|Barked: Mon Oct 8, '12 1:41am PST |
|A dog who has been taken to dog parks from puppyhood has lots of precedence for seeing it as a mostly nonthreatening place. He has watched other dogs run up to his owners from puppyhood, and nothing bad has ever happened as a result. Even a well-socialized dog who hasn't been to dog parks may be able to look at an approaching dog and see relaxed face, smooth gait, wide sweeping tail wag, etc, as well as a lack of tension or fear on the owner's face, and judge the situation as being nothing to worry about. That same situation seems ambiguous or threatening to a poorly socialized dog who doesn't know how to read all those cues.
I guess a generic response to a lot of dog problems is to expose him at a lower level and reward him for staying calm, slowly increasing the intensity of the stimulus as he seems comfortable, until he can tolerate the situation that set him off in the first place. I'm not sure what all the variables were (was the other dog big or small? Had he had any negative interaction with that dog or witnessed that dog having negative interaction with another dog? Was he an intact male? Has he ever seen a dog jump on your son before? If so, what was different this time? Was he stressed before the incident? How was his behavior before that? Great reciprocal play where he's chasing and being chased, rolling over during play, taking a rest when he's tired? Hovering around looking scared and running away when anyone tries to sniff his butt? Tandem play like chasing a ball together?) As a really safe first step, you could have him watch your son interact with a small dog stuffed animal. Your son can mimic the dog jumping against his legs. He may not even care about that, but you just feel him out. The point where he's interested enough to watch what's going on, but not showing frozen body language with a long, hard stare or other signs of discomfort is a good starting intensity. Then reward him for any behavior you like. Dogs will often comfort themselves by licking their lips, yawning, looking away, turning their heads away, walking away, sniffing the ground, or peeing. It doesn't matter what it is- any kind of disengagement from the stimulus with a socially acceptable behavior is great. Praise him enthusiastically and give him a treat. The next step might be restraining Baylor while he watches a nonthreatening dog approach your son. For example, a dog who won't jump, or a tiny dog, if you think size is an important trigger. You could probably do this step on walks, just make sure you're far enough away from your son and the other dog that Baylor can't reach them even if he's lunging at the end of the leash. You don't want to put him in a situation where he's that upset, but you do want a safety net in case you're wrong, or another trigger appears and puts him over threshold. Have your son keep the interaction very brief- a couple of seconds, and it's great if you can actually have your son stop interacting with the other dog and all three of you walk away as soon as Baylor gives you a calming signal. This teaches him that good behavior is the most effective way to control his environment and get what he wants (the other dog to go away).
When you say attacked, do you mean that he ran over and made a big noisy fuss, or that he bit the other dog? If he has bitten, I'd work on teaching him to calm himself or walk away when he's upset before you try the dog park again or letting him within striking range of other dogs on walks. Unfortunately, it often only takes one bite and subsequent complaint for a dog to get euthanized by animal control or for you to get fined thousands of dollars.
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