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Old 12-20-2013, 10:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Leash reactivity becoming overwhelming?

1st post here. Scroll to the bottom if you want the "too long; didn't read" version!

My husband and I purchased a GSD puppy two and a half months ago (He's almost seven months now). He's generally lovely; extremely well behaved inside, walks well on leash, graduated puppy classes with flying colors last week.

When we first got him, he would see other dogs from a distance, and would sometimes let out a bark (we would say "enough" and he didn't pursue them further- "enough" is what we say at home when the dogs hear commotion outside, and we want them to quiet down). About three weeks ago, I took him and our other other dog to the vet, and he encountered a couple dogs walking through the door. He acted somewhat aggressively, lunging at them and barking (no hackles up). For the first time, saying "enough" didn't work, and he continued barking until I got him into the car.

I was pretty dismayed, so the next time I went to puppy training classes, I asked for advice from the trainer. She said to redirect him with high-value treats.

I had a busy couple weeks and the next time we encountered dogs close up was when I took him to have a bath last Friday. I had practiced getting his attention- he's reliable with sit, down, stay, and "watch me." While walking through groomer's, he encountered another dog, and began lunging and barking, this time with his hackles up. I tried getting his attention with treats and a happy voice as the trainer instructed, but he totally ignored me. I had to basically drag him to the door, and as soon as we were out of sight of the other dog, he became his normal self again.

Yesterday he had the same reaction at the vet's office.

And then tonight...

I clipped his leash on to go on a quick potty walk. At the same time, our lovely neighbors decided to take their two little dogs for a walk, bursting out of their door with their dogs before I had a chance to move away from them. Their dogs were lunging and barking, which really set my puppy off. He weighs 65 lbs now, and he almost pulled me over while barking and lunging with his hackles up (I'll be using his Easy Walk from now on).

Meanwhile, the dog adjacent to us is going bananas (his owners apparently don't try to quiet him down either). It was a very stressful situation.

I managed to get him back inside, where he could still hear the other dogs barking their heads off. Despite that, he immediately stopped barking when I said "enough." His issues are definitely only when another dog is in sight.

Basically, I don't know what to do. What I've seen online isn't very helpful. The first trainer's instructions have had a 0% success rate in real-life situations. I'm open to finding a new trainer... does this sound like something that I can correct on my own, through regular training classes (in which he's a perfect angel), or do I need to get a behaviorist out to my house to work with him one-on-one? Any ideas as to what could be the cause of this somewhat sudden onset of reactivity? He is currently un-neutered.

Any advice, links, tips would be appreciated.

Last edited by Pup_pup; 12-20-2013 at 10:22 PM. Reason: Bolding!
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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In my experience, even if you get a trainer/ behaviorist to guide you, it really is up to you to work on this reactivity. I might be wrong and you might get a good trainer who knows what they are doing and be really effective in a few sessions. But I felt I was on my own with regard to reacitivoty. Its great that yours is well behaved in training classes. On walks you will have to start at a distance where he is not reacting and desensitize him to other dogs. (lots of material and video tutorials on the web about how to desensitize him to other dogs). Its called keeping him under threshold. There are 3 factos to it distance, duration and intensity.

http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-a...-under-or-over

Then you stay within threshold and treat, treat, treat,train, reward, etc. You will over time be able to take him closer and closer with him staying calm. This morning we were within 5 feet of another dog with mine staying focused on me and calm. Wow. I never thought we would get there. But I am sure there will be other factors we will have to cross like intensity(mine had a bad experience with a jack russell terrier attacking him when he was little, so he is even more reactive to this kind of breeds).

Also, when I go to the vet, I go sign in first and when they tell me to bring him in, then I go get him. Then I walk him very fast (i just block the other dogs out in my own mind as well) past the other dogs in the waiting area to the examination room. This has surprisingly worked. Even with some dogs growling and lunging at him. Perhaps because we are moving too fast to give him time to react. So you will have to manage your situations like this till he learns to be calm around other dogs.

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Old 12-21-2013, 03:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'd start with a distance that your dog doesn't react and slowly move closer with treats. But if that doesn't work I like the ecollar. You don't punish him for lunging and barking because you shouldn't correct a dog for acting fearful. I'd teach sit with ecollar and teach the dog that sitting is his safe zone and if he breaks his sit then the stim comes. Then when you see a dog coming then put him in a sit. If he breaks his sit then the stim comes. The dog has to know that the stim is because he broke his sit and not because of the other dog. The dog will learn that sitting (staying in his safe zone) won't get him a stim. He'll learn that another dog walking past isn't that bad and nothing happens to him. But for now I'd put a muzzle on him. Good luck!
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Old 12-21-2013, 09:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you! So I have two questions:

When we're in a situation where we're outside going potty and a neighbor could accidentally walk next to us with their barking, lunging dogs, what should I do? Avoid the situation entirely by trying to use the front door and the front lawn? Also, we usually walk on trails close to our house. They are fairly wide, but close enough that they would get him riled up. Should I take alternate routes until I have better control from a distance? And finally what about dog parks? Should I only let him go in if he's quiet, or should I avoid them for now?

Question 2: he's not especially treat motivated. He does likes them, but in a high-intensity situation, he doesn't seem to really care. How can I overcome that? He does really enjoy quick movement, so should I take advantage of that an move away quickly in an effort to attract his attention?

Last edited by Pup_pup; 12-21-2013 at 09:10 AM. Reason: iPhone auto correct mistake
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Old 12-21-2013, 09:32 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Tyler Muto - YouTube

Good ways to use leash pressure to control reactivity, excitement and aggression.

If you dog isn't into treats you can use a ball on a string and wave that around a bit to redirect when focusing on other dogs. If the dog is into it you can ask it to sit for it or lie down or go to heal position. As you build up the drive for the ball you can use it to redirect more successfully. Over time you can teach the dog it is more fun to focus on you and more rewarding than checking other dogs.

The pup/dog is at that stage where it wants to sniff and check out other dogs in the area. It can develop into aggression due to the fact that it is being held back by the leash. If a dog is held back it wants to go forward more.

Quote:
When we're in a situation where we're outside going potty and a neighbor could accidentally walk next to us with their barking, lunging dogs, what should I do?
What I do is demand my dog sit. I totally focus on him and ignore other dogs what ever they are doing.

I would sometimes avoid sources of reactivity but you can't always so sometimes better to work through them.

Also get the dog used to turning away from distractions, crossing the road etcetc. Also get the dog used to you speeding up and slowing down. Basically try to break the cycle the dog is in. Many people go at the dogs pace but I like to teach the dog to go at my pace.
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Old 12-21-2013, 09:40 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pup_pup View Post
Thank you! So I have two questions:

When we're in a situation where we're outside going potty and a neighbor could accidentally walk next to us with their barking, lunging dogs, what should I do? Avoid the situation entirely by trying to use the front door and the front lawn? Also, we usually walk on trails close to our house. They are fairly wide, but close enough that they would get him riled up. Should I take alternate routes until I have better control from a distance? And finally what about dog parks? Should I only let him go in if he's quiet, or should I avoid them for now?

Question 2: he's not especially treat motivated. He does likes them, but in a high-intensity situation, he doesn't seem to really care. How can I overcome that? He does really enjoy quick movement, so should I take advantage of that an move away quickly in an effort to attract his attention?

I used to take mine to dog parks(maybe about 3,4 times in total with someone else's dog I know is friendly) but now I avoid them altogether. I do take him to dog playgroups at his training center though because it is controlled and a good way of training his recalls, polite greetings and impulse control. For now though, I would advise you to stay away from dog parks.

With ours I avoided all dogs and trained him at a distance for a while.

1. If you are on a trail and you see a dog approaching, can you step aside into the woods, (just run, calling his name happily, ofcourse you are holding his leash , stop abruptly, feint left, right, stop, treat as soon as he sits, etc. make it a lot of fun for him). If he prefers a tug toy you can use that instead of treats. Also, try to keep your dog hungry so he is more focused on the treats while walking. Then work up to him seeing the dog while he sits or heels for the treat before stepping off the trail.


2. With your neighbor, can you talk to them and ask if they can make sure your dog is not out when they bring theirs out, and you will do the same for them? Give them Christmas cookies or something to soften them up if they are not agreeable, and do a kind deed for them once in a while :P . It is just that for GSD owners the dangers of a reactive dog is so much more than with owners with smaller breeds. That is why they get away with never training their dogs like we have to.

With our neighbors who we share a fence with we kind of came to a mutual understanding that we dont let the dog out in the morning if the other dog is out. Also if I played with mine with a flirt pole he would totally ignore the other dog even if it was barking and growling at the fence. You could have him on a leash and make him chase the flirt pole at the same time, and see if this helps.

Do you use your training lessons while you are walking? I mean not just say leave it when he sees a dog, but actively train him. Like throw treats on the floor and tell him leave it. Basically act as though the trail is just a bigger classroom. Like you train him for a couple of minutes, focus, sits, heels and then say "okay, go sniff". Then call him back (recall). I don't know if you are doing this already, but this is really helping us a lot.

One other thing I did with our dog is throwing a treat on the floor and saying find it. Kibble is good for this because it will roll a short distance making the dog keep track of its movement.

By the way, I was very nervous and so worried that we will never get over hsi reactivity. But I took him every day to the park and went to training classes every week and over time it has improved. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Please don;t be discouraged. You can do it. And it will also help you, if you rise to the challenge of keeping the dog focused on you, when your mind is engaged with your dog it becomes very relaxing, and make you more confident and calmer.

this is just one clicker video. There are several that deal with this topic. The main thing though is you continuously practising.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo-L2qtD7MQ
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Old 12-21-2013, 09:44 AM   #7 (permalink)
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And I agree with what MadLab is saying as well. Excellent advice there. It depends on how reactive your dog is though. He might sit for the flirt pole or a tug toy, even if the other dogs are present.
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Old 12-21-2013, 09:57 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I went through this with my boy Midnite. I got him from the shelter at about the same age. We were put in a separate waiting area at the vet when he went for his 10 day check up, he was loud and looked and sounded like he would kill all the other dogs. He even reacted the same way to dogs he lived with. He was not allowed in regular classes anywhere. Here is a timeline...got him in May, waited about a month to start anything with him because I needed to know more about him. I met with a trainer that evaluated him and it was determined he wasn't aggressive, just leash reactive(you need to determine this because they are kinda different). So for the months of June and July I did drop ins and he was behind a barrier, he didn't like that at all, but he needed some training because he had no manners. I started taking him to Petsmart, where we walked past the dogs in doggy day care hundreds of times, then we stood about 15 ft from the door and practiced leave its and focus(you have to determine what distance your dog is not reactive and start there). We would go to the park and sit on the bench waiting for dogs. I would start with one dog, then after a few days I would wait for two dogs, etc. during these exercises I started using a prong and high value treats, like venison and chicken. It's important to not let the dog get focused on the other dog. I used several redirections...I would turn the other way really fast(jogging) and say let's go in a happy voice. I would also take a handful of treats and toss them in the opposite direction of the dog coming and put my dog in hunt mode(he was to busy looking for treats). A ball worked wonders for mine. He would just squeeze the ball like it was a stress ball. I still use a ball to this day when he starts amping up, the ball calms him down. I always left each training session on a good note and made sure he didn't fail. We moved in August and the hunt for a trainer began, I still needed him in classes. In the mean time my neighbors brother has a nice stable GSD that he wanted Midnite to meet, I was not thrilled. Of course Midnite acted up but it wasn't the same. After about 5 minutes this took took both of them and was jogging down the street with them, by the time they got back they were next to each other, now I was thrilled. Mid August I thought I found a decent trainer, so I went to meet her on a Saturday. Needless to say they didn't go well. She took his leash and couldn't control him. He jumped on her and ripped her arm open trying to get to another dog. At this point I'm just shaking my head in amazement, he never did that to me and this person is a trainer? They suggested that he could not be in classes with other dogs but they would do private training for a pretty penny. I was now frustrated, but that makes me more determined. I got on the phone and called the local GSD club. I told them the situation and they invited us to come in about an hour before classes started the next day. We went and Midnite just took it all in. They had us walk the grounds so he could get used the smells,etc. then the trainer came with his two very well behaved senior GSDs. I swear I seen a flash of respect in Midnites eyes with them. He didn't bark or lunge. He started to jump up on the trainer and a simple no was all it took. Midnite has not reacted to anything since that day. In mid September Midnite passed his CGC and also became a certified therapy dog. He now goes everywhere that other dogs are and is a joy to have around. Sorry this was so long, but I want you to know that with time, patience, and a open mind to different training tools your dog can be fine too. Good Luck!!
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Last edited by llombardo; 12-21-2013 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 12-21-2013, 10:07 AM   #9 (permalink)
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And yes you should avoid situations where your dog will fail. You have to make your own controlled environments.
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Old 12-21-2013, 10:35 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llombardo View Post
I went through this with my boy Midnite. I got him from the shelter at about the same age. We were put in a separate waiting area at the vet when he went for his 10 day check up, he was loud and looked and sounded like he would kill all the other dogs. He even reacted the same way to dogs he lived with. He was not allowed in regular classes anywhere. Here is a timeline...got him in May, waited about a month to start anything with him because I needed to know more about him. I met with a trainer that evaluated him and it was determined he wasn't aggressive, just leash reactive(you need to determine this because they are kinda different). So for the months of June and July I did drop ins and he was behind a barrier, he didn't like that at all, but he needed some training because he had no manners. I started taking him to Petsmart, where we walked past the dogs in doggy day care hundreds of times, then we stood about 15 ft from the door and practiced leave its and focus(you have to determine what distance your dog is not reactive and start there). We would go to the park and sit on the bench waiting for dogs. I would start with one dog, then after a few days I would wait for two dogs, etc. during these exercises I started using a prong and high value treats, like venison and chicken. It's important to not let the dog get focused on the other dog. I used several redirections...I would turn the other way really fast(jogging) and say let's go in a happy voice. I would also take a handful of treats and toss them in the opposite direction of the dog coming and put my dog in hunt mode(he was to busy looking for treats). A ball worked wonders for mine. He would just squeeze the ball like it was a stress ball. I still use a ball to this day when he starts amping up, the ball calms him down. I always left each training session on a good note and made sure he didn't fail. We moved in August and the hunt for a trainer began, I still needed him in classes. In the mean time my neighbors brother has a nice stable GSD that he wanted Midnite to meet, I was not thrilled. Of course Midnite acted up but it wasn't the same. After about 5 minutes this took took both of them and was jogging down the street with them, by the time they got back they were next to each other, now I was thrilled. Mid August I thought I found a decent trainer, so I went to meet her on a Saturday. Needless to say they didn't go well. She took his leash and couldn't control him. He jumped on her and ripped her arm open trying to get to another dog. At this point I'm just shaking my head in amazement, he never did that to me and this person is a trainer? They suggested that he could not be in classes with other dogs but they would do private training for a pretty penny. I was now frustrated, but that makes me more determined. I got on the phone and called the local GSD club. I told them the situation and they invited us to come in about an hour before classes started the next day. We went and Midnite just took it all in. They had us walk the grounds so he could get used the smells,etc. then the trainer came with his two very well behaved senior GSDs. I swear I seen a flash of respect in Midnites eyes with them. He didn't bark or lunge. He started to jump up on the trainer and a simple no was all it took. Midnite has not reacted to anything since that day. In mid September Midnite passed his CGC and also became a certified therapy dog. He now goes everywhere that other dogs are and is a joy to have around. Sorry this was so long, but I want you to know that with time, patience, and a open mind to different training tools your dog can be fine too. Good Luck!!

This was so good to read, and very encouraging. Wow, I wish I knew someone like that...
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