The family put in a great deal of thought and research before getting him and a lot of effort since. There are three sons, two in late teens and a younger boy, and this is a family venture where each person plays a part.
They are still taking him to training classes and he is a model student. They have researched canine diet and feed him on the best possible food.
A few weeks ago, adolescent dog behaviour hit them!
To quote Nicole Wilde: ‘Adolescent dogs are fur-covered containers of raging hormones. Even if the dog is spayed or neutered, the body–and temperament–is changing. The dog who formerly ran in fright from other dogs might now take the offence. And many dogs who are genetically predisposed to aggression begin showing the signs at this time. Whatever the cause, aggression often manifests between the ages of six months and eighteen months. Intact male dogs are the most likely to show adolescent-onset aggression, particularly toward other intact males’.
A few weeks ago, Rocco began to throw his weight around with certain other dogs, standing over them and intimidating them. He has been going to daycare once a week where the now adolescent dog has been picking on a smaller dog, also a male of similar age. This is causing problems.
Many people now would be advising castration, but this is another thing the family have looked into closely. When is the best time to do this? Whether to castrate or not is a huge topic, not least because there are far too many unwanted dogs in the world already.
To castrate, or not to castrate, that is the question.
Here is some food for thought when considering neutering or spaying a larger breed dog, from Dr. Becker. With Rocco, it’s not going to happen yet.
He can be very excitable and this is not surprising with three boys who play enthusiastically with him. The younger boy gets the brunt of Rocco’s excitement, particularly when he is running around the garden. This is common.
Freedom in terms of space can make a young dog more wild. He jumps at the small boy and, when too aroused, mouths or nips at his clothes. His unwanted and pushy behaviour with other dogs also seems to be when he has more space and has built up a head of excitement.
Our objectives are both for the adolescent dog to be less aroused/excited when meeting other dogs and to take note when called. A mix of self-control and owner-control.
This requires the adolescent dog to take a lot more notice of his humans in general and have a very solid recall before he is set free again. A long line, when the technique is learned, makes the handler into a safe human flexilead without the constant tension from a retractable-type lead.
There was an unfortunate incident with an irate owner hurting Rocco and making him scream. It was probably the first dog that Rocco took on a few weeks ago and may have started a downward trend – a negative association with certain kind or colour of dog. He has never actually caused a dog harm. He just seems to want to intimidate or dominate it. It seems he picks his victims.
It is sad for the conscientious family. It’shard to know what more they could have done. He has been very well socialised and is generally friendly and playful with all dogs. The best of families can have difficult teenagers, can’t they.
Excitement and self-control aren’t compatible.
If Rocco is more relaxed in general, both at home and when out, he will be in a much better state of mind when meeting another dog. At the moment he is ‘throwing his weight around’ as his hormones are taking over.
The whole family will be working together to avoid unnecessary arousal. They will avoid triggers such as the dog and youngest son running around the garden together, and rough and tumble play with the older boys. Even scrapping with one another gets Rocco very worked up so they need to go and do that somewhere else.
Mental stimulation is a lot more helpful, particularly the kind of training that gets him to use own brain (which clicker would).
Despite all the training classes, Rocco still pulls on lead. This is because they have been told to ‘teach him not to pull’ rather than ‘to teach him to walk on a loose lead’. Negative v positive. He’s a big dog and they have resorted to a head halter which he hates. He must be uncomfortable and very frustrated by the time he’s let off lead and has his freedom.
They will now work on walking him on a loose lead – force-free so that he likes walking beside them.
They will all also work on being much more engaged with him when out. Being more relevant, he will then be more likely to take notice of them when it’s really important. (Like many dogs, his recall is fine until they really need it!).
For now the adolescent dog should lose all total freedom, particularly in open spaces.
A long line can be up to 20 metres. Rocco will learn, over the next few weeks or months, that when he sees another dog he automatically ‘touches base’. They can then decide whether he can go and play – or not. If they simply drop the line to start with, they can easily get him back if he becomes too excited.
In a few months’ time, Rocco will no longer be an adolescent dog. Having already decided to wait until he’s eighteen months old, they will decide whether they want to castrate him, or not.