Please explain "Dog reactive and Fear Reactive" - Page 2 - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 12-30-2012, 11:26 AM   #11 (permalink)
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How would you know if your dog would carry out its threat or if it is all just "talk"?
To me, a leash aggressive dog is saying loud and clear that they are stressed by the situation. If by all "talk" you mean that your dog wouldn't bite another dog or person and draw blood, that seems a bit far to me. I would tend to take the leash aggression extremely seriously. I would also continue vigorously with training and careful exposure to the things your dog is reactive toward with the end goal being no more reactivity.

Plus, how would you test your theory of if your dog would bite or not? Subjecting "test" people or dogs to a dog with aggression issues is not fair! And, you wouldn't know for sure that your dog wouldn't bite until you had many, many trials.

I think you are better off treating leash reactivity/aggression (barking, lunging, growling, snapping) as serious aggression and slowly building your dog's confidence with one individual at a time in a systematic way using treats to form a positive association starting at a safe distance. To me, this is the lowest risk method of training your dog and the kindest to your dog.

Good luck!
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:25 PM   #12 (permalink)
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1) Does getting attacked as a puppy automatically create a reactive dog?
Not necessarily. Much depends on the dog's native temperament. Some puppies can recover from an attack and be none the worse, if they have very strong nerve and a lot of natural confidence, high stress thresholds. As long as the owner doesn't let it happen repeatedly, a strong pup will probably be fine. Other pups with weaker temperament will be shaken to the core after an attack and become fearful, reactive and possibly aggressive.

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Does "dog reactive" automatically translate to aggression?
A dog that growls, barks, and carries on when it sees another dog is not necessarily going to attack if given the chance. Half the time, it's all bluff and meant to say "Get away from me!" However, if a dog learns to solve his problems through aggression "I'm gonna take you out before you can take me out", you have a serious problem.

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So if a dog is attacked during the imprint stage, and ultimately ends up afraid, what determines the "fight or flight" response?

Why would some dogs become aggressive, and others run away?
Temperament, nerve, confidence, thresholds... all of which the dog is born with (or without). Also, past experience (if any) may determine the dog's behavior in a fight-or-flight situation.

What determines the "fight or flight" response has to do with adrenaline and other stress hormones. That is mostly controlled by genetics, but also by past experience. With some dogs, it takes a lot to get them to the point where they feel the *need* to fight or flee--another dog could be barking in its face and the pup just wants to play--he doesn't see a threat. With others, it takes practically nothing to get them into a fit of terror. You just have to know your dog, whether the temperament and nerves are strong or weak.

There is a rather famous experiment done in Russia with foxes on fur farms--you may have heard of it. A fur farmer wanted to raise a fox that was easier to handle, so he bred only the friendliest (least fearful) foxes. No extra attention was given and the foxes were no more used to people--the temperament change had to be genetic, not learned. So, the foxes that cowered in the back of the cage and snarled were made into coats, and the foxes that did not were bred.

Over many generations, the foxes became naturally friendlier, until they were downright doglike. What was interesting (and this is only a side note to the discussion) is that they started to APPEAR doglike as well. The ears became floppy, the tails became shorter and held over the back, the coats became spotted. Their heads became smaller, their bones finer. These were all physical traits that were not selected for, but they came about naturally as a result of "tameness".

The key to the temperament and physical changes, they found out, is the production of adrenaline and other stress hormones that trigger the "fight or flight" response--the tame foxes produced less. It appears that these hormones are linked to certain physical traits other than temperament, and they occur during early development of the embryo.

There is now a pet trade in these tame foxes from Russia, if you want one I think they are around $10K each.

Domesticated silver fox - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:51 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I would never want to test whether it is all talk or not!!!!! Not only wouldn't I want to put another dog in that position, but I wouldn't want to have Stella get hurt either!!!! She is fine with people, just not some dogs...
In the past we did a combination of positive reinforcement, and corrections with the prong.....It worked well for us....
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Old 12-30-2012, 02:14 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'm glad that the training has worked well for you ! That is always good to hear!
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Old 12-30-2012, 02:47 PM   #15 (permalink)
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pulling on the leash usually creates more reaction

That is exactly what my trainer told me - in fact, if you can correct into the object that allows the dog to self correct back from it. Personally, I found it a hard concept to do as that is the direction he is moving while all buffed up.
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Old 12-30-2012, 02:47 PM   #16 (permalink)
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My dog was raised with dogs and lived with her breeder. The breeder decided to rehome her at a little less than a year. Where she went already had 2 small dogs. These dogs terrorized my dog for a week and kept her banished to the sofa. When they realized it wouldnt work, she was given to me. When she came to me, the 1st night I thought she'd kill my dogs if she could and we had to put her away in a kennel in my bedroom. The next morning, I walked her out of my room on a leash and it was like she was their best friend. All went well, never an issue.

However, she is dog reactive and I never know when she will try to bite another dog. Sometimes she ignores them, other times she will leap without warning. So I always am aware when we are out. Even in Schutzhund training we had issues.

She was raised with dogs, so I think the two little dogs made her reactive. She really dislikes small dogs. People do not bother her. A stranger can walk by me in the car or come upnto the car and she won't flinch. A dog, she will jump against the window.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:34 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Pretty sure I got my answer today on aggressive or fearful, oddly enough. Went sledding with family and brought Stella along on a long line. When we were leaving and getting into the car, some dogs were approaching. She did her barking nonsense. I heard the other dog owner calling her dog and I recognized the name from the doggie day care that Stella goes to. Turns out it is a dog Stella knows and has played with. So I asked if it was ok to let Stella out to say hello. She was fine with it as both her dogs were friendly and have played with Stella at the day care. Well, Stella was terrified. Tail between legs, trying to creep between my legs. The other dogs pretty much ignored her and just were playing around. The other owner suggested we go in the field with all of them. One of her dogs even tried to engage in play with Stella but she just was so scared. Not sure what to make of this. Could the fact that she had been charged by several dogs the past few weeks make her this afraid? She had gotten to the point of being able to meet other friendly dogs with no problem and accepting play overtures by them. WTH????? Or have I been over correcting her since the few bad experiences and made her afraid of other dogs?????
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Old 01-02-2013, 12:06 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Keep in mind that dogs don't generalize, or don't generalize like we do anyway. Stella may have learned that dogs are safe in some situations (doggy day care) but isn't sure they're safe in all situations.

I personally don't like using corrections on reactive dogs in most cases, because I think it is fear-based the vast majority of the time, and corrections run the risk of making it worse. If the dog thinks she's protecting herself and gets corrected for doing so, then she's learning that the whole situation is scary--she can't even warn the scary dog to stay away, but it's still scary so now she's defenseless!

Instead, I like to use positive methods and desensitization to teach the dog that there's no reason to be afraid. That means a bunch of controlled and careful training, but it creates a strong foundation and pays off hugely in the end. Building up confidence (as opposed to correcting an unwanted behavior) is really the only way to go with a fear reactive dog, IMO.

edit: in other words, corrections might help extinguish the unwanted behavior (barking), but they don't fix the root cause. I have a reactive dog who was corrected extensively for barking/growling and it actually made things substantially worse, because now he goes right to biting if his body language is ignored. It makes for a very unpredictable and high-risk dog, or did until I did a lot of desensitization and positive training with him!
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Old 01-02-2013, 12:27 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Keep in mind that dogs don't generalize, or don't generalize like we do anyway. Stella may have learned that dogs are safe in some situations (doggy day care) but isn't sure they're safe in all situations.

I personally don't like using corrections on reactive dogs in most cases, because I think it is fear-based the vast majority of the time, and corrections run the risk of making it worse. If the dog thinks she's protecting herself and gets corrected for doing so, then she's learning that the whole situation is scary--she can't even warn the scary dog to stay away, but it's still scary so now she's defenseless!

Instead, I like to use positive methods and desensitization to teach the dog that there's no reason to be afraid. That means a bunch of controlled and careful training, but it creates a strong foundation and pays off hugely in the end. Building up confidence (as opposed to correcting an unwanted behavior) is really the only way to go with a fear reactive dog, IMO.

edit: in other words, corrections might help extinguish the unwanted behavior (barking), but they don't fix the root cause. I have a reactive dog who was corrected extensively for barking/growling and it actually made things substantially worse, because now he goes right to biting if his body language is ignored. It makes for a very unpredictable and high-risk dog, or did until I did a lot of desensitization and positive training with him!
This makes so much sense, and is clearly a reason why so many of us don't get it right.
Very thin line. .


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Old 01-02-2013, 01:39 PM   #20 (permalink)
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This makes so much sense, and is clearly a reason why so many of us don't get it right.
Very thin line. .
That's one reason why I really harp on positive training on these forums. It's actually really hard to mess up with positive training once you get the hang of it (the big hurdle for most people is learning to manage their dogs so they never have a chance to misbehave/react poorly). I mean, you can definitely hit road blocks and not make progress if you're not doing it quite right, but you're probably not going to be making the behavior worse or creating other unintended consequences for further down the line.

Basically, positive training methods teach your dog that you're the person he needs to listen to (for his own benefit, even!), and builds trust and confidence. Using corrections correctly can lead to the same result, but using ill-timed or inappropriate corrections can very quickly go in the other direction. For a less experienced handler, I think clicker training or similar methods is the way to go in virtually any situation.
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