>I got my dog about 2 years ago when he was 16 months old. He is a German
>Shepherd/Doberman mix, and weighs about 90 pounds.
>From the first day I got him he attacked me and ripped my jacket sleeves and
>bit my ankles. This is my first dog, and I certainly wouldn't keep him if
>it seemed he was mean about it, but he just seems very playful.
>He usually starts by running around me in circles while growling, or he'll
>lay down flat at a distance, watch me, and then come towards me.
>This behavior has reduced a great deal in the past 2 years, but it hasn't
>stopped completely. These days I can yell at him once he starts, and he'll
>usually stop. But does anyone have any idea of why he does this to begin
>with? I don't know much about his early training, but my thinking is maybe
>someone played rough with him too much and he got the idea this was normal.
>We live on a farm pretty far out, and he's usually in a kennel or tied up.
>But one day when he was tied up, he bit a child who ran past him.
>Another time when he was free he bit a visitor who drove up in her car.
>All these bites were reported, but it's left me wondering if I should
>purchase a muzzle to put on him when I let him free or take him for walks
>Anyone have any ideas?
>In all other aspects he's a real sweetie :)
Dog aggression problems are ALWAYS serious and I am not necessarily the most
qualified to respond here. First of all, your dog's ancestry (German Shepherd/Doberman),
would predispose him to be protective and possibly aggressive, hence challenging to work
with for a first time owner. With dogs there are only two states: they either dominate
(playfully or not) or they are dominated (submissive). It is very important that with your
dog, he perceives you as dominant (the alpha/pack leader) in every interaction. Based on
your post, he does NOT appear to CONSISTENTLY accept you as his alpha/leader. Again, a
well trained dog with an even temperament, ENJOYS obeying. An aggressive dog, on the other
hand, will constantly test and stretch his boundaries.
Bottom line: you CAN'T own a dog that bites children that simply run past him or visitors
at random. In both instances there appears to have been no provocation of any sort. Also,
growling at you, running in circles and then approaching you may be play, but it is play
where HE is clearly dominant and testing his limits. Does your dog ever backup his growls
by biting your and ripping flesh? Does he always growl before he bites? Does he snarl?
Continual and constantly reinforced obedience training may help, but the help of a
qualified dog professional/behaviorist with experience dealing with aggressive dogs is
even more important. You will also need to make a concerted effort at his his
socialization. Note: It is unclear whether your dog will mellow out or get WORSE as he
ages. Probably the later, unless he becomes better socialized and recognizes you as being