I'm a hot mess.
|Barked: Fri Nov 9, '12 3:33pm PST |
|Thank you everyone for your responses. This is by far the most helpful community I have encountered. This is the first time I have found a place where I can discuss this problem openly and not have responses with people shaming me and assuring me that we must have physically abused our own dog.
First, I would like to give an update. Earlier today, there was a bowl of cat food on the floor for our eldest cat. We typically keep the cat food on a raised counter so that it cannot 'trigger' Atlas or be eaten while we are out of the house. My mother took a long stick that used to be a broom handle, stuck it into the bowl, and slid it away from Atlas. He did not respond at all! He continued licking the floor where little pieces had fallen out of the bowl, but did not try to chase the bowl or even pause to look at and acknowledge the stick.
Second, before I answer some of the more specific questions, I would like to make clear my intent. I not not with to put this dog down, I do not wish to relocate him. I don't believe relocating for a dog with these issues is even an option. I am not at a place mentally where I could bring myself to having him put down. My family has considered this option, and it temporarily caused a bit of a rift. During one of Atlas's attacks, my older brother, being very protective, grabbed a sledge hammer. I was in a position where I was standing with my back to my dog, who was biting my hands and legs, guarding him from own brother, who my mom lead away from the scene. I cannot blame my older brother, he is as aware as I am of what Atlas is really capable of, and those scenarios are treading a fine line. But I am not done fighting for this dog.
My judgement may be clouded. I do not dismiss those who have suggested putting him down maybe the best option at this point. That may very well be the case. But I need to be entirely confident that I have exhausted my other options.
On to some questions, there were a lot, please bear with me, I will try to cover them all:
Exercise- We take him out once a day, weather permitting; like most bullies, his short snout does not perform well in the heat. We try to take him out at night, and usually have more than one person present when he is being walked. When we cannot take him outside, I try to do alternative activities with him indoors. There are stretches of time every now and then where he irritates an injury in his leg, where he pulled a muscle. When he is limping, we cannot take him for walks. I try to increase his training during these times. I have not noticed an increase in aggressive behavior during these times; fortunately that injury is almost completely healed and these times are now very rare.
Reacting to Strangers- When I have a friend over, Atlas is immediately excited and wants to rush at them. I distract him with a treat, corral him into the family room, and have him sit. I then have the guest give him treats as rewards for commands. If I do not run through this procedure, he will jump and bite at the elbows and hands of guests. After someone has been to the house multiple times, this 'introduction' procedure is no longer necessary. We had an incident when a new vet was hired at our usual veterinary place. She came in, greeted him in a him, excitable voice, and made eye contact . He immediately tried to snap at her face. He didn't catch her, but we had to muzzle him, and the visit was very stressful. With out usual vet, who we always see now, and who is calm, Atlas is fine. He even commented once that Atlas we the nicest American Bulldog he had ever met. It tears my heart in two just thinking about it, particularly when I think of the wonderful, life changing relationship my whole family had with our last AB.
Muzzeling- Thank you for this suggestion. We did try putting a muzzle on him once, he was so obsessive over it and continued to paw at his face until he was bleeding which only took about two minutes. Does anyone know of any brands or unique kinds of muzzles that may be more comfortable than others, or less likely to cause him to scratch his own face? Has anyone had experience getting dogs accustomed to muzzles?
Treat distraction- This works so well on him, but not when he's near cat food/cat throw up/anything cat food related. I can hold his otherwise favorite treats, wave it near, call him and the treat name that he knows, and he will not even blink if he is near cat food. I have started using pieces of cat food sometimes when I train him, to try and make it more of a 'normal' substance. Is this a good or a bad idea?
Training Progress- Someone asked where he is in his training, I'll answer as best as I can. Atlas responds better to visual than verbal cues, whether he is being aggressive, excited, or calm. I have a hand motion associated with each command. Sometimes he will not respond to the verbal command if there is no motion, but he almost always responds to the motion even if nothing is said. I typically have him Sit, Paw, and "Belly" where he rolls over and exposes his belly for a treat. I had someone previously recommend the belly trick to reinforce submission, but I believe someone here suggested earlier not to have him roll over like that any more, as it may promote insecurity. I will stop using the belly command for now.
With Cat Food, which is the ultimate trigger, if I am using it as a treat, I can have him sit and lay down, put cat food on the floor two feet in front of him, walk slowly away and out of the room, and have him not move to get the food until I return and clap.
Breeder- Some asked if I know the parents. We got Atlas from Mullen's Windy Hill Bulldogs. We drove about four hours south to get him, because it was the nearest reputable breeder we could find. At the time, we had another dog, and with the cats and active household, wanted a puppy to raise as opposed to a rescue. We knew we wanted an AB because the loss of our last one devastated our family, and we wanted that experience again. The mother was extremely gentle and kind. The Male bulldogs were kept in the back, in large caged areas while they were separate from the families and puppies. The father, named Magnus, was a jumper, like a kangaroo, I had never seen anything like it, just straight up a good three feet. But he did not bark or growl or seem aggressive. The breeder assured us there was no history of aggression, and told us that all of their dogs were extremely well socialized. I cannot find their web site, but I will see if I still have their phone or email to ask them for advice.
I apologize if I missed any questions, or if I was unclear- I will look back over the posts and see if I can find something I missed, and if anyone would like more details, please ask.
A special thank you to Tiller, it really helps hearing from someone with experience with the breed.
I would like to note that there are no small children living in the household, the youngest is 21; if there was, I feel that putting him down would be our only option.
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