Hurley has been doing fantastic in the shop lately. So long as I keep bully sticks, rawhides and treat dispensing toys at home, he rarely has any reaction to the dogs who come visit us in the store. With one giant, devastating exception. Hurley does not like pitties. Specifically of the pocket-sized variety.
What?!? He LIVES with a pit-mix. He's been exposed to most every size, shape, age, temperament and color of dog possible. He is super socialized and overall an incredibly friendly pup to both human & canine visitors. His mom also happens to love pitties most of all doggies.
Yet without fail, if a compact (30-40lb) pittie waltzes in the door, they are greeted with a bit of a growl and maybe a bark. He settles down quickly, especially after I scold him, and is calm the rest of the visit. He has even enjoyed some good ol' butt sniffing with one of our pittie visitors after having a not so great initial reaction.
The path forward is fairly obvious - counter conditioning via praise, slow intro's and treats whenever he meets any more pitties. I'm not concerned with our ability to overcome this. It's just another behavioral issue we will conquer, like every other one we've tackled with him so far.
But WHERE does it come from? The only theory I've been able to come up with is that, for whatever reason, pint-sized pitbulls intimidate him. I know he gets vocal when intimidated by other dogs, which used to be the giant breeds only. This behavior is him figuratively beating his chest to show the other dog that he's a big, tough dog (he's not a big, tough dog by the way - wimp comes running and hides between our legs any time there is a hint of an altercation at the dog park). I vaguely remember a small pitbull type dog who wasn't friendly towards other dogs visiting the store months and months ago. There was no altercation; her owner just told us that she didn't like other dogs so we gave them tons of space. He didn't even get a sniff. Every other pittie has been wonderfully behaved and social since then. Could he really be harboring a reaction from that one non-encounter???
I'm so ashamed. Please don't judge me by my dog's behavior!