Fostering rescued pit bull with mysterious past

Discussion in 'Dog Rescue Forum' started by j0equ1nn, Mar 26, 2012.

  1. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Hi, I'm new here, I did read through the general stuff before posting but I am eager to ask questions in case anybody can help. I'm going to describe my situation, and if you know what you're talkin about I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

    Some folks who work next door to my fiancee found this young male pit bull roaming around by the East River in Manhattan (not a very comfortable place). He was not neutered, not chipped, couldn't be more than about a year old, and was wearing a collar with a tag on it that said he was 11 years old - obviously from another dog. They named him Sam and took him to a vet where he stayed for a week. There he was neutered, got all his shots, and the vet agreed about his age. They said he was healthy, but diagnosed him as food-aggressive and dog-aggressive. My avatar is a picture of him.

    The folks who found him already have animals all over the place, including FOUR dogs, all male, and couldn't keep him. Sam loved 3 of the other dogs but hated 1 of them, and the 3 dogs Sam liked did not reciprocate, so Sam had to stay in the bathroom most of the time. They began urgently looking for a home. That's when we stepped in and said in the meantime he can stay with us, though we can't keep him permanently. At least he'll be happier, not in a bathroom, and we live next to a really sweet park.

    A little about me. I raised a guide-dog puppy for guiding eyes for the blind when I was a teenager, and learned the basics of dog training. Have been around dogs a lot, including pittbulls, but never had one permanently. My parents took in a very hostile 100 pound lab/shepherd mix a ways back who was going to be put down if he didn't stop biting people and other dogs, and by the time I was done with him he was a bundle of love with just a few minor issues. I'm also a huge guy, I'm 6'7", 260 pounds, so it's a little easier for me to deal with a strong temperamental doggy, for instance if he's going crazy on a leash.

    So they brought Sam over. He had on a prong collar and it looked like the girl could barely control him even with that. The next day I switched him to a harness and he responds to it much better. He is very affectionate, likes to lie down and cuddle with us. But here is where he is weird:

    -When eating or when a toy/bone is in, or even near, his mouth, he sometimes growls seriously if someone touches or approaches him. He does not do it all the time, and has peacefully let me take things from him without a sound if the time is right. I have been giving him space when he growls, but easing him into the idea that I can take/touch his things. Strangest instance was when I had my hand on his back, he picked up a toy, growled, I left my hand there, he snapped at me but not in a way that could have succeeded, then instantly became submissive and pressed the top of his head into my lap.
    -He is VERY reluctant to take things from my hand. Even a piece of steak, he will move his jaw slowly and very timidly and won't take it until I convince him it's okay. He then will sometimes not eat it, but become protective about it as in last bullet. However has NO problem with looking you straight in the eye.
    -He is cat-like about his food. He doesn't care for dog treats usually. He'll leave his dry food alone for hours, sometimes come back and eat it later, sometimes not. Most successful has been mixing a poached egg in with dry food.
    -He does not mark territory when peeing. He seems to not know he's supposed to be peeing on walks. First night he was going in the house. I just let him know I didn't like this and that seemed plenty. He wants me to be happy with him. After that, no problem going outside. But he goes all at once in one spot, and pees like a female, ducked very low and submissive. Heavy praise and offering of (occasionally accepted) treats has been helping.
    -He has had diarrhea the past 2 days, despite very controlled diet. Even gave him some Imodium with little effect. Potty stuff seems to make him nervous.
    -He is almost too good about not chewing anything up. Everything about his personality is puppy-like - the curiosity and excitability. But he wouldn't dream of messing with any of my stuff. Sometimes he gets more comfortable and playful and might take a shoe, but if I just very mildly say no and replace it with a bone, he is completely done with the shoe.

    So my question is, what do you think his history is? Who do you think had him for the first <1 year of his life, and left him out by the river with another dog's collar? I am entertaining the idea that he was being trained by some loser to fight, and was abandoned for not being aggressive enough. I can imagine that someone was holding meat near his mouth, and punishing him if he went for it, which seems like something one might do if they're teaching dogs to be aggressive but don't want to get bitten. It seems he has seen very strict discipline before and my guess is it just scares him so much he probably pees himself. I find he responds to positive reinforcement ten times better than any sort of aversive training. Saying "no" to him works amazingly well for his age, and when you praise good behavior he is so happy to have pleased you.

    I had a prospective home for him that looked really good, but the guy was really apprehensive about the growling and mild territoriality, mostly because it's a bit unpredictable, and the dog would be alone a lot with his mom who's in her 60s. I really want to find Sam a nice home. Meantime he's getting very attached to me, and I must admit the feeling's mutual. After the possible taker left last night, Sam was nervous and so was I. I sat down next to him on the bed apprehensively, and he just let out this helpless little whimper and plopped his head on my lap to be pet. I may just have to make some adjustments in my life and let him stay..... but anyway, anyone got a clue about my theory? Any experienced advice on how to make the dog more trusting especially with new people? Any alternate takes on what he might have been through?

    Thanks for reading this whole thing!
     
  2. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    8,070
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Cats, Dog, Leopard Gecko, Gerbils, Fish, African C
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    I wouldn't say he was fought, a lot of people assume that with pit bulls who have less than ideal temperaments but unless there is a bunch of scarring or something I wouldn't assume that. My guess is he was hit for bad behavior, including his guarding behavior. That may be why after snapping he became submissive, he thought you were about to hit him for what he had done.

    If I were you I wouldn't push him to the point where he becomes aggressive. It may work eventually (when he realizes you're not taking it from him) however it could cause him to try harder to make you leave him alone and he could bite you which wouldn't be good for either of you. I would perhaps walk up to him while he has a toy/chew and drop a treat for him, then walk away (don't walk close enough for him to growl, be slightly further than that). When he is comfortable with that walk up and hand him the treat, when he's fine with that walk up, pet him and give him the treat. Work up slowly until you can walk up, take the object, give a treat, and return the object without him becoming nervous. This could take many months so it might be something you need to pass along to the new owner. If you think he'd bite you then get a trainer. Make a real effort to NEVER take anything from him until he is comfortable with this. If you need to get something from him try to be creative in getting it without him noticing. With my dog I'd run around the house with a toy like a nutcase so he'd leave his to chase after me and I'd eventually toss the toy I had and while he was getting it I'd pick up whatever he had so he wouldn't see me doing it. Then I'd continue playing with him with the toy I threw. Or I'd toss a handful of treats on the floor and as he was eating them I'd go get the thing he had. Then I'd ask him to do a few of his known commands and reward him for that in hopes that it would help him forget about what he was doing before. I'd never let on that I wanted or noticed what he had or was upset about what he had or else he'd want to hold onto it.

    Teaching the dog a drop it command and a retrieve with neutral objects (objects he doesn't want to guard) will also help to make him comfortable with giving you things he has. Teaching my dog to retrieve was super helpful with his guarding issues (though they were very mild). If I ever see him with something I can just ask him to bring it and he does, with a wagging tail.

    Being nervous about taking food could be for many reasons. Perhaps in his old home he stole food from people's hands (maybe kids) and got in trouble for it. Or maybe it's just connected to his food guarding, he is just super nervous about the food being involved at all. He wants it but he is also guarding it while it's in your hand (stiff and slow movements are something you'd see from a guarding dog or a very nervous dog). He may be too nervous about you being near the food to eat it.

    Not sure about not liking his food, are you sure you're not over feeding him? My dog didn't seem interested in his meals...until we cut back on how much he got, now he LOVES meal time.

    Not all dogs mark when they pee. My male marks and pees squatting, marking is usually just marking. When he actually has to go he squats. It's possible the dog was punished for marking in the past but he might just not have gotten the message that he was supposed to lift his leg, it happens.

    I would bet you're right about some very strict discipline, perhaps an abusive owner in his past. I would just give him some time to trust you and realize you are not going to hurt him, even when he messes up. Try to be as positive as possible, train him some basic obedience without any punishment and he'll start to learn you are safe.

    Thanks you for all you are doing for him, it really makes me happy to see someone who cares and is willing to help a dog in need, even if he has some issues and might be hard to rehome. I hope you can help him and find an owner for him that is as awesome as you are!
     
  3. crazedACD

    crazedACD Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2012
    Messages:
    3,048
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Too Many
    Location:
    West Missouri
    I think you should do a bit of 'trading up' work with him. If he has something he doesn't want to give up, find something of higher value and offer it in return for the other item, as maxy describes. I do think best-case scenario is that you find a very good professional to help you with him. I wouldn't put him in a position to 'fail'...he obviously has learned that if he wants something, he growls or snaps to keep it. Honestly you are rewarding the behavior if you back off, but are at serious risk of being bit if you do not. I would definitely avoid that situation, only give him things when you can control it by trading. Hand feeding can help with this as well.

    With this type of dog, I would definitely make sure food is coming from and controlled by YOU. He really needs a hard lesson in how and when he will eat, he is controlling it right now. Set down the food you would like him to eat (not spruced up) down in the morning for 10, 15 minutes tops. Remove him from the area and put his food away if it isn't eaten. Do the same thing in the afternoon. And forever after. He will learn within the week, he eats it or loses it. Yes, a lot of dogs will go on a hunger strike for a day or two...maybe three or four. I would definitely make him work for it, and any treats, with basic obedience. This method will also have him more interested in rewards (treats) for training.

    Likely, it is from stress/nerves. If it continues or seems extreme I would definitely check on it, especially since he stayed at the vet's for a week.

    I would also seriously advise he not go to a home with children. If it is possible to keep him, I think it would be ideal, since you do seem sincere about helping him and learning about his issues :). I can't really comment on what he's been through, he might just have been raised with no boundaries.
     
  4. Teal

    Teal ...ice road...

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2011
    Messages:
    1,497
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Occupation:
    A lot!!
    Location:
    Northern California
    Home Page:


    My replies in bold :)
     
  5. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Update & Thanks

    First of all, thanks so much for the advice.

    For one thing I may have over-stated his growling behavior. It only took about a day for him to be comfortable with trading toys or even giving something up to me. But when he does growl it sounds serious, and he's more likely to do it with people he doesn't know. I'm hoping as he gets used to the good life this will fade off.

    I know people are often too quick to assume pit bulls are fighting dogs, I've been arguing against that stigma for a long time. But I did read recently that when people are breeding fight dogs they usually keep only one dog from each litter, and abandon the rest somewhere where they can't sniff their way home.. like by a river. I agree entirely that he doesn't seem like he ever fought. But I was wondering if he failed to make the cut before he even got up to that point. I don't know what the usual practice is for training fight dogs but I'm sure they don't start fighting on day 1, I have no idea when they do. He does have some small scars that my fiancee was attributing to that but I was telling her the same thing, that it's more likely from some squirrel he killed or some bushes or something - they are really minor. But some other things seemed to point to the possibility of him being a fighting dog reject. Either way it doesn't make much of a difference at this point, and a behavioral analysis seems good enough.

    Teal, you said he is still a puppy for a bull breed. I was wondering, how old do pits usually get before they are full-grown? The more I get to know this dog the more of a puppy he seems like, to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if he got bigger. By the way he obliged to be picked up while I got on a scale last night and he's 60 pounds, very muscular, a tiny bit skinny. I've known pits to be a pretty wide range of sizes though.

    Everyone seems to agree about the diarrhea, and makes sense. His poop today was much closer to normal - problem seems to be going away.

    The advice about controlling feedings makes a lot of sense. I'm going to try the suggestions. I especially like the idea of meal times having a window of opportunity.

    Now here are a couple new developments.

    -I had to go to school today and leave him alone for a long time for the first time. It was almost 9 hours. I just put everything especially hazardous in one room and locked the room, giving him free reign to the rest of the apartment, with one designated Sam spot with his toys and blanket. I got home and, apart for the dog being here, you would not have even known a dog had been here. For all I can tell he might have slept the entire time. It was amazing. I'm definitely not complaining, but WEIRD for a puppy don't you think?

    -As soon as I got home he was so excited he started peeing, as I expected. He stopped as soon as I let him know we were going out. Yet did not pee for an hour. I took him to the park and played with him with a broken soccer ball we found. (Discovered he can jump crazy high but can't land - falls right on his side and tumbles - definitely would lose in a fight haha.) When he eventually peed - again all at once in the squatting position - I praised him heavily. He was doing that nervous tail tucked but wagging thing. I got down and told him good boy and the rest, scratching him until he realized he hadn't done something bad and in fact I was happy with him. Now, my parents' dog used to do that squatting and peeing all at once when he really had to go, and marking otherwise. This dog has never marked a spot, and will hold his pee for a long time, even cry about it on the walk. The only thing that seems reliable is to walk up and down the same area until he gets bored and realized he's supposed to pee, but that doesn't always work either.

    -So next issue is, when I was praising him for peeing, he got really excited, eventually so excited he was biting A LOT. Definitely wasn't trying to hurt me, but way too comfortable with the play biting. I really didn't want to scold him after peeing outside like a good boy, but the biting and flailing escalated until it got a little scarey. I did like they do in Guiding Eyes: hold the snout closed, make him look at you, say "No Bite." He got the message, and then it was like nothing ever happened. Wasn't submissive, wasn't biting, just "That was fun!" When he got home he kept testing me with the biting and I kept correcting it, but it's the only thing he doesn't get in one shot, and seems to do it more as he gets comfortable. I'm thinking I need to go get him some better toys - things more suited for one with such a giant muscular jaw. Gonna do that tomorrow, any suggestions on what toys? I'm also going to get a retractable leash so he can run a bit. Late at night nobody is in the park, and he has been very responsive to me anyway so I think that will be fine, he really seems to need more exercise.

    -He cooperated for a bath tonight. He was filthy as hell. The other dogs I helped with hated me when I tried to wash them. This one seems to really trust me, though wants my attention CONSTANTLY. By the way he was not happy at all about the hair dryer, which didn't surprise me, so I ended up with some wet dog on my bed ... no big deal.

    I have to apologize my account is a bit disorganized this time. I'm working on a PhD full time plus teaching while I'm doing this and I am TIRED. But yall seem to know what you're talking about and seem to really care, so I thought I'd keep you posted. Again, any ideas or thoughts are welcome, and again THANKS!!!
     
  6. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Hi, I want to thank the people who responded for their advice. I've been trying your suggestions and the dog responded to them quite quickly. In particular, controlling the food seems to have worked wonders on his protectiveness of food and toys. He now plays fetch and gives toys to me to throw.

    One outstanding issue is the peeing. So I'm posting again mainly about this. I am aware that not all male dogs lift their legs to pee, and that dogs sometimes pee all at once when they have to go badly. This dog's behavior is stranger than that. Even after not going out for 10 hours (when I have to go to work & school), I come home and walk him and it will take sometimes an hour for him to pee. He will be crying seemingly because he has to go so badly, but seems to not know he's supposed to, or perhaps it is causing him pain? When he does go it is NEVER in a territory-marking way, it is a flood, all at once, and I praise him heavily. He responds with timid tucked tail wagging, but gets very excited when he sees I am proud of him. He also still goes in the house sometimes with no warning. If I stop him and take him out, we will NOT go, ever. Any ideas? I'm mainly worried about if it could be a medical issue that he can't control and if I should bring him to a vet. I've seen dogs with submissive peeing problems and it reminds me of that but I'm wondering if there's something more physical.

    As for his past, I am aware that people often are too quick to assume rescued pitbulls are ex-fighting-dogs. I have battled that stereotype myself with people. And I do NOT think that this dog has fought other dogs. But I am curious why you are so quick to rule out that he may have been headed in that direction. I'm sure fighting dogs are not fought on the first day, I don't know when that starts in the "training" but this dog is still a puppy. And he is very submissive, so perhaps he did not make the cut. I have read that breeders of fighting dogs only keep 1 dog out of every litter, and usually abandon the rest by a river where they can't smell their way home. Also this dog was not neutered, not chipped, had a phoney collar on, and is incredibly well trained and sensitive to stern-ness. He can be left alone for 10 hours and will not touch a single thing other than his toys. If I even raise my voice at him he get so guilty it's unbearable. He also looks like a pure-bred pit bull. Not that it matters all that much, but to me it's still a possibility that he was bred by one of those people. Just because people often assume that erroneously doesn't mean it never happens! What makes you so convinced?
     
  7. JessLough

    JessLough Love My Mutt

    Joined:
    May 16, 2009
    Messages:
    13,402
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Kennel Manager
    Location:
    Guelph, Ontario
    Wait... did they just not even bother trying to find an owner because the tag said the dog was 11 years old?

    ...They could have just been using the tag from a previous dog until they get an ID tag for him.. I don't think it's even legal to just not try and contact the owner because "the tag is wrong". It wasn't necessarily a phony collar, and it's silly to assume he had a horrible home where he was training to be fought. At least he HAD a collar rather than was roaming with no way to contact owners.

    Oh, and not neutered at 1 years old is not a big deal... many people wait until 2 or older...
     
  8. CharlieDog

    CharlieDog Rude and Not Ginger

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2008
    Messages:
    9,420
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Occupation:
    2
    Location:
    Georgia
    The peeing thing sounds like a possible urinary tract infection or even some sort of stones issue. That's all I can really comment on.
     
  9. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    8,070
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Cats, Dog, Leopard Gecko, Gerbils, Fish, African C
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    I'm glad things are improving! I would definately have a vet visit to check for a UTI or something along those lines, if it hurts to go it would make sense for him to be having the problems you described. It's also possible he's not used to peeing in front of someone or was frequently punished for peeing in the wrong place and is afraid to go in front of people, in which case it will just take time for him to realize you are safe. But I would definately go to the vet.

    I just see nothing to suggest he was owner by a dog fighter and intended for fighting. Unfortunately there are plenty of people out there who hit or beat their dogs to teach them manners. He may have been owned by someone who didn't have the money for neutering and microchips, or didn't want to spend it on their dog, especially if he was found in a very poor area. Or maybe they were just waiting until he was older to have him neutered, who knows. The collar might have just been something they had around from a previous dog, they didn't feel like buying or couldn't afford a new one. I found a dog once with a rabies tag and when I called the vet and gave the number they said it was registered to a black cat, who knows. I feel like if they were fighters dumping a dog they would have kept the collar or at least removed tags, at least if they might lead back to them. The fact that he is so well behaved in the house and uses toys and not your furniture suggests he lived inside, which to me is more of a sign he was a pet.

    There is no way to know of course, I just don't see anything to suggest he was anything other than a poorly treated pet.
     
  10. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Okay yeah that does make sense (about his history). I guess everyone's imagination was just running away with them. He is certainly used to living inside and adjusted too quickly to a domestic situation for that sort of history, now that you mention it. Thanks for taking the time to explain, I guess this time I was the ignorant pitbull stereotyper :eek:

    JessLough: That question about his tag never even occurred to me. I personally never saw the tag they were talking about. He was taken straight to the vet when he was found, stayed there a week, then stayed with the folks who found him for a week, then when he came here he just had on his new rabies tag from the vet. I suppose I assumed anything so obvious would have occurred to at least one person involved in that process, but then again you can't really assume stuff like that.

    When everyone was going on about him not being chipped or neutered I actually said the same thing: not everyone can afford a freakin microchip, and not everyone even neuters at all. But everyone seemed convinced he was abandoned, and I wasn't there for that part so I took their word for it. Where he was found was NOT a poor area, or even a long walk from one, it was in Manhattan. I am going to speak with the person who found him again and see if they ever tried to contact the previous owner. I'll keep you posted about it.

    But okay, let's say the previous owner is looking for him? Most people here seem to agree this dog wasn't treated right in the past. He does seem firmly disciplined but he does not seem abused to me. He had some bad habbits but they went away pretty quickly once I realized how well Sam responds to positive reinforcement. It gets sort of sticky ethically.. I had a friend whose dog was "rescued" by some people just because she left his leash tied to a pole while she went into a store, and she never saw her again, basically because she had on a heavy metal t-shirt. That was definitely wrong. But if "Sam"s prior owners had him so scared he was guarding his bones and afraid to pee, well maybe they don't deserve him. On the other hand maybe he does have a UTI, and maybe his behavior is just from the short time as a stray.....

    I'm also looking into a vet visit about possible UTI. I'm going to talk to the finder about that too, and see if the vet she took him to had checked for anything like that. Thanks again everyone for your advice, I will definitely keep you posted about what happens with Sam. He won't go to a shelter no matter what. I'd find a way to keep him myself before I let that happen.
     
  11. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    JessLough: That is a good question, one shouldn't assume the obvious wasn't overlooked. In fact I had a friend who's dog was "rescued" while she was in a store shopping for a few minutes. Some people saw she had on a heavy metal T-shirt and assumed that means she sacrifices animals to satan or something, and STOLE her DOG! She never saw the dog again. But yeah, according to the finder, the number on the collar was called and it was out of service. The vet identified the tag info to have come from a clinic out in Sunnyside Queens (not even the same borough where he was found).

    Also since it was mentioned, Sam was not found in a poor neighborhood. If I recall correctly it was on the Manhattan side of the East River and by my standards a poor neighborhood doesn't exist in Manhattan. He would have had to cross a bridge or wander all the way down from the Bronx to have come from someone who couldn't afford to feed him steak every night. So my guess is that he was intentionally abandoned. But I do concede that neither this, nor the lack of a chip or neutering, really says much. I chatted with the girl who found him tonight (mostly to ask the question about the tag) and told her about this thread, so she will most likely register and put in her 2 cents, and she can probably correct any info I got wrong about before he came here (but I think I got it right more or less).

    At the end of the day I guess it doesn't really matter where he came from and what his past is because we'll never know and I'm going to take care of the dude either way, whether I place him with a good owner or keep him myself. But the comments, especially what Maxy24 said, make a good case that he wasn't bred to fight. He is definitely used to living in a domestic environment. I guess this time I was the racist pit bull stereotyper :eek:

    In other news, he was left alone for over 8 hours for the first time this past week, when I had to go to work & school and he was so well behaved it is almost freaky. You would think he had straightened up the place. Touched nothing but his toys. He just gained some major points toward the possibility of just staying here with me..
     
  12. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    I just want to apologize for the redundant posts. Sometimes when posting I got an error message and it looked like I'd lost everything I'd entered, so I posted again... Next time I'll just wait for it to show up.
     
  13. ~Tucker&Me~

    ~Tucker&Me~ and Spy.

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    4,940
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Occupation:
    2 Dog, 1 cat, 2 lovebirds, fish galore
    Location:
    B.C.
    Glad to hear he was well behaved! Hope things keep improving for you :)
     
  14. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Sam update

    Hi all. I've still got Sam. I actually haven't been trying very hard to find a home for him 1. because in the back of my head I really want to keep him even though it's a bad idea, and 2. I don't feel comfortable sending him to a permanent owner until his growling/snapping issue is resolved. I thought I would post again about his improvements and some new things I've noticed that I'm not sure what to make of.

    First of all his poop/peeing in the house has stopped almost entirely, but not without some drama. I did not take him to the vet about a possible UTI mostly because I can't afford a vet, and if he did have one it would have been very minor so instead I gave him apple cider vinegar for a few days, with no change. It seemed he was doing it to rebel against me because it would always follow some discipline for other bad behavior. At one point he went right on my bed as I was getting ready for work and I got really angry with him. I yelled at him and went to pick him up to put him in the bathroom for a time-out and he recoiled and bared his teeth as if he was certain I was about to hit him. I just slowed down, calmed myself, gently picked him up and put him in the bathroom, then took him outside about 5 minutes later and of course he refused to go. It was going on like that for a while, where I would lose my temper sometimes, which seemed to make things worse.

    Then I read something about "submissive urination" online and decided it described his behavior to a tee. Apparently some dogs will pee as a way of showing you they are submitting to your authority, so if you yell at them for it, it only confuses them and encourages them to do it again to show they think you're the boss. I found this kind of heartbreaking but was sure that was it. The main advice for a dog with this problem is to stop punishing them in any way for inappropriate peeing, and wait for them to outgrow it. So the next time it happened I didn't yell at him, didn't "ground" him in the bathroom, I just cleaned it up and took him out for a short strictly-business walk (he didn't go). And... that was the LAST time he peed in the house, with one minor exception. Kind of remarkable. I think more people need to know about this submissive urination phenomenon because I saw it in another dog I helped with and at the time nobody could understand or control it in anyway, but in hindsight that was definitely it.

    He is learning general obedience very well. Since we live in the city I always make him sit at the curb before crossing the street and he does this immediately almost every time now. He has proven himself very friendly and never aggressive with other dogs, just very excitable and usually annoying to the other dog, especially if they're much older. He's also very friendly with people, no matter who they are, he's very trustworthy about meeting anyone.

    I make him lie down before being given meals or very special treats/toys. At first he seemed to take this very personally, but now he dies it right away and it seems to have helped with his getting protective, though that still happens. I pet him a little as he starts his meal and if he growls I take it away. You may think that is dangerous but, well, it's working. He hardly ever growls when eating anymore. Maybe I'm stupid but I'm not afraid of this dog. The couple times he has snapped at me I've just grabbed him by the back of the neck and pinned him down, then held his muzzle closed, made him look at me and said no bite very firmly, then when I let him go he is all apologies. It is happening less and less... but still happening.

    The most problematic is when he is given a new toy that he especially likes. He does not want anyone to come near him when he is alone with it. Especially troublesome is when he brings the toy up to someone, then suddenly decides to get protective, and starts growling. And this is serious growling. If you don't back away he WILL snap at you. I can control it by just putting away those kinds of toys when people are over, but that doesn't help much as far as passing him to a new owner.

    He will growl when he is playing, sometimes sounding pretty scarey, but it is completely harmless, the tail is wagging, and he knows you are playing with him. But that also makes it hard to explain him to new people. I always tell people that if he is lying down alone with a toy and growls at you, just leave him alone for a while. However if he growls like that at me, I feel it's important he know I'm the boss so what I'd been doing is just grab the toy from him anyway, and if he snaps at me I do as I described above. I would say that he does not seem to be making a serious effort to bite me, but it is still scarey.

    More recently, I've been trying to avoid giving him the chance to snap. Instead, when I see him acting that way about a toy, I will kneel down about 6 feet away from him and call him gently, trying to get him to snap out of it. If that doesn't work, I just grab the thing and put it out of his reach for a few hours. More and more he has been responding to this. The last time I did this, he got up, left the toy, squeezed out a few drops of urine (hence the 1 minor exception to peeing inside mentioned above), then cowered over to me, tail tucked, and I pet him and brought him back to normal. I cleaned up the pee and didn't yell at him. He then acted very submissive the rest of the night.

    I'd be surprised if there is any better way of handling this, but if there is I'd like to hear it. I anticipate people will tell me not to take a chance at getting bit, but the way I see it somebody has to or this dog will probably have to die. I'd also like to hear opinions on whether the growling/snapping might ever go away entirely. Keep in mind this dog is only about 1 year old.

    Then there are some other details that are just strange:

    He has a lot of small patches of missing hair on the back of his neck and his back. I didn't mention it because at first we thought it was a rash, but it didn't respond to any treatment, and after seeing it in a lot of different lighting I'm pretty sure they are scars. Though I'm not sure what sort of scars. They look kind of like burns, or very bad scrapes.

    He sleeps in bed with me and my fiance (not recommended for improving your sex-life :rolleyes: ) and is the cuddliest dog I have ever seen in my life. He likes to be pressed up against one of us at all times, often upside-down. But sometimes when he is in a more down mood, he will be curled up at the other side of the bed, and if I say anything to him in a comforting tone, like just "Good night Sam!" or "Who's a good boy?" or the like, he will start softly whimpering and squirming up to me until he is basically in my arms with his head under my cheek, being spooned. Then he will want to sleep like that for hours. He seems to need this sort of comforting, and I've really never seen anything like it in a dog. Not to mention that this also heartbreaking and makes it pretty hard to pass him off.

    Anyway, as always, any insight is appreciated.
     
  15. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    8,070
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Cats, Dog, Leopard Gecko, Gerbils, Fish, African C
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    I'm glad you've figured out his urination problems, submissive peeing makes sense given his other signs of fearfulness. It's good to see it's getting better.


    As you expected, I'm going to recommend you stop doing both of these things...taking things away or punishing when he growls/snaps. You MUST always keep in mind why the dog is guarding, which is because he's afraid of you taking his things. All your punishment does is confirm this for him. So while the behavior may decrease due to fear of getting punished, the dog will never become COMFORTABLE with people taking things away, and therefore there is always the risk that he could decide to bite. You are not changing how he feels about you coming near his things, so there may be a time that he forgets that you might punish him because it's been a while since he last guarded or he just likes the object too much to care that you're going to hurt him and he thinks it's worth the risk. It's much safer for you, and for any future owners, to actually make him welcome you coming near and taking his things. Plus I just really, really dislike people alpha rolling or scruffing their dogs, it just makes them scared of you. What you see as "apologies" from your dog are called appeasement gestures. Dogs do them to try and stop confrontation, they are essentially telling you that they are not a threat and to please stop hurting them, they don't want to fight.


    Like I said, my dog used to guard things (though it was mild and specific- he only guarded stolen objects and would only growl/snap, never bite). He guarded things because he stole things and we reacted by taking them away. He felt he must guard his things to keep them, it makes sense. Punishing or taking them away anyways did not help, he started hiding with his things under the coffee table, which essentially cornered him and caused him to become more dangerous when you tried to take his things. The absolute best thing I did was teach him to retrieve objects. He will now retrieve anything I ask. His toys, keys, the remote, shoes, socks, even a dime. We had a problem with him grabbing random items off of the ground on walks and then not dropping them. Now I simply ask for him to "bring it" (his retrieve command) and he quickly plops it in my hand. The key here is that 99% of the time I look at it, decide there's no harm in him having it, and give it right back. He has no fear that I'm going to take it because I generally don't, I just look at it.

    I'll give him something to play with, like a paper towel roll or water bottle and after a few minutes ask him to bring it to me and then I give it back. I might even chase him around first and then stop and ask for him to bring it, he always does. When I give him a new bully stick or antler or toy I let him have it for a little while and then ask for him to bring it to me, then I give it back so he understands I don't want to steal his stuff. My dad saw him with a stolen object (takes from my brother's room) and started chasing him, telling him to drop it and Tucker was darting around avoiding him. I told dad to stop and I told Tucker to bring it. He looked at me for a second, then turned and trotted over and plopped it in my hand. It was a cat toy so I gave it back (playfully wiggled and tossed it so it was like a game). A few weeks ago we were out in the yard at night and he picked something up that I couldn't see, when I brought him over to the steps in the light I saw it was a dead bird. I really didn't think he'd drop it, I called inside to my dad to get me some treats and as he went to do that I asked Tucker to drop it and he did without hesitation. Dad brought out the treats, I gave him a bunch, tossed the rest inside so he went in after them, and closed the door so birdy stayed outside. Before teaching him to retrieve and practicing with so many objects, he wouldn't even drop sticks that he picked up outside, and now he'll drop dead animals!

    I can go up to him while he has anything and stick my hand under his chin and he knows to put it in my hand. As soon as he sees me coming he knows I'm going to ask him to give it and he likes that so does it immediately and willingly with a smile on his face. There is nothing bad about me approaching him with his things, it's only good. He gets rewarded and he gets to keep his stuff (99% of the time, and the other 1% that I must take the item I distract him so he doesn't notice that he's loosing his stuff). I know he will not growl or snap at me because I know he has no negative emotions about me touching his stuff, he isn't upset about it like your Sam is because he's come to expect good things from my touching his stuff, those negative emotions just aren't there. He knows that "bring it" and an outstretched hand is good for him and he welcomes the hand and the command. With any sort of aggression you really want to try and change the emotions if at all possible, not only the behavior. Getting rid of those negative emotions negates any chance of the dog suddenly loosing control and biting, he is not worried/upset to begin with.


    That's my suggestion anyways, if you decide you'd like to give this method a try let me know and I'll tell you more about teaching a drop it and a retrieve. It was not hard AT ALL, he picked it up super fast. Then it was just a matter of practicing with as many objects, taken from many different places (home, yard, on a walk, at the pet store) as possible.
     
  16. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Thanks Maxy24 for such a thoughtful response. I think I am interested in the method you describe. I want to say a little more about how I've approached it so far though to give better context.

    The times when I've taken stuff away from him, it's always been temporary. My general procedure has been to take it away, then relax him a bit by having him sit and petting him. Then I make him lie down before he can have it back, and I pet him and say "Good boy" as he's taking it back, which he does very timidly. In these instances, he is reluctant to lie down and looks guilty, and does it slowly, but he does it. I've noticed after doing this two or three times with a problematic toy, the behavior goes away. There was one chew toy he was especially protective of but now he brings it right up to me, and other people (even people he's just met) to play fetch with it. But you do need to put in some effort to get it out of his mouth. More importantly, it seems that every time he gets a new toy that he particularly likes I have to start all over. So yeah I'm interested in what you suggested.

    Also, the park where I walk him is often littered all over the place with chicken bones. I get really worried about him choking on one so I've taught him not to eat them with a "Leave it" command. He never growls over the chicken bones, in fact I've never seen him growl like that outside. There were 2 times when he was eating a bone and I dug it out of his mouth, honestly because I was afraid of him choking on it, and he was cool with forgetting all about it right away. He responds to "Leave it" very well, inside and out, but it seems way different to him from when he is guarding something.

    Also, when I take him to play in the park I have a game where I hold a stick about as high as I think he can jump and have him jump for it until he can grab it. Then I let him run with it a while, then I play tug-of-war with him which I always win, and repeat. He seems to really love this game and will even forget about nearby animals to play it. But I can't imagine how I could get him to drop the stick willingly. I was also wondering, is it bad to play tug of war like that? He does growl pretty loudly sometimes during the tug-of-war but I know it is completely in fun, even if it can be unnerving to others.

    Oh, one new weird thing. Today he actually peed in more than 1 different spot for the first time. 3 different spots actually. I'm interpreting it as an increase in confidence but I don't know.

    Thanks again and I look forward to hearing more about teaching that "Bring it" command.
     
  17. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Oh one other thing... I never thought to differentiate between "snapping" and "biting." But now that you mention it, what he does would be much better described as snapping. It is aggressive and does come with a bark, but it doesn't really seem like it would succeed in hurting you much. The only times this ever happens is if he's growling about something he's guarding and you don't back away.
     
  18. thehoundgirl

    thehoundgirl Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2004
    Messages:
    2,353
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    You have been given great advice, however a dog marking in various spots doesn't mean they are confident! ;)
     
  19. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Occupation:
    1/2
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    thehoundgirl: Okay, gotcha. That was actually the only time he did that, but sometimes he will squat and not go. I think what it really is is that he gets distracted by something. He is VERY distractable outside, but does respond to me, some times better than others. When he won't I just snap his leash and usually he'll remember to listen to me (he wears a harness - I've found any sort of slip collar or prong collar inappropriate for him since he tends to be submissive - just being jerked toward me seems enough).

    I took him to a party yesterday and he was very well behaved and very popular. Anytime somebody would leave he would whimper, he loves everyone.

    I had one incident with him though that was a bit difficult. My fiancee was lying down with him, her face right in front of his. Someone opened a door to enter the room and he was startled, so he barked and in the process hit my fiancee right in the face with his teeth, leaving a mark and a bruise. Not knowing what had happened right away, I rushed in and held his muzzle as I checked to see if my fiance was okay and find out what happened. I really think this was an accident but as you can imagine it was unnerving to my fiancee. He was in tail-tucked head-ducked mode for a good 10 minutes until ultimately we had to encourage him that it was okay. But it might make it kind of hard to find another home for him since our main method was through my fiancee's customers at the coffee shop she works for, and here she is with an injury on her face from the dog.

    We have been trying hard to come up with a way of just keeping him. At this point we feel like he's part of the family. In fact I found out I could get discounted pet insurance through my job and signed him up for the time being.

    I'm still confused though about what I'm supposed to do when he is guarding food or resources. People say to just try not to give him a chance to do it, but of course sometimes it's going to happen anyway. And when it does people say it's not good to back down because it tells him his aggressiveness is successful. Now I hear it's also not good to overpower him and discipline him for it. The only other option seems to just let the dog bite me, which is obviously out. What exactly am I supposed to be doing?
     
  20. thehoundgirl

    thehoundgirl Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2004
    Messages:
    2,353
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    It sounds like that was an accident. Have you worked with a behaviorist or done nothing in life is free (NILIF) with him?
     

Share This Page