Hello ! My name is Mihai and I have a rather pressing issue. My "man´s best friend" is acting weird lately and I hope that someone in here can help me with some advices. 

It is an unusual situation as you will soon see :

- I never had a dog in my life 

- last year I moved to Mozambique ( I am Romanian ) and been there for one full year

- I adopted a dog, it was 3 months old when I got it, and was in a pretty bad shape. Full of ticks and fleas, had his tail broken, abused, scared of everything, especially black people ( which in Moz ... well you understand ), kids and noises

- I have done as much as I could with the dog, as much training as I could and know. I was in N of Moz where to walk the dog on a leash is not usual ( I was the only one doing that in a city of about 200.000 peopl ).

- the dog had no socialising with other dogs, with one exception : a big male ( gread dane mixed with rhodesian ridgeback) that was his best friend and played with him twice

-socialised him with humans as much as possible. Got visitors in our house and the dog behaved as a normal dog ( growling a bit, smelling, accepting the new people and than play)

- this year I moved to Norway, got the dog with me. I walk the dog on daily basis, at least 45- 60 minutes if not more. Once per week at least he gets a long walk  in the forest ( at least 5 km ). Also, once per week we go to the dogs corner in our town, where i try to get him in the same time with playful dogs

- I am following advices from this website :http://www.dogbreedinfo.com./index.htm

- the dog, on it´s name Thor knows sit, stay come, lay down, go to ... (usually I send him to my wife), give paw and it obeys 3-4 out of 5 times.

The problem :

I thought once we got to Norway, where everything it is calm, we get to walk and run a lot, and socialise much more, incomparable with what it had in Moz, Thor will get to be a normal dog in some years.

Unfortunately,  it gets aggressive, with other dogs (except females), with other people, with kids. We had a friend in our house and it behaved badly. Growled and barked at the beginning. Second day, it accepted our friend and did not noticed her. At the end of the second day they were playing. In the evening it tried to byte her when she  went out from the sofa, and continued growling at her all evening. 

It listens to me, not so much my wife. 

We left Thor alone in the house when we arrived here and it went all good. It stayed alone up to 5 hours. No problems. Suddenly, 2 months ago, after being home alone for less than one hour, it destroyed a book, a blanket, a chair, chewed on the sofa. NB : I always walk the dog before. If I know Thor will have to stay more time alone, I walk him more, or I do a 4.5 km run in the forest. 

Finally, as I almost forgot : Thor is a mixed breed, with dominant features from a rhodesian ridgeback. It is basically a rhodesian ridgeback, but smaller and ridge-less and now it has 17 months.

I would really appreciate advices, feedback, suggestions. The situation is not good for us and we want to solve it. I read more things about dogs than about anything else and tried to apply . Now it is still ok, as I am at home, not working. But I will start working in september and things deteriorate with the dog. 

As a note : in parallel I am searching for a dog´s behaviourist but analysing still. In here they are rather expensive and I need to check and double-check. 

I would appreciate any feedback !

Thank you !


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Is he alone in the day?  Dogs sometimes destroy things when they're unoccupied and alone.

Hi Will ! Thanks for your answer. The dog is not alone in the day too much at the moment. The main problem is that it starts to be aggressive with other dogs and people. Our guests can´t move in the house as the dog starts barking. My goal is not to have the dog restrained all the time I have other people in the house, but to have a normal dog to enjoy. 

When does he destroy thngs?

He destroyed the things when we left him alone. We left him alone 2 months ago for 5 hours and all went fine( I had a camera in the room and he slept trough. We left him alone 1 month ago, less than 1 hour and he destroyed things. Puzzles me why 2 months ago went fine for 5 hours and 1 month ago did not.  

I wonder if he's doing it because he's bored, or because the solitude stresses him.  Anyway, that seems to be the problem  Don't know the fix.

I agree totally with you. I avoid the dog park when there are males there. I avoid having kids around my dog as well. I can´t avoid having friends. I can´t avoid having the dog coming in contacts with humans. 

I kind of feel that like this I loose the whole purpose of having a dog and creates an extra stress for myself. I don´t want to have a separate from my life dog experience  but rather have the dog experience integrated in my life, if you see what I mean.

Isolating the dog will not make the problem go away. I want to solve the problem and thanI can have a dog that will be ok with my friends coming over, will not be aggressive towards other people or animals. 

When I moved to Norway I thought this will be good as now I can socialise the dog, even later than normal, but should improve his behaviour. And now I get puzzled that instead of improving in behaviour he gets worse. 

You've got a difficult dog.  Lots of abuse when he was young, which I understand is hard for dogs to get over.  Then, on top of that, he's a Ridgeback.  They are great dogs (I had a Ridgeback/Shepherd mix for about 10 years), but they are a challenging breed because they were bred to be smart and aggressive (they were bred to hunt lions).  So, you have a smart, aggressive dog who knows that people will hurt him. 

All things considered, I think he's actually doing pretty well.  Some dog trainer I read once said that some traits---especially those dealing with abuse---can't be trained out of a dog.  His behavior may be as good as you're going to get. 

So I think Jess is right: don't worry about socializing him with other dogs.  You and your wife are his "pack" and that should be good enough for him.  And yes, get a crate or a kennel.  I didn't like doing that with my dog either, but if you don't have a big, fenced yard and can't trust him when he is left alone, that's about all you can do.  But read up on crate-breaking dogs first: I just pushed my dog in, and while he did eventually accept it, there are surely better ways.

Since he has been abused, I would be especially cautious when introducing strangers to him.  Rhodesians tend to be one-man dogs anyway (though mine liked anyone that gave him attention), and yours knows that strangers can hurt him.  He may never be able to get over that, so I would just be cautious: let the visitor and the dog have lots of time (like multiple visits) before you don't worry about him.  Finally, regarding kids: Rhodesians don't like kids much.  Mine learned to tolerate our three kids (who came after we acquired him) but that's all.  So I wouldn't ever expect yours to deal with kids very well, especially considering the abuse.  Just put him in his kennel when you know kids are coming.

Hei Anthony, you reminded me something that I forgot. He is at the end Rhodesian mixed. When I got the dog I did read a bunch about the breed but I forgot about it. 

Regarding the kids, I will never expect him to like kids, I hope I will get him to tolerate some. The main source of abuse were kids ( when I rescued him he was stuck in a room in a kindergarden somewhere North of Moz, and kids had an open window from where they could throw stones to the pups ( 5 of them). 

He is kennel trained. he sleeps in the plastic kennel that we used to transport him and kennel was bought by my wife, so it can take a small elephant inside ( she wanted the dog to be comfortable). Just we dont close it. I never tried to close him inside, maybe will try just to see his reaction. 

However, I still do not understand why the sudden  change. In Moz we had friends coming over and eventually, with some of them he was very comfortable. No growling, no barking. 

Can the age have something with it ? The fact that he is 17 months, almost adult, or adult already have any impact on him ? 

Thanks all for inputs and feedbacks !

Howdy Mihai

I have a similar situation with a dog I adopted 5 years ago to help my daughter overcome fear of dogs (all of our friends and neighbors had dogs at the time and our girl could not be around them). My amateur "dog exposure" treatment worked very well and she developed a strong bond with the dog. This dog is affectionate towards my immediate family, but terrible around other canines, completely lacking "pack socialization" skills. She was a stray surviving on her own for who knows how long. Even after 5 years with us, she reflexively flinches when you move a hand to pet her, so I assume she was treated roughly as a puppy (she was approx. 4 yrs at adoption). Also we found some bird-shot in her when she had a pre-op X-ray taken. It is a wonder she is not more messed up with the hand life dealt her before adoption.

I'm not an expert but have spent a lot of time with dogs throughout my life, first with a pack of about half-a-dozen farm dogs growing up and then my own pets over the last 30 years as an adult. I understand their tendencies from experience. When you say Thor ignores your wife's commands, there is an emerging problem with the pack order in his mind. He has dismissed her as a superior and the first thing to do is re-establish her as dominant to him so he will heed her commands. To him, it is you and him against her.

At 17 months your dog is just starting to emerge from puppy to adult. Is he neutered? That can make a huge difference in behavior, and I wouldn't even start worrying about other details until that is taken care of. Otherwise, you'll have a large Olympic-class leg-humper who increasingly questions your dominance. One has to have a dog's respect before it will follow.

Fixing the broken social skills of an abused dog is very difficult. In fact, I have found I don't have what it takes to correct our dog's deep-seated anxiety. Our family just deals with it through gentleness and giving her adequate exercise everyday. I notice when she gets out for a 2 mile run everyday that she rests better and is slightly less anxious, but still, not enough to approach other canines properly. It's either medicate ("doggy downers" or prozac) or expose Thor to a pack of well-behaved (I mean submissive and docile) dogs. Packs of dogs, like packs of people, have behavioral expectations of their members; the dogs will reinforce positive canine behaviors and punish poor ones.

Jess, no worries mate, none taken. I understand what you say and I know unexperienced  people can easily let the dog be the alfa. It is not the case as I am rather strict with the dog, and I see the dog as a dog not as a "kid". He is my friend, but my friend the dog and therefor I set the rules. Example : first we go out of the house, than him, we eat, or at least start eating than he gets his food, he gets to do something for any pound of food he receives ( stay for his food, give paw for treats etc ). Sometimes my wife thinks I am too rough with the dog, not the opposite. 

Doug, thanks for your answer. The fact that he does not obey my wife I noticed also and I asked her to correct, so it is work in progress. Just more difficult for her as the animal is rather strong and stubborn. What can I do to help reestablish the hierarchy ? Can I interfere when they settle there ranks ?

About neutering. He is not. I asked the vet about it, some 2 months ago and he advised against. He asked if we have issues with dominance and by that time we did not. However I see that in Norway, or at least for my vet, not to generalise, neutering is the last option.

As a new argument to the discussion,  I just had a phone discussion with a behaviourist from around here and he said that for his age it is normal to get a bit more aggressive, but should not last too much. He advised me to avoid stressful situations, avoid meeting other unknown males, supervise meeting other people and call him in a month if the dog does not stop being aggressive. What you guys make out of it ?

Your vet may be on Thor's payroll  ;-)

Your vet's recommendations may reflect a cultural difference; vets in the US do not hesitate to recommend spaying/neutering dogs who will not be explicitly used for breeding purposes. It is considered the first order of business from all the vets with whom I have dealt. There are clear health benefits: for females the risk of mammary cancer is cut more than 50% if the dog is spayed before 18 months; for males, neutering helps keep them from behaving at odds with humans.

Of course you decide how your dog will be treated. My experience tells me that neutering is a critical part of curbing aggressive behavior in canine males. All that testosterone leads to territoriality (although females show it as well, males take the prize). Although not inevitable, it is very likely Thor will continue to challenge your wife.

From what I have seen, there is nothing more anxiety-reducing for a dog than to be certain of its pack status (that is, who they must submit to, and who they can behave dominantly towards). Conflicts are avoided, because the outcome of any such dominance test is clear to the dogs already. A submissive dog will lose to a dominant dog, so the submissive does not start a fight unless the dominant dog displays weakness.

Get a good dog-trainer- someone who trains dogs to be obedient. Usually it would involve a week of your dog living at the training facility. During that time the trainer asserts dominance and begins to reward submissive behaviors. Then you and your wife are gradually re-introduced as authority figures with the guidance of the trainer. Training coupled with neutering should work wonders. I think you have a good chance with Thor as he is still young.

Good luck Mihai


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