Dog Forum banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
We picked up a dog at the shelter a few months ago. While he has so many wonderful attributes and is very affectionate to his family members, there are some major concerns that are making me think we're not the right household for him. If we rehome him, I'd want to keep him with us until he finds his new home. That way it's less stressful on him, and we can have more control about where he ends up. The only downside is that he might bond even more with us and our other dog.

Reasons to rehome him:

-Serious cat aggression/prey drive that could lead to injury or death. He might be able to be trained to leave them alone...but I can only imagine how much work that will be. And besides, I don't think the cats will ever be comfortable with him around. They're old and set in their ways. He really should never have been placed in a home with cats, but the shelter didn't know that at the time.

-Reactivity. This started a month ago. He's highly reactive to knocking, people on the street (when he's inside), guests, dogs/people/cars during walks. Sometimes he'll even do it to my elderly grandfather when he stands up. He barks and growls and doesn't stop. If it's during a walk, he will try to lunge at the person. One time he lunged at someone, i lost hold of the leash, and he bit off a piece of her shirt. It was so scary.

-This is not as big of a concern, but still an issue. He's a lot larger than our other dog and when he plays with her, he sometimes hurts her (steps on her or bites her too hard). He also bosses her around, this includes grabbing anything that she picks up. If she has something in her mouth, he has to have it. She has gotten pretty hurt in these situations. I can't have them outside together off-leash because he just gets way too rough.


There are a lot of GREAT qualities about him. He's highly food motivated, which makes him easy to train. He's very friendly once he gets to know you. He likes to pick up toys when greeting you, it's adorable. Very easy to handle/groom...I can touch him just about anywhere. He's got a lot of energy and is very alert. He'd do well in a house that has no cats, a big fenced-in yard, a dog his size to rough around with, experienced owners, and not too many visitors. I worry about the stress rehoming him will cause - it certainly won't resolve his reactivity. My thought is that a better fit owner and housing situation would help manage his reactivity instead of contribute to it.

I don't know what to do. This question has been hanging over me for the past few weeks. We see our trainer on Sunday. What do you think?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,031 Posts
i could really use advice!
No one can, or should, make this decision except you.
All dogs are work (all relationships of any kind are work). Those people you see in the park with 'easy' dogs, a lot of them are that way because of many hours or work, interaction, and training by their owner.
I think that if you are willing to put serious time in, you could make it work. But, being honest with yourself, if you can't or won't then find a good home for him. But only you can decide.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
No one can, or should, make this decision except you.
All dogs are work (all relationships of any kind are work). Those people you see in the park with 'easy' dogs, a lot of them are that way because of many hours or work, interaction, and training by their owner.
I think that if you are willing to put serious time in, you could make it work. But, being honest with yourself, if you can't or won't then find a good home for him. But only you can decide.
No one else in the family really helps me with training. He gets plenty of love and attention throughout the day. I just don't know if I have the ability or authority [he seems to listen to men better] to train him out of his reactivity and cat aggression. It's hard to get him distracted, even with treats, when he's fixated on something. It'd be one thing if he was just reactive or even only prey-driven, but it's both and it seems to be severe in both cases.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
662 Posts
I think you have to decide whether you want to commit the resources to fix or at least lessen his issues or whether you want to return him in hopes he'll find a better home. Decide whether the risk to the cat and the other dog are worth it.

You can develop the ability and authority to help him. Maybe he's mainly had experiences with men training him? It takes time to build a working training relationship with a dog, IMO/E; you have the teach every dog how to learn from/listen to you, and with some that's harder than others.

Honestly, having a large reactive dog with strong prey drive in a house with frequent visitors, a cat, and a small dog is hard. The cats being older is even harder. The new dog not understanding how to play with a small dog is hard. There's no shame in being out of your element and deciding its not a risk or battle you want to take on.

I would suggest calling the place he came from and explaining the situation- depending on the quality of the rescue/shelter they may be helpful. See what they have to say and if they can tell you what would happen should you decide he's too much for you to handle.

Should you decide you want to try to work with him (or work with him for a few months and then re-evaluate, or whatever), I would suggest finding a professional to help you. Personally, I would suggest trying to find at the very least a trainer who tries force-free methods first before resorting to aversives/corrections/etc. Definitely find someone well versed in force-free behavioral modification methods. Definitely avoid anyone who totes dominance theory, using terms like "alpha" and "leader" or who uses harsh corrections as a first resort. Personally I would not want to work with a trainer whose first suggestion was any sort of aversive or correction-based training plan, either, and I would be very careful about using things like prongs and e-collars. Should you end up using either of those tools, you should definitely do research on their use beforehand, including on the 'fall out' (ie, unintended consequences) that can occur because of their use- things like escalation of aggression/reactivity and redirection of aggression to the handler.

I'd also suggest doing some research into behavioral modification techniques yourself. With behavioral modification, you usually start with figuring out all the things that set off a reaction, then you're usually working to teach an alternative, more desirable behavior/reaction to the stimulus and/or change the dog's emotional response to the stimulus (usually by pairing the sight/smell/sound of the triggers with a treat).

I would highly recommend using something like "Look At That" or B.A.T (Behavioral Adjustment Training) to teach an alternative behavior. "Look At That" involves teaching a dog to look at the trigger (the thing that causes them to over-react) and then to look back at you for a treat- its seeking to train that the presence of the trigger means that the dog should be looking at you. B.A.T is a little more complicated and you may be trying to train many different alternative behaviors. "Look At That" is something you may be able to do on your own, but for B.A.T training I would find a trainer familiar with it.
Link about "Look At That":
Akin Family Dog Training Affiliations
This is an example of what it looks like in action (NOTE: this dog has likely been working on this behavior for a LONG time):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9yOCb3rzOo

Link explaining B.A.T (also includes a video as an example of what it looks like; this is the trainer's site who came up with this treatment, she's a great resource):
BAT 2.0 Overview | Grisha Stewart

In order to change the emotional reaction to the trigger I would suggest Counter Conditioning. This involves, in its simplest explanation, presenting the stimulus/stimuli that cause(s) the reactivity (at a distance just far enough that no reactivity it elicited, but as close as you can get before the dog reacts) and then giving the dog a treat.
Some links describing counter-conditioning (and also desensitization, which is probably most helpful if his reactivity is coming from a place of fear and/or anxiety versus something like frustration):
Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning: Overcoming Your Dog?s Issues
Some videos:
dog-human aggression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l4Jd1bu3pY
dog-dog aggression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zyjiA9bD3E
dog-dog aggression with dogs from the same family: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9e4fcRJ6Eo

In terms of other trustworthy sources to look to for information, I would recommend things by Sophia Yin, Patricia Mcconnell, Kikopup (on youtube), Ian Dunbar, Jane Killion, Karen Pryor, and Grisha Stewert (who is the trainer behind B.A.T), off the top of my head.

If you do decide to work with him, realize it will be a long road.

IMO, there isn't one right choice- both options have drawbacks and I think a lot of it comes down to whether you think its actually likely he will find a better suited home as well as whether you and your family are comfortable living with a large, reactive dog who is going to take a long time to work with.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
@Moonstream

I really appreciate this reply.

We are seeing a personal behavioralist, originally meant to help with the small dog, but now I guess to help with him too. I've thought about trying to work with him for a few more months...but I feel like that will make it a million times harder on all of us to let him go should we decide that's still the best option.

We have been trying "look at the cat." he's good only in those brief moments of training....but if he stares at a cat for too long, it's a lost cause. and none of this has transferred over to moments when we're not training and he sees a cat. it's still probably early on, but i don't think he's connected the two yet. the other problem is that the look at the cat thing requires someone to be with him and treat him and someone else to hold onto the cat and bring him/her into view. and i maybe can get another family member to help me with this once or twice a week. i feel like it needs to happen on a daily basis for it to be effective

a couple days ago, i started bringing treats on walks to treat him when there's a stranger or another dog. it seems to help, but he'll still bark/growl quite a bit. it's also a little difficult because i'm walking my other dog with him and together they're a lot to handle.


i remember when we at the adoption center, my aunt was saying that even if we didn't get him, this guy would be adopted in a heartbeat. i think it's true. he's a really good dog in a lot of ways. i do worry about how he'll react to potential adoptees, i hope it wouldn't scare them away. but when we met him he was so mellow and friendly...and he's absolutely capable of being that way. so i do think he has a high chance of getting adopted again. my only hope is that the next people who bring him home are truly willing and able to work on his reactivity. i believe his reactivity can be managed in the right environment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
662 Posts
Yes, this is the kind of thing that ideally would be worked on every day. Working once or twice a week is unlikely to do much.

Also, it is important to note that one of the most important aspects of counter-conditioning, B.A.T, and "look at that" (really all R+/force free training methods) is that they are done under threshold. I mentioned this above briefly, but what this means is that you find the "threshold distance", which is the closest you can get to a trigger where a dog notices it but does not react, and begin at that distance. This might be 5 feet, or 20 feet, or across the street, or the dog might only be able to handle being able to hear or smell the trigger and you may have to hide the trigger behind something. If the dog begins to react at that distance, you move further away. Part of the goal of the behavioral modification is to reduce the threshold distance. Fixating on the cat is likely more to do with prey drive than reactivity issues, and in that case I'd suggest maybe luring the dog to look away? Pretty much, do what you can to have him not fixate. I wouldn't suggest leash corrections or aversive collars because of the fear that he would escalate in those situations.

Definitely see what the behaviorist has to say! Maybe do a little bit of research into the issues you're addressing prior to the meeting so you have some base of knowledge on them. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
189 Posts
It does seem like a lot to take on, especially if the rest of your family will not be helping in the training.

Without starting on consistent behavioural training right away, I'm afraid the next time your dog takes a lunge at someone, it won't be just her shirt he bites into.

Chances are you don't live in Colorado, but if you do, I know a couple of fantastic trainers who regularly work with fear aggression.

Lastly, after talking to your trainer, don't be afraid if you really feel you can't take it on. Don't be afraid of being judged for whatever you choose.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm also really worried about the emotional effects of separating these two dogs. They've lived together for two months and I imagine it would be very hard to suddenly never see the other again. But maybe I'm overestimating how much they've bonded.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
880 Posts
You haven't mentioned breed. Have you tried breed specific forums? They can be a great resource for advice, as they know the general behaviours of the dog. Dogs were and still are purpose bred and are not all the same.
A breed specific forum may also be able to help set you up for rehoming the dog with someone who knows what to expect and how to handle it.
I got all sorts of fabulous advice from the germanshepherd forum when I was dealing with Dynamo. Now I get my advice on a border collie forum. One thing I've learned from going from a gsd to a bc is that breed does matter.
If he's a mix, he is probably more one thing in terms of looks and temperament than another.
He's a rescue--is there no help their??? If I couldn't handle my dogs needs, he would go back to the person who did the adoption, it's in the contract. Do what you need to do, and all the best.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@Artdog

He looks like a German Shepherd mix. I'm not familiar enough with dog breeds to guess which one his personality is closest too.

We got him from the county humane society (which is a no-kill shelter). I haven't contacted them yet about rehoming him. I'm pretty certain they will take him back, but I'd hate to put him in the shelter again. I would really like to get him a new home as soon as possible, if that's what we go with. I'm thinking we could do a courtesy listing with the shelter or another rescue.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,630 Posts
Definitely talk to the shelter, they often have a rehoming clause in the terms of adoption, meaning the dog must be adopted out through them if it doesn't work out with you. Worth checking out.

There's no shame in rehoming if they don't work out, it sounds like you are taking it seriously and trying to get the best outcome for all involved.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Definitely talk to the shelter, they often have a rehoming clause in the terms of adoption, meaning the dog must be adopted out through them if it doesn't work out with you. Worth checking out.

There's no shame in rehoming if they don't work out, it sounds like you are taking it seriously and trying to get the best outcome for all involved.
I just checked...they require that you bring the dog back to them. i don't know if this means i can keep him in my home until he finds a new home through their shelter, or if i have have to return him to the shelter. it makes me really sad thinking of him going back there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The trainer said that you can work on the reactivity and change his reaction to people, and it will take a lot of work. However, his opinion on the cats may never change, and that's a serious concern. She left the decision up to us.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
662 Posts
I think that's what I would tell a client in this situation also.

The methods I mentioned are great at teaching alternative behaviors and changing feelings towards people, but unfortunately it will take a long time and it is much harder to work against prey drive. Reactivity towards people is usually something based in an animal's emotions- fear, over-excitement, frustration. Unfortunately, prey drive is a very ingrained set of behaviors that has been selected for in dogs for a long, long time. In protection breeds like Mals, Dobes, Rots, GSDs its been put towards bite work, in herding breeds like Cattle Dogs, Aussies, and BCs its been put towards herding, and in hunting breeds its been honed and channeled in a way most useful to the hunter (Retrievers like to catch and retrieve, pointers point, spaniels tend to like to poke around bushes and flush game, Sighthounds chase, Scenthounds sniff out and tree/corner/trap, etc).

Some ideas on how to manage a dog with high prey drive in a multi-pet house:
- Set up safe rooms or areas for the cats
Some people will keep the stairs gated so that cats have the upstairs and dogs the downstairs, for example. Others have certain rooms that the cats have free range of and gate them off so the dogs can't get in. Sometimes the separation is permanent and sometimes it is only for when the animals can't be supervised/when no one is home.
- Get the dog used to a crate and/or being gated off in a room alone and only let him out when he can be watched
Pretty self explanatory. Maybe work with him being on a leash instead of letting him free-roam so that you can work really hard on reinforcing him ignoring the cats.
- Maybe consider keeping him tethered to you while he's out instead of free-roaming so you can work on reinforcing the behaviors you like; this will also make it hard for him to go after the cats, since he'll be restrained
- Have lots of places that the cats can get away; a lot of the time people will organize rooms so that the cat can move through it without being on the floor if they wanted to. Also, work with the cats so that they realize they can move around the room without the dog being near them, should you choose to do this- it might be a good opportunity to get some more time in with them. Clicker Training has been shown to be VERY successful with cats- force free methods with a very high rate of reinforcement can produce really surprising results in cats. Bribing is also a good way to get cats to do what you want. Teach them that being up high away from the dog gets them treats.

Having a dog with high prey drive in a house with cats does require some management and probably some change in habits to make everyone safe, but it is do-able.

You might also consider having the dog wear a basket muzzle when he free-ranges and the cats are also free-ranging. It won't stop him trying to bat with his paws, but it will protect the cats from his mouth. Definitely not something that should be on all the time, but it is a good management tool to use from some of the day, and a basket muzzle allows a dog to pant, drink, and some will allow you to be able to give the dogs treats.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,614 Posts
If you feel your cats are in danger of being hurt or killed by this dog, there is no shame in rehoming. You and the shelter were unaware of his issues with cats and it is perfectly understandable to bring him back so he can find a home where he can live peacefully without cats. Not everybody is up for managing a situation like that for the lifespan of a dog, I know I wouldn't be.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I think we're leaning toward rehoming...which will need to happen soon since we're about to leave for vacation. this is making me sad.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
I've been volunteering at a dog play-group for the past couple months. It's been interesting to watch shy or aggressive dogs learn to socialize with other dogs. There are usually 15 or so dogs and three trainers, who moderate the play group. I'd suggest that this might help some of what you're talking about.

Of course, continue to work with your behaviorist. It is about daily work!

Please keep us updated!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
28 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
yes....we brought him back to the shelter this weekend. i'm really really sad. i hope he's doing okay. also, they have him up on their website and they changed his name back to the one they gave him, but he responds is the one we gave him. idk it just adds salt to the wound.
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top