My name is Orville and my wife and I just adopted a 4 year old male pembroke from a local shelter. His name is Isaac. He's well-mannered in the home and very loving/friendly toward people and other small animals. We don't have any problems at all in the home except when he gets a little nutty and wants to go walking or play ball.
One issue we're having to address right now is his aggression toward other dogs. Whenever we take him for his walk, any dog he sees just causes him to go completely nuts -- barking, growling, snarling, and a lot of jumping/shaking. At this time, we can't really take him anywhere out in public. He plays in our backyard or in the house.
It was recommended we take him to a trainer, which we do plan on doing in the very near future. We do, however, would like to know if there is actually anything we can do at home to help Isaac with his issue.
Orville, Betty, and Isaac.
The best thing to do is get to classes where he can learn to be around other dogs in a non-threatening situation. Find a trainer that uses very positive methods. Many dogs are fearful of other dogs especially while leashed and once they learn that you are in control can relax and be less aggressive.
Hi Bev! And thank you for replying =) I've been doing research on trainers in my area. This is one facility I've been leaning towards if we move forward with a training session for him:
What do you think? They seem reputable and the prices seem alright.
There are many things to consider in your situation. Do you know anything at all about Izaac's past? Do you know when he was neutered? How long was he in the Shelter? What is your level of dog experience? If he is as dog aggressive as you describe, he is not a good candidate for group classes and your solution of keeping him in the house and yard is the best for the time being. . How long have you had him? It takes awhile for the dog to really become "your dog" and really get in tune with you. It builds over time, six months to a year. It is not an overnight thing. In the next few months you will start shaping his behavior and he will adjust more and more to all the requirements of his environment, including how to behave on walks and how to react to other dogs. I will be glad to offer some suggestions when I know more about you and Izaac. The most important thing is that he likes people and is a good fit for your home, congratulations on that. Happy you adopted him!
Hi, Anna! Thank you for replying =)
As for Isaac's past, the shelter told us he was rescued within the city of Westminster, near Los Angeles, CA. He was at the shelter for a short time, about 2 weeks. As for my level experience with dogs, I've had the opportunity to help raise two other dogs (family dogs), teaching basic tricks. I guess you can say I'm still fairly novice =) Isaac would be my first official dog. Since we adopted Isaac, however, my wife and I are continuously studying training videos available on Youtube and other websites. As of late, we've had Isaac with us for 2 weeks, now; we brought him home from the shelter on the 15th of this month.
He came to us pretty much housebroken and pre-programmed with basic commands. We think he knows even more - we just have to figure what those other commands are. From his reaction to other dogs, we think he might have had some really bad experiences with other dogs before the shelter found him. The shelter doesn't really know.
Orville, It may seem that I am in disagreement with Bev Levy on the value of obedience classes for Izaac, but my disagreement is only about the timing. In my experience, when a person, especially someone novice to dog training, goes to a class with a highly dog aggressive animal, their time and focus in class is so taken up by managing the dog in that situation, that they cannot really pay full attention to the trainer, missing much of what is being taught, in addition to being disruptive to the class as a whole. I think watching the videos and reading about dog behavior are excellent steps and there are many archived posts on this site that may also be helpful to you with regards to managing Izaac. Here is what I would do, if possible. I would ask to audit the class without the dog. You would be amazed at how much one learns this way, as you not only can pay attention to the trainer, but you can also see how the various dogs and people function and implement the instructions given. Later, you can practice all of that at home first and then in quiet places outdoors. This will take the pressure off both of you and consolidate your relationship with Izaac ( meaning, he knows what you want, will do it consistently, and you know you can trust him.
Once you and the dog have all this work under your belt, I would have the dog evaluated for a group class, maybe by just sitting with him on the side when a class is going on and see if you can control him in the environment. If he's ok with that, then I would do the group class. If not, you may need a couple of private lessons from the people offering the classes.
I know this is guesswork, but I don't think he's had a lot of bad experiences with other dogs. Many dogs are simply dog aggressive by nature, especially if intact ( which is why I asked if you knew when he was neutered) and actually enjoy a good fight with another dog. The behavior gives them a rush of adrenalin and is self rewarding, which is why you want to avoid it until you know you can control the onset. Since he is great with people, obedient, housebroken, we can be sure someone put quality time into him. You can capitalize on that. I would not walk him on a leash, which allows him to lunge and bark. I would get him used to walking nicely with Halti ( a brand of head halter ) which I've found works well in helping to control this problem in conjunction with training. The Halti need to be used in addition to the collar (for safety) and needs to be adjusted snugly or it will come off the head.
Avoid loose dogs for obvious reasons. If you see someone coming with another dog, put yourself off the path, as much as possible. You're aiming for a sit-stay and "quiet" so these need to be taught and understood before you start to take him out, or he will have no chance of handling things your way. Let the oncoming person know you don't want the dogs to socialize by asking them to please hold their dog short. You can add, mine is dog aggressive, if it seems they don't get the message. Take your time, slow steady gains are the best.
Anna, I don't think we disagree. I am totally in agreement that he should be evaluated for class since neither of us know how 'over the top" the behavior is. I have found that you know what you are talking about :)
Bev, thanks. I feel the same way about your responses, which is why I elaborated :-)
Anna, thank you very much for responding. I sent an email to 'Happy Tails To You Dog Training', and they pretty much gave me their layout on how they would like to proceed with Isaac. I've yet to ask them if they'd allow me to sit-in and watch their classes, I'll ask that in my response. There is actually a dog park not far from where I work in Foster City. Majority of the dogs there appear disciplined and well behaved. It might be beneficial to pay this place a visit and see if any of the owners there might share some of their insight with me (crosses fingers). As for the Halti, after you mentioned it, I went ahead and Youtube'd it to see how it works; it looks like something I can try. Isaac does pull sometimes but not too severely. If this helps with reinforcing proper walking manners, I'll go ahead and pick one up. Again, thank you for responding, it's great to have so much support. I'll be posting more pictures of Isaac this weekend.
Orville,the benefit of the Halti is that it allows you to control the head of the dog, closing around his mouth, so it works well to correct barking and avoid lunging at other dogs. It is a different feel for the dog to walk with a head halter, which is why he would have to learn how to walk nicely with it and you how to use it before walking him where you may encounter other dogs. Never jerk on a halti, a smooth upward pull with the dog close by your side is a correction. Improper use can injure the neck.
I'm not a fan of dog parks because I've heard of too many injured dogs and, with loose dogs you simply have no way to intervene fast enough if something goes not according to your expectations. Any fight would set you back BIG TIME, reinforcing the unwanted displays and patters you are trying to modify to an acceptable level.
I don't feel that all dogs need to be dog friendly. What is needed is for the dog to maintain acceptable behavior in the presence of other leashed dogs. Some of that is achieved with training, some by you managing appropriate distance from other dogs. Think of it this way: there are people you like and people you don't like, and there may be people you genuinely despise. I would not ask you to make friends with the ones you can't stand, but you still need to be civil to them in public. You can't curse at the, beat them up, etc. Same concept for Izaac
BTW, cost-wise, many trainers offer discounts for rescue dogs. This should not cost you an arm and a leg...
Orville, This looks like a good place. I notice that they waive the charge for a private evaluation if you have paid for a class up front. I would take them up on that. More experianced trainers will always want to meet your dog first to evaluate them. They should be able to give you advice on which class would be best. Good luck!
That sure does sound familiar, although Isaac's reactions sound more extreme than Chewey's were. Also, Chewey's strong reactions to other dogs (lunging/growling) were pretty much exclusively on-leash, off-leash he was fine (the rescue org had dogs that he played with so I knew that from the get go). We were able to do group lessons with him (small groups) but we also paid for some private lessons with a positive reinforcement trainer (who just happened to have worked with corgis). All I can say is that it was money that was very well spent, I very much doubt we would have been able to figure out how to deal with it on our own.
Even with that it took a lot of time, patience, and practice (8-9 mos easily) to get to where we could walk him in a relatively populated area without it being a complete disaster, so don't lose hope... It's been well worth it, he's definitely our furbaby, quirks and all.
Hi Diane! Thank you for responding. If it's alright to ask, how much did your training session cost you? My wife and I are hoping things don't get out of hand cost-wise in resolving just this one issue.