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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi there, my partner and I rescued a blue heeler mix at almost 4,5 months old. He’s now 6,5 months old. We decided on getting a active dog as our dog is supposed to be companion to on be our side at all times. We’re very outgoing people and totally committed to give him the exercise (physically and mentally) he needs, and so far that’s worked out pretty well.
Just a little bit about what we do and what he’s like:
He goes on 2-3 walks a day and I train with positive reinforcement only all throughout the day for 5-20 min at a time. He’s quite easy to be pleased and train when at home and knows how to settle. Walks have also been mostly pleasant and he doesn’t pull too much on leash or shows any signs of reactivity to anything (he’s rather walking behind me being distracted by smells etc). So far he’s been super friendly with all dogs and people he’s met. He’s also just the absolute snuggle bug and loves human affection.
HOWEVER: there’s one particular situation where he does not seem to cope at all. We love going to the park on warm sunny days and lately it’s been getting warmer here in Australia. There’s usually a lot of people having Picknicks, bringing their dogs and kids. A lot of stimulation and stuff going on. The dogs aren’t supposed to be off leash in most parts and only in assigned areas. Our dog has always been on leash with us when we had Picknicks, but he doesn’t seem to be able to deal with all the stimulation at all. He’s not scared, but rather overly excited, he just wants to run up to people and dogs and play, and won’t settle. And while I can deal with him just being a wiggly and excited nippy puppy, his frustration of being restrained turns into quite intense biting, causing me to bruise badly and not able to calm him down besides my best intends. This usually happens quickly after 15minutes of settling down. I tried ignoring him, turning away, rewarding every moment of calm behaviour with treats, toys and pets and usually give him a puzzle toy to occupy himself with. But once the food runs out and he’s bored he’ll bite, bark, growl at me again and it’s usually the person restraining him on the leash that he’ll lash out to. From what I’ve read this is not necessary aggressive behaviour but a frustration that turns into aggression. I also don’t think it’s playful. It’s him trying to get attention and wanting to be let off the leash and explore. Usually when this happens I’ll get up and walk around for a bit let him sniff, or do a quick little training session. But he needs attention NON STOP to not act out. Prior to a park session, I take him for a big walk and make him run around and play fetch to get that excess energy out of him, but it doesn’t really seem to work.
He knows all the basic impulse control training, such as waiting for food and to go outside and to “leave it” his basic obedience like sit, down, stay, etc. is pretty good as well. but in his frustrated mindset the only thing that snaps him out is food as distraction.
I know he’s still just a puppy and I unfortunately don’t know anything about his background in terms of early socialisation.
He’ll also try to bite me when he’s off leash (in safe areas with less distractions) and I’m going to collect him to put him back on leash.
I’ve been working with a trainer that said to give him a treat everytime I grab the harness to put the leash back on and for every calm moment. I also handfeed a lot and work on “drop it” and “leave it”
But I really need some advice.. my arm currently looks like I’ve been self harming - So many bites and hefty bruises.. he’ll literally find anything he can bite and jump up to, currently I can sort of take it but soon he’ll be much bigger and stronger and that terrifies me. I have to add: I don’t yell or hurt him, I just freeze or try to give him a toy or treat to get him back into work mode.
I’m running out of ideas.. I want him to come with us wherever we go when possible, and I want him to learn how to be in highly distracting places and settle without going THIS crazy. I’ve been going to the park by myself solely for the purpose of mat training and settling down, mainly early in the morning when distractions aren’t this much yet, but it just doesn’t seem to get any better. I usually just have to go home or don’t take him with me in the first place.
What’s the best approach here? What training techniques can be beneficial? Everyone keeps telling me he’ll grow out of it once he matures ans he’s just a puppy + being a blue heeler, and while I believe there’s some truth to it, it doesn’t really feel it should be this extrem and needs to be worked on. I really wanna fix his frustration threshold and socialise him. I also have to add that this behaviour basically never happens in any other situations. He’s mostly an angel at home and on walks. I also may have to mention that he’s not allowed to meet every person and dog he sees.
Should I avoid the park with him altogether to prevent the situation from happening. Or will that make it worse in the long run because he’s never exposed to it? I feel like everytime this happens its gotten worse next time, so maybe I’m asking too much of him? I’ve been working on a proper recall as well so at some stage I can let him off leash but that won’t help us in on leash areas when sitting down.
Also here is a photo of my arm to show you what I mean. That photo was taken straight after. (Proper bruises coming today 😭😅)
Recommendation and similar experience welcome.
Thank you!!
Sleeve Gesture Knee Elbow Thigh
 

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First of all get rid of the (damned) harness and get a limited slip martingale collar. This will give you a lot more control.

When he is off leash, let him drag the leash and you merely step on it and then pick it up. At HOME where there is less stimulation, make putting the leash on and taking it off an obedience game. Use food or toy to teach.

The other where he is "climbing the leash" (biting the handler) is absolutely frustration. Have you been letting him meet other dogs? If yes, stop that NOW. He does not need to meet other dogs. He does not need to go to dog parks. All that is rubbish.

What he needs is to learn to focus on YOU. He also is a bit young to be going anywhere and expecting him to settle while tied up.

I suggest two things.
Teach him "Go to Matt" and bring the matt with you on an outing (rolled up bath matt will work). Teach him to "go to matt" when out. Do NOT expect duration (like an afternoon at the park). Make this a training exercise. If you are going for an afternoon out, leave him home (at this stage!).

Second, IF there are no loose dogs, bring a raw meaty bone or a Kong filled with plain Yogurt (freeze it so it lasts longer). Have him "go to matt" and give him the Kong to fool with.

The object here is to keep him under threshold. Once he is all worked up and climbing the leash you are all done teaching anything. At that point take him out of that overstimulating environment and take him home.

He is still a baby at 6.5 months old. You cannot expect a Toddler to settle for a few hours with so much "stuff" out there to see and explore. It us the same with a puppy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
First of all get rid of the (damned) harness and get a limited slip martingale collar. This will give you a lot more control.

When he is off leash, let him drag the leash and you merely step on it and then pick it up. At HOME where there is less stimulation, make putting the leash on and taking it off an obedience game. Use food or toy to teach.

The other where he is "climbing the leash" (biting the handler) is absolutely frustration. Have you been letting him meet other dogs? If yes, stop that NOW. He does not need to meet other dogs. He does not need to go to dog parks. All that is rubbish.

What he needs is to learn to focus on YOU. He also is a bit young to be going anywhere and expecting him to settle while tied up.

I suggest two things.
Teach him "Go to Matt" and bring the matt with you on an outing (rolled up bath matt will work). Teach him to "go to matt" when out. Do NOT expect duration (like an afternoon at the park). Make this a training exercise. If you are going for an afternoon out, leave him home (at this stage!).

Second, IF there are no loose dogs, bring a raw meaty bone or a Kong filled with plain Yogurt (freeze it so it lasts longer). Have him "go to matt" and give him the Kong to fool with.

The object here is to keep him under threshold. Once he is all worked up and climbing the leash you are all done teaching anything. At that point take him out of that overstimulating environment and take him home.

He is still a baby at 6.5 months old. You cannot expect a Toddler to settle for a few hours with so much "stuff" out there to see and explore. It us the same with a puppy.
Thanks for your response. That’s really reaffirming. I actually have gotten a slip leash just yesterday as it had been recommended to me. I’ve also been working on Matt training and giving him a chewy or Kong to occupy, however I’m realising I was expecting too much of him and thought I was failing him. I’ve stopped letting him meet other dogs on walks pretty early on after I’ve been told it’s not necessary and rather causes issues. So not too many issues there. But yeah obviously he’s still super young.. I’ll definitely stop taking him with me when I’m going out for more than his threshold can bare and only take him for training purposes for the time being. ☺
 
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