first dog- bringing a stray home

Posted by smohan
Dec 6, 2009
Hi from Madras, India.

Need some advice badly as we are looking after a dog for the first time (we are a cat family) ! Hence such a long post ( my apologies in advance!) . By now I have a good idea of what to do to take care of an adult dog – done tons of research and spoken to people.

I have started off with the training tips in the book. But getting Brownie to respond to commands / or walking him seems impossible. Treats have only limited appeal (but if at all he responds, it is to treats). He is not a difficult dog, looks like orientation is the problem.

Brownie's story -
He’s been a stray his whole life, I suppose . We saw him first about a year ago when he started hanging around our street. Hes an adult , fully mature , previously neutered (perhaps by some animal welfare organization). Hes got white in his muzzle and his teeth are not in great shape so hes not young ( I think ‘mature to middle aged’ ). Hes fairly active, alert and happy around people. All of us on the street have been feeding him scraps for many months now. Like most strays in our area hes not skinny!

But now , over the past few weeks I have adopted him and hes become part of my family. His ‘den’ is on our porch, which is dry, cool and very comfortable. The climate here is temperate. We have a small yard which he likes to lie around in, likes to look out at people walking past.

He’s sweet natured , smart, loves people , is social . And that’s why everyone loves him. But is aggressive or scared of other dogs . Not interested in playing all that much- not used to it. Hes in decent shape , but obviously needs to go see a vet for a regular check up. But I cant take him anywhere unless I am confident of controlling/guiding him

He does not appear to have any behaviour/ health issues. I have started grooming him daily and he seems to like it. Hates water , so I haven’t tried giving him a bath yet. Maybe, once hes more used to commands etc.

Have now put him on dry dog food. Hes not too happy about it, but finishes it. I alternate with natural food which he seems to enjoy more.

Hes a manageable dog and allows me to handle him, touch him etc.

I need to do the following -
1. teach him to respond to basic commands - beginning with his name which is totally new to him ! Started training but his response varies. He chooses to ignore my calls unless hes hungry. He does understand that I am calling him, so he’s disobeying.
2. Biggest problem - walking on leash - (tried ‘random walking’ but not going well, though hes not scared of the leash). As an ex-street dog hes insecure about going out of our gate- he probably thinks he’ll be out on the street again and wont be let in. Bye Bye new home! I try walking him late at night when there are very few people, vehicles and dogs about. I have to pull him to come out of our gate, even treats dont work . The next barrier is reaching the end of our small street- he refuses to move past this ‘line’ . This street is his territory and he hates going out of it. While walking he walks all around me and I have a tough time controlling him. Our biggest problem - when he sits and refuses to move at all , which he does very frequently - I hate pulling him but thats what I end up doing . He obviously hates it when I pull and he whines. Then, he runs home like hes being chased by a pack of wolves! I know dogs love going out for walks but this guy is the quite the opposite! He is not used to thinking of walking as fun.
Since he refuses to budge out of the gate even for walks and is not much interested in games/ toys etc , he’s putting on weight. I understand that the basic issue is his street dog thinking – food and shelter are the first priority and as far as hes concerned maybe hes not still sure if hes in with us for good!
3. He is territorial and barks at any and all dogs that pass by our gate (and at some people too, though the reason is not clear ) - this is a big nuisance esp at night.
4. Cats - we have 4 cats and he has to get used to them before hes allowed inside our house permanently. He ignores the cats at times but when he sees them outside the house he growls at them or chases them . Once hes in I really don’t have the facilitiy to keep him separate from the cats, or cat litter boxes. Not sure how to manage this. Since we rent, we cant really install small gates etc inside

Whew! In short - I need to train and domesticate him from scratch - a fully grown dog who has been a stray his entire life.

(Btw - head collar is not available here yet, so I cant use this as a training aid. Looking at shipping options)
Posted by kjd
Dec 6, 2009

Thank you for adopting that dog! I understand his position exactly, as my rescue feels the same. Is there room in your yard to walk him around it? Right now, he is definitely afraid you are getting rid of him everytime you step outside of that gate! I think the barking at other dogs and the growling at the cats is the same -- he doesn't want anyone taking this nice home he's finally found!

Can you get him a crate? This might be a way to bring him into the house for a bit. You could also try an exercise pen to confine him to part of the house. It can take a long time for a dog to be sure of his new position -- I had one dog who was depressed for a year.

Can you take him in a car to the vet? Of course, if you have to take him out of the gate to get to the car, that isn't going to help either.

How big is he? Can you carry him?

Training is going to take a while. Just use his name all the time you are with him. Call him for meals with his name. It takes a while, but he will learn it.

I wish I could give you a magic cure, but you have taken on a large responsibility. Just be patient with him; think of how long he has been without a home.

Good luck.
Posted by smohan
Dec 9, 2009

Thanks, I feel better now. Am on the crate thing - getting him one tomorrow. Also trying for a halti/gentle leader. Hope it helps. I can carry him , hes not very big.
Anyway my biggest learning - I need to take it very slow .
(btw - Any tips on how to get him to move along while walking would be welcome! He just digs in & refuses to move . My worry is that by pulling him , am making walking worse for him)
Posted by kjd
Dec 10, 2009
Ah, if he is light enough to carry: did you try carrying him to the end of the street (with the leash attached), then putting him down and walking him back home?
Posted by smohan
Dec 10, 2009
Nope! Hes not that light. I can just about carry him a few steps- I can manage to get him into the car if it comes to that. He walks to the end of the street (we live on a small street). But beyond the street - no way . He just digs in. I even thought of walking him up and down our street a few times but even that doesnt happen, because once he sees our gate on the way back ,he digs in and refuses to move further- he wants to go in. Any pulling from me results in the collar and leash coming off, hes managing that trick very well! Dont know if a halti will help?
Posted by kjd
Dec 10, 2009
If he doesn't want to move, I don't think a halti is going to be of much help.

Is the yard big enough to play ball in? Can you get him to run after a ball. If you could get him to play hard, you might concentrate on exercising with play until he is more secure in his new home.

You could also try putting him in the car, driving to a different neighborhood, and walk him there. However, he might then treat the car as the "gate I must enter NOW," which isn't going to help too much.

I don't like the fact he can pull out of his collar. Are you sure it is snug enough? Do you know someone who could help you check that?

Also, do you have any friends with dogs. Perhaps he could exercise by playing with them?

BTW, if he is putting on too much weight, cut back on his food.

Will any of this help?
Posted by smohan
Dec 11, 2009
Thanks for the brainstorming, its defn helping.

Good news is yest for the first time he walked out of our street! The difference this time - I took him immed off his familiar street and into a turning that leads to the beach road . We live very near the beach and for him it was full of new sights, smells and people. I think it was curiosity and a bit of fear that made him move along. Plus my mom was walking along with us , so he felt re-assured . It was verrrry slow and with a lot of pit-stops,with him frequently digging in as usual , but we managed a sort of walk. Will try again tonight.

Btw- Yard is smallish but he can play in it. Problem is lack of interest. Hes happy being with people but not actually playing. He is playful sometimes but for a very very short span of time. He quits very fast. Car idea may work - tho am not sure what kind of associations hes going to make re the car.
Yes I need to get his collar checked - am sure its a bit loose but am scared to tighten it without knowing for sure.
There are lots of people in the neighbourhood with dogs. Dont know them well tho. Plus Brownie isnt really in their good books - he makes it a point to bark his head off at any dog that passes this way!
And I am defn cutting back on his food.