It is so confusing sometimes - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 01:18 AM Thread Starter
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It is so confusing sometimes

Last year I put my boy in group obedience to help us with his dog reactivity/aggression. It did us a ton of good. Soon after the classes ended (Nov), we started Nose works (Jan). It's now July and aside from 1 medium incident at the beginning of NW Classes there has been no reactivity outbursts from him either in class or out and about. Now granted, I still keep a healthy distance between us and other dogs when out around town but he is so much more relaxed.

No outbursts until last week. We were walking and I have been feeling really good about all of everything. So good that I start questioning if maybe I labeled him incorrectly. Should I really be marking him down as reactive/aggressive on the NW registrations for ORT and soon trials. Thinking all this while walking along, feeling really good and then wham! I didn't see the woman and her dog cross the street to our side. Didn't catch my boys early signals in time. It was honestly a mild reaction compared to where we were over a yr ago and he was quick to respond to the correction but darn it all I really wasn't looking for that kind of answer to my "wondering if question".

Then to confuse me more, this morning, we were walking to the town park. Just before crossing the street to go into the park I stop and observe who is there like I always do. I see a man with his 2 yr old female dog. We have talked before. I really like this guy and his dog. He trains her and is conscientious. So I go in the park and he recognizes me and we wave hi. As he's leaving the park, I ask him if he would mind if I parallel walk with him keeping a bit of distance between us.

Aside from an initial mild stiffening and a quick mild collar pop, my boy was walking nicely. He was doing quick glances her way but I swear he was just making sure she was staying where she should be (next to her owner) it wasn't the same as the precursor stare that is one of his signals.

The guys dog was doing well also up until she went off on a truck that went by. At that point I stopped walking as the guy gave his girl a firm correction and a solid down command. I was paying attention to him when I realized how slack the leash felt so I turned to look at my boy and he is in a down also. A very relaxed down not a stiff muscle in his body. Soft eyes, open mouth happy face. What the heck??? Good boy, so proud of you but what's up with all of this.

I did get the feeling that maybe the parallel walk could have stressed the guys dog and she may have directed her stress on the passing truck (I'm not sure as it was just a feeling) so when he had her by his side and all was calm, I thanked him and headed back to the park.

I can usually puzzle stuff out and my first thought, because he downed from the guys command, that maybe my boys memory of the obedience classes kicked it. The trainer would call out "put your dog in a down" and the whole group would do as told. I just don't know. Also, and I just thought of this, her aggression towards the truck did not trigger an aggressive reaction from my boy.

Would appreciate any thoughts.

"If you can't see his soul when you look in his eyes, then you need a seeing-eye dog"
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 01:41 AM
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My take: both situations happened when you lost your focus on the dog and let your guard down and he knew it! I wouldn't worry about it too much; it is a lesson for you. I would not allow him to check another dog to make sure that it goes according to his standards. For me he wold already have had a "Leave It!" the moment he looked at the dog. I use daily life to make sure that I am the one on top and make the decisions in situations that require decisions. Note: not my hubby, that's why she had a turkey chick for a snack
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 02:50 AM Thread Starter
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My take: both situations happened when you lost your focus on the dog and let your guard down and he knew it! I wouldn't worry about it too much; it is a lesson for you. I would not allow him to check another dog to make sure that it goes according to his standards. For me he wold already have had a "Leave It!" the moment he looked at the dog. I use daily life to make sure that I am the one on top and make the decisions in situations that require decisions. Note: not my hubby, that's why she had a turkey chick for a snack
Wolfy dog I'm not sure what the second situation is because after the initial correction when we began the parallel walk, other than the quick glances my boy was giving her, he walked perfectly by my side loose leash. Even when the guys dog reacted to the passing truck. My focus and attention was on him the entire time up until the guys dog went off on the passing truck and during that point my boy was still behaving properly.

Maybe I'm wrong but I do allow him to notice other dogs as long as the notice does not become "thoughtful interest" 2 seconds tops as the notice can become a precursor to the precursor signals.

Thinking it through, yup, maybe one glance but no need for him to keep checking. It Wasn't fair to the guys dog either.

Thanks for your thoughts.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 10:49 AM
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With my dogs, the demeanor of the other dog makes a huge difference. Neither of them care much about calm, well behaved dogs that seem either friendly or neutral to passing dogs, but may react if an approaching dog gives them the stink eye or is barking or lunging towards them. Keefer in particular is really bad about staring at other dogs because he's compulsively friendly and wants to go meet everyone. So I make sure not to let him do that, especially with a dog that might react because he could end up instigating a reaction from the other dog, and then react in kind. "But mom, he started it!". Yeah buddy, but YOU made him do that!

Eye contact is such a big trigger for many dogs, as you've obviously noted, and there's also a difference between a brief casual glance from another dog and a hard stare. I can't control what the other dog is doing so I make sure I keep an eye on the situation and control my dogs from being jerks so they don't set off another dog and cause it to be a jerk.
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-Debbie-
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 11:10 AM
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Couple more thoughts for you.....the first instance with the lady and dog was him falling back into how he's most comfortable handling that situation.
The frequent glances in the second situation was a tension builder for both dogs.The truck came along and the other dog took the opportunity to break the tension.
Just my musings
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Cassidy's mom, very interesting that you used the word "compulsive". It hits the nail right on the head on how to explain what I'm seeing with what Sonny does when he hard stares and actually helps give more clarity for me on what may be going on in his brain. Not saying he's compulsive but he does have a need to walk around our table, counter clockwise, never clockwise and once, only once, right before going out the door for a walk.

He also did and will do, if I don't catch it, stare down dogs until they either turn away or aggressively react then he reacts. once the reactivity subsides (this has been a consistent throughout) he puts himself by my side like it wasn't any big deal.

I spend a lot of time subjectively thinking through stuff that affect us and also how it may affect others while out.

"If you can't see his soul when you look in his eyes, then you need a seeing-eye dog"
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 12:05 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by dogma13 View Post
Couple more thoughts for you.....the first instance with the lady and dog was him falling back into how he's most comfortable handling that situation.
The frequent glances in the second situation was a tension builder for both dogs.The truck came along and the other dog took the opportunity to break the tension.
Just my musings
I like musings they are very useful. after rereading my post I realized the blatant the differences in the two instances. I was caught off guard and certain I tensed up a bit with the lady crossing the street instance. I'm sure that didn't help keep him calm and as you said may have made it easier to fall back on what he has gotten away wth in the past. Took me awhile to learn what an effective vs ineffective correction is for him and which type of correction with which scenarios illicit the best response for him and me.

"If you can't see his soul when you look in his eyes, then you need a seeing-eye dog"

Last edited by Heartandsoul; 07-18-2017 at 12:07 PM.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 12:48 PM
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From my experience with reactivity based on several dogs over a period of nearly 17 years, ranging from not a reactive bone in her body (Dena) to so highly leash reactive that it was virtually impossible to walk her anywhere near other dogs (Cassidy) and varying levels in between, it's something that *may* always need to be managed to a certain extent. I've never had a reactive dog that I felt like was totally cured of the behavior, I just became more adept at recognizing situations where it might be an issue, and acting accordingly in a proactive manner. Sometimes I slipped up, and simply vow to do better next time. But an occasional incident isn't cause to freak out, IMO. You're doing the best you can but nobody is perfect.

You didn't say in the situation with the man and his dog whether or not Sonny knows them. Even if not, there are a couple of reasons I can think of why he did not react even when the other dog did, but rather remained calm and relaxed:

1) You know the man, and were not worried about his dog, so your demeanor gave Sonny nothing to react to.

2) Prior to the other dog going off, she was not giving Sonny anything to react to. He was a little nervous at first, but the quick glances assured him that she was well behaved and not that interested in him so he was able to relax and not worry about her.

No matter how well we read our own dogs (and provided that we're truly giving it all of our attention, which is not always the case - we may become somewhat complacent after seeing significant improvement), most of us are not experts in dog behavior in general and may miss subtle signals that another dog is giving off. Your dog, however, IS reading those signals! I will usually notice if another dog is looking at one of mine, but I admit I don't pay as much attention to its body language the way I would with my own dog so I may not see that it's starting to tense up and may be ready to react.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Heartandsoul View Post
I like musings they are very useful. after rereading my post I realized the blatant the differences in the two instances. I was caught off guard and certain I tensed up a bit with the lady crossing the street instance. I'm sure that didn't help keep him calm and as you said may have made it easier to fall back on what he has gotten away wth in the past. Took me awhile to learn what an effective vs ineffective correction is for him and which type of correction with which scenarios illicit the best response for him and me.
In my mind it's not so much that they are trying to get away with something,more like defaulting to an action that has worked for them in the past.It is definitely not easy to catch them every single time and "reprogram" a new more acceptable action.They will slip back into what is most comfortable/habitual/instinctual/etc.It's much easier to muse about it on an internet forum,lol!
This past week my son and his wife were residing here from out of state and we had a lot of family and friends stopping by.Samson was not pleased.But there were multiple opportunities to show him what I expect and what he should do so he wouldn't stress and both he and the guests felt comfortable.So he and I are both mulling it over right now.He's processing,I'm tweaking for next time
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-18-2017, 05:44 PM Thread Starter
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Sonny did recognize the guy's dog as this was the second time that we walked with them. The first time was a few months ago. It is the only person & dog aside from training class that I felt comfortable enough to ask to walk with.

You have all given me good advice and sharing your own experiences has and will help a lot. He and I have come a long way with a bit more to go but we are so worth it because of that incredible shepherd/human bond.

Oh, a side note and some reality that bugs me, I know for a fact after 5 yrs of reading that any trainer here who deals with reactive/aggressive dogs would view my boy as not much of a big deal.
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Last edited by Heartandsoul; 07-18-2017 at 05:47 PM.
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