Fostering rescued pit bull with mysterious past
Hi, I'm new here, I did read through the general stuff before posting but I am eager to ask questions in case anybody can help. I'm going to describe my situation, and if you know what you're talkin about I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.
Some folks who work next door to my fiancee found this young male pit bull roaming around by the East River in Manhattan (not a very comfortable place). He was not neutered, not chipped, couldn't be more than about a year old, and was wearing a collar with a tag on it that said he was 11 years old - obviously from another dog. They named him Sam and took him to a vet where he stayed for a week. There he was neutered, got all his shots, and the vet agreed about his age. They said he was healthy, but diagnosed him as food-aggressive and dog-aggressive. My avatar is a picture of him.
The folks who found him already have animals all over the place, including FOUR dogs, all male, and couldn't keep him. Sam loved 3 of the other dogs but hated 1 of them, and the 3 dogs Sam liked did not reciprocate, so Sam had to stay in the bathroom most of the time. They began urgently looking for a home. That's when we stepped in and said in the meantime he can stay with us, though we can't keep him permanently. At least he'll be happier, not in a bathroom, and we live next to a really sweet park.
A little about me. I raised a guide-dog puppy for guiding eyes for the blind when I was a teenager, and learned the basics of dog training. Have been around dogs a lot, including pittbulls, but never had one permanently. My parents took in a very hostile 100 pound lab/shepherd mix a ways back who was going to be put down if he didn't stop biting people and other dogs, and by the time I was done with him he was a bundle of love with just a few minor issues. I'm also a huge guy, I'm 6'7", 260 pounds, so it's a little easier for me to deal with a strong temperamental doggy, for instance if he's going crazy on a leash.
So they brought Sam over. He had on a prong collar and it looked like the girl could barely control him even with that. The next day I switched him to a harness and he responds to it much better. He is very affectionate, likes to lie down and cuddle with us. But here is where he is weird:
-When eating or when a toy/bone is in, or even near, his mouth, he sometimes growls seriously if someone touches or approaches him. He does not do it all the time, and has peacefully let me take things from him without a sound if the time is right. I have been giving him space when he growls, but easing him into the idea that I can take/touch his things. Strangest instance was when I had my hand on his back, he picked up a toy, growled, I left my hand there, he snapped at me but not in a way that could have succeeded, then instantly became submissive and pressed the top of his head into my lap.
-He is VERY reluctant to take things from my hand. Even a piece of steak, he will move his jaw slowly and very timidly and won't take it until I convince him it's okay. He then will sometimes not eat it, but become protective about it as in last bullet. However has NO problem with looking you straight in the eye.
-He is cat-like about his food. He doesn't care for dog treats usually. He'll leave his dry food alone for hours, sometimes come back and eat it later, sometimes not. Most successful has been mixing a poached egg in with dry food.
-He does not mark territory when peeing. He seems to not know he's supposed to be peeing on walks. First night he was going in the house. I just let him know I didn't like this and that seemed plenty. He wants me to be happy with him. After that, no problem going outside. But he goes all at once in one spot, and pees like a female, ducked very low and submissive. Heavy praise and offering of (occasionally accepted) treats has been helping.
-He has had diarrhea the past 2 days, despite very controlled diet. Even gave him some Imodium with little effect. Potty stuff seems to make him nervous.
-He is almost too good about not chewing anything up. Everything about his personality is puppy-like - the curiosity and excitability. But he wouldn't dream of messing with any of my stuff. Sometimes he gets more comfortable and playful and might take a shoe, but if I just very mildly say no and replace it with a bone, he is completely done with the shoe.
So my question is, what do you think his history is? Who do you think had him for the first <1 year of his life, and left him out by the river with another dog's collar? I am entertaining the idea that he was being trained by some loser to fight, and was abandoned for not being aggressive enough. I can imagine that someone was holding meat near his mouth, and punishing him if he went for it, which seems like something one might do if they're teaching dogs to be aggressive but don't want to get bitten. It seems he has seen very strict discipline before and my guess is it just scares him so much he probably pees himself. I find he responds to positive reinforcement ten times better than any sort of aversive training. Saying "no" to him works amazingly well for his age, and when you praise good behavior he is so happy to have pleased you.
I had a prospective home for him that looked really good, but the guy was really apprehensive about the growling and mild territoriality, mostly because it's a bit unpredictable, and the dog would be alone a lot with his mom who's in her 60s. I really want to find Sam a nice home. Meantime he's getting very attached to me, and I must admit the feeling's mutual. After the possible taker left last night, Sam was nervous and so was I. I sat down next to him on the bed apprehensively, and he just let out this helpless little whimper and plopped his head on my lap to be pet. I may just have to make some adjustments in my life and let him stay..... but anyway, anyone got a clue about my theory? Any experienced advice on how to make the dog more trusting especially with new people? Any alternate takes on what he might have been through?
Thanks for reading this whole thing!
|diarrhea, food timid, pit bull rescue, resource aggressive, submissive urination|