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  #11  
Old 04-02-2012, 02:43 AM
j0equ1nn j0equ1nn is offline
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JessLough: That is a good question, one shouldn't assume the obvious wasn't overlooked. In fact I had a friend who's dog was "rescued" while she was in a store shopping for a few minutes. Some people saw she had on a heavy metal T-shirt and assumed that means she sacrifices animals to satan or something, and STOLE her DOG! She never saw the dog again. But yeah, according to the finder, the number on the collar was called and it was out of service. The vet identified the tag info to have come from a clinic out in Sunnyside Queens (not even the same borough where he was found).

Also since it was mentioned, Sam was not found in a poor neighborhood. If I recall correctly it was on the Manhattan side of the East River and by my standards a poor neighborhood doesn't exist in Manhattan. He would have had to cross a bridge or wander all the way down from the Bronx to have come from someone who couldn't afford to feed him steak every night. So my guess is that he was intentionally abandoned. But I do concede that neither this, nor the lack of a chip or neutering, really says much. I chatted with the girl who found him tonight (mostly to ask the question about the tag) and told her about this thread, so she will most likely register and put in her 2 cents, and she can probably correct any info I got wrong about before he came here (but I think I got it right more or less).

At the end of the day I guess it doesn't really matter where he came from and what his past is because we'll never know and I'm going to take care of the dude either way, whether I place him with a good owner or keep him myself. But the comments, especially what Maxy24 said, make a good case that he wasn't bred to fight. He is definitely used to living in a domestic environment. I guess this time I was the racist pit bull stereotyper

In other news, he was left alone for over 8 hours for the first time this past week, when I had to go to work & school and he was so well behaved it is almost freaky. You would think he had straightened up the place. Touched nothing but his toys. He just gained some major points toward the possibility of just staying here with me..
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  #12  
Old 04-02-2012, 05:20 PM
j0equ1nn j0equ1nn is offline
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I just want to apologize for the redundant posts. Sometimes when posting I got an error message and it looked like I'd lost everything I'd entered, so I posted again... Next time I'll just wait for it to show up.
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  #13  
Old 04-02-2012, 05:34 PM
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Glad to hear he was well behaved! Hope things keep improving for you
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  #14  
Old 04-16-2012, 02:55 PM
j0equ1nn j0equ1nn is offline
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Hi all. I've still got Sam. I actually haven't been trying very hard to find a home for him 1. because in the back of my head I really want to keep him even though it's a bad idea, and 2. I don't feel comfortable sending him to a permanent owner until his growling/snapping issue is resolved. I thought I would post again about his improvements and some new things I've noticed that I'm not sure what to make of.

First of all his poop/peeing in the house has stopped almost entirely, but not without some drama. I did not take him to the vet about a possible UTI mostly because I can't afford a vet, and if he did have one it would have been very minor so instead I gave him apple cider vinegar for a few days, with no change. It seemed he was doing it to rebel against me because it would always follow some discipline for other bad behavior. At one point he went right on my bed as I was getting ready for work and I got really angry with him. I yelled at him and went to pick him up to put him in the bathroom for a time-out and he recoiled and bared his teeth as if he was certain I was about to hit him. I just slowed down, calmed myself, gently picked him up and put him in the bathroom, then took him outside about 5 minutes later and of course he refused to go. It was going on like that for a while, where I would lose my temper sometimes, which seemed to make things worse.

Then I read something about "submissive urination" online and decided it described his behavior to a tee. Apparently some dogs will pee as a way of showing you they are submitting to your authority, so if you yell at them for it, it only confuses them and encourages them to do it again to show they think you're the boss. I found this kind of heartbreaking but was sure that was it. The main advice for a dog with this problem is to stop punishing them in any way for inappropriate peeing, and wait for them to outgrow it. So the next time it happened I didn't yell at him, didn't "ground" him in the bathroom, I just cleaned it up and took him out for a short strictly-business walk (he didn't go). And... that was the LAST time he peed in the house, with one minor exception. Kind of remarkable. I think more people need to know about this submissive urination phenomenon because I saw it in another dog I helped with and at the time nobody could understand or control it in anyway, but in hindsight that was definitely it.

He is learning general obedience very well. Since we live in the city I always make him sit at the curb before crossing the street and he does this immediately almost every time now. He has proven himself very friendly and never aggressive with other dogs, just very excitable and usually annoying to the other dog, especially if they're much older. He's also very friendly with people, no matter who they are, he's very trustworthy about meeting anyone.

I make him lie down before being given meals or very special treats/toys. At first he seemed to take this very personally, but now he dies it right away and it seems to have helped with his getting protective, though that still happens. I pet him a little as he starts his meal and if he growls I take it away. You may think that is dangerous but, well, it's working. He hardly ever growls when eating anymore. Maybe I'm stupid but I'm not afraid of this dog. The couple times he has snapped at me I've just grabbed him by the back of the neck and pinned him down, then held his muzzle closed, made him look at me and said no bite very firmly, then when I let him go he is all apologies. It is happening less and less... but still happening.

The most problematic is when he is given a new toy that he especially likes. He does not want anyone to come near him when he is alone with it. Especially troublesome is when he brings the toy up to someone, then suddenly decides to get protective, and starts growling. And this is serious growling. If you don't back away he WILL snap at you. I can control it by just putting away those kinds of toys when people are over, but that doesn't help much as far as passing him to a new owner.

He will growl when he is playing, sometimes sounding pretty scarey, but it is completely harmless, the tail is wagging, and he knows you are playing with him. But that also makes it hard to explain him to new people. I always tell people that if he is lying down alone with a toy and growls at you, just leave him alone for a while. However if he growls like that at me, I feel it's important he know I'm the boss so what I'd been doing is just grab the toy from him anyway, and if he snaps at me I do as I described above. I would say that he does not seem to be making a serious effort to bite me, but it is still scarey.

More recently, I've been trying to avoid giving him the chance to snap. Instead, when I see him acting that way about a toy, I will kneel down about 6 feet away from him and call him gently, trying to get him to snap out of it. If that doesn't work, I just grab the thing and put it out of his reach for a few hours. More and more he has been responding to this. The last time I did this, he got up, left the toy, squeezed out a few drops of urine (hence the 1 minor exception to peeing inside mentioned above), then cowered over to me, tail tucked, and I pet him and brought him back to normal. I cleaned up the pee and didn't yell at him. He then acted very submissive the rest of the night.

I'd be surprised if there is any better way of handling this, but if there is I'd like to hear it. I anticipate people will tell me not to take a chance at getting bit, but the way I see it somebody has to or this dog will probably have to die. I'd also like to hear opinions on whether the growling/snapping might ever go away entirely. Keep in mind this dog is only about 1 year old.

Then there are some other details that are just strange:

He has a lot of small patches of missing hair on the back of his neck and his back. I didn't mention it because at first we thought it was a rash, but it didn't respond to any treatment, and after seeing it in a lot of different lighting I'm pretty sure they are scars. Though I'm not sure what sort of scars. They look kind of like burns, or very bad scrapes.

He sleeps in bed with me and my fiance (not recommended for improving your sex-life ) and is the cuddliest dog I have ever seen in my life. He likes to be pressed up against one of us at all times, often upside-down. But sometimes when he is in a more down mood, he will be curled up at the other side of the bed, and if I say anything to him in a comforting tone, like just "Good night Sam!" or "Who's a good boy?" or the like, he will start softly whimpering and squirming up to me until he is basically in my arms with his head under my cheek, being spooned. Then he will want to sleep like that for hours. He seems to need this sort of comforting, and I've really never seen anything like it in a dog. Not to mention that this also heartbreaking and makes it pretty hard to pass him off.

Anyway, as always, any insight is appreciated.
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  #15  
Old 04-16-2012, 04:32 PM
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Maxy24 Maxy24 is online now
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I'm glad you've figured out his urination problems, submissive peeing makes sense given his other signs of fearfulness. It's good to see it's getting better.


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I pet him a little as he starts his meal and if he growls I take it away. You may think that is dangerous but, well, it's working. He hardly ever growls when eating anymore. Maybe I'm stupid but I'm not afraid of this dog. The couple times he has snapped at me I've just grabbed him by the back of the neck and pinned him down, then held his muzzle closed, made him look at me and said no bite very firmly, then when I let him go he is all apologies. It is happening less and less... but still happening.
As you expected, I'm going to recommend you stop doing both of these things...taking things away or punishing when he growls/snaps. You MUST always keep in mind why the dog is guarding, which is because he's afraid of you taking his things. All your punishment does is confirm this for him. So while the behavior may decrease due to fear of getting punished, the dog will never become COMFORTABLE with people taking things away, and therefore there is always the risk that he could decide to bite. You are not changing how he feels about you coming near his things, so there may be a time that he forgets that you might punish him because it's been a while since he last guarded or he just likes the object too much to care that you're going to hurt him and he thinks it's worth the risk. It's much safer for you, and for any future owners, to actually make him welcome you coming near and taking his things. Plus I just really, really dislike people alpha rolling or scruffing their dogs, it just makes them scared of you. What you see as "apologies" from your dog are called appeasement gestures. Dogs do them to try and stop confrontation, they are essentially telling you that they are not a threat and to please stop hurting them, they don't want to fight.


Like I said, my dog used to guard things (though it was mild and specific- he only guarded stolen objects and would only growl/snap, never bite). He guarded things because he stole things and we reacted by taking them away. He felt he must guard his things to keep them, it makes sense. Punishing or taking them away anyways did not help, he started hiding with his things under the coffee table, which essentially cornered him and caused him to become more dangerous when you tried to take his things. The absolute best thing I did was teach him to retrieve objects. He will now retrieve anything I ask. His toys, keys, the remote, shoes, socks, even a dime. We had a problem with him grabbing random items off of the ground on walks and then not dropping them. Now I simply ask for him to "bring it" (his retrieve command) and he quickly plops it in my hand. The key here is that 99% of the time I look at it, decide there's no harm in him having it, and give it right back. He has no fear that I'm going to take it because I generally don't, I just look at it.

I'll give him something to play with, like a paper towel roll or water bottle and after a few minutes ask him to bring it to me and then I give it back. I might even chase him around first and then stop and ask for him to bring it, he always does. When I give him a new bully stick or antler or toy I let him have it for a little while and then ask for him to bring it to me, then I give it back so he understands I don't want to steal his stuff. My dad saw him with a stolen object (takes from my brother's room) and started chasing him, telling him to drop it and Tucker was darting around avoiding him. I told dad to stop and I told Tucker to bring it. He looked at me for a second, then turned and trotted over and plopped it in my hand. It was a cat toy so I gave it back (playfully wiggled and tossed it so it was like a game). A few weeks ago we were out in the yard at night and he picked something up that I couldn't see, when I brought him over to the steps in the light I saw it was a dead bird. I really didn't think he'd drop it, I called inside to my dad to get me some treats and as he went to do that I asked Tucker to drop it and he did without hesitation. Dad brought out the treats, I gave him a bunch, tossed the rest inside so he went in after them, and closed the door so birdy stayed outside. Before teaching him to retrieve and practicing with so many objects, he wouldn't even drop sticks that he picked up outside, and now he'll drop dead animals!

I can go up to him while he has anything and stick my hand under his chin and he knows to put it in my hand. As soon as he sees me coming he knows I'm going to ask him to give it and he likes that so does it immediately and willingly with a smile on his face. There is nothing bad about me approaching him with his things, it's only good. He gets rewarded and he gets to keep his stuff (99% of the time, and the other 1% that I must take the item I distract him so he doesn't notice that he's loosing his stuff). I know he will not growl or snap at me because I know he has no negative emotions about me touching his stuff, he isn't upset about it like your Sam is because he's come to expect good things from my touching his stuff, those negative emotions just aren't there. He knows that "bring it" and an outstretched hand is good for him and he welcomes the hand and the command. With any sort of aggression you really want to try and change the emotions if at all possible, not only the behavior. Getting rid of those negative emotions negates any chance of the dog suddenly loosing control and biting, he is not worried/upset to begin with.


That's my suggestion anyways, if you decide you'd like to give this method a try let me know and I'll tell you more about teaching a drop it and a retrieve. It was not hard AT ALL, he picked it up super fast. Then it was just a matter of practicing with as many objects, taken from many different places (home, yard, on a walk, at the pet store) as possible.
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  #16  
Old 04-17-2012, 11:00 PM
j0equ1nn j0equ1nn is offline
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Thanks Maxy24 for such a thoughtful response. I think I am interested in the method you describe. I want to say a little more about how I've approached it so far though to give better context.

The times when I've taken stuff away from him, it's always been temporary. My general procedure has been to take it away, then relax him a bit by having him sit and petting him. Then I make him lie down before he can have it back, and I pet him and say "Good boy" as he's taking it back, which he does very timidly. In these instances, he is reluctant to lie down and looks guilty, and does it slowly, but he does it. I've noticed after doing this two or three times with a problematic toy, the behavior goes away. There was one chew toy he was especially protective of but now he brings it right up to me, and other people (even people he's just met) to play fetch with it. But you do need to put in some effort to get it out of his mouth. More importantly, it seems that every time he gets a new toy that he particularly likes I have to start all over. So yeah I'm interested in what you suggested.

Also, the park where I walk him is often littered all over the place with chicken bones. I get really worried about him choking on one so I've taught him not to eat them with a "Leave it" command. He never growls over the chicken bones, in fact I've never seen him growl like that outside. There were 2 times when he was eating a bone and I dug it out of his mouth, honestly because I was afraid of him choking on it, and he was cool with forgetting all about it right away. He responds to "Leave it" very well, inside and out, but it seems way different to him from when he is guarding something.

Also, when I take him to play in the park I have a game where I hold a stick about as high as I think he can jump and have him jump for it until he can grab it. Then I let him run with it a while, then I play tug-of-war with him which I always win, and repeat. He seems to really love this game and will even forget about nearby animals to play it. But I can't imagine how I could get him to drop the stick willingly. I was also wondering, is it bad to play tug of war like that? He does growl pretty loudly sometimes during the tug-of-war but I know it is completely in fun, even if it can be unnerving to others.

Oh, one new weird thing. Today he actually peed in more than 1 different spot for the first time. 3 different spots actually. I'm interpreting it as an increase in confidence but I don't know.

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing more about teaching that "Bring it" command.
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  #17  
Old 04-17-2012, 11:03 PM
j0equ1nn j0equ1nn is offline
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Oh one other thing... I never thought to differentiate between "snapping" and "biting." But now that you mention it, what he does would be much better described as snapping. It is aggressive and does come with a bark, but it doesn't really seem like it would succeed in hurting you much. The only times this ever happens is if he's growling about something he's guarding and you don't back away.
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  #18  
Old 04-23-2012, 06:59 PM
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You have been given great advice, however a dog marking in various spots doesn't mean they are confident!
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  #19  
Old 04-23-2012, 10:08 PM
j0equ1nn j0equ1nn is offline
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thehoundgirl: Okay, gotcha. That was actually the only time he did that, but sometimes he will squat and not go. I think what it really is is that he gets distracted by something. He is VERY distractable outside, but does respond to me, some times better than others. When he won't I just snap his leash and usually he'll remember to listen to me (he wears a harness - I've found any sort of slip collar or prong collar inappropriate for him since he tends to be submissive - just being jerked toward me seems enough).

I took him to a party yesterday and he was very well behaved and very popular. Anytime somebody would leave he would whimper, he loves everyone.

I had one incident with him though that was a bit difficult. My fiancee was lying down with him, her face right in front of his. Someone opened a door to enter the room and he was startled, so he barked and in the process hit my fiancee right in the face with his teeth, leaving a mark and a bruise. Not knowing what had happened right away, I rushed in and held his muzzle as I checked to see if my fiance was okay and find out what happened. I really think this was an accident but as you can imagine it was unnerving to my fiancee. He was in tail-tucked head-ducked mode for a good 10 minutes until ultimately we had to encourage him that it was okay. But it might make it kind of hard to find another home for him since our main method was through my fiancee's customers at the coffee shop she works for, and here she is with an injury on her face from the dog.

We have been trying hard to come up with a way of just keeping him. At this point we feel like he's part of the family. In fact I found out I could get discounted pet insurance through my job and signed him up for the time being.

I'm still confused though about what I'm supposed to do when he is guarding food or resources. People say to just try not to give him a chance to do it, but of course sometimes it's going to happen anyway. And when it does people say it's not good to back down because it tells him his aggressiveness is successful. Now I hear it's also not good to overpower him and discipline him for it. The only other option seems to just let the dog bite me, which is obviously out. What exactly am I supposed to be doing?
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Old 04-23-2012, 10:29 PM
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It sounds like that was an accident. Have you worked with a behaviorist or done nothing in life is free (NILIF) with him?
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