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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,

I have my little man, an almost 7 month old Irish Wolfhound x Bull Mastiff puppy. At this stage, I'm a little perplexed, because it seems he's not great at picking up on other doggy social cues/body language stuff like that. I understand he's a puppy and learning and everything, I'm just beginning to get worried now, as he was attacked by another dog at the dog park last week and it was serious enough to scare the absolute bejeebus out of me.

The thing I have noticed is that he doesn't seem to pick up on the "I don't want to play with you" cues. If it's because the dog is tired, or is overwhelmed and wants some alone time, or whatever, he's just not picking up on it. Now I'm worried that it's going to get him in trouble, i.e. another dog will give him all the warning signals, turning away, growling, snapping etc and then will escalate to Frankie being attacked again.

Normally I end up coming in if it looks like it's going to get worse (either by drawing him away and getting him to sit down near the other dog and wait until they both seemed to have calmed down, or by redirecting with a toy, other playful dogs etc.) but I don't know if I'm stunting his learning curve by intervening.

My main concern is that I don't know the other dogs well enough to know what their warning signals are, or how quickly they escalate. Everyone keeps saying it will be ok, because he's a puppy and he'll grow out of his over-excited greeting of other dogs and always wanting to lick their faces and play, and that he's just learning, but I sort of feel like he's not learning good doggy manners, or how to pick up on their cues, and some dogs may not have a good tolerance for that.

Basically I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or suggestions on how to work with this. I just started reading through the calming signals sticky, and have watched a couple of YouTube videos and hopefully we can see if these work at home. More than anything, I'm concerned about his safety. I really don't want a repeat on last week.

Thanks :)
 

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Totally normal for puppies. Lexy's been socializing pretty freely now off-leash with dogs for maybe... 4 months? And the only thing she has gotten better at is coming when called so at least I can call her off before she pushes another dog too far.

Dogs can sense (to an extent) the age of a dog and do lend more tolerance to puppies but as the dog hits 7, 8, 9 months they begin to wear their welcome out faster. And if they are a heavy, strong, large-breed puppy, all that zooming and space-invasion can really set a lot of dogs on edge. It's all about gauging the stress of the dogs that the puppy is interacting with and intervening before things go sour. Puppies at this age are too excited by the opportunity for play to really consider another dog's attitude toward them.

Another precaution is to be very strict about who the dog socializes with. Lexy is not allowed to play with any dogs that are on leash, and no medium-small breed dogs. Mostly, the playmates that I pick for her are other labs and sometimes herding breeds because these dogs tend to be the only ones that have the energy and patience necessary to have a good time with her. And even then, I'm bribing them with my dog-treats LOL.

ETA: And don't worry about him learning the hard way-- he already knows what is rude and what is not; his self-control just has not caught up with him yet. This will come in time.
 

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I think the easiest thing to do would be to teach a solid recall, and call him away before he gets super amped up. Give him a minute or two before re-engaging in play to calm down if necessary.

As far as "growing out" of over-excitement...I haven't personally experienced my dog getting better with any of her over-excitement, and she is 3 now. What has worked for her is working on being calm around other dogs, and managing her at the dog park or dog beach.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Kelly, thank you! We've been going down to the dog park since after he had his last set of needles, so about 3 months. It's normally the same dogs there (they're all off leash for the most part.)

He also has a habit of jumping up and putting his huge clumsy paws all over their heads, which I've noticed a lot of dogs don't like. And we haven't quite got the recall-with-super-exciting-distractions down pat :p

Now that I think about it actually, he does tend to more often take small dogs seriously when they growl or bark, and leave them alone.

Thank you for the last part too! I definitely don't want a pup with bad manners, with people or other dogs.

Seebrown, thanks :) That's basically what we're working on too. Recall with distractions (really fun ones) and calmly meeting people and other dogs. He will sit with me and calm down once I draw him aside, but some times take longer than others, and I don't want to be holding him out of it until he gets frustrated or upset.
 

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With Lexy I try to direct her focus to her Chuckit/ball if she is harassing another dog. I also keep a tug-toy in my backpack so that I can engage her with that if she's overstepping her bounds. Redirecting her to play with myself is not even terribly hard, I think they just get really hyped up by the presence of other dogs and will direct all that monkey business to the most convenient target.

I've also noticed that she has started (as of the last few days) to finally follow dogs in quieter activities like sniffing around the park when they are both tired of running. She is about 9.5 months at the moment and was an absolute terror/ social klutz when I started with her.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Even though we see these dogs about 4-5 times a week, he still acts like he hasn't seen them in years :D
If he's in a super high hyped mode, he won't even focus on me for treats, even when they're waved in front of his nose. I've started taking him for a walk before we go to the dog park, to tire him out, so he's less annoying to the other dogs there haha.

But it's good to know they do kinda get over it :)
 

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Find out what his threshold is: The thin red line between 'Yep I see you right there dad' and 'OmigodomigodIcantstopzoomingcausetheresdogsRIGHTthere!!!'

When you're just under this threshold, this is when he is workable. Work as close as you can to it and stuff treats in his face, get him to 'watch you' and do any commands he knows and generally pay attention to you. Then congratulate him and let him play. Every time before you approach these dogs, work on maintaining his attention in their presence.

Eventally he will begin to learn that treats are available whether he's paying attention or not and that he should be keeping half an eye on you while he's playing in case you have something good for him. Work on calling him over between plays and praising/treating. Stuff like that. Gradually getting him to stay mindful of you even when otherwise engaged. This will help him to listen to you instead of just forgetting about you when in the presence of other dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Kelly :)
That sounds really good. We have a big stretch of open grass before the dog park, so I should use that and just move him closer and closer to the fence, working with him for a bit before he can go in.
Generally when we're close (or even just heading in the general direction of the park), the only thing he will listen to is a "sit" (if he's pulling) because once he sits, we pause and then WE GET CLOSER. And he has to sit before I open the gate to go in, sit again to take the leash off, sit and wait before I'll let him in the park, etc.
 
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