Please help me understand WHY did my dog go for this other dog? Ludicrously long I'm so sorry

(18 Posts)
gymmummy64 Thu 17-Jan-13 23:50:54

Sorry everyone, it?s me again! I?m not in need of counselling this time, I?m not about to send him back to Dogs Trust, but I?m so very very disappointed with what happened today and I really need to understand it better.

Among his zillions of other issues, Gymdog is not great with other dogs. When I got him September 2012 he ignored other dogs, no interest at all. Early November got attacked by a pair of dogs, twice, in unrelated attacks. Increasingly snappy and barky with all other dogs since then. To be fair, I think he had had no socialisation, doesn?t ?speak dog? at all well and we?d probably be where we are even without the attacks. We hit a major low point mid December, he was reacting (barking, snapping, being awful to even the most blameless) to most dogs we met, I was a nervous wreck. In the end I was totally reinforcing his behaviour. After a big incident I felt at the end of my tether, posted on here and got loads of support and advice.

It?s been so good since then. Going away at Christmas helped with a much lower population of dogs and much better behaved dogs (no rushing up to us). Gymdog is always on a lead (long) as he has zero recall and I started giving him high value sausage every time we saw another dog, even far away. The closer it got, the more sausage. He very quickly started to look to me every time he saw a dog, would be quite happy being with me while dogs passed by and even allowed other dogs to sniff his bottom as long as I mainlined sausage at him. Once he knows a dog, Gymdog seems ok. With sausage it seemed we could also encounter new dogs without upset. I relaxed significantly and started to feel much more in control. All win win, all very very good.

In parallel with this we started taking many of our morning walks with another dog. Labradoodle, spayed bitch, bit bigger than him. This wasn?t planned, the owner and I just kind of ended up arriving at the same time, talking, lots in common. The dogs didn?t seem to have an issue with each other and it seemed like a brilliant socialisation opportunity. My dog is on his long lead, the labradoodle is off lead. They tend to ignore each other largely.

One of the labradoodle?s top 3 activities is going to play with other dogs. She absolutely loves to play which for her means a lot of rushing about with the other dog (she?s very very fast!). She will approach almost any dog, using highly submissive body language if needs be. In contrast, as far as I can tell, my dog has absolutely no interest in play and repeated requests to play make him irritable. I also strongly suspect that even if he becomes the most socialised dog ever, he will still have no interest in play/general chitchat and bottom sniffing.

Bear with me please... in parallel with all this I?m doing loads of stuff on recall and it?s going well. Finally I can see a time where he will be off the lead properly, though it?s still a long term project. Got to start somewhere though and on Tuesday when we met the labradoodle I let him off the lead. It was lovely, they ran shoulder to shoulder very fast, my dog looking so so happy! I called, they both came skidding to a sit at my feet, lots of sausage, off you go again, more happy running, more calling, more sausage...I decided to quit while I was ahead. Back on the long lead, we all continued on our normal walk. Wednesday we did exactly the same thing. Felt great on all levels, good socialisation, great recall, again i quit while I was ahead, make sure no failures (you can tell I've read my books!). Yey, what a result, we're finally doing it!!

Today didn?t work like that. It all started off exactly the same, we?re in the field, labradoodle hares up to us (me mainly as she knows I have sausage), owner catches up, I let Gymdog off the lead, they run together but right from the outset I knew something was wrong. Gymdog?s body language just wasn?t right. He started barking and for him, that type of barking means an escalation. He started air snapping the lab?s shoulder as they were running, we called them in and he went for her. No, not badly, no blood just froth, but still unprovoked, aggressive (to my eyes) and utterly unacceptable. I?ve been thinking about it all day. It?s easy for me to say ?blameless , lovely dog gives up her walks for unsocialised delinquent who then throws it back in her face?. Clearly I know this is not the case, but what is? Why did my dog go for this other lovely dog?

VirtuallyHere Thu 17-Jan-13 23:59:47

What is the breed and age ? I only ask because I've seen many staffies (and their crosses) start disliking other dogs as they get older

gymmummy64 Fri 18-Jan-13 00:24:15

Age estimated by the rescue at 18 months, I've had him a bit, so maybe coming up for 2? No staffie at all that I can see (check pics on my profile). He's meant to be a retreiver/collie cross. I truly believe he has been constructed by some doggy Frankenstein to combine every single challenging doggy behaviour ever and still have lots of extra surprises

RedwingWinter Fri 18-Jan-13 00:44:56

It's hard to say without having seen it. Was there something different in the way the labradoodle approached this time, since she knew there was likely to be play? Or was she maybe too close to your dog this time and it made him uncomfortable? The previous two times, were they together for longer before you let your dog off-lead?

There are some times when one dog is a bit rude and crowds or shoves another dog and I think it's fair enough for the other dog to say 'oi', so long as they do it in a reasonable way.

I have to say I think it sounds like you are doing brilliantly well, and unfortunately with a reactive dog there can easily be setbacks. It's good that you noticed something wasn't right with your dog's body language right away (many people wouldn't notice that). Do you think you could have maybe intervened a bit earlier?

If it were me, I would try again next time I saw this other lady with her dog, but I'd let the dogs be together for a bit first before letting off-lead, I'd make sure the rate of reinforcement with sausage hadn't dropped, and I'd watch the body language very closely and call him back if there seemed to be a problem (you could always let him go again i.e. it could just be a time-out rather than back on lead, depending how it's going).

Sorry for all the questions! I am sure others will be along with good advice soon.

gymmummy64 Fri 18-Jan-13 08:02:26

Hi Redwing, thanks for your reply. I don't think there were any key differences in the timings yesterday. I agree with what you say about saying 'oi' and maybe there was a bit of shoving and my dog feeling uncomfortable - perhaps this was the different body language I picked up on. However, if so, my dog's response was disproportionate and much too lengthy. There was also an element of escalation - we had to separate them, the spat didn't end itself.

You're also probably right in saying I could have intervened earlier. If there's a next time, I'll trust my instincts earlier.

I've got my sausage for this morning's ordeal walk and I hope the other owner is up for it. I certainly wouldn't blame her if she wasn't though.

Cuebill Fri 18-Jan-13 08:42:39

Your dog sounds like an absolute star, what a goodboy he is. He obviously does not want to be around other dogs, yet has learnt that is what you want him to do eg sausages etc. So he is tolerating it as best he can. He is clearly telling you that he is uncomfortable ie the lack of interaction with other dogs. He even tolerates dogs coming closed enough to sniff him. (I would have prevented this at all costs for quite a while)

You are moving way too fast for him.

He could have really gone into the labradoodle but all he did was air snap to push the dog away - tbh this is a well behaved response for a dog that was all over him and high energy.

You need to take a step back - do walk with other dogs but a high energy doodle is not the way to go. Walk with dogs that are calm, quite and respectful. Keep your distance, reward your dogs good behaviour eg no reaction to dogs by moving him away from dogs not making the encounter closer.

From his point of view he is uncomfortable, he is trying not to react but he reward is to have more dog interaction not less. He will be pushed into a situation he is not ready for and then react, hence what happened with the doodle

gymmummy64 Fri 18-Jan-13 10:38:23

Wow, once again Cuebill your message resonates perfectly. Yes, yes, I can totally fit Gymdog and his behaviour to what you describe - it's the explanation I was trying to get to all day. And actually if I re-read my own message I had largely answered my own question - I know he will never be that high energy doodle, he's just not that type of dog. And he's shown me again and again that at best he's really not that interested in other dogs and that at worst they make him feel uncomfortable. Our shared doodle walks had been fine as they really don't interact with each other at all. The shared off lead running was another matter altogether. Genius!

I still don't know what makes him react more to some dogs than others, but i do now know that if I don't get the immediate look at me and request for sausage then that is the dog he will react to. That's the time when I reel in the long lead so I have more control, though trying not to make that seem reactive on my part (I've been reading Click to Calm like you suggested!). That seems to be working.

So what's the future? Will he always be rather antisocial and uninterested? Am I right in thinking my aim is not to turn him into every dog's friend but to show him that limited interaction need not be traumatic and he doesn't need to react? (And yes, I take on board that this needs to be much more gradual than perhaps I had realised.)

WynkenBlynkenandNod Fri 18-Jan-13 11:30:38

I think what Cuebill says makes a lot if sense. One thing I'll add is I've read that sometimes dogs can find it hard to read Doodles faces if they have a lot of hair covering their eyes and are a dark colour (owner of choc brown high energy doodle who thank goodness has become ball rather than dog obsessed now a little older)

Gym, your dog sounds like mine. Jas will now tolerate other dogs nearby as long as they ignore him. He will never be a sociable dog with other dogs, but he is reacting less because he knows I will remove him from a situation if he's uncomfortable. We, too, have set backs x

Cuebill Fri 18-Jan-13 19:46:35

I think the future is bright smile

Look at what you do have - a dog that is trying really hard to please you. He wants to please you, he wants to do what you ask. Lets build on that.

Teach him to play tuggy, frisbee or ball. It depends on what he likes. Clicker train him lots of tricks get that interest in you. (this should be really easy as he is already showing that he wants to do what you ask)

Do not push interactions with other dogs. See other dogs a safe distance away, give the sausage and then play a game, ask for a trick etc. You will physically see him relax as he gets the message that when he sees a dog you will look after him and not add to his pressure hence he will relax.

The fact that you can now play, with him etc nearer to dogs will also help to desensitise the situation.

You have a dog that will see you as the centre of his life, he will not need any other interaction especially doggy. However as he gets more confident you will see him able to tolerate dogs. Give him time to surprise you smile

spudballoo Fri 18-Jan-13 20:51:47

Sounds like he's doing fantastically well, how lucky he is to have you.

I'm not experienced enough to comment, but as a doodle owner I can reiterate that doodles are NOT your friend for trying to socialise your dog. I'm sure there are 'some' calm doodles but nearly all the ones I know are highly strung nutters. And I include my own in that. My puppy would be a your dog's idea of a total nightmare. Which is why I don't let him play with other dogs unless I know the owners or I've called ahead to check that any off lead dog is up for some bouncy play. He goes back on the lead and I distract him as we pass any dog on a lead or nervous dogs.

I'm sure he'll calm down one day. Probably when he's about 14....

I know you're keen to make sure he's ok around other dogs. But dogs don't 'have' to be really social with other dogs if they dont' want to be, as long as other dogs don't make them anxious or aggressive. If your dog wants to be with you, play with you, interact with you then all to the better. And well done you again.

gymmummy64 Fri 18-Jan-13 21:49:07

It all seems so obvious now, what was I thinking?! Amazing what good advice and hindsight can do!

Spudballoo, you are so right in your description - and I love these qualities in the doodle we've been walking with - she's absolutely lovely (and she's 7, I thought initially she was a pup she's so bouncy). Perhaps that's clouded my judgement a bit <suddenly feels very disloyal to Gymdog> Your final para is it exactly - I'm not trying to make him everyone's friend, but where we live there is no choice, he will meet loads of dogs. I don't want him (or me) anxious and I don't want chunks taken out of other dogs!

Cuebill, we're not good at playing. Gymdog has a very high (though I suspect not very successful!) prey drive. He does like a ball, but a moving ball can also turn into prey - the eyes start to roll, he starts doing his mad prance-y act (looks like play jumping but it's certainly not) and will literally kill the ball. Quite frightening when I saw it for the first time. A frisbee could be the same so I've never tried it. With two kids in the house I have totally and utterly banned any sort of tuggee games as if the tugged object became 'prey' I think it could go very badly wrong. He's also very bad if he sees horseplay - makes him very anxious and barky, particularly if adults are horseplaying with DCs. So we will click! And be calm! No games here!

The above makes Gymdog sound like a monster. I don't think he is - he's very very affectionate and doesn't guard at all. i can take anything out of his mouth, move his food bowl while he's eating (I don't, but I could). I think he struggles with what I see as his 'former life' (which includes his formative months) where I think he could do what he wanted on his own vs where he is now with my expectations of him. He is trying though and trying hard I think.

If anyone has any ideas for games we could play that don't provoke a prey reaction, I'd love to hear them! (and spell it out as finding dummies and directional recall are not terms either of us understand whatsoever!)

gymmummy64 Fri 18-Jan-13 22:15:18

chickens, I've read lots of your posts and yes, I often think of my dog when you describe yours. Set backs are part and parcel I guess, but it's so much better to have a positive spin on them rather than believe your dog is a lost aggressive cause x

RedwingWinter Fri 18-Jan-13 23:28:33

Gymmummy, maybe he will like some clicker games i.e. just asking for different commands to get a click and treat from you. Pick commands that he knows well enough so that he'll be able to get it right.

For example I play a game with one of my dogs where I get him to swap between 'heel' and 'side'. Heel means to walk to heel on my left side, and side means walk to heel but on the right hand side of me. It might not sound like a game to you and me but to the dog it is, he loves it. I vary the commands e.g. heel heel side.

It's a great way to get him past other things that I would prefer him not to pay attention to (like excited children or bicycles or people with garden implements which are one of the most exciting things ever). He doesn't even notice them because he is too busy paying attention to me. And it counts as a game because he thinks it's fun.

RedwingWinter Fri 18-Jan-13 23:36:21

Incidentally I do that without the clicker, so a clicker isn't required, but lots of people seem to like using a clicker for that kind of thing.

Cuebill Sun 20-Jan-13 13:47:41

I pretty much expected your reply regarding gummydogs play. However I really think this is an area you need to work on. If he is as driven by play as you describe above you can get him doing anything. However you are right play needs to be directed and controlled.

I would work on play that you can control to start with so no ball throwing or frisbee but I would really really work on the tuggy. I promise you it will not make him aggressive or build his prey drive. He has that already but what it will do is give him a way to release pent up emotions and his frustrated prey drive.

However there are rules he has to learn. He only plays tuggy when asked, he only plays tuggy with his toy tuggy, he gives up the tuggy when you ask. Teaching tuggy is great for impulse control, great for bonding, great for releasing pent up energy.

What does he do at the moment if you give him a game of tuggy?

gymmummy64 Mon 21-Jan-13 14:56:53

Ok Cuebill, well I had to test this out as tuggy has been banned for a long time so I wasn't sure of the answer to your question.

This may not have been the right way to go about it but on our walk today I found a suitable stick, held the ends in both hands and invited him to grab it. He did. Lots of head shaking and pulling as per normal tuggy with other dogs, but then the eyes went rolling and I lost my nerve! Gymdog took the stick, started his prancey dance of death thing (think mongoose with a snake), 'killed' the stick, got bored and wandered off. So, probably not a very conclusive experiment!

Incidentally, I saw the exhilaration from the chase first hand today. I've successfully trained him NOT to lunge on his long lead to try and chase crows and pigeons (seagulls are another matter and much harder) but I got caught out today as crows on snow are way more attractive than usual. A combination of wet lead and gloves meant I lost my grip and off he went. Wow, did he enjoy it, ran like the wind, I could almost see the adrenaline. To my great surprise, when he'd finished and I called him he actually did turn round and start coming back to me but then two HUGE off lead rottweiler types came bounding into view right across his path. He started making a beeline for one of them and I was absolutely dreading what would happen next - I thought he'd barge straight into one of them jaws first. But I kept up my calling and lent forward with his treat and then to my absolute astonishment there was no manic barking, he changed direction again, came straight to me and sat down at my feet. Beautiful recall and ignored the other dogs completely. Even better, this was after a chase which tends to switch him into feral absconding mode. There is hope!!

PS the two HUGE rottweiler types were actually a terrier and a small lab - just goes to show how nervous I can be!

gymmummy64 Mon 21-Jan-13 15:06:21

Redwing I need to get to better grips with the clicker and I can see my definition of 'game' needs expanding. I used the clicker very successfully to get him to take a treat gently and to get him to lie down. However, with more complex tasks (like distinguishing one side of me from another) we tend to get ourselves in a bit of a muddle and don't really achieve much. We've also not managed to get ourselves on a training course yet as all our suitable local ones seem to be on days I wouldn't be able to commit to. Plus if I'm honest, putting myself voluntarily into close proximity with lots of other dogs has not been top of my wish list recently.

Now we're both feeling rather more confident, perhaps it's the time to look again and improve my clicking technique.

We are about to use the clicker in the car to try and get rid of the in-car barking (another new and undesirable development) though this will be out of desperation rather than game playing!

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