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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

My 1 year old lab mix pup has been really challenging me in some ways, and I'd like to get some input. The two primary challenges are:

1. Greeting other dogs on a leash is really difficult for us. When he spots another day, even when he/she is a block or two, away, he gets down on the ground. It is nearly impossible to get him to move, even with treats. If allowed to stay that way and the other dog keeps coming, when the dog is very close, he'll jump up and try to play. It's friendly, and his tail is wagging, but sometimes he scares/surprises the other dog and both dog/owner panic. I've gotten yelled at several times! :redface: How do I teach him not to do this? He does not do this off leash at the park. I know one option is to just not let him meet other dogs on leash, but that feels like I'm not actually addressing the problem. If I DON'T let him meet another dog while he is on leash, he throws a temper tantrum with barking and lunging. We are working on this using some tools recommended in this forum to me previously (CARE method), but I'm not seeing much progress. I'm giving him great treats, lots of exposure, etc. but am not seeing progress. It's super frustrating.

2. Typically at the dog park, he is a happy go lucky dog. Playful, gets along with everyone, and is typically neither dominant nor submissive. However, one dog that has recently been coming to the park is a VERY intense player. The two of them gravitate towards each other and engage in very rough and vocal play. I'm pretty sure they are not fighting, but sometimes it becomes hard to tell. They get each other very riled up and it's impossible to get them to play with other dogs or focus on anything else. The last one or two times it's happened, he's gotten so riled up that he tries to exert dominance. He is more prone to trying to hump that dog, and whereas before they would pin each other down and then let go (and switch roles), now he is pinning her down for much longer. When they are in this crazed mode, neither responds to voice commands or treats, so sometimes we just try to physically separate them and give them a breather. I'm not sure if this has a specific question as much as just looking for input to quell some of my anxiety. I am just starting to get really nervous when I bring him and that dog is there because I need to be managing the situation without clearly being able to tell if they are ok. It also makes me nervous because he has not played like that with anyone else, so I want to make sure he doesn't adapt that play style with all other dogs (too stressful for me!). So I guess I want some suggestions on how to manage that entire situation. Thankfully the other dog's owner is very friendly, so we can talk things out if we need.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Both on-leash greetings and dog parks can promote pushy, rowdy, and reactive behavior in dog-social dogs.

I would avoid both situations, for now, and start from there. Because every time your dog practices these behaviors they become more strongly reinforced. And, maybe not intentionally, but you are actively reinforcing these behaviors by allowing him to greet other dogs on walks and by taking him to the dog park.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Sure, but I can't avoid them for the rest of my life. I live in a city where there are dogs EVERYWHERE, so avoidance is nearly impossible. So, ok, I avoid it for a month, or even a year, and then what? How do we get to a place where there are no longer issues for us?

Thanks.
 

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Usually, and by that I mean nearly always, maturity takes away a dog's strong desire to socialize and play with other dogs all on its own. Kind of like humans outgrowing the nightclub or bar scene (not all like it to start with, but of those that do most eventually find it less and less appealing as they grow up more). That happens faster and without making ingrained habits if the dog isn't allowed to practice those behaviors. You don't need to do much except manage and let him grow up.
 

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As others have said, a lot of this is time and maturity. Keep working with the advice you've received here previously. It takes TIME.

Humping isn't necessarily a sign of dominance, its often a sign of over arousal or overexcitement. That is something that dogs grow out of oftentimes, too, as they adopt more appropriate play methods and are able to control themselves better. Humping often begins to disappear. When you see him starting to get in that type of mood, it is time to separate him and give him a breather or just leave the park (I found that my dog was more prone to hump and be obnoxious when he was overtired, too, so it was just time to settle down). Young dogs are also often notoriously rude and obnoxious players, and if you're having difficulty calling him away from those situations, it is probably best to forgo the dog park so he's not learning that he can get away with that behavior.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I appreciate the advice you're both sharing. I guess this is just a complicated period for us. As a younger pup, he was great at the dog park, and it sounds like as an adult, he may go back to that. Right now, he is usually fine but every once in awhile, if he encounters a dog that gets over-excited, then he does too, and then things escalate. Also I appreciate the clarification about when humping happens. I'm not trying to play devil's advocate here, but what I'm wondering is: if I don't take him to the dog park and he does not practice appropriate behaviors (and does not get corrected by other dogs), how will he learn? If I bring him back in a year, the entire situation might be confusing and overwhelming for him.

He's also a super social dog, and is a nuisance around the house if he doesn't get playtime (doesn't matter if we take him on a 2 hour walk or even a run). I suppose in the meanwhile, we can do a few playdates and he can go to doggy daycare, but both of those are much more challenging than the park.

At what point do dogs typically outgrow this? I'm sure it's different for each one, but what....2 years? 5 years?
 

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You don't bring him back in a year. You don't bring him back EVER.

Dog parks are simply something that should not be on the dog's agenda.

If you sit and watch a dog park all day (in a place with moderate dog traffic) you will eventually see a fight. If you are really observant you will see how the dynamic of a dog park is often a really negative experience for a lot of dogs.
 

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I appreciate the advice you're both sharing. I guess this is just a complicated period for us. As a younger pup, he was great at the dog park, and it sounds like as an adult, he may go back to that. Right now, he is usually fine but every once in awhile, if he encounters a dog that gets over-excited, then he does too, and then things escalate. Also I appreciate the clarification about when humping happens. I'm not trying to play devil's advocate here, but what I'm wondering is: if I don't take him to the dog park and he does not practice appropriate behaviors (and does not get corrected by other dogs), how will he learn? If I bring him back in a year, the entire situation might be confusing and overwhelming for him.

He's also a super social dog, and is a nuisance around the house if he doesn't get playtime (doesn't matter if we take him on a 2 hour walk or even a run). I suppose in the meanwhile, we can do a few playdates and he can go to doggy daycare, but both of those are much more challenging than the park.

At what point do dogs typically outgrow this? I'm sure it's different for each one, but what....2 years? 5 years?
I would choose your dog's playmates carefully and have playdates rather than throw him in a dog park. Perhaps try to find a calmer, adult dog that likes to play but is less likely to become over aroused and delivers appropriate corrections (and corrections are often not noticeable to humans. It can be simply turning away and ending play). Obedience classes are great places to find playmates. We found a number of dogs at our classes that have similar play styles to my dog, and we'll have occasional play dates that are safe and fun for everybody because the dogs are familiar with each other and like to play the same way to begin with (my dog likes to be chased and chase, so we typically play with other herding dogs, haha).

As for when they reach maturity, it really depends on the dog. Most say between 3-4 years old. I guess my dog quit the humping thing around 1.5 years, and at nearly 3 years I would say he has a pretty well-rounded set of social skills and is generally polite. But, at maturity they may also decide that they don't put up with certain behaviors as they did before. Like, my dog would generally deal with young teenage pups jumping all over him, but now if they are too rude he will correct (appropriately). So, I wouldn't ever put him with a rude puppy who might not take a correction, or I would be very sure to separate if the pup couldn't take a hint so he would never have to make an inappropriate correction. That type of control and playmate selection is difficult at dog parks.
 

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Ha! Your Atlas sounds like my Atlas...

Mine will absolutely stare down other dogs, though most that we meet out and about just look at him as a rude teenager and move on with no issues. He often does not lunge or do anything, thankfully. But I am *really* making an effort to work on that. I can't yet get him to watch me while other dogs go by, but I can get him to sit politely (he too will lay down and be drug along because he's too intent on watching the other dog) and take a treat before the dog passes and immediately after they pass. Once they are out of his bubble we can usually proceed on like normal. So I'm hopeful! Haha.

I've taken my Atlas to one dog park (extremely nice, huge park with plenty of kms to walk) and he promptly forgot everything he ever learned - including his name. It was a nerve wreaking experience for me, though I'm sure he had a blast! So now we stick to playing with appropriate dogs. Between family and friends he probably has about 10 dogs he interacts with on a regular to semi-regular basis. (One belongs to my parents and they have a WICKED fun time playing - she often will seem to be waiting for us to come for a visit. They get to play a couple times a week, if not more.) I could go on, but the long story short is I'm glad he has these 'friends' and I don't have to worry about him having a bad interaction. Definitely worth it for me! (On the days he seems bored and whiney, we train. He's got an intermediate trick dog title, we've done some rally obedience classes and working through that or teaching him something new - usually means he's good for a nap afterwards! The saying that training will tire them out as much if not more than running is right. I didn't necessarily believe it completely, but it works for my dog.)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks, all. As per usual, you've been super helpful not just with the advice you've provided but in reminding me that all dogs have their quirks and it doesn't mean that I've failed him as a dog mom.

Does anyone have recommendations for what to do in regards to his laying down when dogs approach? I'm not sure if I'm handling the situation correctly or making it worse. Typically, I try to wave a high value treat in his face and get him to focus on me, which typically doesn't work, even if the other dog is 2 blocks away. Then I physically have to lift him by his harness and drag him away, all while he is still looking backwards. I try to be excited and offer treats so he doesn't think seeing another dog is scary. For anyone who recommends avoidance, that's not really an option. I already try to avoid encountering other dogs, but he might spot one 2 blocks away and do this, so I need to be able to react somehow. I feel like allowing him to stay there lying down will just teach him that he wins; he can force me to stay and let him meet the other dog.

And as I mentioned, in parallel, we are doing training on leash reactivity, to desensitize him to other dogs.

Thanks!
 

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Retrievers tend to mature around 3yo, but Labs can stay young until physically unable to play.

Labs are high energy, tough dogs, but they can easily learn to self-handicap and play with any animal. One path of research suggests that play is a substitute for prey drive, providing a less destructive outlet for all that energy. I strongly recommend that you try to set as many playdates as possible, b/c a tired Lab is one that does not eat your furniture and plasterboard. ;-) Although I don't recommend it, if you choose the dog park route, then when the dogs get over excited, then you (and the other owner) need to get in the middle, snap on the leash and have a 30 second (or even a 5 minute) timeout. I suggest a cue word, such as 'Calm' when they get rough, and just before you snap on the leash. Don't let the dogs stare at each other, but when they calm down, you can let them go back to playing, staying ready to separate when things escalate. This is a good practice whenever they play, and you can decide when the behavior is too much.

An interesting question is whether he self-handicaps when playing with a 3 - 6 mos male puppy, or if he is too rough. It may be worth learning the answer.

I agree that avoidance isn't needed in this case. Your Lab needs a greater variety of playmates to learn from and to tire him out. It sounds like he's fairly social, so interactions with other social dogs will improve his ability to adapt. You can try to train him, but putting him with role models will move him to stability much faster. You can read about this practice in Turid Rugaas's books.

The laying down is a common Lab trait, that I believe is similar to a play bow. I believe that it's an excited, immature "I want to play" request behavior that may evolve into a more polite pay bow request. I've seen most Labs grow out of it by 4yo, many stop by the time they are 3yo. Not all Labs do this, but I think it disappears with growing experience with more dogs.

If you want to push the issue, you might coordinate with other owners. When he lies down in stalk mode, ask him to Sit. If he doesn't sit, have the other owner and dog walk the other way. This is a modified - "It's Yer Choice" response. If he sits politely, they approach, and if he 'stalks' they walk away. You want to be consistent and repetitive so that he can learn action and reaction, and that he has control over the situation. The other dog is a very high value reward, more than food, it seems. So, removing the reward should be motivating, also.

Based on your description, he's a typical young Lab. It sounds like he has only one rough and tumble buddy, and that's at the park. If you have the time, patience, and resources, you might try finding more playmates, with playdates at least one per week, and as many as 3 per day for some days. If you look at some dogs who enjoy and play well at doggie daycare, they are tired, happy, and calm after a long day. Try getting 3 playdates one day and pay attention to the results, as well as his mood the next day. It may drain all that energy. Not suggesting doing it every day, but once or twice a week may help out. There are four dogs in my neighborhood that are completely placid the day after a 3 playdate day ... I think they'd love it, but we have lives and can't do it every day.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Retrievers tend to mature around 3yo, but Labs can stay young until physically unable to play.

Labs are high energy, tough dogs, but they can easily learn to self-handicap and play with any animal. One path of research suggests that play is a substitute for prey drive, providing a less destructive outlet for all that energy. I strongly recommend that you try to set as many playdates as possible, b/c a tired Lab is one that does not eat your furniture and plasterboard. ;-) Although I don't recommend it, if you choose the dog park route, then when the dogs get over excited, then you (and the other owner) need to get in the middle, snap on the leash and have a 30 second (or even a 5 minute) timeout. I suggest a cue word, such as 'Calm' when they get rough, and just before you snap on the leash. Don't let the dogs stare at each other, but when they calm down, you can let them go back to playing, staying ready to separate when things escalate. This is a good practice whenever they play, and you can decide when the behavior is too much.

An interesting question is whether he self-handicaps when playing with a 3 - 6 mos male puppy, or if he is too rough. It may be worth learning the answer.


I agree that avoidance isn't needed in this case. Your Lab needs a greater variety of playmates to learn from and to tire him out. It sounds like he's fairly social, so interactions with other social dogs will improve his ability to adapt. You can try to train him, but putting him with role models will move him to stability much faster. You can read about this practice in Turid Rugaas's books.

The laying down is a common Lab trait, that I believe is similar to a play bow. I believe that it's an excited, immature "I want to play" request behavior that may evolve into a more polite pay bow request. I've seen most Labs grow out of it by 4yo, many stop by the time they are 3yo. Not all Labs do this, but I think it disappears with growing experience with more dogs.

If you want to push the issue, you might coordinate with other owners. When he lies down in stalk mode, ask him to Sit. If he doesn't sit, have the other owner and dog walk the other way. This is a modified - "It's Yer Choice" response. If he sits politely, they approach, and if he 'stalks' they walk away. You want to be consistent and repetitive so that he can learn action and reaction, and that he has control over the situation. The other dog is a very high value reward, more than food, it seems. So, removing the reward should be motivating, also.



Based on your description, he's a typical young Lab. It sounds like he has only one rough and tumble buddy, and that's at the park. If you have the time, patience, and resources, you might try finding more playmates, with playdates at least one per week, and as many as 3 per day for some days. If you look at some dogs who enjoy and play well at doggie daycare, they are tired, happy, and calm after a long day. Try getting 3 playdates one day and pay attention to the results, as well as his mood the next day. It may drain all that energy. Not suggesting doing it every day, but once or twice a week may help out. There are four dogs in my neighborhood that are completely placid the day after a 3 playdate day ... I think they'd love it, but we have lives and can't do it every day.

Ok, I will try to do this (putting on leashes at the park when too intense) more. We have already done it a couple of times, but as soon as we let them loose, they immediately gravitate towards each other and start playing rough immediately.

As to self handicapting with pups, he does! He's recently been playing with a 4mo old yellow lab puppy and they are good together. He definitely self-handicaps because the pup seems happy and comfortable at all times. He has corrected the pup a few times though with a loud bark, like when the puppy is being too insistent or biting too hard.

Your advice on training him while on walks with other dogs is helpful, though I'm not sure about how to implement it in reality. If it's a dog he knows, he doesn't do this. So it's hard to find folks we DON'T know to do this training with him. I like the strategy though.

We have playdates for him at least twice a week and he really enjoys them. He does try to hump lots of dogs and not all owners are ok with that, which has limited our number of playmates.

I also appreciate hearing he's a typical young lab. It makes me somehow feel better that he's "normal." I have never had a dog at this age before, and I guess I'd though by now all of his pain socialization/learning would be complete and his behaviors would be more stable, but he is evolving every day. Something he has started this week is to lay down when people in the neighborhood approach. It's like he is nervous or worried about strangers, which he never used to be (he was always super outgoing and social, wanting to say hi to everyone!). Nothing has happened recently (like a stranger being mean), so I'm not sure why he's doing this! Tips on what to do? Again, I try laughing to make him feel like the person is not a threat, showing him treats, etc. but it seems like he's too concerned to care.
 

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First, implementing the details of what I suggested may not be as important as the fact that you understand what I'm trying to explain. Because, if you recognize it and have a better understanding, then you can come up with something that works for you.

Second, with self-handicapping and corrections, it works both ways - he 'trains' puppies, and older dogs train him. While he may bark at a 4 mos pup, he may snark or nip "at" a 6 mos pup who is still nipping too hard. And, the pup may roll back and shriek bloody murder ... but if the pup comes back there may not have been any contact, just a quick (surprising) reprimand. ;-) Similarly, I think your dog will gain by also playing with some adults that have traits that you would like him to learn.

My 80lb dog has 4 different, regular playmates. With a 50lb GSD, they may run, but they mostly play gently, wrestling, and taking turns ... for a few hours. With a smaller 30 - 40lb Lab mix, they run fast, wrestle roughly, growling and snarling for about 30 - 60 min. I feel this is his best friend. With an 70lb Aussie, he wrestles for about 30 min., mainly trying not to get nipped... And, with a yellow Lab, my dog is still trying to teach him how to stop humping and learn to engage in more wrestling and play behaviors.

The smaller dog taught my dog how to play, my dog taught the GSD, and still tries to teach the Aussie and the other Lab to play. Each has a different style of play, and my dog tries to adapt to each style of play.

I believe that the lying down is a 'lack of confidence' behavior, not sure of the intent of strangers. Also, dogs may go through a final fear cycle that lasts to about 18 mos. If he's not reactive, but just tentative, I think that continuing exposure with friendly strangers {maybe providing them some kibble to toss to him} and in 3 - 6 mos, he gain more experience and confidence to regain his "no one is a stranger" outgoing Lab personality. Again, I believe that most Labs can go through this brief phase in their social life. I don't think it's unusual.
 

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On leash greeting are asking for trouble. It promotes a hostile environment. Dogs can’t greet properly on leash because they can’t show their true posturing or smell each other properly. If you’re working on not letting him go up to dogs, but then slip and let him go to even ONE dog, it will undo any progress. He’ll just keep lunging because he knows it’s worked before to get him to the other dog.
So keep working on no leash greetings. If he’s too distracted to pay attention, back up and give him more space. If he won’t look at you, you’ve let him get over his threshold. Keep backing up until he does focus on you, then treat repeatedly until other dog is out of site. (Small tasty / smelly treats).
Is he neutered?
At the park, I would either suggest leaving if that other dog is there, or do make sure you call them apart Frequently and treat for doing so. This is only if other owner is on same page as you. Not being able to see the Interactions, it’s hard to say what’s best or safest. But if it’s intense, I’d just keep them apart. One wrong move and your dog could be seriously hurt. Just like humans, dogs all have different personalities and not everyone will get along.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I apologize for not responding earlier. I was away and am just catching up now. Thanks to everyone for the recommendations, we'll continue to work on this!
 
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