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Old 03-04-2013, 09:41 AM
straw straw is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
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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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Old 03-04-2013, 10:23 AM
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sassafras sassafras is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 6,394

Just a lot of refereeing and repetition. Squash has a tendency to get overstimulated and get too rough with Maisy, and I used a "three strikes" method recommended to me by a friend-

Pick a verbal cue. When play is getting inappropriate (or when you can tell it's about to be), give your verbal cue.

If your verbal cue is ignored (which it will be at first), take a short time out and then release back into play.

If you have to give your verbal cue three times, on the third time the dog is removed from play altogether - put indoors if dogs are playing outdoors, put into a down-stay or in a crate if play is indoors - and the play session ends "permanently" (or until later that day or the next day).

It means a lot of supervision and consistency on your part, but it works very well and surprisingly fast if you're consistent. I still have to give my cue sometimes, but Squash has also learned how to tone down his own play. General self-control exercises like "it's yer choice" isn't going to do any harm, either.

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Old 03-04-2013, 07:59 PM
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RBark RBark is offline
Got Floof?
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 956

My method:

Train a very good recall. Proof it, proof it, proof it everywhere in many situations and levels of excitement. Just keep on reinforcing it.

Whenever he does a behavior you don't like, call him to you. Go through some obedience exercises to calm him down and disengage him. Then release him again.

At some point he will pick up the pattern and avoid doing the behaviors that get him called away.

And for clarity's sake, I recommend proofing this to a different cue than your emergency and regular recalls. You don't want to weaken those cues, even if the behavior is the same.

Alternatively you can train a "stop" rather than a recall. Make him stop, then release him. Again, he'll catch on to the pattern at some point.

Kobe the Fluffy Cloud, Alaskan Malibu-te, Mar. '05
Syl the Stormblessed, Border Collie, Dec. '13

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Old 03-04-2013, 09:10 PM
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frostfell frostfell is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Albany, New York
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how would another dog teach him, appropriately? mimic that. or dont, because you arent a dog and you speak the worst pidgin godawful dog ever. get a grumpy old grandma alpha bitch to play with him. she will solve it.

calling him away from play teaches him nothing other than humans are completely random and insane and like to interrupt funtime for no reason at all.
"We possess the power
If this should start to fall apart
To mend divides
To change the world
To reach the farthest star
If we should stay silent
If fear should win our hearts
Our light will have long diminished
Before it reaches the farthest star"

-Ronan Harris, NVN Nation
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:21 PM
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SevenSins SevenSins is offline
APBTs & One Crazy Banana
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Originally Posted by frostfell View Post
get a grumpy old grandma alpha bitch to play with him. she will solve it.
Sure. Either that or, you know, start a dog fight...
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:52 PM
Brattina88 Brattina88 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: OH
Posts: 12,941

I suggest the book Click to Calm, seriously. There's a lot of training / exercises that I think would help.
Maybe even LAT training or some of the relaxation protocol, I could explain more but I think that reading the books would be very beneficial to any dog owner

Also, how much exercise is he getting right now? What about mental stimulation? His behavior sounds pretty typical bored, rude behavior in a young undersocialized / undertrained dog... I've had a couple fosters like that as well. I certainly don't think 2years is too old or too late!

Maddie CGC .:. Cocker Spaniel .:. 13 y/o
Bailey CGC .:. Shetland Sheepdog .:. 6 y/o
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Old 03-05-2013, 07:32 AM
straw straw is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 539

Thanks for all the suggestions everybody. Sassafrass, I like your three strikes rule. We have started using it as of yesterday and I'll let you know how things go.

Frostfell, obviously I can't tell him, haha. That being said, I don't particularly feel like breaking up a dog fight so I think I'll avoid that cranky dogs for now.

As for exercise, he is currently not getting enough. He was kenneled for over 3 months and has been out for less than a week. The outdoors proved WAY too overwhelming for him, whining, salivating, not focusing on me for love nor money, etc. So we started with a shut-down. Ball park for exercise and home. Now that he's a little more relaxed we're starting to venture out on very short leashed walks in the neighbourhood.

Mental stimulation, we're doing a lot of training exercises, but he has short focus so they're extremely short with only a couple a day - he seems to get bored quickly. All food comes in puzzle form or is earned through training.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:00 AM
Kilter Kilter is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 536

If you know of some stable, 'cranky old dogs' that are good at training, great, but don't find another dog with poor social skills who is aggressive and use them.

I had a dog who was great for that, she was able to tell a dog 'what for' without making contact and stopping herself, but it's rare.

Likely if he's a bit of a goof, he may never 'get it' but if he's got good training to come back and do something other than play he'd be ok. My guys play ball so they don't go to the dog park to play really. We have run into dogs who don't get it and in the one case Ticket gave him about 10 warnings before snapping and snarking at him, totally deserved since this dog kept trying to chase him off of Storee while they played ball. The other dog would snap and body block Ticket and finally he told the dog off and THEN the other owner clued in that maybe instead of leashing his dog and walking 30 feet away and letting him off ten times he should keep the dog on leash...

Every time we'd catch the guys dog, give it to him, and start on a different path from the way the guy was going, and he'd go 30 feet, let the dog off who would run right back over. We were working on leaving by then....
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:49 AM
straw straw is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
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It might just be me, but he seems to be roughing Venice up less and less, and taking longer to get aroused to the point where he wants to grab. I kick myself for not filming their play sessions from the start, but I don't think I'm imagining these baby steps!
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