Ok, I would love to hear some imput into this dog and her training. Here is her story.
I met her at 12 weeks old, I was teaching her and her 2 legged mom puppy obedience. We used clicker, and that dog picked up everything in minutes. She was awesome. She lived with a really obnoxious 5 year old, a 9 month old and mom and dad, young and not married, in an apartment right downtown (although downtown has all of one blinky light, pretty small town). The fire whistle went off across the street daily at noon and for fires, it was deafening. She got little to no exercise, she was wound to the gills, but was very good with the kids. She ate cheap dog food (rocket fuel). They didn't have much money, but seemed to love the dog, although I never met the boyfriend, as he worked all week.
I went back about 6 months after we finished training, they were having a garage sale, so i thought i would use it as an excuse to visit "Princess. " I found her in the back yard, chained to a trolley run by a choke chain. Her spot was right next to the pizzaria, in fact the cars parked about 10 feet from where she could reach. She had no hair on her neck, a deep infection, and crawled to me submissively. She was filthy and had a cut on one ear which was bleeding from the neighbor dog coming over to steal her food. The neighbor boy was throwing rocks at her, and she was getting out when inside the house and harrassing people. She would run up to people barking, then panic when they reached for her. They told me they were going to take her to the pound, which would have been an immediate death sentance. So I told her I would ask my husband, and he agreed to take her.
She was not house broken or crate trained, and had separation anxiety and fear issues. (The first two months were a mess, between trying to crate train her AND housebreak.)
So we get her home, and she starts settling in. My husband Dave greeted her for the first time, and i think he may have scratched her where her neck was sore, because she jumped as if goosed and backed up barking. I redirected her with food, she immediately refocused on me. After a few days she relaxed and now my husband can do just about anything to her and she is ok. My brother in law Steve is a lot like Dave and she took to him immediately. Everyone else needs to ignore her until SHE decides she is OK with them.
The first few months were just management, she killed a crate before finally being OK in one, and it took her months to housebreak.
She does not greet people standing, standing people make her very defensive, she barks at them; she seems not to understand HOW to greet people this way. She will approach standing people for treats, but is nervous. She does not shy away until the person raises their hand to her head, then she gooses sideways, barks, and puts her mouth between the hand and her. She has never made contact. The problem is she waits until they are about half an inch from her head to do this, so I have asked people to just not pet her, and the behavior has stopped. She never goes anywhere off leash, and where i take her for socialization there are all rescue savvy people.
If people are sitting she passes them by like they aren't there for a while; she will try to climb in their laps after she realizes they won't go to her, head and tail down and wagging, ears back. If the person stays quiet and just lets her be, they can after a few minutes pet her and then they are in like Flynn. I do not think this is dominant behavior, because she is very submissive to me and others she is comfortable with, takes verbal corrections well, calls off things easily, etc. Again, I only do this with dog savvy people.
If I take her to a new situation, the tie-out behaviors come back, pulling, lunging, barking, rapid breathing, erratic eye movement. She is getting better about focusing, and you can see her pull it together after a short while. We do eye contact for treats and you can see the switch moving from panic to thinking. Once she is focused she is focused.
We have had several incidences of her true fear. All times involved her needing to go in her crate when she is in trouble. The last time was because she had yanked me clean off my feet outside. I was furious, and said HOUSE!. She ran ahead of me (on a 20 foot lead) into the house, but then tried to go the opposite direction of her crate. I said CRATE and she pulled out of her collar. I chased her down holding the lease, and when I went to bend down to put the collar on her she laid on her back, eyes bugging out. (Previously, when I went to reach for her when she was like that she would wait until I was right about to touch her and grab my hand. She would do so with her lips only, and she looked as if she really did not want to do it. I didn't do that again.) So this time I said nothing, made a noose with the leash, lassoed her, and walked to her crate. As soon as she felt the noose tighten, she ran to her crate and went in. The whole time it was clear she was in complete panic mode. I said nothing, just put her in her crate and shut the door after taking off the noose. Later when she came out it was as if nothing ever happened.
She also dislikes being held still and did not like to be examined, if she starts panicking she will fishtail and back out when I am holding her. We have been working to desensitize her to holding and touching feet, ears, etc. I can now examine her ears, teeth, and usually her feet. This was taught to her as a puppy, but she developed fears after I stopped working with her.
I work on avoiding those fear situations, and am trying to get her used to new places. I need to continue her obedience training in distracting areas. For flyball, people need to be able to hold her, so we have been clicker training her to line up between legs, both mine and other people's, so they can hold her with their knees. She doesn't seem to mind that nearly so much as hands. Makes me wonder if her old owners dragged her around by the collar as punishment or something, as she was not like this as a puppy. I yank on her collar in play all the time, I push her around, put her in headlocks, pick her up, etc, all when she is happy and comfortable. I act erratic when we play, mimicing people who are scared of dogs, then reward her with tug when she stays calm. She is getting better, but it is a slow process. My goal is to get her CGC at the Bull-ympics.
I would love to hear how people have been working on these issues with their dogs, and if pitts need anything specific to be done. So far I have found with mine one reward is worth a hundred corrections, she thrives on operant clicker training. The key is getting her in work mode. I have not pushed the obedience to more than a pleasurable activity to boost confidence. Oh, and when she plays frisbee, you can have a hundred people around, and she will hyper focus on the disc. That is her game!
Has anyone read Pam Denisons books? She has a phenominal growl class in NJ, where they train very aggressive dogs to be less aggressive. Her book Bringing Light to Shadow is a great read.
Hope this hasn't bored everyone to tears!