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Old 12-24-2012, 10:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Please explain "Dog reactive and Fear Reactive"

Been following a few posts regarding dog reactivity and dogs that react out of fear.

I have a couple questions.

1) Does getting attacked as a puppy automatically create a reactive dog?
I ask this because of a recent thread, and the huge concern about a puppy getting attacked by an older dog, and ultimately becoming dog reactive.

2) Does "dog reactive" automatically translate to aggression?

I ask this because Kira was attacked by an older dog, and even though she isn't aggressive, she does get "puffy" when she sees other dogs. I always correct and distract, and the result has been much shorter "reactions", to a point where there's an almost immediate retraction from her current state.

Carmen once described a fear response as fight or flight.

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?
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Old 12-24-2012, 11:04 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Many dogs will flight > fight but simply cannot because of leash boundaries, being in a small enclosed space, or when you're being charged at you probably get a little tunnel visioned..

Usually, though. When a dog is attacked or otherwise creates a negative association with other dogs, they simply become reactive. Which is a conditioned emotional response to a trigger. Reactive means they reacted.. Doesn't have to be in an 'aggressive' way, just something out of the ordinary, you know? It could be they get submissive, growl, raise their hackles, bark. None of it means they actually have intentions of hurting another dog or acting in an aggressive way, lots of times its a big show (that has the possibility of a bite pursuing if the owner is negligent to their dogs body language or signals).

Aggression is usually from genetics or not being socialized as a puppy. For instance, someone who got that cute puppy and left it in the backyard. But un-socialization, too, is fear itself. The dog has never been introduced to the stimuli and constantly over threshold because they do not know how to act and have only barked at things behind the fence out of frustration/excitement/whatever it may be.

Does your dog being attacked make it reactive ?
No.
What makes a dog reactive is when the owner gets scared.
Yes, seeing your dog get attacked IS scary thing.. Many owners get super protective afterwards and stop socializing completely. This is BAD because the last encounter the dog had with another dog was super scary. They won't forget that. Socialization is an ongoing process and after your dog gets attacked you need to move on (if there are no major injuries and the other dog is now managed). Go for a walk, play tug / fetch, and don't make a big deal of it. When you start making a deal of it, then they do. The owners usually GIVE their dogs a reason to be reactive.

Being 'dog reactive' does not mean aggression. Unless your dog has bitten someone/something (and meant business!) then I would not deem them aggressive. And if they HAVENT been bitten yet.. Then your dog must have amazing threshold and give all appropriate signals. Which, aggressive dogs usually do not take time in doing.

Last edited by angryrainbow; 12-24-2012 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 12-24-2012, 11:19 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I like the above explanation, and I'll give a quick example of Ky's experience.

When she was about 4 months old, she was "chased" by a cain corso. The CC had a muzzle on and he ran right after Ky. She ran for her life ... hid under a bench and the other people (who knew Kyleigh) wouldn't let the other dog near her.

By the time I got there, (about 30 seconds later ... she ran A LONG way) the CC was leashed by someone else and when Ky saw me she ran right up to me. I didn't go all "ooh, poor baby" in a high-pitched voice. BUT, I did give some pats, and I checked her out at the same time. She was fine.

I was there with a couple of friends ... put Ky on leash and we walked back over to the "play area" we had set up with our friends, and took her off leash. About a minute later she was running with her friends as if nothing happened.

To this day when she sees THAT dog she will avoid him. She'll either do a wide circle around him, or she'll come up to me and sit at my feet. As soon as she does that I know who's arrived at the park.

She isn't however "breed aggressive" b/c there's another CC that Ky loves and she physically throws herself at him ... it's hilarious and adorable at the same time.

I'm not sure how much of it is genetic or "handler" ... but I know I did "my part" and thankfully, the genetic part took over and we have no issues.
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I like angryrainbow's response too.

With fight of flight, you probably know the physiological changes in your dog, more adrenaline, stress hormones, blood is restricted in some areas of the body and pumped into the muscles, eyes dilate, increased heart rate, etc. Your dog is ready for action, so if your dog can't do flight if it's on leash or restricted it will probably fight.

Some may disagree with me, but I believe our dogs have great memories and being attacked at anytime, not just a puppy will trigger a fear response later in life if in a similar situation. For example, our previous dog was attacked at the dog park, resulting in bleeding wounds. After that she never really enjoyed the park and would stick next to me like glue, however she was happy to play with dogs in other environments.

The hackles response, Molly and our previous dog almost always get hackles up but does not lead to aggression, so this is hard to read for me.

Have you tried some positive reinforcement when Kira gets puffy when seeing other dogs? Like giving her treats or toy and giving her a positive association? Actually you'd want to give her treats before she gets puffy.
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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My dog was attacked when he was a puppy and it was bad. I thought I was going to lose him(the Rott had his whole head in his mouth). As nervous as I was I moved forward with him. He was attacked by a Rott and in his puppy class the teacher brought her Rott...it was either going to freak him out or make things better, it made it better. Within the week he was around another Rott...at first he was afraid, but we told him it was okay, left it at that and once he realized he was safe he was back to himself. 3 years later he loves other dogs, I've never seen him react to a dog in any other way then being happy. There was a lot of positive rewarding, not to much babying, and me calming down..all of that together makes it work.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I mostly agree with angryrainbow's response. I think I maybe place a little more importance on genetics when it comes to why some dogs become reactive and others don't.

To me, the big difference between reactivity and aggression is that a reactive dog is usually acting out of fear or annoyance, while the aggressive dog is dealing with an entirely different drive. An aggressive dog maybe sees that other dog as a threat, but it's more a "Hey, get off my turf!" type of threat than an actual fear. A reactive dog is acting out of (perceived) self-defense because he is honestly terrified of whatever it is that's setting him off, or he's so under-socialized that he can't tolerate normal behavior from other dogs.

It is important here to note that a major definition of "reactive" is basically "abnormal or excessive response." You can push pretty much any dog to react aggressively or fearfully in the right situations, so "reactive" is dependent on a dog's expected behavior in normal, non-threatening situations.

Also agreed that reactivity doesn't always manifest as aggression. A dog who cries and runs away in response to normal stimuli is just as reactive as the one who bites. True aggression, on the other hand, will never manifest as the dog running away or otherwise acting less than aggressively. Again, the aggressive dog isn't necessarily frightened in the traditional sense.

A reactive dog can absolutely be created, but some dogs are more prone to it than others. I have seen plenty of dogs attacked by others as puppies, who were not reactive afterwards. And then others are reactive to dogs without ever having had a bad experience.

I do think the one surefire way to create a reactive dog is a lack of socialization, but I think (based on my experience) that if you take a dog with a naturally strong temperament, lock him up in a crate and never let him see anything for the first 2 years of his life, and then start socializing him, it will go slower but you'll eventually get him over his reactive behavior.

Aggression is the same way. A truly dog-aggressive dog is born that way and will never get over it, although with training he may learn to tolerate other dogs to an extent. By the same token, training and experiences can help bring out the aggression in an otherwise friendly dog, but you can't create it in a totally submissive dog. Think of police dogs for this--they're obviously not killing machines, but a lot of dogs that wash out do so because they're not aggressive enough naturally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angryrainbow View Post
Does your dog being attacked make it reactive ?
No.
What makes a dog reactive is when the owner gets scared.
This is my main disagreement with angryrainbow (though the advice immediately following on how to handle the aftermath of a dog fight is great!). I agree that this definitely happens--owners can easily make a bad situation into a much worse one by not handling it well! But I think that, short of avoiding all socialization afterwards, usually it is more dependent on the dog's natural temperament. If your dog is fearful and reactive by nature, he's going to respond worse to a bad situation, while a dog with a stronger temperament might just shrug it off no matter what the owner does.

In practice, though, it doesn't matter that much if your dog has a weak temperament or is just temporarily scared, because you deal with them the same way. You keep socializing the animal while being careful to not let them get over threshold and act out.

I also want to mention that minor dog fights (I usually refer to them as "squabbles" to differentiate them from serious "I'm going to kill you!" fights) aren't really a big deal. They happen when a puppy or a rude dog keeps pestering a dog with a normal temperament, or over food resources, etc. These fights look and sound scary, and may even occasionally result in minor injuries (scratches, once I saw a dog bite his own tongue, etc.) but aren't life-threatening and don't necessarily imply that either dog is aggressive or reactive. Normally the "attacked" dog will just get the picture and leave the winner alone.

Still they shouldn't be allowed/encouraged and management should be used to prevent them when dogs are together (separating the dogs if one is annoying the other, handling feeding time and treats in such a way that the dogs don't feel the need/have the chance to fight, etc.). If it happens too often, it can escalate or lead to other problems.
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Last edited by RowdyDogs; 12-24-2012 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony8858 View Post
Been following a few posts regarding dog reactivity and dogs that react out of fear.

I have a couple questions.

1) Does getting attacked as a puppy automatically create a reactive dog?
I ask this because of a recent thread, and the huge concern about a puppy getting attacked by an older dog, and ultimately becoming dog reactive.

2) Does "dog reactive" automatically translate to aggression? NO! Absolutely not - depends on the circumstances, how the owner handles it, the amount if any injuries, and mostly to the dog genetics and nerve!

I ask this because Kira was attacked by an older dog, and even though she isn't aggressive, she does get "puffy" when she sees other dogs. I always correct and distract, and the result has been much shorter "reactions", to a point where there's an almost immediate retraction from her current state.

Carmen once described a fear response as fight or flight.

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?

Genetics and "nerve" of the dog!
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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1>>> my dog was attacked when he was a puppy. he's fine
when he's around other animals (cats, birds, cows, horses,
other dogs, etc.

2>>>> dog reactive relates to socializing and training in my opinon.

i also think some dogs have stronger nerves so what happens
as a pup doesn't effect them as much as a weak nerve pup.
i also think a weak nerve pup can be helped through training
and socializing.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony8858 View Post
Been following a few posts regarding dog reactivity and dogs that react out of fear.

I have a couple questions.

1) Does getting attacked as a puppy automatically create a reactive dog?
I ask this because of a recent thread, and the huge concern about a puppy getting attacked by an older dog, and ultimately becoming dog reactive.

2) Does "dog reactive" automatically translate to aggression?

I ask this because Kira was attacked by an older dog, and even though she isn't aggressive, she does get "puffy" when she sees other dogs. I always correct and distract, and the result has been much shorter "reactions", to a point where there's an almost immediate retraction from her current state.

Carmen once described a fear response as fight or flight.

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?
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Old 12-25-2012, 01:05 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RowdyDogs View Post
This is my main disagreement with angryrainbow (though the advice immediately following on how to handle the aftermath of a dog fight is great!). I agree that this definitely happens--owners can easily make a bad situation into a much worse one by not handling it well! But I think that, short of avoiding all socialization afterwards, usually it is more dependent on the dog's natural temperament. If your dog is fearful and reactive by nature, he's going to respond worse to a bad situation, while a dog with a stronger temperament might just shrug it off no matter what the owner does.
Yes genetics and temperament do play a large role.. Just like how some dogs can bounce back quickly while others may not be so forgiving..
One of my neighbors has a 7 year old female GSD. They took her to the park everyday when she was a pup, then a larger dog trampled on her when she was 4/5 months old. They didn't want to hurt her as she was their 'baby' (think of the mothers who shelter their kids from germs and crap) so they stopped taking her out and she became a 'backyard dog' that is reactive to everything.

While that scenario was VERY extreme, the pup didnt even get scratched.. just yelped.. The owners got protective and were doing what they thought was right.. The dog had / has plenty of potential.. They just do not want to own up to their mistakes and still blame everything on the dog at the park.

Then you get the people that wait until their dog is bigger and able to throw their weight around.. Or those who simply stop socializing.

You could even be doing everything right.. But then you get tense when that large pitbull (Nothing against pitbulls) comes trotting towards you and your pup.. You grip your leash a little tighter and your muscles stiffen.. Many people dont even notice they're doing that. But your dog does. And everything can go south from there.

But you are correct. There are dogs that take it with a grain of salt.. Then there are some that take the salt by the boat loads. It does come down to knowing your dog and being aware (of everything)
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:20 AM   #10 (permalink)
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This has been interesting for me to read as Stella is quite reactive. I am guessing it is out of fear, not true killer instinct. I never let it get to the point of finding out if she would actually bite or not.
One of the trainers I go to said that it is better to body block or distract etc your dog because pulling on the leash usually creates more reaction. That is how drive is built in dogs. I never actually thought about this before but it makes sense.
How would you know if your dog would carry out its threat or if it is all just "talk"?
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