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  #1  
Old 10-12-2011, 03:50 AM
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Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Hi all, I'm new here and have a real predicament.. and would love some advice from those who know the rottweiler breed best..
Please read and comment :)

A few months ago I feel in love with this 6yr old male (desexed) beautiful rotti named 'Holmes', he came in as a stray to the animal shelter I work at. He is extremely polite, handsome and well trained. I started taking him on weekends, taking him to the beach, then he stayed at my apartment for a while on and off.. he is an angel apartment dog as he is completely toilet trained, he sleeps with my ragdoll cat in my bed and is a total couch potato. needless to say I decided to adopt him, I couldn't have him in my apartment so decided to get a house with my sister and my niece (age 5). So he and my niece needed to meet.

The behaviorist at my work assessed him as good with kids, and he is good with most other large dogs, though slightly barrier aggressive to other dogs (especially in the car), but no other behaviour issues. Him seemed to pay no special attention to children on the street, even being petted by them once or twice, I had no reason to suspect any issue with children, especially with him being so calm and obedient.

Holmes and my niece met in the backyard at my parents, he sniffed and licked my niece.. she was a little afraid of him so I picked her up.. he did seem quiet interested in her and a little more excited than when he meets an adult, but it seemed like a pleasant meeting.

Then we went inside, and Holmes stayed outside but could see us through the screen door. He was calmly looking in on us (the adults) then my niece ran up the hallway and was in his view.. he reacted like he does when he has barrier aggression to other dogs.. barking, hackles, springing up and down on his front legs.. it was very intimating for a 5 year old. He did this everytime he saw her through the door. I wasn't too concerned by this but took precaution anyways because I had no idea how much socializing he had had..
I always kept him leashed when she was around, we did daily mutual activities: walks where my sister and niece walked a couple meters away, we'd just sit together (Holmes dropped by my side and my niece a meter or two away on her mum's lap).. I did this over 10 days.

Then finally he seemed like he might be used to her, my niece asked to pat him.. he was dropped with me sitting beside me, niece approached calm and quiet.. she started to pat him on the head (which in hind sight I should have instructed her to pat his side, as this is less dominate), he suddenly stopped, froze and starred very hard at her, I saw this and told her that was enough and to stop. She turned to walk away, he lunged forward grabbing her shirt knocking her to the ground. I pulled him back very quickly, pushing his nose away from her (it was more of a reflex than anything). My niece was unharmed but pretty scared. It absolutely shocked me, completely different dog.

I told my shelter and they were very understanding, They said they'd understand if I want to reconsider adopting him. I'm heartbroken and torn as to what to do.. so this is my predicament..
Do I try to work with this very serious behaviour problem or do we try to find him a suitable owner with no children in the home (as he shows no aggression to children on the street when he's walking- so this can be managed)?

I would love it if I could get him used to my niece, but not sure if I will ever trust him again when I have no idea of his previous history, it also worries me that he shows signs that someone has beat him because he is very wary of people (even me) when they have things in their hands (i.e. dishwashing scrub brush, dust pan broom etc.). It makes me very sad that someone has damaged such a kind, loyal and loving animal.
I also am afraid if I ignore these obvious warning signs (due to my love and compassion for Holmes) and something does happen (a serious attack), I'd never forgive myself.

Any advice or reasons for this behaviour and how serious this behaviour is would be appreciated..
Sorry this thread was long, I tried to add as much detail as possible.

Thank you.
Gabby :)
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  #2  
Old 10-12-2011, 06:56 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

I am so sorry your little neice had such a negative experience. Blame yourself. You have a previously unknown dog for about three months and you set him up to fail. It was far, far too soon, not only to think it was "time to meet the neice", but to do so without recognizing the potential for danger. In fact you missed several warning signs and were overly bold. Enough scolding...

I'm not sure of the dogs motives in going for a retreating child. You'd have to contact your behaviorist about it, and work with him/her. I have seen dogs do this before. As an example, a man was petting someone else's dog. The owner had hold of the collar. When the man stopped petting the dog barked! Why? I can't say. This time I am at a loss. I will check with my behaviorist friends to see if I can gain some insights.
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  #3  
Old 10-12-2011, 11:17 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Gabby - I'm relieved to see that you had a VERY good/quick reaction/timing to be sure Holmes didn't make contact with your niece!

Over the internet - it is near impossible to say why a dog did x y or z.....but I wanted to comment on your question about whether Holmes could be managed....and I think the simple answer is YES...he can....the difficult part comes with whether or not YOU want to take on the management of this dog - based on your lifestyle/home environment/yard, etc....keeping in mind, he might well live another 6 years or so!

The biggest factor as I see it for you and Holmes is - are YOU prepared to do whatever necessary to keep Holmes safe - as well as any children who might visit your home, or you might encounter when you are 'out and about' together in public?

I know managing dogs with issues can be done - because we do it in our home - but I would NEVER imply to ANYONE else, that 'they' should be able to do it too....because it really is about YOU, your experience/ability to manage a large breed dog - and the specific dog/issues you have before you...coupled with the other residents in the home.

All the best to you and Holmes......

Gabby - I just re-read your post 'before' I hit submit on my thoughts.....and I'm going to leave a bit of my thoughts here....but I can't get past that you and your sister and niece live together...and at some point, if not already, your niece will have friends visit for playdates, etc.....how does your sister feel about the possibility of Holmes living there and being 'managed'?......I think in all fairness, she gets more than just an opinion in this....

I have to say - in your situation (shared living arrangements), I don't think I could keep Holmes in the home.....
Your heart is in the right place...but I think your head is speaking loudly too.....all the best to you going forward! His negative reactions to ordinary items in the home might be more of a sign of a complete lack of socialization/exposure to normal life....rather than abuse....although both are possible...I'll close on that note....
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  #4  
Old 10-12-2011, 11:45 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Holmes sounds like a really good dog for an adult home. I would not have him in a home with children and I would limit contact with all children. Personally I would not adopt this dog as it would be too much a legal risk.
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  #5  
Old 10-12-2011, 03:35 PM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

get in touch with Steve from K9Pro (google it - should be the first result, he is in NSW) and he will help you out, assess your dog, and advise you if he thinks the issues can be worked through, or if you should consider rehoming... he is a very good behaviourist and specialises in aggression cases!
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  #6  
Old 10-12-2011, 06:43 PM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

I dont think ANY 6 year old dog with "obvious warning signs "as you stated , should be around little kids.
Regardless of what breed it is.
and.
An animal behaviorist cant possibly gaurantee how a dog will react in every possible scenario .
So I personally would find a place to live alone with my dog..without little kid.

The kids not yours...but the dog is.
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  #7  
Old 10-12-2011, 08:28 PM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Thank you all for your opinions and advice, very helpful.
I have been talking very closely with the behaviorist at my shelter and am going to get a second opinion as well. K9pro sounds good thank you Davros.

I have had large breed experience (i had bull mastiffs, and my parents had rotti's when I was growing up), and from working in shelters for years, but never had to work with aggression toward children in my own home as all our dogs have been raised with children.

I'm sorry you feel "I set him up to fail" sabellesmom, I respect your opinion and thank you for taking the time to comment but you have to understand that this was a complete gentleman of a dog who had been assessed by a behaviorist as good with children, assessed by the shelters CEO and vet of our shelter (with decades of experience) as a great dog, all the kennel staff (some with over 10 years experience with aggressive dogs) thought he was an angel and I had seen with other children being well behaved.. I was under pressure to get him out of the shelter (he had been there for months) as it's way better for his welfare to live in a home situation than a 2 x 1 meter concrete run, that's why he was coming home to meet the niece, he had already met my sister a couple weeks before separately. I had made sure he had been walked out on the street, in other peoples homes, at parks, at the beach and every other place I could think of socialising him for months and he truly was conformable and well behaved in every situation that was thrown at him. So with focus on these facts maybe you could possibly see why this occurred, and why I didn't suspect there would be issues.

It's true that for the next 1 or 2 years I could guarantee a child free home (if I find alternate living arrangements not with my niece), but in the long run I'm in my mid 20's so I can't say that I won't have children in the next 6 years, I don't want to be selfish about this it wouldn't be fair on him for me to have kids and then say have to try to find him a new home when he is 10 years old.. it's for this reason we are trying to find him an extremely good home with adults that do not have children in the home (and not planning on children), with large breed experience and hopefully they'll agree to keep in contact. He deserves that. I plan on in the mean time also working on this behaviour issue with him and the behaviorist, even though he would under no circumstances go to a home with children. We want him safe and children safe.

I guess I'm just heartbroken because being good was kids was actually the deal breaker for me, I loved him when he first came into the shelter but hadn't considered adopting him until the behaviorist assessed him as great with kids I knew then he was perfect for me as I wanted to live with my sister and my niece and I know I want kids in the next 5 years.
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  #8  
Old 10-13-2011, 12:34 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

ITs NOT YOUR FAULT. Your heart will tell you what to do. My pitbull bit my finace and I had to surrender her because I was afraid if she decicded to bite my nieces or nephews I may not be able to pull her off. SHe also was great with people, kids and I could take anything from her mouth but for chance of being sued or biting a child I surrendered her to a trainer to get rehabilitated and rehomed and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I guess it all works out for a reason.
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  #9  
Old 10-13-2011, 01:49 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

I see someone gave Sebellesmom a thumbs down, I gave her a thumbs up. I am going to surmise that an inexperienced person gave the thumbs down.

With that, anytime one gets a shelter/rescue dog, there is an adjustment period. Dogs of this nature come from unknown backgrounds regardless of how many people have assessed them, the dog is still being assessed in unfamiliar settings. (with the exception of foster homes, but still an adjustment period happens here as well)

Many moons ago, I used to work in a kill shelter, so I am inclined to think that someone who does the same wouldn't need to be reading my explanation here. Each dog is an individual and may require different settling in periods for a multitude of reasons. With that, it is "our" sole responsibility to take precautions for the dog and it's environment--this includes other humans.

About 4 years ago, I adopted a female rottie. She had to adjust to us, her new home, another dog and 6 cats. This took many months. She got very excitable around cats, had some food and toy aggression with my other dog, gets very excitable (to this day) when she hears/sees my neighbor's grandchildren. Her issues over time have resolved themself with the help of me of course. But these things take time.

Your dog is 6 years old, depending on the dog a good adjustment period for familiarity for some dogs could possibly take 6 months to a year. This isn't a fast rule, just saying--as backgrounds are unknown and depends on the experience level of the person as well. A dog of 6 years doesn't need socializing out the wazoo either, the temperment is already in place, what needs to take place in fact is observing the dog, taking all precautions, not over-stimulating a new dog in the home too much etc etc.

Also, rottweilers are NOT toy dogs and shouldn't be treated as such or with any type of reckless abandon. It is never wise to just throw any unknown dog in any kind of situation and always expect great outcomes. Things come in baby steps and in time. Very very small children can excite many many dogs of all breeds, your dog is no exception apparently, and it is always best to have any new dog contained either by crate or leash and watching the dog's body posture etc while introducing said dog to anyone--always in a positive setting.

Then finally he seemed like he might be used to her, my niece asked to pat him.. he was dropped with me sitting beside me, niece approached calm and quiet.. she started to pat him on the head (which in hind sight I should have instructed her to pat his side, as this is less dominate), he suddenly stopped, froze and starred very hard at her, I saw this and told her that was enough and to stop. She turned to walk away, he lunged forward grabbing her shirt knocking her to the ground. I pulled him back very quickly, pushing his nose away from her (it was more of a reflex than anything). My niece was unharmed but pretty scared. It absolutely shocked me, completely different dog.

In the situation above: I would've covered the dogs eyes and removed the dog first, regaining focus and then observe the dog's behavior now being removed from the situation and seeing if the dog now has the same fixation but from a distance. I wouldn't let someone move away from the dog when the dog was exhibiting this type of hard stare type thing going on, because 9 out of 10 times, a dog is going to lunge as soon as that person walks away.
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  #10  
Old 10-13-2011, 02:07 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davros View Post
get in touch with Steve from K9Pro (google it - should be the first result, he is in NSW) and he will help you out, assess your dog, and advise you if he thinks the issues can be worked through, or if you should consider rehoming... he is a very good behaviourist and specialises in aggression cases!
Another person to call will be Glenn Cooke. Last I heard Glenn was working at Pet Resorts Australia in Sydney. Glenn has had a lot of experience with Rotts and dogs with aggression issues. He is a very good trainer and well worth a phone call.

Mick.
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  #11  
Old 10-13-2011, 03:22 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Thanks Mick, I googled Glenn Cooke, he seems like a real ambassador for rotts :) and to me that seems like he's worth a call.

Zorro13, Thank you for your comment and advice, you said in the last part:In the situation above: I would've covered the dogs eyes and removed the dog first, regaining focus and then observe the dog's behavior now being removed from the situation and seeing if the dog now has the same fixation but from a distance. I wouldn't let someone move away from the dog when the dog was exhibiting this type of hard stare type thing going on, because 9 out of 10 times, a dog is going to lunge as soon as that person walks away... Not that I plan on being in this situation again but will try the eye covering if these behaviours present themselves again. I was just wondering why it is the dog will lung (9 times out 10) when a person retreats? thanks.

Thank you also 'dutchmom' for your compassion, any one who has been in this sort of situation knows that YOU BLAME YOURSELF THE MOST, I would never blame my handsome Holmes for his actions when he has clearly not had the same advantages as a well socailised dog, I only want what would be best for him.

'jakesfostermom' mentioned his reactions to regular household object when they are in my hand may be due to complete lack of socialisation/exposure to normal life.. I hope this is the case, however, some things don't make me think it's that.. he is completely toilet trained and appears to be an entirely inside dog, he shows only reactions to things when picked up by humans... broke my heart one day when he was playing with me and my boyfriend (running round being very silly and cute) and a friend picked a chair his ears went flat and he bolted away. Very sad to see.
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Old 10-13-2011, 05:38 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Quote:
Originally Posted by gabbyella View Post
... I didn't suspect there would be issues.
Believe me, I fully understood that you'd been given no specific "reason" to doubt him. But, you had only had the dog a short period of time. Where I feel you set him up to fail was two fold. One, he had not been with you log enough to trust his reactions. Despite any and all evaluations by others, he was still and "unknown" and while you were quick to react, it could have been worse. You did not know this dog...yet, if you see what I mean.

Two, there were warning signs in your own post, which you chose to ignore. You said "seemed like he might be used to her", you questioned yourself for allowing her to "pat him on the head", and "stared at her'. Hard stares almost always result in a lunge. Control the head and eyes and remove him. You did not know him well enough to guess.

I am sorry he had such a reaction. I'm sorry it was one that was difficult not to have seen coming. But they do occur, which is why you can't allow yourself the luxury of guessing, about a dog yet "unknown" to you. Children are too precious for that kind of mistake, aren't they? This is an unfortunate set of events from which, hopefully, we can all learn.
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Old 10-13-2011, 07:20 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mick Trainer View Post
Another person to call will be Glenn Cooke. Last I heard Glenn was working at Pet Resorts Australia in Sydney. Glenn has had a lot of experience with Rotts and dogs with aggression issues. He is a very good trainer and well worth a phone call.

Mick.
I keep forgetting that Glenn has migrated on us - he is definitely another knowledgable rott person who could be of assistance! He is still with Pet Resorts, Terrigal comes to mind? can't remember for sure though...
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Old 10-13-2011, 08:47 AM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

Great advise given here and Gabbyella good for your quick actions. Whichever path you decide, neither will be easy. If you return him to the rescue, you know he may or may not be adopted. If you keep him, you will have to be diligent watching him and be in full control at all times.
I may be over protective but I am always on guard when my dogs are around anyone except my husband or myself. I've seen too many dogs go from happily being pet to jump up and bite. There were probably signs that no one had paid attention too. Heck, I've known a few humans like that.
I used to own a Rottie who would respectfully herd my horses in and out of the field. One day a young horse kicked out at him, not hard but just enough to make contact and tick him off. He decided at that time that horses were the enemy and bit my show horse in the face when the horse was only sniffing him. From then on, the dog never went out the door without a muzzle on. This didn't mean that he couldn't throw his weight around, he just couldn't open his mouth enough for a good bite but he could still drink water.
Just a thought if you decide to keep him.
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Old 10-13-2011, 02:00 PM
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Re: Heartbroken! Unprovoked attack on my niece..

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Originally Posted by gabbyella View Post
I wouldn't let someone move away from the dog when the dog was exhibiting this type of hard stare type thing going on, because 9 out of 10 times, a dog is going to lunge as soon as that person walks away.[/B].. Not that I plan on being in this situation again but will try the eye covering if these behaviours present themselves again. I was just wondering why it is the dog will lung (9 times out 10) when a person retreats? thanks
Well the unhelpful answer is I'm not exactly sure why. I have seen it many times and have experienced dog bites in the back of leg more than once. Fear, aggression, being a jerk could be a few. I believe there are more dogs that will lunge and/or bite on someone turning their back than there are dogs that will face you head on. Insecurity, fear, uncomfortable in their situation to name some more. A hard stare though is a clear signal of something though and when someone retreats while the dog still is fixated, it takes that opportunity to lunge. Hence, I am more of the prevention/corrective type mode of thinking. Here are a few examples of lunges that I have experienced with no rhyme or reason that I can think of.

Many moons ago, I also worked in a kennel. There was this one dog, I walked him several times a day for over a week, never a problem. Pretty much on the last day, bringing him back from his morning walk, take off leash and I go to leave kennel as I've always done, good dog etc etc. Wham, bit me right in my back leg, no growl/no nothing. So I don't know the signs as I had already turned my back to leave as I always did. Did this dog have pent up energy from being kenneled all week perhaps? Who knows, I sure don't. The dog was fine on leash, never showed any aggression beforehand. So, I corrected my behaviors after that, don't turn my back completely upon leaving.

Here are 2 lunging incidents with my mutt dog Zorro. Zorro is 7.5 years old. Both these incidents occurred within the past couple of years, both times my husband holding the leash. While out on a walk--one of thousands, in the neighborhood, there was a lady walking opposite direction on the other side of street. As we passed (now we're across the road from her) My husband walking Zorro in front of me, I had Angel, Zorro does this lunge thing. First time ever. While I wasn't paying attention to him, I don't know if he was being a dolt, trying to wake up the person at the end of the leash or what. A behavior never seen before.

2nd time with Zorro, now out on trail, one of many. Sometimes we are on trails with big wide areas, sometimes singular paths. Busy trails, bikes, dogs, joggers, deer, squirrels--you name it. Again, husband on end of leash with Zorro. Here comes some bikes, as usual, both dogs in a sit, (I had Angel again) for some reason upon passing Zorro attempted a mid-lunge--though not close to any of them. Being a jerk? absolutely, is he aggressive? no My husband is his favorite person, so taking advantage? quite possibly. Could be more than one reason, I don't know. 2 incidents over a thousand of the same experiences. Both times I corrected him from distance verbally and his look to me was like, ugh she's here too. This dog is very well versed in distractions, but now I wonder is that just with me? But my husband has walked him hundreds of times, walked all 3 of my dogs at once, and has run with Zorro without incidents before and after those episodes. So I am still ??????? what the heck. While I don't expect perfect behavior in dogs throughout their whole lives, regardless of training level, I still take precaution nevertheless on proper restraint even if in familiar situations. Both incidents had us both scratching our heads. Lunging to me is problem behavior and rude, I have no clue why this would rear it's head in an older better trained dog.

Angel, my female rott, as I said previously, gets very excited hearing/seeing my neighbor's grandkids. She will run that fence line hootin/hollerin like a banshee but put her in proximity with these kids and she doesn't exhibit these behaviors. Just mellow yellow. Is her barrier (the fence) her security to get all excited and hyped up? Not a lunging dog. But still, not put in position to make a wrong move.
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