Serge is a 7 month old Dogue de Bordeaux who I have been working with recently. His problems stem from not enough socialisation during his puppyhood. If you follow my blog, you will know how important I feel proper socialisation, both at the right times and in the right way, is in the development of your dog.
Serge lives with his owner in a more rural area close to me. He has been brought up around horses and with two other dogs and is more confident when he is out with the bulldog he lives with who is great with other dogs. Serge can react aggressively with other dogs and to some other novel things he experiences but his reaction is fairly mild and he soon comes round.
We have done two session so far. In our first session, we worked on teaching Nikki his owner, proper handling skills so she could use correct distance from other dogs to keep Serge feeling safe and I also taught her how to time her reinforcements effectively.
The second session was a few weeks later and Serge had already started to make good progress. Nikki had been keeping Segre from a safe distance from other dogs and feeding him when he saw them so that Serge builds an association between seeing other dogs and being fed. We met at a local park, which I use often as it is large, and had very large open area so you can see the approaching dogs from a distance of up to 400 metres. The park is always busy with both dog owners and professional dog walkers, there are loads of dogs off leash and because I use it often, I know lots of the dogs and how social (or not) they are. There is also an enclosed dog park where Colin, one of the dog walkers, exercises his dogs.This enclosed dog park has an “air-lock” gate.
We moved round to the dog park and we approached from a distance of about 25m away from the gate. There were about 15 dogs or so, including several large dark coloured dogs in the park who all ran up to the fence to see Serge. Serge stopped and looked at the dogs. His reaction was a bit too head on but not really “high” so we told him he was a good lad and rewarded him with food and then moved him away. We then approached again. By this time, the other dogs had moved off and were playing with each other again. Because they had moved away from the fence, Serge felt more comfortable approaching the gate. He then looked at the other dogs through the gate without reacting. One dog came over to say hello and then a few others joined this dog and soon there were several dogs at the fence and Serge was greeting them all appropriately.
At this point, I was watching for any adverse change in Serge’s body language. Any stiffening of his body, hard staring or snarling/growling. If he had done this, I would have immediately called him and moved away with him (he was wearing a long line which I was holding without tension). Colin’s dog came out to say hello. This dog has great social skills with other dogs. As Colin’s dog cam out, we called Serge and moved away with both dogs so Serge could say hello to him away from the fence. the reason for this was that Serge was no coping with greeting several big, calm dogs behind the fence and was fairly relaxed but he might not have been able to cope with the added stress of Colin’s dog being so close, so we moved away to reduce the pressure of the bigger dogs and Serge could say hello to Colin’s dog.
This went well. Colin called his dog back in and then a wee Cockerpoo came out to say hi. This also went well. The cocker was really gentle, inviting Serge to play with play bows. Serge was a bit reluctant at first but the cocker persevered and soon Serge was playing. What was interesting here was if Serge became too intense, the cocker stopped the play by lying down, then Serge stopped running. When Serge calmed down, the cockerpoo began to play again.
We ended the session here and called it a day. There is always a tendency to want to continue but I prefer to err on the side of caution in the early stages. A good session from Serge and Nikki and thanks to Colin and his own dog and also the cockerpoo.