(spoiler: I mostly just needed a place to vent, though any advice would be great!)
This is Cooper. He's around 3 years old. He's a Doberman terrier mix. A rescue twice over. He is adorable, loving, and a huge fucking handful.
To avoid the quagmire of poorly explained emotions, turn to page 26
My partner and I got him this past week. We knew he would be a lot to deal with. He's very reactive to other dogs (barking, lunging), and has a boatload of energy. That's okay, we thought - we have a lot of time on our hands, we can just take him for walks.
We live at the end of a cul-de-sac. Turns out, every single house (except for one) owns at least one dog, most own two. They almost all have fenced in front yards, where their dogs are always running around. This means that the furthest we can get without Cooper getting freaked out is about 20 yards, on a good day.
That's okay, we thought - we have a fenced in yard too, and the neighbor on the other side of the fence doesn't have a dog!
Turns out that there's a reason for that.
Mrs. Jenkins, pt. 1
Our neighbor is named Mrs. Jenkins. She told me her first name once a few months ago, but everyone seems to just call her Mrs. Jenkins. She's about 80 years old, and has lived in her house for 52 years. I live at the edge of Cully, one of the historically black sections of Portland. Mrs. Jenkins and her family are one of two remaining black families on my block - the rest are, largely, white couples under the age of 30. A few families that have been here for a while, but it's mostly renters.
Mrs. Jenkins, I learned yesterday, is terrified of dogs. She was chased by a pack of dogs and bitten when she was a child - I don't know much more of the context than that. Her house is adjacent to 5 other houses - each and every one of those houses has a dog. Her yard is fenced in on all sides, and there is a beautiful garden along the perimeter. Tending to this garden seems to be one of her favorite activities, and she spends most of the morning doing so.
Cooper is good with people. Sure, he gets excited when I get home, but he doesn't bark at people otherwise.
Except, of course, at Mrs. Jenkins. And her family.
The Last Owners
I don't know much about Cooper's past - we got him from a couple who were living in an apartment complex on the outskirts of Portland. It was... not so great. They were hoarders, and had been feeding him pretty much only hot dogs. He had a shock collar on, which they gave us for free. It was clearly meant for their other, bigger dog. On our walk to the car, his owner Vince was giving me advice on being the "alpha", and letting me know that he tried the shock collar on himself, and the highest setting wasn't too bad, so that's what he uses on Cooper.
This couple had gotten Cooper from a shelter. He was going to be euthanized soon if they didn't adopt him, because he had gotten into a serious fight with another dog before and his owners abandoned him. I guess he was in a pretty rough condition when they got him. They told me that if he attacks another dog again and the owner alerts Animal Control, he'll be killed.
They don't know much about his first owners, but they think he was being trained to be a guard dog.
Mrs. Jenkins, 2
Back to Mrs. Jenkins. She has tarps on all sides of her fence, except for the side connected to us. She put them up because she was afraid of the dogs that kept jumping at the fence when she was gardening.
She's putting up some tarps on our side today. Cooper hasn't lunged at her or anything, but he barks at her when she's gardening. Again, she and her family are the only people I've seen Cooper bark at.
I don't know if this is a thing that is even possible, but I think the dog's first owners might have trained him to bark at any people of color he saw. I feel more than a little insane for thinking that. Even if not, I have no idea why the only person that he barks at is the one person in all of Portland who doesn't like dogs.
I feel acutely aware of the fact that I am starting to impose on a neighborhood that was once largely black. All my anxieties about becoming a part of gentrification are coming to a head, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it all.
I know that these are small problems that feel dire just because I've been getting less sleep than usual. I'm waking up earlier to take Cooper out, because I can actually take him for a walk at 6 AM without worrying about other dogs. And if I stay up till 1 AM, the other dogs are asleep already, and I can walk him then.
I've been spending a few hours a day doing leash training with him. He doesn't pull as much anymore, which is a start. I know that his pent up energy is the biggest problem here, and once I can actually walk him safely, everything else will start to fall into place. He can go to sleep sooner, and hang out in the yard without freaking out. I can slowly socialize him with other dogs. Mrs. Jenkins can take down some of her tarps.
It all takes a lot of time. I just want everyone to be okay in the meantime.
TL;DR: Any advice for getting Cooper some indoor exercise while I'm working on leash training him? I've been playing tug of war, and he's getting a lot of his food out of a Kong now, which tires him out a bit. He can also walk around in our yard, as long as our neighbor is inside and he is on a leash.
That is a beautiful dog. Beautiful. I mean it. You got yourself a damn good looking dog.
Thing number one. A tired dog is a good dog. Keep your dog well exercised and mentally stimulated and he'll be much easier to handle.
Thing number two. See what you can do about obedience lessons. With your dog's history, I'd actually recommend seeing if you can hire someone to come to your place for private lessons. Your dog has a past with other dogs that means bringing it in proximity with other dogs is a bit of a risk. Especially this early in the game, having him around other dogs is very much ill advised.
Thing number three. Keep up with the leash training and try to socialize but be super careful about it and do it in a safe, controlled environment. Hopefully it all works out well for you, but if it does, keep in mind, you can control your dog, but you can never control your dog. It is an animal with a mind of its own and no matter how obedient it is, there's always a risk that it will misbehave on a whim. For example, let's say you had your dog for five plus years and all this time it's never stolen food off the counter when your back's been turned. Then one day, when you and your buddies had friends over for potluck, it got into food and you're all like "Wow. I'm surprised he did that. He's never done that before!" Don't be surprised. He's a dog. He's gonna do dog things, including running away, barking, rolling in dead shit, on and on. Part of dog ownership is risk mitigation and knowing that dogs are as unpredictable as they are predictable and it's your job to predict and prevent unpredictable behavior. In the case of your dog, this especially includes aggressive behavior. He's already had one strike and a second strike would be tragic.
Thing number four. Seriously. That's a good. looking. dog. I'm jealous as to how handsome your dog is.
Thing five. We have a dog that is randomly dog aggressive. When I say randomly, I mean we can take her for a walk at the park and she's perfectly fine with 90% of the dogs she passes and one day she's completely fine passing up a dog and the next time we go, she'll bark, snarl, and raise her hackles at the exact same dog. In those circumstances, we control her, apologize profusely for her behavior, and immediately remove her from the zone of conflict. Dogs are weird, they have their own signals to each other, and by the time they're 20 feet within another dog they've both already made up their minds as to whether or not they'll want to get along. We use this leash with a sturdy chest harness that for some reason I can't find online any more. See that second loop? That's for you to grab with your other hand whenever you need to control your dog.
Thing six. If you need to avoid taking your dog out in public because it just can't handle other people/dogs/kids, whatever, that's fine and there's no shame in it. When you do need to take your dog out in public, say, to go to the vet, and you've decided that you need a muzzle for your dog (and I'm not saying you do, we're just talking hypotheical here) there's no shame in that. It's for other people's protection, you're protection, and most importantly his protection. You might get some funny looks, don't fucking worry about it. You're doing the right thing. Just know, if you do need a muzzle, your dog is gonna feel EXTREMELY vulnerable and you need to modify your behavior to help mitigate that.
Thing seven. You've taken a dog that has had a trouble past, given it a third chance at life, and you're ready to celebrate everything that is amazing and beautiful about it. Pet your dog. Rub its belly. Kiss its forehead and tell it how much you love it. That picture, right there, is of a dog with good, friendly eyes. It deserves every ounce of love you can give it. Love the shit out of that dog. If everything goes right, shit's gonna be AWESOME.
Thing eight. Experiment the fuck out of toys with your dog. See which ones he likes, see which ones he dislikes, and try new things from time to time. Sometimes dogs will like only one or two kinds of toys, sometimes all of the sudden they like completely new things.
Thing nine. This is my best advice (and I'm sorry for focusing on the negative, I'm just trying to give some tips to help you with your underlying concerns). My best advice might not actually be the best advice. Consult your vet. Consult dog trainers. Maybe even pop over to reddit and make a duplicate post for this over in r/dogs. I've gotten good advice from all three places over the course of me owning my giant ball of fun.
Thing ten. Seriously. I can't get over how good looking of a dog you have. Good pick.
Edit: someguyfromcanada, you've worked with rescue dogs before, right? If so, your input would be much appreciated.