Author Topic: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)  (Read 9354 times)

Offline jammaj

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Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« on: June 22, 2008, 09:24:16 am »
Hi - I just signed up because I need to bounce this off some folks...

My husband and I adopted a rescue shepherd mix (probably with lab, or rotty, or pit...) from a local shelter rescue well over three years ago, making him about three and a half.  He was tied up on an abandoned porch with his sister with no food and water. 

So, he's been a great dog.  He has some separation anxiety which he had from the begining, but it has gotten somewhat better.  Things like gettign anxious when you're leaving, whinning when he can't get to you, being afraid to go out in the fenced in yard without you, staying right underfoot.  He seems especailly attached with me.  Some things are better, now he'll go in the fenced yard on his own, doesn't act up much when we leave, seems more confidant.  On very rare occaissions, he will get pretty agitated if you're trying to leave and will sort of gnaw/nip your hand like he's trying to grab on to you to get you to stay.  He never breaks or even dents the skin and we tell him "NO".  He still cowers sometimes when he feels unsure about something, or when something's different, like we move furniture.

So, when he was about a year or so, he was in the yard one day when my neighbor brought her dog over to "visit" at the fence without out knowledge or permission.  She stuck her hand over the fence and he bit her.  I didn't get too worked up, and we proactively contacted the city who said it was her fault and that out dog was reacting within the norm, that he feel threatened and reacted normally within his teritory.  Abotu a year after that, we boarded him for the first time.  they called us one day in to let us know that he had "nipped" one of the ladies when she was trying to put him back in his pen and he didn't want to go.  He didn't break the skin and she said she felt it was related to his separation anxiety. 

So, he's also had some problems with other dogs.  My mom visits regularly with her beagle and last year he and she tussled pretty badly over some food.  He cut her near the eye.  They had another scuffle about six months ago over some treats where he cut her neck.  She can be a pretty aggressive, dominant dog and she is on the offensive fromt he second she come in the door with him, barking at him and such, which he tolerates.  He never growls or barks at her.  They have only gotten into these two fights, both over food.  we have watched them carefully and separated feeding and treats since, and there have been no other problems.  At Christmastime, another friend visited with her dog and they got along well and played nicely, until a few hours later when my friend dropped treats on the floor and they both went for them, and they scuffled.  No one was hurt. 

Ok, so, he's an excellent dog as far as general behavior goes.  He minds, he follows commands. He gets along with my small chihuahua and has never had any probelms with her.  He has been around other dogs in the park and on walks on the lead in the past with no problem.  Plus, he's been around lots of people at my house (we entertain alot) and has always been very good, even with small children.  He's warm and loving and very smart.  We've never fed him table scraps and he never begs for food.

So, the recent problem.  I've been running him in the neighborhood for about six months.  He's done well on the lead and minds well.  He doesn't pull when we're walking, he turns corners when I ask, he stops when I ask.  He does sometimes pull when we see another dog in a fence, but stops when I say no.  He doesnt' bark or growl at them, but acts like he want sto get to them to play or investigate.  He looks at me and whines, but comes with me when I tell him no. 

Well, the day before yesterday I was running him and two different people in various parts of the neighborhood had their dogs off of the lead.  Both dogs ran up before I knew it, and they just looked at each other and smelled each other.  But each time I told the owners to come get their dogs and to be sure to keep them on the lead (we have a leach law) since running up to other dogs can be dangerous for everyone.  So, no harm done, but it annoyed me.  I kept thinking that he could have had a problem with those dogs, and that I'm doing my job by having him on the lead, but that I can't control what he might do when other free dogs come up to him. 

So, last night I took him running.  At the end of the neighborhood, I saw a lady in her yard with her dog on no lead.  I saw the dog coming over, this time in advace, and I told her to get him.  She was slow about it and he kept coming over, and I was like, "No, really, get him".  Well, he got to us and I pulled my dog back and told him no (he was a small-ish dog, like Jack Russell sized).  Well, before I could do anything else they were figthing.  My dog grabbed him around the neck and head and they were struggling pretty hard.  I was unsure of what to do and was trying to break it up, but at the same time trying to be careful.  I was trying to get a hold of the other dog and get my dog to let him go.  I screamed at the lady to help me as she was jsut standing there.  I was slapping him and hitting him in the nose trying to shock him into letting go.  We fianlly got them to stop struggling, but I couldn't let my dog to let go of hers.  I could tell he was scared.  Another guy neighbor came over and started helping.  He massaged his jaw and got him to opend up.  We separated them, and miraculously, the dog wasn't really hurt.  There was no bleeding or broken skin and he appeared to be ok.  I told her I was sorry and she said no, it was her fault for not having him on the lead.  I waited while she took him inside, then when she came back out, I offered my phone number, but she said "No, I don't want it, I dont' want to come over there to get it because your dog might hurt me.  Just leave.".  I feel terrible. 

This terrified me.  By the time I got home I was sobbing and shaking.  It was a very scary looking dog fight and he probably would have hurt him badly if we hadn't intervened that quickly.  Now I feel embarassed and upset.  I feel like I can't take my dog out, whcih we both used to enjoy so much. 

Soemtimes I look at his past behavior sand think "He must be an aggressive dog, maybe there is no hope for him."  Then when I look at it another way, I wonder if he's a normal dog that has happened to be in several unfortunate situations where he has reacted like many other normal dogs would.  IS he normal, or does he have an aggression problem?  What should I do?  I dont' want to get rid of him, I love him just like a member of the family and would be heartbroken.  My husband and I do want to have children in the next year, so now I worry about this too, though I always felt comfortable with the idea until yesterday.  He has never had a problem with any of the family, or any other people or kids (and he has been anround many) other than the lady sticking her hand over the fence and the lady at the kennel he "nipped" out of separation anxiety (but didn't break the skin). 

Thoughts, advice, support? 
« Last Edit: June 22, 2008, 09:35:40 am by jammaj »

Offline Scootergirl

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2008, 01:04:01 pm »
I third what Tina said, except I don't necessarily think your dog acted "normally". I think he acted out of fear, not aggression, and your fear for what "might" happen fed his inate fears.

I think if you taught him sit-stay, or down-stay and used that whenever you see a dog off leash so he is focused on you and waiting for you to give him the next command that it's ok then that would help.

Then, YOU have to work on not worrying about what "might" happen. You've seen your dog behave fine with other dogs before - probably during situations when you "expected" him to behave fine (with your friend's dog, etc.) so he wasn't feeding on any nervousness from you. Be confident when you walk him.

Question: when you run with him, do you allow him to run in front of you or does he stay by your side? Make sure he knows you are in charge.

You've come to the best place for advice.
"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between dog and man." -- Mark Twain

jesday

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2008, 01:24:18 pm »
Ditto to both responses. My opinion on his aggressiveness seems totally natural given his rough beginnings. It doesn't sound like it is his basic nature, just profound fear. Fear of being left, fear of not having food and water, fear that another dog will take all the security you are giving him away. Not so much the "I'm the boss and I will kill you."

Since you are his rescuer I'm sure he is deeply in tune with your every nuance. If you are tense or wary or even angry he is probably feeling that way too and acting the only way a dog can. Either to protect himself or to protect you.

It sounds like you have done a wonderful job so far, but as suggested perhaps some more training that addresses his particular needs. Most dog training places offer a variety of classes with a class specifically for 'special needs' kids.

On the down side, I would seriously wait until you are 100%  confident he is in control before introducing a new baby to the situation. He definitely sounds like a sweetie and with work can be a wonderful dog, but you don't want to chance anything with his history until you are sure.

Hope this is helpful to you. By the way, you don't need to beat yourself up for other irrisponsible peoples actions. The power and noise of a dog fight is quite upsetting to witness, but you warned her. I would continue to go about your routine as usual. When encountering another off lead dog and owner I would calmly say, "Please get your dog. My sweetie will rip his head off." Whether he would or not, I'm guessing it would certainly get their attention. ;D

Good luck and welcome to BPO.

Offline jammaj

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2008, 05:14:52 pm »

On the down side, I would seriously wait until you are 100%  confident he is in control before introducing a new baby to the situation. He definitely sounds like a sweetie and with work can be a wonderful dog, but you don't want to chance anything with his history until you are sure.


That makes me feel better, and worse...How does one ever feel 100% sure?  If I get help for him, how long do you think that level of trust takes to establish?  I don't have years to wait...

jesday

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2008, 07:53:13 pm »
I think if you do get him into some training classes the instructor will be able to answer all your questions regarding a baby. Especially meeting the dog in person and being able to assess his issues. He sounds like a very sweet guy whose gone through some horrific trauma, but as you mentioned is doing well with your other family members and chihuahua.

It's amazing how dogs can change with enough love and guidance.

Thank you for hanging in there and taking the extra time this baby needs.

angelsmama

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2008, 08:32:33 pm »
personally i wouldnt wait, if i wanted a child but had a dog who might be aggressive to one, he'd need a home with no kids.. why change what you want in your life with your husband?

Offline jammaj

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2008, 09:04:58 am »
Thanks for all the support, everyone.  In my heart, knowing my dog, I agree with most of you that he is a very good dog who has been coincidentally put in some bad situations that have resulted in him getting scared and acting aggressively.  Though I worry, I don't truly believe that he would be any more likely to bite our future baby than any other dog would. 

My husband and I are taking him to our vet tomorrow to see what he recommends. 

Another question - I read on line and several of you mentioned that this problem is best solved with a behaviorist, not necesarily a regular "trainer".  I searched all the recommended behaviorist sites on the net for "veterinary behaviorists" and "animal behaviorists" in our state (SC) and found none.  Do you all think there are ways of finding some that I haven't tried?  Are behaviorists in almost every state and city, or are they rare?  If there are none, would a regular trainer be adequate in out case? 

Opinions on this would be most appreciated.  Thanks for all the kind and supportive comments so far.   

Offline LuvmyMal

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2008, 09:17:49 am »
I know of a behavoirist in NC that may travel or may know someone in SC, I will look up her number and PM it to you. She works with rescues a lot and also does training / behavioral training for introducing babies. We have several people in the neighborhood that let their dogs run loose, I use the leave it command (when I see the dog) or sit or down stay when I see one, only once has the other dog approached Adak in a bad way and when I got finished saying what I had to say, I have not seen that dog offleash again! One thing to keep in mind is to make yourself very aware of your surroundings, infron, on either side, and behind you, when you are with your dog either walking or in a petstore. You may be able to judge your dog, but not someone elses. Adak was just attacked a few weeks ago by a dog he use to play with all the time. Not severe, just scrapes on his snout and nose, but it was lack of education of this dog on my part and lack of the owner for watching thiers.

Offline jammaj

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2008, 10:09:06 am »
Thanks.  I did find some lsited in NC, but was afraid that they would cost too much at that distance.  Any idea on what to expect for cost? 

That is another thing that's worrying me, my H and I are dedicated to getting help with this issues, and I want the right kind of help, but it will be useless to find the right kind of help if we cant' afford it.  I could deal with hundreds of dollars.  Much more a few hundred and we'd porbably be struggling to do it.   

Offline TINKSMOM

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2008, 11:06:54 am »
It sounds to me like he could also benefit from some inter-dog socialization.

I take TINK to a group advanced obedience class (she passed basic)two times a week. She learns to obey commands amongst various distractions and other pets/people. My trainer will work with each dog's individual needs, but no matter what you are teaching your dog, your voice and temperment must remain calm if you get anxious or excited or yell,  "however you feel will travel down the leash" it is amazing but true, I have seen it in class.

There is a guy in class that has a mix of some sort, medium sized dog and she is quite the bully and very mouthy. Although he is not yet allowed to perform any off leash exercises with her she has made great progress in the few weeks I have seen her at class. Our dogs are learning to deal with her and she is learning that class isn't so bad. THe owner is a little embarrased and some people get aggrevated with the dog for being so disruptive, but the owner is doing exactly what he should be doing to help his dog overcome its anxiety and become a more obedient companion.

As you work with your dog and she understands you are the pack leader she will start to look to you to see how to behave. She will trust that your instincts are correct and if you are not anxious or upset, then there is no need for her to be. It takes time and patience but she will get there.

My trainer lists on his website that he does "temperment testing", you might try and google that??????

He is great, I love his class and he is very inventive for each dog's issues. Make sure you find someone that doesn't just recite things out of a book, but can come up with original techniques for unique issues/dogs. Everyone is different, being able to isolate the issue is half the battle. 

Let me know how it goes.
My name is Lori.

Mom to
Tinkerbear (lab/kom mix)
Harley (Newfy/Saint mix)
Boomer (Cat-russian blue)
RIP - Tater Marie (basset 11/95 to 1/08)
RIP - Velcro (Kitten-Tiger Stripe)

Offline LuvmyMal

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2008, 11:46:46 am »
I think the price varies depending on how many sessions you do.

Offline TINKSMOM

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Re: Rough day yesterday - advice really needed, please (long)
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2008, 11:52:57 am »
Puppy school for 4 weeks was 49.99, on class per week. Basic obedience 6 weeks for 79.99, one class per week.
Advance obedience 6 weeks for 79.99, one class per week or if you took his basic class you can go monthly unlimited for 35.00 (great deal!)that's what I am on. Once a week it is at the vet's office and once a week we go on a field trip to a park, Outdoor world, etc.

his website is homelandk-9training.com

He also has protection class and scent tracking. He trains dogs for therapy, fema, etc.

He also does personal at home training for $50 per session.

Check him out he is great if anyone lives in southern Ohio.
My name is Lori.

Mom to
Tinkerbear (lab/kom mix)
Harley (Newfy/Saint mix)
Boomer (Cat-russian blue)
RIP - Tater Marie (basset 11/95 to 1/08)
RIP - Velcro (Kitten-Tiger Stripe)