Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Silver Spring MD
Katdog, my guess is that if you need to use a serious training tool such as a prong, your timing or management or something else still needs some work, particularly if your dog has regressed. I would tend to focus on making myself a better handler. Also, in my experience, prongs can sometimes amp a dog up instead of having a calming effect.
If your timing is off, you wouldn't want to use a super precise tool such as an e-collar. Punishments given at the wrong time with the wrong level of intensity will damage your bond with your dog and increase her overall level of anxiety, since she may not know what the punishments are coming for and/or she may associate it with something you don't want her to, such as yourself, the other dog, or anything else in the environment, like passing strangers. Increased anxiety often leads to increased aggression.
The fact that she sometimes plays with other dogs does not really help. I would tend to keep a reactive girl like her only on-leash around other dogs and work on making myself the primary target of her focus. If you let her play with other dogs, you are only allowing her to be aroused around other dogs. From her perspective, why is it okay to be aroused in doggy daycare, but not on walks? (Unless you have one of those really rare but amazing, organized, and CALM doggy daycares) I'm not saying don't socialize her, but more with things like calm down stays around other dogs or just "hanging out" calmly around well behaved dogs - no chasing, mouthing, roughhousing, pinning, mounting, body slamming, wrestling, etc - just co-existing calmly.
I really like head collars for redirecting eye contact without increasing anxiety. A loose lead plus no eye contact equals no reactivity. A head collar combined with a buckle collar or front clip harness can be a GREAT pair for walks. However, I would highly recommend working with a trainer skilled in reactive dogs who can help you learn to work with this equipment, as it does require quite a bit of skill.
After a couple of months, she should get the pattern and begin looking to you when she sees another dog instead of staring and reacting. At that point, you can wean off the head collar; although, a no-pull harness is probably a great long-term management tool for a reactive dog.
I hope this helps!
Iry, mixed breed, CGC
Max, GSD, CGC