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First, hi everyone! I'm a volunteer at an animal shelter and am planning to adopt a dog in about a month, when I'm finally living in a house that will allow it.

I've developed a soft spot for one of the dogs there named Arlo. He's an Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix, with possibly some other things. He's about a year old, and he's very smart and good on the leash, but what concerns me is that he doesn't seem very well socialized. It took me a while for him to get to know me and now we get along great, but when I brought my friend to the shelter to see the dogs he barked at her in a non-friendly way. Also, on the playmates list at the shelter, Arlo has none. There was one dog that he used to play with, but she got adopted and they were only okay together very recently. He acts very aggressively around other dogs and will do things like cage fight, where he barks and bites at the backs of the kennels when he can hear the dogs on the other side.

While I have experience with dogs and I have done lots of research and am always looking to learn more about dog training, I'm wondering if you think that Arlo's problems sound fixable? I don't mind if it takes a bit of work, but I want to eventually be able to have a semi-normal lifestyle with Arlo if I adopt him. I don't want to have to put him outside every time someone new comes over. He lives up to his breed standard and gets very intense about things. We'll be walking on the leash fine, and then he'll see a dog and he'll be on his hind legs leaning into the leash and selectively deaf. He will also growl at strangers, children especially, and that worries me.

I really have a soft spot for this dog and am willing to make it work, but he will be the first dog I've ever owned and I don't want to adopt him and then have to give him back because I can't provide him with the ideal lifestyle. Any thoughts/ideas for training him would be great. I obviously can't do much right now because I'm only a volunteer and there are limits on what I can do with a dog, but I'd like to know if he sounds like he'll be able to adapt.
 

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I think you're very realistic....it will be a semi-normal relationship. Missing out on the early socialization can't be overcome 100%. ...you can only hope for a manageable lifestyle. That means he might never get along with other dogs enough to play with in a nice manner. At best, with alot of training, he should just ignore them.

The people issue is much easier to resolve. This a high energy dog that needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation. If it were me, I would want to know how his sight and sound reactivity is. If he's very reactive to both, then you've really got your work cut out for you and it won't be quick or easy to overcome. Envision barking at everything...lunging at the windows....unable to go for car rides...etc.
 

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I've been led to believe that dogs of all ages are adaptable... You can't teach a dog new tricks... We all find that to be bs don't we?

I'm coming from experience here: My dog Donatello was a rescue from an animal shelter; I have no idea what his past was like, but it must have been terrible! He's shy around anyone he doesn't know, and by know I mean live with. People at the park, the stores, around the complex here can't get within two feet of him and he's hiding behind me... He is getting better, but I've had him since December of last year.

He's a lot of work. A lot of emotional and mental work... Training him has been difficult because he reacts as if I'm punishing him. I can't raise the tone of my voice, change his routine, change something that I do without him putting his ears back and shaking in his boots...

He's my first dog as well... I didn't realize he'd be this way, he doesn't act like a normal dog unless he's around other dogs he's comfortable with...

I would say think it over... Are you willing to commit your life to turning around this dog's perspective on things? Are you willing to have set-backs at times? Are you willing to watch how you train him, discipline him, socialize him?

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing, I'd still adopt Donatello, even if I knew he'd be the way he is... Because despite his restraints he is the best dog I've ever called mine... Sometimes, the dogs that have the hardest life, find you for a reason and you're lucky enough to develop a bond that's unbreakable... : )
 

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I understand what you're saying about your dog but this may be the type of dog that's not going to hide behind OP. I'm going to also assume he is not in a rural area. Urban living is much more difficult. The old dog new tricks does not apply here as there is much more going on than tricks. OP is there a way to try dog out of the rescue environment for a period of time to see how it works out. I would suggest caution is needed before you jump in totally. You may be correct in the assumption of being over dogged.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the replies everyone!

First, I just want to say I know he's a very high energy breed of dog. I've mentally prepared myself to accept I'll have to take him on regular trips to the park/runs. This is one of the main reasons I'm interested in him, though, because I want a running buddy (seeing as being a female running alone is scary and one of my biggest de-motivators for me exercising). Also, I really admire the strong bond and loyalty ACDs tend to have (aka "velcro dogs"). I am hoping that once he's out of the shelter and has me as a forever owner in a regular house, he'll become more stable and responsive to me.

As for my area.. Right now it's up in the air exactly which house I'll be living in (aka I don't want to jinx it), but there's a very strong likelihood I'll be getting a house that has a small yard. Like I said, though, it's not like I'm expecting him to just exercise himself in the yard. Also, he's not 100% dog aggressive. He did have a playmate once before. I feel like this could be possible again, with the right training and socialization.

Thanks for your story, Deege.. though it is probably going to be the opposite of my situation. He's a tough little guy so he often doesn't even realized he's being punished (unless you're withholding something he wants). But it's good to know that people can live with dogs who aren't perfectly amazing already.

Here's his adoption page, in case you guys want to see him: http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=12763816 :)

Hopefully he will be able to be re-socialized and eventually I won't have to have a panic attack if someone's unleashed dog runs up to greet us (this is a big problem where I live - nobody listens to leash laws).. I mean, what would I do in that situation? Hope the other dog realizes Arlo's going to eat him if he doesn't run away? If you guys have any tips on how I could go about teaching him to basically chill out, that would be great! It obviously won't be the same as socializing a puppy. The house I'm in is pretty close to a school and a park, so there's plenty of chances for me to put him in high people situations. Any reading/suggestions you have for me on adult dog socialization and/or ACD-like dogs would be great!
 

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Thanks for your story, Deege.. though it is probably going to be the opposite of my situation. He's a tough little guy so he often doesn't even realized he's being punished (unless you're withholding something he wants). But it's good to know that people can live with dogs who aren't perfectly amazing already.
That was the point I was trying to make, and obviously I should have said it as such.

I shared my story as to inform you that you can take a mentally/emotionally challenged dog and change them (so to speak) through training.

I wasn't trying to diminish the work it would take, that's why I said I would think really hard before making a final decision. : )

If I could put a percentage on how much I think Donatello is DA, I would say he's 35% DA, from being 67%. (And those are the chances of him snapping and snarling at a strange dog.) I started taking him to a dog park in January, early in the morning before everyone would arrive; I'd let him burn off his energy and then by that time others started arriving, and I just kept him separate from the others and just let them sniff each other through the fence. Finally, after him snarling and snapping as his first reaction, he'd start wagging his tail to dogs he was growing comfortable with. That took a couple months. Now... After doing that, he wags his tail as a greeting to just about any dog.

Donatello was instantly smitten with me, just for the sheer fact I rescued him from the evil Hell he knew as the animal-shelter... However, it took a couple weeks of continuously loving each other for our bond to form, but now we're inseparable.

That might not even be an option with the dog in your case, but that's just the experience I've had. I found it harder to get Donatello re-socialized to other dogs than it was socializing a puppy for the first time. lol!

Good luck to you, and getting your home and with the dog. : )
 

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Do you have the resources to have a trainer/behaviorists do some private lessons with you? I would consider that a neccessity to adopting this dog since you have not had dogs before and don't have experience with aggressive/reactive dogs. If you can afford and will do some private lessons to work specifically on this issue (as well as maybe taking a basic obedience class) then I would say go for it.

He is very cute btw.
 

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Do you have the resources to have a trainer/behaviorists do some private lessons with you? I would consider that a neccessity to adopting this dog since you have not had dogs before and don't have experience with aggressive/reactive dogs. If you can afford and will do some private lessons to work specifically on this issue (as well as maybe taking a basic obedience class) then I would say go for it.
I couldn't agree with this more. You really are going to need help rehabilitating this dog. I recently adopted my own fearful/shy dog and it's not an easy task. I have read everything I could get my hands on and we're in classes right now. My Mayzie is more of a "flight" type of fearful dog, not a "fight" type like the one you're considering. But she is still a challenge and we have put a LOT of time, money and energy into helping her. However, it has all been worth it to us because she has given us even more back in return.

I also agree with trying to get the dog out of the shelter environment and see how he reacts. As I'm sure you already know, the true personalities of some dogs are hard to see in a stressful place like a shelter.

It sounds like you're taking the right steps to really think this through and I applaud you for that. If only everyone did the same thing, there would be far fewer dogs in shelters. Good luck and please let us know what you decide!
 

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because the dog is aggressive with strqangers you will have to accept never having anyone over at your house unless your wiling to crate the dog. it should not be allowed to wander the house with a strange human around.

This dog will probably never be a normal, happy go luckly, pet me pet me kind of dog. and he will always require a very diligent handler.
 

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If you decide to go ahead with this adoption I would find a good trainer. Are you prepared for a dog off lead to approach you and the dog? That will be a very tough situation if that dog is fence fighter.
 

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It's too much unless your willing to do whatever it takes to get him over it.

Which could be just getting enough exercise daily to wear him out regularly and a little training. That type of dog can get problems if it's frustrated without enough activity.
 

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I work in the behavior and training department at the spcaLA and I would like to point out that shelter behavior and "real life" behavior are two very different things. I cannot count the number of times I have seen a dog's personality do a complete 180 (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse) the moment it stepped into a new owner's home.

You should certainly be prepared for the worst if you choose to adopt this dog, but you might also consider that some of these issues are exacerbated by the shelter environment.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Since I'm adopting from within my county I'll be able to get a couple of free lessons from a professional trainer - so I'll definitely do that with him. Hopefully once he gets out of the shelter he'll feel better. Thanks for all the replies! :) All really helpful stuff!
 
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