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 Post subject: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect you?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:12 pm 
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Hoards Peppermint Jo-Jos
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Background info: My 2 year old puppy is a chow-retriever mix that we adopted a year ago from a city shelter. His life before was predictably traumatic. He hadn't eaten much since being at the second and final shelter where we had gotten him from, so he was restless and emaciated. We were told he wasn't totally comfortable with other dogs and that socializing was crucial but to be careful since he wasn't very good with other dogs yet.

Over the last year we've been working on trying to keep him calm and focused on walks. When he sees almost any other dog, he will stop dead in his tracks, and will not move unless the dog is nearby. At that point he starts running in a frenzy like he's trying to catch the dog, and most of the time the leash is tugging at his throat which I think contributes to his typical aggression. He's gotten better with being around dogs on leashes for a short span of time. I've also gotten slightly better with reading his body language, so if I see him stiffen I automatically tell him something to calm him down and encourage friendliness, keeping my tone calm. At the same time, I'm also making sure we don't stay for too long, which usually isn't a problem considering my dog has no idea what to do with other dogs, save for a very select few.

We bring him to the dog run on occasion. He is iffy there, so I make it a point to vigilant of what breeds are hanging out with him. He goes ballistic around pugs and bulldogs, and this is the point at which his aggression comes out in full force. Today, we were coming in through the back entrance of the building, getting into the elevator, when another dog was coming from the lobby and going out through the same exit we just came through. We were already in the elevator when for some foolish reason the doors are closing and I let the leash go, and my dog runs out of the elevator, straight to the dog that just left, and I chase after him to find him on a pug that just left the building, biting as hard as he can.

The owner was freaking out, and I took my dog to the side and didn't know what to do. I got him to sit down, look away from the dog, and tried to get him to focus on me. He looked away the whole time. I couldn't go back into the building yet because the dog was still just two feet away and I didn't want to add insult to injury. The owner was mad but saw how angry I was at what happened that he didn't say more than to be careful, and that his dog was fine and wasn't bleeding.

I've tried to get a trainer, but due to unforeseen circumstances, that didn't happen. I know the right answer here, and what to do to get help is obvious, but I am dumbfounded and really stressed out. This happens with me pretty consistently. My boyfriend swears my dog is best with him, and I have seen fewer instances of him acting up on the leash or at the dog run when my boyfriend is walking him, but I wouldn't say it doesn't happen, more that he walks him so much less than I do and maybe that has something to do with it. At home, he doesn't really answer his name. He doesn't always sit, which he admittedly does best with my boyfriend but which my boyfriend is again less consistent with doing (because he's rarely here to walk my dog). Right now, he's away on a business trip and I can't even reach him since he's asleep and his phone doesn't work where he is.

I know what I need to do, I'm not asking for pity... I AM frustrated that I know what I need to do to be responsible but cannot get it, and don't know what to do if I can't get that help other than to try my best to avoid all other dogs completely (which is not as easy as it might seem) or work on getting a job to get a trainer on my own terms. We also may have overlooked a clause in the Pet agreement for the building which bans chows or mixes thereof, which would automatically deem him unsuitable for being here. Now I'm just hoping this person doesn't report us to the building, because aggressive dogs are also frowned upon and given that our dog is a mix of a breed that isn't allowed here due to their aggressive reputation, I could be screwed. It would all be my fault, but I will be screwed.


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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:33 pm 
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look up NILIF (nothing in life is free) make him work for everything. right now he thinks he's the boss of you.

make him sit at doorways, and make sure you go through before he does. make him sit before you give him his food, and only let him eat when you say okay. also, you eat before he does. (it doesn't have to be the whole meal, it can be just the first bite.)

also, get him a harness. or at the very least, a martingale collar.

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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:50 pm 
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Hoards Peppermint Jo-Jos
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I'm looking that up. I should note that he has a martingale collar, and we do want to get a harness (and no doubt will be as soon as my boyfriend gets back).

I try to do these things but I think I can do better with being completely consistent. Some days I do let him go on without first sitting.


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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:02 pm 
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If you get a harness, go for a front clip no-pull one, like the Freedom Harness, or Easy-Walk. With these harnesses, the leash clips to the front of the dog's chest. It helps prevent pulling and gives you more control.

If your dog is "iffy" with any kind of dog, I do NOT recommend going to a dog park. All it takes is 2 seconds for something bad to happen. We have had two incidents in town in the past couple of weeks where bigger dogs attacked small dogs. One of the small dogs was killed.

If you do get a trainer, make sure they do NOT use any harsh methods like shock, choke or pinch collars. Those can make aggression worse.

A dog avoiding your gaze is not "disrespecting" you. A direct stare is a threat to dogs, and looking away/avoiding your gaze is a calming signal or sign of stress. If you are angry, your dog can read your body language and may respond by turning his head away, moving away from you, sniffing the ground etc. because he is trying to defuse the situation.

The two basic options for reactivity to other dogs are counter conditioning/desensitization or Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT). There are books and websites available for both methods. I'll write a bunch down for you if you want. Some trainers have "reactive rover class" for dogs like yours, so you may want to check and see if classes like that are available near you and what their pricing is (Effective training is definitely worth saving money for!).


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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:12 pm 
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Hoards Peppermint Jo-Jos
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raspberrycomplaint wrote:
If your dog is "iffy" with any kind of dog, I do NOT recommend going to a dog park. All it takes is 2 seconds for something bad to happen. We have had two incidents in town in the past couple of weeks where bigger dogs attacked small dogs. One of the small dogs was killed.


My mom's dog was killed for the same reason with a foster dog she was watching. Believe me, the second he starts acting funny he is out. His problem recently has been mounting, which if anything can pose a risk to him if another dog doesn't put up with it as my dad's dog does. He is fine as long as there are no pugs or bulldogs, but he is also mostly indifferent to other dogs most of the time. However, I do want to socialize him and I take him in there when there are other dogs he has been good with there.

That's good to know about his gaze. I understand that now, and won't see it as a problematic behavior.

We had interviewed with a trainer who seemed very good but who we decided not to continue with. She believed in positive reinforcement techniques and this is the route I researched and picked her specifically for. However, in the future, I'll be looking for someone with the same approach. She also had homework which included getting an Easy-Walk, which we did but which we need to replace.
Can you write down some of the books you recommend for BAT and counter conditioning? He also hasn't taken at all to any treats we have when out on the street, which the trainer said we need to find. He needs a good motivation to be on his best behavior when out there.


Last edited by fauxfrancais on Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:16 pm 
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You know the part that is most important, you mentioned it twice, so I'm not going to list getting a trainer. But, yeah, that really is going to be the biggest here. A class for reactive dogs with a highly skilled trainer might be a good option in particular.

Now, on to the rest!

What are your walking tools, first of all? 6' flat leash, buckle collar? Have you tried him on a head halter at all before? With him being part chow, I wouldn't be surprised if you've had trouble fitting him with one, but that will give you much more control. Also, the sensation of a head harness on the muzzle where they have so many sensitive nerve endings can really give an amazingly calming affect. Try a few different brands if you can. A head halter that connects to the leash at the back of the head will be harder for him to slip out of if he has a short face and is safer for reactive dogs as head harnesses that connect under the jaw can sometimes cause neck injuries in severe situations.

I would not do community dog runs with him. He's too much of a loose cannon, from the sounds of things. And the chances of it hurting his ability to socialize instead of improving it are far too great. You've got a lot of work before he should be allowed in - preferably muzzled (sorry).

As for on walks, when you see another dog; complete about face, especially if it is a breed that will trigger him. Don't stop, don't think, just turn around before he can react, and move at a pace that dictates he has to move with you. If you've gotten too close and can't get him to focus elsewhere, he can not have forward motion if he is reacting. Leave the sidewalk, and make him sit and wait while the other dog passes. Even if he starts losing his mind, just wait for the other dog to pass.

It would also be very useful to start teaching him the "watch" command start in the kitchen, grab a treat and show him, tell him "watch" and hold the treat between your eyes for a moment, then praise and reward. Do this often. Really often. Then build up toasting for "watch" (with treats) out in the hall of your building. Then in the elevator. Then outside with absolutely no interesting distractions. And so on. This will be a slow build but eventually he will get to the point when you can ask for "watch" when there's a dog within visual range. Don't expect this to come super quickly. Wait until the command is 100% ingrained before you can do it with dogs around. You can phase out treats slowly, but keep in mind that phasing it out outdoors will take the longest. Also slowly increase the time of the watch. And make your praise big! Super big and happy and yay!

In general it sounds like you need to go back to basics in training with him. Make sure he doesn't get any rewards without giving you a command. He quite literally has to work for his food! If it means you serve him four kibbles at a time all evening long for his dinner, then do that. Sit, paw, down, dance, speak, whatever.

I do have to ask, when you say he doesn't respond to his name, do you mean he doesn't look at you when you say his name, or he doesn't come to you? Because there needs to be a distinct difference between the two. And you can't ever ask for him to "come" in anger, and if you ever ask for him to "come" you have to follow through and go get him if he doesn't respond.

I'm sure I will think of more questions later. Feel free to PM me!

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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:20 pm 
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fauxfrancais wrote:
raspberrycomplaint wrote:
If your dog is "iffy" with any kind of dog, I do NOT recommend going to a dog park. All it takes is 2 seconds for something bad to happen. We have had two incidents in town in the past couple of weeks where bigger dogs attacked small dogs. One of the small dogs was killed.


My mom's dog was killed for the same reason with a foster dog she was watching. Believe me, the second he starts acting funny he is out. His problem recently has been mounting, which if anything can pose a risk to him if another dog doesn't put up with it as my dad's dog does. He is fine as long as there are no pugs or bulldogs, but he is also mostly indifferent to other dogs most of the time. However, I do want to socialize him and I take him in there when there are other dogs he has been good with there.


I still would not do the dog yard, unless there's only one or two dogs that not only is he EXCELLENT with, but if the owners are understanding of his issues and the dogs are bomb proof (ie wont go in to mental shut down or be traumatized if he snaps at them unexpectedly).

Socialization is important, but not having him attack anyone and be seized/euthanized because of it is more important.

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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:38 pm 
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Moon wrote:
Make sure he doesn't get any rewards without giving you a command.


D'oh. Obviously that is not what we want, him giving commands. Damn fingers!

Also I started writing my reply before RC and Carrot had, so sorry for repeating things that were covered and asking questions that were answered. Had to leave the computer while writing. Lots of good tips given before I finished!

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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:06 pm 
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I was starting a list of resources, but then I found that our dog trainer has a good list on her site. Convenient! http://springforthdog.com/dogblog/reactive-dogs-resources

I would also like to add that having a trainer help you along in the process is a really, REALLY good idea. I know you said money was an issue, but I would recommend contacting local trainers and see how much an initial consult with them would cost. They should be able to evaluate your dog and outline what the training plan would be, and what it would cost to have them continue to work with you.

eta: That list says the book on BAT would be out soon; it is now published and available: http://www.amazon.com/Behavior-Adjustment-Training-Frustration-Aggression/dp/1617810509


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 Post subject: Re: Need to vent---What to do if your dog doesn't respect yo
PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:13 pm 
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Great list, RC! Will have to bookmark that for later sharing. The other book you linked to looks like a good one.

I too want to impress the importance of working with someone in conjunction to educating yourself. The books will surely outline ways to deal with the behaviours and hopefully modify them, but figuring out what exactly is motivating the behaviours is where a trainer who is well versed in body language and reactive dogs will be invaluable. Totally with RC about pricing out trainers, especially if you're most considering an in home program. The trainer I worked with often only had to do one or two in home sessions to get the ball rolling, and often priced further sessions on a sliding scale.

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