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Old 11-13-2009, 08:10 PM
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Default At wit's end with my golden retriever

My golden retiever, Kody is a very friendly dog and I would never think he would ever bite a soul. However, recently he has began to run at people and bark. He sounds vicious and it definitely scares people. Most of the time his tail is wagging while he is charging and barking! He really is a great dog, he minds well besides this "little" issue. I have always been able to stop any unwanted behavior with a stern uh-uh! And then some positive reinforcement when he does the right thing, but not so with this. I have tried verbally disciplining him and he just doesn't listen! What is the next step when you can't stop a behavior? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Ashley
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Old 11-13-2009, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by ashmin View Post
What is the next step when you can't stop a behavior?
Stop trying to stop a behavior and start teaching him what you do want.

Train him to look at you and to stay at your side and to sit and stay.
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Old 11-13-2009, 08:31 PM
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When is he doing this? On leash or is he behind a fence, or something else?
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Old 11-13-2009, 09:18 PM
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I have no clue ! I've never had this with any of my many Goldens . Could go back to his puppy days....he could have been scared at eight weeks .
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Old 11-14-2009, 09:20 AM
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I'm going to hold back on my comments too, until I know the answer to Maxi's question.
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Old 11-14-2009, 01:46 PM
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I'm probably going to get ripped a new one for this, but it is when he is off leash. My dog goes to work everyday with my husband who does construction work and builds homes in rural neighborhoods and we allow him to be off leash. I've never seen a dog so happy as when he can roam and run, so we allow it. Also, we go to the lake a lot in the summers and we let him off leash there.

bubbatd: we got him when he was 13 weeks, so this is possible. I had a golden when I was younger who was never like this. My golden is actually protective of us i.e. he will growl at the door if he hears something. I thought goldens were just big softies! And I mean, I think he is a softy...he's never bitten anyone and is so gentle when we play.....
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Old 11-14-2009, 01:50 PM
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I'm probably going to get ripped a new one for this, but it is when he is off leash.
Why do you say that?
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Old 11-14-2009, 01:52 PM
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Because I am afraid people will say that a dog should never be allowed off leash. I've read that on here before...
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Old 11-14-2009, 02:59 PM
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The vast majority of my hikes and walks with my dogs are off leash. But my dogs don't act vicious to anyone, but we hardly ever run into anyone where I live. LOL.

When you say he's a friendly dog, in what contexts is he friendly? Does he act like that when people come to your house? What about the people your husband works with that he knows pretty well? Is he friendly to those people? Or is it complete strangers walking by?

If I were in your shoes though, I wouldn't feel good about my dog scaring the livin' daylights out of people. I don't know the laws everywhere, but where I use to live in Washington, if a dog frightened people like that two times, and it was reported, the dog could be taken and destroyed and the owner could get a big fine. Threatening or biting, it doesn't much matter.

When you say he'd never bite, don't be so sure. He certainly might, then you'd be in deep doo doo. You never know what might push him past his threshold of tolerance. He could be having a bad day from some other kind of stress and what didn't push him over it yesterday, might today. It is impossible to be correct in saying your dog would never bite anyone.

When you use sterness....verbal or otherwise in the presence of the thing that is bothering him...in this case, people, you're associating something unpleasant and scary with those people. In other words, in his mind, every time people are near by, something bad happens. (You scold which is a threat to his safety and makes those people even more of a threat.) He pairs that with the people and it can make this problem escalate. No, he doesn't "listen" because dogs don't learn or think that way. He is most likely unaware of his own behavior. So scolding him is nothing more than proof to him that he was right.... people are indeed very frightening and he must do something to make them get further away.

You need desensatize him to seeing and accepting people, since he may not have been socialized well enough to them or he is going through some kind of fear period. What is his age? He could have had bad experiences during the critical socialization period. (birth through 3-5 months) He could have an unstable temperament to begin with. Not all Goldens are smooshy lovers these days. There are a lot of poorly bred ones. You'll need to keep him on a leash unless you can find places where no one else is. You'll need a leash to work through a desesatizing program.

You need to stop scolding him and start associating good things around people. You need to try and set up situations where there is ample distance between people and him....at first so that he is less reactive and start dispensing tiny pieces of chicken or something equally good to him when he sees people but is less reactive. Try to reinforce him before he alerts to them if possible. But even if he is getting reactive, go ahead and give him treats. The main thing is that good things happen around people.

Get some friends or even strangers to help you out. Ask them to toss him a few treats to him. You can also use a favorite toy to whip out and play a little when he is near people. Does he do this at home if people come over for a visit?

In addition, do like CorgiPower said. Teach him (at home first) to sit next to you, look at you (reward when he does look at you and gradually increase duration and reward for longer looks) Use yummy pea sized treats and reward for focusing on you. You can google focus training and browse the sticky threads here for additional help. Gradually incorporate that focus when you're walking. Try to find less distracting places to walk for the time being so you can work these things in in such a way that he'll be more apt to succeed. The more successes he has, the more reinforcement, the more learning. You must reinforce behavior you like. You must find out what motivates him or there will be no training. How is he on other obedience? Does he come when called?

Punishment will not make him more comfortable around triggers which upset him. It will only make his discomfort worse and his reaction worse in the long run. You have to turn those "bad" people into fantastic people who seem to cause him to get all kinds of great treats, toys, praise and fun.

CorgiPower is right. You need to get it out of your mind about "stopping" a behavior. Think of it more like you're going to increase some other behavior. Sitting though, is sometimes hard for a dog who is just itching to move. He wants to lunge, to move from his spot. You might ask him to get a wiggly rope toy you hold over to the other side for him.....or a ball you toss in the opposite direction a few feet. (if he likes doing that) Distracting him, letting him re-direct that energy and movement that he would otherwise use to lunge might help too.

But mostly what will help is changing his outlook and opinion of people. That's the bottom line and it takes time. I also recommend you get the book Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons. It's very good and covers this very thing step by step.
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Old 11-14-2009, 04:14 PM
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Doberluv:

Thank you so much for taking the time to help me out. So much of what you said makes sense.

Kody is 18 months old. We got him when he was 13 weeks old. I took him to puppy pre-school when he was just a little over 2 months old and then we went back when he was 8 months old and we were put in the most advanced class! We pretty much take him everywhere with us, and have since we got him. He rarely sits at home alone and he's been exposed to all different types of people, kids and adults. When he was about 6 months I'd guess, he started growling at the door which I discouraged (which after reading your post, wasn't the right thing to do). Not too much later he started the barking and charging.

When I say he is friendly, I mean that no one in my family or any of my friends are fearful of him. He is so gentle with my niece and nephew (3 and 6) and we only see them on the holidays. He was a groomsman in my wedding 3 months ago and he was a perfect gentleman. We even let him come out to the outdoor reception (off leash) and get on the dance floor with us and there were a hundred people that he didn't know there and he was fine. He has never done this at the dog park, and he's never aggressive to other dogs. When people come to our house, for example on Halloween, he growled at every trick-or-treater. It is strange though, like I mentioned before, his tail wags as he does it! If we would have welcomed a tricker treater he didn't know into the house he would've stopped the growling and probably started licking them.

He has never barked at anyone my husband works with frequently. Most of the time it is when complete strangers are just minding their own business. It's not even like he's defending his territory. Just this week he chased after people that were walking down the road by the new construction site. My husband chased after him (probably yelling, Kody, NO!) and once Kody got up close to the people he stopped barking and they pet him and then he was all happy and they were best friends. But for sure, those people probably thought that they might get bitten.

Oh, believe me, I am not feeling good about this; and you are right, I guess I don't know that he wouldn't bite someone. And as far as the rules out in the rural area around here....there are none. The thing I fear is some crazy farmer shooting him because of this. Just putting that in writing makes me realize that we've got to fix this problem now. It is not worth risking that. He is so smart, I know he is trainable.

Speaking of training, if I understand correctly, this is what you recommend:

Obviously, we must keep him on a lead until we can fix this. So, take him out to the places where this happens, on leash. Wait for stranger to walk by or ask stranger to help us out. When the person walks by, put him in a sit-stay or down stay....start giving little treats to him, and here's where I'm still confused....say he starts growling...still give him treats? Is that not rewarding the behavior?
I can definitely work on the "look at me" command. We touched on this in obedience school, they called it "watch me". And I already know he is very food-motivated. In class I used the peanut butter kong stuffing can and gave him little squirts. He'll do anything for that stuff! He is really good at sit, sit-stay, down, down-stay, but I don't think he'd stay if we were outside and there was a major distraction...I know I need to start practicing those commands with distractions.

As far a come when called goes; I could never master this with him. I mean, when we whistle for him he comes running but it is not fail-safe. If he's super interested in something else he ignores. Even when I use Kody, "come!", which is how I was taught to train him, (and I'd reward him when he came) again, it's only if he wants to.

Oh and about goldens these days not being smooshy lovers because of bad breeding practices, this worries me. We have AKC papers on him, but he does have a black spot on his tongue about the size of the tip of my pinky finger....do you think this means he could be part something else?

Thanks again, for taking the time to help.


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