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Canine Behavior/Aggression in 7 month old puppy

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Question
Hi Jill,
I have an almost 7 month old male Australian Shepherd. He has always been very sweet and I have been taking him to our local dog park almost every day since he had his final shots. Tonight though he got a little aggressive. I brough his own water since they turned the water off at the park and he growled when another dog tried to drink from it. He then growled when another dog tried to take a frisbee from him. Then he actually bit and was very aggressive with the same dog when it tried to take a stick from him. I have never heard him growl with another dog before and normally he plays great and there are never any problems. When he did this I grabbed him and told him "NO" and we left right away. I am just wondering if you know why he might be doing this and how I should handle it? Thank you so much.

Answer
You need to find a "growl class".  Since you live in a place where I think this might be possible, ask your veterinarian (or call around to others) for a credentialed (national) positive reinforcement trainer with a training facility.  A "growl class" is a place where dogs with problems such as your dog has can interact and learn to "meet and greet", with counter conditioning, over several weeks.  By grabbing him and telling him "no" you are not addressing the dog's fear but, in fact, might make it worse.  He is resource guarding.  This breed is known for aberrant aggression, it is not uncommon.  

Your dog is NOT a candidate for the dog park.  DO NOT GO THERE.  At seven months, this behavior is a serious problem in terms of temperament and/or training and socialization.  I am not a great lover of dog parks.  Many dogs get into trouble there and develop behaviors they would not otherwise have had.

If you are unable to find a good, credentialed trainer (and you must ask for credentials and check them, ask for references and check them, and audit a few classes before bringing the dog) then I suggest you find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) who can assess the dog and do whatever s/he determines is necessary in order to evaluate the problem.  You can hopefully find one within reasonable distance from the following sites:

http://certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com/page6.html
http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory

Dr. Ian Dunbar, a very well known and highly respected Veterinary Behaviorist, has his headquarters in Berkeley, CA.  His office might be able to help you find someone to help you, since you are on the "west coast" (more or less):
http://www.siriuspup.com/about_founder.html  

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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