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Hi, first time dog owner here. I have recently(~2weeks ago) adopted a 6-7 month old pitbull mix puppy from a rescue and have been having issues with dog aggression. She is pretty good with human interactions and I have had friends come over to see her with no problems with aggression. However, when it comes to other dogs, she is always very alert and starts to bark continuously and lunge towards them, scaring other dogs and their owners. From reading up on what to do, I have been trying to avoid times when there are a lot of dogs around but I live in an apartment complex with many other dogs around so it's nearly impossible to fully avoid her seeing them when taking her out for walks or to go to the bathroom in the designated fenced area or elsewhere. Whenever she does see another dog I try to stay calm, not tug at the leash, and distract her to go the other way and ignore the other dog. I've tried to use good treats, calling out to her, using toys, etc but her head is locked and she will not leave the other dog alone or look in my direction. I have been training her on walks to pay attention to me and check back for what to do and she's doing better with that until she sees another dog and it's impossible to get her attention and I've had to just apologize to the other pet owner as they hurriedly usher their dogs away. The other dog owners have begun to be wary of my dog. I have also tried to to keep a good distance and just watch other dogs around like many forums and blogs have suggested but she just whines the whole time and it seems to just stress her out rather than desensitize her to seeing other dogs and I've mostly tried to stick to avoiding other dogs in general for the time being. She has had some close calls like for example when another dog was on the other side of the elevator doors and she barked, lunged, and almost jumped for them. The other dog squealed and ran away and I had to try and pull her back from going after them. I have asked the foster she was with before for some info regarding her upbringing and they replied with "Today I have 11 dogs and that doesn't give me much time to train and socialize. I just want to keep them out of euthanasia room" so I have a feeling she missed out on proper socialization in a crucial part of puppyhood or that she had a bad experience with another dog during this stage. I have been looking for daycare/training services around me to help socialize and train her around other dogs but many do not accept pitbull mixes at all. I would love to get a pitbull specific trainer to give one on one training but personalized training and care is very expensive and I will definitely have trouble affording that in the frequency that is required. I am going to take her to a trainer very soon to get a professional opinion but I could always use more advise. Will these issues get better with age? Is there anything I can do to improve this behavior? Is a large apartment complex with a lot of dogs a bad/stressful environment for a dog like this? Could this lead to lawsuits if this behavior continues?(I am getting a muzzle for her but she is getting bigger every day) I am a first time dog owner, am I in over my head on this one? Should I keep the option open for re-homing her to a better environment for her like a single household without a bunch of dogs around? She is a very sweet girl and I love her very much so I just want what would be the best and least stressful option/environment for her. I appreciate any feedback, thank you.
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Leash. Keep her leashed.

Do not allow her to go up to any other dogs. Ever. She doesn't need "dog friends."

Your dog needs to focus on you and not other dogs. Allowing her to go up to other dogs is very rude to the other dog owners.

As she focuses on another dog walk away. She is on a leash so she must follow ... keep walking until she turns to you. Reward her with food
and then play with her. Show her you are way more fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Leash. Keep her leashed.

Do not allow her to go up to any other dogs. Ever. She doesn't need "dog friends."

Your dog needs to focus on you and not other dogs. Allowing her to go up to other dogs is very rude to the other dog owners.

As she focuses on another dog walk away. She is on a leash so she must follow ... keep walking until she turns to you. Reward her with food
and then play with her. Show her you are way more fun.
Hi, thank you for your reply. I have mainly been focusing on what your advise says. Whenever there's another dog I try to distract her and walk the other way and give her treats. This works sometimes but it's been a real struggle getting her attention. I understand forcing her to to interact with other dogs is in no way constructive and will only make her nervous; my concern is when I open a door or go down the elevator and there's a dog on the other side. This happens decently often as my apartment complex has a lot of dogs and I'm not always able to make sure 100% that there is not a dog just beyond a door or a corner. Thank you for the advise, I will keep at it.
 

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Many pitbulls and mixes end up not liking other dogs when they mature. She's a little young for that, but it could be that she just isn't going to be a dog-friendly or dog-tolerant dog. And that's okay. The good thing is she is still young, and you can start training now to teach her to focus on you when other dogs are present. This will take time and lots of practice, but it sounds like you're off to a good start!

My advice would be to try and work on the focus/calling her attention in the house, or somewhere there are no distractions. SLOWLY work up to more distracting areas, with high-value treats. I know this is hard when you may see other dogs on potty trips/walks, but try to only use your attention cue when you are positive she will be successful. If you call her over and over when she's already not able to focus, her name/cue will become background noise and it will lose it's value. Trying to train a dog that is over threshold is pretty useless and frustrating.

A muzzle is a great idea as a safety measure, just make sure you acclimate her to it slowly and positively. It could also be that you are actually seeing leash/barrier frustration. Some dogs get so excited to see other dogs, that when they are not able to greet them properly (on a leash, behind a fence etc), they get frustrated and it comes out as an aggressive looking explosion. With her being so young, I would doubt she's actually truly dog aggressive, but it is possible. If you have a friend with a nice, friendly adult dog you could test the waters once she's acclimated to wearing a muzzle. Just make sure her leash is loose (or let her drag it if you are in a safe area), so she doesn't feel that tension/frustration. If she does end up being dog aggressive as an adult, you will have some pretty intense management on your hands, living in an apartment with lots of other dogs coming and going. It CAN be done, but you need to work with her A LOT to teach her to keep her attention on you and not lunge/bark or harass other dogs. And, you will need to be vigilant to make sure accidents don't happen, for her safety and others. If you don't feel like you can accommodate this, then it may be better to rehome her before you get too bonded to each other. Getting with a good trainer will help point you in the right direction! Good luck, she's gorgeous!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Many pitbulls and mixes end up not liking other dogs when they mature. She's a little young for that, but it could be that she just isn't going to be a dog-friendly or dog-tolerant dog. And that's okay. The good thing is she is still young, and you can start training now to teach her to focus on you when other dogs are present. This will take time and lots of practice, but it sounds like you're off to a good start!

My advice would be to try and work on the focus/calling her attention in the house, or somewhere there are no distractions. SLOWLY work up to more distracting areas, with high-value treats. I know this is hard when you may see other dogs on potty trips/walks, but try to only use your attention cue when you are positive she will be successful. If you call her over and over when she's already not able to focus, her name/cue will become background noise and it will lose it's value. Trying to train a dog that is over threshold is pretty useless and frustrating.

A muzzle is a great idea as a safety measure, just make sure you acclimate her to it slowly and positively. It could also be that you are actually seeing leash/barrier frustration. Some dogs get so excited to see other dogs, that when they are not able to greet them properly (on a leash, behind a fence etc), they get frustrated and it comes out as an aggressive looking explosion. With her being so young, I would doubt she's actually truly dog aggressive, but it is possible. If you have a friend with a nice, friendly adult dog you could test the waters once she's acclimated to wearing a muzzle. Just make sure her leash is loose (or let her drag it if you are in a safe area), so she doesn't feel that tension/frustration. If she does end up being dog aggressive as an adult, you will have some pretty intense management on your hands, living in an apartment with lots of other dogs coming and going. It CAN be done, but you need to work with her A LOT to teach her to keep her attention on you and not lunge/bark or harass other dogs. And, you will need to be vigilant to make sure accidents don't happen, for her safety and others. If you don't feel like you can accommodate this, then it may be better to rehome her before you get too bonded to each other. Getting with a good trainer will help point you in the right direction! Good luck, she's gorgeous!
Thank you so much for the helpful advise! While I have been trying my best to watch a lot of videos and read forums, I still am a first time dog owner and I know I can't do everything in the best way. I have gotten attached to her and I would like to give it my best shot I but I understand, like you mentioned, that it could be very difficult and that I may not be the most equipt to handle this situation. I will have a discussion with the trainer and see what they have to say; whether they think it's beyond the abilities of a first time dog owner or if they think she'll be happier in a less stressful environment.
 

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how is your dog at walking and the Heel command?
If your dog is good at walks - take it for a walk with another dog. don't let them play or sniff each other just focus on your dog walking next to you. while another dog walks next to their owner.

When dogs go on walks together like that they develop a comradery
 

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This is often broadly called 'leash reactivity', and a fairly common issue with many dogs. It's important to keep in mind that this is a very vague, broad umbrella term that people use for everything from serious, active, 'my dog wants to kill that other dog' aggression to 'my puppy doesn't know leash manners yet and gets super happy-excited when they see a person', but it can be a useful phrase when trying to research and learn more about the behavior.

My first suggestion is to check out Feisty Fido by Dr. Patricia McConnell - it's a great primer on why this behavior happens and how to work with it (and why the techniques work). Not a very long book at all, and quite affordable, as well as available immediately as an e-book. It's written in a very logical, easy to understand way and doesn't require a lot of dog experience or dog behavior knowledge. The muzzle idea is wonderful - the reality of her breed is that if anything happens, even if she's not at fault, she'll likely be blamed, so having a tool like a muzzle that sends a signal to other people that maybe they shouldn't let their rude dog get in her face and reduces the risk of her causing serious damage is a good call. Check out the Muzzle Up! Project for great advice on choosing a muzzle and training a dog to wear it happily and comfortably.

My second suggestion is to consider a consultation with a dog trainer or behaviorist who specifically works with reactivity issues. Many are doing remote consults these days. I suggest this because this is your first dog, so it can be really valuable to have experienced eyes watching your dog and talking you through what's happening. I'd suggest looking for someone certified through a reputable third party, such as the APDT or CCPDT. These organizations only certify trainers and behaviorists who have demonstrated a certain level of scientifically backed knowledge about dog behavior and learning, and/or who have put in a certain number of hours doing hands-on training (depending on the level of certification). This helps turn the odds in your favor that you'll find someone up to date and knowledgeable about modern dog training, compared to just picking someone at random, because 'dog trainer' isn't a protected title, so essentially anyone can call themselves that and take your money, even if they have no idea what they're doing. There's still the occasional bad apple that gets through a certification program, but it's a good place to start!

Overall, I agree with the rest of the advice you've gotten. Work on focus and bonding indoors whenever possible. She doesn't know you or the area well yet, so she may be feeling extra insecure and on-edge, which won't help matters. If she's whining about the other dogs when you're working at distance, you're too close. If possible (easier said than done, I know), move even farther away until she can look at the dogs without getting worked up at all. Your goal shouls 100% be 'will ignore or behave neutrally around other dogs', not 'will play happily with every dog ever', and with that in mind, try to avoid her ever meeting other dogs on-leash if possible. This might sound silly now, but even if she calms down and seems interested in other dogs, you do not want to teach her that every dog she meets on leash is a potential playmate or social hour, just part of the environment that doesn't concern her. Even with her behavior and the muzzle, you may find the occasional person who wants to approach her with their dog, so be prepared to be her advocate (and even rude if necessary) and tell them firmly that no, she needs space, your dog can not meet my dog.

This kind of behavior could be dog aggression (genuinely wanting to attack and hurt the other dogs because they're other dogs), but it can also be fear based (putting on a big show to get the other dog to go away, because the leash means she feels trapped and can't run) or even excitement/frustration (wanting to go say 'hi' SO BADLY that she throws a tantrum because the leash is preventing her from getting over to them). With her age and history living safely with other dogs at the foster, I'd suspect it's one of the latter two, not the first. But you absolutely should be working on this now, while she is still young and learning, so that you get it under control and it doesn't escalate as it becomes an ingrained habit. This behavior IS something that can be improved, especially with early intervention on a young dog!
 

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Your puppy looks absolutely beautiful. I had the same problem before, with my mastiff. I used slip lead, dominance, and walking him in the places where a lot of people with dogs. Now I have a Bully kutta, who been trained as a puppy to be a fighting dog. So, the same problem and the same solution. This time it was more difficult because of summer lockdown, but anyway noticeable changes. If you have a problem with puppy behaviour don't run away from it. Face it and overcome it. What I would do. 1m long slip lead high on his neck, the dog goes with me, not in front. Jerk lead if he starts looking at the other dog. Do not him a chance to go emotionally high, immediate correction, and you will be fine.
 

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If there's any chance this behavior has a fear or anxiety component, I'd urge caution in using corrections or punishments. You may suppress the unwanted behavior this way, maybe even for the long term, but it can definitely worsen the underlying anxiety issue and create more insecurity in general, causing behavioral issues to crop up in other parts of life. This is where having a qualified professional evaluate your dog's individual behavior and give you an idea of what's most likely causing it can be useful in selecting the right training approach.
 
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