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My dog is not 101% trustworthy off-leash. He's pretty good considering I've had him only a month now, and everyone is always surprised when I say I need to keep him on a leash because when I do go out of sight he freaks out.. but today I had something happened that really bothered me.

I take him to a fenced in tennis court sometimes to play fetch and let him stretch his legs. Today there were two guys playing tennis, but it's a double court and the guys said it would be okay so I figured we would be fine. Now, Zeke has barked at bigger guys before if they do anything "scary" like move, or pick up big objects or look directly at him and be manly.. but these tennis players were across the way and doing their own thing. Not even that big of guys.

He fetches the ball twice with absolutely no problems. Then, coming back from the third time, I can see he's getting distracted by the tennis players and going a bit deaf (not responding when I called him, etc). He started to come back, and then he ran away again towards the closest male tennis player and made a big circle around him, barking at him (with the tennis ball in his mouth too, really scary, haha) and standing up the fur on his back. It was obvious he was intimidated by the guy, but it frustrates me that because he FEARS this man, he thinks it's a really good idea to go over and be annoying and "scary."

He is a shelter dog who I believe was beaten before I got him, but I seriously don't know any big guys who could help me with Zeke, so having them give him treats and be real nice and all that isn't much of an option right now.

If this was your dog, what would you do? He listens to me if I get in between him and the man he's barking at, but long distance like that I might as well have been yelling at a brick wall. It's not a huge problem for our lifestyle if he doesn't like men, it's just a problem the way he acts out this dislike and absolutely will not back off. I really don't think he would, but sometimes I worry he might bite someone out of fear who tried to get too close.
 

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There is a REALLY good book on this you can get from www.dogwise.com called "Scaredy Dog" by Ali Brown (Certified Professional Dog Trainer). It will teach you what to do.

In the mean time, do not set your dog up for this behavior. IOW's if there are tennis players in the court, do not use the area. This behavior is VERY self rewarding.

While your dog may be good off leash now due to his shelter insecurities, a day may well come when he is not so insecure and he may start to blow you off a bit. Remember, you have had him one month so this is very new to both of you. so, even tho he is obedienct and off leash now, you should still practice in every place imaginable all his obedience commands on leash. This will proof the behavior (that is the formal word for what you are doing) so you increase the chance of him doing those behaviors on cue every place you go.. all the strange places you have never been.

You also need to teach, and proof, an attenion word. I am so original.. I use "attention..." :rolleyes: A lot of people use "watch" or "Look." whenever he looks at your face, say the word and give him a treat. Try to build duration into this. Do this for a week 2-3X a day in a non distracting place and then move up to more distrating places so you can ask for his attention anywhere and at any time and get it.

The fact that he was barking and circling and ignoring your commands shows you how very self rewarding this behavior is to him (on one hand) as well as how fear aggression can escalate and get out of control (on the other hand). Avoid having him off leash in those situations and, better yet, do not put him in those situatuions until you get a chance to do some of the exercises in the Scaredy Dog book.

This is a behavior you can stop NOW before it escalates and makes it into a behavior that is much much harder to change or control.

Oh yes.. do NOT punish him for the behavior. Dogs that do this will most often associate your punishment with the thing they are aggressing at. I am not saying you did any punishing.. just saying it in case you have considered it or for anyone stumbling on this thread.
 

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My dog is not 101% trustworthy off-leash.
Good reason to never have him off leash until he is reliable. There are really good threads on the forum for how to do this.

Then, coming back from the third time, I can see he's getting distracted by the tennis players and going a bit deaf (not responding when I called him, etc).
Perfect! You recognized a behavior before it escalated. That's the time to step in and avert it.

It was obvious he was intimidated by the guy, but it frustrates me that because he FEARS this man, he thinks it's a really good idea to go over and be annoying and "scary."
Barking probably worked for him in the past to get something he feared to go away. So he's going to keep doing it until he learns a different way to behave in this situation. It would be a little concerning to me that he approached the thing he fears like that. Coming from an abusive background, you don't know what is in this dog's response repetoire. Again you're much safer never letting him off leash when he can have access to anything he fears, esp. people. You need to be able to change his response and to do that you have to be Johnny on the spot.

I seriously don't know any big guys who could help me with Zeke, so having them give him treats and be real nice and all that isn't much of an option right now.
So he's ok with men of average height or shorter ones? Regardless, unless you plan on avoiding all tall men for the rest of your dog's life, you don't have any choice but to teach him that all men = treats = great stuff.

It's not a huge problem for our lifestyle if he doesn't like men, it's just a problem the way he acts out this dislike and absolutely will not back off. I really don't think he would, but sometimes I worry he might bite someone out of fear who tried to get too close.
IMO it is a huge problem. How will you avoid having him around men his whole life? And if your lifestyle includes having him off leash, not only is it a problem, it's a huge liability if he bites someone because you couldn't get there fast enough. And even if you're standing right next to him, he's way faster than you could ever be and can bite someone with one quick lunge even if you have him on a choke collar and leash.

I'm rereading a small book by Patricia McConnell that deals exactly with the situation of a dog being afraid of strangers. It's called "The Cautious Canine" - very good use of $7. My dog is still hesitant about strangers who come over to our new house, so I'm going back to the beginning and retraining using the steps outlined in the book. You can use them for anything the dog is afraid of. I would highly recommend it.

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/product/cautious-canine-dog-training-book
 

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While your dog may be good off leash now due to his shelter insecurities, a day may well come when he is not so insecure and he may start to blow you off a bit.
I don't think that he follows me around because he's insecure, I think he genuinely does it because we have a bond. I think this is also partially where the barking stems from. A lot of the times he won't care about it if we see a dog or another person walking on the leash together, but if I say "who is that?" or "is that a dog?" in an excited voice he can get pretty worked up and start barking. I've stopped doing that though, because I don't want to encourage the behavior.

Anyways, I understand that it is something he and I definitely need to work on... I'm planning on buying that Scaredy Dog book - it looks like it's very good for him. Thankyou. :)
 
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