Aggression in Great Pyr Shelter dog

by Nancy
(Buellton, ca)



I adopted a Great Pyr mix from the shelter. With me, he is extremely loving, gentle and affectionate. A delight to work with, intelligent, wants to please. But since starting to take him out in public, He has growled and nipped at strangers and has growled and snapped at other dogs at the dog park. We were asked to leave.

I have never had an aggressive dog before. Can this be resolved or will I always have to be on my guard that he does not hurt anyone or any animal?

He is 18 months old. I had hoped to train him to be a therapy service dog to visit retirement homes and children in cancer hospitals. My impression of him was of a gentle giant, until these mishaps occurred in public.

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Jul 11, 2015
Shelter Dog
by: Donna

He doesn't look full Pyr first of all.

Pyrs are not eager to please dogs which also tells me he is not full Pyr. When you mix Pyrs with other breeds, wires can get crossed and aggression can happen.

How long have you had him? There is a reason he was surrendered to the shelter and his behaviour is no doubt the reason.

As for the growling and nipping at other dogs, he is dog reactive which can be managed. But, you cannot take him to dog parks. You should have a positive-reinforcement trainer come into help you.

Having said that, the nipping at people is a problem. This is not usually something that can be 'fixed'. It may escalate into something more dangerous.

I would suggest having a positive-reinforcement trainer come into help you and advise you on a course of action. She may see some potential.

In the shelter, they are not themselves since they are handled by many people and there is much noise. Once they go into a home that is theirs, in a few weeks their personalities will come through.

He is too young to be showing this behaviour. My guess he is originally either from a pet store, backyard breeder or a farmer. Farmers breed edgy dogs (meaning they mix them with Maremma and/or Akbash) to watch their livestock. This creates an unpredictable dog who is not meant for human companionship. A backyard breeder does not know what they are breeding but none of the above breeds for sound temperaments, sound bodies or good health.

He cannot be a therapy dog unless the trainer feels he can be worked with to get him to that level.

I'm so sorry.

Jul 11, 2015
Don't give up on him
by: Ed A from NJ

Don't give up he is young and may have had a bad time of it. If you don't have a lot of dog experience you may want to get some help from a trainer. Also slow down your acclimation until he is more sure of your relationship and can read your feelings. If you are nervous he will be on guard. Offer him love and affection and above all patients. He is far to young to not be able to make a turn around. But do proceed with caution.

Jul 13, 2015
more questions than answers
by: Anonymous

And here are some:
Do you know what else your pup is besides Pyr?
Are you sure that he is in fact a Great Pyr?
Did he have siblings?
How many weeks old was he at separation from his mother?
What was his situation before coming into rescue?
Where you actively looking for a therapy potential when you adopted him and if so, was there a careful character assessment of the pup done pre-adoption?
Does he live with you in your home, or in an outdoor kennel, separate from the house?
Are there other family members your pup has contact with, and regular visitors of all ages?
Do you have friends with dogs with whom he has regular social contact?
Are you his sole trainer and...
Do you have the credentials and experience to train a therapy dog?
If not, have you researched therapy dog training and had your pup assessed by a trainer with those credentials?
You already know his anti-social behaviour is a problem for your long term plans for him. What you do about it is crucial for his life as just your canine companion. Do find an experienced trainer ( of guardian dogs in particular ) and as a team begin the rehabilitation of your pup. Your answers to those questions will be very helpful at that time. You have a long road ahead, but your dreams are not impossible. Blessings and good luck!

Jul 13, 2015
Bailey's training / E collar ?
by: Nancy, bailey's new owner

Bailey was in the shelter for one month. He had been on a Hippie bus traveling the country with kids and a range of other animals including other dogs and a pot bellied pig. He had been hit by a car at four months old. And had hip surgery. Also Bailey was neutered at the shelter a month ago and treated for Lymes disease. Maybe there is still some testosterone floating around. I had Bailey do a basic training boot camp with a professional trainer for two weeks. He is now great on the leash and with basic commands. We are taking a group therapy dog class once a week, every Saturday.. I have another session with the private trainer on Wednesday. He is strongly recommending using an E Collar, which the therapy dog teacher is against., given baileys personality. I also have an appointment with a vet later today. A DNA test can determine his breed mix. The professional trainer thinks Great Pyr and yellow Lab. Someone else said Great Pyr and Anatolian. I am concerned for Bailey that if he doesn't resolve the aggression issue, he will not be an adoptable dog. I am thus pulling out the stops to resolve this. I have very mixed feelings about the E collar and would love to hear others' opinions on its efficacy. The trainer insists it is humane and vibrate only not zap.

Jul 14, 2015
good info
by: Anonymous

Thanks so much for a great response! Personally I feel that Bailey is one lucky pup to have you as new owner...kudos to you! Your actions on his behalf so far are spot on and I have great hope for his future.

You are right to question the use of gadgets in the training of your pup. And I am not a fan of training tools that depend upon the handlers ability to use the tool on the dog within the few seconds available for the dog to connect the dots. So I would say, use as a last resort.

Your pup already has displayed a degree of nervous energy which he directs at whoever. Anything that vibrates, shocks, pokes, jabs (you get the picture?) will increase his reactivity, as he will then come to associate the poke/jab with his anxiety, and the dog or person to whom he has reacted. I'm sure that by now with all you have done with him you are aware of certain indicators just before he reacts. Its all in his body language.

Better, in the instant when he has the thought, (ears go forward/tension increases) to redirect him quietly with a command, and when his focus returns completely to you give a treat. Take a deep breath. If you relax so can he.

Above all, keep rewards simple. Treat or soft voice "good". Its your inflection and calm relaxed demeanor that speaks volumes to him.

And lastly, finding out what's in the mix of his genetics may explain somewhat the why and the how of the things he does. This is good knowledge but no reason to change what you are doing. Take as long as you feel you need during your work together...after all, you're learning to dance together. Best of luck to you both!

Jul 16, 2015
E-collar? Good for your trainer...not your dog
by: Tressie

Any trainer that is recommending an E-collar is not knowledgeable about this breed, and lacks current scientifically based information about dogs in general. This also makes me suspect that your trainer has either exacerbated Bailey’s aggression or has created it. Hopefully the damage can be undone.

Number One recommendation – fire the trainer asap, and suggest he buy himself an E-collar.

Next seek the services of a positive reinforcement trainer or certified canine behaviourist.

Please read the information at this link, and when you’ve read it, print it off and read it again:

You can also find an accredited positive reinforcement trainer through this site.

As for credible information on E-collars:

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