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Will aggression escalate with children?

Discussion in 'Boxers & Children' started by NEWBARFERSAM, Aug 12, 2005.

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  1. NEWBARFERSAM

    NEWBARFERSAM Boxer Pal

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    Hi all, I am a new boxer mom who has adopted Sammy at 13 months old and she is now 19 months old. Recently, our second trainer told us that we should consider giving her up if we ever want to have kids, because she will definitely try to boss children around and will end up biting them. Well, she's been with us for 6 months now and even though she still has some issues, she has improved a lot and we do not want to send her off. We loved her dearly and we know she has bonded with us as well. We are wondering if anyone has had a dominate boxer before and has managed to train / re-condition him to a point where he can live with children? This is the second time that we have been told by a trainer that aggression will escalate after we have kids... we are not planning anything soon but may do so in 2 or 3 years' time, and hopefully that will be enough time for us to train our girl?
     
  2. boxer

    boxer Boxer Insane

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    I really think you should find yourself another trainer. This one sounds like a bit of a quack. And one that is using a mis-construed theory of "dominance" as an excuse for blaming the dog (for a range of things that it hasn't even done in a theroetical situation).

    Dominance is one of the most widely mis-construed (and abused) concepts that poor trainers like to use as an excuse for the failure of poor training methods. And it sounds very much as though you've managed to find yourself such an individual.

    Yes, there are many many people on these forums who have, or have had, what might be labelled a "dominant" dog. No, they don't have problems with their dog and kids - not if they train and manage the dog properly, anyway. And, of course, train and manage their kids properly too. Those who beleive that their kids should be able to crawl all over the dog, pull it's ears and poke it's eyes, take it's bones and toys and generally invade the dog's personal space at will are destined for trouble, and should not have a dog.

    I'd suggest that you looked for a new trainer. One who sticks to training and leaves behavioural predictions to qualified behaviourists ;) Or, if it is behaviour modification you're actually seeking - then get the help of a behaviourist directly. What actually is the problem with this dog anyway? Is she aggressive or does she just need training? You need to choose a person who is correctly qualified for your needs.

    One thing I would caution strongly against though, if you've got a dog that's supposedly aggressive, is using any trainer that uses any form of coercive or abusive methods. Aggression begets aggression, and a dog with an unknown background (in particular) must be treated with positive methods only.

    A good place for finding trainers is www.apdt.com Obviously, you need to check for yourself, but all of the trainers listed in that directory should be using purely positive methods.
    And for a behaviourist, if that's what's required, there are some very good links at the top of this thread: http://boxerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=46555
     
  3. NEWBARFERSAM

    NEWBARFERSAM Boxer Pal

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    Hi Debbie,
    Thanks for your detailed and encouraging post. Both me and my husband felt that Sammy should not be a lost cause because she has been improving consistently under training so chances are that she will be ready for kids when we are. Well, her problem is a bit complicated, and at times we suspect that she is schizophrenic but most likely it is how she reacts to her fear of everything new...
    See, we got her from her breeder at 12 and a half months old and she was a return to the breeder because her previous owner was getting too old and ill to properly care for her. When we first saw her for the first time at the breeder's house, she was playing among other adult dogs and was quite friendly and sweet so both her breeder and us thought she will do just fine. After taking her home, we found out that she has absolutely no leash manners and was extremely afraid of strangers, people with hats (or umbrellas) or children etc... Even cars passing by will scare her into the bushes. *Sigh* On top of that, she will come to us to ask for attention, then after we petted her for a little while she will suddenly turn and nip us (well, not hard enough to draw blood but sometimes hard enough to bruise us). Not to mention going after our toes or heels if we happen to walk too close to her bed. Sammy was indeed acting very differently from when she was back with her breeder so we knew we must act quickly to establish our leadership or she will be forever spoiled. This is when we got involved with our first trainer who was highly recommended by half a dozen dog owners and pet shops that we know. Long story short, it didn't work out very well coz she insisted on the use of a "Good Dog" collar which is a plastiky version of a prong collar, plus lots of leash corrections. Eventually Sammy got more and more resistive and began growling and lunging out at strangers / dogs/ cars and what-not, instead of running away from them. Instead of just barking and backing away from the door when visitors arrive, she started charging at them and we knew that we were heading in the wrong direction. We then stopped all training with this trainer and chucked out the plasticky prong collar. We were very disappointed with the trainer so we resorted to books on positive training, aggression, dog behavior etc.. plus a Gentle Leader collar, and things started to improve for real. She is no longer nipping us at home and does not lunge at people / dogs unless they appear out of no where to surprise her. Everything was very encouraging except she is still guarding our home very fiercely so visitors are still greeted with quite a bit of aggression. Even after entering, they will have to sit calmly at one spot and never move. A slightly larger movement like bending over towards the coffee table for a cup of tea will almost guarantee a bite if we were not holding onto her leash. So after talking to our vet we got in touch with our second trainer who is supposedly very good with aggressive issues. We noticed the difference right away because she did not approach our dog with a dominant attitude like our first trainer, and managed to sort of "befriended" Sammy after only 10 minutes of meeting her in our garden. Shortly after she could even enter our home with Sammy acting just slightly uncomfortable and even managed to enjoy her tea without Sammy acting up! She told us that Sammy is very confused and her aggression stems from fear more than anything else but there is also a slight dominance issue here (the nipping of our hands and heels). She said that we can definitely work with Sammy and re-train her into a much calmer dog in time (a year or two) but chances are high that Sammy will never be calm enough to withstand the challenge of young children as they move much too quickly and impulsively (not to mention screaming and schrieking) which Sammy really reacts to. In addition, she may view them as new comers to the family and may try to nip them into submission just like what she did to us before. She also stressed that it is not a matter of breed, but more of the combination of the fear/dominance. *Sigh* We don't know what to do because we really don't want to part with Sammy but we know we will definitely have children in the future. We want to give Sammy more time and kept going with her training for a few more months and re-evaluate her again then. Then just tonight we saw how she reacted to sudden movements and we are second guessing ourselves again - she bit my hand when I rushed towards the floor to hit a spider! I have to admit that I have surprised her because one second I was walking across the kitchen and then the next I was down on my knees whacking at the spider. She just lunged at my hand and bit me hard - no blood but a big black bruise. She knew she did wrong because she immediately cowered to her bed and pretended to sleep while keeping an eye on me. I just ignored her for the rest of the evening until I put her into her crate just now. *Sigh* So will this never go away and will happen again with my kids later on??? Should we or should we not? We just don't know anymore... - Sammy's mom (at wits end)
     
  4. gmacleod

    gmacleod Elusive Moderator Staff Member

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    Poor Sammy :(

    It sounds very much as though this girl has suffered from just about zero socialisation and training in her first year of life. But I certainly would not write her off as a hopeless case - nowhere near it. You just need to make sure that you find someone to work with you using positive reinforcement training techniques only. Coercive and bullying will only make things worse - as you already discovered with the idiot and his "good dog collar".

    But in the absence of proper socialisation as a puppy and any early training, this is a dog that's easily frightened by new situations - and she needs her confidence built up. You won't do that by force (which is why the coercive techniques had the opposite effect to what you were trying to achieve).

    Please do make use of the link to the association of pet dog trainers that Debbie posted for you - anyone in that association should be using purely positive training techniques (always check though).

    Good luck - and do keep us posted. We'll help all we can on this board, but I really think this is a situation where it's worthwhile having someone come to work with you on this. Obviously, only someone who has the patience to work with a fearful dog, and will only use positive techniques with her.
     
  5. efb01

    efb01 Banned

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    While reading this, it reminded me of my older dog Copper. Copper was brought in as a stray to a shelter. He had been fostered out but I could tell he was very under socialized. Trash bags, Bar-B-Q pits, and people with hats would throw him into a fit. It led to alot of his fears. Training helped but taking him with me on errands, walking the neighborhood and greeting people, seeing new things definitely helped calm his fears and make him calmer. Copper was about year old when I got him, he will turn 4 on Thursday and the difference is remarkable. And yes he has been around children and has no problem with them as long as they are nice to him. Good luck.
     
  6. NEWBARFERSAM

    NEWBARFERSAM Boxer Pal

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    Hi All, it's been sometime since I've posted, but I've been busy working with Sammy and her new trainer and she is improving really well. Weekly hikes with her trainer and her dogs has helped to boost her confidence and trust in other dogs, not to mention that meeting other dogs along the way also gives her chances to socialize in a way that's not so threatening, i.e. she is not the only one that gets all the attention. :)

    I can see amazing changes in her since we began the hikes as she seems more happy and content overall. She is getting more settled in at home and is no longer reacting to sudden noises, not to mention looking at me for treats instead of barking at strangers on the street. I can't say how relieved me and my hubby are to get here now as we didn't want to give her up and all of this is telling us that she is definitely here to stay! Yay!

    In addition to this, the best news from our trainer is that she thinks she needs to re-evaluate her previous evaluation on Sammy regarding children because she feels that Sammy is very smart and can learn very quickly. Therefore now she thinks that chances are Sammy can improve to a point where kids will not be a major problem as long as they know how to treat Sammy nicely, and of course, as long as we supervise accordingly. Her newest conclusion is: let's give her more time. Yay!

    Thanks so much for all your encouragement and advice. I am not sure how I can get through the most difficult times without knowing that it wasn't the end and there is still a way out - and most important of all, other people have gone through similar issues with good results too. Thanks! I will keep you posted on Sammy's progress!
     
  7. jazzyboxer

    jazzyboxer Completely Boxer Crazy

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    That is great news! So glad you are hanging in there with Sammy...she needs you and she is going to turn out to be a wonderful dog.
     
  8. CondoPup

    CondoPup Banned

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    What great news! If Sammy is responding so well to even a week's worth of this next training endeavor, that has to seem like a really good sign regarding what another full year or two of your efforts should do. :) And another observation - a one-year-old dog is much different than a three-year-old dog, even within the boxer breed which is always playful and puppylike in so many ways. The extra maturity should help especially with you guiding her through via special attention to training.

    This is such a vivid example of Debbie's point on "aggression begets aggression" - you should tell that first trainer to tune in and read this thread, he could learn a thing or two!
     
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