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Joined: 12/31/1969
User offline. Last seen 42 years 37 weeks ago.

Just adopted a 3 month old mutt (Boxer/Hound/Terrier/everything) from the Nashville Humane society (NHS) ~2 wks ago. He was separated from his mom at 6 wks. Kept in a foster home until 10 wks. Then given back over to the NHS where he was neutered and given his shots. He spent ~2 wks in the pound before we picked him up.

Everything is going great with the crate training and potty training. He's a little skittish about other people, but within a few seconds with assurance from us, he warms up to everyone. Even children (nobody younger than 6, though)

BUT, we've gone on two quick walks at a local park where we crossed paths with fellow dog owners. The first time was with a larger dog that was well behaved and was wagging his tail as we approached. Toby (our dog) started to growl and barked for the first time (that I heard). He hid between our legs and we thought maybe we had set ourselves up for failure. So, we diverted paths and walked another way.

The second time, again with an older dog. Again, he seemed friendly. This time, I called out to the owner and told him the plan. My girlfriend held toby and I walked ~5 yard to the other owner and dog. I petted the dog and made sure he was wagging his tail. I then came back to toby, had him smell me, and then slowly walked over to the other dog. Again, same thing. Barking, growling and he even nipped at him. Of course, this made the other dog nip back which caused Toby to yelp, get behind us and growl and bark more.

Is this normal? I don't want to have to worry about him getting into fights at the park. I also plan on getting a second dog at some point. Toby doesn't seem to be aggressive with us or anyone else he meets. THANKS for any help you guys can give!!!

Joined: 12/31/1969
User offline. Last seen 42 years 37 weeks ago.

Normal, yes. Unacceptable, yes. Treatable, yes. So, hopefully you're getting the picture that this behavior is not uncommon including in puppies.

Pay little or no attention to the tail. While sometimes it can signal happiness or shyness, the tail alone does not communicate clearly. So pretend the dogs don't have them and look at body carriage instead.

It sounds to me he is using behavior he has learned (probably from his small time in the shelter or possibly even in the foster home) in order to get exactly the reward you gave him. I know it sounds a little strange, but let me explain... Without seeing him and going off just your description, I would guess he is fearful. And fearful dogs on a leash are very aware they cannot flee the situation. So, in order to get the feared subject to move away (or to get you to take him away) the dog barks, growls, and makes a scene. This is VERY dangerous to you and your dog if you do nothing about it.

The dog needs PROPER socializing, not just lots of it. Coming from a shelter environment or an environment with a lot of dogs, your dog is showing signs of both fear aggression and leash aggression, not necessarily just dog-dog aggression. Luckily, he's a puppy and if you bring him to training and learn to communicate with him, he will learn to respect you. He will learn to trust you as you learn how to handle those types of encounters.

I am a pet training instructor with PetSmart and thankfully most of my community is charitable and adopts from the shelter. With this usually comes some challenges, but it is only failure if you don't take action. I know you are probably looking for more specific help which I can't give you online but your local PetSmart instructor should be able to help you learn how to properly socialize him. You can also learn basic obedience commands to help teach your dog what to do in those scary situations rather than worrying so much!

One thing I will suggest though is to avoid any dog/dog encounters until you speak with a trainer. While it was great to go over and pet the dog and bring back scent for your dog to be introduced to, it's really irrelevant until your dog can at minimum see other dogs in a close range without reacting. Please don't give up! You will be able to help him become a great pet!