He’s actually a 2-year-old Black Lab/Pit Bull(?) mix, and he’s a sweetie. Behaves well around our seven-month old son, and plays well with other dogs – most of the time. He’s rambunctious, and likes to wrestle and chase and be chased. Sometimes, though, he’ll fixate on another dog (usually a small dog or puppy) and put on a big dominance display, growling and mounting and not letting the poor critter up; this can escalate into a full-blown fight, although no one’s gotten hurt this way so far (as far as I can tell, he still thinks he’s playing when he does this).
Worse is what’s happened recently. While playing with another dog (his size), and getting very excited, he seized and injured a small dog that wandered into the scene. It happened again at another park, and the second time, the little dog died.
I’ve got a electric training collar which I think will help solve some these behavior problems. I’m worried about other dog owners, though. There are only two dog parks within reasonable driving distance, and owners at both think he’s a bad citizen. What can I do to rehabilitate his reputation? Can a dog play properly in a muzzle? Is it wise? Do you think the shock collar will reassure them?
Go to a reputable licensed dog trainer. Get training for yourself, and the dog. You’ve got to learn how to keep the dog disciplined, and the dog has to learn the “rules of the pack” so to speak. Get a professional to help you with this before it’s too late. Good luck.
I second the “go to a reputable trainer” recommendation. If you don’t know of any, ask your vet.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, stay far, far away from electric shock collars. Please. At best, they’re an experts-only thing to be used in a very limited scope, IMO.
A muzzle may be a better option, but, again, not one that I’d use in a dog park without consulting a trainer first (in particular, you need to be careful what type of muzzle you get–you want one that won’t inhibit panting).
There is a very strong resemblance between dogs and young children. Both of them (excluding special circumstances such as handicaps) will learn, if they’re taught. If you don’t teach a child, s/he will run wild. Ditto with dogs. That’s because humans and dogs are both “social” animals. If you don’t start potty-training your baby when he reaches the age when he’s able to learn, you’ll be running the risk of one day buying adult Depends[sup]TM[/sup]. If a dog isn’t housebroken, he’ll make messes in the house. Both of them are capable of learning reasonable control over their GI tracts, and neither of them is much fun to be around if they never learn. If your kid (when he reaches 2-3 years old, and begins to be able to learn social behavior) is never taught how to “play well with others,” you’ll be well along the road to raising a criminal (No, I’m not exaggerating; the roots of aggressive behavior are that deep in an individual’s life. Ask a psych if you doubt me.).
My credentials? I owned, bred and showed Great Danes for seven generations and 20 years. And I’m a grandmother who recently learned that Oldest Grandson & wife have begun planning to reproduce. I indoctrinated my son starting around the age of yours so that he would respect authority. And from a very young age, he was never one to start a fight (although he will finish one, if sufficiently provoked).
After I decided I wanted to breed and show Great Danes, I took puppy #1 to training classes (having been advised by more experienced dog fanciers). After that puppy and I had been going to classes for a while, a great light dawned, and I wished most devoutly that I’d had a dog - and been required to obedience train it - before having my kid (no, he’s not perfect; I failed him in some ways, to my abiding sorrow). You learn a whole encyclopedia about how to train both dogs and kids when you’re attending obedience classes, if you accept that the trainer knows more than you do about the subject, and will follow their directions. You see, someone can teach you every day for years, but if you refuse to learn, it won’t make any difference in your life, nor in the lives of those over whom you have influence/control (both humans and animals). So you have to start training having accepted the idea that the trainer knows more than you do about this subject. I recall seeing people drop out of classes because they didn’t want to follow the trainer’s instructions/directions/advice. And their dogs never learned how to be good canine citizens, alas.
I won’t give you a long harangue about how to train. Instead I most emphatically agree with the previous posts. Consult a professional trainer, ASAP, please! And if you can’t get along with that one, find another. However, if you go through a string of trainers, and can’t get along with any of them, you should consider that the problem is you. Please don’t take it personally; I don’t know you, so I hafta include that possibility. Try to remember it anyway. They’ve been training dogs for years (usually at least ten), and you’re just starting out.
One caveat: Your dog shouldn’t need more than a couple of months, MAX, of individual training. After that, you both need to be in classes, so that he will learn to accept other dogs without trying to dominate them. Your goal, at least for now, should be to complete training that will lead to a Canine Good Citizen® certificate. With that in hand, you’ll be able to go back to the dog parks.