Hello all, I am glad to get the chance to be a part of a community who understands my dog's breed and situation
My name is Cindy and my dog's name is Duke, he is a reactive Staffordshire Terrier/German Shepard mix (that's what they told me anyway!). I rescued him from a local shelter when he was 8 months old (the shelter rescued him from another shelter where he was scheduled to be euthanized the next day... man just thinking about him being put down gets my teary!). He was called a "special needs dog" because he had many behavioral issues.
I initially just was Duke's foster mom, but I fell in love with him immediately. He instantly took to me and that presence of respsect and trust established right off the bat has solved many of the behavior issues he had. It sounds silly but I thought it might have been "fate" that I was given this dog, because if I chose to let him go, I wasn't sure if anyone else could bear the brat's reactive behaviors. I don't consider myself a dog expert, but I have spent countless hours reading many different books (all based on positive clicker training to adjust behavior) and many different websites about the pros and cons of different training methods, and have taken many classes with Duke. I LOVE learning about learning when it comes to dogs.
Duke and I have gone to class once a week since I got him (including level one and two obedience, tracking, and agility classes). He excels at all these classes, he is beyond smart and loves the challenges of the classroom. However I definitely think I am more tired than him by the end of them!
He is the best companion dog I could ask for. He cuddles, listens, is now wonderful crate trained (he loves his crate) and potty trained. He has an AMAZING one of a kind personality, and everyone who meets him ends up falling in love (after his initial fear aggression phase, will get in to that later). I could not imagine my life without him.
Given his behavioral problems, I have been forced to become an insanely responsible dog owner. He is comfortable with a Halti, a muzzle, a harness, an ordinary leash, thundershirts (and other doggie shirts), a backpack, etc etc etc, just about any training tool that is necessary to help shape a dog's behavior. I know to only put him in situations where he succeeds, and take every procaution in situations he MUST go to where I fear he MIGHT not succeed (he always wears a Halti on walks and during class in case he sees a trigger). I am a huge worrier, which in the case of owning a dog isn't always a bad thing, as it prepares me for the worst so I can prevent the worst. We follow the Nothing In Life is Free plan (even his meals are fed as treats for performing tricks and sit/stays etc). We walk/jog for 1-2 hours every day and play fetch intermittently. We train about an hour total each day in 10-15 minute sessions depending on his demenour during the session.
That being said... on his bad days, I feel so desperate and, I don't know if you can relate, but LONELY somehow. My dog is not human, so even though I think of him as my best friend, I know I shouldn't take it personally when he acts up, but I sometimes can't help it and I do feel lonely as if I lost him for a brief time to the problems of his past. I suppose that is why I came to this forum, for encouragement from people who understand how it feels to have a reactive dog, who can give me internet hugs when no one else really understands or gets the frustration and sadness (and celebration on good days!).
To summarize his reactivity... I beileve it stems from both fear aggression (of anything new/novel BUT ONLY if it matches certain triggers) and prey drive. Prey drive is the most simple to explain... if he sees a squirrel he goes NUTSO. Whale eyes, insessent barking, tugging lunging and just generally looking insane. That is natural doggie behavior but I would eventually like to control that (he is so bad at "watch me" but we are trying really really hard).
As for everything else, his fear aggression of new things and people (and dogs!), I feel I should save that for another post. He is an amazing dog who has overcomed so many behavior problems already, I just really am looking for some encouragement and positivity because as I keep making baby steps I am getting so exhausted, especially when I read posts on other sites about how pitbulls can never be trained to be dog-friendly, aggression can not be modified, etc.... it gets me down because I am so hard on myself and I want to have a respectable, friendly dog who feels comfortable around all things. I BELIEVE HE CAN CHANGE and I believe I can help him. I hope to find others who share that belief!
And don't worry, I am not naive, I am well aware of the intense time and money commitment it is. I have already invested a ton! I just need some support and Duke and I will continue to grow and learn together.
Thank you for welcoming me to your community!