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  #1  
Old 12-16-2012, 12:51 AM
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Default Need Advice for Rescued Chihuahua

Hello! We just rescued a chihuahua 10 days ago. He came from a home where he was mistreated and kept confined all day, every day in a small, filthy kitchen. He's 13 months old and has become part of our family. He is great with all of us (husband, myself, our 10 year old, and my 20 year old step-son). The problem that we're having is how aggressive he is with other people. When he's in my car and people walk by, when friends show up at our house, when he sees people walking on the road, he turns into an extremely aggressive dog....barking, growling, snapping...acting like he wants to completely tear the person apart.

I am trying to give him the command "quiet" to get him to stop, but when he is in that mode, nothing phases him. The trainer at Petco told me to try a spray bottle...that doesn't phase him either. He is great with kids, warms up sooner to women, and takes a while with men. Once he's accepted the person, he'll still go back into aggressive mode off and on.

As I mentioned earlier, he was mistreated. We don't know the full extent, but I found out this past week that he did suffer a broken leg from his previous owner (the husband) and the aunt mentioned that the kids were pretty bad with him. When I took him to the vet, she read through the chart notes from the last vet and said that he has had to take care of himself, defend himself, and protect himself.

Does anyone have any advice for me to help with his training and socialization skills? We're not going to give up on him...we already said that worst case is we don't have anyone over to our house anymore, but I'm hoping we can train him to be tolerant of people.
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  #2  
Old 12-16-2012, 08:34 AM
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IMO, this sounds like fear aggression, Honey has this too. If you search in the search bar for this, there are a lot of useful threads on the subject.
I use a DAP collar and Thundershirt for Honey, along with a clicker and positive reinforcement. together with all the tips from the threads, she is getting better slowly...
It's hard work, but so worth it xx


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Old 12-16-2012, 08:36 AM
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I forgot to add, I wouldn't use a spray bottle or pet corrector for this - he has a good reason for barking, he's scared, you don't want to correct this as he is letting you know he is uncomfortable. If he feels like he can't bark, he may go straight to biting!



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Old 12-16-2012, 09:22 AM
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Welcome to Chihuahua People, I look forward to getting to know you and your Chi! Kudos for taking in a rescue, it takes a very special person to do that so THANK YOU!

As far as his issues, if there's any way you can consult a behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer) that would be the best way to get a good evaluation of him. Even fear aggressive dogs can be rehabilitated, it just takes more time and patience. Unfortunately this happens a lot with small dogs when families get puppies, don't put the work into exposing them during their most impressionable age, and then end up getting rid of the dog later when it didn't turn out to be the perfect puppy they wanted. It is great that he already trusts you and your family! That'll help immensely, as if he trusts you he will become more confident that you have everything in control.

The key to changing his behavior is baby steps. Slowly ease him into situations that he is uncomfortable with; lots of positive reinforcement, and if he gets out of hand remove him from the situation until he is calm, and try again. Use wonderful treats; make sure people don't inadvertently threaten him (to a dog, even kneeling toward them, reaching to pet them, and making eye contact, is considered a threat to a dog who does not wish to be approached. Make sure everyone who is involved in helping socialize him knows that, and knows to basically ignore him except for tossing treats in his direction. You want to slowly introduce him to people; from a distance at first, until he is comfortable being closer. If he starts barking or gets out of control, move him back further until he's comfortable again. Then try again, a little closer each time, rewarding him with awesome nommies any time he remains calm in their presence. It can take a LOT of repetition, meaning lots of patience; but you are basically trying to 're-wire' his brain not to have that initial "fight or flight" response. As Rachel said, a DAP Collar (it has nice smelly good pheremones) as well as a Thundershirt (reduces anxiety by gentle pressure) can help; and I also recommend a drop of lavender oil on his bed or other 'comfort zones' that he has. This'll help when you take him to new places that he's NOT comfortable with, if you bring the lavender with or put a drop on his collar before going out.

I could probably ramble forever but it's past 4am and I should get to bed. But to reiterate Rachel, "Fear Aggression" is what you want to be Googling. =) Again thank for adopting a rescue and I hope to see you around!!
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Last edited by LostLakeLua; 12-16-2012 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 12-16-2012, 08:48 PM
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I would invest in a puppy playpen. Here he can see visitors etc but be 'safe' from them, and they from him. Have visitors toss really tasty treats in the pen, but not interact with him at all. Soon (hopefully) he willl be looking for people that come in, to toss something really neat into his pen. Then ON leash, take him out of the pen and do the same thing. No interacting with him at all yet. When he can take a treat out of someone's hand, without being stressed, you will know he is on the road. Good luck.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:58 AM
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Thank you so much for the advice. I worked with him last night with having people ring our doorbell and me getting him calmed down prior to answering the door. The yummy treats he got with the "Good, quiet" praise helped him calm down pretty quickly. I am going to google the DAP collar and Thundershirt tonight.

My mom came over today and I called her ahead of time and told her that when she came into the house to just ignore him. He did his usual thing, calmed down, started up again, calmed down, ... She didn't approach him at all - just tossed some treats to him and let him approach her.

Again, thank you for the advice. I really, really appreciate it. He's such a loving dog and he's really bonded with us. I just want him to feel safe and secure.
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Old 12-17-2012, 04:39 AM
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Poor baby, I'm glad your family has him and he is safe now. The other members have given you some great advice, love this site! Congrats on your new family member!
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