hexum in the dog park..

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by hexumnsade, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. hexumnsade New Member

    hi i have a catahoula, lab, dalmation, and possibly pit mix from town lake pound. he was about a year when i got him. i have now had him for 11 months. he's such a sweet dog at home. we have had good and bad experiences at the dog park. i have been able to let him completely off the leash with out any fights and then other times (the last 2 which have not been fun) i wasn't able to take him off the leash because of his aggression. i am trying to move in with a couple of people that already have large dogs. hexum gets along with small dogs and loves to play no problem. but larger ones he becomes aggressive with. i need help in this matter. i figure i can take my crate out with me at the dog park and put him in "time out" when he starts a fight until he stops. but when i am getting him to meet with the 2 dogs that we might be living with... how do i calm him down? once i get him to calm down he then understands he is able to play with the dogs... but he puts on such a front and sometimes doesn't stop.. i just don't know what to do. i can't afford another dog, but he needs to play. the dog park is my only answer here, but i'm getting to the point where i hate taking him because we just get back in the car after his behavior. no other owners want their dog around him.. please help. i'm trying to meet with the dogs today, so a quick response would be nice. i just found this site today.. thanks so much
    L, Hexum, and Sadie:dogwacko::dogtongue::dogmad::dogmad:

  2. snooks Experienced Member

    I don't go to dog parks b/c of this issue. I'm tired of having my dogs attacked and it's just not worth the negative experience for me. I do think they are great if you have a well socialized/trained dog that is already exercised. I don't mean to criticize this is just my opinion after a lot of unpleasant experiences. DP's just aren't for everyone. I do understand your need to exercise your dog. Dog parks are not a substitute for structured exercise and you shouldn't just take and release and amped up unexercised dog at a park because the result will always be less than ideal. Many bad situations start b/c owners take their dogs to the park solely for and instead of exercise and just unclip the leash and don't really supervise what the dogs are doing.

    Doing interactive things with your dog at the park are good ways to distract and prevent unwanted behavior. Working on your recall to make sure he'll come when you want is a good way to avoid situations too. Your high energy hunting/coach dog mix would benefit from 2 hours MINIMUM vigourous exercise per day. Under exercistin any of those breeds will result in a frustrated over the top mentality. I have Goldens which are also high energy hunting dogs. I can tell when they need more exercise because they get really annoying and frustrated.

    I suggest exercising your dog very well before you go to the park. I would also unleash the dog right away (muzzled if you are worried) so that he won't be at a disadvantage on the leash. Leashed dogs at dog parks are against the rules in many areas because they are the objects of attack since they can't interact appropriately and may start or invite unwanted interaction. If your dog is biting and fighting he does not belong at the dog park now. There are loads of places to exercise your dog that do not expose them to situations where they will be aggressive.

    If your dog is aggressive with any dog at the dog park then you shouldn't go unless you train and correct the issue. I would be angry and ask you to leave too if your dog attacked mine. Not to criticize, but having my dogs attacked unprovoked by repeat offenders at parks is very maddening. Sure you may be able to train around this and I certainly encourage you do do so/ There are just many dogs there that can be injured by your dog, esp small ones, not to mention many people that insist on taking young children. The more he does aggress or experience aggression the more habituated the behavior will become.

    The alternative is to address the behavior by training and would be fastest and safest addressed by a good trainer or certified behaviorist. The reason I'm so conservative on this is because all it takes is one bite to the wrong dog or person and you potentially lose your dog if they are declared dangerous.

    As for meeting other dogs I would get them all really tired with separate individual exercise. Then take a long walk side by side with enough distance that both are non-reactive. This gives them a chance to check each other out without a lot of intense contact. Then maybe leashed you could let them get closer being sure not to let leashes tangle. Tangles can be a provocative fight starter. Have one person drop their leash should this happen. Maybe after the walk both can lie down near one another and check each other out in some neutral territory. If there is any sign of reactive behavior increase the distance between them and reward for a return to calm behavior. This might take once or a few times.

    After you feel comfortable that they are calm but curious about one another you might let them off leash maybe muzzled. Watch for any warning, reactive, defensive, aggressive, or uncertain behavior. I might just drop leashed and let them drag. That I can quickly step on or grab it and calmy walk away from any sitiuation I don't want to escalate. Stiffening, head over shoulders, tails up, ears up and forward, commisures of mouth puckered instead of relaxed and open, any philoerection, vocalizing, lunging, picking up one paw, yawning, scratching, shaking, hard stares etc. If they do any of this you should evaluate why. Give them something to do initially like come, sit, heel, etc for treats and they'll get involved with you and pay little attentio to the other dog. Getting used to this feeling is what they need. Sort of a mild interest that is easily distracted from the other dog. I would also do the intro's 2 at a time, not the entire group and work up.

    We have a reactive dog in our class and my puppy is very sweet and exuberant. She doesn't have an aggressive bone in her body but her enthusiasm makes one reactive shy dog nervous and she's fear aggressive. You don't say why your dog agresses either fear, anxiety, resource guarding, etc. My dog will try to play and this dog will raise her hair, lift her tail, stiffen, turn away, growl, hard stare and a few things to say that you make me nervous and you come on too strong. So she's warning my dog to stay back for a bit and my dog in her excitement is ignoring these signs. She'll rush in when she should give some space and time and the other dog growls.

    It's our human job to slow things down a little until this shy dog feels better. Rewarding them for looking calmly at one another and walking past one another are good things for exposure. Keeping them below threshold and going slow works best. So while they may eventually have fun playing we can be more sure of that if we prevent a bad experience while one dog is worried. If we go slow and associate each dog with good things the emotional experience is made much different and positive.

    Have you thought about taking your dog to a training class with a positive trainer to help socialize him in a controlled safe environment that classes offer? When you understand why your dog is aggressive you'll better be able to address the problem. Most responsible breeders require this for their puppies because it ensures a happier well socialized dog. This goes for mixed breeds also. Dog class is a lot of fun. I've been taking classes for 5 years now and both dogs are much more self confident and happy to see other dogs/people. Good luck, I think with some homework and training you can improve what is happening. I would go to a behaviorist or + trainer to get some ideas and tools to have under your belt to succeed. It usually makes things much easier. :dogwink:
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Time out is pointless for dogs--children think, "Man, I have to get stuck in my room because I did something wrong." Dogs think, "I'm in my crate...and I still want to eat that dog out there....what'd she put me in here for?" Time out means nothing to them.

    Off-leash dog parks are a terrible idea when working on dog aggression. Even if you've been making progress with him, an aggressive dog at a dog park can make him regress. Find someone who has a dog friendly dog who is willing to help, and find a park without very many visitors. With both dogs LEASHED, have your friend and the other dog stay as far away as possible. Click and treat if your dog is calm and nonaggressive.

    Aggressive body language:
    -muscles tense
    -eyes focused on other dog
    -ears forward
    -tail straight out or up
    -lips curled

    In painstakingly small increments, let the other dog approach. Only click and treat if your dog is relaxed and not being aggressive. If your dog blows up, then just walk away from the other dog and start again from the furthest distance. If he's blowing up then you're moving too fast, and the other dog needs to come in much slower. It may take 20 minutes and it may take 3 months before your dog will be completely relaxed with other dogs approaching him. It will take much longer before he is relaxed with them off-leash.

    The key is DISTANCE. If you start too close to other dogs then his aggression will escalate and you won't make any progress. If he can't trust another dog 100 ft away, then he will never trust a dog right next to him. It is also important that YOU stay calm and don't react. If you are nervous or tense up, he's going to do the same. It also helps if he walks well on a leash--if he's wandering out in front of you, then you have no control if an off-leash dog bounds up in his face. As Snooks mentioned, EXERCISE. Also, give him something to do while your helper and his/her dog is at a comfortable distance. Sit, down, stay, fetch, whatever--tricks to keep him occupied so that he's not just sitting there waiting to react to the other dog.

    Hope this helps, good luck, and enlist the help of a behaviorist if you can. Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement. :)
  4. maven New Member

    "Watch me" worked really well for Pip -- once we could get him paying attention to us instead of the other dog things progressed much faster. This past weekend he managed the dog park (this is only his third time when there were dogs besides Bodi present) with a total of 15 dogs in the enclosure and never a cross moment. *beaming* It was great. He checked in very often with us, and we were able to reassure and remind each time he checked in.
  5. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Yes, watch me is a good one. :) Learning to focus on the trainer rather than everything else going on is beneficial with behavior work as well as just listening with distractions. Glad things are going well with Pip!
  6. sara Moderator

    My latest failed foster <grin>, Oliver, came to me VERY dog aggressive. he was a stray in a very bad part of Houston, Texas apparently. His aggression was due to resource guarding, mostly. He had to fight for everything he ever got... right from puppyhood. it took 2 days for me to get a calm greeting from him. What I did when meeting my girls, who were less threatening as they are smaller, was we went for a walk. distance was quite large between them and Oliver at first, but we slowly decreased the distance and over a very short period of time he was comfortable enough to greet them nicely. when we came into the house, I already has a spray bottle of water sitting near by. if he so much as stiffened up, I'd squirt him, tell him to leave-it, and go pet my girls then him.it only took a couple of hours doing this (he was on-leash btw) for him to be perfectly fine with them. I didn't give any treats, food or toys that first week tho, unless he was in his crate. I didn't want him to revert to any prev. behavior. I carried the water when we went for a walk, if he showed any aggression to other dogs (not a dog park, but walking trails, no off-leash dogs) he got a spray, leave-it and me walking calmly past, paying no attn. to the other dogs. he would get a treat for calm behavior. the next week I took him into a pet store. he was great, only one growl when we first walked in, then after he was looking to me for instructions. I had him sitting and laying down with his back to a dog aggressive dog (about 20ft away) and he had no issues. Since then, there has only been a couple of dominant postures from him, which if he shows any of that, he gets a leave it and we walk away 'till he's more comfortable and able to focus on me. he's not perfect, and I will not be taking him to an off-leash park until he is. I do not want to expose him to any bad experiences until he is very comfortable with other dogs. he may never get to go, which would be sad, because once he knows a dog, he just wants to play! Time and patience is the key to this issue.
  7. snooks Experienced Member

    Good advice and work Sara. I have used the spray on my dogs before but have changed my mind on it and become totally positive. I think it did work but with a dog that already has issues and I'm working on trust I opted to stop the spritzing in favor or rewarding what I do want and it worked better for my training style and dogs. (not meant as criticism just a different option) Difference in that aspect of the philosophy only. The distance and ignoring/feeding in crate as you describe are all great and work. Everyone is correct time and patience is a must.
  8. sara Moderator

    I do try to keep my training positive, but the lady who fostered him in Texas, tried redirecting, and positive methods, nothing worked, and he would be so out of control, he'd go after anything in his way, including people. I found that the spray bottle distracted him from his behavior, then I could treat and praise him, it worked quickly and well. It doesn't work on every dog, but he was a prime candidate. I do also use a NILIF style of training, so he learned quickly to look to me for leadership, I think that was what mostly turned him around, not the corrections so much, but the "everything good comes from me therefore I must know all!" training I did at home. Every dog is different and I try to adjust my style for each dog I work with, I am forever learning new techniques and trying new and different approaches, trying to get my training techniques as successful as possible, you all are very helpful in that!!!

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