Pit Bulls and Dog Aggression: Dispelling the Myth

If we hear the term ‘pit bull,’ in the media, it is not uncommon for it to be used with a negative connotation. If you are reading this post, you probably know about a million reasons that these stereotypes are untrue. In fact, perhaps your ‘vicious’ pit bull is curled up, sleeping on your lap as you read…

Regardless of the many facts and statistics we can spout in regards to our breed’s positive traits, even ardent supporters of these dogs can recognize that some pit bulls are aggressive to other dogs. Of course, we all know tons of pitties that live happily with other pooches. Usually, these dogs have been well-socialized and slowly introduced, and live with owners who are cognizant of dog behavior and management… as is typically the case with ANY peaceful multi-dog household, regardless of breed. As we have always shared on this blog, it is so important to judge each dog on a case-by-case, individual basis. That is the only way to be fair to the dog in question.

The question remains, are pit bulls unique? As a pit bull lover and long-time proponent of the ‘breed,’ the words I am sharing may sound contradictory to my self-proclaimed title. Some of you bully breed lovers out there may feel that I am doing a disservice to the dogs, and simply perpetuating the stereotypes we work so diligently to dispel. If you are in that category, I ask you to stick with me… While I do not want to perpetuate any myths, I also think that it is vital to be objective and honest with anyone when discussing our pitties, whether they are lovers or haters.

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Are Pit Bulls Unique?

It is important to note that dog-aggression is a completely normal canine trait, present in virtually every breed in varying quantities. The fact is, this is a very common behavior in numerous breeds, including and especially working dogs and terriers. To compare, the recommendations offered by reputable pittie rescues are mirrored in websites and books, and by trainers, that focus on any other breeds of working dogs and terriers. These breeds include Jack Russels, Akitas, Huskies, Boxers, Ridgebacks, Australian Cattle dogs, Shar Peis, Poodles, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Chows, Tosa Inus, Rottweilers and many others. We can all read this list, and probably come up with many dogs we know, in each breed, who are incredibly friendly and receptive toward other dogs. (Tonka, the boxer cross, anyone?!)

In some cases, those who dislike pit bulls have used this trait to condemn them and even to justify breed specific legislation, including bans. For me to get into all of the reasons why breed specific legislation is ridiculous and ineffective would take about 5 long posts, but it is important to explain that if we allow banning based solely on breed of dog, we are enabling these bans to spread to any other breeds, due to past precedence. If you have a problem with pit bulls, and vote in support of BSL for that breed, you are one step closer to legislation that will allow your Boxer or Cattle Dog to eventually be taken from you.

It is not how dogs are raised, but how they are managed, that matters most.

*It is not how dogs are raised, but how they are managed, that matters most.*

Additionally, dog-aggression is a trait that can often be managed. Many dogs that come from cases of neglect or abuse, will not display positive reactions to other dogs. However, through repeated positive exposure to other well-mannered dogs, they may learn that there is nothing to fear in interacting with other pups. It is common for even bully lovers to say that it is how a dog is raised that matters most in their dispositions. However, this is not entirely true, and can be downright dangerous when evaluating rescued dogs. A dog with an abusive past can still be successful with other dogs and people, even if their past would suggest otherwise, given proper training and management.

The important message that we need to convey to those that are unfamiliar with our baby bullies, is that there is nothing about the pit bull breed that makes them any more unsafe or unpredictable than any other type of dog.

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While many reputable pit bull rescues recognize the breed’s potential for dog-aggression, it is important to note that dog aggression is a completely separate genetic trait than aggression toward humans. Though it is unfortunate that some dogs may have been bred to be aggressive toward other dogs, even they have always been bred to be loyal to their human counterparts. 

Warming Up

I wish I could say that I am referring to the weather here in Pennsylvania, but in reality, there is still a lot of this…

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and this…

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and this…

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Which has all resulted in a lot of this…

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and this…

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and this…

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Wait… what?!

If you are very observant, you may notice that the last photo shows three… count them, THREE, pups all cuddled together indoors. If you are even more observant, you may have recognized that such a photo has never graced the pages of our humble blog! What must this mean??

The frigid temperatures have kept us largely indoors. Because of that, the dogs have been extra cuddley, and needed even more attention than usual. You may remember that while Georgia has been integrated with Tonka, the male, indoors for a while now, we have closely monitored her indoor interactions with our female, never letting them off-leash inside, unless closely monitored or behind respective baby gates. The nasty weather has relegated us indoors, and forced me to focus on proceeding with their integration. While working with them off-leash this past week, Gaige and Georgia both finally decided to break down their barriers… with a BANG! Not only were they interacting indoors, but they were playing, cuddling, wrestling, and even sharing toys! We could not be more impressed or surprised by this sudden transformation.

Every pittie's favorite game: bitey-face

Every pittie’s favorite game: bitey-face

The swiftness of their friendship had us scratching our heads a bit, so we were cautious to take things slowly at first… they still were never together while unsupervised, and still required some direction from the two-leggeds. However, after a solid week of playing and cuddling and learning one another’s limits, with no arguments in sight, we think it is safe to say that they are total BFFs.

All four of our "dogs" waiting (patiently?) to go outside.

All four of our “dogs” waiting (patiently?) to go outside.

You can check out a funny video of the girls here. This was the very day, the very minute, that they decided that playtime was a better option than being constantly separated. Therefore, you can hear the surprise (anxiety?) in my voice. Please ignore my excessive verbal input, but enjoy their friendship. They are now absolutely inseparable… can anyone imagine how this has Georgia’s foster parents feeling?! Ugh… let’s just say, the idea of giving up our baby girl gets more bittersweet with each passing day!

Learning New Tricks

You may remember us mentioning our plans to enroll Georgia in obedience classes. This is not because we think she is difficult to train, but rather because we would like to make this an automatic step for each foster pup that comes into our lives. It is a great way to spend focused time on their training, while also exposing the dogs to new people, environments, and dogs! We have gone to two classes so far, and are really loving it!

Our classes take place at Ringer’s Pet Dog Training, which is a quick drive for us, as they are located in Tarentum, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh). They bring a fun, practical, and of course positive, approach to dog training. We have a great time during our class, and we think the dogs do, as well! Not only do they do a great job of helping our dogs (and their owners!) reach their full potential, but they are extremely friendly towards mutts, fosters, and rescues. They gave us an incredibly generous discount on our rates, because Georgia is a foster. They also offered to refund or roll-over the classes, if she is adopted before the class concludes. (Ringer’s also offers a really cool class called Nose-work… check out their page for more info, but we plan to do a post on it at a later date.)

The instructors utilize clicker training as a method of positive reinforcement. Georgia, being the… ahem… little piggy that she is, is of course ALL ABOUT this. Essentially, you are teaching the dog that the clicking sound is their reward. So of course, we teach them to positively associate with this sound by giving them treats… lots, and lots of treats. Last night was only our second class, and while we did our best to remain impartial, we have to say that Georgia was the rock star. While most of the other dogs were barking and trying to get to the other pups, Georgia was content to sit or lay quietly at our sides, with a wagging tail. Not only was she friendly yet aloof with the other dogs, but she also made a total liar out of us, and didn’t jump at all. She was absolutely a great representative of her breed, and picked up on each cue with ease.

Ignoring the barking dogs... what a great student!

Ignoring the barking dogs… what a great student!

As the owners, we were given homework to work on for the week. Georgia is a master at sit, and some of the other simple cues, but the ‘down’ request seems to be a bit difficult for her. You may remember that we have taken her to our friend Dr. Dave, who is a fully-licensed canine chiropractor. We are thinking that her hesitation with the down cue may be due to some lingering back pain, so we plan to take her for a visit to his office, to see some improvement.

One main theme of the exercises dictated in our classes, is to teach your dog to look to you for reassurance and guidance. This is a great tool for dogs who are reactive to other dogs, or just a little A.D.D. easily distracted. Below, check out a brief summary of our classes so far.

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Clicker Training

  1. The first step of clicker training, is to reward your dog for focusing on you. If you get a head turn in your direction, you are to click, and then feed your dog a treat. You will then advance to rewarding the dog only when they are looking at your face. It is important that the dog is associating the ‘click’ as the reward, as opposed to your hand movements or rustling treat bag. Therefore, keep your empty hand at your side when clicking, and don’t reach for a treat until you have achieved the behavior and applied the click.
  2. The next step is to reward the dog for a ‘sit’. If you have been working on step 1 for very long, your dog will probably fall into a sit on their own. The reward is the same; click, then treat. Once it is clear that your dog understands your cue, work on allowing them to figure out the behavior on their own, by not verbally or manually requesting that they sit. They should fall into it on their own, which shows confidence, independence, and intelligence. If your dog gets ‘stuck’ in the sit, try dropping the treats to the ground, rather than feeding them directly. This will get them moving, so that they must then exhibit the behavior independently.
  3. Once the above steps were achieved, we advanced to a head turn. Putting either hand out to the side, the dog was supposed to turn his or her head in the direction of the hand. This was rewarded, and we progressively worked to rewarding the dog for leaning toward the hand, and eventually moving their feet so that they came closer to the hand. This is especially great for timid or fearful dogs, as it gives them confidence when greeting new people. It can also help for positioning your dog, which could help in an environment such as the vet’s office.
  4. The next step was to work on the ‘down’ command. First, the dog was guided down into the laying position by dragging the treat slowly from their nose to the ground. Once the dog was making full body contact with the ground, they were rewarded with a click and then the treat. This was repeated 2 more times, to help the dog understand the behavior. Then, the handler was to stand in front of the dog with the treat visibly in hand, and the dog was to (ideally) figure out what they needed to do to earn the treat. This step required a lot of patience for some teams!
  5. We finally worked on an off-leash ‘come’. This can be intimidating and distracting in a classroom environment! For some dogs, the temptation of play-time with other dogs seemed more intriguing than their owners with a pocket full of treats! Person 1 would hold the dog on-leash at one end of the room, while Person 2 was positioned about 15 feet away, with the clicker and treats. Then, Person 2 would say the dogs name, and the command, just one time (Georgia, come!). Once the dog was moving in the commander’s direction, Person 1 released the leash, and Person 2 was only then to begin rewarding the dog verbally (Good girl, that’s it!) in a high-pitched voice. Once the dog met Person 2, they were given lots of treats and lots of love. This distance could be widened with each successful attempt.
Playing with the instructor

Playing with the instructor

While these steps may seem pretty intuitive, the classes are a great way to cover all of your bases in a focused setting. I really recommend them for any dog owner! It added a degree of difficulty to work on Georgia’s obedience with the temptation of other dogs, new people, and interesting smells. I cannot wait to see what kind of dog is on the end of our leash at the culmination of these classes!

PS- Did I mention that she is still conked out after all of her hard work last night?!

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Three’s a Crowd… Or is It?

We are lucky to be involved with LCPO, the rescue that saved Miss Gia from certain death. We foster through their organization, and they in turn offer us endless training advice, in addition to other crucial resources. LCPO brings a lot of experience to the table, and therefore they require that each dog placed into a new home, whether as a foster or a permanent family member, completes the two-week de-stress upon entering the new home. To put it simply, this is a process in which the new pet is kept separate from any other pets for at least two weeks. Sounds fun, huh? It may not be easy, but this is to help ensure success and happiness for all family-members; both two and four-legged! Utilizing the advice from LCPO, as well as tips we’ve picked up along the way, we wanted to share our experiences in achieving peaceful interactions in a multi-dog household.

1. The first step to happy interactions in a multi-dog household is to understand your dogs’ personality and tolerance levels. Every dog is different! It is vital that we be receptive to our dogs’ reactions around other animals, even when it comes to the most subtle body language!  This bell curve, designed and described by BAD RAP, is used to show the varying tolerance levels of the pit bulls that they encounter while rescuing. However, in truth, it can apply to many breeds of dog.

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  • “dog-social” : These are dogs that truly enjoy and seek-out the company of other dogs, including housemate dogs. These pups are very easy-going, willing to forgive even the rudest of dog manners, and are often happiest when in the company of other dogs. This category would include most puppies, and a smaller percentage of socially mature dogs (14 months+).
My sweet boy Tonka falls into this category

My sweet boy Tonka falls into the first category

  • “dog-tolerant”: These dogs are typically non-reactive on leash, and either indifferent or friendly to other dogs. They show relaxed, easy body language in the presence of new dogs. While these pups may not ‘love’ dogs that they don’t know, they would have decent tolerance for rude behavior (a long fuse). It can be gathered that these types of dogs enjoy known dog friends when properly introduced, and in general, succeed with housemate dogs.
Gaige's designation can vary, but she is mostly dog-tolerant.

Gaige’s designation can vary, but she is mostly dog-tolerant.

  • “dog-reactive”: In this case, the dog would likely have some dog friends, but be more selective in their pairings. He or she may dislike certain ‘types’ of dogs (male/female, large/small, hyper/mellow) and be easily offended by rude dog manners. Can be described as grumpy or sassy, dominant. This dog likes to be in charge and dictate the rules during playtime, and must be reminded by their human to use good manners during play. This dog can succeed with housemate dogs, with supervision.
Because we manage Georgia carefully, she probably can also be placed in the same category as Gaige. However, without careful training, she could fall into one of the latter categories.

Because we manage Georgia carefully, she probably can also be placed in the same category as Gaige. However, without careful training, she could fall into one of the latter categories.

  •  “dog-aggressive”: These pooches may have a limited number of dog friends, or even none. They may be leash reactive if the opportunity arises (weak handler, no training). This dog may have a short fuse during play, even with dogs that it knows. This dog requires heavy supervision during player, and a good leader when out on leash. Many live successfully with housemate dogs (typically opposite sex) with proper supervision and management.
It can be easy to read these descriptions, and draw hard conclusions. However, it is important to note that with proper training and management, which includes structured and slow introductions, most dogs can still be safe members of multi-dog households; it just requires more knowledge and effort on the part of the owner. A dog that has been dog-aggressive, may be managed to be dog-selective. Also, as dogs age and their environments change, so to may their tolerance classifications. Additionally, these traits only apply to interactions with other canines, and in NO WAY guarantee a dog’s attitude toward children, small animals, or people. Those are all separate traits, and must be evaluated separately, in order to set the dog up for success. It cannot be assumed that a dog that is aggressive with dogs will also be that way towards children, and likewise, a dog that behaves well with other dogs should not be guaranteed to be gentle with small animals.

When looking at our own dogs, it can be difficult to place labels on them, but it is imperative for the sake of peace. For example, I would probably put Tonka in the first category. He enjoys the presence of other dogs, has excellent manners around them, and is willing to overlook almost all negative behavior. However, there was a period of time where he was twice attacked by a male labrador. It took many months and positive experiences before we were able to build his confidence back to a friendly level.

Gaige and Georgia (typical women!) can be a bit more difficult to categorize. Gaige enjoys other dogs, but has terrible manners with them. She likes to be in charge, but is submissive to Georgia. While she treats Tonka like she rules the roost, often stealing his toys or chewing on his limbs, she defers to him when he does stand his ground. I would probably consider her to be dog-tolerant. Georgia, on the other hand, is even more of a challenge to define. She is not aggressive, but has a low-tolerance for lack of manners (ahem, Gaige!) She is happy to be around other dogs, and cries when separated from ours, but doesn’t seek out the company of new animals. She is not leash-reactive, yet will defend herself if she feels particularly threatened. However, when she ‘defends’ herself, it is nothing more than a retreat, loud growl or snap… she never tries to bite or fight.

2. The next step in dog-integration is a slow introduction. In the case of multiple puppies, this may be as slow as a few minutes, but when it comes to mature dogs, it may take months! We are in the latter category. Why so slow? When integrating dogs, prevention is key. What I mean by that, is that once dogs have had a serious altercation, it can be very difficult to repair the relationship. Most pups aren’t big on ‘forgive and forget’. If two dogs have had a rough introduction, you may not be able to achieve successful interactions without lots more effort, and perhaps some professional intervention. For us, we decided that it was better to be safe than sorry, and have decided to take things as slowly as possible.

  • The first step to dog introductions is for each dog to have a ‘safe’ place. For most homes, this is a room or secluded kennel. It should be comfortable, and free from many distractions (a sheet or blanket over the top works well). Most importantly, the dog should be allowed to be somewhat protective over this space… it is theirs, after all. Children and other animals should never be allowed play near or inside your dog’s kennel. When not together, the dogs should be placed in their respective kennels. This shows them that while their crate is safe and comfortable, it is not as much ‘fun’ as being social around the other animals.

OUTDOOR INTRODUCTIONS

  • The next step to the introductions, occurring once the dog has begun to feel comfortable in the new environment, would be group walks. These walks should begin by walking the dogs parallel, with humans and a significant distance, placed in between. This allows the dogs to get used to the sight and scent of one another, without the pressure to interact. As the dogs become more comfortable, the distance between them will decrease. Any positive behavior, such as calm tail wags, should be praised by the handler. It is important to be aware of subtle cues of stress, such as yawning. These signs can vary between dogs, but a low tail with a steady stare can indicate aggression. In this instance, you should redirect the dog without rewarding their behavior, perhaps by turning them in a circle, or stepping in front of their stare. These walks may need to continue for a few days or a few weeks. They can be considered successful when neither dog is overly-excited at the presence of the other, nor aggressive or fearful.
  • Following the group walks, it is important to again evaluate your dogs’ comfort levels around other animals, before proceeding. At this point, we had learned that Georgia liked other dogs. She was not aggressive with them, but was also not completely comfortable. We knew that if she was faced with an uncomfortable situation, she would first try to flee (the term fight or flight is important here!). Gaige had no discomfort with other dogs, but lacked proper manners. Therefore, we decided to keep Gaige leashed while walking, but allow Georgia to be loose. If the dogs were to get stressed, Georgia could retreat, while we retained control of Gaige’s behavior, and could correct her whenever necessary. (Of course, evaluate this step at your own discretion. It is ideal to be in a fenced area for this step, or at least to have a strong recall cue on both dogs.)
All three pups collaborate for group 'hunting' in the bushes.

All three pups collaborate for group ‘hunting’ in the bushes.

  • Once you can be sure that all dogs are comfortable in the presence of the others, and that you also have retained control over the animals, it may be time to graduate to off-leash interactions outdoors. During this time, it is important to watch for warning signs, and manage triggers. For example, many dogs will display issues when another dog tries to take their toy, eat something yummy, or approach their favorite person. You can manage these interactions to avoid confrontation (hello, put the toys away!). We know that Georgia becomes uncomfortable when Gaige rushes toward her, and so we try to manage Gaige’s behavior in approaching Georgia. Not only does this show Georgia that we will protect her, allowing her to let her guard down and not stand in defense of herself, but it also is teaching Gaige how to have more polite interactions with other dogs.

We will be back to continue this subject, and discuss integrating dogs indoors! If you this subject is interesting to you, check out the blog written by Debby McMullen. She is a positive-reinforcement dog trainer who specializes in multi-dog interactions, and has given us a lot of insight and tips toward integrating our household.

A successful multi-dog (and cat-dog?) household

A successful multi-dog (and cat-dog?) household

This Old Dog Learns New Tricks!

(Meaning me, people. Gia is only 2.5, after all!)

This past Saturday, we had the unique opportunity to experience a private training session with Debby McMullen of Pawsitive Reactions, LLC. I had never before hired a dog trainer, and so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect! I feel like I put my whole heart into training and socializing our dogs. I do a lot of research and am constantly researching to learn new techniques and understand canine behavior more thoroughly. I am always open to learning more, but I also hoped that the trainer would be able to recognize that we were very invested in the well-being of our dogs. Once Debby walked in the door, all of these fears were cast aside.

When Debby and Georgia met, somehow Georgia was immediately on her best behavior, and I am pretty sure that the two fell instantly in love. (Although, it probably didn’t hurt that she brought homemade liver treats and peanut butter along.)

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We got right to business, working on Georgia’s jumping. Of course, she was showing off for Debby and wasn’t jumping as much as she usually does on newcomers, but she did offer a few leaps & licks when Debby stopped lavishing her with attention. Debby taught us that rather than directly acknowledge Georgia’s misbehavior by correcting her with ‘No,’ ‘Down,’ or pulling on her collar, we were to turn around. This would, essentially, remove the ‘reward’ (our attention) until she was displaying more appropriate behavior, like a sit or down. At the same time, it would stop the jumping in its tracks. With repeated practice the past few days, we are definitely noticing an improvement in more appropriate greetings.

We are taking applications, however, for local friends that would like to help us with this issue! We need new people to stop over to meet Miss Gia, and not come near her until she is sitting and waiting patiently. The friends and family that have met her have been so kind, but simultaneously, are always telling us ‘Oh, it’s okay! Don’t worry!’ when she jumps up on them. Instead, we need someone who understands that this is only perpetuating her lack of manners. It is one thing to train her not to jump on us, but we need her to understand that this behavior won’t be tolerated towards anyone, including newcomers.

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Once Debby had given us some new tools for the jumping issue, we began talking about Georgia’s basic obedience. Georgia is a very kind dog, and she is always looking to please. When you ask her to sit, or lay down, she is very willing to do so. However, Debby explained to us that we want to teach our dogs to ‘offer’ these good behaviors, rather than always having to request them first. This way, they will learn to make better decisions on their own, and be rewarded for them. This was the main technique that Debby wanted us to utilize was, and she called it ‘capturing’. She stressed that we must notice and mark all behavior that we want to see more of, and pay less attention to the behaviors that we want to see reduced. To put it simply, reward the behaviors that we like, and ignore the ones we don’t! Any attention, even more negative recognition like ‘No!’ is still conveyed to the dogs as attention.

Debby explained that the capturing technique was especially applicable when handling the interactions between the dogs. She complimented us for completing the two week de-stress prior to Georgia’s introduction to our dogs, as well as taking their interactions very slowly so as not to create tension between them. She wanted us to be sure to recognize any positive body language between Georgia and our perma-dogs, however discrete. This could be as minor as moving closer to one another, and as major as tail wagging and licking. It is important to note that the dogs have NEVER displayed aggressive, or even threatening, behaviors towards one another. However, we notice Georgia avoiding the other dogs occasionally, or stiffening when they bump into her accidentally. In this case, Debby recommends ‘splitting’. This is using our own body language to interrupt inappropriate behavior, such as a ‘mom stance’ (hands on hips or arms crossed, looking down at the dog). Not only does this communicate to the dog that their behavior is unacceptable, but it also shows all of the dogs that we as the owners can be trusted to protect and lead them all. Additionally, we are not using a stern voice to correct these interactions, which would only add more tension to the situation.

Cuddling with her favorite.

Cuddling with her favorite.

As per Debby’s direction, as well as advice from the team at LCPO, we will be doing more ‘tethering’. This means securing the dogs by leash to an immovable object, and then having them lay on their own mat or blanket. We will reward good behavior with high value objects such as bully sticks or stuffed kongs. Not only do these serve as a reward while the dogs are in the presence of one another, but they are also are exercising their minds, and recognizing that they are safe when together.

The session culminated with Debby expressing to us that she thinks with more socialization, Georgia should do just fine in a home with another dog, particularly if that other dog is a male. However, she also suggested taking her to some group training classes to work on her socialization. This would enable her to be around other dogs in a controlled setting, without the pressure to interact with them. Our goal will be to reward all positive attention to other dogs, as well as any time she looks to us for information on how to handle herself. Similarly to her interactions with our own dogs, this will show her that her humans are the ones that will keep her safe, and that she does not need to resort to proactive action on her part if she feels threatened.

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Private training is not something that is affordable on every budget. For our scenario, I picked up a few extra hours of nannying and riding lessons, and certainly appreciated a generous discount from Debby. She has a love for pit bull dogs, and anyone that wants to help them, and so she offered us a discount in additional time. I really recommend Debby’s service, or the service of any trainer that utilizes positive reinforcement, to offer you a one-time evaluation of your training methods.

I am happy to have been able to share our experiences with all of you, and I hope that you have taken a few tips from our lessons with Debby!

Busy as bulls! (pit bulls, that is)

Woo! It has been an exhausting few days around here. This weekend, we enjoyed time with friends, did some Christmas shopping & decorating, took lots of family walks, and even had a visit from a special guest… a local celebrity dog trainer! (We will save that last bit for tomorrow’s post, however.)

There is ALWAYS time for snugglin'

There is ALWAYS time for snugglin’

The hectic schedule didn’t end there. Today began with an early morning trip to the vet. Georgia was due for her rabies shot, and had also been itching more than usual. She was an angel for her exam, took the shot like a pro, and shared lots of tail wags and kisses with the staff. Of course, they just couldn’t get enough of our girl. We received a few comments on what a BIG girl she was (don’t they know it’s just plain rude to comment on a lady’s weight? Really… 75 pounds is not that bad!) We only encountered one other dog while we were there, and while Georgia didn’t seem entirely eager to investigate the stranger, she stayed relaxed and quiet. We also have a new anti-yeast shampoo to try, in order to combat the itchies, so we will keep you posted on that!

After our adventures at the vet were through, we took a trip to Petsmart. Georgia’s previous foster had warned that Georgia could get uncomfortable at public adoption events, so she hasn’t been out and about much since coming to live with us. I figured that a quiet Monday morning would be as good a time as any to give it a try, and so I hooked up her harness and had a buddy for my shopping trip. I armed myself with lots of treats to reward positive behavior. Again, we didn’t meet too many other dogs during our excursion, but Georgia was a model mutt, even sitting politely when presented with a treat from the check out girl.

Georgia does so well in the car. She loads quietly, waiting for her cue to step up. She even waited patiently while I ran in to a store and then the post office. She was content to sleep in the back seat for most of our travels, checking in with me occasionally for a pet or a kiss. Can’t you just imagine her as your permanent co-pilot?!

And there is always time for play!

And there is always time for play!

Please stop by tomorrow for a big fat post with the full run-down of our time with a special dog trainer. We will share our new-found ‘expertise’ with all of you… and don’t worry, it’s free only to our readers! 😉

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Today we will entertain a question from one of our littlest fans! Her name is Lilly, and she is the most endearing and precocious two-year-old, whose mama runs the touching blog, The Sweeter Side of Mommyhood.

Apparently, Miss Lilly was fascinated by the pictures of our pooches. Her lingering question… where do all of the puppies sleep at night? I realized that perhaps some of our (bigger) readers, might have some of the same questions.

Tonka’s preferred sleeping location

Perhaps we should begin with where our two perma-dogs, Tonka & Gaige, are supposed to sleep… in their Tempur-pedic (yes, don’t judge!) beds at the foot of our own. But, more often than not, I awaken in the middle of the night to two LARGE dogs laying on top of my legs, stomach, head, etc. Until recently, I blamed the two little scoundrels for their disobedience. Little did I know, that Foster Dad (previously Mr. No-Dogs-in-the-House) felt guilty, and was inviting them into the bed! What a sneak sap!

And Gaige’s preferred sleeping position…

As far as Miss Georgia, oftentimes the most obedient of my FOUR (hehe)… we have chosen to have her sleep in her kennel, which is in her own room. This was in an effort to: 1) Keep all three dogs safe when unsupervised overnight, since we haven’t yet completed their introductions

and…

2) Make her more adaptable to most families that might choose to adopt her. While Georgia is used to sleeping on her own, and happy to be in her kennel, I am confident that she would adapt quite well to being allowed to sleep with her people.

My favorite picture of Gia, to date

Thank you to Miss Lilly for the great question… anything else out there that our readers are just dying to know about Miss Georgia, or the rest of the five?!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I would say, full of lots of playtime and walks, but Georgia told me tell you that she hopes your weekend is full of lots of cuddles and naps! I know her’s will be. 😉

{She is cuddled up on the bed beside me, with the cat, as we speak!}

If you think you might know someone who would be interested in adopting our sweet girl Georgia, please share her story! Any questions about Georgia or the adoption process can be directed to me (Stephanie!) at sel1490@gmail.com.

Must Love Dogs

We have all heard the urban legend of the stunningly ideal ‘catch’ of a woman; beauty, brains, compassion, ambition, all in one package (no, I’m not describing myself!) This woman may complain that sometimes she is not approached by men, because they are intimidated by her perfection.

You are pawsitively beautiful.

After talking with Foster Dad, we think that this just might be what is going on with our precious little Georgia girl as she searches for her forever family. The dating world can be daunting, and while she has had a few casual suitors, there have been no potential matches that Foster Dad could entertain for devoted interest. That is to say, they must not have had the purest of intentions with our little lady. Or, maybe it is just that she has so many fabulous qualities, that they assume she will be scooped up by another family?

So, let’s break the illusion; while we know Georgia would make someone a fabulous four-legged family member, she is not perfect! There, we said it. And we would love your help as we improve her obedience training in order to make her even more adoptable!

When Georgia is comfortable in her environment, she is a very relaxed and low-key dog. However, when introduced to new situations or new people, she gets nervous. One way she displays this behavior is by jumping up on people when she meets them. She is full of love and kisses, but a large pit bull jumping up at someone with their mouth wide open is not everyone’s idea of a great first date!

We would like to enroll Georgia in some obedience classes in order to increase her confidence, which we think will go a long way towards helping her with this issue. But, we want to know; what challenges have you faced when training your dogs, foster or otherwise? Maybe you’ve had the same issue, or maybe it is a different one. How did you overcome it? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue we are facing with Miss Gia.

 

If you think you might know someone who would be interested in adopting our sweet girl Georgia, please share her story! Any questions about Georgia or the adoption process can be directed to me (Stephanie!) at sel1490@gmail.com.

Every Doggy Needs Some Doggy

It has been two weeks since Georgia joined our family, and I think that it is safe to say that she is finally starting to let down her guard and truly settle in. Georgia is such a sweet girl, and loves everyone she meets, but I can’t shake the feeling that she is like a trauma victim. She seems to be enjoying her time here, but also prepared for the inevitable change. This poor girl has never known a truly loving, secure home that didn’t have an expiration date. With every home she has been moved to, she seems to become more restless. Thankfully, this lack of security hasn’t manifested into any negative behaviors, but I can only imagine how Georgia will blossom with a permanent home to call her own.

Yesterday was a very eventful day in our house! In the morning, I went on a walk with Tonka & Georgia. This was the first one without Foster Dad holding Georgia’s leash, so the dogs were in closer proximity. They were perfect!

Excuse the poor quality of my iPhone 4…

Georgia seems to be relaxing more around Tonka, and is learning to enjoy his presence. She has never displayed any aggression towards him, but seemed nervous around him at first. I think that before we know it, the two will be great friends.

Whatcha doin’ back there, Foster Bro?

Poor widdle couch potato was exhausted after our hike!

After dinner, Foster Dad helped make a kong for Miss Georgia! Georgia has some sensitivity to different foods and dyes, so she is on a special diet (just a specific brand of food that can be found at Petsmart). When she is having a reaction to a food, or if she is feeling more nervous than usual, she will lick at her tummy and paws.

Trying to give herself a pedicure!

We wanted to try using a stuffed kong with her, so that when we are gone, she will have something to occupy her time. Georgia made sure to dictate what should be placed inside of the kong…

“Ok now Foster Dad, heavy on the cheese, light on those crunchy orange carrot thingies.”

Georgia offers some closer supervision.

Finally, once that task was complete, we decided that now was as good of a time as any to try clipping her toe nails. This girl was way overdue for a pedicure! Naturally, I made the assumption that because her toes were a bit overgrown, she must not be a fan of the procedure. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Georgia was an angel for her pedicure, letting us clip and trim without any fuss from her. She is just such an easy pup!

If you think you might know someone who would be interested in adopting our sweet girl Georgia, please share her story! Any questions about Georgia or the adoption process can be directed to me (Stephanie!) at sel1490@gmail.com.

Curious Georgia

Well, Friday was T-Day. As in ‘Tonka Day’. Yes, we have almost hit the two week mark of our time with Georgia, and so we felt that it was time to introduce her to our most dashingly handsome four-legged family member.

Mama’s Boy

I haven’t had a ton of opportunity to write about Tonk here, as we have chosen to focus mostly on our Georgia girl. I will, however, be taking the time to give him a few posts of his own sometime in the near future. He is just that awesome.

It was an easy decision to introduce Georgia to Tonka first, as opposed to Gaige. First of all, it is common knowledge that flirty girls typically have an affinity for handsome boys, in comparison to other female counterparts. Also, Tonka is (most days) a very well-trained, well-socialized guy. As much as we adore Gaige for her mischievous side, it can make things more difficult when it comes to introducing her to new dogs.

We are lucky enough to live beside my in-law’s very large property, so I took Tonka to a neutral spot on the farm, where he was sure not to feel very territorial. As I said, we really weren’t too concerned about Tonka misbehaving, but we wanted all of the odds in our favor. Jonathan brought up the rear with Georgia, both properly leashed. We each had pockets full of treats to reward positive behavior.

As I kept Tonka occupied with some basic obedience (this was a great way to test his skills with new distractions!), Jonathan made his way towards us, many yards away, with Georgia in tow. Any tail wagging was praised and ‘treated’, as was calm behavior. If she would have started to bark or lunge, he would have turned her around, away from Tonka. Thankfully, Georgia did nothing of the sort! She walked calmly toward him, and seemed generally disinterested.

Once we were sure both dogs were displaying positive, calming body language, we took them on a long walk together. They were side by side, but never quite touching, at least not at first.

Overall, it was a very successful first meeting! The dogs were given the ability to sniff at each other, tails wagging, and everything was kept happy and positive. Georgia seemed somewhat nervous around this big, black, male dog, but we tried to make her feel as secure as possible by ending things in a positive way.

Today, being Sunday, we repeated the walk routine. We were able to advance to having Tonka off-leash while Georgia remained leashed. She seemed to be more interested in being near him, and Tonka was ever the gentleman. When we came in the house, both dogs were let loose and were happy to share a water bowl.

Look at all of those smiles!

We will continue to do walks with Tonka and Georgia together, until she seems to enjoy his presence. Once they are more comfortable, we will graduate to off-leash play time, and eventually allow Georgia & Gaige to meet one-on-one. Only once both groupings of dogs have been successfully introduced, will we slowly start to introduce them all together.

Georgia also met her Aunt Jillie today! She is doing much better with learning how to greet new people. Georgia gets so excited to meet new people, that she sometimes jumps up. She is learning that the best praise comes when her little booty is planted on the ground. 😉

Do you have any tips for introducing and socializing your dogs, foster or otherwise? We’d love to hear them!

If you think you might know someone who would be interested in adopting our sweet girl Georgia, please share her story! Any questions about Georgia or the adoption process can be directed to me (Stephanie!) at sel1490@gmail.com.