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Socialization before training 4-6 years old

sammgo21
June 24th, 2008, 03:04 PM
hi everyone,

I adopted our mix Jade from the shelter in October 07, and she's starting to settle in very nicely now.

originally we thought she might have been dog aggressive, but after a visit with a behaviour specialist, they said it was leash aggression. The trainer had 2 border collies there, which she was fine with as soon as she was off the leash....fast forward to now.

I've taken her to the off-leash park a few times, and it didn't go very well. She's not attacking other dogs, she just doesn't like them very much. i have never seen her play with another dog, we joke that she likes people better. She especially goes crazy for black or very dark coloured dogs that are larger than her (she's 50lbs). Although she gets along very well with hubby's grandfather's yorkie mix (12lbs....maybe) who is male and black curly hair. She is starting to get along better with my parent's dogs now too. One is super dominant and the other is quite submissive. The female dominant is a lab mix (85lbs) and the submissive is a male wire-haired pointer (100lbs). The pointer and Jade are almost at the stage where they are playing. The lab mix and her are at the tolerable stage.

I would like Jade to have more socialization so we can go to obedience and agility classes as well I don't like when she barks and goes crazy when we see other dogs while walking or at the park etc. What is the best way to do this? She is 4-6 years old. We are also considering adding a second dog to the family, I don't want to do this until the social skills get better.

Thanks

jessi76
June 24th, 2008, 03:45 PM
I think obedience and agility are great ways to socialize. I don't think you'd really need to do a course of "socializing" beforehand. IF I were you, I'd look for a group obedience class, but one that has a smaller size, i.e. between 3-8 handlers/dogs. enough to be a class, but not overwhelmingly large.

If possible, arrange to meet up with another student before class starts, to get Jade a little more "social" time. or arrange to meet up after class, to end the lesson w/ play time. When i took group classes w/ my own dog, we'd do just that. Typically we'd arrive 10-15 min before class started to practice, and give our dog opportunity to relieve himself before going into class. This was also a great time to meet other dogs of all breeds and interact.

Dog parks are not always good solutions to socializing, just as not all dogs are dog park material. it can be overwhelming and downright scary for some dogs. I think you're doing great though by arranging doggy play dates w/ family dogs, just continue to do that, as often as you can.

have you spoken to your behavior specialist about the socialization issue?

BlueBreeze
June 24th, 2008, 05:00 PM
I have a two year old sheltie that barks at everything when we are out walking--people, bicycles, kids playing and especially other dogs.

When we go to obedienc and agility classes, she's a whole different dog. She loves to work and learn something. The dogs are there to learn and don't have playtime. Now I've let my dog play with other dogs in the fenced areas (two yards so there's a fence between my dog and the other one).

I've been to an obedience class where there was 10-15 min playtime and it didn't work as I found the dogs just wanted to play and not listen.

We've done a couple of levels of obedience and are fairly new to agility. She works off leash in the agility arena and I'm pretty vigilant about making sure she is focused on me. The first few weeks were stressful for her as other dogs would come over to see us, or there was just too much activity and running around for her comfort. She's gotten much better. She still stinks when we go for a walk, though :)

Lissa
June 25th, 2008, 10:09 AM
It is quite normal for adult dogs to not want to play with every dog they meet (in fact there are plently of adult dogs who don't enjoy playing with dogs at all - even if they were social butterflies as puppies!)... There is nothing wrong with Jade - she is just not dog park material...

You may want to look around for social skills classes (also called growl classes or reactive dog classes). They are excellent for counter-conditioning, desensitizing and training through/around other dogs. A good social skills class will have a limited number of students (no more than 6 but preferably less - UNLESS they have a large space); each dog will have their own barrier so they aren't looking at their trigger the entire time. Most trainers will want to evaluate your dog before they accept you/your dog in the class to ensure that you will all be successful (ie: if your dog is too stressed to take a reward when she sees a dog 40ft away, you will likely need 1-1 training first).
Things that you can do on your own is to focus on how you react when you see a dog - do you breathe differently? Pull on the leash? Start speaking? Walk differently? Thinking "here we go again"?? All of that needs to stop - and it will likely take a while because you are expecting Jade to react.
You can also start trying to change her CER (conditioned emotional response) - right now when she's sees a dog its all about sending a "stay away from me" message because she is afraid (it could also be excitability but you can treat it the same way)... So instead of her immediate response being fear and a reactive response, you want it to become a positive. You do this by rewarding her whenever there is a dog in sight - the rewards continue until the dog is out of sight. At first you may want to enlist the help of a few doggy friends so you can tell them what to do (ie: keep their distance, keep their dogs from watching Jade etc...) The rewards have to be amazing (roast beef, liver etc..) and they should be used exclusively when she sees a dog (so if she gets roast beef mixed into her kibble every night, then you need to use something else).:p If you do this properly, she will eventually start LOOKING for dogs because she knows she will be rewarded - at this point you can start making things harder - either the other dog moves closer, or perhaps the other dog can be let off the leash to run around (its often best to work with a fence in between the 2 dogs - it takes the pressure off both you and Jade) etc... You will also start expecting her to perform obedience commands instead of just getting treats for seeing another dog. Commands that you will likely use the most are touch, watch me, sit and bow (and most trick type commands, like spin or wave a paw etc..)...

While Jade doesn't have to be social to go to group classes, she should be able to happily work around other dogs in close proximity. She won't learn anything if she is either too frightened or barking/lunging - so you will likely need to do a bit of work beforehand. But if you are consistent, it shouldn't take long to get into group classes.