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Socializing a New Dog

I adopted an adult Pit Bull from the pound about 6 months ago. They told me at the time they thought he might have been used for fighting as he had some scarring. He's never been aggressive with anyone in our home, or people at all, and never been aggressive with our Chihuahua or ShihTzu, despite the both of them constantly barking at and being aggressive towards him (they have their own little clique and he's definitely not invited to join). He's actually a very loving, sweet dog, but he is huge, muscular, and strong, and he looks scary.

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Recently we took him to the lake where there were lots of other dogs playing, many off their leashes, and he kept looking at them and whining, like he wanted to play with them, but because he's never really been around other dogs out in public, and I haven't really had him that long yet, I held him on his leash the entire time. There were a few other dogs that came our way, and even though he'd been whining to play, whenever they came close to us he kinda lunged at them. He wasn't barking or growling, his tail was wagging and he seemed happy and not trying to be mean, but I'm just not sure. The lunging just kinda happened out of nowhere, and he never bit any other dog, but I honestly can't tell if he was just trying to get them to play with him and not doing a great job of communicating that, or if the lunges were signs of aggression.

I've been reading online and he didn't show any other signs of aggression, and his hackles weren't up, so I'm so confused. He desperately wants to play with another dog, and offers his toys to our small mean girls and they want nothing to do with him. I'd love for him to have a playdate with another big dog, or be able to give him a little more leeway the next time we go to the park, but I'm also afraid to risk him potentially harming another dog in case I'm completely wrong and he really was trying to be aggressive. If a dog is dog aggressive, wouldn't he be that way with our other 2 dogs, especially since they go after him and he basically ignores them?

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July 22, 20190 found this helpful

It does sound like he is just nervous and unsure how to "play". We had that issue with our rescue wire hair dachshund, and we had one lesson/evaluation from a dog whisperer (I kid you not) and it got him settled in and WE learned to understand his behaviors and reactions.

She gave us lots of tricks and tips to get him socialized. This has worked very well for many years. Now that he is getting older he is reverting back a little (with the odd behaviors) but since he is older--and so are we--we don't take him as many places. He is fine in the house and with us, so we are not going to go back for a refresher.

If you are in Pittsburgh, I an recommend the lovely gal we used. She was amazing and I believe she still "whispering".

Some dogs, especially rescues, sometimes need a professional to help THE HUMAN guide them into the appropriate reactions. A lot of it is us--not them--and teaching us humans how to understand AND REACT TO the subtle behaviors that are coming from the dog's instincts.

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I haven't looked, but there may even be YouTube videos to help with this. I am not sure we even knew about YouTube when Clarence came to us.

If you can't find a good video, talk to your vet and see if you have someone near you or if they offer those services at your vet.

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July 22, 20190 found this helpful

Stores like Pet Smart have training classes. Your dog would benefit and learn social skills.

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July 25, 20190 found this helpful

I think you are wise to evaluate this dog carefully before allowing him off leash with other dogs. Could you have a professional dog trainer evaluate him for aggression with other dogs? I have seen them do that and it is pretty straightforward and shouldn't take too long or be too expensive. Then you could relax and enjoy your dog on outings.

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