Dog lovers, help me train my new dog!

So. Last Sunday, I fell hard for this little girl, Harriet. She’s roughly 1.5 to 2 years old and was rescued off death row from a high-kill shelter. She has been fostered for the last 2-3 months and I took her from the rescue group. She is 60 pounds of slobber and wag.

I’ve had dogs before (hence the screen name), but this one is twice the size and a totally different personality and set of issues, so I’m looking for support and ideas. I kind of know what I’m doing AFA dog training, but I need a structured plan to follow.

The positives:
•She already knows sit-stay and is very good about it.
•She learns quickly and seems very smart.
•She’s housebroken. (For the win, actually!)
•She’s mostly very gentle and affectionate; really a very sweet demeanor.
•She knows what “no” means as well as “get down” and “Get off that damn cat!” :smiley:
•She’s very responsive to correction and will let me take a loved toy out of her big mouf, or my slipper.
•She has decent kitty manners and, although the cat is still pretty put off, she doesn’t want to eat the kitty. She just wants to play with the kitty. Still, Kitty’s safety is my concern.
•She loves her Kong with peanut butter and that’s a great way to distract her from trouble or make her chill out for a minute.
•She also loves a belly rub and any kind of petting and affection.

The negatives:
•She’s a bit fearful of the unknown and new people. Seems fine with other dogs and my cat. I just have to proceed with caution on new things and don’t push her and once she gets there, she’s fine. Example: It took several tries and like a bag of treats to get her up my stairs. Once she got up there, I had to put a baby gate up because she wouldn’t stop running up and down the stairs to check out both floors of the house. :smack:
•She’s a bad leash puller; however, we’re working on that already and she’s making rapid progress. Last night, she got a 45-minute walk and during most of it, we were both relaxed and the leash was slack. I had to tug her back into line a few times and occasionally she’d decide to try to pull really hard, but she’s responsive. We’re getting the hang of that and I’m getting a ton of cardio.
•She can be very aggressive about trying to get my attention, putting her paws up, being mouthy and trying to grab my hand with her enormous teef. She will immediately respond to sit-stay, but what to do if she’s already sitting? She doesn’t bite me, but I cannot have a big strong dog like that thinking she can grab humans with her teeth. That is not cool and will scare the shit out of any humans who try to play with her. And will make me not trust her around kids. (I do not have any and don’t hang with anyone who does, but she will meet kids at the park and in the pet store, etc.)
•She cannot be trusted in the house so *has *to be crated at night. And while I’m at work. I come home for lunch, so during the day she’s only in there for four hours at a time and she gets a good 45-minute romp in the yard mid-day and a 30-45 minute brisk walk after work, plus numerous other potty trips out to the yard when she can run and romp as much as she wants to. I never leave her out there by herself and always go and hang out with her. She tends to just stand or sit next to me and get scritched, but she will run off to chase a squirrel or a bird or sniff stuff. I hate crating her that much and want to be able to let her sleep with me. But.
•She won’t settle down and just chill out for more than about ten minutes. The only way I can get her to be chill is to crate her. I will not do it while I’m home because I think she’s in there too much already. I’m trying to keep her stimulated while I’m home and I’ve also tried to ignore her a little and just let her sniff around and check things out. She gets into trouble, so I have to keep an eye on her. I’m afraid to overstimulate her and stress her out vs. ignoring her too much when I should be spending time on training. How do I transition her to being an out-of-the crate dog?

So what we have is a smart, sweet, busy, powerful dog who needs something to do. This is the perfect time to do all kinds of training work with her while we are still establishing bonding and trust. What I’d like to do is have a training plan lined up, so when she gets bored with A, we move on to B. My goal is to be able to teach her that when she’s upstairs in my room, that’s sleepy mellow time and not for playing or biting blankies or sniffing cobwebs or looking for the kitty for the eleventy hundredth time. Is it simply a matter of time, routine, and patience until I can eat dinner and watch an hour of TV in peace, with nice calm dog at my feet? I don’t expect a couch potato lap dog; she’s a big, young, high-energy dog. I expect her to force my ass off the couch, but at the same time, I’ve got to be able to sit and relax for an hour without having a 60-pound dog dive-bombing my lap every ten minutes.

Is she part or pure pit? Or am I way off (looking at picture on my phone)? Either way, yeah, high energy. To get her a little more chill upstairs, sometimes ignoring her *is * the training. As in, literally turn your back on her when she’s trying to be playful and rambunctious. Just don’t feed into her energy.

For the walks, I would periodically distribute very small treats by my side, to ensure the dog does not get beyond me. Take a few steps, she stays at your side, she gets a treat. Give a treat every few steps at first and gradually increase time between treats.

She’s adorable-looking! And she sounds like a very fun dog. Maybe a bit anxious and acting-out, but you’ve only had her a few days, it will take her a while to settle.

Do you live somewhere where you have access to good, motivational group obedience classes? That is what I would suggest first off. Mental exercise really wears a dog out, it will totally help her get over uncertainty about new people and situations and if the trainer is good, she’ll get some very valuable practice in finding her off switch and being calm.

Walk her with a backpack on. Give her stuff to do during walks - sit at curbs, up, pause and off park benches, random downs or sits or spins, anything that keeps her thinking and focused. Teach her to bike with you; great way to wear out a dog in a hurry!

Get a harness and a 20-30-foot long line and do tracking exercises, it’s pretty easy and a natural thing for most dogs. Once they understand the expectation, tracking is quite a work-out for dogs.

Set up broad or high (not too high, maybe 16-20") jumps in your back yard and practice different sorts of jumps.

When she gets mouthy, make a huge dramatic act of being shocked, shocked! and aghast! and disappointed! about her putting her teeth on you and then absolutely ignore her for a brief time. And, train other people she comes into contact with to do the same thing. She must understand that being mouthy will get a: stern disapproval and b: put on ignore mode immediately. I get your concern there…I’ve had Rottweilers for almost three decades and am very concerned about liability and public perception…my current young thug is 16 months old, 110 lbs and was very mouthy for a while. Friendly as all get-out but in thug/asshole mode he can make people nervous, which I totally don’t want.

I’m glad you’re crating, I think it’s a very useful skill. Like you, I really don’t like crating more than necessary but I’ve had two dogs that really needed crating for many months before they were trustworthy out of the crate. One, a young shelter Rottweiler, had bad separation anxiety and she could do a truly awesome amount of damage in a very short time. The other, one of my current dogs, was just naughty beyond belief as a puppy and despite daily walks, classes 2-3 times a week and a lot of attention, simply had too much energy and would rip stuff up for fun. She is 4 now and totally trustworthy, but I got her as a puppy and she was about 18 months old before I could reliably leave her with free run of the house.

I agree with chirotera, especially the backpack during the walks. My 70 lb dog is so much better behaved with 3-5 lbs on her back. You can use bottled water, treats, a sweater, a folding umbrella or whatever you want to give weight to the pack. Mine calmed down the second I put it on her. I tell anyone who asks that “she’s a working dog and working dogs have to work.”

I’ve had pretty god luck with my GSD rescue by only giving him attention on my terms. If he comes up quietly and stands there he might (usually will) get petted. But if he starts getting excited I don’t corrrect him or yell at him - I stop givig any attention and turn away. Once he lays down or goes away and is quiet for a few minutes, I’ll call im back and give him praise and petting. But as soon as he gets rammy again, or mouthy, he loses all attention.


One thing we found very helpful with our girls was the command, “Settle.” We placed a comfy cushion in an accessible area, visible from where we were in the living areas. A sturdy eye-bolt screwed into a stud in the wall, and a six-foot lead clipped to her collar to keep her in place. We would put treats, toys and surprises on and around the cushion when she was outside. She had food and water available there as well. Every so often, and when we had company, we would tell her “Settle!,” and clip her to the lead. When she was calm and quiet, she got attention and praise, otherwise we would ignore her (within reason!)

She eventually learned to go to “her” spot with the “Settle!” command, and she would stay there, out of the way, even with a house full of strangers for a dinner party or whatever.

FWIW, it can take several months for an adopted dog to settle into a new home. Also keep in mind that a two year old dog is roughly equivalent to a fourteen year old human, so she’s still got puppy energy and a puppy attention span in an adult sized body. She’ll settle down some!

She is incredibly cute. Well-trained pitties are worth their weight in gold, and it sounds like you know what you’re doing. Good luck to the both of you!

I totally agree with chiroptera’s reply.

You guys are awesome! That was all outstanding advice. Some things I’m already doing and other suggestions I’m looking forward to trying.

She was “sold” to me as American Bulldog/Pointer mix, but I think the rescue groups just don’t want to stigmatize a dog by putting “pitbull” in their Petfinder listings. I’m quite sure she’s at least part Pittie, if not all pit. She does point sometimes though, so maybe she’s a Pit/Pointer. I don’t really care; she’s sweet as could be.

So I think I was overstimulating her earlier in the week (out of guilt for overcrating) and feeding into her puppy energy. Last night, we had a much better night because I ignored her a lot… unless she was laying down and chilled out. Then she got a belly rub or treats or I’d throw her squeaky Cuz. I actually got her to fall asleep (with her big paws wrapped around my waist, it was so adorable) in my lap last night. Well, with her giant blockhead in my lap, the rest of her took up most of the rest of the couch. :smiley:

I am totally going to get her a backpack – I was thinking she should carry her own water anyway, as well as her own poop baggies. She can also carry other stuff. I thought about treating her while on walkies, but I seriously need both hands to walk her (so far). I am, btw, 5’ 2" and 115 lbs., so she is almost exactly half my body weight. The backpack could solve that problem – she can carry her own treats. I have made her stop and sit, sometimes randomly, usually at curbs. We also stop and sit if a jogger or bicyclist is coming through. It’s polite to them and she’s learning not to try to dash after someone who’s moving fast. She encountered a big city bus the other day and it scared the crap outta her, so I made her sit until it went away, but I wouldn’t let her bolt. With other dogs and random cats, we keep walking by briskly like it’s just not important that pittie behind the fence is barking and snarling ferociously at us. She’s awesome at that, doesn’t try to go stir up trouble at all.

I did a lot of ignoring last night and she really got the message with the mouthy thing. I’d pop her on the nose very lightly with my fingertips (no way that hurts her, but it does let her know that teef on my arm is not cool) – just enough to make it unpleasant to put her teeth on me – and then close my body language and look away. As soon as she realized she wasn’t getting any attention from me, she happily went back to her Kong. We were both so much more relaxed, I actually enjoyed the training bits. She’s pretty fun when she’s not kamikaze dive bombing me.

Can anyone elaborate a bit on what tracking exercises are and how to set that up? I’ll google for it, but you might could save me some time. :wink:

I have put in a call to a couple of obedience trainers. I thought a plan or program might not be a bad idea to keep me from getting frustrated. I may put her in some sort of special skills training like guard dog or therapy dog or something like that eventually. She’s very smart and a very quick learner so why not give her a job? She’d probably be good at agility training, which I think would be loads of fun for me too. She’s so quick to pick up on the basics that I think I can probably do some really cool tricky tricks with her, or develop some real worky dog skills with her.

Last night, she got “lay down” on the 3rd try. No treats, just her Kong as the motivator. This morning, she jumped on the couch and laid down before I could even tell her to. So she got a belly rub before going back in the crate with her peanut butter Kong.

So we’re doing well and I greatly appreciate my Dopers! Thanks for your help!

Yeah. If the dog is trying to get your attention by grabbing you, she needs to learn that it will have the opposite effect to the one she wants.

Dogs often have to be persuaded that mouth-on-human isn’t acceptable. For them, that’s their only tool for manipulation - it’s their hand, effectively. So the natural response is that when something needs manipulating, they use their mouth. While we know that’s not biting (and there’s no pressure), it’s a habit which can scare the crap out of people and needs to be completely discouraged. Plus it can result in accidental bites if the dog’s a little too enthusiastic or excited.

My dog tries to use his mouth to move your hand where he wants it. Trying to train that out of him right now. He’s perfectly gentle (if a bit slobbery) about it, but that’s completely not the point.

My first Boston was very mouthy and I didn’t know how to train dogs when I got her. So she bit a roofer and a now-ex BF (but the BF had it comin’! I was totally on her side about that one. She was 15 and he was teasing her so she hauled off and bit him. I gave her a treat. LOL). But in a big dog like this, the concerns laid out in the post above this are dead-on. Harriet is pretty gentle too, but I’m not a 4-year-old she just met at a park. What doesn’t hurt me probably would hurt a small child or an elderly person or another smaller dog. Or a cat. That and the leash pulling are my priorities, followed closely by ix-nay on the counter-surfing.

That said, despite training, I think strangers will be advised to proceed with caution when approaching her. Even after the fearfulness subsides, which I’m sure it will in time. Also, there will be no tug-of-war games. Ever. She loves tearing up fabric, especially towels.

Last night, right at the end of our walk, I spotted this Border Collie running around with its humans off-leash. I can’t tell you how much that shit pisses me off. *Your *dog might be under your voice control but you have no idea about mine (and neither do I right now). I stopped her about half a block away and watched because it looked like the humans were getting in their car and we might not have a problem at all. Then the BC spotted us and started trotting over in our direction to sniff out Harriet. I called out to the human, “Is your dog on a leash?” He said no and grabbed his dog by the collar before she got too close, and then at least had the class to apologize to me. Like most other cities, we have a leash law here. I really wanted to rip him a new one and threaten to report him, but decided good PR with the neighbors is a better, more temperate approach, so I just said, “Really, it’s in your dog’s best interests. I just got this one and I just don’t know her well enough to know what she’d do about a random dog walking up to her off-leash like that.” He apologized again, and I thanked him for that and walked on. (I don’t say “it’s okay” to an apology if it isn’t. I just thank the person for apologizing.) Harriet, btw, was a perfect angel throughout this interaction. She had been commanded to sit and did not budge until I started walking forward again, BC safely out of range.

I just love it when a loose dog is charging my leashed one (a large, leash-aggressive German Shepherd mix) and their ineffectual owner who hasn’t taught them a reliable recall yells “she’s friendly!” To which I reply “mine really isn’t!” Luckily he’s not a real biter, though he will lunge and roar and snap, even smack them with the side of his teeth to get them to back off.

You sound like a great dog owner and it also sounds like she’s settling in great. Backpacks are a great way to wear them out, the more targeted exercise the better. Try teaching her to tug, do some high-powered fetch, or catch a Frisbee - that would be a better use of her lunchbreak yard time.

I think she’ll get fetch first because she’s already doing that sometimes. That’s a great idea – to plan and target the lunchtime play. I confine her to the kitchen with me while I eat and today, I just happened to kick her squeaky Cuz toy in the room with us. After she tried begging at the table unsuccessfully a couple of times, she finally grabbed her Cuz and played with that while I ate. Would not be a problem to grab it and take it back outside for a ten-minute game of fetch.

Tomorrow is a big day: she’s got her first vet appointment with her new vet and then we’re going to my BF’s house to meet his three dogs. Hooo-boy.

Has she eaten the feet off the Cuz yet? :smiley:

I also hate people with off-leash dogs that charge up to mine…several dogs I’ve owned have not been receptive to that sort of thing, to put it mildly. And I don’t like being put in the position of yelling “well mine isn’t friendly!” The squirrely shelter Rottweiler I mentioned above got a pretty good bite in on a probably-friendly but clueless dog in the park once…luckily the owners were repentant and sorry. I was sorry too, I hated that my dog did that but she was leashed and the other one wasn’t.

Dogzilla, Harriet sounds really lovely and I hope you find a good obedience class so you guys can go play! The other activities you mention (agility, therapy dog) pretty much require basic obedience and distraction-proofing, so obedience classes are a necessary first step.

Fun Nosework for Dogs is a good book for playing with tracking and hide and seek type games.

Because you asked: :slight_smile: I’ve not (yet) competed in tracking but I have taken both private and group classes and attended a weekend seminar, with a previous Rottweiler. Haven’t done anything formal with the current one yet but I do make short basic tracks part of walks in the park sometimes. My knowledge is fairly rudimentary, but here’s how I was taught.

What you need: harness, preferably a tracking harness but any will do. This is to let the dog know that when wearing this piece of equipment, we are going to play this game and it’s OK to pull - doing it with her regular collar will send conflicting messages. 20-30’ cotton lead. Hot dogs or something similarly stinky and excellent. A toy or glove. Optional but really handy: those little wire and plastic marker flags, about 50 cents each at hardware stores.

I walk/run/play with/let swim dog so he gets some of his ya-ya’s out first.

Tie dog to something, or stick in vehicle while you lay a track. First, make a “scent pad” on grass by stomping around in about a two-foot-square area. Drop a single piece of treat in the scent pad. Then walk in a straight line about 6-10 feet, stomp around a bit, drop another treat. Mown grass is easiest for beginner dogs, variable surfaces and aged tracks are more advanced. Some people say to stomp on the first treat, which makes your track easier to follow…but this wasn’t taught in any of the classes I went to so I don’t do it.

That’s the very beginning part for newbie dogs. Once dog understands the concept, you increase the distance and add turns, go over different surfaces, age the track, add distractions, etc. The flags are to mark the treats (the dog won’t pay attention to the visual cue, and guaranteed you’ll forget where you dropped the thing.) The glove or toy is for the end, where you stash an excellent jackpot treat in or on the item, and have a fast, rewarding game of tug or fetch or whatever to let the dog know the job is done and she did a great job.

Have a command (Find it, eg) but otherwise do not talk to or distract the dog unless she appears to be wandering off-task or getting interested in rabbit poop or something.

Also…if you think you might try agility, do NOT start teaching Harriet jumping or anything else by yourself. It’s really easy to teach bad habits or bad form, and really difficult to untrain that later if you get serious about agility.

She has not eaten the feetz off her Cuz yet. ;>) She is working on the sewn-in paw print on her dog bed though. :smiley: She likes tearing up fabric, so all blankets, towels and clothing is fair game.

At this point, I don’t want to teach her hide and seek because this will help her learn how to better steal things she shouldn’t have. She will shred a blanket trying to get to her Kong. That is a no-go.

I got her a backpack for walkies and she loved it. Wore it around and carried her own poop home.

She also got “shake hands” this weekend and we started playing fetch in the yard. She’s very good at it and it only took her a couple of runs to figure out to pick up the ball and bring it back to me… where she drops it at my feet, like she was born to fetch. There was hardly any teaching on my part at all. Because she was so good at shake hands, I tried and she let me do her nails. So now she has pretty pink toenails to match her collar/leash/backpack ensemble. She looks like a sorority dog with all her pink accoutrements.

She met up with the BF’s dogs and did really well. A little growling through the fence at first and then they all got along and romped in the woods for a bit. Then she followed them right into the house and settled in to play. She loves my BF and I think she’s going to end up getting along really well with her three stepbruddahs.

She also did really well at the vet and in the car.

We’re going to keep working on basic obedience and then I’ll start looking for tracking or agility training programs. She’s smart and loves to “work” so I might as well give her some mad doggy skillz, right?

My partner and I have two dogs, a pug named Spoon and an Olde English Bulldogge named Maggie (and yes, I made those ties and collars). We took them to the Minneapolis community ed class for doggie training and really, really liked the teacher. We just finished a couple weeks ago, so it’s still fresh. We covered all of the negatives, and I’ll give you the answers we got.

Some dogs are like that and some dogs have had incidents that have made them like that. Spoon was adopted at 6 months old and he shirks away from new people and doesn’t like to be petted if he doesn’t know you. He doesn’t growl or bite, he just moves away. Maggie is the exact opposite. She’ll go up to strangers and wag her butt with no problem at all. Now, if Spoon sees Maggie is getting affection/attention from a stranger, he’ll run over and want some too.

Spoon used to be much, much worse. If I were out walking with him and a stranger was walking on the street, he would freeze in place until that person passed. I’m assuming something happened in his past but he’s slowly growing that self-confidence not to be so scared.

This is something we had problems with both dogs but in opposite ways. Spoon wants to be running ahead. Maggie wants to lumber behind. The trick is to set the pace and have the dog at your side and correct them with “NO” immediately EVERYTIME they start pulling. The psychology is that the dog thinks that eventually whatever is restraining them will give. So, the training is to get them to know that pulling is wrong.

Maggie did this for a while. The trick he taught was to put our thumb on the dogs tongue and grip the jaw and say “NO”. Maggie learned pretty quickly not to do that. (Don’t inflict any pain when doing this).

I put those together as I think they may be one in the same. She may not be getting enough exercise. It does sound like she’s getting lots of walks and play time, but some dogs require even more. I’ve got a friend with a lab mix who needs a minimum of a 2 hour walk every night or the dog gets stir crazy.

Are there any dog parks in your neighborhood? We go every other night and our dogs get a lot of exercise in there through chasing and socializing.

Harriet also sounds really intelligent, so she might do well with some mental stimulation games. Play the doggy version of 3 Card Monty with her. Use three cups and put a small treat under one and mix them up and make her figure out which one treat is under.

If she gets sufficiently tired, she should be better out of the crate.