Hi - I just signed up because I need to bounce this off some folks...
My husband and I adopted a rescue shepherd mix (probably with lab, or rotty, or pit...) from a local shelter rescue well over three years ago, making him about three and a half. He was tied up on an abandoned porch with his sister with no food and water.
So, he's been a great dog. He has some separation anxiety which he had from the begining, but it has gotten somewhat better. Things like gettign anxious when you're leaving, whinning when he can't get to you, being afraid to go out in the fenced in yard without you, staying right underfoot. He seems especailly attached with me. Some things are better, now he'll go in the fenced yard on his own, doesn't act up much when we leave, seems more confidant. On very rare occaissions, he will get pretty agitated if you're trying to leave and will sort of gnaw/nip your hand like he's trying to grab on to you to get you to stay. He never breaks or even dents the skin and we tell him "NO". He still cowers sometimes when he feels unsure about something, or when something's different, like we move furniture.
So, when he was about a year or so, he was in the yard one day when my neighbor brought her dog over to "visit" at the fence without out knowledge or permission. She stuck her hand over the fence and he bit her. I didn't get too worked up, and we proactively contacted the city who said it was her fault and that out dog was reacting within the norm, that he feel threatened and reacted normally within his teritory. Abotu a year after that, we boarded him for the first time. they called us one day in to let us know that he had "nipped" one of the ladies when she was trying to put him back in his pen and he didn't want to go. He didn't break the skin and she said she felt it was related to his separation anxiety.
So, he's also had some problems with other dogs. My mom visits regularly with her beagle and last year he and she tussled pretty badly over some food. He cut her near the eye. They had another scuffle about six months ago over some treats where he cut her neck. She can be a pretty aggressive, dominant dog and she is on the offensive fromt he second she come in the door with him, barking at him and such, which he tolerates. He never growls or barks at her. They have only gotten into these two fights, both over food. we have watched them carefully and separated feeding and treats since, and there have been no other problems. At Christmastime, another friend visited with her dog and they got along well and played nicely, until a few hours later when my friend dropped treats on the floor and they both went for them, and they scuffled. No one was hurt.
Ok, so, he's an excellent dog as far as general behavior goes. He minds, he follows commands. He gets along with my small chihuahua and has never had any probelms with her. He has been around other dogs in the park and on walks on the lead in the past with no problem. Plus, he's been around lots of people at my house (we entertain alot) and has always been very good, even with small children. He's warm and loving and very smart. We've never fed him table scraps and he never begs for food.
So, the recent problem. I've been running him in the neighborhood for about six months. He's done well on the lead and minds well. He doesn't pull when we're walking, he turns corners when I ask, he stops when I ask. He does sometimes pull when we see another dog in a fence, but stops when I say no. He doesnt' bark or growl at them, but acts like he want sto get to them to play or investigate. He looks at me and whines, but comes with me when I tell him no.
Well, the day before yesterday I was running him and two different people in various parts of the neighborhood had their dogs off of the lead. Both dogs ran up before I knew it, and they just looked at each other and smelled each other. But each time I told the owners to come get their dogs and to be sure to keep them on the lead (we have a leach law) since running up to other dogs can be dangerous for everyone. So, no harm done, but it annoyed me. I kept thinking that he could have had a problem with those dogs, and that I'm doing my job by having him on the lead, but that I can't control what he might do when other free dogs come up to him.
So, last night I took him running. At the end of the neighborhood, I saw a lady in her yard with her dog on no lead. I saw the dog coming over, this time in advace, and I told her to get him. She was slow about it and he kept coming over, and I was like, "No, really, get him". Well, he got to us and I pulled my dog back and told him no (he was a small-ish dog, like Jack Russell sized). Well, before I could do anything else they were figthing. My dog grabbed him around the neck and head and they were struggling pretty hard. I was unsure of what to do and was trying to break it up, but at the same time trying to be careful. I was trying to get a hold of the other dog and get my dog to let him go. I screamed at the lady to help me as she was jsut standing there. I was slapping him and hitting him in the nose trying to shock him into letting go. We fianlly got them to stop struggling, but I couldn't let my dog to let go of hers. I could tell he was scared. Another guy neighbor came over and started helping. He massaged his jaw and got him to opend up. We separated them, and miraculously, the dog wasn't really hurt. There was no bleeding or broken skin and he appeared to be ok. I told her I was sorry and she said no, it was her fault for not having him on the lead. I waited while she took him inside, then when she came back out, I offered my phone number, but she said "No, I don't want it, I dont' want to come over there to get it because your dog might hurt me. Just leave.". I feel terrible.
This terrified me. By the time I got home I was sobbing and shaking. It was a very scary looking dog fight and he probably would have hurt him badly if we hadn't intervened that quickly. Now I feel embarassed and upset. I feel like I can't take my dog out, whcih we both used to enjoy so much.
Soemtimes I look at his past behavior sand think "He must be an aggressive dog, maybe there is no hope for him." Then when I look at it another way, I wonder if he's a normal dog that has happened to be in several unfortunate situations where he has reacted like many other normal dogs would. IS he normal, or does he have an aggression problem? What should I do? I dont' want to get rid of him, I love him just like a member of the family and would be heartbroken. My husband and I do want to have children in the next year, so now I worry about this too, though I always felt comfortable with the idea until yesterday. He has never had a problem with any of the family, or any other people or kids (and he has been anround many) other than the lady sticking her hand over the fence and the lady at the kennel he "nipped" out of separation anxiety (but didn't break the skin).
Thoughts, advice, support?