What to focus on first?

Posted by sharleend
Mar 28, 2010
Hi I am new to the forum. I apologize for the long post but I am a new dog owner and have lots of questions.

I have two dogs and have them both from 16/12 weeks respectively. Snoopy a 2yr old Shih tzu male and Jasper a 9 month old Shorkie male.

Snoopy was a very quiet dog until we got Jasper. Never barked and only made this weird grunty/throaty bark sound when people (especially men) came to the door or approached him. He always shied away from men but has always been friendly with kids and most women.

After we got Jasper, Snoopy started to bark. On of our neighbours has a dog that has always had a habit of barking excessively and Snoopy used to completely ignore it. Once we got Jasper, Snoopy started barking back and running up and down the fence line. Now he also barks when people come to the door. I suspect he started barking to protect Jasper. Otherwise he is a friendly laid back sort of dog who loves kids. His only other quirk is he is afraid of flights of stairs.

Jasper has always be more vocal in a typical dog way (bark when someone comes to the door, but not excessively). For example, I can usually get him to calm down fairly quickly when the neighbors dog barks. But the two of them seem to feed off each other. Jasper is generally friendly with all people in small groups, just not all dogs or large groups. I think he is a bit insecure as he has a tendency to whine and always wants to be with me.

Both Snoopy and Jasper are friendly with our other neighbors two dogs; they have both known them since they were puppies and they all play well together although they don't play often.

I took Snoopy to obedience classes when he was 6 months old. He was calm during the classes, showed no negative reaction to any of the dogs and learned to sit, lie down and usually responds to "leave it" okay. We never really got the recall down and loose leash walking only recently. I opted not to do obedience classes with Jasper thinking I could just apply what I learned in Snoopy's classes; which I did--fairly successfully. Both dogs sit, lie down and even stay on command (75% reliable depending on the situation).

I recently started walking them everyday in an effort to apply the Dog Whisperer's principle of "Exercise, Discipline and Affection". This actually brought to light issues I didn't realize were there. Jasper is just not grasping the concept of loose leash walking. Snoopy on the other hand caught on quickly. The problem though is their reactions when we see other people and/or dogs; especially Jaspers.

Okay...now that I have spewed what may be meaningless background info, on with my question.

I am concerned with their reactions, especially Jasper's, to people and animals on our walks. I think I made the wrong choice not to put Jasper in obedience classes because now he is not well socialized. My question is...do I need to enroll him in a class to socialize him? Or should I work on this on my own first since he seems to be somewhat dog aggressive? I tried taking them both to the dog park today thinking it would help socialize them. My son and I split up and went to separate areas of the park; he walked with Snoopy and I took Jasper--they both stayed on leash because neither responds well to recall commands. Snoopy did fairly well, when he was approached by another dog he would just stay still until they left. Jasper on the other hand whined constantly and if any dogs approached he snapped and barked. I tried to stay calm and waited to reward him when he calmed down but he never did. I suspect he may have been extra wound up because he gets car sick and got sick on the way to the park (any tips on car sickness?).

Is taking them to the dog park a reasonable way to work on socializing or am I just asking for trouble?

Should I consider enrolling Jasper in obedience classes or do I need to work on handling his reactions first?

Either way I continue to work on recall, loose leash walking etc.

Any other comments/suggestions?

Sorry for the super long post! Hopefully with what I learn here I will someday be able to help others.

Posted by kjd
Mar 29, 2010

Let me respond to the easiest problem: car sickness. I've had two dogs who got car sick.

The first one I took for lots and lots of rides. First, just down the block and back; then around one block; around two blocks; and so on. I don't remember how long it took her, just remember she did come to love riding in the car. (Since she first belonged to my youngest brother, she had a several year history of being car sick.)

With my second car sick dog, I lived in a townhouse community where there weren't lots of small blocks to break up the driving. So I tried what I call the "adapt or die" method. A co-worker wanted to visit her parents in Buffalo, NY. On Saturday, we drove from Washington, DC, to Buffalo. Spent the night, went to church, then drove back on Sunday. (You'll have to look up the distance.) Needless to say, the dog didn't die! And she loved to ride in the car after that.

Both dogs used to have sheets of drool coming from their mouths. I know the first one would sometimes throw up, I don't think the second one did. In the many-short-rides, we never drove long enough for the drool to start. In the adapt-or-die rides, we didn't look at her, so we didn't see the drool. (This was back when cheap cars had plastic seats. Not sure I'd try it with the cloth seats.) I prefer the first method: it is easier on the dog. However, the second method worked faster and the dog made new friends.

So there you have it: two ways to get your dogs over car sickness.

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 29, 2010
Hi Sharleen,

I will try to answer your questions:

First of all, I strongly recommend you take Jasper to his own training classes. As you can see, obedience training classes are not only to train owners but also will provide your dog with socialization to other dogs and their owners in a very controlled environment. On the other hand, off-leash parks are more for letting dogs energy burn and you will never know the temperament/personality of dogs that are there.

Also, I don't think it would be fair for your dogs to be leashed while all the other dogs are off-leashed. When dogs are leashed they have tendency to be more aggressive (either with fear or with too much excitement to get close to other dogs). Same reaction can be said for dogs on the other side of fence. It is called fence aggression. Our former neighbors had 3 dogs that used to bark and jump on the other side of the fence so furiously and we thought they were vicious dogs. One day, I saw a dog in front of our front door and I thought he was a stray so I opened the door and tried to catch him. My 3 dogs came out with me and sniffed around the dog and there was no fight or any conflict among the doggies. That dog turned out to be one of our neighbors' 3 dogs! They never took them out for walk so we didn't know how they looked.

When you practice "recall", make sure you will have very tasty treats, that are only used for "recall". It will be a good idea to take that treat with you to the dog park, let your dogs play for a minute or two and call them back to you. Give them the tasty treats and tell him to go play somemore. Repeat this many times. You want your dogs to learn that "coming back to you is not the end of fun". Don't forget to give them treats when you finally collect them to go home. I always give my dogs treats when they hop in the car. This way, it will make it easier to collect your dogs and put them in the car when it's time to go home.

As for the car sickness, you will need to make many short trips (or even just get in the car and give treat, no need to go anywhere). Soon your dogs will associate car ride=fun places+treats. I don't know if dogs parks are fun places for your dogs or not at this point since it sounded like a unpleasant experience for the dogs. How about to a pet store and get some treats? How about taking them in the car when you go pick up your son, or someone the dogs love to see? Make sure your son or the person will give them a treat and hug/kisses.

Anyway, everything is a learning experience for your dogs so try to make things fun and yummy for them Good luck
Posted by sharleend
Mar 30, 2010
Thank you both for your suggestions.

I have started taking the dogs out to the car and just sitting with them. Yesterday Jasper was drooling, today he didn't. I will keep at it.

I am also going to get Jasper into an obedience class and get their recall training improved a bit before we go to the dog park again.

Thanks again!