Hello all. I am still trying to get the hang of forums, and my good friend Aimee helped me install an app on my phone that will hopefully help me with that
I wanted to say that, first, my two female dogs (Eva - 2yo-Pit Bull/ACD mix -) (Nana - 3yo- St. Bernard) have been doing MUCH better with no fighting. Obviously, I am not naive enough to think that there is no problem or that any problem has been fixed...but I am, very much, enjoying the sigh of relief that I haven't had to break up any fights and they've been co-existing nicely.
I've been really wondering about how to address the next issue I feel is at the top of my list...meeting other dogs.
I know, for a fact, that Eva has had little to no socialization in her 2 years. Her owner did not expose her to other animals and when she moved in with me, she has only had exposure to one other dog besides Nana. She has played and gotten along well with a friend's Malinois, Stannis. Of course, since I had no previous experience with her playing with other dogs, I thought she was going to kill him...but I was assured that she is just very vocal when playing, lol.
Her introduction to Nana in September of last year was a bit tense...of course Nana didn't leave, so Eva struggled a little with that, yet did remarkably well for an unsocialized dog.
I am unsure as to Nana's level of socialization. When she was at the shelter, she didn't take issue with any of the dogs kenneled near her, aside from her "next door" neighbor, Wrigley. Wrigley was a Lab mix with an EXTREME amount of energy. Nana wasn't the only dog that found him a bit annoying. When Eva and Nana were introduced, I saw a lot of submission from Nana. She approached calmly. She seemed very respectful of Eva, despite Eva's attempts to mount her and other excited actions.
When in the house and the inside door is open, both dogs alert when there is a dog outside. They both bark loudly and paw at the door, they even pushed the screen away from the frame last fall when a neighbor's off-leash designer dog charged my house.
In the car, Nana's behavior is concerning to me. I allow her enough window space to stick her nose out the window and experience the world. She does really well and seems very content to sniff the air...until a person or animal is in sight.
Twice now, when I pick my daughter up from school (dogs "help" me), there has been a person that walked near (not right at, but near) the car. When they drew nearer, Nana began barking loudly and pawing at the window. Out of fear it will break, I have since rolled the window completely up prior to stopping the car anywhere.
At a gas station once, I was getting ready to pull out and had to wait my turn. There was a woman walking two dogs across the street, a fair distance from our location, and Nana, for lack of better words, freaked out. It was scary to me. She frantically paced the back seat, pawed at the window, and barked vigorously.
On walks...both dogs make a lot of noise when they see another dog. They both pull, extremely hard. Obviously, I do not walk them together by myself. In the beginning, I harbored the delusion that I one day could, with training...but I have since let go of that.
The point of my rambling here is that I would like to do some proper introductions to other dogs in a controlled setting. I don't want to live my life trying to shelter my dogs from the rest of the world, it limits what we are able to do together. I'd like some advice on some good reading on this topic, perhaps? There really is not much for options when it comes to in-person assistance in my area.
I must add, though, that I have a pretty high level of anxiety about this. I was wondering if it would be best for another person to take a more active role in the first introduction...just so that I could witness that nothing awful happens?
I have had a rough go of getting initiated into the world of dogs as of late. Obviously, the fights that my girls had gotten into awhile back have had a small effect on me. However, I've had two instances at the shelter I volunteer for that have had a more detrimental effect on me and my confidence level.
I had a smaller dog lunge at me and make contact a few weeks back. He punctured my thumb and bit through my thumbnail. I was not touching him, nor did I have my hand near his face, he came at me.
Recently, another volunteer made the mistake of letting a dog into the exercise area with another dog known to "not get along". The other volunteer did not know how to react and simply stood there. I instantly grabbed the aggressor's back legs, lifting him off the ground...however, it did nothing to loosen his grip on the other dog. I didn't let go, obviously, and eventually, with some exhausting efforts on my part, it was broken up...there was a lot of blood and that was my first experience with how powerful dogs really are. I was not injured in this incident.
Both of these instances have affected me. Before I go there to do a chore shift, I attempt to get myself in a good state of mind and try not to feel fear...but there is some anxiety there.
I worry that my anxiety will worsen the scenario of my dogs meeting other dogs as they will sense it and react accordingly.
Prior to adopting Nana last fall, you would often hear me say that I would never purchase a puppy...that an adult dog was "just fine" for me.
After what I've been experiencing, I am honestly giving a lot of thought to getting a puppy when the time comes that I get another dog. Obviously, I have a lot of time to consider that option, but I have many moments where I think to myself that had I raised either of the dogs that I have now, things would likely be far easier than they have been...
Nana's behavior in the car doesn't really sound like a lack of socialization...that's a really, really, really common behavior.
What you need to do is get a friend to help you out, and condition Nana to be comfortable with people approaching your car. You'll start out by parking in a quiet/empty parking lot (off hours at a school or church lot would be good), and having your friend (who may need to drive separately, otherwise Nana might thing she belongs in the car) stand as far away from the car as Nana is comfortable with. That might be 5, 10, or 100 ft, wherever Nana can see her and doesn't react.
When Nana notices the person, but doesn't become agitated, reward her. Have the person pace back and forth, without getting closer to the car. Again, reward for no reaction. Have her take two steps closer. As long as Nana is calm, reward her.
If at any time, Nana reacts - barks, paws at the window, lunges - the helper should stop approaching, and step back. You should immediately turn away from Nana, ignore her, and sit quietly until she calms down. Keep rewarding her with the helper at a further distance, until she's comfortable with them starting to approach.
In the meantime, try not to put Nana in situations where she needs to react to people approaching the car. Either don't bring her for rides where you might encounter people, park far away from other cars, or if possible, put her in a crate and cover it, if that won't stress her out more. The more she thinks she needs to react to people walking near the car, the longer it will take to train her to be comfortable with it.
I'll write more about the dogs reacting to other dogs on leash later - but for now, I'll just recommend checking out the book Click To Calm by Emma Parsons. It shouldn't be too hard of an issue to fix, and it probably doesn't have a whole lot to do with the dog's socialization, just how the issues were handled in the past. Even an incredibly well socialized dog can develop leash reactivity to other dogs if their excitement isn't properly handled, and most average dog owners don't really know how to do that.
I wouldn't let the incidents at work hurt your confidence, either. It sounds like you did the right thing, and your dogs will sense if you're more nervous about working with them. You are definitely approaching this in a much better way than lots of owners would, and as you can see from their improvement with each other, it's paying off.
"My favorite color is green, green like newly cut grass. When it comes to green with envy, though, you can stick it up your @ss!" ~ Grammy