Original Question: Hi Clayton I am sending this on behalf of my son who owns a 28 month old unneutered Rhodesian Ridgeback. When we took him to a dog park at XMAS he seemed only interested in a neutered male Lab who was more interested in playing ball with another dog. So anyway my son’s dog was possessed with chasing the Lab, licking his genitals and trying to mount him in an apparent aroused state. Believe me I know nothing of dominance as it applies to dogs but I have heard this is what dogs do. Also when let off the lease he ends up running off to a distant dog or person and it is an exercise to get him back. My son does not want him neutered but I am wondering if it would settle him down with respect to the above two scenarios. His dog has also developed very finicky eating habits. He goes for approx. 30 hrs without eating then gives in. He seems to now dislike any dry dog food & putting water on it does not help. If there are liver treats in his kibble, he sorts out the treats. When I last saw him at XMAS he looked very fit & trim. Asked my son if he is now losing weight and says his ribs are now slightly visible. Other than the above he is a beautiful well-adjusted dog but these items are causing frustration! What do you have to say about this situation Clayton? All advice is appreciated. Thanks. Keith P.S. What do you think of shock collars for running off? - Keith
Thanks for sending your question.
There are quite a few different issues going on here so I’ll go through them one at a time.
Does neutering a dog calm them down?
The first thing you mentioned was about neutering. I always tell people that neutering a dog will not guarantee that certain behaviors will be resolved. You have to understand that these behaviors have developed in part because of the effect of testosterone, but since the behaviors are well ingrained, they may not go away once the testosterone is removed. He may have learned to be like this so even if you remove a factor that caused it, the behavior can continue nonetheless. Neutering could still have an effect and based on the way you described the situation I think it would help, however there is no guarantee. My recommendation would be to have him neutered for the reasons you have outlined and there are also health benefits of neutering a dog.
Why does my dog run away?
The behavioral issue of running off is a tough one. Let me start by saying that my father had a dog that did exactly the same thing. It was a Border Collie and at times it was totally fine and then it was like a switch was flipped and the dog would run off and not return back to my father like it was herding. In order to correct this, my dad spent thousands of dollars and dozens of hours trying to correct the behavior. He had very little success with that route. He ended up working with a specialist who used shock collars and at an extremely low shock stimulus they were able to correct this condition in one visit and only using the collar twice. It was effective but I am still staunchly against using shock collars. I suggest you work with the trainer to improve this problem. The training would be based on rewarding the dog with a treat when he returns to the owner using one particular command. At the same time you would use an extension leash, the longest one you can find, and then retract it after the command to get the dog to come back and then reward him when he does come back with a treat. It will take time and patience, but it will likely improve.
Hopefully this helps. Good luck.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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