Ryder, My Project Dog

Rider2Ryder, a 2 year old male merle Great Dane I have been working with for a few months is a PROJECT! He came to my client from a neighbor who didn’t want to take care of him anymore. He was underweight, and completely unsocialized. His problems included jumping on people to say hello, biting the leash while pulling and trying to get away, being rowdy in the house, counter/refrigerator surfing, aggression towards men, and he would ‘play bite’ your face, hands, butt, anything he could reach.

Now, that was a few months ago. Now, he doesn’t jump on people to say hello anymore, no more play biting, and counter surfing has been greatly reduced. We have been working on a leadership program to teach him who is the leader (it isn’t him!), and kennel training. We have also been heavily working on the leash and handling the aggression.

Kennel training was… difficult. 1) Because he’s huge. He didn’t like going in at first, the client would bribe him by putting a bone in the kennel. This is still something we are working on, but now, he will come out of the kennel perfectly. He will lay down until we open the door. He has to be laying down CALMLY before we can let him out. In the beginning, he would try to push you out of the way to get out of the kennel. That was a few months ago. Now, he waits calmly to be called out.

Now, the aggression is still a constant challenge. He lunges at men while barking, and this is not a ‘to say hello’ lunge. He snarls and does a hard stare when there is a strange man across the street or outside.  Now, this goes 2 ways. If the man completely ignores him, he is fine. If he looks at Ryder, he gives a warning hard stare and then a growl. If the man continues to stare, he barks and lunges at him. We have been taking him to a social class to help with this along with one of Ryder’s biggest problems: He’s pushy and dominant.

The rules are coming along, and I see major improvement within the client’s house. The family has learned how to behave around him and all the kids are on board. Even the youngest (around 4, I believe). Obedience is showing improvement, though it is slow.

As for the dominance and pushy behavior, we are teaching him he doesn’t get what he wants by pushing past people or rushing the door. We are making him slow down for ANYTHING he wants by making him sit first, and then wait calmly. Putting the halti on, taking it off, coming inside, going outside, going in the kennel, coming out of the kennel, feeding time, attention, obedience training, etc. We have also stopped him from jumping on the furniture, as this was a problem in the beginning. Still jumps up on the couches when no one is looking, but he has made HUGE progress.

So, overall, we still have a ton of work to do with him, but he made tremendous progress into becoming a loving family pet. I am so impressed with how much the family has been on board, and the progress he has made. Every week (most of the time) I see a change in his behavior.

-Counter surfingRider
-Play biting
-Calming down in the house
-Kennel training

Work in progress:
-Loose Leash walking
-Accepting the halti
-Respecting the family
-Aggression towards men
-Pushy/Dominant behavior

18 thoughts on “Ryder, My Project Dog

  1. So much of this sounds very familiar. I would love to hear more about how you have worked on the mouthiness in particular. We have 2 fosters who can get mouthy when excited. We have taught them how to respect us, but that doesn’t extend to new and exciting people…

    • There were a few things we worked on, and mouthiness had to stop. He’s a giant breed with a big mouth. If he bit me in the right place, he could easily break my bone or cause permanent damage. There are small children in the household who liked to get a little rough with the dog. There were a few key things we had to change.
      1) Kenneling. Rider was not kennel trained and was sleeping on the bed with the family. I don’t have a problem with dogs on the furniture or the bed, unless there are leadership problems. In this case… there are clearly issues. So, I had the client start kenneling him during the nighttime, and getting used to taking ‘down time’ in the kennel during the day for a few hours.
      2) Regular exercise. It’s imperative that he was getting the proper exercise. We now have him on a walking schedule where he is walked after the kids get home from school. So, this also meant we needed to do some leash work. This is a work in progress, but a complete turn around from when we started working with him.
      3) Substituting faces/arms/hands for bones. (I will be posting another article soon regarding diet and nutrition.) Basically, he was eating rawhides, and we immediately changed him to marrow bones. This made a difference, and is really helping his teeth.
      4) He was ‘Ah ah-ed’ every time he showed signs of about to mouth or jump. This took care of both. He needed proper leadership, and we put some firm rules in place of what he can and cannot do within the house.

      All of those things really helped, and are great starting points for anyone with a rowdy dog who doesn’t know proper leadership. 🙂

      • This was very helpful. Thank you! I think what we need to do is become a bit more “take charge” with visitors to our home. Everyone wants to love on the dogs when they visit, and that gets the dogs revved up. We’ve established personal boundaries with the mouthiness (nobody goes there with us except our newest foster, but we’ve only had her for a couple of weeks and have been working on establishing some trust, since she has fear aggression/possession aggression issues). But I think we need to help others establish those boundaries as well while they are in our home. I think sometimes people feel like it is not their place to tell another person’s dog “no,” but it’s actually really important in helping the dog realize that they have to show respect not just to their owners, but to every person they meet.

      • Yes, this is something I really had to work on when I first started training. I take charge of the dog, and treat them like they are my own. Once I do that, it establishes respect, and also increases confidence for the owners. Dogs feed off our energy, and when they see the dog behaving with a confident leader, they gain confidence there is hope to train. Their dog can get better! It takes lots of time, and aggression especially. What people forget is that a dog is a DOG, not a HUMAN. Canines cannot feel the same as humans do, and putting a human emotion on a dog is difficult for them as well as unrealistic. Dogs cannot feel ‘guilt’ or ‘regret’. Their brain chemistry is very different than humans. Once you guys take the leader role, you’ll start seeing changes for the better! 🙂

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