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Old 11-15-2012, 12:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Agression issues with older female

I am taking care of my parent's two german shepherds for a couple of months, and for most of their lives, the dogs have had access to 10+ acres of open plains and trees to run and play in.

This was great fun for them, to be sure, but a consequence of this is that they rarely were taken for leashed walks, and weren't very well socialized at any point throughout their lives.

Now, I'm taking care of them, and I have access to a large park next to where I live. They are actually pretty good on the leash, but whenever they see a dog, the both of them lunge and pull and bark at whatever passes by.

The male usually just follows the lead of the female, who usually instigates the barking. This has been an issue for a long time, honestly, but I've never been in a position to do anything about it.

Are there any suggestions on how to get her more used to being around other dogs? She is 11 or 12 years old (I think 11). My brother think that she is probably too old to learn good behavior, but I hope he is wrong.

I've thought about taking her to a dog park to get her used to other dogs, but I think that she would probably hurt herself or another dog (probably herself, given her age).

I thought that taking her for walks would get her more used to other dogs, but there hasn't been much of an effect so far.

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Old 11-15-2012, 12:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't think she's too old to learn, but if this is a time of transition or stress for her, and she's old, and if there is another way for her to be able to exercise, who is benefiting from this? If the answer is not her, I would do things with her that will help her to enjoy her life. Put her in a car and take her to a place without other dogs (if she likes the car), let her play in the yard, whatever.

I hesitate to give advice, just because if this is only temporary and she will be going back to your parents or somewhere without other dogs, and she isn't enjoying this (see paragraph 1) I would hate to see her have to continue to put up with it, but if so, I would start by keeping the distance between her and other dogs under her threshold, work on focus at home, so that I could treat and create positive associations with other dogs - dog=food.
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Old 11-15-2012, 12:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I would NOT go to the dog park.
You can try working on threshold tolerances with B.A.T. http://functionalrewards.com/BAT-basics.pdf I've used this with my 2 older dogs, that unfortunately were lacking in thier social graces. Also working one dog at a time is better. I have found even though my girl Kiya can start trouble when she's with the other dogs by herself she is not a problem when it comes to other dogs. My male will not tolerate a strange dog in his face but tolerates them when they don't invade his space.
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Old 11-15-2012, 12:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Absolute NO dog park. Just me, but I would not stress out an older dog by trying to get her to tolerate other dogs. To what purpose? I lost my 14.5 year old girl in August. She never liked other dogs and lived quite happily without them. She learned to ignore other dogs on walks, but most of her play time was in the yard. In her last years, she actually did make a few doggie friends. Totally agree with Jean. Keep the old girl happy. Make life pleasant, especially if this is only temporary.
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Old 11-15-2012, 01:02 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree about the dog parks, too much stress for her. I would take her for quiet walks by herself. When you see other dogs turn away before she can react and reward her for coming with you. Allowing her to react reinforces the reaction. You may never be able to train her to be social and interactive with other dogs in the time you will have her but you can help her cope better.

I imagine if she is not socialized wll she is probably reacting out of uncertainty. If you can give her a structure way to respond, like turning and walking away, she may improve over time. You will never be able to fix a 10 year old habit in any short stretch of time.

Walk the male by himself too.

FWIW: my dogs are all well socialized and not reactive, but when wlaked together they tend to 'pack up' and can become reactive if the on coming dog is reactive.
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Old 11-15-2012, 01:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm also going to advise you to forget about the dog park. Some of the dogs I've seen there are just on the borderline of losing it, and it's only the fact that the others dogs around them are so neutral to them that prevents a fight. It's not worth the risk.
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Old 11-15-2012, 02:06 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Taking them for separate walks sounds like a good starting point. I do try to distract her whenever she sees another dog, but when she gets to barking she becomes pretty unresponsive.

She has never been clicker trained before, but I am trying to incorporate that into her training in order to use it when walking.

They really do enjoy their walks, and I like taking them, but it's annoying when they don't behave themselves.
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Old 11-15-2012, 02:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pattyobrien3 View Post
Taking them for separate walks sounds like a good starting point. I do try to distract her whenever she sees another dog, but when she gets to barking she becomes pretty unresponsive.
The best time to distract her is before she reacts. Watch her body posture, ears, around her eyes and mouth for signals. Depending on her threshold you may only have seconds to see it. Call her to you, redirect and walk in a curve around the dog or another direction.

Example with Woolf - he will stand tall, ears alert - ok he is interested could go either way, react or ignore - mouth closes and he is still - seconds to redirect or he explodes.
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think the instructions in the BAT PDF seem pretty straightforward, but I don't really know anyone with a dog that I could work with.

Is there a way to modify the BAT method with a dog approaching us, instead of vice versa?
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I just used what was going on around me. One day we had a repair man come in, my husband was in the other room with him. Normally loud mouth Apache would be barking up a storm, not this time. My husband was shocked, Apache stayed quiet and patiently waiting for more delicious liver brownies.
If I were taking the dogs past a house that I know thier dogs would charge the fence barking at my dogs, I would stop before my dogs started looking for the charging dogs, get my dog to look at me, good dog good dog, specially if the other dogs were out and my dog was not looking at them. Then I would end the session, not go any further.
My dogs love my liver brownies so much I can get there attention back to me in a snap, want the recipe?
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