Hello everyone. Just wanted to introduce our dog and get some feedback on what we have to work on. I pretty much threw a giant jumble of facts about what we've learned about him in the past year, but I would love for any advice.
Sex: Male (fixed).
Weight: 10-12 pounds.
Age: 3 (Shelter said he was 2 years in 4/2013).
Breed: Mixed (Descending order of likelihood: Maltese, Poodle, Bichon, other).
Additional: We don't know anything about him before his time at the shelter, or why he was released. We live in an apartment in Manhattan.
-- Outside of food, his world revolves around his ball. I know he's a dog, but he is obsessive about it, and can fetch all day.
-- He growls when you try to take the ball from him, even though he brings it to you. Let's divide the growling into level 1, 2, and 3, 3 being the highest pitched and most scary sounding, though all 3 sound threatening. We quickly found out that the low-pitched level 1, when he brings you the ball but then protects it, is harmless. When you aggressively fight him for the ball, he goes up to level 2, higher pitched and quite dramatic, but again, never snaps or bites even though my hand are in his mouth and I'm being quite aggressive. Vets have said this is bad, and I try to yell at him, which discourages him somewhat, but it has no correlation with any kind of hostile action, i.e. snapping or biting. However, if he gets a piece of food, like a sausage or anything else and you try to take it, he quickly goes to level 3, high pitched, very serious sounding, and he will try to bite you if you try to take the food. Don't know if there is any kind of issue we need to work through here.
-- Speaking of eating, he often tries to slowly eat my socks, with alarming success, so I have to keep them out of reach.
-- Back to the ball, when we take him to the dog park, he ignores other dogs and just wants to fetch all day. He seems to interact fine with other dogs; not perfectly, and he doesn't seem to be having a great time, but no fighting or snapping or anything like that, based on how he has acted at groomers or off-leash. However, and this is our biggest problem, when I am walking him on leash, he lunges at any dog within 15 yards and snaps. If he gets to make contact with the other dog, we will sniff very aggressively and usually start snapping (though he hasn't bitten yet.) This is unless its maybe 5% of dogs who are super submissive, usually very old. I understand this all has something to do with the fact that he thinks he is our alpha dog, and has to protect, etc. I have spent the last month heeling him behind me as we walk, but he hasn't accepted it, constantly straining to walk ahead of me.
-- Here are some of the things we do with him that may encourage this.
-- Wife feeds him from the table a lot. I don't, and have adjusted his kibble portion downwards accordingly, which according to his last trip to the vet has worked in regulating his weight.
-- He sleeps in a bed next to ours, but we sometimes let him up to sleep with us. We also let him sleep with us if we're lying on the couch.
-- He regularly goes right up to people as they are walking by and sniffs their feet; no respect at all of their space. Though he is super friendly, it seems a bit extreme.
-- If we walk by a person acting unpredictably, e.g. carrying big bags or boxes or something, or suddenly coming out of a door, he will start barking at them.
-- When we're both gone, he seems to stay by the door to our apartment, and if he hears someone coming down the hall he barks. Otherwise he's quiet (I have videotaped him).
-- He generally comes when he's called (doesn't ignore you, but you can't 100% count on it).
-- When we bath him or groom him we is submissive, though when i'm pulling things off his face he'll turn away and sometimes give a warning snap, though never tries to bite (i know when he does that, because he usually succeeds, see food issue above). I think this is because he trusts us. At vets, they need to bring an attendant AND a muzzle because he basically goes nuts.
-- We walk him about 4 times a day. The internet doesn't seem to agree on whetherr this is adequate. I also don't know whether mini-walks (#1 and done) + longer walks is the best way to do it.
Finally: He is a wonderful, playful, warm, gentle dog whom everyone who visits us falls in love with. But obviously we want to do right by him and not spoil him. Please let me know about your thoughts or further questions. Please also let me know if there is a better forum to go with this stuff.