Despite getting him at the tender age of five weeks old, Boss was very well socialised as a pup. They lived in London and took him out to pubs with friends and running in Regents Park. He was used to traffic and crowds.
Boss’ fear of people kicked in at about ten months old, coinciding with when he was castrated. There may or may not have been a connection; there is a probability that early removal from mother and siblings will have contributed, but I have sometimes found that this an age when perfectly friendly dogs can ‘turn’.
Now wary of people
The first sign of ‘aggression’ or fear towards a human is a crucial time. How it is dealt with can set the pattern for future encounters. Sadly, people instinctively show anger and dismay, they feel some sort of punishment is expected by the other person, and it is downhill from there. They only get advice on the best way to react when things have escalated out of their control.
With a dog of Boss’ physique they need to be especially careful because of the ridiculous laws of diagnosing Pit Bulls by their body measurements alone.
When Boss was brought in on lead to join us he was doing classic and prolonged ‘look-aways’, his whole body saying he didn’t want to be anywhere near me. He was yawning loudly. I took this photo after he had settled down a bit, but you can see he’s not happy – just look at his tail, his ears and his whole demeanor. It wasn’t long however before he was near to me accepting food, sniffing my face even, and though he seemed relaxed I didn’t push my luck! I sat still and avoided eye contact.
In cases like this the owners understandably avoid people when really the dog needs plenty of contact with people. This contact however shouldn’t be too close and they should not touch him. He should be at a distance where he feels comfortable and then he needs to associate people with fun and food, not fear.
It’s hard to find acquaintances and friends who are sufficiently relaxed and brave to work with, so creating positive associations with more distant people must be the start.
It is just such a shame the problem of Boss’ being increasingly wary of people wasn’t tackled immediately, with understanding, the very first time it reared its head.