• Michael D’Abruzzo

    January 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm


    Sounds like you need some guidance with this guy. That’s what we are here for. Good news is that it sounds like you are on the right track and understand how to troubleshoot and use the triangle well. The best way to handle this is if we break it down into little steps to make sure we don’t miss anything and understand the problems as much as possible since this is a more complex high difficulty one. I am confident that you can make a lot of improvement.

    First thing that popped in my head reading this, is that you must be sure to manage the situation carefully with the baby. Everything you wrote about this dog seems very manageable and mostly describes a conflicted and somewhat fearful dog that needs some guidance, structure, and trust. We can do that together, but the tail up and hackles with the baby is definitely the most alarming thing to make a priority to manage since that is potentially a dangerous situation for the baby. The language tells us that your hybrid feels threatened, but will handle it in a more assertive way if left to his own devices. Do not allow for any chances and don’t let guard down with any situation where the baby may be present with him. Even one bite can be devastating at that age. This is something that can often be rectified/managed easily with patience and the right plan, but for now be sure to not allow any situation where there may be room for error.

    But to start on troubleshooting we will start from the bottom of the triangle and work our way up, and that begins with Knowledge of what we are starting with. My first impression is that your hybrid is exhibiting a lot of primitive behaviors, which although not easy to deal with, is at least somewhat predictable, makes sense, and is “normal” for the less domesticated side of him. What is very positive here is that we are seeing a lot of bite inhibition and good use of the growl from him. Therefore, to answer your question… never correct for the growl, as without the growl you are removing an important part of his vocabulary away from him which can mean a lot of things. He is telling you that he does not want to bite at the very least. That is good as it prevents bites. It is better to focus on what is causing him to growl in the first place.
    Second point I would like to stress is to understand that he is a hybrid and will never be a labrador without a brain transplant. So, if we come up with reasonable goals and expectations for him it will prevent frustration as we move forward and will help bring him to his fullest potential.

    Off the top of my head for a plan it looks like we will need to build a lot of trust with this hybrid. We do this by being predictable and teaching him that we understand what he is telling us, especially if he is scared. Avoid physical corrections at all costs at this point.

    We will need to continue to show him that we want to lead. We may have to tweak some little things. For instance if there is growling for petting still – do not pet. If you are not sure he is craving the comfort of physical contact don’t give it. And when you feel he is at a deficit, invite it with your palms below his chin – but he must come for it and you must be sure that he is obeying because his motivation is affection. To pet him after he sat for a treat or to pet him because he sat to avoid a consequence will be counterproductive. He needs physical contact from you but only you will know what is the right balance. the rules of “establishing the relationship” in the aggression rehab section go into slightly more detail then the triangle “pack structure” alone.

    Let me know what you think so far and we’ll keep moving forward together.