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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello everyone,

About a month ago, I adopted a little pit bull from my local humane society shelter. Her name is Ella and she is a sweetheart.....but also has a bunch of isses I'm trying to work through with her. We have no previous history on her (was found as a stray, no chip, no tags) and her estimated age is 8 months. I got her spayed.

I'll mention the good first:
- she is very smart
- she sees me as alpha and is always 'checking in' with me
- she tries very hard to please
- she will do anything for treats/tennis ball/frisbee

Ok, now the bad:
- she has the worst case of separation anxiety I've ever seen
- she is dominant/aggressive with other dogs very unexpectedly (usually over toys, but also for no apparent reason)
- she has an incredibly hard time being calm (when she does a 'down' for me her whole body still wiggles and shakes, tail never stops wagging, she looks like she's having a seizure)
- she pees submissively


I used to show dogs and consider myself a pretty effective trainer, but I've never had to deal with separation anxiety nor this amount of energy!

This is what we've accomplished so far:
- she lies down when my toddler goes in/out of the house/doorways and waits to go in last (with commands, not by her own judgement)
- she lies down and waits for me to throw her toys (she retrieves and never gets tired of it). She knows I will not play with her if she's not settled down and in a good mental place.
- she waits until given the 'ok' to go eat
- she waits outside the car until told to 'load up'
- she is great off-leash (on hikes, nowhere near roads and very few people)
- she loves the dog park
- she learned quickly and loves running alongside my bike

This is HUGE compared to the wild animal she was when I adopted her only a few short weeks ago.

So, in short, I've been working on teaching her to be patient. She does not get attention when she's flipping out wiggling/quivering and I wait for her to settle down......but I can't stick to this every single time because sometimes it will take her half an hour to settle down and I just don't have that much time every time we do this (single mom grad student, in and out of the house a lot, go go go go schedule). She is a lot of fun. I love taking her everywhere. Her recall is great when we go on hikes. I don't want people to grill me about letting her off leash with her "dominant/aggression issues" as it has only happened about 4 times and it's more noise than anything else (never done any damage). And she always responds to me saying "tsh!!" (the cesar millan sound for corrections). I think it's more asserting her dominance over other dogs....she wants to make sure they know the toys are hers --- for this, I've been having her practice to 'lie down' and 'stay' while I throw her toys to my friend's dogs (and she needs to stay down and watch them play, until I give her the 'ok' release). I will put her in training classes at the beginning of June for the manners thing. But mostly, she just loves to play with other dogs and is a social butterfly.
For separation anxiety, I've been trying to practice tying her to stuff and stepping a few feet away. I tie her to the fence at the community garden while I tend my garden and she's got that down pretty well (practicing almost every day). But it's impossible for me to tie her outside a store and go shopping (pretty common thing to do in my town, it's very dog friendly) because she looses her mind screaming, jumping, barking, crying. The only way she can avoid flipping out is if I leave her with a bark collar on, and I really hate having to do that. I have to leave her in the yard (weather permitting) or crated with a bark collar on or my neighbors complain about her psychotic super loud symphonies. I tried leaving her home with yard access and I came back to a war zone and tornado destruction in every room -- learned my lesson. She is velcroed to me -- will even follow me into the bathroom and if I shut the door with her outside she sits there and cries until I come out. When I come home, she looses her mind with joy and uncontrollable energy....this is when I have to wait forever for her to settle down and this is when she greets me with her submissive peeing. I ignore her while I sing or talk with my toddler, and just wait until she calms down to give her attention. I exercise her a lot, my right arm feels like it's going to fall off from throwing her tennis balls with the 'chuck it' for hours while we hiked yesterday. She's quickly become a part of the family and goes everywhere with us where dogs are allowed. I take her to work sometimes after hours (microbiology lab) and she does great.

So.......please, tell me she will 'calm down' at some point before she turns 10!! and how do I deal with her insecurity/submissiveness and separation anxiety?
Please, experienced pit bull owners, share your wisdom!
 

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Welcome to GP!

In my experience these dogs don't have limits like normal dogs, HUGE amounts of energy. Get a bike or skates or a backpack to help. Read on here about flirt poles and spring poles these will most likely be your best friend.

DA (dog aggression) is a common trait in "pit" type dogs.

Learn to call your dog a American shelter dog. no papers = that or a mutt.

My boy Zeus gets 45minutes or so of hand walking in the morning, at lunch my wife plays with him about 30 minutes or so. when i get home him and i run about 3 miles then usually about an hour after his dinner its ether tracking practice/fetch/spring pole.

Start small with the separation. 1minute in a crate with you standing there while she gets a treat and gradually increase to say 10minutes. then start with you in a different room. Also do all things you can in the crate, pet her, feed, water and so on. It will take a lot of time.

http://www.gopitbull.com/general-discussion/36349-pitbulls-dog-parks.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Vilebeast! I've never heard of a flirt pole, will look into that. Also, digging around this site, I see some people treadmill their dogs......this might be a good investment.

She is such a versatile dog....I really love her. She goes kayaking with us and jumps/swims from one kayak to another constantly, will fetch in the water like a bay retriever, just an all around fun dog. We just have to get past the glitches.

I started feeding her in the crate this morning for the first time. She didn't eat. I leave treats and bones in the crate for her and they remain untouched. She goes in the crate by herself when I'm home (and in the same room)......she really likes her crate when I'm home. I'll try closing the door and work on the time increments, as you suggest.
 

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There are more good threads on here than I could link. Take everything with a grain of salt. I would just watch how much you let a young dog run on a treadmill. You may want to find a high value treat for the separation anxiety, IE cheese, hotdogs, antlers in my case. Kong with treats and peanut butter frozen in it.

If your area is "dog friendly" add a break stick to your list of things you carry everywhere. Also personally I wouldn't leave your pup anywhere that they could get into a fight without you there, because it will be your fault, doesn't matter if the other dogs starts it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Just looked up the flirt pole. I used a lunge whip (for horses) to teach my sighthounds to chase a lure (tie lure at the end and entice).....pretty much the same concept with different hardware. Will give the whip a try and see how long it takes Ella to annihilate it. :)

Thanks for the advice on possible unattended fights........that hadn't crossed my mind. Lots of dogs walk by her when I tie her at the community garden and she's always been a polite lady......but it only takes 1 second for something bad to happen.
 

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Just looked up the flirt pole. I used a lunge whip (for horses) to teach my sighthounds to chase a lure (tie lure at the end and entice).....pretty much the same concept with different hardware. Will give the whip a try and see how long it takes Ella to annihilate it. :)

Thanks for the advice on possible unattended fights........that hadn't crossed my mind. Lots of dogs walk by her when I tie her at the community garden and she's always been a polite lady......but it only takes 1 second for something bad to happen.
Exactly, it only takes a blink of an eye. but regardless, welcome to GP! ur pup is adorable. and like Vilebeast said I prefer American Shelter Dog ;) also my flirt pole is made of an old paint roller extention pole, a piece of flat rope and a fire hose toy that Odin destroyed lol.
 

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Welcome! Sounds like a lot of pups out there, my boy is 3 and is trained but still has and will continue to have TONS of energy.

http://www.gopitbull.com/general-discussion/43231-how-tell-if-your-dog-pure-newbies.html

Please stay out of dog parks, (EDIT: sorry just saw someone already linked you to these, my apologies)
http://www.gopitbull.com/general-discussion/36349-pitbulls-dog-parks.html
http://www.gopitbull.com/general-discussion/40966-day-park-poem-written-dog-park-lovers.html

Here are good examples of socializing your dog: http://www.gopitbull.com/general-discussion/38109-socializing.html

My boy was super easy to train on the treadmill. The goal is to not get them freaked out by it. I first took time to get him to realize the "treadmill" is a good thing. Give it a name and tell him "treadmill" and walk him over to it and give him treats. I kept saying what a good boy on the treadmill and piled cheese at him. In an hour I told him "treadmill", went over had him get on gave lots of cheese and praise. I did the the rest of the night, NOT ONCE turning it on. He just stood on it. The next day I said treadmill and he ran into the room I keep mine and stood on it. I figured since he got that I could start to make it go. DISCLAIMER: Make SURE you have walked your dog first, you don't want to clean up the mess and make your pup feel bad.... lol

I wrap a leash around the bar, Loose enough to not have him know its there BUT not too loose where if he loses his footing he will fall off the treadmill. I tell him "READY" and he knows its going to move. (now he herds treadmill, he races to the room, he hears ready and he looks at the belt and waits for it to go. This is the fist time I did it, you can see how he reacted:

you can also see how slow and careful I was to not tire him out, tons of praise, I hold off on the treats now cause he goes full on sprints and I don't want him to choke, plus it defeats the purpose of loosing weight just eating cheese (or dehydrated chicken in this video lmao This is day 2, still taking it easy and bribing him just getting him used to it:

now he does full on sprints, he gets bored after about 20 minutes or so, sometimes I can get him to run for 40 minutes, depends on his mood, lol.

let me know if you want more information about the treadmill. Its great for weird weather or just when there is a ton of energy to burn. Your pup (and little girl) are adorable :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
yes....she's definitely an american shelter dog. Took her to the dog park again today and now my left arm feels like it's going to fall off from all the 'chuck it' throws. This girl is going to whip me into shape!

Do either one of you have any advice on the separation anxiety? or submissive peeing?

Vilebeast, I fed her dinner in her crate and she ate most of it (she skipped breakfast because I fed it to her in the crate for the first time, so she was ravenous!). I really hope the positive association helps with the love-hate relationship she has with the crate......also hope that she will start eating the treats I leave her in there as well.


EDIT: I just saw your message, Ames. Will go read up on why the dog park is not a good idea. While there today, I was so proud of this girl. I've never had a dog who is so focused on me. I was having her do 'sits' and 'downs' while other dogs were coming over super crazy wanting to play with her or sniffing her all over and I would just tell her to 'leave it'. If she ever looked away from me, her eyes would come right back to look into mine. :love: We also practiced 'down', 'stay' then I walk away and call her - she did great with that too. And, every time I saw her interested in someone else's toy (owners throwing frisbees or tennis balls) I'd tell her to 'tsh!' 'leave it' and call her and she did wonderful with that too. Very proud of her today. Baby steps :)

Ames, your dog looks so cute running on the treadmill with his huge tongue sticking out! :D
 

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Try lowering the criteria on the crate. (meaning all meals fed in there, first with you right there and door open, work up to you there, door closed, then door closed you in same room only further and so on)
Hopefully the Dog Park thread will help you see why it is a bad idea, especially given that she has already, at her age, had negative interactions with other dogs. You will need to be selective in how you set her up in her experiences and you can't control what other dogs are at the dog park.
You are doing the right thing with teaching and working on impulse control (and the buggy whip makes a fabulous flirt pole!) I would nix the off leash until she has been with you longer and has a 100% recall while on a long line.
 

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Haha thank you! He loves it. Love the chuck it ball, only one that lats with my boy. It's more of something to watch ou for at dog parks. You never know. You could go to a ball field tennis or basketball courts. Places that are enclosed but you can see of another dog is coming at you and prepare.

I have a friend who had great success with this Thundershirt | The Best Dog Anxiety Treatment

There are also great threads explaining in detail I'm on my phone. If you click advanced search and change the drop down to threads not posts search: anxiety. You should see some good stuff. I think there might be a sticky??

Glad your pup is learning so faSt and you are being such a great teacher. They love to learn and know what is expected of them as much as you want them too :). The look and checking in is key! So great your pup is already getting there!
 

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Kingsgurl, thanks for the advice!! I will apply it first thing tomorrow!
I think sometimes when we are really "in it," we get blinded to the myriad of other options available (this can apply to anything one does in life) due to the virtue of our focus. I am so glad I registered and posted here. I'm getting some really great ideas!


Thanks for all those links, Ames! They are very informative! So many good ones!! Dr. Sophia Yin's videos were an eye opener.....I don't even know how I got to her site, but I just kept clicking deeper and deeper into those links you posted. Great resources!

Ames, you have no idea how excited I get when she gives me the look. :) We are also working on 'heel' but I don't really use a word for that, I just tap my leg and every time she looks at me, I praise her. It's just very encouraging to see that we are beginning to communicate better.

For the dog park ordeal......as soon as I read about it, I equated it to the sighthound's instinct to chase. They were bred to chase and capture, pits were bred to fight (that was hard to type). As much as they are lovers, that is still in their genes. I worked with sighthounds off-leash in secured areas (baseball fields, etc.) and also took mine out on hikes off-leash, knowing full well that if a deer crossed the trail or a squirrel took off, they would chase it and the rest of the world literally does not exist for them (they always came back after the chase). It's just them and the object they are chasing (ok, might be a slight exaggeration, but it mostly applies). I will see the possibility of a fight with my pit mix under the same kind of light. But dear goodness, having worked with sighthounds most of my life is REALLY making me appreciate this girl's ability and desire to learn! Sighthounds are more aloof and just don't really care....you have to work hard at making it exciting for them. This girl is a natural!
 

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Kingsgurl, thanks for the advice!! I will apply it first thing tomorrow!
I think sometimes when we are really "in it," we get blinded to the myriad of other options available (this can apply to anything one does in life) due to the virtue of our focus. I am so glad I registered and posted here. I'm getting some really great ideas!

Thanks for all those links, Ames! They are very informative! So many good ones!! Dr. Sophia Yin's videos were an eye opener.....I don't even know how I got to her site, but I just kept clicking deeper and deeper into those links you posted. Great resources!

Ames, you have no idea how excited I get when she gives me the look. :) We are also working on 'heel' but I don't really use a word for that, I just tap my leg and every time she looks at me, I praise her. It's just very encouraging to see that we are beginning to communicate better.

For the dog park ordeal......as soon as I read about it, I equated it to the sighthound's instinct to chase. They were bred to chase and capture, pits were bred to fight (that was hard to type). As much as they are lovers, that is still in their genes. I worked with sighthounds off-leash in secured areas (baseball fields, etc.) and also took mine out on hikes off-leash, knowing full well that if a deer crossed the trail or a squirrel took off, they would chase it and the rest of the world literally does not exist for them (they always came back after the chase). It's just them and the object they are chasing (ok, might be a slight exaggeration, but it mostly applies). I will see the possibility of a fight with my pit mix under the same kind of light. But dear goodness, having worked with sighthounds most of my life is REALLY making me appreciate this girl's ability and desire to learn! Sighthounds are more aloof and just don't really care....you have to work hard at making it exciting for them. This girl is a natural!
I recall a conversation I had with my bosses over lunch one day. One has two labs and was saying how hard they were to train - the other has one lab and one pit bull mix and she was saying how easy her pit mix was to train. I mentioned that it was natural for pit type (or "bulldogs") dogs because they are so eager to please. The one with two labs was shocked. Quite honestly, those of us advocating for these pit bull breeds can talk until we are blue in the face, but it really takes owning, training and loving one of these amazing dogs to fully understand the rewards involved.

Welcome to the forum and to bulldog ownership. It is the most challenging and rewarding dog experience you will ever have :)

Let me also add that I appreciate your openness to learning about these breeds. So many new members come here with their minds already made up with their preconceived notions (which are often wrought with all sorts of false information). It is refreshing to see a new member who is so eager to learn in such a positive way!
 

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I am with Carriana, thanks for reading the linkd and being open. You have a great take on yOur pup already and seem willing to listen and ask questions and not try and tell us how wrong we all are lol exactly what is a sight hound? Gonna have to look that one up :)
 

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sight hounds include grey hounds and wippets (sp?)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sighthound is a term used for dogs developed/bred to hunt by sight. They include some of the oldest recorded breeds, including saluki and greyhound prototypes seen and referred to in Egyptian art and history. The breeds included in this group vary from country to country. Here in the US, for example, the Italian Greyhound is in the toy group (according to AKC) but they are in the sighthound group in Europe (according to FCI). Vilebeast is correct; the greyhound and whippet are members of the sighthound group, as well as borzois, irish wolfhounds, afghan hounds, etc. I used to do AKC sponsored lure coursing and racing with my guys and they just looooooooooooved the chase. You'd see people holding their visibly strong rhodesian ridgebacks as they barked and jumped in excitement with what I call 'the crazy eye look' (ready to 'kill' the prey) at the start line. Good times. I did this when I lived in the east coast, but had to relocate to the west and couldn't take my dogs with me, so I had to place them. It's taken me 5yrs to get a dog again because that parting was so difficult for me. One of the dogs I had was my heart dog - we just had a direct and flawless connection. They're all in great homes (I had 3) but it's still not easy to talk about.

I also have a toddler and really want her to grow up with the joy dogs can bring. And you know, I really think that the degree to which we communicate with dogs and vice versa is nothing short of astonishing. For 2 completely different species to share that kind of bond....it's very special.

Anyway, this morning Ella came with me to drop my little one off in school and then I threw her frisbee for 40 minutes. I was attempting to train her with treats and it was going ok. Then I went back to the car and grabbed her frisbee and boy, that really got her attention! So we were practicing commands in between frisbee throws. Every time she performed well, she got her frisbee thrown. Then I took her to my 8am seminar where she took a nap most of the time. Now she's under my feet while I write a lab report -- I'm taking a break right now :)

Carriana, thank you also for mentioning my willingness to accept and implement your advice. It's nice to get positive feedback, even for 'old people' like me. And it's never too late to learn.

On the way back to the car I tried the desensitization taught by the vet in the videos. It worked like a charm. I had her across a chainlink fence with a dog that was flipping out at her and I managed to catch her attention and have her do 'sits' and ignore the dog. :) Eventually the dog inside the fenced front yard calmed down after staring at us for 5 minutes.

Sorry to be posting so much. I've just never had a pit mix and this is proving to be a really fun and interesting adventure!
 

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hey don't apologize for posting! Love reading stories about pups. And thanks for the examples, I have not heard those breeds refereed to as sighthounds before, love to learn new things myself, lol.

My boy also was not food motivated as he is toy motivated. I have tested what trumps each other like cheese trumps ball, rope trumps cheese, Treadmill trumps rope, unbreakoball trumps treadmill, Laser trumps everything hahaha

Look forward to hearing more of your adventures :)
 

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hey don't apologize for posting! Love reading stories about pups. And thanks for the examples, I have not heard those breeds refereed to as sighthounds before, love to learn new things myself, lol.

My boy also was not food motivated as he is toy motivated. I have tested what trumps each other like cheese trumps ball, rope trumps cheese, Treadmill trumps rope, unbreakoball trumps treadmill, Laser trumps everything hahaha Look forward to hearing more of your adventures :)
bwahahaha. i love it! i was teaching Odin to wait for me to throw his ball and then tell him "get it". it worked when i underhanded the ball but as soon as it was a real overhand throw he was like "oh! mom i cant wait *zoom*"
 

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bwahahaha. i love it! i was teaching Odin to wait for me to throw his ball and then tell him "get it". it worked when i underhanded the ball but as soon as it was a real overhand throw he was like "oh! mom i cant wait *zoom*"
HAHA that's great!
 

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One of the fun things (and challenging!) is finding what works as motivation for your individual dog. This can vary with different stimuli and in different situations. We get stuck on rewards that make sense for US, but they may not be all that rewarding for the dog. My dogs find food rewarding in some situations, but prefer the release of being directed to take a jump, chase a ball, or even just being allowed to break off and sniff, in others. I like to use everything I can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I've been applying all of your advice and things are going quite well. Ella's shaking/wiggling is diminishing slowly (I'm starting to think a lot of the shaking was fear-based, not energy-based), her obedience is going great, her crate doesn't end up 10 feet away from where I left her in it, and thanks to your advice not to take her to the dog park, we've been going out more on hikes with friends' dogs. :) And....I just came to find out the place I'll be traveling to next week accepts dogs. I was going to board her, but now she's coming with me on vacation :D
Here is a picture of her (middle) with 2 of her friends. We hiked to the snow area. Another picture of her with me, half way up the mountain. Thank you all so very much for all your advice! It's been incredibly helpful and it's been a joyful experience to be welcomed to this forum.
 

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