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 Post subject: A different type of dog socialization question
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:26 am 
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My boyfriend and I have three dogs. I've written about them here before. Two are littermates, a year and four months old, male and female akitas from a rescue group. We've had them since they were 8 weeks old. Our other dog is almost 11, a rott-aussie mix who has lived with two other dogs for the whole time we've had her (since she was a year old). The three get along very well. The akitas are very rowdy and play rough. They're small for akitas, but still big fierce looking dogs. We socialized them as best as we could as puppies, took them to training classes, and they went to the dog park in our old town about 8 times between the ages of 5 and 8 months. They loved it, but as they got older, we decided not to bring them together anymore because they sort of teamed up on other dogs. Playfully, but rough and that's not cool. The older dog has always behaved well around dogs, but is a bit standoffish and doesn't really like to be bothered too much now that she's an old lady. But we took her to the dog park a couple of times too and she loved it.

Then a couple things happened. The older dog and I got attacked by a 30ish pound terrier type dog while walking with my mom and her dog. She got bit a lot, but not injured (she's about twice its size). My arm got torn up when I tried to get it off of her without her killing it. She didn't hurt it at all, but it was pretty bad and I have two nasty scars. So now I'm scared of dogs running up on me and I'm worried she is too. A month after that, we moved across the country to Los Angeles, a much bigger city with very busy dog parks. My new fear of dogs, being busy with moving, and the akitas becoming obnoxious "teenagers" has resulted in a total lack of socialization for all three dogs. I'm okay with the older dog just not really being around unfamiliar dogs since she's so much older and doesn't care that much anymore, but I feel like we need to do something about the younger dogs. Their breed is known for being animal aggressive and I'm afraid they'll get in fights, but I don't think isolation is the answer. They're so used to playing with each other and they're pretty rude and aggressive with each other. The male is crazy about other dogs when we walk him. He's out of control and we need to take them back to a dog trainer, but funds are low right now. I think he wants to play, but he likes to jump on dogs' backs, which is bad dog behavior and I know a lot of dogs won't tolerate that. The female is much less dog crazy, but neither of them is submissive at all and I am terrified of dog fights.

Sorry this is so long! I know some dogs just can't go to off leash dog areas and that's fine with me, but I'm looking for any advice or experience with this type of thing you might have. How do you determine if your dog wants to kill other dogs or just love them when it is physically capable of destroying them? Thanks so much.

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 Post subject: Re: A different type of dog socialization question
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:12 pm 
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Sometimes humane societies have group classes for cheaper. The puppies would spend time around other dogs and the trainer could help you with any issues and it's a controlled environment so maybe you would feel more secure. It's worth calling around to check prices. Doggie playgroups and socialization classes that are supervised by trainers are becoming more popular as well.

It's also really great if you can find someone who has a really laid back and well-behaved dog. You can start off just walking on different sides of the street and gradually work up to playing together if it goes well. I would do one of your guys at a time, unless you and your boyfriend both can walk a dog. (I bet it's really hard for one person to control both of them when they get excited (I love akitas, but man, they are strong!).) Reward your puppies for calm behaviour, and remove them from the situation if they get overstimulated. If the friend dog is super good with other dogs, s/he will use body language and space to teach the puppies appropriate behaviour. It's tough to find a dog like that and you gotta choose your dog friends carefully! You want one who won't get upset if a big akita suddenly tries to jump on him/her. You could put an ad on craigslist looking for a good playmate, or ask your vet or the local trainers if they know anyone. I wouldn't throw your dogs in with just any dog because even though it sounds like they are just being knuckle-headed teenagers, a lot of dogs won't put up with that, and you're right that it could quickly escalate. You want a calm but playful adult dog with a very dog-savvy guardian.

I actually just did this with my dog and a little dog who is very reactive to other dogs. I had Sable on leash on one side of a big room while the other dog (also on leash) worked on obedience (and jumping through a hoop!) on the other side. They were far apart enough that the little dog could focus on her person, and after an hour or so, she would approach Sable if Sable was lying down and calmly sniff her, and then return to her person for a treat. Having to focus on her obedience and agility tired her out and calmed her down, so at the end she was able to approach my dog without that excess energy and nerves. If you can find a good dog to do short sessions like that every day, it's really good for them.

You could try contacting a local akita rescue group-I'm sure their foster parents have dogs who are used to crazy adolescent akitas, and they might be willing to help you out and evaluate your dogs and offer tips.


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 Post subject: Re: A different type of dog socialization question
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:02 pm 
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I would try and get them tuckered out before any social activity occurs. If they have already had both physical and mental stimulation then they are more likely to be in a position to learn doggy playtime rules. Also, try and go to the dogpark at off times when there is not likely to be a ton of dogs. Would it boost your confidence if someone else went with you so that it was two people and one dog?
Another thing that may not even factor here is that the two teenagers are littermates... I know you said they tend to play rough together and I wonder if that is part of the problem. A few of the rescues here won't adopt littermates together because they say it tends to increase behavior problems. I'm not sure if that is true I have just heard it so many times that I thought it was worth pondering!
Good luck, and I hope that you all adjust to your new home soon!

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 Post subject: Re: A different type of dog socialization question
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:11 am 
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Thank you for the advice. Those are great ideas. We've taken them to training classes before and definitely want to find a new place to go here. We don't know anyone here with an appropriate dog to play with and I don't think I would feel comfortable with the craigslist idea, but the rescue group idea is a good one, or finding someone through a class. What's weird is they didn't act crazy around other dogs in the training classes (only the male really is super excited about other animals). It's like he developed a totally new personality right around the time we moved here. I don't feel like they should go to a dog park right now. They don't listen well enough. If they wanted to chase something, I don't feel confident that either one of us could get them to stop off leash, and in my opinion, that's a necessity, especially if your dog is capable of really hurting another animal. So I know we definitely need to work on basic obedience stuff more, particularly out of the house.

We actually got them from an akita rescue group and they didn't mention anything to us about the problems that sometimes result with littermates. After getting them, we read all about it and tried to separate them as much as possible as puppies and give them opportunities to develop their own personalities, but it is pretty tough and I wish I had known how hard it was going to be beforehand. I thought it would be easier than having two puppies at different times, but instead it was a lot harder. They're a lot better now and I can see them becoming less crazy with each other, but they definitely have a very close relationship and I think it has absolutely impacted their behavior around other animals.

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