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Thread: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

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    Question HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Hi, all!

    So I have a huge concern that I’d love some experienced advice on. Please bear with me for the novel I’m about to type up, I’d like to give as much info up front as possible because I have no clue what’s going on with this and I don’t want to leave anything out that someone else might spot as important.



    We adopted Atlas 5 months ago when he was a 3-month-old pup. He is an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler mix and he is our only furbaby. Before he came to us, he spent about a month with two other couples, neither of which felt they could keep him (circumstantial reasons, they said, although sometimes I wonder if he was just too much dog for them). So he was passed around a lot during his third month of life and came to Travis and I with some behavioral issues and a little separation anxiety which we attributed to that, which seems “healed” now, for the most part. For 3-4 months Atlas lived with me at my parents’ house in the country with my mom, my dad, and their dog Doc (7 year old Beagle/cockapoo mix). About 6 weeks ago, Travis and I moved into a house in the city. I can totally share more details about any/all of those households if anyone thinks it’s relevant, but I’ll press on for now since the issue I want advice on has been happening for the entire 5 months we’ve had him.

    Like most ACDs, Atlas is spunky and hard-headed and tries his best to push us around which we don’t stand for, but he’s also smart as a whip, very attached to Travis and me, and eager to please us, generally speaking. He’s more chewy than snuggly although I’m still hopeful that we can settle in for some cuddles as he gets older. We love that you can see the gears turning in his head as he’s figuring stuff out—he has very expressive eyes.

    Exercise: We spend 1-2 hours, at least twice a day, either walking or at the dog park, once in the morning and once in the evening. He is not crated during the day because either Travis has the day off to spend with him, I have the day off to spend with him, or I take him to my parents’ house (3-4 days/week) while we are both working—on those days he usually gets 3 walks plus as much wrestling around as Doc can stand. Additionally, I’m very big into mental stimulation to tire him out so he’s often fed with food puzzles, playing scent games, learning/practicing tricks, etc. We did the standard 6 week puppy class with a local trainer and he was the smartest and naughtiest puppy pupil.

    He was neutered at the beginning of July, when he was a little over 6 months old.

    From the beginning we’ve done our best with “nothing in life is free” system and we’ve found that SO helpful in managing our daily household life with him. He seems to thrive on the routines we have and will often put himself to bed after his last potty at night.

    We’ve gotten through (or found ways to manage) all of what I would consider “typical puppy” mischief but, of course, cattle dogs are something else and we have one huge behavioral issue that causes us a lot of grief and seems to be getting worse instead of better. Atlas “attacks” our feet in a number of different contexts and we seem unable to train that out of him. I’ve read through a lot of stuff online about puppy biting but I have yet to come across something that describes this specific behavior (which is why I’m here!) so I want to differentiate it very clearly from a few forms of biting which it is definitely NOT, just to save us all some time:


    • It isn’t boredom biting. If we’re sitting around in the evening and he gets bored with whatever toy he’s chewing on, he’ll wander over and chomp on our feet (just to entertain himself, I think) but that can be ended with some combination of “No” “Walk away” “Leave it” which we use somewhat interchangeably depending on the situation.
    • He used to bite at our feet as we walked downstairs but we attributed that to herding instinct and solved it quickly by making him sit and wait at the top of the stairs while we walked down, and then calling him down to us—easy. We also use a sit-stay to keep him from biting our feet/shoes while we put them on—for some reason that gets him going and is also probably related to his herding obsession with feet. I honestly don’t think this “attacking” that we’re struggling with is a herding thing, although I’m here to ask the experts!
    • It isn’t “play with me!” biting. He has this (horribly grating haha) high-pitched yelp bark that he does along with play bows and little nips to get dogs at the dog park to play with him. Sometimes he tries it on Travis and I at home but we usually just redirect him to a toy and that’s that. Sometimes we have to crate him to calm him down if he escalates into the next kind of biting we see, which is:
    • Over-threshold, too much stimulation biting. His pupils get super dilated when there’s too much going on and his biting then is almost like he can’t help himself—it’s frantic. But that can usually be interrupted with a quiet but firm “Atlas. No. Settle down” and giving him something else to do, or definitely by reaching a hand into the treat bag on your hip and giving him a series of commands to help him focus.
    • This “attacking” is even different from his “tug of war” play noises where he growls and whines. It’s louder, more snarly, and he will not “drop it” like we can usually get him to do fairly easily when we’re playing tug.


    We’ve found ways to cope with all of the above types of biting that we see from him and we’re getting on okay—he’ll continue to outgrow those. But this one specific “attacking” behavior is driving us nuts and only seems to be getting worse. For a long time he only did it on leash with no noticeable provocation. We would be walking along sniffing and BAM he’d turn around and pounce on our shoes/pants (or bare feet/ankles/calves) and really sink in, growling and snarling and tugging with this very specific (*cough* demonic *cough*) look in his eye. If we happened to catch up to him and he caught a glimpse of us out of the corner of his eye he was even more likely to “attack.” Over the last couple of months this has escalated to literally leaping at us through the air, teeth first, to chomp on our elbows, back, thighs, literally anything he can grab (still seemingly at random—totally out of the blue). It has also progressed in that it no longer only happens on leash, during walks. And he seems to be biting harder and harder when he does it, which is scary. Please believe me, I have been searching desperately for a pattern to this for the last 5 months and I honestly am still not able to predict when he will “attack” because there are so many things that seem to trigger it, or often NOTHING AT ALL.

    Some examples:

    • Walking past a house with a dog in the yard that suddenly starts barking from behind their fence will visibly startle him and he will posture but leave it when I tell him… and then half a block later he’s redirecting that aggression on me. Possible trigger, right?
    • If he wants to go get into something on leash and I won’t let him for whatever reason, he’ll often get frustrated and take it out on my feet. Possible trigger?
    • Hanging out in the backyard playing fetch he’ll get impatient with me for taking too long (even though I often make him do a trick before I throw it—he’ll do the trick and then still decide to leap up and bite at me). Or he’ll get distracted and not bring the ball back, but when I start walking across the yard to go get it, he’ll run up and grab my pants and growl and tug. (These two examples were different sessions. The game stops immediately if he “attacks” me.)
    • Walking (on and off leash) on my parents’ property he’ll randomly “attack” me—it’s quiet and peaceful, no stimulus, nothing to get him amped up. No trigger!
    • At my friend’s house, just hanging out, cooking dinner. And then again later in the backyard. Maybe he was bored?
    • He recently (this last week) started doing it at the dog park of all places—with no trigger. He’s off leash, free to choose ANY activity (and he loves playing with dogs—chasing, wrestling, you name it) and he’ll choose to leave who he’s playing with, march up to me wherever I’m standing, like he just remembered I’m there, jump up, and latch himself onto my crossed arms. And when I scrape him off of me he’ll leap onto my shoes/sweatshirt whatever, growling and carrying on until we manage to half drag him out of the dog park. It’s very embarrassing. Once we get him on his leash though, he trots along to the car like it never happened (although he looks sort of wistfully over his shoulder like, why are we leaving so soon?) The other day we were only there for like, 10 minutes before he did this. I always insist that we leave immediately—if we’re in a position to end the fun when he “attacks,” we do so, immediately. (That’s not really possible on a walk, unfortunately, as you have to continue at some point, right?)


    We have tried everything under the sun (except all of the brilliant ideas you all will provide us, I’m sure!) to correct this behavior over the last 5 months, giving each approach a couple of weeks and then moving on to something else when we still weren’t seeing any improvement:


    • Yelping in pain and removing our attention (This was the first thing we tried when we brought him home at 12 weeks and started having this problem. It worked in the more standard sense of teaching bite inhibition with normal indoor puppy play biting but had no effect on this behavior.)
    • Ignoring it entirely until he stopped on his own (I was so sure this was the solution that I kept at it for wayyyy longer than I probably should have and I think I still have ankle scars from that phase.)
    • Saying “no” very firmly and gently tugging him away from us with the leash
    • Redirecting him to a toy that we carried on walks
    • Interrupting his attack with a series of commands to “flip the switch” back (this one at least got him to stop, although after our 60 second or so routine was up he’d be right back at it. We are no longer able to cut through his crazy in that moment by giving him a command—it just doesn’t work anymore.)
    • Spraying a bitter cherry chew deterrent on our shoes and pant legs for walks (a short-term solution, obviously, but we were hopeful that it would help him break the habit on his own as he grew out of it—which he hasn’t done)
    • Clipping his leash with a caribiner to the nearest tree and walking 20 feet away from him and standing with our backs to him for 5 minutes to so. I had some L-O-N-G walks with him when this was the technique because after 5 minutes we’d take 10 more paces and he’d do it again, so I’d clip him to another tree and ignore him some more… and on and on.
    • For a while we just said “nope!” and kept walking, physically holding him away from our bodies with the leash while he lunged and snarled until he got distracted by something and stopped. We had to start using a harness at this point because I was worried about hurting his neck—he was throwing his whole weight toward me while I held him off and tried to keep moving forward. He’s 50 lbs. of muscle now and I can no longer do this.
    • Teaching him “leave it,” which is useful in other situations but does not work here
    • Teaching him to heel so he had a job to do instead. He’ll sometimes heel until I say okay and then pretty much immediately go after my feet, or even go after me DURING the heel.
    • Teaching him “touch” (nose bump) so he had another means of getting our attention
    • Teaching him “walk away” which literally just means “turn around, get away from me” which we still use for other purposes but it won’t get him to stop this particular behavior
    • Travis actually started growling “no” at him and will still do that from time to time. I think it only works because Atlas is startled by it but it doesn’t work every time and I don’t have a very convincing growl anyway haha.


    So, to sum it up. This attacking behavior is completely baffling to us because:

    1. The rest of his naughty puppy behavior is getting better while this is getting worse
    2. It seems to happen at totally random times and places so we have no concept of what’s wrong, what he wants from us, what he’s trying to accomplish
    3. It seems like he just gets it into his head that he’d like to attack me, and so he turns and does that, which would point to impulse control issues—but he has excellent impulse control for a puppy, in all other circumstances
    4. I have no idea what we’re doing to reinforce this behavior because even though we’ve tried different techniques all of them (except ignoring it completely) involved a clear message “We do not like that. That is not okay. You can’t bite us.”
    5. "Nothing in life is free" has been working so well for us and like any ACD he seems very eager to have a job and please us by doing his “jobs” well and he gets loads of attention when he’s being good
    6. Even when he’s off leash at the dog park and free to choose ANY activity, he’ll choose to “attack” me, even though experience has shown him that all that gets him is immediate removal from the dog park.


    We are very firm on positive reinforcement training because of what we’ve read about ACDs—that they will meet force with force. But people also say that you need to make it clear to ACDs that you are in charge because they’ll take advantage of any weakness. Which seems like a paradox with behavior like this—he’s the one being violent so we don’t understand how to make it clear that what he’s doing is unacceptable and get him to knock it off, without using force.

    I’m ripping my hair out over this because we are VERY committed to this dog and we take our responsibility to him seriously… but we can’t give him a life where we do fun things like dog parks and hiking and doggy play dates if I can’t trust him in public (with myself—he’s never done this to a stranger). I mean, geez, I can’t even take him into my own back yard without worrying about when he’s going to pounce. He has some other puppy issues that we struggle with daily but they are all things we can handle—this, we just cannot handle, I guess. We just need to find something that gets him to STOP this particular behavior without causing him harm. Or else I’m going to lose my mind pretty quick here.

    Has anyone ever experienced this with their ACD? Someone please tell me this is standard behavior and then explain to me what the heck is going on! What does he want? How should we be trying correct it? (Or at least manage it) Is it something he will outgrow?

    Do you think a change of food would help matters? My friend mentioned that for her high-energy dog, she switched from feeding him “premium” kibble to feeding him 50/50 “grocery store” and “premium” kibble and it knocked his energy down a bit. My vet didn’t offer much advice on this, when we asked.

    Do you think an E-collar would be helpful in this case? I’m generally not a fan but I’m willing to try anything at this point.

    We’d love to work with a trainer on this problem but every one we talk to promises they can help (without really understanding the problem, in my opinion) and we don’t have money to throw at all of them one-by-one until something works. We had a one-on-one session with the woman who taught our puppy class and she’s the one who taught us “touch” and “walk away” but those don’t work for us for this purpose. We live in Grand Rapids, MI… does anyone know of any trainers in the area who are familiar with cattle dogs and the specific, erm, challenges they pose?


    Sorry for the absurdly long post. We’re a little tired of hearing the same advice over and over from well-meaning people who don’t understand just how extensive our work on this issue has been (“More exercise!” “Nothing in life is free!” “Herding instinct!” etc. etc.) Yes, okay, but, what can we do *in the moment* to stop it?

    Thanks in advance for any insight!

  2. #2
    AuCaDo Ambassador sharirus's Avatar
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Holy Smokes ! I am just in shock at what you have been going through !! You seem to be very well versed in ACD behaviour and have seemed to have tried everything that I can think of to help. I will put my thinking cap on and try and see what I can come up with to stop the random attacks on you and Travis. It must be such a relief that Atlas is not attacking other people or dogs.
    Living with an ACD is a whole different experience than any other dog I have met. Stubborn doesn't even begin to describe it.

    I came to this site because of aggression with my 9 month old and with the advice and support I was given it was incredible the change in my dogs behaviour. It took a long time and still isn't perfect but I would never of had the wonderful dog I have now if not for AuCaDo. I sure hope someone here can think of something you haven't tried yet.
    Here is my introduction ( sorry there are no pictures now...Photobucket has changed it's policy for using their site and want payment now and if you don't subscribe, all your photos you posted on sites are now gone :-( )

    http://www.aucado.us/forums/showthre...light=sharirus

    Again welcome to the forum and Thank you for being such responsible dog owners who want to help their dog instead of giving up and passing him on.

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Shari, THANK YOU.

    I just forwarded your message to Travis and he replied, "It doesn't really say anything (like what we should do) but I'm kinda tearing up" and I said "EXACTLY. ME TOO."

    We've been trying so hard to step up for him. As in, he's way more dog than we originally understood--even just with the normal ACD stuff, we didn't really know what we were getting into at the time. We did some research before we brought him home of course, but we only had a couple days to decide or they were going to give him to another family who I know for a fact kept their last dog in an outdoor kennel and hardly ever even took him out for walks! (Can you imagine an ACD in that environment??) And we don't regret bringing him home because we love him to pieces... But it's been HARD, and it's so nice to hear your encouragement.

    We keep getting these little glimpses of what life with him might be like once he's older and settled down a bit and that's what makes us so determined to make this work--because he's an incredible dog in a lot of ways!

    P.S. I know it was a couple of years ago but I loved reading about your work training River in your intro thread. I'm so glad your family worked things out!

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    StinkwadMod littleroads's Avatar
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    To be honest, this does NOT sound like normal ACD behavior to me, even knowing all the quirks and hard-headed stubbornness and protectiveness that ACDs can exhibit. You are already doing all of the right things - and you have already gone above and beyond what most people would do for a dog like Atlas. The fact that you cannot really identify a trigger for the "attacks" is concerning, so...

    I am not a vet, nor do I play one on TV, but I would suggest that this could possibly be something neurological, or possibly thyroid related...a thyroid imbalance can cause unprovoked aggression, as could a "short" in his brain wiring...

    Dr. Jean Dodds has done extensive studies on thyroid imbalances causing aggression, it might help to read through some of her articles and see if it would be worth looking into for you & Atlas.

    https://drjeandoddspethealthresource...n#.WamVorKGOpo
    https://drjeandoddspethealthresource...d#.WamMg7KGOpo


    It might also be beneficial to have your vet do some testing to make sure there is no brain tumor or other abnormality that might be causing the aggression.
    Depending on testing and results, it could be that a simple medication might make all the world of difference. I am not one to push drugs on a dog - and many people are against "drugging" their dogs for what appear to be behavioral problems. But sometimes, the right medication can be what it takes for a dog to live comfortably in his own skin, help him increase concentration, take the edge off aggression, and help him fit peacefully into a home. Fluoxetine (doggy Prozac, also used on people), has been helpful in many cases. It might be worth discussing with your vet.

    A good behaviorist might also help, if there are no definitive medical issues.

    And for what it's worth - the common mantra of TONS of exercise for active dogs - is not ALWAYS a good thing. I have one of those dogs (ACD/rat terrier mix, we call her a rattledog) for whom more exercise = more ramped up behavior. There never seemed to be enough exercise to calm her down, and it was wearing me out! Then I read a recent article saying that in some cases, more exercise begets more hyper behavior as you are conditioning their bodies to require more exercise, which leads to a vicious circle. She needed to learn how to calm down and settle when I did, not get more ramped up...so she gets moderate exercise now (mind exercises are ALWAYS good, however!), and she appears to be calming down some. A good walk and a few throws of a frisbee are usually enough now, as well as the fact she will be 3 years old in December, so the calmer days ARE ahead, hopefully...

    As always, read all the advice given, and do what feels right for you. Atlas is a lucky dog to have fallen into your hands, and I can very much relate to your wanting to pull your hair out (my dog is one of those over-the-top dogs also, and have been frustrated to tears many times in the past 2 years that we've had her). She's getting better. We're getting better. There is light at the end of the tunnel.


    Atlas is teaching and stretching you. We don't always get the dog we want, but sometimes we do get the dog we need. Or who needs us. Please keep us posted.

    P.S. You are EXTREMELY lucky to have Travis as well; not many SO's would put up with that type of behavior in a dog, or with a person who wants to keep said dog. Tell him we appreciate him!
    Eileen
    Rody Jane, the Bionic Flying Stinkwad (Cattledog/Stinkwad mix)
    Allentine Valentine Porky-pine Hooverstein (Sir Barks-a-Lot) (ACD) (at the Bridge♥)
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  6. #5
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Hi,

    First, thank you for making all the efforts you have with Atlas and your commitment to this pup.

    I've been pondering how to respond and Sharirus and Ei confirmed a number of thoughts I had.

    This doesn't sound like normal herding/heeling behavior or even extreme herding/heeling. With my first ACD, heeling was a life long issue that I had to be vigilant to keep in check, and it was nothing like what I think you are describing. Heeling/herding is usually a quick strike action, not an attack, and it is done to control motion--this sounds very different.

    I too have read about too much exercise/activity having the opposite effect of ramping them up rather than tiring/calming down. I think there is an article by Nan Arthur on this and I'll look for that.

    I think you are on the right track with looking for a trainer. A good behaviorist rather than a standard trainer seems like the best option.

    I think a shock collar is not a good idea at all. In addition to your concerns about them (which I share), they can sometimes backfire with aggressive behavior.

    Keep posting here for feedback and support. Many of us have had to deal with Cattle Dogs that were/are a challenge and we understand.

    I agree with Ei, We don't always get the dog we want, but sometimes we do get the dog we need. Or who needs us. My first ACD was a huge challenge and I probably would not have adopted him if I'd known more about the breed. He was an amazing dog and now I can't imagine life without a Cattle Dog.

    Carol

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  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by littleroads View Post
    To be honest, this does NOT sound like normal ACD behavior to me, even knowing all the quirks and hard-headed stubbornness and protectiveness that ACDs can exhibit. You are already doing all of the right things - and you have already gone above and beyond what most people would do for a dog like Atlas. The fact that you cannot really identify a trigger for the "attacks" is concerning, so...

    A good behaviorist might also help, if there are no definitive medical issues.
    Agree with littleroads here. The nearest board-certified veterinary behaviorist to you is in Bloomfield Hills, and even though that'd be something like a 2.5 hour drive each way, I think that's where I'd start if I were in your situation. (Usually working with a DACVB entails maybe one visit per month for a few through to several months, although obviously this can vary.) Ordinary trainers, even very good ones, don't have the medical expertise, and they're almost always working from a smaller and less diversified toolkit in terms of the behavior modification theories and methods they're familiar with. Alternatively, you could ask your vet if s/he could refer you to a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB)--they're often no easier to find nearby, though, so s/he might not know of any.

    Aggression towards the handler is serious business, and tends to escalate rather than abate over time unless perhaps the dog is very old. As you've insinuated, it does sound like several of the incidents might fit into the category of redirected aggression--but not all of them. Excitement aggression can sometimes turn into redirected aggression if the excitement isn't caught and corrected right away...but it sounds like you're already watching like a hawk for that possibility, and finding that sometimes there simply isn't any agitation evident prior to the attack. Like littleroads said, that is concerning. I wouldn't expect changes in diet, nutraceuticals etc. to do much of anything on their own; perhaps they might have some supporting role to play as part of a more comprehensive plan, but that decision would be better made by a behaviorist. I agree with Carol that strong aversive methods like e-collars would be dangerously risky to attempt with an (apparently) aggressive dog, and Atlas would be awfully young for something like that anyway.

    If the attacks during exercise are bad enough, you might consider muzzling him for now during walks, while holding off on other forms of exercise until you're able to get with a professional. The muzzle wouldn't be a substitute for avoiding known or suspected triggers, just a way to keep yourself safe from unanticipated strikes. I can't tell from your description how hard he's biting but you do mention that the bites seem to be getting harder.

    As others have said, keep us posted...you're clearly doing a great job with a challenging pup.

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Thank you all so much for the support and encouragement, and for taking the time to read that monster post and write such thoughtful responses!

    littleroads—We had never heard of thyroid imbalances causing such problems before we found this forum! The more I read about it (thank you for the links to Dr.Dodds’ research) the more it seems like a possible explanation for some of that behavior. I think we will contact the behaviorist zelig suggested as she will be able to run the full panel thyroid test, and recommend any additional tests that could help us diagnose what’s going on with him. I’m normally hesitant with medication (for me and my dog) but if medication would help balance him out—I’m all for it in this situation, as I feel we’ve exhausted almost all of our other options.

    I’m so lucky to have Travis! He is way better than I am at letting Atlas’s craziness roll off his back (something I admire). And I definitely don’t think I could have kept up with this for so long if I didn’t have him to help me!

    Carol—It’s interesting to hear you describe heeling/herding behavior because I’m not familiar with herding breeds in general but I have seen Atlas do what you’re describing (frequently). It sounds like what he does around the house sometimes, and you’re right—it’s very different from this “attacking” behavior.

    To address the exercise comments—We have been relaxing a bit on the exercise over the last month or two and Atlas seems to be fine with it. When he was younger, he had a very hard time calming himself down when he was supposed to and we often had to put him in his crate to get him to relax, but we’ve been working with him on “settle down” and the concept of quiet time and he’s improved DRASTICALLY over the 5 months we’ve had him. I’ll mention it to my mom though—I think she’s been having an even rougher time with him than we have and that could be part of the difference there because she always has him running around whereas I refuse to “entertain” him 24/7. Some chunks of quiet time in his crate each day could help him not get so amped up.

    zelig—Thanks for the link to the behaviorist in Bloomfield Hills! After browsing that website, she seems like she would be in a better position than either our vet or a regular trainer to help us diagnose what’s going on with him and what we can do that may improve the situation. We will definitely contact her and try to set up an appointment!

    I think we will also start training him to wear a muzzle—just in case. I’ve never had a dog that needed one before but I suppose it’s a useful tool to protect us (and him) so it would be nice if we could use one when needed. I think it would be very helpful to my mom too, as Atlas seems even less inclined to back off from her and I think he’s getting to be too much for her to handle safely. Any recommendations for good types/brands?

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Some pictures of our little monster!



    BABY!!


    My boys




    One of my favorites:

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    Baskerville and Jafco are the muzzle brands I have some experience with and would recommend. You'd want a real basket-type muzzle, not a head halter like a Gentle Leader, which doesn't actually prevent bites. Here's a good article and also a good video about getting your dog used to a muzzle--mom should probably be walked through all this too. Again, with an aggressive dog, you'd still want to avoid known triggers when at all possible, even with a muzzle--e.g., if you had a dog-reactive biter, you would NOT just muzzle him then haul him right up to other dogs; flooding him like that when he's "trapped" by the muzzle could easily backfire and make things worse. Instead, you'd still be doing the gradual-desensitization-from-a-distance thing, with the muzzle just being there to protect you from inevitabilities like off-leash dogs who come bounding up to you out of nowhere. Easier said than done with a dog who doesn't seem to have consistent triggers, I know, but for example you might consider for now avoiding stuff like trips to the dog park, or walking routes that take you past dogs barking behind fences.

    I know what you mean about what a lifesaver it can be to have a calmer SO in situations like this. Our ACD mix is mostly even-keel, but subject to occasional, unpredictable "panic attacks" where she'll suddenly flip out and attempt to bolt from triggers that don't seem to bother her at other times, and for a minute or two will flail hysterically on the ground, practically choking herself on the leash and completely unable to think or respond to commands. And I, unfortunately, have the bad trait of tending to become impatient and frustrated with dogs (and people) who are panicking, whereas my husband is great at it; he'll just calmly go "oh, she's panicking, I need to address this" without taking it personally or losing his cool. I always watch what he does closely when she panics when we're out together, so that next time it happens when I'm out alone with her, I can hopefully "channel" my husband ("What would Joe do?" lol).

    Mandatory "quiet time" intervals at your mom's definitely sounds like a good idea. Puppies can be like toddlers, at their most demonic when what they really need is a good nap. It's just one of those balance things that does take some trial and error to work out with each individual, and adolescence is especially tough because they're transitioning from the puppy schedule of needing shorter bursts of activity more frequently to the adult schedule where one good sustained workout with maybe a quick game or two earlier or later will do nicely. A behaviorist could, I'm sure, help with some ideas for satisfying mental stimulation activities, too.

    Atlas is a beautiful dog. They sometimes call the ACD/Aussie crosses "Texas Heelers," and they're often strikingly attractive dogs, with some of the handsome compactness of the ACD and some of the elegance of the Aussie through the skull as well. I don't know if Atlas has papers or not, but I'd bet he has Aussie on both sides with that liver coloration, which is rare to nonexistent in ACDs but common in Aussies.

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  16. #10
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Good to hear from you, and the photos of Atlas and his family are wonderful!

    On the muzzle, I copied this from a post on FB from a trainer: Definitely Baskerville muzzle. Chirag Patel has great online desensitization protocol on YouTube.

    The rescue where I got my ACD Ginny also recommended Baskerville in the same post. I was just reading that for disaster preparedness, it is recommended that you train your dog to wear a muzzle, which makes total sense to me. I have a soft muzzle for emergencies, but I think I will get one that can be worn for longer periods of time to keep in the evacuation supplies.

    It wasn't an article by Nan Arthur, but rather she has a book.
    https://smile.amazon.com/Chill-Out-F...rds=nan+arthur

    I'm also a fan of Dr. Sophia Yin. There are number of her videos on youtube.

    Keep us posted!

    Carol

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    I don't have much to add; Carol & zelig did a great job in response. But I will say that I absolutely LOVE the photos, especially the "family" photo - nice to "meet" you!
    Eileen
    Rody Jane, the Bionic Flying Stinkwad (Cattledog/Stinkwad mix)
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  20. #12
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    The pictures are fantastic and I wish you three only the best at helping Atlas become a treasured companion.

    I look forward to hearing more about yours and Travis's journey through all the torture....er I mean training (lol) that you are going to have. Cattle dogs are a handful and a half at the best times. You have your hands full !
    Don't worry. We are all here for you

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  22. #13
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Some bad news. We contacted the veterinary behaviorist and they want $500 just for the initial consultation fee. That’s not including any medical tests they may need to run, any medications he may need, or any of the subsequent appointments that would be required. Unfortunately this isn’t an option Travis and I can afford, so we’re trying to figure out what steps to take next… I’m pretty disappointed about it; we’ve tried so many things on our own already that I was very excited at the prospect of having an expert step in.

    But there is a CAAB located on the east side of the state who does behavioral consults and I’ve requested information from her. Hoping she might be something closer to what we can afford.

    We will probably still reach out to our home vet either way and ask about a full panel thyroid test and any other medical tests that they might suggest, although at a certain point that is cost prohibitive as well.

    We do have a muzzle on the way, although that’s obviously not much of a solution.

    Regarding his coloration—We actually have no idea if his parents were purebreds or not, since he was passed to us through 2 other families and we never saw his parents. We were told the parents were an Australian Shepherd and a “Blue Heeler” (although I was always skeptical of that, because where is his blue??) and that he was part of an accidental litter, which is why he went free to his first home (also because his first owner was a nephew of the breeder). I was also told that his two littermates were colored differently, although I never saw them either. I’ve always thought he had more Aussie in him than just 50% because of his size (he’s already 50lbs) and his body shape (he’s taller and leaner than any purebred ACD). Who knows! Haha.

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    Hmm, yeah, that's a heckuva lot for an initial consultation. If you can't locate an affordable CAAB, the next best thing I could think of would be to network in search of an appropriate trainer with local dog owners of the sort who A) own stereotypically "ambitious owner" breeds and are doing ambitious stuff with them; and B) where the breeds in question are known to often have aggression-related problems as well. Just as an example, if you were able to talk to a couple German Shep owners who are active in sports/protection work/etc. with their dogs, I bet there's a good chance they could steer you in the right direction. Or maybe someone in here knows of a very good ACD breeder or rescue in the vicinity who might be able to advise (or maybe the ACDCA could connect you with one)--just don't pigeonhole yourself into assuming you need ACD-specific experience here though; anyone with experience addressing handler aggression, and preferably handler aggression in herding breeds specifically since they share characteristic ways of thinking and reacting to stimuli, should do. Also, if you feel your vet isn't sufficiently helpful, perhaps a different vet would prove a better resource guide for you (again, networking to find the best vet might help with this).




    Re: Atlas' ancestry--I dunno, he looks like he's got a lot of ACD in him to me, even though I'm seeing lots of Aussie too (stump tail, soft coat texture, very deep flanks with no waist tuck, and high proportion of solid color). But there's a lot of ACD in that head, and he seems to have the more fluid/less-boxy overall body structure of the ACD, as well as tending towards ACD body proportions even if he's bigger. He actually is a "blue," in the sense that his base coat pattern is clearly black-and-tan, a recessive which must be inherited from both sides to be expressed, and that is the base coat pattern of the blue heeler (though also of most Aussies!).

    Blue heeler = 2 copies of black-and-tan + 2 copies of piebald ("erases" most of the base coat to white, randomly leaving a few colored patches) + 2 copies of ticking (spottily fills in the white with the base coat pattern; it's dominant, so only 1 copy is actually needed to tick up the white, even though all purebred ACDs carry 2 copies). Red heelers are the same, except that they're carrying either 1 or 2 copies of red, rather than 2 of black-and-tan--red is dominant, so it's common in ACDs to get mixed-color litters, even out of 2 red parents.

    Atlas' pattern is different from a blue heeler's in two ways--he only inherited one copy of piebald (which is co-dominant), so he's got a lot more solid color; and he also inherited 2 copies of liver, a recessive that turns all black pigment to chocolate brown, on the nose, pawpads, eyerims and iris as well as in the fur. (Tan/red pigment is unaffected, so you get a "chocolate-and-tan," so to speak.) Most so-called "red" Aussies are just livered black-and-tan dogs like this, which is why I guessed he has Aussie on both sides. AFAIK, only in Australia is livering known to exist in confirmed 100% purebred ACDs, and then only in a tiny handful of lines.

    He's beautiful either way. Because ACDs are a working breed, and because ranch breeders have historically never cared much for purity, only for producing the best dog for the job, there are a ton of ACD/Aussie/Border Collie (or some mix thereof) crosses out there, many of whom are 90%+ one breed or the other and look like they could be 100%, so you do kinda get a culture of deeming a dog a "heeler" based on looks alone that develops. Likewise, many supposed 50/50 ACD/Aussie crosses (or Aussie/BC crosses, or whatever) are in reality considerably more complicated than that, if you could actually see, say, a 25-generation pedigree laid out. Many of us in here have ACD mixes.

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    I agree, that sounds like a hefty charge just for an initial consultation. For the blood work, are you close to a vet college that has a teaching hospital?

    I think, as Zelig suggests, a trainer with the right experience could be a good option. Just to have an outsider's observation could be very helpful, and those were good suggestions for networking to find someone.

    Atlas is a handsome boy, and I do see a lot of ACD in him. Plus, he definitely has a Bentley mark.

    Carol

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    $500 ! ($603 Canadian) That's outrageous... not good news at all.

    There is someone out there that is going to help you. Don't worry !

    If you and Travis keep up the consistency of training together I feel confident this will sort itself out and your handsome Atlas will be the companion you wish for.

    I have been asking around to ACD owners in my area to see if they have any ideas. But the 2 I found so far didn't have any helpful advice. (ACD''s are few and far between here....too many old people and young families) .

    They were both very surprised at an ACD attacking their owners.

    Good Luck with everything

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Zelig had good suggestions for networking. Atlas looks to me like an ACD/Aussie cross. You were told "blue heeler" because that's just the generic name/colloquial name for an Australian cattledog. My heeler is red. I can't tell you how many people have asked me, "Is that a blue heeler?" LOL. Atlas' coat and coloring is definitely not ACD breed standard, but he's got a lot of ACD in him. You might reach out to Aussie forums or lists as well.

    Please keep us posted on his progress. It could be that he'll outgrow some of this (or at least calm down some) in time, but you do need some outside help with this.
    Eileen
    Rody Jane, the Bionic Flying Stinkwad (Cattledog/Stinkwad mix)
    Allentine Valentine Porky-pine Hooverstein (Sir Barks-a-Lot) (ACD) (at the Bridge♥)
    George P-Dog (Perfect Dog) (Great Pyrador)
    Miss Dixie Two-Minute Moonpie - Official Foster Failure (Polka-Dot Dog) (Australian-American Rattledog)
    ***********
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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    This behaviorist was highly recommended for doing phone consultations with general practice vets regarding treatment & medication. Most of the vets I know are open to consultations with specialists, but I guess some are not. If you think your vet would be open to consulting with a specialist via telephone, this one was highly recommended. I looked under services and the charges seem fairly reasonable for a v2v consultation.

    http://animalbehaviorclinic.net/services/

    When I was considering medication options for a very high anxiety dog, it became clear to me doing my own research that the drug options aren't black and white, and expert advice was important. Fortunately, my vet did research and consulted with specialists.

    How are things going with Atlas?

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    Default Re: HELP! How to correct biting issue in 8 m/o pup? Advice needed!

    Update? I was wondering if you had been able to find an affordable place for blood-work?

    Seems as if Atlas really has not learned bite-aversion. He is clamping HARDER w age, rather than just putting his slack mouth on you...Best story on a dog w good bite aversion (meaning, dog knows it cannot bite a human) was one who ran from open garage to sidewalk to place mouth on a teen who was running yelling towards the garage....Dog wanted to protect family members in garage, but knew not to bite.

    If his response to frustrating situations (or uncertainty---hmm..what to do at dog park? SO many choices!) is to lunge at your feet/body, then he really needs more work on impulse control.

    Please keep us posted!
    Lisa and her Marr-mutts: Beau, Jada, Meko, Saphira and Pogo

    http://i921.photobucket.com/albums/a...DSC03970-1.jpg

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