I could use some advice socializing a fearful dog with unclear triggers

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sourced from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dogtraining/comments/g9xppo/i_could_use_some_advice_socializing_a_fearful_dog/

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TL;DR I’ve had my dog for a few months, he gets nervous and can be aggressive towards some people and is immediately friendly with others, I can’t figure out a correlation for what might be triggering him.

I adopted Shakespeare about 6 months ago, he is about 4 years old and looks to maybe be a rottweiler/retriever mix. He was very calm at the shelter, got along fine with other dogs but wasn’t super interested, and mostly just wanted to sit next to you and get pet. He was abandoned so they didn’t know any details about his previous situation. During his first bath I noticed he had at least one very big scar, my guess is from being tied up somewhere.

He pretty quickly got attached to me and my roommates, we had guests over a few times and there was one incident where he snapped at my friend (Friend reached out to pet him with two hands, Shakespeare panicked and snapped at him, we took it a little slower without any more incidents and shakespeare later fell asleep in his lap) and another incident where he was laying on his back getting his belly rubbed and started to growl at the girl who was petting him. We were keeping an eye on him but we mostly figured he was still just getting settled in, whenever we had guests over he would tell them about his behavior and that he needed a little time to warm up.

About a month later while I was gone at a wedding and my roommates were watching him, he bit my friends brother in law. This wasn’t the first time the brother in law had met Shakespeare, first time had gone completely without incident. The brother in law was sitting at the kitchen table, Shakespeare was sitting next to him, brother in law had been petting him for a little while and then seemingly at random Shakespeare bit his hand. It was basically like a snap that actually connected, Shakespeare ran and hid in his crate, and to this day we still don’t know what set him off.

After that I got a trainer, he came very highly recommended and had some good advice but basically said your dog will never be friendly and will in all likelihood bite someone again. It was a bummer to hear but I did all of his exercises to really drill down on basic obedience, we had guests over and Shakespeare was still nervous but we didn’t have any incidents for another two months or so.

One night when I was out getting groceries or something a friend (same friend that went for the double handed pet and got snapped at several months earlier) dropped by, he had met Shakespeare a bunch of times, Shakespeare seemed to really like him whenever he came over. He was just picking something up, reached out to pet Shakespeare, and just like before he snapped at him and connected then ran and hid in his crate.

Apart from the two bites there have been instances where he lets out little growls or starts to show his teeth. He has done it to men and women, with and without hats, facial hair, uniforms, in the house, outside the house, him on the leash, off the leash, big, small, young, old etc. He has also immediately warmed up to people of every description, and more often then not he just hangs out.

The management is under control, guests always know the drill and he is a very obedient dog, but it has just boiled down to nobody is allowed to pet him. My biggest point of confusion is that there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to when someone might make him feel uncomfortable. The only consistent thing we did notice is that he definitely does not like the two handed pet unless he knows you. Also since both actual bites occurred when I wasn’t home he is probably more nervous then, I’ve since moved into my own place so now there are only guests when I am home. Other things do bother him as well, but only sometimes and it all seems at random.

If the punchline here is that I did what I could and effective management is all you can really hope for, then it is what it is. But I was just hoping maybe someone might have some insights on what might be setting him off so we can better socialize him.

submitted by /u/thebarnanimal
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