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anitram 04-14-2014 11:00 AM

Reactive dog in neighbourhood?
Shortly after we started walking Hans around the neighbourhood (once he got his shots), I came across a woman who has a female boxer, very reactive to other dogs. When I say reactive, I mean that the owner has to essentially hold her down in a bear hug when any other dog approaches as she fights to get at them, snarling, baring teeth. What your average Joe would think is a "rabid dog" essentially.

She was very nice the first time she saw me and Hans across the street and yelled that her dog is reactive and that since Hans is a puppy it's probably best not to have him walk on the same side of the street if we see them. I appreciated that and ever since then if I see them coming, we cross the street to avoid the reaction. To her credit, she was also always good at immediately changing directions if she saw another dog coming. Most of the times I saw it react, it was being walked by a young male, I assume her son who didn't seem to have the same attitude of avoidance.

Today however, she was walking towards us, which surprised me, and then I saw her instruct her dog to sit down and she was feeding it treats, one after another. As I tried to cross the street per usual, she said to me that they got a new trainer who told her to basically have her dog sit and gobble her high value treats while other dogs pass by so that she learns to be ok with that. I told the woman I'd rather not tempt fate and given that Hans is only 15 weeks, didn't think he was the appropriate test subject. She got kind of annoyed saying that EVERYONE in the area would benefit from her dog being re-programmed.

Was I in the wrong? I've just seen this dog be absolutely insane towards other dogs, lunging etc. So I wasn't going to risk it but now I have a neighbour who thinks I'm unreasonable. :crazy:

Edited to add: is her trainer's idea sound in the first place? I don't have a lot of experience by any means but it seems a bit simple to me to suggest that a dog that has such issues would suddenly calm down just because it's getting a handful of cheddar cubes...

nktigger99 04-14-2014 11:54 AM

I would have done the same way would my pup be a test subject.

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Pax8 04-14-2014 11:57 AM

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You were completely in the right to protect your pup.

And the method that the woman's trainer has her working on is counter-conditioning. But she doesn't have a very good trainer because counter-conditioning isn't a technique that you give someone a crash course in and then just let them loose. To be used effectively, it is something that a skilled trainer would employ after much time spent understanding the dog's triggers and reaction threshold. And even then, it starts in a very controlled environment where as many variables as possible are controlled by the trainer handling the dog. Without free manipulation of those variables (namely the distance and position of the other dog) it doesn't do much to actually teach anything.

In short, it is a legitimate technique, but it is being used in an ineffective, shoddy way in this situation.

cshepherd9 04-14-2014 11:59 AM

My female Shepherd is reactive so I have some experience (although by no means am I an expert). I will answer the last question first.... yes, the positive, feed treats training can work, but I am sure there are many different views on this. It worked for me and my dog.
However, I would definitely say you are not wrong to cross the street. I still cross the street when I see people coming towards me with my dog. It is not necessarily that Willow will react, it is that she definitely won't react as long as there is that distance between two dogs.
Not sure how far along the boxer lady is on her training but in my experience the process to work through reactivity is long and tedious. Every walk is a training session, not just a jaunt around the block for exercise. As your dog gets older, you may offer to help with her training. The hardest part of our journey was finding training partners with non-reactive dogs that I could use along the way.

cshepherd9 04-14-2014 12:06 PM

Oh, and Pax8 is right, she needs to start her dog out in low stress situations with DISTANCE between her dog and other dogs and work closer with time, depending on how her dog reacts.

Twyla 04-14-2014 12:33 PM

You took the correct action. First and foremost, your pup is 15 weeks old. A situation like this can go bad quickly if the other handler isn't on top of her dog. If it went bad, you could end up with an injured puppy and looking at doing some work to avoid having a reactive pup.

Second, a puppy is a bad candidate for cc to begin with simply because it is a pup; wiggly, all over the place, unpredictable. Your neighbor needs someone with a calm, obedient dog to begin this process.

The neighbor's dog sounds like Woolf, in the past. I know I wanted others to cross the street or I would for 2 reasons - main one being I did not want Woolf to get teeth on another dog and that owner end up dealing with a reactive dog also, the other being is the reaction itself is reinforcing - Woolf reacts, the dog leaves, Woolf wins - next reaction can be quicker, stronger.

GSKnight 04-14-2014 12:34 PM

Look at it another way... the OP said that the owner would often turn around to avoid the reaction, and the OP would walk on the other side of the street.

So, why can't the OP be the one to change direction and/or still cross the street???

anitram 04-14-2014 01:28 PM


Originally Posted by GSKnight (Post 5373473)
Look at it another way... the OP said that the owner would often turn around to avoid the reaction, and the OP would walk on the other side of the street.

So, why can't the OP be the one to change direction and/or still cross the street???

I have no issue with crossing the street, and I've been doing so. But I'm talking about more situations where I see them on the other corner, so like 150 or so yards away. I don't typically bother crossing the street immediately, but keep walking until there are no cars or people on bikes, for example.

I was actually in the process of crossing the street when she yelled out and asked if I would mind staying on her side.

GSKnight 04-14-2014 01:33 PM

Sorry... i missed the part in your original post where you said she asked you to stay on her side of the street.

Liesje 04-14-2014 01:34 PM

Not only were you correct in protecting your puppy, but she's got to understand that "flooding" a dog (continuously exposing to whatever overstimulates the dog) in this type of situation is NOT going to work. She should be thankful that you might be present *across the street*. If you move too close and her dog reacts again, that will just un-do all her work. She needs to be careful to work her dog below the threshold (not reacting) for a looooong time and take her time with this. The "look at that" game and treats can be very effective but timing and working at the right distance are key. I also agree with Twyla that she'd be better off doing this work around mature dogs that are proven very neutral and not a puppy that is probably going to want to interact.

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