Newspaper Hound

Posted by Leezard
Nov 29, 2007
Hi! I'm new to the forum, and looking for a bit of help with my boxer/rottweiler cross, Desi.

It's been a busy year, so there's a bit of history to tell.

It starts with my fiance, Dave, and I looking for a house. We were tired of living in a two bedroom apartment, so went looking for a house. We found the perfect little starter home and, with it, we both wanted a dog very badly. I started looking for supplies, since we were getting a larger dog, and I came across an ad for a free dog. It made me suspicious, but we went to check it out anyways.

We went to meet Desi, who was then owned by someone I will call "E". She was beautiful. She's a fawn dog with floppy ears and a cropped tail, with the back build of a boxer and the front of a rottweiler.

While E was very welcoming, she was also apologetic: Desi submitted and was on her back, with E behind her, but growled and barked at us, although we were both on our knees at a distance. We took her for a walk to see if she would be any different, and she turned into a whole new dog.

The dog we had met seemed nervous, fearful and intimidated. By the time we got back to the house not 10 minutes later, Desi was wagging her stubby little tail, tongue hanging out and happy to have company. There were absolutely no signs of aggression whatsoever, and we fell in love.

According to E, Desi began with a rough start.

E had responded to an ad in the local newspaper and went to meet a puppy who was looking for a new home. This pup, Desi, had been bought by a lady as a Christmas gift for her husband.

Who hated her.

They had another dog, a poodle, who had the run of the house, no discipline, and did not go outside to do his business: they had pee pads around the house for the dog to use, and they were all dirty.

In the meantime, Desi was bruised and shy, and E watched as the husband threw her against a wall.

E couldn't leave her there, so she brought the puppy home with her instead.

Skip forward about 8 months, where we responded to the newspaper ad.

E is a mom of four with a husband in the military, who was getting ready to go to Afghanistan. She owns another large dog, whom Desi got along with and was Alpha. She did not, however, do well with other people and would show fear and shyness, even with those she had met before. E warned us of this, and we were up for the task. She came very willingly and happily with us, despite only meeting us three times. E had admitted that she could not care for the four kids and two large dogs while her husband was in such a dangerous circumstance.

The first week with Desi was trial and error, at best. She did not walk well on the leash at all, barked at anyone within view, knew few commands, but did not heed them. But she was not aggressive with Dave and I at all. She was not dominant, and she knew it.

We suspect, with Desi's reaction to other people and walking and such, that she was not well socialized, even at E's. Since E had four children and another dog to care for, I can imagine it was hard for her to do much with the dogs. She admitted that she did not train the dog, but let her husband do it. And he was gone most of the time. Her friends and family were scared of Desi, so she was put in her kennel while people were over.

Since then, we take her for two daily walks of 45 minutes or longer each. She occasionally comes to work with me (I work at a vet clinic, who works alongside the city pound). We have taught her to roll over, sit pretty, dance, sneak and to play dead. We have worked on her walking (never off-leash) to the point that she only pulls to the end of her leash, but she is no longer erratic when we go out and is able to walk along-side both Dave and I. There's still that pull that we are trying to rid of. She no longer barks at every person, but will occasionally let out a low growl. She lets me cut her nails and brush her daily. I have had to flip her to her back and dominate her, but it happens rarely now. We still have problems passing other houses with dogs but we have only had her since September 30 of this year, and she has made alot of progress.

She listens more promptly, but now and again still tries to ignore us. If there is a dog nearby she is aggressive in her walk (pulling hard, etc), but not towards the dog. We believe she only wishes to sniff the animal, but we have not let her at this point because we want to teach her to ignore distractions such as this.

The worry comes from other people.

She is a large dog and weighs 85 lbs, and since she has just made it to one year, she is still expected to gain a bit of weight. When she meets new people, she is very picky with them. She will growl, and if they try to pet her before she is ready she will bark and lunge forward. There has never been an attempt to actually bite anyone, but they view the lunge as an attempt in itself. It has been very obvious to both Dave and myself that, if she had ever wanted to bite someone, she would have done it.

We took her to a friend's place with two young children, ages 4 and 7. The youngest ran up to Desi and started pulling her ear, and before anyone could do anything, she simply let out a low growl and walked away. There was nothing else; no stare, no baring teeth, no bark, just a very low warning. The friend gathered up the youngest child and we went inside while Desi was free to roam the dog run they had. We introduced her to her new sister, a toy American Eskimo we have named Chloe, and we will be picking up this coming Saturday. She does well with dogs when she can meet them, and I have the highest confidence that she will do well with a puppy in the house. While one of the cats does not like her for a second, she gets along well with them and treats them well.

I work at a veterinary clinic and have talked to AHTs and the vets themselves about her. They agree that she simply needs more socialization and that people are scared of her simply because she is a large dog with some social issues. There is only one obedience place where I live, and it is closed by the time we are able to get off of work.

While I believe we have done super with this dog so far, we are simply on the lookout for that extra help. I have not had a chance to read much since I've only just signed up, but what I have read so far (the book on aggression) has already given us a couple of tips that we will be trying, as they make alot of sense. Dave and I are both excited, and hope that we can keep a nice progression on Desi's improvments.

So that's our story. I'll be reading much more in the near future, and am welcome to any suggestions people may have.
Posted by MartyEd
Nov 29, 2007
Hi there,

Thank you for your post regarding Desi and her interesting history. It sounds like you and your family have made some dramatic improvements to her life and helped her come a very long way from where she was. It definitely sounds as though her very early puppy days are the cause for the different behaviors you outlined in your post. So often dog owners who adopt dogs from shelters or directly from people who cannot have or do not want their pets have trouble with dog obedience, aggression and general discipline. This is mainly due to the fact that most dog owners do not go about controlling their animals in a sufficient manner. Since owning her you have come such a long way and I am very impressed with your progress.

Continue to implement those alpha techniques daily with Demi - these are key to ensuring she understands you and the rest of your family are all more dominant than she is. You also need to establish the hierachy between your dogs and reinforce the more dominant dog while ensuring the subordinants stay that way. It is also imperitive that you reprimand Demi appropriately at the first signs of any sort of untoward aggression - particuarly towards other people and furthermore take utmost precautions to ensure that people interacting with Demi are not hurt, or that Demi does not even get a chance to show signs of aggression towards other people or pets. This means you are going to have to remain vigilant and prompt in your reprimanding and also that you need to find a reprimand that has a large enough effect on Demi without causing her to become overly submissive. I am sure you have come up with something effective by this stage - whether this is a guttural growl of "AAAAAH!", squirting her with water pistol - or something completely different you have come up with yourself. The book on alpha techniques is definitely a good one to follow to ensure you are following everything to plan and it is just as important to get the whole family in on the act to make sure Demi realises she is the most subordinate of the whole family.

But everything else you are doing sounds perfect. I agree that more socialisation would be ideal, but if you don't have obedience training or something similiar in your area then there really isn't much you can do - unless you manage to get a friend or colleague to take Demi in during business hours for you. With the brilliant ongoing training you are doing with her and reinforcing those alpha training techniques, you will be well on your way to helping Demi completely overcome her problems. Please let us now how you get on over the following 2 - 3 months - it will be interesting to see how she progresses further as she makes it past her 'teenage' period.

Thanks for your post and hear from you again soon.

Kind Regards,

Mark Edwards
Kingdom of Pets Team