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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am concerned that Soldier (now 12 months old, intact male) is becoming more and more leash reactive to other dogs. He almost bit me when we were surprised coming around a corner by the Huskie and owner up the street. Soldier went wild, and the neighbor just kept coming toward us (WTF???), I didn't have time to back away or change direction, so I had to "hang" Soldier on his leash, and he was snapping the air, almost got my thigh. I did finally get him under control, made him lay down. Then later when we were talking past a house up the street where a small terrier hangs out in the yard with an invisible fence that has apparently stopped working, the terrier ran out of the yard and charged Soldier and Soldier ALMOST got the dog, I had to work very hard to control him.
Soldier is SUCH a handful. When he is off lead and we see a dog, he will come when I call him and won't chase if the dog maintains distance, but if the (strange) dog comes too close... it's on. There are numerous dogs around the neighborhood with whom he's friendly. I am working harder on the "leave it" command this week, not allowing him to chase squirrels when off lead. Other suggestions?
 

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These situations ALWAYS get worse, so you are right to be proactive to turn it around. Would have been way easier to nip in the bud the very first time you saw the behavior, but just means you'll have to work harder and it will take longer. But you can still improve this.

First of all, keep in mind your dog is NOT protecting you, so you have to always be on top of this and not make excuses for bad behavior. It's NOT MY DOGS JOB to attack anyone. It's MY JOB to keep him safe so let him know that and let me do my job.

How are your dog classes going? What has your instructor recommended? Is this behavior only occuring outside of class?

Hopefully you also have clicker training in your 'bag of tricks'. Though it's something WE HANDLERS have to learn (much easier to blame our dogs and have it all about what THEY need to learn and THEY are having problems with :) ) clickers work amazingly in so many situations.


http://www.clickertraining.com/node/1262 that has free registration

This is also a great situation that you may want to start up with the head collar:

Canine University: News -- Canine Behavior - So Your Dog Is Reactive!
 

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Are you using a prong collar? I started using one with Wolfie, and it made all the difference. He started with lunging and barking at other dogs at around 6 months old. He just wanted to go play with them. After using the prong collar, he doesn't pull me at all, and if he sees another dog coming he usually ignores it, or lets out a few small whines if he is getting really excited. I was surprised at his first obedience class when he was really barking at all the dogs, but no pulling. I think it was the sheer amount of dogs in one close area that got him excited enough to bark.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I didn't suggest that he was being "protective"--believe me, I have no illusions about that! Nor do I have any expectation that he should protect me from another dog. This is pure reactive behavior; he had a few bad experiences months ago with dogs attacking him while on the leash and now he's anticipating a fight. I have always corrected this behavior, from the first time he displayed it. But I have never done clicker training, and I have to confess to having a bias against it. But clearly, my usual methods (correction with a prong collar) are not working on this very high drive dog. Over correction makes him handler-aggresive. I read one of the links you posted, MaggieRose (the other required registration). Quote:
"Realize that reactive dogs are responding emotionally to whatever stimulus is present and no amount of yelling or correction will ever help them be better."
I do agree with that statement. In the moment of his reaction, correction is completely ineffective. I agree that he needs positive reinforcement. But the whole clicker process just seems overly complicated to me.

On a good note, he is responding very well to the new "no squirrel chasing" program. Today on the off lead portion of our run, he actually ignored a few squirrels without me telling him to leave it and was in general much calmer. We encountered one dog while on leash, but we didn't get closer than 20 feet so of course he was fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
A question about clicker training. I guess my bias is based on the necessity of food involvement. Food treats are certainly effective short term, but in all the videos I've seen, the clicker is always used with food. I though the whole purpose was to get to the point where food was not required, only the clicker. If that ISN'T the goal, then I'm not on board. Could someone share a clicker video where no food is involved?
 

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This is pure reactive behavior; he had a few bad experiences months ago with dogs attacking him while on the leash and now he's anticipating a fight.
That is 100% fear reaction. I feel your pain. Have you read Fiesty Fido or "The Other End of the Leash"? Both are really good books and have helped me alot. His confidence is blown and he's saying "I'll get you before you get me". It's great that you've already recognized that.

I'm going to go on a completely different track than others and say...ditch the prong/choke collar. It makes my fear aggressive dog more reactive to have something tightening around her neck. It creates a frustration for some dogs, possibly the same frustration that had him snapping in the air and almost biting you.

When you see another dog coming, what do you do? I would suggest putting him in a sit and treating him when he is not reacting. You don't need to use a clicker if it's to much to coordinate. You can use your voice. No reaction? Yes! Treat!.

There are two ways to do this. You can let him look at the dog or try to keep his focus on you while the dog passes. One might work for you but not the other. I let Jax look but not react. While she's looking I would keep her slightly distracted with treats.

Do you have any friends with dogs that you know are safe? I would start by walking with them.

It's a really long process and celebrate all the small steps. :) I think the main thing is to be able to evaluate and protect your dog in situations. By protect I mean, don't let your dog near a dog YOU think is questionable regardless of what the owner says. If your dog has his senses soooo overloaded that he can't calm down, then remove him from the situation. Maybe instead of passing a person, you'll need to turn the other way and then cross the road to get around him.

btw..not sure where you are located but there is a seminar specifically for fear reactive dogs in Slatington, PA. I hear really good things about this person.
Great Companions -- "Scaredy Dog!" Seminar, October 31, 2010
 

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Food is supposed to be weaned out with clicker training. The clicker is the marker. It's faster than saying Good Boy so dogs can know exactly what they are doing right.

My Jax is not a foodie. Her "food" is her frisbee. It's all about the high end treat, regardless of food or a toy.

Let me ask this...clicker training and treating work..they just work...so if that is the fastest, easiest way to get your dog past this problem, why would you be against it just because there are treats involved? You aren't training him to learn a command. Your goal should be to rebuild his confidence and his feeling of safety.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Jax, thanks for your posts. I have never seen a clip of dog who has been successfully clicker trained and has been weaned off of food and the trainer is only using the clicker. Is that because once they have mastered the desired behavior, the clicker is no longer used?

I have been planning on trying the method you outlined in your first post, I just have put it off too long (it's a pain to jog with treats, lol). Alright, so the clicker is the same as "good" so I won't worry about the clicker (I have enough to carry).
 

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Food is supposed to be weaned out with clicker training. The clicker is the marker. It's faster than saying Good Boy so dogs can know exactly what they are doing right.

My Jax is not a foodie. Her "food" is her frisbee. It's all about the high end treat, regardless of food or a toy.

Let me ask this...clicker training and treating work..they just work...so if that is the fastest, easiest way to get your dog past this problem, why would you be against it just because there are treats involved? You aren't training him to learn a command. Your goal should be to rebuild his confidence and his feeling of safety.
I agree.

In my opinion, prong collar is absolutly not the solution. Think about what your are teaching to your dog with said collar: a) your dog "don't love" or fear other dogs --> b) he reacts bad when he sees one because he is fearful of it ---> c) you use a harmful tool (ok, maybe it doesn't hurt the dog so much, but for sure, it is really unpleasant and do not help the dog to love other dogs at all) to tell your dog that each time he is fearful, he will get corrected......in my opinion, it doesn't make ANY sense.

Also, you have to be careful with treats: you need to reward at the perfect time or you will only be encouraging the bad behavior. But, I will still choose to clicker/treats way to rehab a dog.

Phenix had the exact same problem. We tried the prong collar = it didn't work at all, it was worst. We tried the Cesar's method......Gosh.....we started having serious issues. What start with dog agression became human agression.

Out of ideas, we then put our trust into a young educator using the clicker method. After only one hour, we could see the difference. Phenix started to be more relax and selfconfident.

We were patient with him and take our time to made each experience with a new dog more funny than the first one.

The Result??? Phenix now met other dogs and play with them. He follows agility class with a bunch of other excited dogs and he is one of the most well behave dog there.

Seriously, you need to think, read, and learn on different methods before you use one.
 

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I sometimes have problems juggling the clicker, treats and dog too. :) I use the clicker to teach a new behavior and then wean the treats away. Mostly what you'll see in the video is the steps to train something. Once they start repeating the behavior then you start weaning the treats.

But in your case, you aren't teaching a trick. You are marking a behavior to help him build confidence so I would treat like crazy when he is not reacting while marking with Yes! Yes! Yes!. Look at the site for the seminar. Jamie said that method from that trainer has worked for her. I think there is a book that she wrote as well.
 

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Jax, thanks for your posts. I have never seen a clip of dog who has been successfully clicker trained and has been weaned off of food and the trainer is only using the clicker. Is that because once they have mastered the desired behavior, the clicker is no longer used?
I hope you haven't seen that, because it would show that the person had a complete misunderstanding of clicker training!

The clicker always means a reward is coming, but obviously you don't need to mark and reward your dog for every single little thing he does for the rest of his life - it's a method of teaching, nothing more, so you're correct - the clicker and treats would be phased out at the same time, once the behavior is learned and generalized. If you mark but do not reward then your marker doesn't mean anything anymore. Keep in mind that the reward does not always need to be food, it can also be a toy or a real life reward such as access to something your dog values.

And just because one behavior no longer needs to be marked and rewarded every time your dog does it (you may still be reinforcing on a random or variable schedule for awhile which will make the behavior stronger, and you can and should pair that with praise), but if you're upping the criteria, such as increasing distance, duration or distraction you may need to also up the rate of reinforcement for a period of time. Sitting at home in your kitchen is not the same as sitting at the vet's office or at the park or in a training class because there's so much more going on.

The same goes for any new behaviors that you're teaching. Your dog may have a 100% reliable sit command long before he's got a perfect heel, so a simple "good dog" is fine for the sit while you would still be marking and rewarding frequently for correct heel position.
 

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Let me ask this...clicker training and treating work..they just work...so if that is the fastest, easiest way to get your dog past this problem, why would you be against it just because there are treats involved? You aren't training him to learn a command. Your goal should be to rebuild his confidence and his feeling of safety.
:thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks Trish, and all who've responded. I definitely see the logic in this statement
to tell your dog that each time he is fearful, he will get corrected......in my opinion, it doesn't make ANY sense
So, I am keeping an open mind about clicker training. I am going to have to try it solo, though, as a trainer is not in the budget with my husband out of work.
 

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Buy the books then. I think you'll get a better insight into what he is thinking and how the way you react helps or hinders him.

Where do you live?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Cassidy's mom, thanks for your post and for answering the question about clickers w/no food. I understand it now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I live in Columbia, Maryland.
 

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Great!!! hope it help you. Feel free to ask any question, send PM if you want. I'm sure eveything will get fine with your dog, be patient ;)
 

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A question about clicker training. I guess my bias is based on the necessity of food involvement. Food treats are certainly effective short term, but in all the videos I've seen, the clicker is always used with food. I though the whole purpose was to get to the point where food was not required, only the clicker. If that ISN'T the goal, then I'm not on board. Could someone share a clicker video where no food is involved?
The reason most of the clicker videos use food, is the clicker is always paired with a reward, and a reward is used in the training phase. The reward does not have to be food, but food is generally the easiest to use. Toys, 'life' rewards (look up Premack for this), and anything else the dog likes can be used. However the clicker is not used without a reward.
A clicker video without a reward wouldn't be a clicker video, because it wouldn't be using the clicker anymore, and it wouldn't be a training video, because the clicker and reward are faded when the dog learns the command so it would just be a video showing a dog responding to commands.
So the answer is yes, the clicker and food are faded. Once the dog has learned what you want, they no longer need to be rewarded every time.
I'd highly recommend getting a trainer to teach you how to properly use the clicker, or if you can't do that I'd get several books and read as much online as possible. One book I'd recommend is Clicking With Your Dog by Peggy Tillman.

I would personally NOT recommend using a prong with a reactive dog, unless you are under the guidance of a trainer or behaviorist. Correction collars can often make reactivity worse. This happened with Bianca. Although the prong collar somewhat suppressed her reaction to other dogs short-term, it also made her associate the other dogs with the correction and her reactivity escalated.
 
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