Rescued mom & son labs - need to retrain socialization skillw

Posted by Michelle-Ferullo
Sep 25, 2011
I rescued 2 labs ages 7&8. Never abused but were kenneled for over a year. Arrived HW+ so 2-3 months of restricted activity during treatment. Now HW free and anxious to take them everywhere. They are the most lovable, calm dogs. Love people and kids, yet will become extremely aggressive toward other dogs whether big or small showing no signs of threat. I'm guessing they are protecting me or each other. Behavior is extremely embarrassing and getting worse instead of better. They had been with many dogs in the past and never had a problem socializing. How can I train them to be social and non aggressive to other dogs? I want dogs that I can bring to the beach or on a walk and will welcome other dogs. What can I do to change this behavior?:confused:
Posted by KOPCaroline
Sep 27, 2011
Hey Michelle,

Congrats on your new additions! Glad you adopted the two doggies, and wish you the best of luck on your new life together! Really happy they got over heartworm as well!

If you take a look through past threads, you'll see this sort of thing is pretty common - be it an over excited dog or an aggressive dog, a lot of unwanted behaviour comes out on walks. I do think it ties into the dog trying to "protect" you (the owner) or the other dog, or even themselves! If your two rescues were in a kennel for a long time, they may just need adjusting back into the world of walks!

Some general tips for you when you're walking to start of with:

It may be a good idea to get muzzles for the two of them, just until they behave more calmly and are used to walking again. Its JUST a preventative in case they actually try to nip or bite someone/another dog walking past as they get so worked up. You'll be a better judge if this is needed - when you said aggression, you didn't specify if it was just hackles up barking, growling, or lunging and trying to bite...

When you're walking with them, be sure to control your own body language and attitude. If you tense up as another dog approaches, your dogs can sense it and will react the same. If you change your body posture to walk more upright and stiff as you get more and more nervous, your dogs will feel the tug/shift in the lead and react the same again. So, try your best to stay relaxed, and keep speaking in happy tones to help your dogs not feel so worked up.

As far as training with your dogs - I might first suggest obedience training courses. Its a great way to bond with new dogs, and its a classic way for them to learn to interact, respond, and of course listen to you - it will build their trust in you, and their looking to you as a source of dominance (so that they will try to protect you less).

When you are on walks with them, start working on distracting them from approaching/nearby dogs. Call their names, then give them a sit or down command. Have them stay there until the other dog has passed. As they are sitting, snap your fingers or clap your hands (not loudly, necessarily) and keep saying their names - you want their attention to stay focused on you, so that they are ignoring the other dog! Keep giving "good dog, here, good dog (name)" as long as they are looking at you and not paying attention to the other dog. If they turn to look at the other dog, or get up as it approaches, give their leash a sharp tug, say "no", and get their attention back. It may work better if you take a ball or treats with you.

As soon as the other dog is gone, give your dogs lots of praise and continue with your walk. It may be a lot of stop/starting, but it should help a lot. My dog used to charge other dogs because he was so excited to say hello, and this method worked really well. I've heard and read lots of success stories with problem leash behaviour and training with this method, so I hope it works for you.

Please let us know how it goes, or if you have any more questions at all. I hope it goes well!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 27, 2011
Hi Michelle,

In addition to Caroline's wonderful advice, I would suggest you take walks one dog at a time for a few days to see how each reacts towards other dogs. From my experience, dogs react more aggressively when they are 2 or more together. Also, it would be much easier to handle one dog when he/she behaves poorly, as well as it's a great opportunity to assess each dog's temperament and obedience skills and to bond with each as you walk him/her.

You said they had been with many dogs before but I assume they knew those dogs, or at least they greeted with them in an open area when not being leashed.

Meeting other dogs when leashed is totally different from meeting in an open space. As Caroline said they could feel your emotion through the leash, they have no choice but fight when they get spooked since they can not run away, they feel like they need to protect you, etc. And some dogs don't have the manners and just run up to my dogs' face with excitement

Two of my 3 dogs are not friendly to other dogs so I know how you feel. As Caroline said I keep my dogs attention to me by calling their names and giving them a command of "Leave it" when other dogs pass by us. If they don't react and let the other dogs go by, I praise them and give them treats Since it has become a routine, they expect a treat and try to be nice to other dogs as long as the other dogs can leave my dogs alone. When they are friendly and try to get too close to my dogs, I ask their owners to keep their dogs away from mine. I respect my dogs' feelings so I am fine if they cannot be as friendly as some dogs. As long as they listen to me and can ignore the other dogs, I am happy

I hope this will help you too. Good luck
Posted by Michelle-Ferullo
Sep 27, 2011
Thanks to both of you for your replies!! I took them both to be groomed on Sunday and they both seemed to be fine with all of the other dogs being groomed. Which leads me to believe they are protecting me, or just do not know how to behave being walked. I would like to think I'm doing everything right when walking them .... At least by everything I've read, I am.

I am definitely going to try taking them individually to see how each reacts individually. They do feed off of one another. If one reacts, the other mimics.

I wish you could see them around people in comparison. They are so friendly and walking both together is a piece of cake! They walk side-by-side and do not pull. I can loosely hold their leashes and they are a pleasure to walk....when we dont run into any other dogs on our walk!

I'm not giving up on them! Love them to pieces. I just want them to be able to take them to fun places for dogs....but can't do so just yet. I keep you posted on my progress. Thanks again for your feedback!!!

Axl & Ally from Alabama thank you too!!!
Posted by KOPCaroline
Sep 28, 2011
Hey Michelle,

Good to hear the groomers went well! The more you say about them being such good doggies in every other situation makes me think more and more its just them playing off eachs others excitement/anxiousness on walks, and feeling like they should protect each other/you/just be the boss in general.

It does sound like you're doing really well to try and correct them, and take them out so they get used to it. Good job! I really like MHN's idea of seperate walks, so I'm eager to hear how that goes for you.

Keep us updated, hopefully this is just a bit of a speedbump in your rehoming them - it sounds like it shouldn't be too much of an issue to train out of them Good luck!