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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I have been reading everything I can on this site for about 8 months and there is alot of good information. I like how everyone comes together for the breed and helps out and is so friendly.

Now on to the questions. I have a 8 month old pitbull lab mix I got my family. I have a 4yr old boy and a 2yr old girl. This is not my first pit i grew up with them and feel like I handle them pretty well. Now in my house I am the alpha male and i am 100% sure my dog sees me as that. He obeys me and is very happy when we play and is generally a good dog. now my problem is with the kids not with me, he has never shown any form of aggression towards me. As a puppy I let the kids touch his food and pet him and what not to show him they would not take his food to keep from having aggression issues. The last few days when they walk by him he growls and actually snapped at one today. luckily I was right there and snatched him up by his collar before he got close to her. Does anyone have any ideas on why this is just now becoming a problem or how to correct the issue?I am hoping to correct this as soon as possible because i do not want a dangerous dog for his own safety and the kids. maybe lisa from performance kennels can help me out here. You seem to have alot of good info and i enjoy reading your suggestions. I wish there was a trainer in my area as experienced as you with this breed.

Is there anyone from the hampton roads area on the forums? I am looking for a good trainer and maybe a good club that does agility and stuff. I know I don't have a champion on my hands but I think it would be great for the dog and fun for me too. The only place I can find is in va beach and thats just too far for me I live in the ft eustis area.

thanks for the help and info
 

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Here's some information a friend of mine shared, she's a behavior consultant. I've used it with several shelter dogs, and got results. I hope this helps you.

Resource guarding is not abnormal behavior, it is adaptive and it does not necessarily make a dog an overly dangerous animal.Posturing, growling, staring, freezing/stiffening, and other ritualized behaviors are the appropriate way for dogs to say "this is mine and I want it, or I want to be by it/on it... you need to back off". In most case, dogs limit their behavior to warnings through vocalization and body language, but if the warnings are not heard they can move to snapping (also a warning) and escalate in a bite if the dog continue to be pushed.

Resource guarding is not limited to food , but I am going to use food guarding, which is very common, as the main example.Food guarding is displayed by an increase in distance (dogs takes bone and runs away), increase speed in the "chewing time" (frantic chewing, swallowing food before it is chewed) , threatening/warning behaviors (growling, freezing, head held low, staring , snarling etc) when the owner or present person is moving closer to the guarded food or into the dog's space.That type of food must have significant value to the dog.It is possible that a dog is not displaying these behaviors when the owner reaches into the bowl of kibble, but the same animal might not be willing to have the owner approaching a marrow bone,kong filled with goodies, raw meat etc.

The worse way to approach this problem, and also unsafe, is to get into some kind of competition with the dog because we want to make it clear that we "own the food".
Chasing, cornering, punishing, forcefully removing food from the dog's mouth, yelling and whatever else ignorant owners do only increase the value of the food. Something to absolutely keep in mind is that punishment is going to create a faster protective response, which means that the a bite can happen earlier in the sequence of threats that we would normally see.

In order to start some behavior modification we need to find a hierarchy of value (high to low value).This means that we are looking for foods that are not going to evoke a certain type of behavior, while making a list of those that do. If the dog is guarding a rawhide but not his/her bowl of food that is what we start with. The idea is to change emotional responses and condition responses in which the dog anticipates something positive when the owners is stepping into the guarded item. Instead of the dog thinking in terms of loss when the owner approaches, we are looking for the dog to want the owner to approach, because there is a specific consequence when those antecedents are in the picture (owner moving closer to the guarded items). We would be using differential reinforcement procedures, with incremental graded exposure, so that the animal is helped to succeed. Here is an example of the beginning work:

1-dog is eating bowl of kibble (dog does not guard kibble).
2-owner walks closer to the bowl (can be close, dog is not guarding).
3-owner drops treats in the bowl (can be same value food, dog is not guarding).
-4- owner walks away.

Using the same value food, raise in criteria:

1-dog is eating bowl of kibble (dog does not guard kibble).
2-owner walks closer and reach for the bowl of food (no need to break it into smaller steps, from the owner's part, dog is not guarding)
3-owners drops more food into the bowl as he reaches for it.
4-owner walks away.

Same value food, raise in criteria:

1-dog is eating bowl of kibble (dog does not guard kibble).
2-owner walks closer and pick up bowl.When he touches the bowl and before picking it up, owner deliver several treats by hand.
3-owner returns bowl to the dog, with more treats in it.
4-owner walks away.

This is beginning work, nothing must happen so fast when a dog is actually guarding the food. This was an example to help understand the process from the beginning, which has to start with low value food (or items), then move to medium value foods, and finally high value foods. When food is guarded, the "exchange game" food needs to be of higher value , or at least of equal value of what the dog is guarding.

With guarded food that had been a problem before we need to lower the criteria, which means that we won't be so close. For some dogs, entering the room they are eating in, is enough to create a situation in which warnings happen. In that case, we would enter the room and throw special food before the dog starts a negative chain of reactions. If there is not time to work on this, at the moment, the dog needs to be left alone. If there are children in the pictures...dog MUST be confined. Children, toddlers especially, have no idea of dog behavior and it is unfair to them and the dog in question to allow both to be in the same area where resource guarding is a problem.

I gave a very brief and "user friendly" introduction to the type of work everyone should be doing, but for a more detailed explanation please buy the book "Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs, by Jean Donaldson. It is very simple and yet breaks things down to where they are helpful.Let's keep in mind...no book is a substitute for someone with experience so if you own a dog who deliver serious bites, please contact a professional.That professional has an education and does not use quick fixes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks that was a good bit of info. I have always picked his food up made him sit and give it back but I never thought to add treats to it. I Guess I can do that myself for a week or so to get him used to it then let my oldest try after he is used to it. I realy don't think my little girl should do this though an she's the one I am worried about. My dog has never shown aggression to my little boy that I know of. Rhino is no longer allowed to eat or have his favorite bone unless I am there now until I feel he is no longer aggressive. How do you guys deal with a 2yr old an help them get the respect also? I am very shocked that this happened they ride him like a horse an I've even cought them poking at him an he has always been friendly with the kids.
 

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We're currently babysetting a soon to be three year old, when he's around no toys of high value are down, unless I can be there to supervise 100% of it. (blocking him) Generally at that age they can't really comprehend anything except this = bad, that = good and they still can't reason between it very well. So, for us the best way to handle it is to manage it. I keep things up when they can't be very closely supervised.

Does he have anything that's low value and he's fine with? You could have them walk up and treat, just watch very closely. I'll try to pull up a body language link tonight if you'd like.
 

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It sounds like the dog is going through typical growing pains. He is getting older and may feel the need to test his strength. I would say before you get to worried that you did the right thing and disciplined the aggressive act. Work on it for a while and see where you are in a couple of weeks. ANything with a two year old kid is going to be a challenge. I don't have kids but i would think that you might want to wait until they are a little bit older to incorporate that part of the dog's upbringing into their lives. On a personal note, because of my participation in competitive obedience I start off with my young ones feeding by hand and the aggression over food problems never develop because early on they believe that all things to eat come from ME and they are all MINE and never theirs. If they work well and do what they are told, I may choose to share what is MINE.

Thanks that was a good bit of info. I have always picked his food up made him sit and give it back but I never thought to add treats to it. I Guess I can do that myself for a week or so to get him used to it then let my oldest try after he is used to it. I realy don't think my little girl should do this though an she's the one I am worried about. My dog has never shown aggression to my little boy that I know of. Rhino is no longer allowed to eat or have his favorite bone unless I am there now until I feel he is no longer aggressive. How do you guys deal with a 2yr old an help them get the respect also? I am very shocked that this happened they ride him like a horse an I've even cought them poking at him an he has always been friendly with the kids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think I am going to the vet as soon as they can get me in. Today he put his food in the water bowl an then ate it. This makes me think it may be a mouth or jaw problem. I feed orijin an I don't think he just decided he don't like it anymore.

As for the body language chart I would like to see it. I am always open to new info, you will never here me say no when it comes to info.

I hand feed him a few times a week and so do the kids. This is why I am shocked by his behavior. He does not have any low value toys. He has a lot of toys but all he wants is his giant rawhide bone and he growled when they came near his bone last night also.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I will keep you guys updated. It looks like they can't see him till next week. I'm going to try and get a pic up for you guys. I know we all loves pics. I just hope nothing is wrong with him but such a sudden change in behavior has me a lil bit worried.

Thank-you. The links were very helpful. That is exactly what I needed to show the wife so she understands why I grab him sometimes and has done nothing wrong. The part about the dog rolling over though is kind of confusing though because when he is really excited and tries to jump I say sit and he usually rolls over.
 

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Send me a pm with your city and zip code. I can look for a good trainer in your area this is something I would not correct with out the guidance of a professional. With out being able to see it first hand and figure out where is it coming from you need to work with a trainer. This can get dangerous for your kids if it is a temperaments issue. Hopefully it can be fixed with a little bit of training, I just got a call like this to do an evaluation on a pit mix who was growling at the kids. In the back of my mind I was thinking this is not going to be good but when I got there it was not really a big deal and he dog was not serious. That is why it is important to see it first hand and work with a good trainer. Definitely rule out anything medical but before spending a lot of money on the medical side on a young pup I would go see a trainer first. JMO
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I think he is serious because his head is down low an he has a straight muscular stance. I don't think he is serious enough to bite but it is enough to get my attention.

On a better note he was playing real good today an had some energy. He ate his food dry with no problems. Still going to the vet in the morning just to be sure. My neighbors have been seeing a lot of posoms lately. I actually just helped her get one out of the house. Do they mess with dogs?

Pm sent. Oops I think it sent it twice.
 

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Yeah I sent you the website of a trainer in your area that looks good. He can at least look at the dog and make sure it is not a temperament issue. Good luck and let us know how it goes, in the mean time watch him and the kids very close.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So good news at the vet today there is nothing major wrong with him. The vet couldn't find any thing an chalked it up to not feeling good but I knew something was wrong I know my dog very well so I asked them to do blood work and stuff. Turns out he just has whip worms. I got some antibiotics for him an I have to give him interceptor instead of his usual heart worm meds and he will be just fine. Vet said he probably got it from walking on contaminated grass and licking his paws. She said it is nothing to worry about and he will be fine once the meds work. Today he has had plenty of energy and been very friendly again so I think he was just not feeling well. Found out he's 70lbs today. A month and a half ago he was only 52 so he's growning quick and his muscle and bones feel great according to her.

I will be getting in contact with that trainer thanks for looking in to that for me. I asked around an no one I know has heard of him but he looks qualified as you said. Thanks for the help guys. I'll get a pic up tomorrow for Yall if I can figure out how.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So it looks like the dog will have to be separated from the kids until I can get him to the trainer. Today my lil boy was laying next to him on the floor petting him an he snapped at him this time. I didn't hear a growl or anything to indicate he was bothering him. After he did that I went to grab his collar to put him out side and he opened his mouth a little bit like he was gonna snap at me also but I said no very firm an he rolled on his side. I'm so angry I hate the thought of getting rid of him he has been a great dog until this week. If this continues I would be a horrible owner and parent to keep him in this house. hopefully the trainer can figure something out.
 

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If the trainer thinks he is not sound do not get rid of him, put him down. Placing him in another home is just passing the problem along and someone can get hurt. Sorry you are having to go through this let us know what the trainer says.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I am the one always sticking up for pits and saying they are great if you raise them right an now its happening to me. I feel like I did A good job with him till now. A friend of mine said that's the risk you take when getting a mixed dog with unknown parents. Is a purebred with good temperament parents that much less likely to have issues like this? All the nice purebred dogs I see an well over a grand an that ain't in my future anytime soon with two kids to feed. Looks like I might be with out a dog for a while if this does not go well. It's depressing to think I might have to put him down.
 

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As a trainer I talk to people and they tell me the problems they are having and many times I am like "oh boy a dog might need to be PTS" Then I get there and it is something completely different and not a big deal. That is why I am not going to give any advice and instead suggest you talk to a trainer who can see first hand what is going on. Dogs developing temperament problems can happen more with dogs from BYB's (back yard breeders) who breed with no discretion or thought of temperament. HA can be genetic and why it is so important to know what your breeding.

It would be sad if your dog does have a temperament issue but it is no fault of yours. Many rescues are just great animals but every now and again you get one who is not right in the brain and again it had nothing to do with how you raised the puppy.

See what the trainer says and go from there. Sorry you are having to go through this, I have had to put down several rescues in the past due to temperament issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Still going to the trainer but he seems much better the last few days. I'm thinking his problem was a mix of not feeling well and stress.
 
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