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Still Reactive (on leash) and NOTHING is working
Sorry, this is a bit long, but I want to provide as much detail as possible. To start, I posted about this a while back when our GSD was still a puppy and just starting her first obedience class. She is now over a year old, and she is still reactive when she is on her leash (i.e. on a walk, at the park, etc). She is great around people, and great around other dogs when she is NOT on a leash, but when we try to walk her, if she can see, or even HEAR another dog, she absolutely freaks out and starts jumping, lunging, barking/whining, etc. Here is what we have tried:
1. Obedience classes at 4 months (which is when we realized she was reactive, hence the class did not go well)
2. Private training using BAT (although we did work around the outside of a dog park to work on her seeing other dogs while on leash)- I cannot say this was effective
3. Growly/reactive dog classes (also did not go well, since there were other dogs around)
4. I have read and tried to apply the methods in the Controlled Unleashed book
5. We have tried using high value treats, medium value treats for reward, but these do not even get her attention
6. We have tried bringing the ball (her favorite), bringing a squeaky toy, etc for distraction from the other dogs, nothing.
7. We have tried walking her with and without our husky (who is VERY neutral, and does not react at all, to anything) and it doesn't seem to make any difference
8. We have also tried using the thunder leash which applies pressure around her chest (supposed to be calming)- again, no success.
So far, nothing is working. Since she is getting older, I am starting to get worried that we just may not be able to walk her, resulting in us not walking either dog since it would be really sad to leave her home while we walk out husky.
We currently use a martingale (flat) collar with either a leather leash, or her thunder leash. Her body language is very interesting as well on walks. She crouches lower to the ground, and is always frantically looking around. She has completely lost the heel command (this was lost during the BAT training because our trainer insisted on letting her 'just walk' and not focus on her placement behind/beside me). I think she refuses to heel because it is almost as if she wants to get out in front so she can see what is around every corner, or bush, or tree before I get to it. I have tried to reinforce the heel command, but it has not been successful. Another big issue, is that it is almost impossible to prevent the anxiety and her reaction because she gets frantic if she can even HEAR another dog, and there is a dog behind almost every fence in our neighborhood, so this makes it even more difficult.
Is there anything I am missing? Anything else I can try? We cannot afford to send her away to a trainer (which I know others have done, and some have found success), so that is not an option as of right now. I am just about out of options. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance, and I am sorry if this was too wordy.
i can sympathize with walking a reactive dog. the walks become a chore more than it is quiet time. NOT FUN!
depending on how fearful she is, sometimes leash reactivity just cant be fix but only managed. the fact that shes going crazy just to the sound of a dog barking is pretty extreme.
another idea is ecollar. i have seen an ecollar work on some very feaful and some very aggressive dogs. an ecollar used correctly isnt a correction device; its a device to help change the way the dog perceives certain things. of course you would need to find a trainer in your area that is knowledgable about ecollars. if an ecollar is used incorrectly on a fearful dog, it could destroy the mental state of the dog.
if nothing works you might just have to accept that it cant be fixed and only managed. maybe find a large field where both dogs can run around in?
Being in California, I would talk to Lou Castle about his ecollar protocol. At this point it is worth a go.
As far as not walking the husky because it would be sad to leave her home while you walk him*. The concept of fairness is, as I understand it, very human and not doglike. Don't "punish" the husky for her issues. A reactive dog is happier when not pressured by the outside world so it is not bad for her to do things with him.
I had one fear-reactive dog and the heel command and focus on me / obedience is what allowed me to walk/control him in all kinds of scenarios. In no way am I an expert on aggression, though and there are actually all kinds of resources in California to help.
*I don't know if husky is boy or girl but just used "him"
I wouldn't jump to an e collar if you haven't tried a prong. Have you tried a prong? High value treats aren't used as a reward but rather getting the dog to focus on you. You can't just take a dog like this right into a class or near other dogs until you work up to that point. Has she been evaluated by someone that knows the breed? Are there any GSD clubs near you? First thing you need to do is teach the watch and leave it commands. Teach these at home before you take her out. If she doesn't know them then she isn't going to do them. I used to stand 20 ft away from the entrance of Petsmart, with raw venison in hand. You have to be more aware then she is. You see a dog and your dog should already be in a sit focused on you. The prong will give you more control. I only stood for one dog for several days then I'd wait for two dogs for a couple days,etc . Go to the park and sit 25-50 ft away, the closest you can without a reaction and get focus on you. If she breaks focus and your losing her, take some treats and throw them in opposite direction of oncoming dog so your dog goes into hunt mode. If walking toward a dog, turn around and say in a happy voice lets go, while almost jogging, it breaks the focus on the other dog. That's just a small combination of what I did to get past the reactivity. If you know anyone with a solid dog that your dog can be around that is a plus. Once that happened for us we were on our way to getting right. I declined using a private trainer, classes behind barricades didn't work. I also went through several trainers before I found one that both the dog and I liked. You can also use a ball, I found that mine used the ball almost like a person would use those stress balls in their hands.
This is probably one of those cases where the OP is over thinking. I'd just straight up mark the behavior with a no and punish it till the dog stopped and be done with it.
Op check the Tyler Muto video channel. Many clips on how to use leash pressure and a place command to train a dog to be less reactive and calm. Also some clips on how to fit and use a prong correctly.
Tyler Muto - YouTube
every time I read posts like this or get phone calls with the same problems I have to think about inappropriate , high pressured , early socialization . I would say there are more and more and more than before , running a parallel course to problems with "allergies".
it would seem that these behavioural problems have a base in the dogs nature , which is nurtured -- and instead of a steady dog that can cope with its own potential , you have a troubled dog.
more dogs are euthanized due to behavioural problems .
this is unfortunate "1. Obedience classes at 4 months (which is when we realized she was reactive, hence the class did not go well)"
because this is probably when your dog met her threshold , and told you so , unnoticed, continued with the course while the dog conditioned to a response --
in young dogs you have to be in tune and observant
did you use a dog park to socialize her?
this "We have tried using high value treats, medium value treats for reward, but these do not even get her attention" indicates that you have passed beyond the comfort zone and all the dogs attention is being sucked in by whatever the trigger is . she is in a different zone , can't hear you , see you , too much stimulation / attraction . stress . you need to move away .
you can't distract her until you increase your distance from what ever is upsetting her . allow the dog to soothe her self , find that calm , without more crazy-making with more stimulation , squeaky toys .
don't forget that emotions have a chemical base -- adrenaline , cortisol . when you are stressed , let's say you just got the news that a loved one was in a car accident you can not learn new things and will have major difficulty answering questions to which you know the answers -- this is sort of the dogs frame of mind when they are so over the top . settle down first .
you will have to restart socialization all over again .
choose locations and times when you are able to be totally calm and focused on the dog , no cell phones , or friends , no dogs or people to be met . you and the dog alone together , on lead only because you are going to have to make it a very pleasant experience - a release to off lead will spoil that .
the worst thing you could do for this dog is to punish until it stopped.
punish is not correct --- and for this dog at this point , no way.
Ok ya got me the science behind operant conditioning is total bs and doesnt work.
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