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Walking - is a muzzle the only answer?

June 11th, 2005, 05:46 PM
I have a problem and I'm afraid the only answer is a muzzle. My pitbull tends to be dog agressive. This poses some problems when walking her outside the yard. There is a nice walking trail right by my house (the only place to walk if I don't want to walk in traffic) but the problem is that it's a boardwalk about 4' wide. If someone else happens to be walking their dog, I'm afraid what would happen if we were to meet, especially if the other dog barked or showed any agression. It's difficult for a person to get by, several people got scared when I was walking her before because she leaned over to sniff them as they went by and she looks intimidating, and there's no where they could go to get away (although she has no history of agression to people, it's just her looks). Is a muzzle the only solution so that I can walk her safely?

Also, she tends to get really excited especially around kids and they're at face level to her. One of our friend's children got a little bit of a scare because she got overly rambunctious licking her face and playing, I pulled our dog away but it was really hard to keep her back. It's like she gets into this fit of excitement and forgets all reason. It's definitely not agression. My husband plays with her like that but she never gets so excited that he can't stop her with a word. When she was a puppy (she's almost a year and a half now) she would get into these play fits but she would be biting more (she has since learned not to bite), and the only way to stop her was to pick her up and put her in her kennel for a few minutes. It's kind of the same thing now. I'm not sure how to go about stopping this because it's only really happened once, but it was kind of scary.

June 11th, 2005, 06:20 PM
Has she been to obedience training?

June 11th, 2005, 08:17 PM
when you pass others is ther room for your dog to sit down say behind your legs and wiat, i fonud with my girl i jsut get her to sit and we let the others pass, and she gets lots of praise and helps her street cred by showing what a good girl she is (she is GSD)..

June 12th, 2005, 10:33 AM
No, she hasn't been to obedience training as such, there is no such thing where I live.
There's about enough room just for two people to pass each other on the boardwalk. If I get her to sit behind me and the other person was to pass me she could easily be within snapping range to the other dog. Like I said it's about a 4' wide boardwalk. Sitting in front of me would give me more control over her behavior but still wouldn't get us out of the danger range, she's still close enough to sniff or snap at the other dog.

June 12th, 2005, 11:30 AM
I have the same problem with Levi and children. It's not aggression - he just always wants to meet them and if I hold him back, he'll lunge and of course, this looks really bad! I got some advice about my problem; in order to fix it, you should make your dog sit and pay attention to you. It's a distraction thing. Even if she doesn't like other dogs, she should still be looking at you to see what SHE should be doing. Make her sit - maybe get a halti so you can hold her easier when she trys to snap or move. When she turns back to you, praise her.

June 12th, 2005, 11:51 AM
Her respect level for you needs to be honed before we do this - so you need to do lots of work at home and make sure she is respecting your word. In all of the things you do with her she needs to look to you first for the answers - 'can I go through this door?' 'can I eat now?' 'should I greet these people?' etc. If she looks to you for the answers and you give them to her then she will calm down and take your leadership as the place to go when she has a question. This solves most all of your proplems before they start.
Are there places for you to practice that you could drive to where she isn't face to face with the challenges? If so then go there first to practice. This boardwalk is college level for her and we don't want her to fail. That being said - I am working with a client and her Pit right now and she was so scared to walk her dog across a walking bridge with tons of dogs/people on it. We worked the dog for a few minutes before the bridge and then worked the dog on the bridge and everything went perfectly. The client swears it was because I was there - but it was really more about her relationship with her dog.
First - put a light colored bandana on her - this helps people feel differently about her on an instinctive level - they are less likely to think 'scarey Pit' and think 'cute dog' - it changes the energy of the interactions.
Then you are going to need to hang out at the entrance to the board walk (plan on making a day of it). Be at a distance that is safe for everyone and put her in a sit stay. When someone walks by - reinforce the stay and tell her to "leave it". You will need to practice the 'leave it' at home and with different distractions in order to be successful here. Be firm in your tone and have her on a loose leash. It needs to be her choice to behave - not because you have a tight leash. If she lunges then give her a firm correction and get her attention back on you as you put her back into the stay. She needs to get pressure for every wrong choice and praise for the good choices. Try to catch her early - not as she is flying through the air. Be aware of the slightest stiffening of her body or the littlest tweak of the ear - these are the signals she is giving you saying " I am ready to lunge". That's when you step in and tell her to make a better choice. If you can break the thought before she acts you have a much greater chance of success.
As she is successful then you can inch your way on to the boardwalk and have her next to you (using your 1/2 of the boardwalk) and work the sit/stay as people walk by. Do not allow her to sniff anyone yet - she hasn't earned it. She needs to get bored with the whole thing.
When you are walking her on the boardwalk be brisk about it - turn into her frequently so that she has to watch where you are going and is less likely to get so focused on others. Change what you're doing every 5-10 steps so she has to pay attention. This is a mental work out more than a physical one. She can get just as tired working in 15 square feet (if she is truely working) that on a 2 mile walk.
Working with her through out each day will deepen your connection and just make sure that when you ask her to do something she does it. i.e. You can't teach her to 'come' unless you have some way to ensure it happens otherwise she just learns your words have no power.

June 13th, 2005, 06:11 AM
Great suggestions. Actually I tried something like this the other day, we just moved into a new place and there is a dog next door (other side of the fence) and it was going nuts barking at her all the time. She went after it once but the second time I was ready and made her sit and stay rather than going after the dog. She was quivering like a spring ready to fly but didn't move. Now she usually ignores the dog. What about using a prong collar for the corrections initially? I can see myself there with her lunging at the end of her leash trying to get to people, if she's excited enough she doesn't care what I say or do, she won't sit and stay at that point. A loose leash would be impossible with a normal collar right now. However if another dog were to make a move at her first, there's nothing in the world that would stop her, not even a prong collar. Good idea with the bandana.

June 13th, 2005, 09:58 PM
Tenderfoot... everything you've had to say is wonderful. You are very good! I know a lot about training dogs, just from experience- however, not everything! My puppy usually comes to me at the park, however I want him to hear his name and RUN to me. This is for his own saftey! Sometimes he turns on selective hearing and will hear me, even sometimes look at me and keep going. I interact with him (play ball, tug of war and run), so it's not like he doesn't consider me part of the park experience. When he does this I catch up to him, make him sit then I hold his snout up to my face and say NO while looking into his eyes. Afterwards i make him lay down (for a timeout) for about 5-10 minutes. Is there something more effective than this? It only happens when there is distraction (which is the most important time) like if two dogs start to play too rough, he runs over, or if kids are playing ball, he runs over. These are things I don't want him to do at all.

Any suggestions? Am I going about this right?

Dog Dancer
June 13th, 2005, 11:44 PM
Levimh suggested trying a halti for this, just a word of caution, I used a halti on my lab as she is a terrible puller and one morning she just popped her head right out of it and took off after two little dogs that had attacked us a couple days earlier. She didn't intend to kill them (although I wouldn't have blamed her really - they started it the days before), but it was the most horrible feeling I've ever had when she broke free and took off. No harm was done, but if and when I feel the need to use the halti I make sure the leash is double hooked onto her collar as well. Just a word of warning to you, the halti may not hold your dog under all circumstances and that could be bad for you given your dog is a pit and we know how people feel about that!

June 14th, 2005, 05:36 AM
Dog Dancer - that is one very good reason we don't use Halters - they don't teach. They are a bandaid to the problem and often if your halter fails then you don't have control of your dog. Thanks for the reminder. I hope all worked out and no one got hurt - that must have been scary.

AngelEyes - Its like calling your kids from the playground when they are having fun, they are going to challenge you if they don't respect you. But if they do respect your word they should pull themselves away and come. Right now he only comes if its worth it to him otherwise he blows you off. Working our 'pressure and release' system can really help the 'come'. You use your negative feelings (because he ingored you) to pressure him for not coming - this can be your body language, your voice, a leash correction. The leash is important to empower your word, because without it - in the beginning - he just learns that your word has no power and he can do as he pleases.
You release the pressure and be happy in your tone for any step in the right direction towards you. This is like your inviting him to your party - he should want to come because you are the best thing in the park. When you 'finally catch up to him' and get in his face and then time out - you might be crashing your own party. So using 'pressure and release' has a lot to do with timing. The second he doesn't come he gets pressure and the second he even looks at you he gets praise. This should keep him looking at you and coming in your direction. You might interupt yourself as he looks away and then back at you - you need to respond in the micro-second that he changes his attention. You need to go back a few steps in your training and start working on the leash again to ensure success. Quickly you can go to a long rope or lead and start working distances - then you go the park and work distance and distractions. As you see he is respondlng to your tone and not the lead then you are getting to off leash.
Also working the "stop" actually improves the 'come'. It is good to know the 'out drill' for this one. But basically you call him to you and just as he is taking a step towards you you tell him to stop (using your energy and hand signal (like the stay)). he should stop in his tracks and keep looking at you - wondering why you said come and then stop. Then ask him to come again and do one more 'stop'. Then finish the 'come'. You might wonder how this helps the 'come'. What is does is it keeps his attention on you and he is less likely to get distracted. Don't stop him more than 2-3 times or it could have the reverse effect and ruin the come. Try to stop him just as he is coming towards you at first - it's easier on both of you. Then have him stop at different distances as he comes to you.
This is a great 'trick' with multiple dogs. We line our five dogs up in the driveway and call each one to come and then stop - individually. So we end up weaving each dog through the others as they focus on us and what we are asking and not on each other. It is so cool looking to see each dog find his way through the others as he works towards us.

June 14th, 2005, 10:26 AM
I agree with what Dog Dancer said about the halti. Use with caution. :)

one morning she just popped her head right out of it
This too, has happened to me. I couldn't have been more embarrassed. It's hard to get the right size halti (or anything like that) when your dog is a mutt and is shaped unlike other dogs. Thankfully I fixed it so it fits nicely.

AngelEyes - When Levi wouldn't come (like you described), I had no idea what to do. I now have, what I call a "trick". (Hopefully this is alright and I'm not teaching him things I shouldn't be.) When Levi is running around and I call him to "come" and he looks at me like I'm crazy, I'll usually say "no" and then call him again. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. My trick is...if it doesn't work i'll say "no" again and i'll tell him to sit. Levi will always sit - no matter what - which is always a good thing. After he sits, i'll say "stay" and then walk around (not neccessarily closer to him) and say "good!!" and then call him to come right after that. He'll come when I do that - always. I'm not sure if this is not a good way of doing it, but it works. :)

June 14th, 2005, 01:19 PM
Great game Levimh -
I would try one change - reward him with praise when he looks at you (because you want him to look at you) and give the 'no' the micro-second he looks away - then begin the game.

June 15th, 2005, 08:24 AM
Okay, i'll remember that tenderfoot! Thanks.

June 19th, 2005, 03:23 PM
Have you tried a Gentle Leader by I think (Hartz). My older dog, though not agressive, is terribly excited when meeting other dogs and the gentle leader allows us to have greater control, without the look and feel of a muzzle.

June 19th, 2005, 08:56 PM
The gentle leader fits the dog much better than the halti, so it is less likely to get pulled off, i have used it and liked it very much for it's purpose.

June 20th, 2005, 12:58 PM
I have the gentle leader... if anyone wants it I'll mail it to them :thumbs up

I liked it, but Maximus doesn't... he has confidence issues as of now and in the halti he gets extremely depressed and acts like he is on downers, lol. He even scrapes his head along everything to get it off. AND (lol) with the shape of his head (very BIG) and neck it is hard to get it to fit perfectly... and if it's not perfect it will make their nose sore.

I let him wear it about three times and decided I want to have control of my dog... not depend on some face harness... no offense to those of you who like it.

Oh yeah... and I don't like how everyone thinks it a muzzle ( i know I shouldn't care what other people think) but I have an American Pit Bull Terrier and when people assume he has a muzzle on I feel that it confirms to them that the breed is vicious and needs to wear a muzzle. I don't like to be the one who confirms false stereotypes. I hope I don't sound crazy and paranoid!

June 20th, 2005, 03:03 PM
We tried a Gentle Leader a while back and got the same results, scraping and general depressive manner for hours. When walking on a leash she would simply stop and sit and not move. I didn't think it was right for her. On the other hand, although I know a prong collar won't actually fix the problem, it does work on a temporary basis to give her added reason not to be lunging at the end of her leash so that we can walk her (without it, it's not difficult for her to drag me wherever she wants to go, and to allow her to do that would only add to her problem). It also doesn't have the same bad effects on her personality as the Gentle Leader did. Positive reinforcement is always useful and necessary to encourage good behavior, but the problem is that if she's able to drag me over to another dog or person, she's getting positive reinforcement in that she's getting what she wants. The only way to counter this is to have a punishment that goes over and above what she's getting out of it so that it becomes not worth it to her to do that. Then, she gets praise for not pulling. Praise alone for doing good is not always enough, although the correction should be as light as possible to make the point. Anyway those are my thoughts on it. She needs more work and probably more maturity before she'll be able to even think of passing up a chance to investigate another dog or person.

On a positive thought, we put her with another dog the other day (one she had gotten into a racket with before) and they were just fine, playing and happy! No fights!

June 20th, 2005, 03:22 PM
We tried a Gentle Leader a while back and got the same results, scraping and general depressive manner for hours. When walking on a leash she would simply stop and sit and not move.

How long did you have this on her? When putting a new "device" on a dog, they usually tend to fight it. When I started using a halti on both of my dogs, they rubbed and scraped and wouldn't walk either. I say let's go and give them a tug, and reluctantly they will follow. Did you put the gentle leader on the first time and walk out the door? They need a little adjustment period to get used to it. Just try to make it a positive thing. Put it on, give a treat, take it off. Do this a few times and leave it on longer than before. Do this at home when she's lounging around then eventually hook the leash on and gradually make your way out the door. Think "baby steps!" (I think they call this desensitizing)

Four years later, when I put a halti on Copper, he still rubs his head on the ground whenever he can. He has learned to accept it but still doesn't enjoy it as much as I do!

June 21st, 2005, 02:43 PM
We tried it for a couple of days. She didn't improve at all in her acceptance of it. The prong collar, on the other hand, doesn't bother her any more than a regular collar, unless she's being corrected, and it can be left on her when she's out running around in the yard with little chance of it getting hooked up in something, that way she won't associate it with being corrected but just view it as a normal collar. (I don't ever leave it on her at night or unsupervised outside.) I have heard that the Gentle Leader, contrary to what people say, causes some pain and/or discomfort because it's very tight right up behind the ears where lots of pain receptors are. That would explain the total change in personality as soon as it went on. She had no interest in other people, dogs, etc., just wanted that thing off. She was actually raw from the constant scraping at it. It was so pitiful I just couldn't think that it was right. The prong collar only causes pain when being corrected and I regulate the correction, and it has little to no chance of causing injury when used properly, unlike choke collars. To me that's much more humane. I don't see any reason why I should try anything else, other than getting away from all training "aids" altogether.

June 21st, 2005, 03:00 PM
I use the halti on Copper and from what I know, it puts a little pressure on his nose(muzzle) when he pulls and this is what stops them from pulling because they don't like the pressure. This also works to stop them from mouthing or helps getting them to spit something out when they won't let go! I'm not sure what the difference is between the halti and gentle leader :confused: . But i know the halti isn't tight around his ears so there is no pressure there!

I've thought of trying the prong collar - I know it causes no harm when used correctly! I just worry what people would say if they saw it(a halti is no better as people think its a muzzle anyway!). Also if he had long fur, I wouldn't see the prongs as much!

Whatever works best for you(and the dog)is your answer!

June 21st, 2005, 07:27 PM
Prong collars are not meant to be used while the dog is 'running in the yard'. If it isn't being used to walk the dog, it needs to come off.

June 21st, 2005, 10:42 PM
Prong collars are not meant to be used while the dog is 'running in the yard'. If it isn't being used to walk the dog, it needs to come off.

I agree... they should not be left on when they are off leash... it can be dangerous. I wouldn't even let my dog off leash in the park with it.

June 22nd, 2005, 10:26 AM
I agree that it can be dangerous especially if the dog is playing with other dogs. But when I leave it on her and I'm not walking her I turn it so the prongs are all outward, so there's no chance of her getting an unwanted correction. Also she is by herself,not with any other dogs, so the chances of it hooking into something else would be as slim as the chance of her regular collar getting caught. The problem with just putting it on just when we go for a walk is that she gets a fear of it, she associates it with getting corrected evidently, and I don't want her afraid of it or have a fearful attitude about it and going for walks.

June 22nd, 2005, 01:28 PM
Turning the collar inside out so the prongs are external sounds like an accident waiting to happen as well... what if the dog falls in its exuberance and hurts itself on a prong.. They are not meant to be worn in any way when not on the end of a leash.