For example, if you want your dog to do or not do something, you have to teach it to do or not do it. They don't just intuitively know! Imagine that! This seems obvious, but think about your relationship with your dog… The little things they do that annoy you, that you've mentioned thousands of times that you can't stand. Have you spent even 10 minutes training them not to? I KNOW, right?!
Here are some annoying things I can think of off the top of my head that my own dogs often do:
- Putting their paws on things they shouldn't (there's about ten sub-categories under this one - people, counters, doors, etc).
- Running to the door and barking when someone knocks.
- Running out the door if they get the chance.
- Not coming when called.
- Grabbing my shoes and running, running, running…It's all so cute! Until it's not.
- There's more, but you get the idea.
We ask ourselves why, and the answer is simple: They haven't been trained otherwise. And then sometimes things happen that will make the issues escalate.
And we're back to Max…
Some of you may know that Max had surgery in December. (You can read about this in previous blogs). I haven't seen any evidence that the tumor is growing. That's a good thing. He's happy and SO fun! ...when he's not with other dogs. His dog "aggression" is starting to generalize to other dogs, and there have been a few occasions of 'displaced' aggression, where he's "accidentally" caught us humans in his effort to reach his intended prey. Not too bad, (i.e. no human blood) but an indication things are going the wrong way.
Of all the dogs I've ever had, I've never had to re-home anyone. I don't intend to let Max be my first, but at some point I may have no choice. I'm less and less able to trust him in with the other dogs. I have to really keep an eye on his body posture. He does give pretty visible hints when he's about to get into it with another dog (Jake), but I have to catch it soon enough, and be able to act on it soon enough. However, he doesn't seem to be learning that it's not okay to do that.
That being said, I'm trying to figure out if it's possible for me to just make him a "working" dog. Wondering if I have the time and patience to play with scent training and agility with enough frequency to keep him busy enough to not care if he's with other dogs. I was thinking that those activities would decrease his energy enough to prevent dog aggression. I really don't think I'm energetic enough to stay ahead of that! Wow, that boy's got energy! The other problem with that is, any time I spend with Max is now time I can't spend with Jake. The original plan was for them to pal around together, which would occupy their time a bit while I get other stuff done. This worked perfectly until Max had his surgery. But now they both look to me for companionship. Comforting, and fun on one hand, a stressful constant obligation on the other.
But! I'm willing to give it a little more time. Time to see if I can come up with a schedule that works for both dogs. In a way, they should each benefit from not being so reliant on me for entertainment and security (just don't ask Jake. He doesn't feel the benefit right now as he is outside in the play yard and Max is in here practicing his long down/stay).
Here's what I'll be focusing on with Max in order to determine if we can come to some resolution that I'm satisfied with:
- A quick, automatic "down", no matter what he's doing: We've been working on this and he's improving dramatically. So far we've worked on this at least a month, but if I total up the actual number of hours or minutes, it's been maybe two hours, in 5 minute increments.
- A quick, automatic "leave it": This should help with his eating of all things disgusting and potentially indigestible, and will also be intended as a cue for him to stop rude posturing toward other dogs as well as a hands off command to stop in the middle of a tussle (Tall order, I know. But I can hope, can't I?). We've worked on this off and on for at least five months and he's definitely making some headway with this one. But this is also one where I feel I'm working way harder than he is.
- And I'll be keeping him separate from our doggy guests, unless they are huge. He LOVES huge dogs and has never shown any aggression toward them. In fact, he's most likely to use them as a couch. Huge, to Max, is pretty much anything over 50 pounds, as he currently weighs in at a nice stout 13 pounds. (Yeah, I know)!! I'm kinda hoping he might learn some manners from a huge dog here and there. Safely, of course.
****Lots of things happened over the last couple months, so I wrote the above about a month and a half ago. The following will bring you up to date.
I discovered that there were a couple of triggers for Max's "Mr. Hyde". Now that I'm aware of them, I do what I can to avoid them unless I'm in a position to work with him on reducing the unwanted behavior.
- He's not allowed loose in the house at the same time as Jake. They take turns now, at least for the time-being. This can be complicated, but less so than the alternatives.
- I don't pick him up, I don't have him on a leash, or restrict him when approaching other dogs. And I'm careful and calculating about the initial interaction/introduction into the play yard.
- I watch his body language and de-escalate potential outbursts before they happen with a stern talking to, or a squirt bottle, or if I miss his cue he gets a rather less subtle one in the form of a good hosing down or bucket of water. Honestly, if I thought any of these things were coming even close to traumatizing him I wouldn't be able to employ these methods, but his reaction to even the more "severe" bucket of water is nothing more than a couple seconds of cartoon noises and he moves on to a more acceptable activity.
- He's gotten much better at "leaving it".
At this time it's been a few weeks and we have had no negative interactions between Max and anyone else. And he's thoroughly enjoying his play time again. We still have a lot of work to do. I want to get him so I don't have to be so vigilant, but I'm happy with the progress so far.