I’m having an issue with my 21/2 year old Ridgeback/Boxer cross. She is highly social and extremely energetic. My problem is she tends to bully any dog that shows fear or an unwillingness to play with her. She invites play but then fiercely barks in their face in a demanding manner. She has fun with high energy dogs who can hold their but crosses the line easily. Even with dogs she is friends with she’ll actually grab them by the neck. She shares her toys but tends to hold her favourite and rubs it all over them. I work hard on her behaviour but when she crosses that energy “line” she zones me out completely and doesn’t respond at all. If she can’t stop being a dog bully I’m thinking of using a soft muzzle in future so she can still enjoy dog parks.
If she has made it to 2 1/2 years without getting into a serious scrap she’s not likely got any real malice in her. In a way it’s too bad she hasn’t met her doggy match a couple of times. A periodic clock cleaning goes a long way to learning that sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. With her winning streak she’ll likely have a hard time backing down now even if faced with Cerberus. Those fights can be nasty and flip a confident, one might say bullying dog like yours into a policy of, “I better get them before they get me!”
However at its source I don’t think this is so much a bullying issue as it is a dog training issue. A trained dog isn’t really a dog that responds to its handler when “the conditions are just right”. Compare her drive and energy to that of working dogs like herders, protection and hunting dogs. Even in the heightened state those dogs find themselves in they respond to their handlers even when they are at their most engaged. In contrast most family dog training starts and finishes in a way that is too contextual to do much good in the real world resulting in canine companions that take our requests as seriously as my sons take my fashion suggestions.
There is little doubt that you can help her respect another dog’s boundaries when she hears you warn her in the same way that moms around the planet do with the, “Settle down before someone get’s hurt!” warning but at this point it seems she’s more inclined to see you as her college room mate. If you want that to change, dog training is going to have to become a bit of a hobby for a while and you’ll need some help from an experienced balanced trainer. He or she will evaluate where you’re at, tune that up and then start adding increments of real world “Can you hear me now?” distractions.
As to the muzzle, it isn’t a bad short term idea but it’s really only a work around. It’s the dog training equivalent of hand cuffs. You’re farther ahead if you can change the attitude because the cuffs are coming off sooner or later. I should point out for those unaware if by soft muzzle you mean the type that is made of fabric and keeps the dog’s jaws shut, that’s not a good choice. You want a basket muzzle. True it does make your dog look a little like Hannibal Lector but the only way a dog can cool its body is through panting and they need an open mouth.