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Dog aggression and socialization

January 28th, 2007, 03:04 PM
I was reading the thread on dog parks and it seemed to link with an issue I've got with my dog.

My dog has some small dog aggression issues, and because of that I don't want to take him to a dog park. The idea of them sounds wonderful, and I know some people who use them and find them very rewarding (for both the owners and the dogs!)

I'm working with my dog on his aggression issues and I'd love to get him to a point where we can go to a dog park and have a great time. Until then, though, I'll socialize him in a much more controlled setting. I've begun taking him to a local animal shelter where he "meets" other dogs in a play area. Both dogs - sometimes 3 dogs - will be on leashes and strict supervision.

When I first brought him home he seemed good with other dogs - my roommate has a pretty dominant female who bosses him around now and then (though he certainly loves her, and her 'bossiness' only occurs when she's fed up with his rough-playing). He's also gone on a few "play-dates" and got along well. However, recently when we're walking and another owner and dog come up to greet us he starts growling. It seems pretty constant to the point where I don't think it's just all the other dogs we've met lately that are the problem. I was also fostering a puppy and on the... fourth day (I believe) she startled him and he bit her rather severely. When he growls I correct him immediately, but I'm sure there's something more I can do that will encourage him to look at other dogs in a more enjoyable way.

Anyway, I'm looking for some good advice on ways to socialize him. I know obedience classes are great for that (and for many other things), but I'm not at all comfortable with the "local one" (I live in a small city) - he's incredibly strict - which isn't necessarily bad. Mainly I really don't like the way he runs the sessions; I've observed a few and nobody seems to be enjoying any of it, dogs, owners, or the trainer. Anyway, I'm planning in about one month to take my dog to obedience out of the city, but I'm hoping for some suggestions on what I can do until then. I was taking him to Petco for a while, but lately there's always one or two other dogs in there who are off-leash.

Hopefully I didn't jump around TOO much in that post. :D

Edit: I just realized that this would probably fit better in the General section - sorry!

January 28th, 2007, 05:08 PM
Riley was..........well a handful thats for sure, he had no social skills and we ended up going to class. I'd say drop in and have a propper chat with the strict trainer, our trainer is strict and we spend much of our time trying to get it right I don't remember smiling much during class becasue of the high standard. However the day we walked by the local dog day care walking the 20 dogs and a simple leave and heel comand kept him eyes front and no even a backwards glance had me beaming for the rest of the walk. Strict comes in doses with fun and the bond is one of the things that prompted my wife to get her mummy's girl. The puppy lessons concentrated on basic comands and more importantly on how to be around other dogs, having someone concentrate on the animals behaviour while you concentrated on your dog made things easier, it still took 3 weeks before I felt confident to let Riley off his leash for playtime, if he got too excitable we packed it up and left, he soon learned to stay and have fun he had to be nicer. Walks where people have there dogs and meet and greets also helped curb some of his enthuasim. Now his release comand for playing is 'go nuts' people lauge when this perfectly behaved dog arrives at the park, goes to a sit stay while I open the door, wait for the comand to go through the door, and then on cammand jsut sprints around the park like a loony.:D I would say try and not be to put off by the trainers strictness, see how his trained dogs behave and go from there. I looked in our town and found somewhere that didn't advertise at all held lessons (they were one of the helpers at global pet foods), she's strict (she only had to repremand me once about repeating a comand more than once and I learned) and it certainly paid off, she also reveled in the progress ALL the dogs made and at the end of the 6 weeks was the first time I saw her smile. Have a chat to other class members and see what they think, also ask at petfood stores, see if you see any well behaved dog's on your walks and ask where they got there training. I believe I was VERY lucky with the clicker trainer who taught ME, and the group trainer who taught everyone. I personally believe it needs a LOT of intergration and being prepaired to leave places to make it work, you could always go to the park and keep on a leash, see how he acts with the other dogs and MAYBE let him off for a few minutes, then back on the leash and leave on a positive, if he gets to rought, correct him with a firm 'no', and get out of there. No eye contact, nothing. Build him up talk to others in the park to see how there dogs are and work him up slowly, and ALWAYS try your best to set up for success. Your already doing waht you can at the shelter and he will learn that less rough = more time. :highfive:

January 29th, 2007, 11:17 AM
Thanks for the suggestions - you've been very helpful.

As far as the training goes - there's a specific trainer that the animal shelter I volunteer at suggests, but I think he's too fond of physical correction (specifically, he's a fan of throwing water on dogs when they misbehave and, while that might be effective, I'm not at all comfortable with that). There's another trainer at the PetSmart in the city, which I just found out about. I've heard it isn't as "good", but it also is about $200 less. While I wish money wasn't an issue, sometimes it is. I still haven't decided for sure, because a lot of people I respect like the more expensive trainer - I just don't know yet...

Again, thanks for the advice. Hopefully Rio will be more accustomed to dog encounters after some relatively constant strictly-supervised interaction.

January 29th, 2007, 12:43 PM
I've struggled with Dodger's reactiveness for a while now! Click to Calm by Emma Parsons is a great book if you are interested!

What I did was figure out how far away from another dog, Dodger had to be to remain calm (non-reactive). It might be 10 feet or even 30 or 40 feet away - for Dodger it was about 10 feet. When I found that distance, I made it very positive for him to see another dog without reacting - I did that with a clicker but it might be tugging, praise or petting etc... What you are trying to do is create positive feelings for him when he sees another dog, instead of reacting. As Dodger realized that attention to me instead of the dog was being rewarded, I started closing the distance from 10feet to 8feet and started all over again. If Dodger ever reacted or was too distracted, I knew I had gone too far too fast and went back to his comfort zone of 9 or 10 feet.
If there is a pet store or dog park or any place you can go and expose Rio to dogs in his comfort zone (ie: from a certain distance away), you should try and make that a part of your day (it may mean not going into the store/park at first). Or, if you know when the neighbour walks his dog, use that as practice for Rio to see/smell another dog from a distance and slowly close the gap. Keep the sessions short and positive and I'm sure you will see a difference. If any of your friend's have dogs, that's generally the best way to go since you can have them work around what Rio needs. Since he seems to be reacting when on-leash, that's what you need to work on - you want as many positive on-leash greetings behind you as possible!
I also use a few phrases that instantly make Dodger happy (if he's happy he cannot be aggressive!) - for instance "where's the kitty?" or "look at the puppy" or "where's Dodger's toy?" - I use them when we've been cornered or approached by another dog unexpectedly...Dodger is too busy looking at the kitty/puppy/toy to bother reacting... I also use hand touches as a way to get his focus back on me or I direct him to touch an object - giving him a job usually stops him from noticing other dogs. It helps if your dog knows a few commands because it allows you to put him to work and distract him from greeting the dog.
Also, this may not apply to Rio since he sounds less reactive than my dog but if necessary, using a head halter (halti/GL) can help... It gives you control over his head and makes it easier to get their attention back on you and to prevent any lunging/growling/snapping at the dog.

Good luck!

January 29th, 2007, 01:14 PM
Here is a book that used with my "leash aggresive" dog

Good Luck!

January 29th, 2007, 06:52 PM
There is some good info here: That being said, I don't find the site's discussion board to be very useful. Sounds like you are off to a good start - keep plugging away at it and good luck! I know its hard!! :grouphug:

January 31st, 2007, 03:56 PM
Rio and I were at a park last night and we ran into a couple dogs. I tried the suggestion of getting his attention and reassuring him that meeting the other dogs was a fun thing (specifically, I tried the "look at that cute dog" line). He seemed to respond well to it. Though, like I said, it may be hard to tell since he seems great with some dogs and ready to go after other ones. I guess it'll just be something we need to work on gradually and consistently.

Again, thanks for the advice and the links!