Duke and Duke's Mama

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Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby creiter » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:31 pm

Hello all, I am glad to get the chance to be a part of a community who understands my dog's breed and situation :)

Pic: http://www.freeimagehosting.net/guil9

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!
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby AllisonPitbullLvr » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:43 pm

Welcome!!!! You are so awesome. Duke is a lucky boy.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby jamielvsaustin » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:52 pm

Hello! and :welcome:
creiter wrote: 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.


Since you're new and members reading your post don't have a feel for the way you write yet, I think when you make your new post about Duke (and what you expect from him) you should go into a lot of detail. It's very likely that if your dog does not like other dogs-you're not going to change that, however, you can ask for more acceptable behavior from him.

I think you're going to fit in perfectly around here, you already seem to have a lot in common with the majority of the members.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby Curly_07 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:38 pm

Welcome! Thank you for adopting AND for taking so much time and money to help your friend Duke out with his behavior! Dog Agression cannot be changed in a dog that I'm aware of, but it can be modified/managed to where the dog can be around other dogs in a controled environment. It takes tons of training and commitment, but it seems you have already proved you are willing to do that! Just be patient with him, and put up a post in Training about him once you are approved. There are many, many, members here with DA dogs that have had major success at training their DA dogs to have control and co-exist with other dogs around. I wish you tons of luck with your continued journey!
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby creiter » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:29 pm

Thank you so much for the warm welcomes already!

I will go in to much more detail about his behavior issues but figured it would be a better conversation for the Behavior section, once I have posting rights :) I am sure many have faced similar challenges... I think being fearful of new situations and people is pretty typical in rescue dogs who were not properly socialized and now require it later in life (much harder and time consuming... but so worth it for my boy).

I agree about dog aggressive dogs never overcoming it to the point where they can perform well in an uncontrolled environment of dogs. I no longer let Duke meet dogs unless they are controlled. The thing about Duke's dog aggression is that I think it stems more from his fear of new things than it does his fear of dogs. For example, when meeting my best friends boston terrier, he immediately submitted despite being 10 times the dog's size, VERY SWEET TO SEE and a huge star moment for us. Now they are best friends and completely inseperable when together. My brother has three rescue dogs who also have similar behavior issues, so we were extremely careful when introducing these dogs, but they all took immediately to each other without a single scuffle. Duke submits to all three of those ladies. He is also BFFs with the neighbors huge German Shep/Cattle Dog mix, again no issues there.

We used to go to the dog park all the time, but as he reached social maturity (he is nearing two) he started being extremely sensitive and immediately assuming all dogs mean to challenge him. He would growl/bark/wrestle until he pinned the dog... extremely horrifying to watch, it is miraculous to me the ritualized aggression that dogs communicate with, we humans simply do not understand... after he pinned the dog, the two could play as if nothing were wrong and they were the best friends in the world. Hence me thinking it has to do with NEW things getting him very overly stimulated. After all that, I should say that after the second instance of this behavior we did not and will not return to the dog park, safety is of course my immediate concern. It should also be said that in the dog park environment Duke did PHENOMENAL with all new people, he made so many friends immediately with his wiggly butt and doggies kisses to people in another seating he would be fearful of.

He has unique issues for sure. I may be convinced to hire an additional behaviorist on top of the classes we attend. I am young (two years out of college) and don't have a huge savings to fund things that I don't deem ABSOLUTELY necessary, I have a lot of experience with dogs, so I'm hoping with continued patience and constantly researching the most successful techniques I will succeed with my dog. For example, I eventually hope to work on desensitization towards new dogs by moving closer and closer to the fenced in dog park area while on leash, starting from very far away and inching closer and closer... I am sure all are familiar with the techniques. Desensitization is my biggest goal right now, and struggle, because many of my friends have moved away I don't have BODIES to use that I can command, and must instead walk around the neighborhood and keep an eye out for possible training moments (a stranger doing yard work wayyyy down the street, perfect, get as close as possible while under the threshold, etc etc).

I swear people who watch me and my dog must think we are ABSOLUTELY BONKERS. Hehehe :) I love him to death, will post more pictures eventually, he is a handsome devil.

Also will post more details soon on specific behavior issues... in even more detail than now.... I feel I am rambling. Looking forward to sharing and learning from you all!!
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby jamielvsaustin » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:09 pm

We tried to do what you would like to do with bringing him to the other side of the fence of the dog park with our boy Trooper. Please get more information before you choose to do that-it very easily can turn into a situation where you're flooding your dog-almost the worst training technique ever (okay, maybe I'm bias). It took a long time to recover from that with our boy-how could he trust us after that?

I'm glad you're here, I think you will be welcomed easily and I think you're going to be surprised by all that you learn-about PBs and training in general.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby creiter » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:47 pm

Hey Jamie! Can you be more specific about what you guys did wrong when you tried it? I have researched it everywhere and I feel if done correctly it can be done (in fact it SHOULD be done) with no trauma to the dog. In my case, the dog park is surrounded by acres of wooded areas and some cleared areas, so my goal is to start with simply the smell and sound of dogs, eventually allowing him to see them from a great distance, etc etc, in a safe location where no passerbyers would be able to come without me seeing their presence a long way away. I know some dog parks are not set up this way! Did you just get too close too fast?

I am very aware of flooding, the first time Duke saw a bike was a textbook example of watching a dog go over the threshold!! Bikes are his greatest nemesis :P Since then I have learned all of his triggers, even little ones like the exact twitch of his ear and the way his breath intake sounds, and to immediately but calmly distract and retreat.

It has DEFINITELY been a learning experience. As we learn together he trusts me more, OCCASSIONALLY looking at me immediately after seeing one of his triggers (which is also a goal to get him to do always), which is a GREAT step, although right now a rare one! :)
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby Mooresmajestic » Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:19 pm

The whole "other side of the fence" thing can backfire and cause a whole new set of problems with barrier frustrations/aggression. Your best bet is him having a few select friends that he can play with in a controlled environment. Dogs really don't need a bunch of friends, most are happier with one or two that they get along with well. It's also less stressful for you.

Welcome! Be patient, the board has been slammed by spammers recently. The mods will get to approving you as soon as they can. :)
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby jamielvsaustin » Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:48 pm

creiter wrote:Hey Jamie! Can you be more specific about what you guys did wrong when you tried it? I have researched it everywhere and I feel if done correctly it can be done (in fact it SHOULD be done) with no trauma to the dog. In my case, the dog park is surrounded by acres of wooded areas and some cleared areas, so my goal is to start with simply the smell and sound of dogs, eventually allowing him to see them from a great distance, etc etc, in a safe location where no passerbyers would be able to come without me seeing their presence a long way away. I know some dog parks are not set up this way! Did you just get too close too fast?


Here is a thread on dog parks:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=50274&hilit=dog+park" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Typically members here will share it with people who are interested in bringing their dog to the dog park. Around the middle of page 37 I talk about the experience with Trooper. I don't go into much detail, but I think yes, we were too close too fast, along with what Moores said. Barrier frustration was a big part of it. Trooper wouldn't be too worked up, but a dog would rush the fence and that would get him worked up, and we weren't able to move far enough away quickly...and then since Trooper got worked up, more dogs on the inside of the park would become interested, and while I didn't see any actual contact from redirection-it was clear Trooper's reaction was causing these dogs to be uncomfortable. Overall we were really really dumb trying that-we were still in the mind set of alpha rolling him to calm him down. I'm sure we looked like complete a-holes. And really, we were. So clueless, both in what we were doing to our dog and asking from him. Luckily he's got a great temperament and seems to have completely recovered (though I will admit it was probably 3-4 years ago). He still hates* dogs, but he's an awesome dog who LOVES people-and that's most important to me.

I say hates dogs...but really I think he's more reactive than anything and he's really rude when allowed to meet other dogs. He'll lift their butt right off the ground because he's sniffing it so vigorously...then when the dog snarks at him-hey mister, get your cold nose out of my butt-he looses it. He does not take correction from other dogs. Simply won't put up with it. He too was not socialized properly as a pup (previous owner was 95 lbs dripping wet with rocks in her pockets chick and at the time he was a 75 lbs fatty). But even if he was, he's a PB and typically (because of years of breeding for a certain trait) they don't like other dogs.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby creiter » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:41 am

Thank you for pointing out the possible transfer of dog aggression to leash/barrier aggression... that makes a lot of sense. If I were ever to do anything like that, the point is to avoid any signs of discomfort/aggression, directed towards anything... so I agree it would definitely have to be done extremely slowly with extreme focus. That goes for any desensitization exercise I do with Duke, the moment he even STARTS to get tense I back away to prevent any sort negative lesson.

Based on this conversation, I think the only thing I would really work with him on at the dog park is from great distances, getting him used to smells/sounds of other dogs, more than getting close enough to a point where the other dogs would even notice us.

After all, my goal is NOT to have him make friends... that would be great but I realize it is an unreasonable expectation for him to suddenly LIKE strange dogs. My goal is to be able to walk him past another dog (be that on the opposite side of the street or on the same sidewalk in passing) without him lunging/barking/looking like a complete clown. ... Okay well he will ALWAYS look like a complete clown but that's just his personality ;)

I DO have high hopes for this, because although he has had some outbursts at the dog park, he performs soooo much better in our classes. I think the controlled and structured enviroment really puts him in the mindset to listen and trust me more so than the chaos of the dog park (that was an obvious observation). In every class we have taken, we are in a medium sized room with anywhere from 8-15 other dogs, each spread out by a few feet. Duke and I always pick the last seat in the row, so as to only have to worry about ONE dog so close. He does "look" to watch me during these moments and is able to focus on me. Otherwise he is an obnoxious starer, which causes a reaction from other dogs and then causes him to react which of course causes him to react... he is so rude :P

In our obediance 2 class he learned how to walk with me towards another human who was also walking a dog, stop and sit, allow me to shake the other person's hand and have a brief conversation, and then move on. He did exceptionally well at this. He sometimes paced a little before acknowledging I wanted him to "sit" but he never barked/lunged at the other dog. Of course, were I to take this exercise in to the REAL WORLD it would be a totally different situation... possibly too much stimulus in the environment already that the added stimulus is too much to handle?

Thank you so much for the tips already. I have a feeling I am going to learn so much from all of you! Also super helpful to bounce around ideas so I know how to NOT fail in order to set up Duke to succeed.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby jamielvsaustin » Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:22 am

creiter wrote: My goal is to be able to walk him past another dog (be that on the opposite side of the street or on the same sidewalk in passing) without him lunging/barking/looking like a complete clown.


This is a completely reasonable goal and I'm confident you will reach it.

I think your experiences in class are great, and they seem (to me) to be the best beginning you can give him to work towards this goal. A couple of members to pay close attention to around here would be Stormi, Amie, MissKitty and Red. There are, of course, others...but typically these guys have GREAT advice.

Here's hoping a mod comes through quickly and approves you!
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby EmmaLove » Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:54 pm

creiter wrote: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!).


I completely understand this and totally know the feeling!! I have been there so much with my fearful reactive girl, Emma. Proud and hopeful one day, then she'll have a setback or bad reaction to something and I feel crushed. A fearful dog can be so challenging. Especially when you make mistakes like I did when I first adopted her! I was a first-time dog owner, and I followed very poor advice from aversive trainers. I know I set her back immensely, and I am still trying to repair our bond and build her confidence.

But it sounds like you are doing all the right things and have a realistic understanding of your dog's needs and capabilities. Duke is so lucky to have such a dedicated and responsible owner. And for just being out of college, you are way ahead of the game... I'm very impressed with your knowledge and commitment!

You have definitely come to the right forum. You will find lots of support and good advice here.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby creiter » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:21 am

Emma's Mama... seriously thank you so much! It is just wonderful to know that someone understands. How is Emma doing now? If you can think of any serious no-no's you did with Emma that I can avoid, or anything that especially worked well, I would love to learn from your experience. I have purchased just about every positive/clicker/behavior adjustment training book out there. I learned quickly not to trust the whole "alpha/dominance/physical force" theories and have stuck to clicker training and showing the dog what he SHOULD do as opposed to setting him up to fail and punishing him for it.

Let me know if anything really worked for you and Emma. Sounds like she is a lucky pooch too! When I think about the chance that Duke had gotten adopted by someone without the patience who might have choosen to give up and euthanize/put him back in a kill shelter, it breaks my heart. So although somedays I wish I had adopted a "NORMAL" puppy (I had originally dreamed of training a therapy dog... not yet given up on that dream of course just extremely delayed haha!), in the end I know that Duke needed me and I, honestly, needed him.

We are a special breed, us dog rescuers! For better or worse ;)
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby Leslie H » Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:05 pm

You should be able to post in all forums now.
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Re: Duke and Duke's Mama

Postby haranka » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:59 am

welcome
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