Helping dogs come back from a scary experience involving another dog is where Ace, the pit bull, shines. This morning when I went in to get Sarge ready for the morning walk I did what I do with every board and train. My 3 dogs came trotting into the room with me. Sarge, being afraid, exploded. Barking with hackles raised, growling, all the while he was stiff and clearly frightened. My dogs know not to crowd the kennel doors so they were busy looking for the cat. I opened Sarge's kennel door and, like I expected, he did not want to come out. Sarge is not aggressive. He is scared and he deals with this fear by puffing up and trying to be scary right back.
Ace, being the friendly animal he is, went right up to Sarge to say hello. Sarge snapped at Ace's face in an attempt to say "stay away, I'm uncomfortable." Ace sat down. This is what Ace does. He sits and waits for dogs to feel better. I truly believe that in his heart of hearts Ace is convinced that all dogs really do want to be his best friend.
It took a few seconds but soon Sarge's curiosity got the better of him and he sniffed Ace and allowed Ace to sniff him, though there was still some growling and hackles raised.
I opened the garage door to let everyone out and Sarge grudgingly came with. He checked all the cars for his dad and when he realized that his person wasn't there he busied himself trying to avoid the other dogs. Kylie and Ted were happy with this arrangement. They have no use for puppies. Ace, however, shadowed Sarge inviting him to play until, in what seemed like a sudden change, Sarge flipped a switch. In under 3 minutes he and Ace were running and wrestling and having a great time. Kylie joined the game and Sarge became afraid and sat with me for a second before it looked like there was too much fun to be had. And off he went. I've seen this happen many times before when integrating fearful dogs into the pack.
I will try to get some more dogs out here tomorrow to compound good experiences for Sarge. If not, I will see about Saturday morning. But all in all, I am convinced that any aggression we see from Sarge is coming from a place of nervousness because of his previous bad experiences. Dogs are forgiving. They don't hold onto trauma if a good experience can take its place.
Sarge's obedience is still very much where we want it. His Heel is a little sloppy and he has lost the Sit when he does the Come command. Little things like that jut need to be tweaked. He is a joy to work with. It is always nice to see an old student who has retained the training so well.