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Can anyone help with my rescue dog?(9 Posts)
We rescued a 5 year old dog last year and she is a wonderful little thing. She came with a few issues which we expected, but mostly we have managed to work on them and gain her trust and she is mostly fine now. She had massive separation anxiety which we worked and worked on, and now she can be left for short periods (although that rarely happens because she’s with at least one of us most of the time). She had guarding tendencies too which we worked on and we now very rarely see. She also used to pee in the house but we worked out the cause and again, have managed to stop that too. She is very eager to please and just wants us to be happy with her, so she responds amazingly to training.
The only problem we still have is how she is with other dogs. She hadn’t been properly socialised as a puppy, and then was attacked by a dog, so by the time she was rescued and taken into foster, she had no idea how to behave around other dogs. She was like a puppy - didn’t know when a dog was up for playing or not, would be too full on or not know when to stop, or would read a dog wrong and be snappy. By the time she came to us, she had learnt a lot, but obviously the second move to live with us knocked her confidence a bit I think, so she almost had to relearn how to behave around dogs again.
She comes across as very bossy to begin with, but I think she’s actually incredibly insecure around other dogs, so resorts to telling them off to get away from them. We have another dog at home, and they are absolutely fine together now - our other dog is most certainly the boss and she is happy with this. In fact, I think even the cat is more of the boss than she is now. She is also fine with family members’ dogs now she’s got to know them, and apart from barking at them when they charge about like loons, she doesn’t bat an eyelid at them.
The issue is when we are out walking, she wants to sniff other dogs and be curious, but then snaps at them if they get too close. The other dogs always end up looking completely baffled by this or end up snapping back. I decided it was best to keep her on a lead to try and avoid this, but of course there are always dogs off lead bounding up to her which she can’t cope with at all (fair enough!)
So now, I keep her on a lead most of the time, and only really walk on our own land so we don’t meet other people, but I worry I’m making the issue worse by not exposing her to other dogs enough, and I don’t find walks very enjoyable anymore incase we do meet other dogs!
I’ve tried contacting a few local training centres to see if they could help with socialisation, but with no luck, so I’m not sure where to go from here. DH tells me she’s fine and to just let her meet other dogs and let them sort themselves out, but I’m not comfortable with that at all unless I know the other dog. She never does anything more than bark at them, but I can’t rely on that or rely on the other dog to not go further. I am also probably making the situation worse by being tense. DH is much more experienced with dogs than I am, so I wonder if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s hard to know.
Firstly, it sounds like you've done really well sorting through so many of her issues so far to date.
I agree with your instincts that letting them sort themselves out is not a good tactic - it allows your dog to practice the behaviour so it becomes more ingrained. Some other dogs
like mine will give at least as good as they get and it will escalate into a full blown fight. There's also a danger that your dog will traumatise another in the same way that your dog was once traumatised - while she might not sink her teeth in, it's not the level of physical damage that counts, it's how scary the other dog finds it.
As you've got your own land, and can largely avoid other dogs, I think there's an argument for accepting her being the way she is - a bit picky about other dogs - so long as matters aren't getting worse and she doesn't present a significant danger to other dogs. However, if you did want some help with it, I'd recommend speaking to a local APDT accredited trainer, or APBC / CCAB accredited behaviourist. It's not clear what the dog training centres are that you've contacted do, but this would be a situation for 121 sessions with someone well qualified. Alternatively - which rescue did she come from? Some have excellent follow up support for behaviour.
Have you considered using some identifiable yellow piece of kit that lets other dog owners know you don't want to be approached? This sort of thing www.saintroch.co.uk/space-awareness.html It's no panacea (though awareness is growing), but I have to say that as the owner of a dog that wants to say hello to every dog in the vicinity, it's great when someone advocates for their dog and lets me know that their dog is one to avoid.
Thank you avocado - we actually do have a yellow harness given to us by the rescue and as we have a blind dog in the village who also wears one, locally people are fairly aware of it. Maybe I will dig that back out and see if it helps.
Its good to hear you don’t think it’s a bad thing just letting her stick to walks without other dogs. I don’t think she’s getting worse, and I don’t think she really wants to socialise with dogs, so I don’t feel she’s missing out. It does make it a bit more complicated if we want to walk elsewhere though (like this week we are away at our holiday house and want to walk on the beach with her) - I haven’t been here since the spring so I’m not sure how she’s going to be, although the beach will likely be fairly empty today (and she is mad about the sea so will probably be too busy frolicking about in that anyway!) but it would be nice to just walk anywhere we want without worrying it’s going to be stressful for her. If that’s how it is though, I’m happy to accept that. We can’t expect a perfect dog from a rescue (and our other dog certainly isn’t perfect in some ways too, and we’ve had him since a pup!)
Our rescue staffy is also not good with other dogs when they "get in her face" but will otherwise ignore them. I have no compulsion to "socialise" her as that'd be more about my feelings as an owner than any real need for her as a dog. She's only walked on the lead, and I discourage other dogs from coming up to her. Any responsible owner will recall a loose dog when they see a leashed dog in a park or similar area where most dogs will be off-leash - if they've sense to realise that there must be a reason she's not off-leash. It shouldn't need a warning tabard.
I'd work on training your rescue dog to ignore other dogs. She doesn't need to be bum-sniffy happy to be a happy dog.
Agree there's no harm at all in giving her plenty of time on your own land but I completely understand that you want to be able to take her other places.
Behaviourist help to put some strategies in place would be ideal. The rescue would not want to be struggling with this.
I recently had a couple of training sessions with my reactive dog. Much of it was about getting him to focus more on me, but a lot of it ( to my shame) was about my attitude. Because he'd been attacked I was definitely babying him, whereas I needed to be a lot more bright n breezy 'it's all fine' in my attitude.
The other key thing has just been avoiding other dogs - again, not in a OMG RUN ITS A DOG , but just 'let's go this way it looks nice' ( because there are load of dogs over there) kind of attitude. When I meet a new dog now for the first time I just avoid. If I meet them again I may go slightly closer if things are calm, eventually may get to stop and chat keeping dogs at a distance and my dog focussed on me with treats ... and so on.
I find it difficult because DH makes out there is no issue, so I feel like I’m imagining it! At the beach today, we were wandering along the sea line with her running in and out of the sea, and two separate dogs came from behind without us noticing them approaching. The first one went to our other dog and she ignored him at first, then gave him a bark when he went over to sniff her, so he laid down in a submissive play way and she sniffed him for a moment and then carried on back into the sea not interested and off he went. Then the second dog was a bit more lively and thought we had a ball to play with, so was stood excitedly with our two watching DH to see if he’d throw something into the sea. Our dog ignored her for a bit until she was bouncing about with our other dog, and then she kept going up to her to bark at her and then running back to us. I told DH to put her on her lead but he just kept saying ‘she’s fine! She’s not doing anything wrong’ but I think it was just more luck that the two dogs we met weren’t phased by her?! I was then chatting to the owner of the more lively dog once we’d put them all on leads, and all three just trotted along together nicely until we said goodbye to the woman. Now we’re back at home and I can’t tell if I am making it all out to be much worse in my head or not.
five DH keeps telling me it’s me that needs to go to training for the issue and not the dog! He is probably right. I’ve whistle trained our dog so she will stop whatever she’s doing to look at me if I blow the whistle once, so maybe I just need to do this as another dog approaches and then have a treat in hand to keep her focus until they’ve gone past. I used to use a ball (she is obsessed with them and won’t take her eyes off one) but I didn’t want it to end up being something she could get territorial over if somehow another dog pinched it. I was chatting to someone who trained their dog to look at them by holding a treat up to their face every time a dog walked past, so now as soon as a dog approaches them, the dog looks straight to the owner for a treat and ignores whatever is approaching.
Your DH might have a point. Dogs can sense when their owners are nervous or anxious and react. Your little rescue dog might just be picking up your worries and is relating to that. My dog is also a rescue and whilst very happy to meet other dogs always likes to stick to me until she is sure that I am ok! What happened on the beach seems fine. Perhaps if you think she is getting overprotective you could just walk off calling her brightly as though you are going to look at something exciting rather than let her feel you are anxious!
It's hard to tell without seeing it, but if is just barking there may well be nothing to it.
My older spaniel x girls will bark if a young boisterous dog hassles them, and there's really nothing wrong with this and it doesn't mean they are reactive or have any intention of attacking, it's just a quick " oi back off" . I believe females are more likely to do this than males
someone who knows more may be along to correct me
As long as she's not actually seeking out other dogs, it could be that she just wants to to her own thing?
I wonder if maybe I just don’t have that full trust in her because we haven’t had her since a puppy? I don’t mean I don’t trust her, but more that I don’t know everything she’s done in the past to say for certain that she wouldn’t get more aggressive IYSWIM? Like our other dog can sometimes have a bark at other dogs if he’s not in the mood, but I know (as certain as you can ever be with an animal) that he is a total wimp and if anything dared bark back he’d just go ‘oh god, okay, you win’. Our spaniel is a bit more head strong so I worry she’d just keep talking back to a dog if they retaliated. I realise this is my issue though and not hers!
There have been two occasions when she’s scared me a bit, the first was a few weeks after we got her, she met a couple of my friend’s whippet puppies off lead and she did run up to one and bark over the top of her, but in fairness that was back when she was still probably massively insecure, and in another dogs’ garden so probably not a fair test. The other time I saw an owner coming with a staffy, again when she was still fairly new, so I put her on her lead. Staffy approached us fine, but I think she growled at him so he barked back and then she went bonkers (probably because she was on her lead and he wasn’t) so they ended up tumbling around until we separated them. No biting or anything though. The poor staffy owner thought his dog was killing her because she was squealing, but she always squeals! The two dogs have since met again both off lead, and she did have a little grumble at him as they sniffed each other, but I carried on walking and she followed and the staffy just ignored her and played with our other dog for a few minutes. Looking back, I’ve probably lost a bit of confidence from those two incidents when really they were probably easily avoided/not managed properly by me to begin with.