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Lately my four month old girl has been very reactive to other dogs whilst on the leash (barking, raised hair, lunging), and similarly when walking off leash (minus the lunging). However, when she is off leash and meeting new dogs, she is extremely frightened and cries, and hides.
This has been happening since about 3 weeks ago when she got too excited playing with a (friendly) rottweiler and sprained her paw.
I've been taking her to puppy school and their main suggestion is a "chemical collar" that should "calm her down" - but I feel like that's too extreme of an option. My local GSD club suggests just treats or toys to distract but when she "locks on" to the other dog, she doesn't care for treats or toys.

Her behaviour really starting to distress me as 1. I'm frightened she might grow up to be aggressive and 2. scare locals in my neighborhood.

What should I do?
 

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No to the chemical collar. These "trainers" needs to stop using drugs as their first resort.

Can you find a friendly dog to help her learn to play? She's probably genetically fearful if she wasn't able to recover from one incident but finding a dog that will help her thru it would be a start.

As far as the lunging on the leash, tell her no. This is obedience and manners. She simply doesn't get to behave this way. You can tell her to sit and stop moving. You can tell her to leave it and keep moving. But you need to up your obedience training. The leash is creating some barrier frustration and the tension can often make them feel powerful so increases the reaction. Don't let her off leash to stop that. Teach her to leave it and walk on a loose leash. She should NOT be off leash walking while she is doing this.

if she is locking on to another dog then (1) you are to close and over her threshhold and (2) you are not engaging her. Work on your engagement with her so there is value to her putting focus back on you.
 

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What Jax said, and also, do your very best to relax and not tense up...you say you are frightened. This travels right down the leash, and these dogs are very sensitive to their handlers, so whatever you are feeling, she will feel. Get out there and act as if you own the world, when you pass a dog walk confidently with your head up, and if she focuses for one second, firmly say “leave it“ and walk on.
I do agree that this could be genetic. I am noticing huge differences in the way Hans behaved in the way Rolf behaves. Rolf has nerves of steel, Hans, not so much. In my experience, you can manage the nervousness and fear, but you can never eliminate it.
 

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I agree with what has already been said. One minor incident would not create a fearful dog. The dog had to be fearful to start with. Unless your reaction was extreme enough to create a lasting impression, most pups would shrug that off in seconds. If your reactions are a trigger then maybe consider a leash that fastens around your waist and work on your own responses. If it was my dog I would steer clear of strange dogs and work on training.
I worked from a safe place first from our yard, watching the sidewalk from behind a fence, we worked on "look at me". She needed to sit and look only at me while people and dogs walked by. Once she was solid we worked on general obedience as well. So heel and come, while people and dogs walked by. It was really important to lay a foundation of SOLID and unfailing obedience no matter what she could see.
Then I took the fence away. We moved to the front yard, on leash and went through the same exercises. She was still on home turf, still securely leashed. We also spent time sitting on the front steps, leashed, just watching the world go by.
I did find that sitting sometimes made her worse, so we worked on walking past while staying focused on me. Continuous forward movement gives them no chance to lock focus on the object of their fear.
What you need to teach is that anytime she is afraid or unsure she needs to focus on you and nothing else.
 

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Have you tried exposing her to known dogs that will be neutral or gentle with her? Creating many positive experiences at this age can go a long way in reversing bad experiences or heading off dog reactivity.
 

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With a 4 month old puppy I wouldn't try to draw any hard conclusions. Could be genetic, but IMHO people jump on tbat bandwagon much too quickly. For WHATEVER reason your dog is showing fear. The reactivity toward other dogs is a clear sign.

There are some dogs who do experience fear periods, and others who don't. Quite frankly, IME, neither mean anything about the dog's genetics, or how they will be when mature.

It is, though, important always to not overwhelm your puppy. If close proximity to other dogs is an issue, let her see them at a distance for now so she's not overwhelmed. Once she's loading up and reactive, you've already missed the window. Let her dictate what's okay and what isn't. Learning THIS particular dog is YOUR Responsibility! Watch her closely. Dogs are very very obvious with posture and body language. If she's overwhelmed, move away!

To help her get over any feelings of fear or her reactivity, contrary to how it makes you feel when she's doing that, is to expose her to those things more. At a distance she's comfortable with, for sure! But so many times people just isolate the dog because it's embarrassing, and then ask for help after the dog has practiced that behavior for a year or two...please, don't be that person!

Get her out. Let her see things from a comfortable distance. Engage and play with her with distractions around until she's totally over them. A little time now will save you a lifetime of managing her bad behavior later.
 

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No chemical collars. We cannot correct fear. It doesn’t work. If there’s a grizzly bear in your house, you’re afraid. I can use a corrective collar on you to make you go into the house, but you’ll still fear the grizzly bear. You’ll be terrified. And now you won’t trust me too.

Instead, I have to train you that the grizzly bear isn’t a threat. Look at the movies he’s been in. See how funny he is in the bloopers??Look, I can pet him. He takes treats from me. I can take treats from him.

You and I can stand across the room from him and he doesn’t attack. I can put my hand in his mouth. Ah, you say, you’ve shown me how to interpret stimuli that look scary. I trust you. I’ll go in this house ... and others.


We have to train our dogs the same way:

Go here: https://grishastewart.com/bat101/?s2-ssl=yes

If you can locate a BAT certified trainer that’s best. But you can do this on your own, with a friend or better yet, with a positive reinforcement *only* trainer. (Clicker trainers that use punishment — “balanced” trainers” — don’t work). You can find one of those here.

https://karenpryoracademy.com/find-a-trainer/#!directory/map

Please don’t let anyone use corrections on a fearful puppy though. They can ruin your kiddo forever.
 

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For those that don't know....the chemical collars spoken are NOT correction collars. They are hormone collars that calm some dogs with pheromones.
 

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I tried Adaptil with one dog and it didn’t do anything.
It seems to either work for the dog or no. There isn't any in between. It was like magic for the dog I fostered.

I think the key for this puppy is engagement with the owner. Increased obedience with a strong leave it command and possibly finding a safe. Low key adult fof exposure. Chemicals can not replace training and engagement. It shouldn't be the first choice of trainers.
 

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I agree. I used the DAP diffuser on a foster dog and it calmed her down 100%. Then I used the collar on my WL for a vet visit at their request, and it was like tearing up a $20 bill. He got over his vet phobia by spending a lot of time visiting their office.
 

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For those that don't know....the chemical collars spoken are NOT correction collars. They are hormone collars that calm some dogs with pheromones.
How do you know this for certain? Some trainers use citronella collars for reactive barking dogs as a “humane” alternative to traditional corrections like prong or e-collar.

There is nothing in the OP’s post that says they’re talking about DAP or pheromones. The OP indicated she felt the suggestion was extreme. I presume she knows what they were suggesting. “This collar is going to make your dog feel more comfortable in uncertain situations “ isn't something that would make an owner as worried as the OP appears in her first post.

So either the trainer didn’t present it right or maybe it’s not what you think.

A fearful puppy needs counterconditioning and thoughtful +R Operant conditioning training.

DAP rarely solves fear issues on its own.
 

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@4K9Mom

Feel free to argue elsewhere.

The OP stated "main suggestion is a "chemical collar" that should "calm her down""

"calm her down" apparently means something different to you than to me.
 

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I’m not here to argue. And “elsewhere?”

I was at this site before you. Are you an owner?

I gave her specific advice based on years of experience and training. But more than that, the info I provided is based on science.


You’re the one to decided you know how all trainers work and correct the rest of us. There are trainers who believe e-collars are useful for calming reactive dogs. The dogs shuts down and appears calm, so yes, that’s a thing.

I stand by my response.
 

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I’m not here to argue. And “elsewhere?”

I was at this site before you. Are you an owner?

I gave her specific advice based on years of experience and training. But more than that, the info I provided is based on science.


You’re the one to decided you know how all trainers work and correct the rest of us. There are trainers who believe e-collars are useful for calming reactive dogs. The dogs shuts down and appears calm, so yes, that’s a thing.

I stand by my response.
Again, I am not going to argue with you so you can do that elsewhere, especially if you want to just be flat out nasty. I don't even recall ever speaking to you before. I didn't realize only your responses held value based on your seniority of the board. Thank you for putting me in my place. Have a good day, Guvnor.
 

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Gonna jump right back in here. I have a dog that was so fearful as a puppy that she would literally freeze. Eyes squeezed shut, shaking, moaning and drooling. Had to carry her from a few situations.
The problem with positive reinforcement is that it can make fearful behavior worse. You are giving the dog a reason to believe that it's behavior should happen. Leaving a dog in a fearful state while you reward it is both harmful and cruel. Further to that a good many dogs get MORE anxious trying to figure out what the heck it is you want them to do, when a quick check and a take charge attitude would have been much more comforting.
I have a friend who has been around since Punk was a pup. She is a trainer, positive only. She and her most excellent beagle were steady companions for Shadow. We had a lengthy discussion about my use of a prong on this girl. She agreed and further agreed that much time was wasted and damage done to my dog while I listened to the "she's scared! Comfort her!" mentality.
In all things we need balance. I taught Shadow a preferred behavior, look at me, put a command in place that would head off issues, leave it, learned to respect her need for space and walked on. I also taught her a "touch" behavior that puts her nose to my palm. It is a "Mom I'm nervous" cue for me and a comfort thing for her.
I have pretty solid experience with fearful dogs, I've had a bunch, and it seems that they are the dogs more then any other that need clear rules and consistent routine. I'm all for shaping behaviors and luring commands but there are times when a quick correction is kinder and gets the dog unwound faster. Since they cannot learn scared it is inhumane to leave them in that state.
Remember that dogs have a right to know that their actions have consequences.
 

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I agree that fearful dogs need routine and structure. As for reinforcing fear, you might find this interesting:

https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/you-cant-reinforce-fear-dogs-and-thunderstorms
Thank you so much for the article. I hope you did not think it would change what experience has taught me. Pure positive training doesn't work, making a bigger thing out of a big thing teaches your dog that it is in fact an issue. Same as horses, cows, goats, squirrels, badgers, foxes and cats. Making a statement about it being used as an aversive is stupid and redundant. In order to use fear as an aversive we need to feed it. WE reinforce that it is in fact an issue, because otherwise it stops working. Scarecrows are a perfect example.
Why is it that when someone writes a book we all assume they are experts?
If Shadow was frightened by thunder and ran to me I would get up and take her outside in the thunder to play Frisbee and have some cheese. She is afraid of other dogs, so we keep walking and once safely past she gets a treat.
 

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Why is it that when someone writes a book we all assume they are experts?
.
McConnell holds a PhD in zoology, is a professor in zoology, regularly presents professional train-the trainer conferences where she trains other dog trainers (which are done of the most useful training sessions I’ve ever attended), and has written numerous books and training DVDs on everything from puppy behavior to aggression, often collaborating with other scientists that hold dog training certifications.

Research is based on data, not just anecdote. I prefer to train my dogs based on science.

Anyhow, I offered the OP my suggestions. She’s free to PM me. I’m always available to anyone who wants to discuss positive reinforcement training.


I’m out.
 

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The OP probably ran for the hills. But I'll summarize the thoughts on this thread that most people seem to be in agreement with.

1. Engage her. Play games designed to bring her attention back to you. You can't train a dog that isn't looking at you. Teaching her to engage with you will help take her focus off other dogs because you are more interesting and there is value to engaging with you.
2. Train your dog. She's only 4 months old. She needs to know commands like Leave It and Sit. It's infinitely unfair to correct a 4 mth old puppy that doesn't understand what you are asking of her so really work on your obedience, especially the commands that will give you control over her reacting in the future.
3. Insecure dogs respond to structure. Their world needs to be very black and white.
4. work on behavior modification. Work her from a distance around dogs. If she's locked on the dog and reacting, then you are to close. Increase the distance and start over. Personally, I like LAT (look at that) exercises.
5. Try to find a safe, low key, dog for her to be around. One that doesn't react to puppies losing their mind. Dogs learn from each other and dogs can gain confidence from each other.
 
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