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Shelter dog being scared/hates dogs ; what can I do to help him focus on US instead of things around

653 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Lillith
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!
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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.
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