adoped pitbull help? (long post)

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bnoir
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adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:47 pm

Hi everyone - sorry in advance for the length of this post! I adopted a pitbull about three months ago. She's about four years old and spayed. The first time she was adopted out from this particular shelter she was abandoned just a few weeks afterward. The family actually moved and everything so they were never able to ask them why they did it. As far as I know, she has no bite history. She was fostered by the same woman twice.

When we first got her she was very excitable and she gave us what the foster mom characterized as "love nips." She jumped on us, licked our faces, etc. We had a couple of family friends come over, both of whom she was very excitable with and reacted with in a similar way.

However, we had an incident with a neighbor a few weeks after I had adopted her where she jumped up on him and he said she nipped him. And just today, a family friend came over and I saw my dog go to bite her after sniffing her and trying to jump on her (I had her on a leash). She said it was probably because her dogs were in heat and my dog could smell it on her, but even if that's true it's not like all other dogs do that.

Before that, when I had one of those snap collars (the ones that click when you close them), one of their dogs were out unleashed. My dog broke the collar running after their dog and they got into a scuffle. From what I could tell, it wasn't very serious, as I was able to carry my dog away. This also happened prior to that (without my knowing - otherwise, I would have gotten a different, more effective collar) but apparently it wasn't vicious at all and dissolved with her licking one of the dog's nose (though with the female dog she wasn't very amicable).

She also had/has a case of food aggression. One time while she was eating my mother walked by and she began to bark and growl at her. The other time my brother pet her and she barked and bit him on the lip kind of badly - he needed stitches. There was also about a week where she was barking at my mother and that still has yet to be explained. My mom is very sweet to her and very nice and they play together and even sleep in the same bed from time to time, but she was barking at her and it was unprovoked. It hasn't happened in a while although she did start to growl at her randomly a day or two ago.

We don't generally have many visitors over and ever since the incident with my neighbor, we try to keep her away from people, but I'm worried that this is only contributing to her fear and her overreaction to the people she meets. It's the same case with dogs - although we don't have dogs, the woman who fostered her did, and she got along with them. I don't want to deprive her of companionship but I can't take her to walk on main street as of now, let alone something like a dog park.

I guess given all that info, these are my questions:

1. What can I do to make her feel more secure? I call her a good girl when she does stuff right all the time and I don't yell at her when she does something wrong (aside from today with the family friend and her biting).
2. Is my dog dangerously aggressive or is she just reactive? I genuinely believe she's a good dog who has overreacted to stimuli (food aggression) or being excited (people) but that because of the aforementioned insecurity (with whatever may have happened in her life prior to us adopting her) she is acting out weirdly.
3. What can I do in terms of walking her and trying to get her to get a bit more socialized? Would something like a basket muzzle be worth trying, or is that cruel for dogs?
4. How do I teach her simple basic commands (including even getting her to come to me when called, which is a 75-25 shot with her)? It is very hard to get my dog to sit or lie down etc. because she sees a treat and she just sits down anyway. It's like she learned that when she sees a treat, she should sit down. But when she doesn't see a treat, she doesn't see it at all.
5. How do I get her to calm down around people if I can't let her near them in the first place? Even if she has a muzzle on, how do I keep her from jumping on them?
6. Does any of the behavior above sound like it could be a product of not enough exercise? How much walking should the average pitbull do? As I'm currently unemployed, I spend a lot of my day with her (easily 10 hours or so, not including when I'm asleep) so I don't think it's a lack of attention in general.

I'm so sorry about all these questions. She is my first dog and I love her very, very much and I'm just trying to figure out everything I can do for her to make her feel comfortable and loved. I don't want to do it the wrong way though, and I feel like I already might have as people advised when I first got her that I should go a dominance-based training route, e.g. Cesar Millan type stuff. I genuinely believe I can get somewhere better with positive reinforcement and was in fact shown this forum by someone who has several pitbulls as well. She specifically mentioned Victoria Stilwell and said she was a great trainer and used an excellent method.

I apologize for the unfocused, lengthy nature of this post! I just wanted to provide as much of a background as I could in case that could influence anyone's answer or help. Every little bit helps and I'm very appreciative! Even if they're not answers to the questions I've asked and they're just tips in general on how to foster a more positive home environment, I'd love to hear.

Thank you!

ClareMarsh
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by ClareMarsh » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:57 am

Hi there, we love information, so don't apologise for the long post. In fact I'm going to ask for some more information :lol:

Could you let us know about your dog's typical day. I know you said you spend a lot of time together but what time does she get up and go to bed. Where does she sleep. What exercise does she get and how long. What training do you do with her, if any. What food does she eat and when and where does she eat.

Whilst you will need some advice on specific approaches to the problems you have set out unless her overall schedule is right it's going to make it more difficult for you to fix things. So your current schedule would be really helpful.

A lot of what you're written about her sounds like she is both reactive when stressed or excited but also that she has no impulse control (although the two things do go hand in hand to an extent).

For the food aggression, right now whilst we figure everything out with you I would make sure she is fed somewhere that no one needs to go near her whilst she eats, this isn't avoiding the issue but it's the first step in getting her to feel she can relax with a meal and just as importantly it's going to keep everyone safe.

Finally whilst we're waiting for a run down of her day here is an excellent game that you can play with her to help with impulse control. Given she sits for treats it sounds like her food aggression is around her meals and so this should be fine to play with her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipT5k1gaXhc It's a great game because once you and she understand the concept with treats you can then start to apply it to other situations like access to people, going out the door etc
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Nettle
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by Nettle » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:04 am

Never be sorry for such a lovely informative post! You can't possibly give us too much information. It's so good to hear from someone so attuned to their dog. :)

Pitties are very sensitive, and their uncertainty comes out as over-excitement and boorish behaviour. The great thing is that they are very trainable but it's the excitement thresholds we have to control.

You have learned the hard way never to trust a breakable collar, so you will be using a metal buckle collar and lead. Consider a harness as well, where the lead attaches to the front chest area. Thus when she lunges, she automatically turns back to you. Buy good quality because you don't want weak equipment with flimsy buckles, and it's important to check daily in case of rubbed areas. I recommend one lead on the harness and one off the collar - it's not as difficult as it sounds. Do not use an extending lead.

I would recommend a full vet check, and you'll have to ask for specifics. It should include bloods for organ function, a full thyroid profile, sight, hearing, joints, skeleton, teeth - everything. That way we can rule out medical causes. Resist any suggestion of drugging your dog. Her behaviour does not warrant this.

Next, read about the food you are giving her. Food with colourings and additives can cause big behaviour problems in some dogs. There are websites such as dogfoodanalysis which will tell you lots about what is really in the food you give your dog.

For now, avoid situations that over-stimulate your dog - so no more dog park, no letting strangers pet her. This isn't for ever, but it is your foundation layer and so must be sound.

Until she gets control of her mouth, I think a muzzle will protect both of you. Get her used to it gradually, a few seconds at a time, and include peanut butter or pate on the end part so she wants to put her mouth into it. This will save a lawsuit for you and a one-way trip for her. Again, it isn't for ever.

Take her for walks where you can avoid other dogs and people getting too close to her. Your aim is for her to be calm: if she gets agitated, take her further away and reward her when she is calm. We have tons of threads on reactive dogs, so do have a read through. You won't feel so alone, and it will give you confidence that together we can help your dog to learn manners.

That's all for now from me, but others will be along soon to add their bit.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

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mansbestfriend
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by mansbestfriend » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:24 am

Hi bnoir. One way to look at exercise might be to physically exercise your dog till it's dog tired and has no energy left for mucking up, but you may run the risk of creating even more problems in the long run. I'd recommend moderate and varied physical exercise, lots of mental stimulation (maybe google something like "brain games for dogs"), play/games with human family members, teach basic obedience and other cues with Positive Reinforcement meathods.

Sounds like your dog already has learned that putting his bum on the ground may result in a tasty treat. Often handlers and/or foster carers will train this. To teach "Sit" on cue try Victoria's meathod (link below).

https://positively.com/dog-behavior/basic-cues/sit/
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Sit.

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:25 am

ClareMarsh wrote:Could you let us know about your dog's typical day. I know you said you spend a lot of time together but what time does she get up and go to bed. Where does she sleep. What exercise does she get and how long. What training do you do with her, if any. What food does she eat and when and where does she eat.
Thank you for your response Clare!

Her potty breaks and walks happen twice a day, the first around 9-10am and the second one around 5-6pm. These walks can be anywhere from like five minutes (because sometimes she gets super rambunctious and out of control and she's biting the leash/nipping my feet, ankles/refusing to move and rolling around in the dirt or grass) to half an hour. She also gets fed around this time, though sometimes she'll get fed before the walk, sometimes she'll get fed afterwards. She pretty much wakes up at around 8-9am and she's up until maybe 11pm, but she naps throughout the day. Her foster mom told me she's pretty lazy and she has a bad hind leg so she needs to take it easy but there are times where she'll act like a puppy. When she's in her puppy mode I'll play catch with her (her on one of those extendable leashes since I don't have a fence).

I don't do any training at the moment because when I first began I got discouraged with the whole 'she sits down for treats in general and not based on any command' issue. I just did the first part of that training video you sent me with her though and after a while she seemed to get it! She's still a bit excited when she sees the food in my hand but when I first did it she tried practically gnawing my hand off. Now she might lick it but when I open my hand with the food in it she waits/puts her head down as if in deference?

She eats Purina One smart blend, the lamb and rice formula, because when we first got her she had pretty bad diarrhea and that food was the only thing that kept her regular. We've been using it ever since. Before my brother got bit, we had her food bowl and water bowl downstairs in the kitchen area at the time. However, I've since moved the food bowl up to my room.

She sleeps in a myriad of places. Sometimes she'll sleep with my mother in her bed, sometimes she'll sleep downstairs on the couch, sometimes she'll sleep on my floor, sometimes she'll sleep on a bed of foam at the foot of my bed.

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:37 am

Nettle wrote:Consider a harness as well, where the lead attaches to the front chest area. Thus when she lunges, she automatically turns back to you.
I heard that harnesses are meant more for smaller dogs than larger ones since if a larger dog lunges with a harness it can drag you away more effectively. Someone recommended me a head collar with a little bit around their mouth (but not a muzzle) - is that advisable? Is it the same thing as a harness?
Nettle wrote:Your aim is for her to be calm: if she gets agitated, take her further away and reward her when she is calm.
If she's barking and growling at someone and I reward her when they're out of eyesight/earshot (which is when she tends to calm down) wouldn't this reinforce her and teach her that barking and growling at someone until they go away or can't be heard is good? I've done this but I'm worried it's teaching her the aggression is good. I try to calm her down when people are nearby and it's seemed to have a neutral effect on her.

Thank you for the response Nettle and sorry if my questions are way too obvious, haha.

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:42 am

mansbestfriend wrote:I'd recommend moderate and varied physical exercise, lots of mental stimulation (maybe google something like "brain games for dogs")
Thank you for the tip! I had no idea these types of games existed. I'll definitely be looking into purchasing a couple. And thank you for the link as well. Since we got her we've all been trying to get her to sit and unfortunately (per some bad advice, though it's my fault for not checking it out sooner) we've been attempting to force it by squashing her bum down until she sits. I'm going to try the method you linked me to probably tomorrow as I don't want to wear her out because I've already done the impulse control with her today. I figure not so much at once!

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Nettle
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by Nettle » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:45 pm

A harness goes around the body and is much safer than anything put around the dog's face. Harnesses have different areas for lead attachment and you need one where the lead attaches to the chest in the front. This is the easiest way to hold a strong dog.

If she is barking and growling at someone, she is too close. You take her away - don't wait for the person to go away. When she is at a distance SHE thinks is safe, she will calm/quieten down. Then you reward her. Thus you are rewarding the calm quiet behaviour. But MUCH more importantly, you are showing he rthat you are protecting her because you are taking her away from the thing that is disturbing her.

Some people use counter-conditioning and reward as soon as the dog is a reasonable distance from the trigger whether quiet or not. Again this does not reward the barking and lungeing, but instead reprogrammes the dog from 'person approaches and I bark and lunge' to 'person approaches and I get treats, so person approaching must be a Good Thing'. But it is critical for you to move your dog away from the trigger, and keep her on the furthest side from it. Don't drag her by the lead but get between her and the trigger and push with your legs while keeping her on a short lead. This way you are always between her and whatever she reacts to.

This is not for ever - it is your foundation layer.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

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Ari_RR
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by Ari_RR » Tue Sep 02, 2014 1:22 pm

An example of front-clip harness.... this one works best for my 107 lbs hound, but there are different kinds which may fit your girl better.
Image

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:23 pm

Nettle wrote:If she is barking and growling at someone, she is too close. You take her away - don't wait for the person to go away. When she is at a distance SHE thinks is safe, she will calm/quieten down. Then you reward her. Thus you are rewarding the calm quiet behaviour. But MUCH more importantly, you are showing he rthat you are protecting her because you are taking her away from the thing that is disturbing her.

Some people use counter-conditioning and reward as soon as the dog is a reasonable distance from the trigger whether quiet or not. Again this does not reward the barking and lungeing, but instead reprogrammes the dog from 'person approaches and I bark and lunge' to 'person approaches and I get treats, so person approaching must be a Good Thing'. But it is critical for you to move your dog away from the trigger, and keep her on the furthest side from it. Don't drag her by the lead but get between her and the trigger and push with your legs while keeping her on a short lead. This way you are always between her and whatever she reacts to.

This is not for ever - it is your foundation layer.
I can't thank you enough for the elaboration and I will definitely begin to employ this. Thank you so much Nettle! :D :D :D

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:26 pm

Ari_RR wrote:An example of front-clip harness.... this one works best for my 107 lbs hound, but there are different kinds which may fit your girl better.
Hi Ari - I'm just curious. The black buckle clip thing I see there on your dog's back is the same type my dog broke free from when she was chasing our neighbor's dog. Do those types of clips work differently when used with different types of leashes/harnesses? That is, because of the way she would be held back or walked away from a potential negative stimuli on a harness vs. a leash, would the harness not break because it is leading her away differently? Sorry if the question doesn't make much sense. I don't think I worded it so well.

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:42 pm

Hi all, OP here - thank you so much for all the help so far. I've already tried to employ a couple of new things and will do more in the following days to come. However, something happened with my dog today that I need help with.

My mom was in my room and she was talking to my sister on Skype. My mother was a bit loud as she exited - she laughed sharply, like jarring sort of ha! ha! - and she was kind of like prancing away for show and my dog barked at her and kind of lunged, but not really to bite, more like she was trying to assert herself. My mom then like actually ran away for real and then my dog ran to the door frame and barked at my mom's retreating figure.

I didn't say anything after this happened and I ignored my dog for about ten mins. afterward - was I right in doing this or should I have said something like a sharp No! or an ah-ah buzzer sound type of thing? Should my mother have run off? :?

I think all the times she's barked or growled at my mother I've been there with her - is this a territory thing? Is she trying to protect me or something? Because when she's alone with my mother they get along super well. I can't for the life of me figure this out. This is like the fourth time this has happened in the past week or two. I know some dogs just don't like other people but again, they seem to get along well 99% of the time.

Thanks again. :(

Ari_RR
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by Ari_RR » Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:12 pm

bnoir wrote:The black buckle clip thing I see there on your dog's back is the same type my dog broke free from when she was chasing our neighbor's dog. Do those types of clips work differently when used with different types of leashes/harnesses? That is, because of the way she would be held back or walked away from a potential negative stimuli on a harness vs. a leash, would the harness not break because it is leading her away differently? Sorry if the question doesn't make much sense. I don't think I worded it so well.
ok... so here is a better view of this harness. While in theory those black buckle clip things can break, in this case they are not really "load bearing".. In other words, if you have to hold the lunging dog, it's the solid front portion, with no buckle things, that will be under pressure.

There are different designs. There are some that tighten somehow if the dog pulls, etc.. That's not what this one is about. To me - this is simply a safety net, not a training device. But when one needs to hold the dog - the advantage of the front-clip harness is that it redirects the dog away from the target. Where with back-clip harness the dog remains pointed to the target.

Image
Image

bnoir
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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by bnoir » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:40 pm

Ari_RR wrote:ok... so here is a better view of this harness. While in theory those black buckle clip things can break, in this case they are not really "load bearing".. In other words, if you have to hold the lunging dog, it's the solid front portion, with no buckle things, that will be under pressure.

There are different designs. There are some that tighten somehow if the dog pulls, etc.. That's not what this one is about. To me - this is simply a safety net, not a training device. But when one needs to hold the dog - the advantage of the front-clip harness is that it redirects the dog away from the target. Where with back-clip harness the dog remains pointed to the target.
Ari, thank you so much! That really cleared things up. I think this would also be helpful because I'm always getting entangled in her leash (which I think might be too long - also, it's extendable, which a few people have told me is no good.
And like Netter said, would I also be able to have two leashes with a harness like yours? Or leads (are they the same thing as leashes)? One on the collar and one on the harness?
Thanks again :)

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Re: adoped pitbull help? (long post)

Post by Ari_RR » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:11 am

Leads are the same as leashes... I think "lead" is the way Brits say it :?
Extendable is no good! Even flat, tape-like... String-like are even worse. If that's what you have - toss it in the dumpster right away :lol:

2 leashes is fine. I've tried that too. The way I had it setup - leash attached to collar shorter than the one attached to harness. This way the "collar leash" is the "working" leash, you practice loose leash walking with it, that's the one that shouldn't get tight, and when it does (meaning when the dog pulls) - you stop or turn around, etc... If you are successful at that, the "harness leash" is always loose, because the dog doesn't get further away from you than the length of the "collar leash" which is the shorter of the 2.

"Harness leash" is there just in case, when all other things fail (like you getting between your dog and the target and pushing dog away), when your dog looses control and lunges, and all bets are off and you just need to hold it. In my case, for example,when a deer jumps out of the bushes in front of my hound - then all loose leash walking training simply goes out the widow :twisted: If that happens, I would simply drop the "collar leash", hold the dog with the "harness leash", get her under control and away from the target, and then continue...

But I think that some folks may prefer it the other way around - "harness leash" shorter than the "collar leash"... That makes sense when for some reason you can't drop one and switch to the other, and especially if you use head collar (like Gentle Leader) instead of regular collar around the neck. The reasoning here is that when you have to hold the lunging dog - you don't want the impact to be on the neck, it's much safer on the chest. Having "harness collar" shorter ensures that, if you can't easily switch yourself from one to the other.

Also... At some point you may be tempted to try a long leash... 30 ft long or perhaps even 50 ft long. If you do - only attach it to harness, never to collar - for the same reason. Long leash gives 30 or 50 ft of freedom, but it also may give 30 or 50 ft runway for the dog to gain speed and momentum before the impact, and in this situation you cannot have the impact on the neck, it may result in a serious injury.
Last edited by Ari_RR on Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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