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Rescue Dog has terrible manners with other dogs

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Bubbleybliss, Nov 4, 2018.


  1. Bubbleybliss

    Bubbleybliss PetForums Newbie

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    Hi all!

    I adopted Rocket last December when a friend was going to take him back to the pound because she couldn't handle him. He is, at our best guess, about 2 years old now. He is definitely part staffordshire or pitbull, and likely some kind of gun dog for the rest (maybe a very big, prey driven chocolate lab...). He weighs 80lbs/36kg. So he's a BIG boy. He's also very athletic. (He can jump the 4ft fence from a sitting position next to it.)

    He has come a LONG way. He used to be unable to hold his pee for more than 2 hours, and would pee every time someone visited or my husband carried a hairbrush or stick-like object in the house. He never barked, wouldn't play with toys... basically he didn't know how to dog. Now he is great! He heals, he does all the normal dog things, almost never has accidents, and is the single most eager to please creature I've ever owned. We go on walks, play fetch, and I even bike with him.

    However... he can't seem to handle himself when other dogs and/or excitement are involved. He loses his little mind and can't even begin to function and usually scares his potential new friends. He rushes to the gate and barks and growls and jumps at passerby. This is *mostly* broken because he never goes out alone, and we make him come in as soon as he starts barking. We know this is excitement and not aggression, as he has jumped said gate and runs up to the people he was just barking/growling at for love and play. Stops barking as soon as the gate is no longer in the way.

    I've been training him more intensely to work on this behavior, and try to exercise him more- we go to the dog park and we go on bike rides.

    However.... the dog park has become problematic too!! We go to a huge dog park on an island, with lots of trees and buildings. Probably 2-5 acres in size. It is a mixed dog park with all kinds of dogs. Rocket is VERY friendly and excited. And incredibly fast. Again, he does well and listens until he gets overstimulated (which could be immediately, or after a few minutes.... it all depends on the dog). Usually him getting overstimulated has to do with his playmates' behavior. If the other dog is happy to play and engaged and likes to roughhouse, he does great. He's in his element! But if the other dog is concerned and withdrawn, tries to run away or yips a lot, he goes overboard. Instead of moving on, he escalates and harrasses the poor things until I catch him and drag him away. Calling does not work. He doesn't BITE them, or seem to be trying to hurt them... more like he's enjoying scaring the poops out of them. When this happens, I put him on the leash and work on our recall for a while. I may or may not let him off leash for a second chance, depending on his behavior and what other dogs are around. This doesn't seem to be helping. We have more and more instances of bullying our playmates lately. But this dog park is the only place I can take him to REALLY run and use up all that energy.

    Additionally, a dog just moved in behind us. Whenever the dog is out at the same time as him, Rocket loses his mind. Barking, growling, BITING the fence and gouging little pieces out. To someone who didn't know him/dogs you may think he is being aggressive, but if you pay close attention, it's clear he is not feeling aggressive. He desperately wants to play with that dog. And he wants to tear the fence apart for being in the way. At first, he would settle if I came out and stood next to him and reminded him of manners. Now, I have to drag him away by force to get him to come inside for a break. Usually breaks help him settle and he does better after. Not anymore. Again, he seems to be getting worse instead of better.

    I'm not sure what else to do for the poor guy! It seems like he needs more and more stimulation and play to control his energy and behavior... but he is less and less able to take advantage of the few opportunities he has. I know that obedience class should be my first option, but unfortunately it isn't in the budget right now. We do a ton of training together 1:1, and he is excellent. Like I said, he is sooooooo eager to please. From what I've read, we should find a 'mild' trigger and work on focusing while minorly distracted and slowly increase the distraction until he can handle other dogs. But, it seems there is only not distracted and fully distracted for Rocket... We haven't found a minor distraction to start building on.

    Has anyone else encountered something like this? How did you get through it?

    Thanks,

    LeeAnna
     
  2. labradrk

    labradrk PetForums VIP

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    The really simple answer is......don't let him! dogs have no need to interact with other random dogs and dog parks are a dreadful idea for the reasons you have stated. Thuggish dogs get to practice their thuggish skills and the softer/weaker dogs get bullied. This 'recipe' of characters can escalate so quickly into a full blown dog fight when the wrong dog picks on the other. As a Bull breed cross, you really don't want your dog getting involved and being responsible for fights.

    You could double fence the back of your property. It's generally easier to manage this issue rather than stop fence fighting.
     
  3. Bubbleybliss

    Bubbleybliss PetForums Newbie

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    I understand I shouldn't let him bully other dogs. We haven't been to the dog park lately because he has been escalating quicker. But I do think he needs the free range time. Unfortunately... there isn't really another option I can think of to get him out and just let him BOOK and play independently. He is much more settled and content after he gets to stretch his legs for real. (Even bike rides with me don't seem to compare) I would just go when the park is empty.... but it is never empty. So I'd like to try to work with him to improve his behaviors, so that maybe someday he can go back to the park, or I can do off leash elsewhere and be confident he'll return even if another dog shows up.

    Re: the back fence.... we will look into a double fence as soon as our budget allows... but I'm not convinced it'll work. He's smart and knows the dog is there. There is a dog a yard or two away behind the corner of that fence, and he leaps and barks when ever that dog is out, and it isn't just on the other side of the fence. I think he honestly just craves more play time with other dogs. His body language isn't aggressive- he just really wants to play.

    Has anyone else helped their dog cope with such a strong play drive, and at the same time, an inability to respect "no" from other dogs? I wish we lived somewhere more rural so I could get him out and RUN free and play fetch, have doggie friends over and get him worn out more easily. :( (I'm relatively new to city living- i grew up on a farm, so I've never had to manage this, our dogs got exercise with us on the farm)
     
  4. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Oh wow, you have written a textbook case of a very typical bull-breed juvenile getting all overstimulated and obnoxious.
    He also sounds very typically easy and eager to train :) So this is very fixable.

    First, stop. Stop going to the dog park, stop trying to wear him out with activities and stimulation, stop letting him play with other dogs, just stop it all.
    When you say it seems like he needs more and more stimulation? No, he needs the exact opposite. He knows very well how to get stimulated and energized. What he has zero experience with is learning to chill out and relax. You're going to have to purposefully teach him this.

    You're going to have to be a lot more strict about managing him too. Over-excitement is not aggression exactly, but excitement and aggression are on a spectrum, and over-excitement can easily spill in to aggression. So you do not want him to practice getting over excited. The more he does a certain behavior, the better he will get at it. So the more he practices over-excitement, the easier it will become for him to get over excited, and the quicker he will get himself in to that state. Fortunately the same is also true for calmness ;)

    This is a really excellent article on this kind of dog and why not all play is appropriate, and what to do instead:
    https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/bonnie-and-porter/

    Personally I would not take him to a dog park ever. It's a great place to learn terrible manners, that dogs are more interesting than you, how to get overstimulated, that bombing off is more fun than anything.... I'd avoid :)
     
  5. Bubbleybliss

    Bubbleybliss PetForums Newbie

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    That article is SUPER helpful. The pictures of porter are almost exactly Rocket's body language. It's helpful to understand the line between healthy play and inappropriate play- I've often wondered, but others always say its fine.

    What structure/routines/exercise amounts/play opportunities do you use instead to help 1) manage energy levels and 2) instill that structure/calm demeanor? I know to work on recall, and we have been working on it. (he's perfect in the house, and probably 75% - 90% in the yard, depending on stimuli. I bought a dog whistle to help provide a super clear command for recall that carries well, and treat heavily to reinforce, and recall multiple times each time he goes out). I need to figure out the next place in our community to work on this- possibly a non-dog park on a long lead, or maybe go hiking (again with a long-ish lead). I'm not 100% sure which is going to add a significant enough challenge without making him completely over stimulated and ignore me.

    I'm super eager to learn! We've always had dogs, and even pitties before, but I've never had so much stimulus around, because it's always been more rural, or at family's homes... so i guess that's why this is so foreign to me.

    Thanks,
    LeeAnna
     
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