Hello All - acclimating a dog to new minis - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 03-22-2018, 05:53 PM Thread Starter
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Hello All - acclimating a dog to new minis

I am not new to horses but new to minis. Have a 7 yo mare 250 lbs and a 25 yo gelding 200 lbs. I rescued them a few months ago.
My dog Ember is 3 years old 60 lbs rescued her a little over a year ago. She freaks out when she sees the minis and also freaks out if I am walking her and there are other dogs around. Jumping and barking. She has been visiting with the minis through my yard chain link fence and just stares when they came up to see her she tried to snap at them.

I have taken her into the pasture a few times on a heavy duty harness . My gelding wants nothing to do with her but my mare is curious - at first she was weird but then she was wagging her tail and all was good. It was this way a few times . But the last time she tried to snap at my mare so I corrected her and made her sit with me at that point the mare wanted nothing to do with her. But every morning both minis are at my fence waiting for me to come out to feed and so is Ember.
I really want to let Ember run with them because they all could use the exercise . Ember is a cuddle bug sweet baby and loves to run but also has a bad habit of jumping even on humans when they come to visit. The only time I have ever saw any aggression is when I am walking her and she is leashed ( aggression meaning barking and pulling) . I have had friends dogs in the house and she is fine. The foster that I got her from had 2 large dogs and she was fine. Any advice or maybe any recommendations for a trainer that does not cost a fortune? When I first got her she used to chase the chickens in my yard I would yell at her and she would stop. I take care of 6 stray kitties outside and have 2 that stay in she has no problem and they were the size of my hand when I brought them in.
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post #2 of 3 Old 03-22-2018, 08:58 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2017
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Before being concerned about getting her used to your minis, you need to first be concerned about getting Ember training.

Did the foster and/or rescue group you got her from recommend a trainer? You need to get her into training ASAP. Leash aggression is a serious issue and needs to be corrected because it can escalate quickly and if not handled correctly a dog will redirect onto anything in the vicinity, including the handler. Snapping at the horses through the fence may also be a form of barrier aggression (which leash aggression is a subform of).

Unfortunately, leash aggression is NOT a typical obedience type behavior so you will not be able to get away with group classes which means you'll have to shell out a bit more money for private one-on-one sessions with a trainer, either in a facility setting or an in-home setting. Depending on the severity of the leash aggression (which from your description at this point it sounds like the very beginnings of leash aggression) it may only take a handful of sessions (and a lot of effort on your part) to get her over the issue. Leash aggression does not mean that your dog is aggressive...but if it is not nipped in the bud it can cause problems down the road.

Obviously I am not there to evaluate the dog and I have no idea what types of trainers are in your area, so you'll need to do your research on your own as to a trainer that fits your budget and, more importantly, can help your dog and find out what the problem is and how to help you correct it. Contact the group you got the dog from and ask them for recommendations. If they don't have any, contact other local rescues and shelters for trainer recommendations. Specifically state you are dealing with a leash aggression issue as not all types of trainers are capable of dealing with behavior issues.

Most trainers will provide you with a consultation for free (usually by phone, but some will do an in-person one) so don't be afraid to contact several to find one that fits your budget and situation. I could be way off base on what your situation is with your dog as it's very hard to get an idea on behavior just going off of the words of an owner versus viewing the dog's body language and behavior in person, so again I could be way off base in the advice I gave above. But the behavior you describe is very similar to 90% of my leash aggression clients so it wouldn't hurt anything for you to give a few trainers in your area a call and describe the situation to see what they think. Once that's all said and done then I think you could possibly start doing an introduction to your horses, but I think this issue needs to be nipped in the bud first to prevent the dog, the horses, or you from possibly getting hurt should something happen.

Good luck! :)
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post #3 of 3 Old 03-22-2018, 10:45 PM
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I second what k9 has already said (I think she is a dog trainer if I recall from past posts though! Correct me if wrong!)

Leash reactivity is what comes before leash aggression - and it sounds like you're very much on the threshold. Do you ever let your dog roam free with other strange dogs in a park or field? How does she react? Dogs that pull are often very frustrated at being tethered, which is made worse when you add a stimulus. Imagine your dog perceives a threat - but she can't go anywhere. What mode does she engage? Fight, of course. She sees a threat in the distance and is proactively demanding space. Some dogs just want to sniff a bum but from what you've said, i think your dog might just take a bite out of one instead!

What makes a worried dog more reactive and potentially aggressive is a worried owner. "But I'm not worried, I'm just trying to get her attention". Pulling, yanking on the leash, shouting or sometimes getting physical (note: all negative punishment) are all confirming that yes, your dog should be worried. Your dog thinks like this: "every time that >insert stimulus< is around my owner goes crazy. I better be on my guard!" So you can go about it two ways - pretend you don't care. This is very hard for some. My mother always gets worried around our rather huge Alsatian off-leash when other dogs are in the park. Alsatian looks at her, sees her pack member is worried, has confirmed that X is a threat, and becomes aggressive. When I walk her she looks at me, I look at the stimulus and shrug. I begin to look at my phone or tie my shoes and call her over. Because I'm acting normal, she's normal. Owner isn't worried, she's not worried.

Second option is to distract with toys or food every time the stimulus is present. Instead of thinking "omg my owner is scared and crazy over XYZ, she instead gets happy about the squeaky duck/treat in her pocket YAY!" (note: all positive) and forgets about the stimulus, let alone it be a threat (takes time!). Getting your dogs attention, even if for only millisecond intervals is a SUCCESS! Because. if you don't have her ATTENTION it means she isn't looking to you for an answer. You've proven for a year just to be a hindrance that wont let her protect herself (leash, harness etc). You ignore her frustration and so she will escalate until it cannot be ignored or someone or some animal is injured, maybe even yourself. This might feel overly dramatic but stuff like this happens more commonly than we realise.

Your dog screams insecurity to me. She's insecure about her space (barrier) and when leashed, her lack of freedom to escape. Her overall behaviour is screaming for help and for someone to listen because if no one is listening she's just gonna have to sit in her corner and fight it out. Learning to "listen" is very time consuming. Communicating with a dog is a very unappreciated skill in this modern day. But with a big and beautiful dog like yours OP, you gotta start.

Now I'm not saying taking her off a harness is a great idea haha. But, if she feels entrapped by a leash it's maybe time to try a long line or extendable. In a controlled setup and out of biting range, see how she feels with more freedom. There is no shame in using a humane muzzle while you work on things. See if you can get her attention and recall her. Be forgiving the first few times as she wont know the limit of her freedom. But many dogs with good recall (practised at HOME!) often succeed very well with this. If you HAVE to walk her on a short leash (because she's not very well trained yet) then work on distracting her instead. At all costs, YOU must have her attention NOT the stimulus. It will look stupid to onlookers and it will feel messy.

You're gonna do good, I have faith. I do think you need an assessment to get you on the track and to point out very specific warning signs and a demonstration of how to respond. Doesn't mean you need to invest hundreds, but enough to gain real hands on knowledge.

For the record my background is training bomb sniffer dogs and exotics. There are a million ways to go about training but never forget to figure out the WHY of a behaviour, to be empathetic with it which will help you face a problem objectively. It's never personal. Good luck! <3
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