Socializing a Pit Bull with Other Dogs
I have adopted a one year old female pit bull two weeks ago. She is very calm, kind and gentle, friendly to all humans. However, I have huge problems with other dogs. At first I thought it was only small dogs, as I have introduced her to my friend's Husky and they get along great! They play all the time.
However at the sight of the dogs she meets on the street or in my building, she squeals, and shrieks at them, and she wags her tail but when I let her approach them what it looks like play turns into very aggressive behavior and barking and even jumping at them. I am not even sure if it's rough playing or if she is really trying to harm them.
I need help because it is almost impossible to take her for a walk without looking like a complete lunatic or without fear that she may harm someones dog. Can you please tell me how I can control her in these situations and calm her down, please.
Thanks for your question. You must be psychic because as it happens the next issue of Bully for You! has a feature article on just this issue of introducing your pit bull to other dogs. The June issue comes out June 1st. So, you may want to subscribe to the newsletter if you haven't already.
The shrieking, jumping and barking sounds like it could be excitement rather than intention to harm. Hard to say without actually seeing her. But, you are right to be concerned either way because that kind of excitement can easily escalate into aggression if left unchecked. It could also trigger aggression in another dog that doesn't like to be approached that way.
Since she's only a year old and you just adopted her it's possible that she hasn't had much in the way of training or proper socialization and just doesn't know how to act around other dogs.
Ideally, when you are out together, you want her to focus on you so that you will be able to get her attention on cue. So, as a preliminary exercise, get some treats. Say her name and when she looks at you give her the treat. Gradually, begin extending the length of time she must
Once you are having some success with getting her to attend to you on cue, ask your friend with the husky to help you out by meeting up with you at a neutral place that neither dog would consider "its territory".
Both dogs should be kept on leash for this exercise. Walk your dog past your friend's dog from a good distance. If she gets excited upon seeing her friend, say her name and give her a treat for looking up at you on cue and move a little closer to the other dog.
Whenever she gets overly excited, progress towards the other dog stops until she is calm. And, no treats unless she looks at you when you say her name. What you are teaching your dog with this is a) to look to you to know what to do and b) to remain calm in the presence of another dog.
Be sure to let them have a nice play session only after she has made some progress being calm around the other dog. It may take a few sessions like this to get her to the level of calmness that you are looking for. That's OK. Be patient. She's young.
When you feel she is doing well with your friend's husky, it's time to expand her horizons and repeat this exercise with other friends or neighbors who have dogs.
I strongly recommend that you seek out a positive obedience class in your area. Not only is it a great way to socialize her, but it will help create a bond of trust between the two of you that will allow you to both relax and enjoy each other.
Next best thing, if you can't find a positive obedience class in your area, is to get some books on the use of positive reinforcement in dog obedience or clicker training. Here are a few good ones--including one that addresses dog aggression:
1. Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs
2. Clicker Training for Obedience: Shaping Top Performance-Positively
3. Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog (Karen Pryor Clicker Book)
Good luck! You have a beautiful dog.
For more information on obedience training, visit our Pit Bull Training page.
For help with behavioral problems, check out our Dog Behavior Training page.
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