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Old 03-04-2013, 09:41 AM
straw straw is offline
Top Dog
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 539
Default Social Skills - how to teach them?

My new foster is a weird dog. He is playful, friendly, and sweet, but has very poor social skills with other dogs. He acts like a three month old pup, but in a 75lb, 2 year old body. Obviously, this is not ok.

His repertoire includes:
-Grabbing legs when my own dog Venice walks past, even when she's not soliciting play.
-Poor bite inhibition - Venice came away with (insignificant) scrapes from his teeth after their first time offleash together.
-Inappropriate play behaviours such as grabbing and holding, grabbing the nape of the neck and face, lots of body checks and pawing at the face.

He does mean well. I have seen 0 aggression from him, he just has no idea how to play or control himself. He's a bully. Venice is not the dog to school him, since she is very passive and lets all his crap fly.

In the house, he is easy to call away from play. His recall is lousy outside though, so when we exercise offleash it's in a fenced in ballpark. Unfortunately this space is way too big for me to have verbal control when he's with another dog.

What I've done so far:
-He is not allowed outside offleash with any dogs, period. He may not be TRYING to hurt other dogs but he easily could, and even worse, could provoke another dog to start a brawl.
-When he and Venice play indoors, I give them my undivided attention and referee. Any inappropriate behaviours, and play stops while I get them both to settle. I've seen some improvement, but I know this will be slow going.
-Lots of work on focus exercises and recalls.
-Hunt for a SMALL fenced in area so I can begin working with calling him away from Venice outdoors.
-Considered dogs owned by friends who may be able to help teach him play manners - in a controlled environment of course.

Obviously this isn't his fault. Someone let him down and he was never able to develop social skills. How can I help him learn them, 2 years too late? I'm trying to keep my expectations realistic. I don't think he will ever be dog park material. I don't think he will do fantastic with strange dogs the second he meets them. But I DO think that polite play with dogs he knows/is introduced to slowly and properly, is in the realm of possibility. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Edit: It's been suggested that he should just be placed in a country home where he won't be around other dogs. I don't believe all dogs need dog friends and if he were aggressive/fearful/unhappy around other dogs, this might not be a bad option. But he's not. He wants to play with them so badly, he wants to meet them, he wants to be social, he just doesn't know how. That's why I'm loathe to write him off as needing to be part of a family that has no interest in giving him dog friends.
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