December 30, 2011 7:47 AM Subscribe
We broke our dogs and we don't know what we're doing wrong. Please help!
posted by elizeh to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We have two dogs--a male Basset around 4 years old and a female hound mix around 3. Both are fixed. My husband had the Basset before I came into the picture; he was jealous of me (and still is, barking and interfering when my husband shows attention to me instead of him) and that's part of the reason we got the second dog.
When we got the mixed breed (she was about 3 months old, from the pound, and the Basset was about a year old) we had some problems with food aggression--she attacked the Basset a couple of times. We worked with a trainer and did obedience classes and worked through that issue pretty well over the course of a year or so, though there was still an occasional flare up, mostly revolving around couch territory. Whenever that happened, we would order them off the couch and they'd have to go to crates or sit nicely or otherwise prove their good behavior for a good, solid time-out before they were allowed to get back.
They will get very excited when people come over/deliveries are made, although they calm down after a while. They also bark relentlessly at everything that moves when they're in the back yard--people, wildlife, the neighbor dogs. These are people/animals they see every day, not strangers.
A few months ago we had to go out of town twice in fairly quick succession and boarded them. (We used to board them with our trainer, but one time they came back and our hound mix was very fearful afterward, so we stopped using him.) When we came back after the second trip, we were told that our Basset was no longer welcome--that he had gone after some of the other dogs aggressively during play time and then went after the handler when she tried to break it up. This was a bit of a surprise as we had never had any problems at the dog park--he would bark a lot, but he was never aggressive.
Shortly after that, my husband took them on a walk (he ends up being the primary dog-walker in our family because of my work schedule). There are often many loose dogs in my neighborhood, and they ran into them on this walk. Both dogs lunged forward, angry, barking, completely uncontrollable, and it was all he could do to just drag them far enough away to end the problem. On another walk, they did the same to some kids. In the past, the Basset was always super excited and gentle around kids so this was especially surprising. My husband made a concerted effort to work daily with the dogs, reinforcing their training and confidence (I have also reinforced the training in my interactions with them) and in all other ways they have been behaving better than ever.
He started walking the dogs later at night to try avoid those loose or tethered dogs and kids because every time it just ended with the same bad results. When it did happen, he tried his best not to panic and to reassure them with confidence and food, but nothing could calm them until the source was gone.
Which brings us to last night:
On last night's walk, a neighbor was walking his extremely well-behaved German Shepherd and the typical chaos ensued. The other dog passed and was 20-30 feet past them and was completely ignoring the madness of our two dogs. Somehow my husband lost the leash of the female who immediately charged the GS (twice her size) and attacked it unprovoked. The GS's owner had to kick our dog to fend her off.
Fortunately, no one was hurt, but we're in a bind. We don't feel like we can take them to the dog park anymore, and after last night, even going for walks feels like a bad idea.
We don't really have the finances to get true, professional help from a behaviorist. What can/should we do?