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Kestrel 06-18-2014 03:13 PM

Too Excited to see Other Dogs
Hi everyone. I am having a problem with a GSD that we adopted and would like some advice. So far, we have only been using positive reinforcement to teach her and it has been going very good except for pulling on the leash when she sees other dogs (she otherwise walks very nice). I feel kind of like I've hit a brick wall. I've read about the prong collar, and I wonder if it could be a useful tool for our situation?

She is 3 years old and we adopted her a year ago. I am a little embarrassed that this problems is not fixed by now. She was a very excitable dog and the people were worried for their small kids getting knocked over or something, which is why she was rehomed. I have tried to get in contact with them regarding the behaviors we saw emerging on walks and if they knew what might have started it, etc, but never got any replies.

Anyways, we taught her to not get so excited, not rush out doors, jump up, etc. In those respects, she is super good. She even has the control to not gobble up a piece of steak I drop on the floor beside her even without the leave it command, she just knows she has to leave it. She waits at the door before having to be told to wait, etc. I am so proud of her considering how she was before! So, I know that she has it in her to learn to control herself, I just have to find out how to teach her regarding other dogs.

So far, we have been using the method of "look" command, click and treat before she goes over threshold, turning around before getting over threshold... got a bunch of books about it... all that stuff. She has gotten better. She used to act out a lot, lunging and barking like a maniac. Now, she pulls and sometimes whines a little, better but still not good. We have been at this level since last fall, so I must be doing something wrong. We try to avoid when we can, to not have her practice the reactions, but not always possible. Yesterday, we had a setback where a dog attached in his yard lunged and started barking like crazy, so my dog lunged too. He was on the step at first and we didn't see him, otherwise I would not have tempted fate down that route.

I need to teach her not to react to these dogs. It is not fear based, she is excited. She has met other dogs (like when some idiot lets his unleashed dog run up to us), and she has a very self-assured attitude, not scared. She has to learn that she can't just go meet other dogs just because she sees them.

I have been thinking of the prong collar, but the thing is here they are banned here so I don't know about finding a trainer that still uses them (especially with new clients). Is this something that I could work on with some guidance without a trainer? Any advice?

What would you do? Should I continue with the positive only since we have made some baby steps, or do you think it's time to try something else?

(Also, if anyone can recommend a good trainer around Montreal, I'm all ears)

Pax8 06-18-2014 03:21 PM

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How long have you been working on this? Positive reinforcement can be very effective, but you have to make sure you're consistent and patient.

I worry about people using prongs with a dog that tries to lunge forward to meet others because I've had so many clients accidentally create a fearful reaction by using prongs for this exact purpose. If you put a prong on and do not use it correctly for a situation like this, then what the dog learns is I lunge at another dog, I get hurt. They learn to equate another dog with pain and lunging because they're excited can turn into lunging to get the other dog to go away.

For situations, like the surprise dog, it is just fine to simply turn around and walk her away. She may not always be 100% while she's working on it, no dog is. What is important is that you manage her environment to set her up for success. And if you have generally gotten rid of the lunging behavior, but she still pulls and whines, heighten your criteria. Just as you may have turned her away for lunging, now turn her away for pulling or whining. When she gives you a calm reaction, or better focuses on you, THAT is when she is rewarded. Otherwise, she is removed and she does not get to greet or watch the other dog.

Kestrel 06-18-2014 03:27 PM

Thanks for the reply. Been working with her since I got her, a year ago. That is exactly why I have been worried about the prong. I don't want to make her wary of other dogs.

Honestly, I don't really want her to meet other dogs either. At least not until she stops this. Seeing her get excited like that, I just don't trust her and I do not want any problems. I also don't want a dog that thinks it should go play with any dog it sees. So, I don't really want to use that as a reward.

Don't know if I explained myself properly...

Pax8 06-18-2014 03:33 PM

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That's fine if you don't want her to greet. But you can use a dog's desire to greet to help condition that calm. You're the one that knows she won't be greeting the dog. But to her, every step towards the dog is progress while every step away is a step backwards from what she wants. You can easily use that to your advantage - she only gets steps towards what she wants if she practices the behavior that you want.

That, coupled with taught behaviors such as a heel and watch me helps guide her into the behavior that you want. That way she learns that the more she walks nicely and keeps her attention on you, the closer she gets to go to that other dog. But if she whines, pulls, or breaks her focus, she is immediately taken away from it. Once she's back at a distance she can handle, you set her back up and go again.

Pax8 06-18-2014 03:37 PM

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Oh, and you might want to take a second look at your timing. I get many students that don't remove their dog immediately when they exhibit unwanted behavior. They spend too much time hanging out when the dog is already whining and pulling, trying to get them refocused. So you want to make sure the timing is very clear and consistent. The second she pulls, barks, whines, etc, she has already messed up and is being walked away.

Kestrel 06-18-2014 03:40 PM

Thanks for the reply. That is what we've been trying to do. I understand the concept, just applying it in real life is hard sometimes. Once a person gave me crap for going back and forth like I was trying to agitate his dog. So, we turn around and have no more practice until next time there is a dog. Do you still think she is learning this way? Or does different dog/time = starting from scratch every time? Because, we don't see to be able to be getting any progress on distance, though we've made progress on intensity of reaction compared to when we got her. When she starts pulling, we turn around. I know by then, there's not getting through to her. After we turn, it takes her a bit to get a hold of herself again, like she's rush in front of me and start looking everywhere and not "look". Is there a way to work on bringing her "back" quicker too? Thanks for all your help.

Pax8 06-18-2014 03:51 PM

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I practice with different dogs every time with pretty much all my reactive dogs. It also helps generalize the behavior. You do have to modify the reaction before she takes any steps closer. Every step you take closer, the more likely she is to react to the other dog. Sort of like how in a stay you build the base behavior and make sure it is solid before you add challenges like walking away. Same concept.

What kind of reinforcement are you using? Maybe a higher reinforcement treat would help, like tripe.

I'm also trying to get a feel for what exactly you are doing. Your post makes it sound like you walk up to the dog, trying to hold her attention until she reacts? Are you constantly in motion while you practice this, or do you ever stop at a distance she can handle, do a bit of training so you have focus and move closer in baby steps?

It can also help to get the assistance of a friend who can remain stationary if strangers are getting mad for whatever reason.

Pax8 06-18-2014 03:56 PM

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Originally Posted by Kestrel (Post 5658225)
After we turn, it takes her a bit to get a hold of herself again, like she's rush in front of me and start looking everywhere and not "look". Is there a way to work on bringing her "back" quicker too? Thanks for all your help.

For this, you just have to be purposeful and confident. If you try to reward her or spend time trying to get her listen to a command, it is going to not only devalue a command, but can teach her she can hang out for a bit if she plants herself.

When she gets distracted and starts reacting, even the little bit of whining or pulling, I would take a solid hold of the leash about a foot from the collar, turn and move cleanly away. Don't keep your attention on her, don't stare at her, wait for her to turn around, click at her, try to tell her this way. It is just removal. Keep your shoulders square ahead and walk away, with a good amount of energy if need be. There will be no choice for her but to follow immediately if you do it right.

When she is back to walking loosely beside you, and preferably when she looks up at you as if to say "What was that for?" is when you stop and work the training again.

Kestrel 06-18-2014 04:04 PM

For food I use cooked meat (chicken, liver, duck, whatever I have) or cheese. I don't have any friends who have dogs that can help. How can you give tripe? I have some but it is ground up. She eats raw food, so I wonder if anything I give isn't special enough. Spoiled brat, lol. Do you think skipping a meal could help if that is the case?

I don't ask her to be focused on me for the whole walk. I will ask her to "look", or "sit" or "paw" or whatever. But I don't have her looking at me all the time. When we see another dog in the distance, I will ask her something, but more often and in different ways (back to the dog, side to the dog, etc) to try to get her focus off the dog. Usually I ask for a paw since it puts her into sit and she seems more excited to give a paw.

Thank you very much for your time and help. I am so glad I asked here before trying out the prong. It did seem work well according to the one who suggested it, but like you said, I am worried about making her wary of other dogs.

Kestrel 06-18-2014 04:15 PM

Oh sorry, when I said "back" I didn't mean physically, but mentally. As in bring her "back" to me in the way that she doesn't come away from that dog just to start looking for something to refocus on. I want that thing to be me, lol. It probably doesn't even last 15 seconds, but seems longer in the heat of the moment.

I was unsure about grabbing the leash close because I didn't want her to be at heel with a tight feeling on the leash since she was taught that heel is where she should be and there should not be a tight leash. Does that even make sense? Usually I use a 6ft leash but keep a loop in it so it is shorter, so when she sees the other dog and pulls, I let go of the loop and we turn which releases the tension. I don't really have to drag her away once I turn. Don't know if I explained that right.

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