• Michael D'Abruzzo

    May 9, 2011 at 7:05 am

    The first place to start would be with just general KNOWLEDGE (step 1 on our system) of what you are starting with. Overall, it seems like you have a good dog. I don’t see any evidence of people aggression issues, but there is an issue of when he fights with other dogs it is over the top. This is actually quite normal with pit bulls that have either fighting bloodlines and/or have been fought in the past. You have to think from the standpoint of the breed and their use. Pit Bulls should NOT be human aggressive. If they were human aggressive they would not be able to be handled during the heinous activity of dog fighting. Although, IF not far from fighting bloodlines they tend to go over the top when they do fight. This has a purpose when it comes to a life of strike harder and faster or be killed.
    The good thing is that every pit bull I have ever encountered fights for the same reasons as every other dog (feeling threatened is one of them), but they are more likely to do as you witnessed first hand rather than the more normal escalation of aggression. Accepting this and understanding what goes along with owning one ,most likely from a fighting line, is part of the plan.
    This would be no different than saying it is unacceptable for a German Shepherd with a history of being used as a guard dog to bite a stranger who entered your home without knocking. In that case you would manage by keeping your doors locked so you could prepare and guide your dog properly before someone entered.
    I am wondering if you have leash laws where you live? Because reading your account I would say that the fight was the fault of the loose dog’s owner. Any dog tethered in their own yard is very likely to fight because of the combination of feeling vulnerable AND territorial at the same time. It is one of the most common scenarios found even when dogs kill humans. The loose pit bull’s owners are to blame for her injuries, not your dog.
    As far as a plan goes I would start with some simple management tools, so you can keep your dog out of trouble and protect the dogs at risk because of their careless owners that allow them loose in public. “Spray Shield” is a great thing to carry on walks, because if there is a loose dog that seems threatening to you or your dog you can generally surprise that dog when it comes withing 10 feet with a harmless burst of citronella to drive it off. This has saved me from having to break up COUNTLESS fights when i take my client’s dogs on field trips.
    More than any training right now, you want your dog to feel that you are in control of the situation and he does not have to worry about being so on guard. YOU will protect him, he doesn’t have to protect himself anymore.
    A comfortable basket muzzle is a great thing to get him used to for when you want to introduce him to a gentle larger dog, but don’t want to take any chances until “Fathead” has shown he is also comfortable. This is what I do for all the ex-fighters I work with that really need the chance to see that not all big dogs are out to get him. But, every bad encounter he has will be a step backwards. This dog sounds a lot like a dog “Bo” we have at our place. Here are two vids. One of him getting used to a muzzle and one (his adoption vid) that shows him playing with a bigger dog. Never would have been possible to test safely without the muzzle. I also let him play with my little terrier. Bo WILL fight back with expertise if another dog attacks him. He has fighting scars from wherever he came from and his instinct and genetics combined with his past history will not allow him to half ass the fight. Because of this I am always aware of the situations I put him in and would never for instance subject him to the chaos of a dog park – where he would feel very vulnerable around so many new dogs at once. NOT a place for an ex-fighter.
    If you can give your boy a name that will make him feel good about himself 🙂 and be prepared to manage him we should be able to teach him to respond to that new name and learn leash manners and a great “heel” to walk past these other dogs with. If he is food motivated we should be able to throw in some counter condtioning around these larger dogs on the walks and we have the start of a plan.