Jekyl & Hyde Rescue Dog, part 2

Posted by gjrupert
May 15, 2008
Hi, I had posted previously about a stray that I have taken in & need help in understanding why he growls at strangers who try to approach him, and how to correct this, making him adoptable to a good home. He knows and obeys commands, I work with him several times a day, reinforcing sit, stay, come, down. Since he seems to be untrusting, when I walk him with my 4 dogs, I had been walking him on a short leash, which he did pretty well with. To try and socialize him more with my dogs, I have started walking him on a 25' rope, so he could run with the others, plus get an idea if he would still come when called, etc. He has done really well with that, except that when my dogs romp and play, he gets agitated & I think this is because he never "played" with other dogs before & thinks they are fighting. Right after I brought him home he and my male alpha dog fought, so I have been trying to socialize him with mine, more slowly. He seems to do okay (still apprehensive) when I try to socialize him by taking him to local pet store, car rides, etc. I can't really say for sure what he would do if someone tried to pet him because I have not allowed that to this point. I have been trying to follow the Alpha rules per Sit/Stay/Fetch, but it's hard, since he is pretty good in all those areas. He is actually almost perfect except for his extreme aggression with strangers. I am sure that he was an only dog that wasn't socialized.
I have put alot of money into Buddy, neutering, shots, etc. I can't afford to have to pay for a behaviourist, but I really feel that he would make someone a wonderful, loving pet - if I can just rid him of the aggression. My problem is that I can't figure out if it is dominance, fear, or what - but, it is truly vicious behaviour and I am convinced that he would attack any stranger that set foot on our property or tried to approach him. Like I said, out & about, he is fine.
I would appreciate any tips or suggestions as I am so frustrated! I want to help him, but don't know what to do! Thanks!
Posted by Todd
May 19, 2008
Hi there and thanks for the post.

Firstly you are doing a brilliant job, you are committed and putting a huge amount of work into him. It is good to hear of people out there making an effort and doing some good, so thank you.

So well done on all the progress.

I think the aggression to strangers is probably about fear or territorial aggression more than anything.

The solution is just like you have been doing with all the other problems. You need to slowly increase the socialisation. Things need to be gradual and not so they will freak him out.

Start with him on a lead and sitting by the gate. Get someone to knock on the gate. If he barks tell him off and make him sit again. Calm relaxed behaviour gets praise and plenty of attention. As the person comes in keep on doing the ignore or reprimand and praise.

She may slowly approach them as long as he is being calm and not fearful. Whether you tell him off or ignore him depends on how aggressive he is being.

Make sure he advances slowly and gets heaps of praise for non - fearful behaviour. Give your stranger () plenty of treats to help convince him.

Make sure you try it with heaps of different people and use a muzzle if you are nervous. Good luck and please let me know how things go

Posted by gjrupert
May 19, 2008
Todd, thanks for the reassurance - I surely need it. I have learned a lot in reading some of the other posts, but, since his behaviour is so "non dominant" when just with us, and he seems to "snap" into this 2nd personality - what I was wondering about is "IF" this bad behaviour can truly be broken and changed, to the point where I can feel comfortable in adopting him out?? Do you think a dog who has had his trauma "remembers" (see 1st post 5/13), causing mistrust?
Also, can you give me any tips on how to get him to see that "play romping" isn't "fighting", so he doesn't want to "fight" when he sees my dogs play? I try to keep them from romping in his presence, but is this something that, too will come with time and patience, that he will learn to just "play" and be a puppy?
Thanks so much for your help!
Posted by Todd
May 20, 2008
HI there

Yes i think dogs with traumatic experiences do remember. But that is not to say that with time, training and patience that you can cover those over with good experiences like you are doing. As to whether he will ever be able to be rehomed this is a very hard question and it is really your call. Often they don't get there but you are putting in such a huge effort i think that you are giving him the best chance possible

Now to the play fighting. Get him to be on the lead while it is going on. Have one of your other dogs on the lead. Let them sniff and play. Again confidence gets rewarded and fear gets the ignored. Allow them to sniff etc. Allow them to play a bit but break it up before it gets rough. Keep up the treats and praise.

Over time give them more and more chance to play a bit rougher but be gradual like you have been doing. He will hopefully learn and once he gets better you can let the other dogs all in but make sure he is comfortable with this first.

Good luck, Todd
Posted by gjrupert
May 20, 2008
Todd, thank you so much for all your good advice and support. Before Sit/Stay/Fetch and this forum, I felt so overwhelmed. I have learned so much and feel that there "is" hope. I will definitely update you on my progress. Thanks again.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
May 20, 2008
Hi gjrupert!

You are doing such good things to the stray dog. He seems like a very nice dog but just lacking of socialization with both other dogs and people.

As Todd said, it will be a good idea to get him used to dogs and people gradually so that you don't overwhelm him or flood him with new environment.

I would also like to suggest you give him a chance to get used to one of your dogs. Select the one that is the most friendly and confident out of your 4 dogs. Let them meet off leash (generally dogs do better when they are off leashed than leashed, especially dogs that have fear aggression). Then walk them together with short leash to develop their mutual trust and to make them buddies. I have found out walking two dogs together is the best way to make them build dog to dog relationship quickly when still having them within my control. They will pretty soon be playing each other, or at least the new dog will be pretty comfortable being with the selected dog. In other words, use your dog to teach him how to behave. Through my fostering experience, new dogs learn a lot of things (good and bad) from my own dogs. They can be very helpful for the new dog to get socialized.

Once the new dog and your selected dog become like buddies, then bring someone who your selected dog knows well and let your dog meet the person when your selected dog is around. The new dog should learn very quickly that the person is not someone he should be fearful of, instead he is someone that he can trust by looking at how your selected dog behaves toward the person.

I hope the above method will work in your case as well. Good luck!!
Posted by gjrupert
May 20, 2008
Hi MaxHollyNoah, That is sooo funny that you suggested this because I "just" came up with the same idea today of choosing just 1 dog, so he wouldn't be so overwhelmed! I took my most mellow female and put the 2 of them in a separate room together for about a 1/2 hour & they did fine. Buddy growled once but I had him sit & growled him - he did great! I will repeat this daily, then add my next most mellow dog. I have 4 large labs & they don't have a mean bone in their body! I had not thought of walking the 2 together, but that sounds like good advice, so I will try that (as soon as it stops raining) Chloe & a friend also sounds good. If you read my original post, Buddy was dumped in the country, left to fend for himself & had deep puncture wounds where he had been shot with darts. I have rescued several dogs that were abandoned, but none had any "issues", so this was so hard for me. I am soooo glad I found this forum! Thanks for your ideas!