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· Registered
1 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone!

I posted a while ago about Bossa, a dog I was caring for in a shelter. He got adopted, but is back because he was too energic for the child of the family.

Since he came back, 2 - 3 months ago, I'm trying to work on his education ; alone , 1-2 hours a day. I'm not an expert at all so I'm here to seek your help !

To context a bit ; He's a young American Staff (2 yo). He had a poor early life. Got bouncd from family to family, got beaten and probably got attacked by dogs many times (he has white spot on his black coat like scars), we think that that is why he's so scared/hates so much dogs.
This is a dog that has a hell lot of energy, but he is super sweet with people he knows.
The problem about that, is that he barks a lot in his enclosure, which doesnt encourage people visiting to care about him. So I'm afraid he will stay here for a long time.

To try to fix this, we launched a little program for him and an othhr dog as a test ; program in which we will train him everyday (for the moment it is only sit/stay etc) and we added some toys for the concentrtion in hs enclosure (for exemple a Kong toy with food inside that has been put in the freeze so he takes a lot of time to eat it).

We're starting to see a little evolution inside the shelter/ he's more calm in his enclosure.

Here comes the problem : He's still going crazy everytime we cross an other dog on our walk. (He barks heavily, pull the leash extremely, etc)
I am the only one going on a walk with him every day (almost) for approx an hour.

For the moment the walk goes like this ; We leave the shelter and walk for about 20 minutes till we arrive to a countryside walk, where there is nothing around. The first 20 minutes he his still excited, isnt focus on the walk at all, he's just focus on the barkings he ears and the dogs he sees/saw. After that when we're on the countryside walk, he just becomes calm and more focus (not 100% focus)

What do I need? I need from you some ideas or procedures to do to make him focus on me whenever i need to. For exemple I do want him to focus on me when I say "here" when we cross a dog. All we want for him is him to feel better in his head and in general.
I know a shelter is not the place to do it, but we have to. We want him to feel better with other dogs around, listen better, help him focus on things, because he has an attention pan of a little kid.

We were wondering if we put a muzzle on him and if we do some exercices with him seeing other dogs from far away to close, It would maybe help him realizing every dog isnt that bad. If he could be more focus on his toys/bones/kong in the enlosure instead of the other dogs around/people passing by, it could be so helpful for him.

I don't know if it is clear, I'm sorry english isnt my mother tongue.

If you need to know more, feel free to ask.

I'm thanking you in advance,

Have a good one!

· Banned
619 Posts
I'm not a trainer or dog expert by any means.

My approach would be to keep on the training with Sit, Stay and loose leash walking.

You need to be more visually alert than the dog. When you see another dog on your walk, stop. Practice the Sit, Stay commands with treats in hand. Try to begin before he alerts to the other dog's presence. Generally, what we see clearly at 75 feet, a dog will see clearly at 20 feet. This is about the only sense we have that is better than dogs.

Leash pulling can be corrected with your reaction. Become a post. Don't move. Don't say anything. Reward when he settles or comes back to you for big reward.

Also begin with practicing or training your "here" command. Begin in the kennel. Just call him, if he looks, reward. Soon, he will come to you when you call, reward. Then keep doing the same thing but begin adding a distance equal to the leash length. When he is good with the Leash length recall, then you can begin adding distractions.

I would avoid the muzzle. Meanwhile, prevent any interaction with other people or dogs.

· Super Moderator
4,095 Posts
You're doing really good work. The shelter environment is hard on dogs, and it sounds like your routine is helping this guy.

My guess is that he never really has a chance to decompress. His shelter environment is better with the enrichment, but still stressful. He's worked up on the walk. Country/forest walks are excellent for decompressing under normal circumstances, because they let a dog sniff and 'be a dog' in nature for a while, but as you're noticing, it's not really enough to overcome all the other environment stress he's dealing with. It can take a few days for stress hormones to flush from a dog's system, and he may just not really be getting the chance to unwind. But it definitely sounds like it's better than before this program started!

My poodle is easily overstimulated, especially on walks when other dogs show up. One of the things that helps (aside from keeping as much distance as possible), is sniffing games. Either a treat scatter so he has to break focus on the other dog to hunt down goodies, or a game where we toss one treat to the left, as soon as he finishes and looks up we toss another to the right, repeat until he seems more settled. If he's too worked up to pay attention to the treats, we're typically too close to the other dog and just need to get more distance before trying again. With many dogs, if they're too worked up to eat they're too worked up to learn (assuming they're enthusiastic about treats under normal circumstances).

I disagree about the muzzle. If you think there's any chance he might put teeth on another dog despite your best efforts (you can't always control when someone's going to let their loose dog run up to you, of course, and dropped leashes/equipment failures happen), a muzzle is a great choice. So long as you use a basket style that he can drink and pant in (and ideally take treats through), and you introduce it positively to him so he's comfortable about wearing it. The Muzzle Up! Project has a website with lots of great resources about how to train this and why muzzles are excellent tools for every dog to learn how to wear. If it makes you more confident about handling him in public and prevents him from getting a bite record, it's absolutely worth it.

· Registered
1 Posts
Look up the Muzzle Up! Project and also see if you can find videos on YouTube from Austin Pets Alive! As they have an amazing behavior program and videos that go through a lot of it. If you have other mellow/uninterested dogs you can have someone else work with at the same time, while he is muzzled, start doing passby’s with the other unreactive dog (you engage him in a sit stay while they walk by getting a little close each time-within 5 feet) eventually work up to you walking and passing the other walking dog without stopping, then being able to walk up to and talk to the other dogs owner while he sits. The more they experience non-engaging interactions he may learn not all dogs are a threat.

· Super Moderator
3,957 Posts
Like DaySleepers said, he probably isn't getting much time to decompress and clear the stress hormones in a shelter environment. He's constantly surrounded by barking dogs, dogs walking past his enclosure, and other triggers, so he never has a chance to settle down.

Is there any chance at all that he could be placed in a foster program in a home without other dogs? This would give him a chance to decompress, and when he his stress is cleared you can begin counter-conditioning training. It sounds like you're doing a great job and trying really hard, but it's going to be difficult to make that training "stick" when he's immediately being exposed to his stressors again.

If a foster program isn't possible, perhaps try putting a visual barrier on the front of his enclosure so he can't see other dogs walk past (if you haven't already), which may make him feel more at ease. Is there any fenced outdoor areas for the shelter dogs to play? If so, try taking him out and playing fetch or tug for fifteen minutes or so before the walk to burn a bit of the crazy energy.

Make sure to bring the tastiest of treats when you go walking, and try to make it so he only gets those treats during walks. You want to make sure they're very special to him. I like to use tiny pieces of cheese, deli meat, or hot dogs.

Work on impulse control games, like "Doggy Zen". You can search it on this forum. It helps dogs learn to control their impulses and actually use their brains to get what they want instead of going from 0 to 100 in two seconds.

Also, try reading through the reactive dog sticky in the training forum. There are some great resources and ideas listed there!
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