Dangerous with Dogs

Dear DogMa,

I know this is going to get a bit long, so please bear with me. I have an 85 lb., six year-old Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix. He’s incredibly well behaved in our house and yard. Obeys all come/sit/stay/down commands instantly. Will wait while I go through doorways first, sits patiently waiting until I verbally release him to eat his food. I can take a meat-covered bone away from him without a single blink–he just wags his tail waiting for me to give it back. He’s playful but gentle and has more energy than he knows what to do with. Buddy acts like a big goofy kid and he constantly seeks attention. He’s great with babies, children, and loves wrestling with teens. He’s definitely an alpha, but my 13 year-old beta Greyhound has put him on the ground when he bugs her to play. Perfect dog, right? Yes and no. He’s a cross between Scooby Doo and Cujo.

The problem: He goes ballistic around other dogs. It started when he was 18 months old. Before that, I used to take him to dog parks so he could play with other dogs and he was great. Nothing bad ever happened to him there, but I haven’t been able to socialize him for years now because he attacks any dog that comes near him–or he charges them without even taking a minute to stop and sniff. When he was 4 years old, he got out of the yard two different times (gardener left the gate open) and he attacked two dogs–put them both in the emergency room with broken ribs and punctured lungs. He also killed my neighbor’s Jack Russell after it tunneled under the fence into our yard. That little dog had been antagonizing him through the fence daily for almost a year.

The first two incidents gave him two strikes with Animal Control. The third incident he got lucky(?) that the dog came into our yard, so they didn’t take him to put him to sleep. He has never so much as growled at a human, but he hates other dogs.

I don’t take him out for walks much anymore. I’m always afraid he’s going to hurt another dog. (We have tons of dogs in this neighborhood.) He lunges and pulls to go after any dog he sees. I’m not very strong, so it’s hard to control him–even with a prong collar and a muzzle.

On every other level he’s such a great dog, but I wish I knew of a way I could get him to be okay around other dogs. Is there anything I can do? No trainer I’ve approached will take him because he’s already killed another dog.

There has got to be something I can do. Any suggestions?

Annette

—–

Annette. I am so very sorry you are in this situation with your boy. I can’t even imagine the termoil you must be feeling. However, without being there to observe his behavior, to see what signals he’s sending out I’m really not able to give you an acurate assessment. It is very possible that he can come back from this. So please don’t lose hope. It will require a LOT of dedication on your part, but things can get better.

The first thing I’d recommend is to find a qualified behaviorist (someone with a degree in animal behavior science), or a clicker trainer specializing in behavior problems. If you are unable to find qualified help, there is still hope for doing this on your own. Check out the book Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons. It is a remarkable resource. Tellington Touch may help, as well as Rescue Remedy, or a Calming Cap or Wrap.

I wish you and your boy nothing but the best.

Good Luck.

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