We took Ozzie to the vet yesterday for his last distemper/etc. shot and to get his nails trimmed. The minute we stepped into the vet's office, he turned into Cujo barking, growling, completely unglued. He did get his shot but they decided they couldn't trim his nails without sedating him because he was so out of control. The vet said it was fear aggression.Later in the day we decided to take him to Petsmart to let him get familiar with the place, because we're supposed to start obedience training today (in a couple of hours, in fact). He was great in the car, but as soon as we parked he started growling and barking at every person he saw. We went to the far part of the parking lot and sat with him on the curb for an hour or so, slowly moving closer to the store but never going in.

Lots of petting, treats, and "good dog" when he didn't bark at someone, lots of "no barking" when he did. By the end of the hour he was better with women (didn't bark when he saw them) but still growly whenever a man walked anywhere near us. One person rode by on a bike and I thought Oz was going to have a heart attack.

Once I thought about it, I realized that he hasn't been out of our ruralish neighborhood since we got him 7 weeks ago. We had a parvo scare right after we got him and we didn't want to expose him to anyone until his shots were complete. At home he's very comfortable (okay, the UPS truck gets him going) but apparently he has lost all ability to deal with strangers.
Our plan is to take him somewhere every day where he will see people so that he gets used to it. We will of course keep him on a very short leash and I'm fortunately stronger than he is, and we will keep anyone from getting too close until he is less aggressive. Is that the best approach? Are there other ways to make him comfortable around strangers?
Oh, clicker update: He loves the training (who wouldn't? free food!) and he is smart as a whip. Sometimes my 12-year-old daughter is a little bit slow on the clicker, and when he has done what he's supposed to do, he will turn and stare at her like "hello!!! where's the sound?" The only real problem (not a problem) is getting him to understand when training is over. He taught himself to back up not what we were going for at the time, but it seemed like a good skill to have so we started clicking it and now he will come over to one of us at random times, make eye contact, back up, and sit there like an adorable dope waiting for his treat.
Sorry this is so long. We have a gorgeous, smart, wonderful dog here who had the misfortune to be assigned to a dog-stupid family. We're trying our best..
Thanks,
Scooter
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Our plan is to take him somewhere every day where he will see people so that he gets used to ... until he is less aggressive. Is that the best approach? Are there other ways to make him comfortable around strangers?

This is a good start. When he gets a little more comfortable around strangers, start having them give him treats (that you provide).
He taught himself to back up not what we were going for at the time, but it seemed like a good ... us at random times, make eye contact, back up, and sit there like an adorable dope waiting for his treat.

Now cue it to a "Beep-beep-beep" sound.
He sounds like he will be a terrific dog. You've got an issue to work with - and it's a pretty important one to solve - but I'm sure with patience, you'll manage it.
Judy
@80g2000cwy.googlegroups.com:
Our plan is to take him somewhere every day where he will see peopleso that he gets used to it. ... until he is less aggressive. Is that the best approach? Are there other ways to make him comfortable around strangers?

Well, that's a good plan and a bad plan.
Its good to expose him tyo the things he needs to feel comfortable around, but very very baad to overwhelm him with it.

If you're going to take him anywhere, make sure you do your very very best to keep him within his Comfort Zone (sort of like you did at Petsmart, though you maybe should have gone to an even quieter location..and I'll have a few comments about how you handle the situation too)
Take him to places that are far enough away from the "Scary Things" that he isn't being reactive. Then, when he's not being reactive, you can start playing and doing your Click and Treat games. Don't try to make him notice anything scary (trust me, he knows they're there), just take him far enough away so that he can function and play his training games with you. This will desensitize him to those things in a non threatening (and even FUN) way.
If he ends up reacting to something, don't start issuing orders or "no barking" commands. All you're doing at that point is adding more stressful stimuli to an already stressed dog. Just quietly move away from the scary thing, give him a chance to calm down, and go back to your training games.
Also, really important, get your hands on a book called The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell. Its a helpful book that maps out how to go about dealing with fear reactions in dogs. Get it now. As in five minutes ago :-)
Oh, clicker update: He loves the training (who wouldn't? free food!) and he is smart as a whip. Sometimes my ... gorgeous, smart, wonderful dog here who had the misfortune to be assigned to a dog-stupid family. We're trying our best..

He sounds like a real smartypants.
You might not be able to take that Petsmart class you signed up for. Work on the fear first, and then* after that's been worked through you can teach him in a class setting. If you try to push that part, you might either cause him to get reactive and fear bite, or shut down completely in those situations. The times I've dealt with fearful dogs like that in class, I've had them stay as fart away from the group stimuli as the *dog was comfortable with. It sounds like, since that distance has you outside the building and across the parking lot, you might have a way to go before he'll be able to do that just yet.

When it comes to profound fear issues, I find that going slwoly is always much faster than trying to rush it.
Tara
We took Ozzie to the vet yesterday for his last distemper/etc. shot and to get his nails trimmed. The minute ... trim his nails without sedating him because he was so out of control. The vet said it was fear aggression.

Vet's office can be pretty scary for a lot of dogs. I'd start taking him to the vets - walk to the door, give him a real good treat (if he'll take it) and leave. Gradually build his ability to go to the vet, and accept a little more attention from staff, sit in waiting room, etc. GRADUALLY Thing about vet's office. Generally dogs associate them with being poked and prodded. And frequently staff doesn't have time to make the animal really comfortable so they just restrain them. So you have to change that association for them. Learn what he looks like when he is getting worried, and split before he goes ballistic.
Later in the day we decided to take him to Petsmart to let him get familiar with the place, because ... near us. One person rode by on a bike and I thought Oz was going to have a heart attack.[/nq]So, by now, I suspect you've done the obedience lesson. How did that go? The thing to realize - when a dog or human has a fright (and it's clear Ozzie found these situations frightening), once the perceived threat is gone, the dog's body can't automatically reset to normal. Think back to times when something really scary has happened to you - frightened by a prowler, near-car wreck, or something more serious. I'm betting as soon as the danger was past, you didn't just go back to whatever you were doing before, feeling the same as you felt before the scary thing.

You were probably shaky, your heart beating fast, senses heightened so that you jumped at "normal" stuff. You may have even cried a bit. I can bet you weren't hungry.So, if your dog has a scary situation, he's likely to over-react to things that happen afterwards. It can take up to a full 24 hours for the adrenaline to clear your system after a major fright.
Once I thought about it, I realized that he hasn't been out of our ruralish neighborhood since we got him ... very comfortable (okay, the UPS truck gets him going) but apparently he has lost all ability to deal with strangers.

A really quiet lifestyle for country dogs can be very hard when they are put in a different situation wihtout socialization
Our plan is to take him somewhere every day where he will see people so that he gets used to ... until he is less aggressive. Is that the best approach? Are there other ways to make him comfortable around strangers?[/nq]Overall, a good plan. Short leash (not allowing him the full length of leash) yes. TIGHT leash is a definate no. If you tighten the leash it can be a signal to Ozzie to be on alert. So, keep the leash hanging slightly. There should be a "U" in the leash between you. Learn to watch your dog. If he starts staring at something, you need to halt th stare. Say his name, turn and walk away, or say his name and back up quickly. This gets him further from the scary thing and redirects his attention to you.

Staring is usually followed by the worse stuff. Stop it early and you don't end up with the explosion You can even walk him in a circle, which gives him a chance to look at, but not stare at stuff that scares him, and movement is better than being still. Reward him for voluntarily checking in with you (looking at you) I even click this, to make it happen more frequently. I also click calming signals (sideglances, flicks of the tongue, that sort of thing).

You can tell about Ozzie's level of stress by his ability to take food. If the treats are special favorites and he refuses them, you are in over your head, and the dog is past being able to handle the situation. When working with a really reactive dog, i'll approach to the point where the dog is slightly nervous, and when the dog either offers a calming signal or checks in with his owner, I click and move out of his space. He also gets a treat from handler, but I think the relief of pressure is a bigger reward.

A couple of books you might want to look at are "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons and "Aggression in Dogs" by Brenda Aloff. The Parsons book will outline how to use his clicker skills to help him cope with situations and the Aloff book will giving you additional information, and a good deal of help on how to "read" the dog's emotional state.
Oh, clicker update: He loves the training (who wouldn't? free food!) and he is smart as a whip. Sometimes my ... us at random times, make eye contact, back up, and sit there like an adorable dope waiting for his treat.

Ha! I never want my dog to think "training" is over, so I'll occasionally click something I like throughout the day. I really don't want a dog who only wants to do the behavior when he thinks we're doing a "lesson." Once you've got the behaviors on cue (he understands the word means that particular thing, you don't have to click it unless you've asked for it. Then you switch over to a word, so you're doing few clicks for well-known behaviors. At this point, it's wonderful that he's wanting to play the game with you this much. He'll settle into it with time.
Sorry this is so long. We have a gorgeous, smart, wonderful dog here who had the misfortune to be assigned to a dog-stupid family. We're trying our best..

Naw. He's lucked into a home interested in learning the skills to be really savvy dog owners. Lucky boy.
One other thought. Depending on how the lesson went today. It's quite possible that Ozzie isn't ready for a group class - especially in Petsmart, where he has the excitement of negotiating the store to get to class, and then the class cubicles (here at least) are rather close. Nowhere for an over-stimulated dog to get to cool off. You may do better to see if you can get a private or two and work on his issues before taking him to group classes. If he's terribly worried about his environment, he's not going to be in a good place to learn.
Another thought. I've seen some dogs really improve thei ability to handle outside stimuli with a body wrap. Depending on the dog it may be a little improvement or it may be dramatic.
Here's some information
http://www.anxietywrap.com /
explains a bit about how it works for a dog but actually, what I use is just an ace bandage used as in the below website. It's a lot cheaper and fits any dog.
http://www.crvetcenter.com/bodywrap.htm
Even a tight kid's tshirt or dog jacket can be helpful. BroomSandy
fart away from the group

I heartily endorse this advice from Tara's spellchecker.

Paula
"Anyway, other people are weird, but sometimes they have candy, so it's best to try to get along with them." Joe Bay
We took Ozzie to the vet yesterday for his last ... out of control. The vet said it was fear aggression.

Vet's office can be pretty scary for a lot of dogs. I'd start taking him to the vets - walk ... that association for them. Learn what he looks like when he is getting worried, and split before he goes ballistic.[/nq]Our vet's office is in the same strip mall as a small pet store, the groomer that we use and a restaurant we love. When we got my daughter's chihuahua, she hadn't been well cared-for under previous ownership as far as health issues went. She needed tons of dental work in addition to shots and she also seemed to have bad luck when it came to infections of any kind. She hated the vet after the first shots but she was going to have to go back. So we started taking her along every time we went to that strip mall for something else.

She doesn't go to the groomer, but every time we took our mini poodle, Faith would go along for the ride and we'd stop by the vet's office to have the receptionist give her one of her favorite treats (which we brought with us). Same for picking up take out from the restaurant or picking up something at the pet store. Since we weren't there to have any work done, it was just all fun for her. She ended up loving the vet techs so much that we boarded her at that vet's when we went out of town for a week.

She ended up being the office dog, sitting on a cushion down at the receptionist's feet, loving every minute of it. She doesn't like the shots, but she doesn't associate the vet's office with only shots, so it works out better over all.

Paula
"Anyway, other people are weird, but sometimes they have candy, so it's best to try to get along with them." Joe Bay
Vet's office can be pretty scary for a lot of dogs. I'd start taking him to the vets - walk ... that association for them. Learn what he looks like when he is getting worried, and split before he goes ballistic.

Our late Tracy became reactive after he had surgery to the vet's office. I used to drive him over there during their lunch hour when they were officially closed and they put some major lovin' on that dog. It turned out that his problem wasn't with the waiting room or the staff, by the way, it was one exam room that he hated and he also didn't like to go into an exam room without one of his pack mates.

But after a while, he loved going in there for any reason.

I also took the dogs if I just had to go in to pick up medicine or something.
fart away from the group

I heartily endorse this advice from Tara's spellchecker.

Oh my god.
I'm doubled over laughing right now.
Its good to know my spellchecker gets in a good joke now and then!

Tara
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