can. Even if you're just a dog parent who has been through this and your dog survived. I am literally completely overwhelmed and freaked out.
posted by corb to Pets & Animals (68 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Find another vet. This dog needs to be neutered.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:36 PM on January 5, 2016 [101 favorites]

Agreed. The driving force here is the nuts. You need to find a vet who has the cojones themselves to neuter the dog. The good news is doing it this young will hopefully stem some of the behavior, as opposed to neutering a dog who's already set in his ways.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:42 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

YES neutering is what the dog needs. ASAP, before male hormones fix his behavior. Get a vet that's less nervous, and also get your dog into socialization training so it meets and mingles with adult dogs so yours can learn from them.
posted by anadem at 2:43 PM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

9 months and still not neutered? You need to get on that. Find a different vet, or take him to the humane society. The local animal care and control organization (through your county, in the US) typically does this for very cheap.
posted by amaire at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Surgery, stat.

FWIW, I had a bunny(!) who was super aggressive when he came of age, obviously without the barking, when other people or animals came near me. I eventually got him surgery and it really helped. You would be doing your pup a true kindness.
posted by mochapickle at 2:46 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: How do I approach the "my dog is aggressive please treat/neuter him anyway" with the vet? I forgot to add, he's a pretty big German shepherd, so when he growls I think it's viscerally scary.

Also I don't know if it's related, but he's been super picky about his food and so may be always hungry if not actively eating wet food/people food. I don't know, should I just be shoveling wet food down his throat right now and work out the food issues after the aggression ones are taking care of?
posted by corb at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jesus Christ, go to a different vet. That's a totally unacceptable standard of care, and vets have ways to sedate animals who are too aggressive for traditional sedation. (For example, my hyper-aggressive-only-at-the-vet cat gets put in a calm little box that they fill with cat laughing gas and when he's slightly dopey, they're able to a) pull a bad tooth or b) anesthetize him for surgery without putting him or the staff at risk.) Your vet should not be putting you, your dog, or other people at risk by her unwillingness to perform a routine surgery that will dramatically reduce his aggressiveness, because he's too aggressive! This is ridiculous!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:52 PM on January 5, 2016 [61 favorites]

Best answer: The vet you are currently working with is behaving abnormally and is endangering your dog. Go on Yelp, seek out a new vet with good reviews, and when you get there for the appointment, tell the new vet, "My prior vet made me really uncomfortable with their unwillingness to neuter my dog. I'm now very confused and scared because I've always believed neutering isn't too big a deal unless a dog has other health concerns. Can you help ease my mind so we can get my pup what he needs since he's starting to display a lot of aggressive behavior?"

I am so sorry that your current vet is being such a weirdo and that their refusal to do such a routine procedure has caused you so much strife. You absolutely do not deserve to be stressed out about this at all.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:57 PM on January 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

This is very odd behavior from a professional human, but the resulting behavior in your dog is entirely natural and predictable. Nthing that you need a new vet.
posted by SMPA at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You need a better vet. Aggression is greatly reduced after a dog is neutered. It is known. Not relating the aggression to the dog being intact is a serious lack of basic knowledge. Right now the evidence seems to indicate that even the largest of breeds should be neutered by 9 months. Smaller dogs are neutered around 6 months.

In rescue, I've seen vets more used to floofy dogs than to big breeds. Perhaps your vet is used to small dogs/cats. Either vet.

For surgery day, vets can prescribe a mild sedative to be given by you before the dog is in the clinic, where they can do fuller sedation. And I'm guessing you'd need to muzzle him too.

After his neutering, get you and the dog to a training class. Training gives your dog confidence, and helps you know how to handle situations much better. Choose a serious course, because you have a serious dog with some issues that could be serious like resource guarding. The pet shop class at the mall is not what you are looking for. Look for an experienced training school that is prepared for aggressive dogs. These types of courses do not include socialization. They are strictly for discipline. Modern trainers are more positive-reinforcement based than more traditional courses of this type. Humane Societies often run these courses because they are accustomed to adopting out pit bulls and other big breeds.

You need the class too; Sometimes an owner's lack of experience can reinforce a dog's bad behavior.

With a little work, often this can be worked out. Don't despair.
posted by answergrape at 2:59 PM on January 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I have never heard of a vet saying "Gosh, your aggressive male dog is super aggressive, let's wait until he calms down to neuter him", that's absolutely horrible practice. Find a new vet (not just for the neutering, for everything).

Once he's been neutered, that will help a lot. Then find a really good trainer/class to help you out further. If necessary, keep a muzzle on him while he's in the building (definitely until he is neutered). The muzzle thing is imperfect, because "big dog wearing a muzzle" will make people who were otherwise not scared of him worried, but it's a really good thing to use for proof you are making a real effort -- "Hi apartment manager, I'm sorry about the dog. I have found a new vet and scheduled his neutering for next week, I have a new trainer for the dog, and I will be keeping him in a muzzle in public places in the building" shows you are on things and will give you time to fix the issues.

(Memail me for more details about this kind of issue.)
posted by jeather at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The general suggestion is that for behavior problems, you want a behaviorist, and one who works positive-only.

Not a vet. Not a "trainer."

In this case, you want other people and dogs to be happy, treat-filled occasions, not times where he's muzzled and prong-collared and hurt and scared. If your dog is highly reactive, this is going to take a tremendous amount of effort and time and tears to reduce and may not ultimately be actually fixable.

As far as neutering goes, you agreed not to neuter the dog before 18 months. Just doing it anyway should be a nonstarter unless your word is worthless.

You should describe the problems you are having to the breeder. They may agree that an early neuter is appropriate in this case, or may offer solutions more grounded in the particular facts of the dog and its immediate ancestry than anyone here has. Or they may not be willing to budge, in which case your contract likely specifies that you can and must return the dog to the breeder.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Another vet immediately and then another trainer who specializes in aggressive dogs. You had the bad luck of finding two "professionals" who are way out of their depth.
posted by quince at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

I agree with the others that you should try to find another vet and have the surgery done. As far as the food situation, you have to stop feeding your dog people food. Buy dry dog food and only feed him that. He has to be trained. Right now, he is the boss and that is making his aggression worse. I also sense that you are very anxious and he may be picking up on that in social situations, and reacting. Follow up with a trainer that will work with you and your dog. And be open to the possibility that your home may not be the best fit for your beloved- maybe finding a friend with a large yard would be the most responsible thing that you can do as a dog owner.
posted by myselfasme at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

How do I approach the "my dog is aggressive please treat/neuter him anyway" with the vet? I forgot to add, he's a pretty big German shepherd, so when he growls I think it's viscerally scary.

When booking you tell the receptionist that the dog is developing issues and will be muzzled and let the vet lead here. A competent vet will deal with the dog's issues as needed.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2016

[from the previous Ask]
he started nipping and actually nipped two people who got too close in the car/home ... I should note he's 60 lbs right now and I am worried if he gets much bigger it will be harder to hold him back.

Definitely start with neutering and training. I know you don't want to hear this, but you might also want to start exploring where you might be able to rehome him if it comes down to it. Some dogs are just not cut out for apartment life and having plan b ready to go might be a kindness to both of you.

I love dogs, but if I witnessed my neighbor's aggressive, large dog nipping at people, I'd likely try to get it out of the apartment complex too, especially if I had children.
posted by Candleman at 3:26 PM on January 5, 2016 [12 favorites]

Best answer: We have a yellow lab who was being a complete jerkface to me, growling and barking (despite plenty of obedience training. Definitely my husband's dog since my husband is retired and they spend the bulk of the day together. I work swing shift and I think what was happening was that he (the dog not my husband) felt like I was encroaching on his territory when I came home and walked into the bedroom. Plus I think he was half asleep which didn't help. My husband started getting the dog up and around and outside just before I got home and that helped a bit. But the dog was still pretty aggressive.

We got him fixed about a year ago and he's a totally different dog. Fatter, yes, but definitely nicer and more what you'd expect from a doofy yellow lab. Memail me if you want a recommendation for a vet who can handle jerky dogs (the vet is in the Pdx metro area). The dog is still pretty jerky to the vet but he and his staff seem to do just fine with his behavior.
posted by Beti at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2016

Hold on. Don't get rid of your vet because they won't neuter your dog. More and more vets are refusing to neuter male puppies with aggression issues. It's NOT a horrible practice.

In the past few years vets have been rethinking neutering male puppies because a slew of studies indicate it that not only does it do nothing for fear-based aggression, it can hugely increase their risk for many other physical problems, particularly hip dysplasia, which is often a problem for German shepherds.

Many vets won't neuter an aggressive male puppy.

While neutering a male will curb his sex-related aggressive behaviors like humping, it does nothing for fear or anxiety-based aggression. In fact, more and more research shows that early male neutering HUGELY raises the risk factor for certain cancers, hip issues, ACL issues and more.

Your vet saying they won't neuter your (fear or anxiety-based) aggressive male puppy is absolutely NOT a horrible practice. It's becoming more and more widely practiced to instead train an aggressive puppy and to hold off on spaying as long as you can.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know you don't want to hear this, but you might also want to start exploring where you might be able to rehome him if it comes down to it.

Look at your contract if it comes to that; it likely specifies that you can only return the dog to the breeder.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:33 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I missed that you have some stringent stipulations regarding neutering. Agree an apartment is entirely the wrong environment for this breed.

You should contact the breeder since that is an option.
posted by jbenben at 3:34 PM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

While neutering a male will curb his sex-related aggressive behaviors like humping

Derail, but: training curbs humping, not neutering. Lots of neutered dogs are totally gross humpers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There are vets that specialize in aggressive dogs, although this you really only needs a competent vet.

I have also been so afraid of people reporting him that he has been getting less exercise, which I know is possibly exacerbating the problem, but I don't know what to do to handle both concerns.

My anxiety is at fever peak about this

I have been there, including long, slightly more relaxing walks at 3:30am :(

Read up a little on leash aggression and see if it applies to you. In my case, leash aggression wasn't the only problem, but just being mindful of this helped little bit. There may be specific methods to help with this, too.

hope that helps. Please Me or Email if you want to commiserate or just vent.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Calm down.

Here's what I think is missing for this dog:

1. A reliable diet of grain free dog food.

2. Lots of regular exercise on a secure harness/leash, never within lunge range of other people or dogs.

3. Consistent, calm, positive reinforcement based training on encountering the world.

4. A very slow and positive introduction to other beings than you.

5. Professionals in your life who can work with your dog and you.

This all may require rehoming. But it certainly requires that you slow down, breathe deeply, think about what this dog is missing and help him get it. I'm picking up a frightened big dog from your description, with a frightened owner. You can fix this, either yourself or by finding someone who can do it well.
posted by bearwife at 3:56 PM on January 5, 2016

Response by poster: Still processing everything, but a clarification: we are not going to be apartment living long with I'd say 85% probability. We are looking to move to a more rural area possibly within 4 months, and if that land falls through we'll be looking to buy a secluded place with a big yard. I know German shepherds aren't great apartment dogs.
posted by corb at 3:59 PM on January 5, 2016

Mercola, the site linked to above as proof that you should not neuter an aggressive dog, is an extremely unreliable source.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:06 PM on January 5, 2016 [27 favorites]

Whether the problem is the balls or not, it's worth getting a second opinion from a different vet.
posted by torisaur at 4:07 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you thought about muzzling him when he's outside your apartment? That way you'd be able to take him out in public without worrying about him biting someone.

I agree that you need to try a different vet for several reasons stated above.
posted by radioamy at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2016

Best answer: Mercola, the site linked to above as proof that you should not neuter an aggressive dog, is an extremely unreliable source.

internet fraud detective squad is being exceptionally kind. Mercola is total garbage. Take it about as seriously as you'd take a supermarket tabloid.

Go to a different vet, neuter the dog, and find a behaviorist, specifically a behaviorist, not just a generic trainer.
posted by schroedinger at 4:23 PM on January 5, 2016 [21 favorites]

Best answer: You're getting great advice about switching trainers, so I'll chime in on the neutering question... My male golden retriever's breeder had the same contract not to neuter until 2 years for all sorts of development reasons that she said his hormones would influence - keeping his legs shorter, his head broader, better joint development, etc. We made it until 13 months when he started to mark the legs of people at the dog park when there were no trees close by. He was also super rough when playing with people that would escalate to fairly intense play-biting and humping. So not aggression like you're experiencing, but definitely poor unneutered teenage dog behavior.

Not going the full two years didn't have a detrimental effect, but I think going as long we did helped with his physical development and I'm glad we held out for that long (but I think I may have taken him earlier if we were dealing with real agression). He's absolutely gorgeous and has the biggest head of any golden I've ever seen and doesn't have the coltish long legs you see when a golden is neutered early. And bonus, the neutering instantly stopped him peeing on people and toned down his play to a pleasant level!

Remember, there is no way for the breeder to know when you neuter him, it's just the strongest way they have to get their suggestion across.
posted by cecic at 4:41 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Corb - I'm sorry you're going through this. While I agree with the 'get him neutered before it gets worse', I wanted to post with some location specific advice.

If memory serves, we live in the same city. While it's dog-friendly for well-behaved dogs, it's unfriendly for dogs with behaviour issues. In 2011, the law regarding what constitutes a "severe injury" from a dog was broadened to "at least one broken bone, or one disfiguring wound requiring medical attention, such as sutures or sticky strips." (Emphasis mine.)

Additionally, even if your dog has not bitten before, the fact that you are worried he may, could cause further liability issues should something go wrong - from Dog Bite Law:

"If a dog has bitten before, or indicated that it might bite someone, or if it has injured a person in another manner, or indicated that it might do so, then the owner, harborer or keeper having knowledge of the dangerous propensity of the dog may be held liable if the dog inflicts injury by doing any of those things in the future."

In addition, should the barking continue to disturb neighbours, in addition to facing eviction, you can be ticketed if any of those neighbours choose to involve the police.

Again, I'm very sorry you're going through this, but unless you take action quickly, you could potentially be dealing with much worse repercussions.
posted by dotgirl at 4:42 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

As someone who frequently deals with the sequelae of bad dog bites (or attacks), there is no future joint-related consequence that would sway me in my belief that everything should be done that has a chance to decrease aggressiveness in this dog before it gets to that point. The most common victims are children at face level/who run afoul of guarding behavior, or owners who try to throw themselves between two fighting dogs (often to try to prevent a large dog from killing a small dog). The injuries are severe. I'm sorry you're so anxious about it and I don't mean to contribute to the fear but I really do think you need to take action here, and this is why.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:48 PM on January 5, 2016 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: So an update: I talked to the breeder again and had a long serious talk, and he said that though the dam had no issues like this, the sire actually did have some issues at a similar age as he recently discovered. We are going to meet up so he can evaluate the behavior and cross check it with what was happening with the sire so we can move on from there.
posted by corb at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Ugh, my phone sucks. Anyway, the breeder is a good guy and was not irresponsible in homing him - the problems did not develop until much later and seem to come from the outside line. He is also open to the possibility of an early neuter if it fits, he just wants to get eyes on the dog. He has also offered everything that is good and really wants to work with me to help. This is my first time with a breeder rather than rescue, so I didn't know they would be that helpful.
posted by corb at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know you're already concerned and I don't want to scare you, but over Christmas my brother's dog (large, mutt, rescue with unknown history, some fearful aggression) just walked up behind my 5 year old, sniffed his leg, and chomped down. Dog was on a leash, they were all on a walk, kid was minding his own business and not acting weird.

Kid was not wounded too badly, but had a deep puncture, a shallow puncture, and a long jagged scratch, through his blue jeans. ER visit was required, though he wasn't maimed or anything.

My brother was horrified, of course. I'm not asking him to put his dog down but he is going to send the dog to a boarding intensive training program for aggressive dogs.

I'm happy to see your update and I hope things go well with the breeder. Thank you for taking your dog's behavior problems seriously. I want him to do well and be successful. But I also really don't want my kid bitten again, y'know?
posted by telepanda at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Vets who work with large animals as well as smaller pets are likely to be more confident about dealing with an animal who may be too assertive. I'm so sorry you're going through this. Your vet is an aberration, and you and your dog deserve better care.

You are being a good pet owner. Thank you. Keep it up. Obligatory picture of lovable beast?
posted by theora55 at 6:10 PM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Apartment? 2-3 solid hours of exercise for energy drain.
Un-neutered? Fix ASAP (it's the law in many states).
The vet 's aggression fear issues? Change the vet ASAP.
Your anxiety? Is telling your already fearful dog to keep going down the rabbit hole of fear agression.
Secluded place? Dogs need to be socialized. That's a last ditch effort.
Breeder? I have no words for this person. None.
There is a really bad combination going on here. Totally fixable, probably.

Get a behaviorist or trainer that works with positive reinforcement and who is good at draining a dog's energy, both mental and physical.

I'm being harsh, I know. But you love him and you can totally do this!
posted by Vaike at 6:19 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

He is also open to the possibility of an early neuter if it fits, he just wants to get eyes on the dog.

I'm a dog owner wondering why you think the breeder has anything of value to say about neutering your dog. The dog is not his property - it is your property. Yes, I saw the previous AskMe that mentioned the contract - so what? This lawyer doesn't understand what damages the breeder could possibly suffer if the dog is neutered "too early". If your aggressive dog causes trouble, the breeder will not be on the hook - you will.

Tell the breeder to take a hike because you are going to get your dog neutered yesterday.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:39 PM on January 5, 2016 [25 favorites]

The breeder knows your dog has temperament issues you might be able to make his problem (suing for a refund, forcing him to take the responsibility of rehoming via the contract) and he wants to get eyes on you to see where he stands. And he sounds like a fanatic with strong ideas that may not jibe with best German Shepherd breeding practices.
posted by jbenben at 6:52 PM on January 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: From what you say, it sounds like the breeder really cares and wants to help find a solution. I'd use them as a resource as much as you can, up to allowing them to take the dog back if that turns out to be the only appropriate option. Good luck, corb. You'll figure this out step by step.
posted by salvia at 7:00 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

He is also open to the possibility of an early neuter if it fits, he just wants to get eyes on the dog.

It is not an early neuter after 9 months. Breeders an have a tendency to do that because they like to wait longer to make sure the animal isn't great breeding stock. They really have different standards and practices than normal pet owners.
Fix the dog now, and get him exercised well every day starting today. Those two things are contributing to this issue in a huge way.
posted by TenaciousB at 7:13 PM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

So the breeder only found out after he'd bred and sold you a puppy and you came back with aggression issues that the pup's sire was also aggressive. Well, that's convenient, isn't it. This guy is a shitty breeder and human being for that matter. He either failed to do adequate research before breeding a potentially aggressive dog, or he knew about it and did it anyway. And now he's umming and ahhing about taking some of the known steps which could stop this becoming a potential tragedy. Hmmm, should we do something about stopping this dog tearing a child's face off or not? Such a quandary.

Here's an idea, give him the dog back and ask for a refund. Don't get another pup from him, he clearly can't be trusted and now you don't know what the hell kind of genes this dog has and I wouldn't be waiting to find out.
posted by Jubey at 7:27 PM on January 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

the sire actually did have some issues at a similar age as he recently discovered

How did the breeder only just now discover a temperament problem with the sire? Knowing the background and issues of the animals being bred is almost be definition the job of a breeder. Maybe he's a good guy, but it smells funny.
posted by Candleman at 7:29 PM on January 5, 2016 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing.



The anti-neuter thing is a big woo-woo fad that was started by people who were anti-neuter to begin with. Any dog with a significant risk of hip dysplasia or "many other physical problems" or aggression issues absolutely should be neutered, and their sire should have been neutered before he (or she) ever reproduced. The solution WRT health issues is to start immediately on prophylactic care, rather than merrily letting the dog go unneutered and failing to provide such care, assuming that will take care of the problem.

NEUTER! Neuter. Did I stress neuter?
Then traintrain, exercise, train, exercise, traintraintrain, exerciseexerciseexercise, traintrain, exercise, etc.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:42 PM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

You were advised 3 months ago to neuter this dog to deal with these issues and you still haven't done it? Why are you consulting with a breeder about the responsible thing to do with your dog?

Not going the full two years didn't have a detrimental effect, but I think going as long we did helped with his physical development and I'm glad we held out for that long (but I think I may have taken him earlier if we were dealing with real agression). He's absolutely gorgeous and has the biggest head of any golden I've ever seen and doesn't have the coltish long legs you see when a golden is neutered early. And bonus, the neutering instantly stopped him peeing on people and toned down his play to a pleasant level!

This is probably the sort of thing your breeder is focused on, but anyone who cares about the size of their dog's head or the length of his legs isn't someone you should be listening to about the health of your dog. Your dog's health and his ability to interact with people are the most important things. Breeders are concerned with weird breed characteristics that have led to terrible outcomes for the poor dogs. Get a new vet, get your dog fixed, and stop taking advice from people who are more concerned with arbitrary breed characteristics than the health of the animals they're creating.
posted by Mavri at 8:55 PM on January 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

stop taking advice from people who are more concerned with arbitrary breed characteristics than the health of the animals they're creating.

Exactly. If your dog mauls someone, you're the responsible party, not the breeder. The person (quite possibly a child!) who is injured will suffer, you will suffer, and your dog will suffer as a consequence. The breeder? Not so much.

Look, either the breeder really did just "recently discover" that the sire was aggressive, in which case he's incompetent, or he knew all along that the sire was aggressive, in which case he's reckless and a liar. Pick whichever one makes you feel better about taking charge of the situation, but take charge you must.

Either neuter your dog tomorrow and commit to investing the time and money it will take to work with a top-notch behaviorist, or demand that the breeder take the dog back and refund your money. The animal you have described is a time bomb and these are literally the only two responsible, adult options in front of you now.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 9:27 PM on January 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Until the behaviorist and neutering happen, you still need to meet your dogs needs.
Until you get the behaviorist in, you need to shift from trying to train and socialize your dog to keeping your dog and everyone else safe.

I'm going to make some broad guesses about your dog, so take what seems right and leave the rest.

I've seen two kinds of aggressive dogs - ones that are doing their job too well (herding, guarding, fighting) and ones that are flat out insane, mentally ill. Let's assume your dog is doing his job too well.

Do you think he's guarding you or the property? Both?
Can you remove him from whatever he's guarding? If you have a partner does the dog act the same way with the partner? Only if you fell one million percent safe, ask a dog-smart friend to take him out at a people-free hour without you and see if he's different with another handler.

You don't know it but that leash is a communication device. You are communicating all of your anxiety right to his neck and he might get choked if you get scared and yank so he's scared. Most trainers / behaviorists would tell you to try a gentle leader face harness but at this stage I might just try a harness because he's less likely to feel your jumpiness and less likely to be afraid he'll be choked when you flinch in anxious times. Work really hard on keeping him very close but on a loose leash that doesn't telegraph your fear.

You need to take him out when there are as few people as possible. Maybe even really late and really early to minimize people contact for everyone's sake.

Also, if you have narrow hallways at your building, avoid them. They are a very stressful place for dogs - heavy unwanted eye contact with people coming at them and a narrow space trapping them and fight or flight kicks in with no flight available. I bet elevators are bad too.

I can't remember the author (she's Scandinavian) but look up calming signals for dogs. They really work and you both need this right now. One is sighing and one is sneezing. Try those right now, see what he does. And lip licking.

Good luck in the next few days until the behaviorist comes on and the nuts are gone. He's definitely hitting sexual maturity and feeling very 17 years old.

Keep in mind that keeping this dog looks a little like this for the rest of his life. My behaviorist always said "all dogs bite" - and now you know a little bit of how willing he is to bite. Don't be yet another shocked owner saying "he's never done that before" as a bite victim is hauled away. Now you know, and you have a lifetime of training and management ahead of you. If you aren't up for this serious life commitment, let him go back to the breeder. It's a very difficult lifetime and difficult situation.
posted by littlewater at 9:56 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, if you do have a door that leads to a common hallway, keep him away from it.
Maybe he considers the hallway an area to guard. If he's barking or listening or reacting to people in the hallway when you are inside, he's guarding the hallway.

It's like postal worker syndrome for dogs. The dog chased him away every day by barking but the mailman still has the audacity to keep showing up and the dog would love to finally win the game once and for all - and that's how the letter carriers get bit.

Your dog might be so outraged the hallway people are still there that he's now upping his game with them.

If this might be a factor, never let him near the door alone. Don't let him guard the hall through the door.

Finally, your dog needs a job. He really does. You need to figure out what that job is right now and he probably needs to spend at least 2 hours s day doing it, and you need to be instructing and supervising the whole time. It's exhausting but necessary. Your dog might like agility or scent work or obedience or dog dancing and all of these things can be done safely at home. Or guarding might be his best job and you need to work with the behaviorist to figure out what he's going to guard. A parakeet? A baby doll? I'm not a big guarding dog person. But make sure your behaviorist works with lots of GSDs and rotts.
posted by littlewater at 10:14 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Apologies for the link I posted about not neutering male puppies with the hope of reducing fear/anxiety-based aggression issues. I stupidly was trying to show that your vet may have Reasons for doing this. But your vet should have really thoroughly explained their thinking beyond, "Not gonna do it," and then recommended other vets.

What you need to be 100% clear about is that neutering MAY NOT BE A MAGIC PILL in stopping all growling, lunging, etc. There is almost always some decrease in aggressive behavior after neutering, but it will not curb all fear/anxiety based aggression. Only training can help with that.

A fearful dog may be just as fearful (and aggressive) after the procedure. So you need to get on the training, now.

Sorry for tossing in woo medicine as fact.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:48 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Can I make a final emotional appeal? Corb, I hate that this question is from you. I have homed, rescued, rehomed, and identify with animals as equals and as family. I understand that you love this dog. Also that he is a breed I am intimately familiar with, and that you previously got advice to neuter him + why you did not do that. Do you want to make me cry uncontrollable tears? Ask me about King. I get your dedication here. I do.

This situation is very highly likely beyond your ability to solve. I'm all for impossible situations, but in my later years, I know when to widen my options.

This precious being - he's a conundrum. There are other ways to solve his issues without keeping him. You already eschewed great advice to neuter him previously, so we'll never know now if that was (probably not, honestly) the answer.

Some Shepherds are love bugs. Others have issues you can never ever fully contain no matter what you do god help you. You're not a failure! Nor have you failed this being or your responsibility. This is a feature of the breed. Not. Your. Fault.

The breeder is full of shit. That much is clear at this point.

Look into rescues or other avenues for rehoming this guy. Your alternative is to live with the constant stres he will eventually, no matter what you do, attack. This is a thing Shepherds do. Not all. But with your experience? YES.

As mentioned above, I'm sure your dog is reacting to hallways and neighboring apartments. In a house, this is the dog that will leap through the screen door and attack a delivery person or attack a neighbor in a friendly situation. I know this because I lived with it. I also experienced friends like you in denial, only to be the lucky one that did not need plastic surgery and a hospital visit. I kick myself because I SAW that dog I wanted to bond with while I was house & pet sitting was dangerous - but I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt. That benefit ran out for another visitor to that home. Scared me afterwards to this day.

On a personal note, if you have PTSD (did I understand that?) this is too much for you. But it's too much, anyway! There's a breeding issue! You have not failed!!

I agree the breeder should have known their business and the sire's disposition. They took a chance on your risk. You are at Risk.

I agree you only have limited choices. In your shoes, you should choose your own wellbeing and your associate's wellbeing over a dog you admit is too strong as a "puppy" for you to control. That said, I don't think you can reasonably overcome this guy's instincts to make him a domestic home companion. Don't sacrifice the next 10 to 16 years of your precious life and safety of others to an endeavor you very very likely can not guarantee.

The dog is suffering and unhappy. Everyone around him is experiencing same. Choose non-suffering. Open up your options. Do the least harm with your final choice.

PS - breeder is not a great person. act accordingly.
posted by jbenben at 3:16 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

This breeder discovering the sire's aggression sends up all kinds of red flags. Now there's no way to know if the behavior is eve likely to be curbed by neutering, training, exercise, or managing the environment. It seems obvious to this dog lover you were handed a dog with problems you're not equipped to handle. This is not your fault.

The course of action with the safest outcome for you would be to return the dog to the breeder, per the contract. At least that's what your contract SHOULD say. Any breeder worth their salt does not want their (potentially) defective dogs living with people who just wanted a nice family pet.

If your contract, on the other hand, allows for rehoming the dog just anywhere, then 1) this is a bottom-rung breeder you should absolutely stop listening to and 2) it would be massively irresponsible of you to pawn off the dog on other people. If this is the case, contact a German shepherd rescue to see whether they'll take him.

If you insist on keeping the dog, you need IMMEDIATE in-person help from a behaviorist, not just an obedience trainer, who knows how to train average dogs with average behaviors. The knowledge that his father is aggressive makes this anything but an average behavior problem. You need a specialist.

I'm sorry you're dealing with this. You should make this the breeder's problem, not yours.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:34 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Room 641-A's link nails it. I think I wrote in the other thread that we had similar problems with our pup when he was younger. Now the kids are training with him and things are improving at fast speed. During the holidays, all the family remarked that he is like a new dog - a safer and much happier dog. When I walked him this morning we experienced several situations which would have been uncomfortable before, but by following the advice in Room 641-A's link (which has also been sent to me by our trainer), I could easily manage. No growling or barking, and of course then no snapping, either.
Get a good trainer. Now. He is young, everything can change. Training can help you, too.
posted by mumimor at 5:32 AM on January 6, 2016

Best answer: BTW - our trainer claims that all dogs can be trained - regardless of age and type. She never uses forceful aides, such as pinch collars or muzzles. I am inclined to agree, given my earlier experience, but like I wrote in the other ask, it takes time and dedication to train any animal.

Also: during the holidays, I had the opportunity to walk him places where unleashed dogs are allowed, and in general, he was the more obedient and friendly dog when we met others. So again: get the good, positive reinforcement trainer, who is not scared of large dogs.
posted by mumimor at 5:42 AM on January 6, 2016

Best answer: If/when you muzzle your dog, if it is going to be in a muzzle for more than a couple of minutes use a basket muzzle - they even make them in nonthreatening colors like blue. Basket muzzles allow for normal breathing, panting (i.e temperature control), and drinking. Sized properly, they are very comfortable and dogs adjust to them very quickly.

The other thing I'd recommend is using a harness to walk him rather than a leash clipped to the collar. I like the Ruffwear Webmaster harnesses because I have one Houdini dog and one dog who pulls in everything but the Webmaster.

If you get the Webmaster in red, a lot of people assume 'working dog' and leave them alone.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:40 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

(Hmm, on reconsideration, I take back some of the nice things I said about the breeder.)
posted by salvia at 7:08 AM on January 6, 2016

Response by poster: To clarify on the breeder: the sire is a show dog, this is not a background breeder, I have the AKC papers. This breeding was originally for show dogs, I got him because his coloring is slightly off from the ideal show dog coloring. The sire does not currently have aggression issues, the sire had some aggression issues at puberty that were then corrected. The breeder already offered to rehome the dog with him, and yes, per contract that is all I can do. The breeder also offered to take him for a bit and see what's going on if I want that.

I appreciate some of you pointing out the GSD's working dog nature - one thing I hadn't considered was that previously he did have a job, but he kind of lost it when he started barking and I withdrew him from public facing stuff. We are going to be starting him on nose work.

We already have a basket muzzle and he doesn't have an issue with it.

I hadn't tried the extra exercise thing because the vet had said he had enough exercise and that too much is bad for their hips because of impact, but I ran wind sprints with him last night on a pretty empty area and he did pretty well with it. Thank you those who advised late night exercise!
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on January 6, 2016

I really wish you would listen to people telling you not to involve the breeder.
posted by shesbenevolent at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

The breeder you're working with has neither your best interests at heart nor your dog's. Continuing to rely on them for advice and input is going to lead you towards more problems, not less. You've got to stop taking their assertions as gospel and go to a vet who is a medically qualified professional, not a layperson looking to cover their ass given the legal ramifications of dog bites and aggressive breeds.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Vets have no particular training in behavioral issues.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:40 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

(Unless they do, of course. But behavior is one of those things that your common or garden variety veterinarian doesn't have any specific training in. See also: nutrition and food.)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:42 AM on January 6, 2016

Just adding some personal data here, and also saying that you are asking the right questions and keep asking, training and observing your dog. And be safe.

So...back in the day my husband and I adopted a 10 month old rescued off the streets German Shepherd mix mutt. He was neutered pre-adoption. I had raised guide dog puppies before and we had a trainer work with us. With hours of exercise a day, cats to herd (yes, we got our dog two cats, and they got along great), and careful training...we ended up with a dog we had to muzzle around other dogs. We had to bring people into our home carefully. We had to board him when relatives with kids stayed over. At about 9 years of age, he leapt off our deck onto a raccoon and killed it in basically one move, because he'd had a raccoon encounter a few months prior where he got scratched. (Vaccinate. He was fine. I got rabies shots for getting the saliva on a paper cut.) No warning bark. Not even a twitch of a tail.

I laughed at the screen statement above dog surprised a burglar coming in a screened window and jumped over our bannister, over the couch, through the window, over a fence and was only stopped by the guy slamming a 7 ft gate shut.

I loved that dog so much, but he was never ever safe. It worked because we didn't have kids at the time. And we were young and stupid at the start. If your efforts don't work please keep safety in mind.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Warriorqueen's comment is so good. So good.

I had a dog aggressive dog. Not people aggressive.

I spent every day of my life keeping that dog safe and other dogs safe.

Some dogs just have this inside them, and it is a something you will manage for that dog's entire life.

For you, there is a high cost. It's a lot of time and money managing the situation, of course, but the anxiety and hypervigilance of having this kind of dog is a real cost to your emotional health. In your previous post you say you have PTSD and you should think long and hard if you can take on a very real danger that you have to manage and think about every day.

Like Warriorqueen, your lives will be molded by this dog. You will change your patterns, your housing, your guests. You might be constantly afraid if you have guests in your home, or you may be constantly afraid to walk your dog near strangers on the street. It's a huge, huge commitment to keep this dog and keep your dog and everyone around him safe.

Of course, if he ever bites anyone, you will feel terrible. He may be destroyed after biting, and you may face legal consequences.

You need a really strong team here.
The person already on your team and has tons of knowledge is your breeder. I know lots of people here are tearing up breeders and that's because lots of people in the shelter world don't believe anyone should be breeding dogs. But the truth is the expert on each breed is a breeder. Are you on any GSD message boards or anything? Join those. The breeders that have been doing this their entire lives have such great insight into their breed and have seen so many similar situations that they will be excellent guides. They will probably even know your breeder and your lines and if there is any dirt, they might share the dirt. And this sounds harsh, but a long time breeder has probably put at least one dog down in their lifetimes due to some kind of behavior issues and you will learn a lot from these stories. What point is the dog too unsafe?

Your behaviorist needs to use positive methods (that pinch collar should have had you walking away right then and there). Get the best behaviorist in the area, but more importantly, you need one that deals with GSDs and other guarding breeds like Rotts. If you have a Rott rescue nearby, call them to ask who they use for behavior. I'm a little worried that your current behaviorist and the pinch collar created this situation. I watched a neighbor's bull terrier implode with similar behavior guidance. He was put down. I think he was also kind of a nut but I think his behaviorist basically drove him to his most dangerous acts. God that was horrible to watch, while my similarly dog-aggressive pit flourished under our positive reinforcement behaviorist. You need a behaviorist with a lot of balls too. The methods are positive but if they are afraid of your dog, it will never work. When my pit was being an asshole she stared him down and scared the shit out of him.

Your vet needs to be a GSD fan. I don't think your current vet gets it. If she can't even handle him to examine him now what happens if he comes in with a broken leg? You might even want to look for a vet near retirement, as the golden age of the GSD was the 80s and they will have seen a lot of them back then. The vet may also have some good behaviorist connections.

The other part of your team is the dog community that you join with. If you do scent work or some other activity, the participants will know your dog and help you too. You will learn great things from other dedicated dog owners.

Looking back at the amount of work I put into my dog aggressive dog, it was a lot, an unbelievable amount. I paid a huge emotional cost and time/money cost. I don't know if I could ever do it again, and mine was just dog aggressive, relatively easy to manage by staying on leash and in areas I know will be dog free/leashed. He never bit a strange dog (but he wanted to!) but he did scuffle with his roommate, but they were both participating. Even today I have a sigh of relief that we got through his lifetime without a dogfight. It was not an easy accomplishment.
Do a lot of thinking on this. It will mold your life in dramatic ways, even if the best case scenario happens for the rest of his life. The worst case scenario is unbearable. Decide what you can do, and if you decide to return him to the breeder I don't think there's any shame in that at all. It might be the best decision for you and for the dog. But keeping him might be one of the best relationships of your life, but it will be very hard. I know I miss my pit every day.
posted by littlewater at 9:51 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The ability to have an AKC-registered dog does not constitute either 1) a well bred dog or 2) a responsible breeder.

Signifiers of a so-called backyard breeder:

Owns both sire and dam, and continually breeds them together even if pups have defects.

Has "oops" litters.

Breeds for size--either large or small--other than what's in the breed standard. e.g., "The biggest shepherd you've ever met" and "This is the smallest poodle you can buy" are signs the breeder's primary interest is money.

Breeds for looks other than what's in the breed standard. e.g., Trying to breed white boxers with blue eyes. (Who are almost always deaf.)

Has AKC papers but no dogs in the line have ever been shown, or show poorly.

Loses track of their pups and dogs, doesn't know where they are at all times.

Will sell a pup to just anyone, regardless of poorly matched lifestyle or intention for the dog. e.g., Sells a border collie to a person living in an apartment.

Has to resort to selling pups in the newspaper or online. The most responsible breeders are so widely known by their reputation for solid dogs that people are on waitlists to get them. They're breeding for health and the future of the overall breed, and they usually have most of their pups spoken for before they're born.

Charges more money for characteristics that are actually defects. e.g., blue eyes or silver fur on a labrador.

Talks about profits made from breeding. The most responsible breeders are in it for the betterment of the breed in the long term and don't make any profit.

Does not stipulate returning the dog to the breeder in case of problems. The most responsible breeders would rather have their dogs--even poorly behaved dogs--back in their fold to take responsibility for what went wrong. Even if nothing "went wrong"--let's say a bad owner just wanted to dump the dog for seemingly no reason, a good breeder would jump at the chance to carefully and thoughtfully rehome a dog they bred, lest it wind up in a pound or rescue group, or worse.

All of the above can be true of a breeder creating dogs with AKC registrations.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

While I think littlewater and warriorqueen have made great comments above, I feel the need to repeat what I wrote in the other thread: with the right training, even an aggressive dog can become gentle as a lamb, when he is under command, and he basically always must be under command. I wrote in the other thread of how I could walk my aggressive GSD without a leash, and leave him safely, unleashed, outside the stores when shopping. He never hurt any living creature as long as I was there. I could take him along riding in the forest, unleashed, meeting all sorts of wildlife. My cousin would take him along when he went to bars, as a safety guard, but a safe safety guard (though not without the leash).
What I also wrote was that this took hours of training every single day.

For me, that training was therapeutic. I was a troubled child and youth, and needing to work with my lovely dog-friend helped me get on in life. It taught me a form of caring and discipline which I could apply to other areas of life.
In the city, I'd walk him in abandoned industrial areas (no need to be scared of anyone with that dog), but the best was when we were on holidays and could ramble round in the woods and on the beach all day. It gave me a sense of freedom and security I hadn't felt before.

If you have the time and opportunity to train your dog, don't hesitate, but please get the right team, as littlewater says.

One problems with German Shepherds is that the community does have a fascination of the guard dog/police dog. Our breeder delivered dogs to the police, and advised police training, so I went to police training even though I disagreed with their aims. I also read a ton of books, so I could sort through the messages I heard at "dog-school", and avoid the elements where the dogs' natural aggression were enhanced. Think about how your breeder sees this and consider their advice in that context. Having a big dog who loves you is in itself a safe-guard in most situations. You don't need to add to that.

(For instance, I share the concern that the pinch collar might have aggravated your problems, rather than solve them. But you can change that back. He is not a year old yet).
posted by mumimor at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Vets have no particular training in behavioral issues.

(Unless they do, of course. But behavior is one of those things that your common or garden variety veterinarian doesn't have any specific training in. See also: nutrition and food.)

My basic 4 year education included the same number of credit hours in nutrition and behavior as it did anesthesiology, cardiology, dermatology, immunology, virology, and neurology. That is to say, the same number of hours in the classroom and the laboratory, as well as integration when relevant in other didactic coursework (such as internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, pharmacology). We also had clinical rotations in nutrition and behavior, as well as departments dedicated to nutrition and behavior. Our dean of students was boarded both in internal medicine and nutrition, and the head of our small animal medicine service was also boarded in both internal medicine and nutrition.

In the case of a growing GSD, proper nutrition is needed to provide sufficient energy while preventing excessive rapid growth, which contributes to the joint laxity characteristic of hip dysplasia. Also, he should be kept lean, at a body condition score of 3/5 or 5/9, because obesity aggravates all orthopedic issues. His nutritional requirements can be calculated and he should be fed a limited calorie diet. What he eats is less important than how much he eats.

I hadn't tried the extra exercise thing because

High-impact exercise, such as jogging, at a young age contributes to the formation of hip dysplasia, to which GSDs already have a breed predilection. Running isn't very good for domestic dogs. Low impact exercise, such as long walks or swimming, is better.
posted by Seppaku at 8:37 PM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Randomly deciding to run sprints with a GSD puppy isn't a good idea. You need an actual behaviorist as well as another vet. This situation is going downhill very quickly. You're right to be anxious about it, but that anxiety needs to feed into finding proper help for you and the dog.
posted by barnone at 11:10 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm an owner of a 60lb GSD girl.

Three things.

There is a lot of ground between where you are now and someone taking your dog away to be destroyed, right? Have you asked that question of your local animal control authorities? The truth may be less scary than the anxiety, and knowing what that road looks like, though you don't want to be on it, might be helpful.

I personally recommend a front-attaching harness. My dog still pulls on the leash. My bad, but she does. And I don't like getting her agitated by jerking her neck. A front attaching harness is great, because it pulls her attention back to me as soon as she begins to pull. She literally cannot pull because it makes her turn toward me. The Gentle Leader was hard to use and we never got used to it, though that's a similar principle. Maybe having a little more control will help your anxiety.

Third, GSD puppyhood is LONG. My girl is 3 and still has puppy energy. Gird your loins, this is far from over.

Fourth, bonus: I did not much heed a "no running for growing GSDs" rule, myself, and I quite depend on exercising her with a flirt pole. It's "leave it," "bring it here," "drop it" and "wait" training all in one with a big load of exercise and she just loves it more than life itself.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:22 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So I met with the breeder today, and I want to encourage everyone in this situation to check with your breeder first - he was really helpful and interested in continuing to be helpful and I wish I had contacted him earlier.

1- he apologized and offered me my money back
2 - he is not going to be breeding again with that dog, and is going to be evaluating further pairings in non-show environments as well as in show environments
3 - he has pulled his sibling from the breeding path and is going to be finding him a non-breeding home.
4- he will be assisting with dog work as well as pairing me with a behaviorist that is pretty well known.
5- he offered to rehome either now or at any time we decide to or need respite or whatever

He said after evaluation: that we should indeed neuter him ASAP and are released from all contractual obligations there. He said that there is clearly a temperment issue and W will probably always have it to some degree (never like crowds, etc) so may improve once we have our own house - but that there are a lot of things we can do to mitigate it. He also suggested a muzzle for now and to try socializing him very gradually in less urban settings.

He also agreed on the vet issue and has recommended a large-animal country vet, as being more willing/used to work with large/potentially aggressive animals. I've made an appointment for them for tranqs for his neutering, so that's moving forward.

Uh, I guess that's it for now, thank you everyone who has helped with this.
posted by corb at 1:16 PM on January 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

So good to know, corb
posted by mumimor at 2:19 PM on January 15, 2016

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