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HI,
We found a stray and haven't been able to find her owners. We are not sure about keeping her. She gets aggressive around some other dogs and we don't know why. My wife tried to calm her down and she snapped at my wife. The dog is generally friendly and sweet. She seems more afraid and protective that mean. She is a big puppy I would guess around a year old. Not tiny but still a huge appetite. The vet thinks she is a pit lab mix. We first saw her in front of a burnt house. She then came up to my wife for help. She likes me but seems more comfortable with women. We called the number on her collar and it was out of serviced. She does not have a chip. We have tried to find the owner of the burnt house and called vets. It is hard because she was found about a hundred miles away at my in-laws house. We still have connections there. So we are still trying to find her owners. We are guessing she was there when the fire broke out and ran away but that is just a guess. She had a bruised leg ticks and was scared and hungry. We didn't just want to abandon her. We have cats and are a little afraid to let them be together. She did try to chase a bunny. I don't know if she has been used for hunting.

Any suggestions on how to handle walking her around other dogs and around the cats or anything else I would love help.
 

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How long have you had her? If you are committed to training her there are things you can do to address the dog reactivity. The snap at your wife could have been what we call redirected aggression - that happens when a dog is highly stressed but can't find an outlet for that stress on whatever is the actual cause, so they turn to whatever is close by - this time your wife. The snap, rather than bite, actually suggests good bite inhibition, had she wanted to bite, she would have.

If you want to give this a shot, the first thing is to have some very quiet days to bring her cortisol hormones right down. Cortisol is the stress hormone, this is why I asked how long since you rescued her - if it is recent, it may still be high.

There is something called trigger stacking, where the dog doesn't have time to calm down from one stressful event triggering their anxiety before a second one happens. So if you can imagine a bathtub, with buckets of water being poured into it with every stressful event - it fills faster than the water can drain out until it spills over the edge in a meltdown. That's what happens in trigger stacking as the stress hormone cortisol keeps getting topped up without the chance to drain down. So an event that your dog might be ok with on a normal day might cause a reaction if it comes close after another one.

This sort of behaviour with other dogs is actually not uncommon though, but very few dogs really want to get into a fight. All of their instincts tell them not to - in the wild, the risk of injury is simply too great. In fact, aggressive behaviour is almost always rooted in fear.

By putting on a big display, your dog is trying to frighten off the other dog, her body language is saying 'I'm loud and big and scary, don't come close to me if you know what's good for you'. And almost always the other dog will retreat, or be taken away by his owner, so your dog's behaviour becomes reinforced. It worked, so she knows he can do it again.

And, this sort of behaviour often happens when your dog is on lead, which means that she has found herself closer to the other dog than she would have chosen if she had been able to.

She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure. It's called flight distance, anything within that space triggers her fight or flight stress response, which you may have heard of. Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is aware of them, but relaxed. Your goal is to train that she doesn't need to react; not to stop a reaction in progress.

Reward her for being calm with something fabulous, like frankfurter sausage or a very special toy. The aim of this is to change your dog’s emotional response to the stressful thing (the other dog) by repeatedly pairing it with something good. In time, your dog will learn that scary dogs mean sausages appear and this creates something called a positive conditioned emotional response (+CER).

This website explains it in more detail - Care for Reactive Dogs

Gradually, over weeks and months rather than days, you can work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode, cortisol can stay in the body for some time. Studies in dogs are inconclusive but it may be several days. That means the distance she was comfortable with on one day might be too close on another day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog. And importantly, don't ask your dog to watch you if it is the other dog that is reactive. Your dog should never be in a situation where she could be at risk while she is complying with something you have asked her to do.

Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration - your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15; and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is, a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

In addition, the conformation (shape) or even colour of some dogs can trigger a reaction. Very broad fronted dogs (such as mastiffs or bulldogs) create the impression of 'facing up' just because of their shape, which can be intimidating even if their temperament is perfect. And black dogs are thought to have facial body language that is harder to read. Some dogs will be more reactive to un-neutered males, or particular breeds for no apparent reason. Learn what triggers reactions in your dog so that you can give her the extra support she needs.

I hope some of that helps.

For the cats though, I know little about cats so hopefully someone else will pick up on that.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks it has only been since Sunday. It is an awkward time to get a dog. We founder her after my father in-laws funeral. That is why we were there. I had surgery Tuesday so I can't really handle her if she pulls or acts up. We wife has a neurological disorder. So she has similar issues but they are permanent. I should be fine in a while. Not the perfect setting but we did not want anything to happen to the pup. We don't have much of an option on where to walk. We are on a closed street. No where to go but our circle or out to the main road. The main road is not a plan. We have a neighbor across the street who will not keep their dog on a leash or in a pen. She listens better to us than the owners. My wife told her to go home and she did. You seem right about the snap. My wife thought the dog was scared and my wife surprised her.
 

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Three days is no time at all, no wonder she is out of sorts poor girl.

To be honest, I'd recommend you try more to find her owner, there might be a very upset family who are missing her. Can you use social media, contact animal control in the area, vets in the area, the fire department for contact details for the displaced householder? Maybe some of our US members will have more ideas.
 

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We have tried all that except the fire department. Didn't think of that. So far no response. I don't even know for sure it she was at that house. It is just a guess. We are going to hit a few more vets but then we go to a vet 10 miles away because my wife likes her. I would like to keep her if I could but I don't want someone else missing their dog if they are in a position to take care of her.
 

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First thing. No luck. We do have a name. We are asking the vets specifically about that name.
I guess that you could post in Craigslist, but without a picture or accurate description. Sex and breed should be enough so the rightful owner can describe the dog to your satisfaction before turning him over.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Three days is no time at all, no wonder she is out of sorts poor girl.

To be honest, I'd recommend you try more to find her owner, there might be a very upset family who are missing her. Can you use social media, contact animal control in the area, vets in the area, the fire department for contact details for the displaced householder? Maybe some of our US members will have more ideas.
Three days with us. If she was involved in the house fire it was December 17. She was pretty hungry when she came to us. She may have been on her own a while. The number is from two area codes away but with cell phones that does not have the correlation it once did.
 

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For safety with your cats keep her on a leash inside and if she tries to chase the cats instantly tell her no and put her in a quiet room locked by herself like a timeout. Yes it's a correction but it works and the cats' lives and safety are the absolute highest priority as a dog her size could easily accidentally or deliberately kill a cat instantly right in front of you. So never let her get close enough to get a chance.
My dog loves to chase bunnies and he's never tried to harm any of my cats. My last dog would chase squirrels and deer and birds and he never tried to harm any of the seven cats I had in the eleven years I had him either. My childhood dog never tried to harm the three cats I had then either. I had four cats when I got my current dog a few years ago and unfortunately they were older so three have since died from cancer and now I have one of the original ones plus a new very active young cat that I got as a kitten so the two are always running and playing.
Plus I watch dogs in my home for extra income and have probably had fifty or sixty different dogs here. I'm very positive and encouraging when the dogs are friendly or sniff the cats gently but any gleam in their eye or sign of chasing or aggression I very firmly instantly say no and let them know it's absolutely unacceptable. It's as dangerous to the cats as letting the dogs run loose on a busy highway. Not happening I've heard way too many stories of dogs killing cats to take any chances.
One of my cats likes dogs and will walk right up to new dogs and try to sniff them, steal their food and play with them(my younger cat).
My older cat I found on the street as a kitten and he absolutely hates dogs but bonds with any dog I own eventually. He's awesome for teaching dogs to respect his space and will hiss, scream, yowl and cuff them right on the nose or face if they ignore his warnings and teach them to respect/fear him very quickly. If your cats are assertive like that it will be much easier to help your dog to learn to respect cats if you keep her.
Never leave the dog alone with the cats just as a precaution. Keep the dog and cats locked in separate rooms. I never let my dogs play or wrestle roughly with my cats it's much too easy for my hundred pound dog to accidentally hurt my ten pound cats if he gets excited. If he gets excited and I play fetch or tug inside with him the cats won't play anyway, they run and hide.
Keep dog and cat food separate, it makes them sick to eat each other's food and can cause food aggression but dogs LOVE cat food and it gives them all horrible diarrhea trust me since every dog I've watched has broken into my cat food area and then been sick for days.
Labs in general are fine with cats they're not bred to hunt or kill cats and I've watched dozens of labs and golden retrievers that have all been completely fine with my cats and never harassed them. The young ones have been interested and tried to play but listened when I said no and most importantly listened to the cat hissing and a cuff on the nose always backed them off. I watched one pitbull with a very high prey drive that I couldn't let loose near my cats because she kept trying to chase them so I had to keep her leashed or locked up the whole time she stayed. My Akita pitbull mix was fine with my cats. I've watched several pitbull mixes that were also fine with cats. One would try to chase the cats but her stupid owner told me she let the dog play and chase her own cats at home.
I always let the cat set limits and have the dog learn to respect the cat. Animals in a household need to develop their own relationships as long as it's safe for each one.
Give the cats plenty of safe areas to escape to. Cats like to be high up, like on top of cabinets or under beds where dogs can't get to them. They may hide for days or weeks and not eat much at any little change, especially a new pet is a huge stress for them. Cats don't like any changes but they'll adjust if you keep the dog.
I watch dogs for a weekend or a week all the time and my cats are so used to it one comes out within a few minutes to an hour and the older one comes out by that night. They remember the regular dogs that they like and come out instantly if it's a regular dog. If it's a young active dog or puppy whether they know it or not it takes them longer to come out.

There's lots of lost dog posts on various social media pages and you could also call animal control and local police stations in the city you found her and the surrounding cities.
 
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