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Stand groung with testy dog
Dr. Spiegel, What about dogs running loose who come charging at my poor leashed dog as we walk in the park? I never know if I should get between them, yell "Go away!," carry Mace, or what? A.M. Wilmington
Dear A.M.: Thank you for this question. Unleashed dogs pose lots of problems in a wide variety of situations. Oddly enough, just the other day, I saw for the first time something that happens with great frequency... a dog being hit by a car. Well in this situation, it was actually a bus. And I can say with great certainty that was the last time that particular unleashed dog will ever cause anyone any trouble. It was not fun to watch. He was an intact male (he had not been neutered). Testosterone (produced by the testes of unneutered males) influences the expression of certain behaviors. It stimulates marking behaviors (e.g., leg lifting), intermale and dominance aggression, sexual behavior (e.g., mounting/humping), and roaming. Why are these dogs roaming? Two reasons: 1) Their owners are allowing them to roam (or they have no owner) and 2) They roam in search of females to mount and other males over whom they can assert their dominance. These are also dogs that are more likely to bite. So intact male dogs, needless to say, are problems waiting to happen. While some dogs may love to roam, unless you have very good to excellent verbal control over your dog, please keep him leashed. So here you are out in the park with your dog. You want to keep unleashed dogs away and discourage their approaches. You don't want to allow the dog to get close enough to where it can do potential damage to you or your dog. First -- Be Vigilant. Keep your eyes alert to the people and animals in your environment. If you see an unleashed dog, watch it. Stand facing directly towards it, stand upright (Make yourself Big), and stare at it. If it approaches you, take a solid step towards it, landing hard and loudly and (this is the part that seems the silliest, but works well) -- Growl (practice a few times in a quiet place and you'll get the hang of it). You are communicating your intent to become more aggressive in a way the dog understands. If the dog continues its approach, have 3-4 small stones (about 1 inch diameter is fine) in your hand or pocket, that you can throw in front of but bouncing at the dog. Try to avoid hitting him. The goal is simply to keep him away. As a final safety device, if the dog gets to w/in 5 feet and you feel scared by its presence, use Pepperguard Spray (if dog is attacking, aim for the eyes. Otherwise, squirt in its mouth. Use only if necessary). But remember it all starts with being watchful.
Dear Dr. Spiegel, How do you manage a dog that gets very excited and barks, drools, etc. in the car. She can't wait to go for a ride, but it is such a distraction for her owner! D.W. Wilmington
Dear D.W., What we want to do is remove the excess energy and excitement from this dog when she is in the car. We want to keep her from getting excited initially and remove as much of her energy as possible before she is put in the car. Here's what I'd do: 1 - Don't make a big fuss about going for a ride. The sight of the leash alone, or the word "ride," can excite a dog, as can the excited tone which some owners bring to the situation. 2 - Habituate your dog to these stimuli. Take out the leash and put it down, say "ride" at frequent, random times without going anywhere. The dog will learn that these words and behaviors may not lead to the exciting anticipated event, and so the dog becomes progressively less excited. 3 - Take her for a long walk, or play with her so she has done a lot of running prior to the ride. Do not let her know that she is going to go for a ride, until after you have tired her out. 4 - Pick out a place for her in the car where she will be comfortable and where it is easy for you to make physical contact with her (e.g., your hand resting on the back of her neck, if need be). The front seat, or the floor of the front seat, is usually a good place. She should know to sit or lie down. If she doesn't she should first be taught these commands. When she knows them and enjoys doing them, they should be done outside and in the car. Have her sit/down and stay in her place with the door open, then with the door closed, then with the engine already running have her get in and sit. Keep the door open. Proceed at a pace that is comfortable for her. If she is getting excited or nervous, you are likely going too fast. The idea is to very slowly add in more and more stimuli that are involved in the process of going for a ride, while she remains seated and relaxed. 5 - Until you complete the behavior modification program, you should avoid taking her for rides in the car (Unless #'s 1 and 3 alone are enough to get her to be relaxed in the car).