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 Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?

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PostSubject: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:29 pm

Hey Everyone,

My partner & I just adopted a 2 year old husky-malamute mix named Buddy. We are his 4th home and I have limited information about his past.

Buddy has been showing signs of fear aggression since he's been at my house. He will snap his teeth next our hands, or sometimes put his mouth on our hands, but not bite down, as a way of giving a warning.

I think we've identified in every situation what was upsetting him, and what signs we missed just before he snapped, so we should be able to avoid a lot of future situations that stress him to that point.

I would like to work on these issues, and definitely don't want them to get any worse. I'd like to try some counter-conditioning / desensitization program. I do have a session set up with a dog trainer next week, but I'd love to hear some training techniques or suggestions to deal with this kind of behaviour.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:13 pm

T-bird, a couple of questions and then maybe a suggestion.

The fact that he grabs but doesn't bite means that he's got some pretty solid bite inhibition - that's a real plus! I have a girl who bit me, once seriously enough to make a run to the emergency room for stitches (and yes, I still have her) but her problem was food possessiveness and I was not catching the warning. Saw it, heard her and ignored her warning ... I'm old and slow, what can I say!

The question related to this is that you don't indicate that he gives any "verbal" warning - ie, no growl? Teaching a dog *not* to growl is really a disservice to the dog - they don't have any way to say "I don't like this!" except to bite

The fact that you're his fourth home in 2 years means he's got plenty of reason to be afraid and uncertain.

One of the best ways that I've found to build trust and confidence is to hand feed - literally take a couple of kibble and have him eat out of your hand. Since he's grabbing your hand, I'm thinking that he's worried that he might get hit and hand feeding will help to teach him that hands are good things.

Tell me (us) more about what you see and what you've done, if you would please and we'll always appreciate pictures so we know who we're talking about.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:59 am

Here are some things that may cause him to snap : having his paws touched, being petted while he is laying down, being faced head on (this is a trigger in conjunction to other things), being groomed (he tolerates 2-3 brushstrokes before he's done), someone leaning over him.

Usually he will snap if there's a few things going on. Like one time I was trying to groom him and was holding him in place by holding his collar, so he snapped at me. Had I just let him leave the situation when he wanted, it wouldn't have gotten to that point.

There were some instances where we totally missed the signs he was giving us.

One day, he was rolling over onto his stomach, and "pawing", so my husband thought he was asking for a belly rub. My husband was giving him a belly rub for a few minutes, and Buddy kept pawing at him. In the end, buddy snapped and put his mouth onto my husbands hand. After doing some research, it turns out he was probably showing his stomach to say that he wasn't a threat, and pawing as an appeasement technique - he never wanted to be touched - he felt unsafe and was trying to appear weaker so he would be left alone.

Another time I was taking off his harness, I always gently lift up his front paw to put it through the harness. I usually am facing him, and crouching down when I do this, but this time, I was standing side on and leaning over him to reach the clip. I didn't get any warning signs when he put his mouth over my hand, but I also wasn't watching his face, so I could have missed them. I think he didn't like being leaned over like that.

All the instances seem to suggest that he is uncomfortable with handling, and that he doesn't like any touches or body language that make him feel vulnerable. Whenever something happens, I don't react (other than to pull my hand away). I'm not really sure what reaction is helpful, so I just keep it neutral.

Actually, to further the theory, he is learning "down", and will only perform the command if the issuer is standing or crouching to the side of him. If you face him head on and give the command, he will not lie down.

So, I guess that about sums up what's been going on.

There's a good article on pets.webmd called "Desensitization & Counter-conditioning" that describes the technique, and how to create and execute a program for your pet. I can't link it here - but if anyone is interested it's a good read.

And finally - here is a picture of the miscreant - Buddy. When I took him on, I had limited information about his past. From the little I knew, it was clear I was taking on an animal who was going to have some issues to work through. I definitely didn't expect to run into these kind of issues - but he's my baby now, so I'm going to do my best to help him.  

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:18 am

Gorgeous boy. I have a boy we adopted from a shelter at 1 year old. He to this day does not like grooming, touching paws and is somewhat skittish about being touched. When we first got him, basically no touching at all - he did like collar and leash going on as that meant a walk. Never put his mouth on us but did give a little growl and jump away. Today, he asks for belly rubs, allows limited grooming. I hand fed a midnight snack, sitting next to him on the floor - at first he stayed far enough away that I had to lean towards him to give him the kibble, now, he's right next to me and often puts his paws on my thigh while feeding. Still - I consider him a wonderfully gentle animal.

If you want to see an example of a dog at the other extreme, read this thread. My foster with a bite history. http://www.itsahuskything.com/t16630p125-blazze-becomes-z-ev-follow-his-journey-from-death-row-to-member-of-the-family?highlight=Blazze+becomes+Z+ev

We started with desensitization/counter conditioning and kept that up until he clearly had changed from a predominantly fearful dog to a bit of a entitled brat which we then began addressing with corrections. We're not there, yet but he's coming along.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:58 am

I've done some desensitization work with my female. We basically get high value treats and have her focus on them and treat her while doing the offending act. She hates other dogs so we have her sit and do tricks for treats while we have other dogs walk by her. She hates her nails trimmed so my husband holds treats in front of her and she watches it while I trim nails. I get through a nail, she gets the treat. Now weening her off needing the treats in order to not be a brat is a differ story.

Each rescue is different. I have three rescue dogs and they all came with their own quarks. My female is hugely dog aggressive. My gsd male is over excited and spins and barks incessantly. My white male has the allergies from hell. Time and patience will win. Good luck. He's beautiful.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:44 pm

Thanks for all the input.

I like hearing the successes from other rescues.

Amy - I've started reading the thread you posted about your foster - I'm on page 1 but can't wait to see the progress

So, this is what I've done - made a list of every trigger that has caused him to "warn" us, and put together a desensitization / counter-conditioning program to address each trigger that we are going to start working on. We also have a trainer starting with us next week, I think she's going to be a little surprised when she shows up and I already have a program planned & started, but I still think I could use some professional guidance.

I am going to start doing some hand feeding, like Amy & Al suggested. I will continue to give a portion of his food at regular feeding times in his bowl so as to not disrupt his routine, but will set some aside for hand feeding sessions.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:46 pm

I third the hand feeding, lol. My husky mix is not a rescue, but can be a handful when it comes to touching. She is good for me and my husband, but is not receptive to other people holding her paw for a shake nor is she comfortable with people hovering over her. I tell people to place themselves at her level, and to high five her when they ask her to shake. Somethings are a matter of adjusting yourself, and like with the hand feeding, it builds trust and forms that bond. Sit at Buddy's level and talk gently, and hand feed, if he starts to grab at the food a simple closing of your hand over the food a eh eh be gentle, when he is gentle tell him good boy yes be gentle. It does appear that he may be head shy, so whoever had him before may have smacked him whenever he got too excited for pets/shakes/ hovering and got nippy, husky puppies are notorious at using their mouths to communicate, and in this instance, I am wondering if whoever had him before physically corrected him for mouthing, He does look fairly young, and I am sure thru working with him, he will be a great companion. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:12 pm

T-bird, the head-on position with a dog is almost always confrontational.  That's one of the reasons that dogs are introduced by walking them in a common area and letting them "meet" when the two walkers end up side by side.  Bringing them nose to nose is quite apt to cause a dominance fight.  It'll also make human - dog meetings uncomfortable even though the dog knows the human is "master"
Of my three, one (the male) is comfortable with me in front of him - face to face - the other two will shy to a sideways position, so I almost always approach them from an angle.

When you start hand feeding, I'd suggest that you hand feed first while his interest is really on the food.  I hand fed Sasha over the course of a couple of months and while she was never aggressive when I hand fed her, as soon as the food hit HER bowl it was hers so "go 'way!"  Four years later, that's all history - I can actually play with her and her food now.  Success is wonderful!!
When you hand feed, set on the floor with your pup, put the bowl off to one side - for, I hope, obvious reasons DON'T put it in your lap or between your legs - think about it!  Take a couple of kibble and stretch your hand out - he'll probably be reluctant to take the food from your hand at first - "Man, this is different!" but just hold your flat, open hand steady and he'll eventually take it.  Keep talking in a relaxed tone so he knows that this is really okay.

Final comment, there's a tendency to try to correct everything at once - don't, it just get confusing for both of you.  Pick the "trigger"  that seems to bother your both the worst and work on that.  Ignore the other problems, you need to save something to work on later ...

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:14 am

Buddy didn't have any reservations about taking food from my hand, haha, he did spend a lot of time glancing at the bowl, wondering why he had to eat a few pieces at a time instead of just getting the whole thing.

His worst triggers are his paws and being groomed. He also doesn't seem to like being touched when he is lying down (although he won't usually snap for this - unless he feels trapped).

I will probably leave the paws for now. It is, I think, his biggest trigger, but we don't really need to touch his paws. His nails are pretty short right now, so hopefully we won't need to trim them for a while. Does that seem irresponsible, or can I leave that for a bit?

Grooming I definitely want addressed - that will likely be the first thing I work on, I really want to be able to brush him outside to cut down on the shedding inside a bit - he lets me do a few brushstrokes before he's had enough and walks away.

I'd also like to work on him being more comfortable being touched when he's lying down. I think if he stops feeling so vulnerable in that position, it may help him be more comfortable with other kinds of handling.

Is it too ambitious to work on those two triggers at the same time? I definitely have a tendency to overdo things, but I'm trying to be patient and let Buddy set the pace.

Side note - Buddy had his first (hopefully last) unchaperoned adventure last. My mother was watching him while my husband & I went out, so, Buddy decided it was jailbreak time. Usually we make sure the place is secure, but one of the screen doors was shut, but not locked, and the main door was ajar, so he must've just jumped up onto the screen door handle and off he went.
His previous owner said when he bolts, the only way to get him back is with a car ride. He won't come for anything else, so we were driving around looking for him. He was only AWOL for about 15 minutes when I got a call from the vet near my house. A good samaritan had seen him, opened his car door which Buddy took as an invitation since he jumped right in, and drove him to the nearest vet and left him there. His tag has my # on it so they could get a hold of me right away.

It was the first time my husband & I both left the house since we got him 2 weeks ago, and apparently he whined and paced for 10 minutes before breaking out. When one of us leaves, he usually whines for a few minutes but then he settles down. I think we're going to start leaving the house together for a few minutes each day, working up to longer, to try to get him used to it.

My in-laws have a going out ritual, they give their dogs a kong stuffed with cottage cheese whenever they both leave (but not any other time), they think it helps the dogs know that they are going to come back.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:43 am

If he doesn't like to be touched have you been able to do any in depth checks of his skin to make sure he doesn't have some sores or scabs that might be sensitive when grooming. When I got my white male he had a dense coat from being an outside dog and he didn't really like grooming too much either, though nothing like yours, so I just sat and brushed my hand backwards over his back one day when he was calm and found some sores from his allergy flair ups and bug bites on him. Now that all that is healed he is much more tolerant.

Mine like to get something too before I leave. More to distract them from me leaving so they don't have a large amount of time to stew about being left alone and get themselves worked up into having an issue with being alone. Huskies are notorious for having separation anxiety. Many have to be crated or they will destroy the house when left alone.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:56 am

I don't think he has any sore spots, he lets me brush him with my fingers (even lets me work out mats with my fingers), and that doesn't bother him at all, and I haven't felt anything weird. He's blown his undercoat pretty well, so I think I'd notice if something was up.

We also took him to the vet for a quick check-up when we got him, and the vet didn't notice anything (although I don't think she really looked for skin issues, but she did rub her hands all over him).

He does have pretty pink skin around his armpits. I kindof just thought his skin was pink there, and the fur isn't as dense so it's more noticeable? I never touch his armpits anyway, I do not think he'd like that. Plus, he only ever rolls over as a last resort to show submission, so I wouldn't go touching him when he's in that state.

We've got a crate for him that we leave open, and he goes in & out throughout the day and chills out in there. We haven't locked him up in it yet, but I do want to have him crate trained. He's not been destructive at all (so far), but he also hasn't been left alone... and he just looks like a sofa-eater to me.
My husband works from home, and I'm doing some online study right now for a new job, but don't start at my new work until October, so he doesn't really need to be left alone a lot at the moment, but I would like him to be able to go a few hours without having a full blown panic attack. I'm going to start leaving for short periods of time now and increasing in length, so he doesn't experience a shock in the fall when all the sudden the routine changes and he's left alone for longer.

In happy news - Buddy found his voice today. He hasn't talked at all the whole time he's been here (whines a bit, but not husky-talk), but this morning he started, and now he gives us some excited chatter whenever we get ready to go outside. I think the husky-speak is really funny and adorable, so I'm glad he found his voice.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:15 am

lol. "looks like a sofa-eater"

It usually takes a couple months for a new dog to become comfortable enough for you to really see their true personality. We had Kye 3 months before I heard him bark for the first time. He has a really deep guard dog sounding voice. He uses it to goad my female into playing with him.

He may have some slight allergies or irritation going on. A little coconut oil in his food should help in time.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:05 pm

Okay, I'm going to back up a lot.  I think a lot of us are tip-toeing around the issue because of the recent person who felt we swamped them with "that's not aggression."

You said that you're his 5th home in two years.  Think about that from his viewpoint, he's had four masters who - for whatever reason - decided they didn't want him.  If you got out of school, started one job and were let go, started another and ditto - how would you feel when you hit your 5th job?  Don't you think that you'd be a little nervous for the first month or so??  He's uncomfortable and with good reason.

Someone spent a decent amount of time with him, bite inhibition is a learned behaviour and someone made sure he understood that it was okay to use his mouth but not okay to bite.  How he did that is an unknown.  Huskies seem to be more mouthy than a lot of other breeds and since they don't have hands, they use their mouths as if it were a hand.

Going back to the idea of a job again.  I'm assuming that one of you is a programmer (possibly a medical student) from the amount of analyzing you're doing.  Let's say that you had one supervisor who expected that you'd work from home and only appear at the office when you had to discuss thee task at hand, another who said that you need to be at your desk at 8:00AM and leave at 5:00PM no matter where you were on your current task, and another who said they wanted you in the office but weren't overly concerned when you got there or when you left.  You're now on a new job and your new suervisor hasn't given any real indication of what hours he expects where ... you're going to feel...???

From everything I've read so far I don't think Buddy is in the least aggressive.  He's uncomfortable - with just cause - and he's communicating that discomfort in the way he knows.  IN no sense am I saying that you should ignore his discomfort but you've only had him for a week or so - it's going to take time for all of you - the husband-wife pair, Buddy and the MIL - to learn what it is he wants and needs and what he doesn't like.  

Reaching across a dogs back is a VERY dominant position, you're new to him and then unthinking assume a dominant position - if he were aggressive you'd have been bitten, possibly seriously.

With your obvious dedication to him I think that in short order you'll have a dog you can touch and brush and play with without having to give it any thought.  He'll know that you're not going to hurt him and while his mouthiness may not ever go away, it'll probably end up more play than correction.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:36 pm

Hey Al,

I really appreciate your assessment.

Buddy met one of my dad's friends today. Buddy walked past him, and this guy grabbed his tail! Buddy turned and snapped (not surprising). He also spent some time trying to "playfully" grab Buddys paws, his biggest trigger!, to get him wound up. (it worked)

It took many stern requests to get this guy to interact with Buddy in a more appropriate manner, which he eventually did, and they ended up having a good (supervised) playful interaction.

If Buddy could tolerate that guy, he has a much more even temperament than I'd originally thought.

Here's a new photo of Buddy for everyones enjoyment.



Last edited by Thunderbird on Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:39 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : wanted to add a dog photo :))
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:09 pm

Buddy sounds a lot like my Avalanche with the "tail" thing. He's really excellent with kids, he'll play just as rough as the kid wants to play - but like Buddy, if you grab his tail, he's gonna return the favour by grabbing your hand! I've done that so often that all I get now is a look that says "Let go!"
I've laughed at him and kids, because grabbing a tail seems to be natural to a 5-10 yo kid. They grab him, he grabs them and they immediately let go ... "He bit me!" has come out of couple till they realize that they didn't get bitten.

Maybe I'm being repetitive, but I think you've got a really good dog who'll gradually relax and be a real playful friend.

You said, in the title, Husly / Malamute - I personally don't see any Mal there, all I see is a real good looking Husky.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:16 pm

aljones wrote:
 You said, in the title, Husly / Malamute - I personally don't see any Mal there, all I see is a real good looking Husky.

I'm inclined to agree, although he is unusually chill for a 2 year old, intact husky. But maybe we haven't seen his wild side yet, he is getting more mischievous as he gets more comfortable.

All the paperwork we have on him from previous owners & vet visits have him listed as a Malamute, but he has more husky traits than any other breed.

I want to get him DNA profiled in a few months, more for fun than anything else.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:26 am

He looks a lot like link and dizzy, a couple Huskies of older members. His ears are tighter together more like a husky.

If he was running at large before you got him or a full-time outside dog I find they take a bit to regain their energy. The change wears them out.

I did the embark DNA test and was happy with the depth and quality of the test.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:19 pm

Had our first (and last) training session with a local trainer today.

I'd done a bit of research and picked a trainer who's training style I liked and who had plenty of positive reviews on social media.

This trainer knew we had called her to help us address near bites, and she came into our house guns blazing. Right away she got Buddy super wound up with really rough play, and within 1-2 minutes of being in the house and playing super rough she grabbed (very quickly) for his collar and he bite her hand. He actually broke skin with 1 tooth, and it was a pretty deep gouge.

I was pretty pissed. I have this dog, who for the entire time he's been in my home, has never felt so threatened that he had to actually bite someone, and then I bring in a professional, and she gets herself bite in the first 3 minutes, and ruins that, and now my home is not the place where he never felt that scared.
Personally, if I knew I was going to see a dog who had some biting tendencies, I would proceed with a bit of caution, and probably not get him to a 10/10 on the excitement scale as soon as I met him.

The rest of the session was an absolute shit show as well. She was really loud and moved quickly, so whenever she tried to praise him with a "good dog", she would shout the praise and he would startle.

Poor Buddy is still recovering from the instance. He's still showing signs of stress, and behaving similar to the way he behaved the first few days at our house. He may need a little decompression to get over that experience..... poor guy.

I feel like a total asshole for putting him through that.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:25 pm

Omg, that's awful. How on earth has that trainer gotten good reviews if she acts that way. I am so sorry for you and buddy and that waste of money. I would have to give her a bad review. Maybe for simple little obedience stuff she is a fine trainer but it really sounds like fearful and unsure dogs are above her ken to deal with. I understand needing to find out what a dog's tolerance is so you know what you are working with but the goal isn't to go over it. Desensitization training only really works after you have created some trust with a dog. A trainer can't desensitize a dog to other things if they have already made the dog wary of themselves.

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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:58 pm

Yeah, I'm probably going to work with him independently for a while. I had just hoped to get a little professional guidance and opinions on how to address some of his issues. But it was pretty apparent this woman was not going to be in any help in that respect. If anything, today was a setback for Buddy.

I'm just trying to move past it, new owners make mistakes, this is one of those times. But I do feel bad because I had been trying to teach Buddy that he doesn't need to protect himself, because I will protect him, and today I wasn't able to do that for him.
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PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:14 pm

This is not your mistake. This is the mistake of the trainer who said they could do this with you and totally failed you and your dog. The mistake was with the trainer who went in and treated a dog a certain way before actually getting to know a dog and properly evaluating it. No dog can be fixed in one training session, and no trainer can expect to know everything about a dog and create a plan of execution based on the word of an owner alone. She made the mistake thinking she had the answer to all of Buddy's problems before even meeting him. You did your homework getting reviews and talking to her. She said all the right words but couldn't back them up.

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MiyasMomma
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Female Join date : 2014-06-26
Location : west Texas

PostSubject: Re: Rehomed 2 year old husky-malamute - fear aggression towards humans?   Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:54 pm

OP, when you and Buddy are more confident, I would look into one of two types of training facilities......One is to look for someone with a good amount of experience with huskies/malamutes or and this will be probably easier to find, look for a trainer who has experience with german shepherd dogs, if there is a local IPO/schutzhund (spelling) facility you may check them out and ask about trainers. It is in my experience there are far more gsd trainers than there are husky trainers. Altho the breeds are quite different, the issues Buddy has is very similar to gsd's that have been rehomed. An experienced gsd trainer will have a better understanding of how dogs react, and are very aware of hyping up a dog can equal a bite. For some reason, general, all breed type trainers have no clue in how to train high energy dogs. I am so sorry you and Buddy had a bad experience, and in time both of you will have a wonderful relationship, actually, seems like you two already are bonding quite well. Keep us posted, I really am interested in how your relationship progresses. Smile
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