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I have a serious problem with how aggressive my girl Vixen is against other dogs during walks, as well as any other time she is in proximity of other dogs (when they walk by our patio, etc).

When I first got her 6 months ago, I rescued her from the pound and for the first week we had her she was perfectly fine walking around our neighborhood around other dogs, the only problem she had was that she pulled a lot. After that first week... the problem appeared and got worse and worse. Anytime she even saw another dog she would start to whine and then bark uncontrollably until I pulled her away. She could not even walk on the same sidewalk as another dog. She also does the same thing with squirrels. We have no other animals in my house. She is good with meeting new people, she just needs to be introduced gently and given time to sniff and watch. Sometimes if a new person in the house makes a quick movement she will begin to bark- but she has NEVER lunged or made an aggressive movement towards even new people in the house.

I didn`t know and am still somewhat unsure what her barking means. She is now a year and a half old and she still has this problem- of course I have been taking some measures:

- I know the areas in the neighborhood where there are loud-barking dogs in yards that scare her and trigger her so I avoid those.
- When I see another dog in the distance coming on the same sidewalk, I cross the street to the other sidewalk or somehow get around so she doesn`t have to be near the other dogs.
- She used to pull an insane amount so she now has a pronged training collar and although she still has some pulling tendencies I have been trying to walk train her for very long and she`s not great at it yet but I can tell you she is so so much better than the first months we had her.
- She is in a training class right now and she sits with me on a leash near the other owners and their dogs (on leashes) but we are slightly aside as the trainer is aware of her aggression- she is not allowed to meet and greet the other dogs but unless they bark at her first or stare at her and make her uncomfortable, she does not bark or pull at the other dogs

After all this (and still being in that training class currently) she is somewhat better...
When we walk in our neighborhood, she only becomes aggressive if...
1. We are surprised by another dog. By this I mean if we turn a corner or it comes out somewhere nearby. This is because I don`t have enough time to divert her and prevent her from becoming aggressive- it is ALSO because she is an incredibly anxious dog. The trainer has told me that he does not feel she is a "mean" dog and that she is not innately hateful of other dogs but that rather she has a lot of anxiety and it causes her to be terrified of other dogs. It may have been caused by a previous bad experience with dogs before I rescued her.
2. She also becomes aggressive if other dogs bark at her. She absolutely hates being barked and and immediately becomes aggressive and lunges if she is barked at. However, if the dog is in a yard and barks... unless she can see the dog (under the fence, etc) then she is usually ok. But if she can even see just it`s nose under the fence, she goes nuts and freaks out.

I must also mention she is not great with meeting other dogs at all. That is because she freaks out before they can even get close to her. The only dog she is friends with so far is my co-workers Australian Shepherd whom she runs around with and playfully wrestles with in m co-worker`s backyard. I recently introduced her to my best friend`s goldendoodle by walking them together in a park. They seemed to be good together and drank from the same doggie water fountain together. This is how I know she is not an innately mean dog.. in the right moments... she gets along fine with another dog... those moments are just rare.

I could really use any advice anyone has. Unfortunately I don`t have the money for expensive training (although I am saving) so all I can afford right now is the Beginner Training at Petsmart that she is in. I am considering a (citronella?) spray I saw at Petsmart that the trainer suggested could be useful for barking and aggression on walks.
The idea of that spray brings me to my final worry- sometimes people in my neighborhood do not keep their dogs on a leash. Most of the time I walk far enough around that my dog does not become interested or does not become aggressive. However there are sometimes situations that even when I walk across the street of a leash-less dog.... that other dog decides to approach Vixen. She is terrified of this and instantly becomes aggressive. This happened to me an hour ago when some folks had two young boxers playing off leash in their alley and one (the younger) saw Vixen and ran across the street even as its owners yelled over and over for it not to. Vixen became intensely aggressive and all I could do was try to pull her away with all my strength (she is incredibly strong and was pulling towards the boxer) as I yelled at the other dog "no" to try and keep it from approaching my girl any closer. Luckily the other dog did not come any closer than 3-4 feet and I managed to get out of there but when I did I was terrified and almost in tears. I know my girl is not a mean dog... I just want to help her manage her anxiety and not becomes so aggressive because of her fear of other dogs that has an unknown cause.

Any help and advice would be appreciated... thank you all so much.
 

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Please don't use the spray. She will associate it with other dogs increasing her fear/aggression towards them. You don't want to lose that growl and bark, indicators she is way over threshold.

Look into LAT and BAT. Woolf is DA, we began with LAT, didn't see a lot of change, then moved to BAT, now depending on the situation, we use a mix of the 2. In hindsight, I can see where he did benefit from LAT which may be the reason BAT moved along as it did.

With both of these techniques, you want to work under her threshold. You will have to watch close for her first signals, may be tightening around her eyes, firmly closed mouth or the more obvious ears alert and head up. Have the absolute best treats to use during this training.

Especially while you are learning her signals, work with a friend that has a calm dog. Both of you have your phones handy as you will probably be a distance apart and still need to communicate.

For the surprise dogs, obedience and getting her focus on you will get you out of the situation. It will be hard, but you must remain calm. Your emotions do affect your dog. You act and/or feel scared or worried, your dog will react to it. For the off-leash dog, I don't have a problem using pepper spray to keep it back.

As soon as you are able, training, possibly even private classes would benefit you greatly. It will help you become more confident in handling your dog. You will get eyes on your dog for specific training.

Keep in mind, your dog may not ever like other dogs. With training she can learn to ignore them.
 

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Don't use the citronella spray on her, but feel free to use it on off-leash dogs.

When you encounter another dog on a walk, do you end up pulling tightly on the prong collar trying to get away? That could be making things worse. If you can use a head halter instead it might help her calm down. But use whatever tool makes both of you feel the most secure.

There are a couple of useful cues you can teach in low distraction environments (like the living room) and gradually apply them to your walks. You should have a cue for a u-turn (I use "let's go home") and it can also be helpful to teach your dog to sit automatically when you stop walking. This way, you can beat a hasty retreat and then reward her for sitting nicely. "Watch me" and "leave it" are also good to practice. You want to practice these cues with tiny distractions first and gradually work your way up to something big like a barking dog.

I use a special treat for when we see other dogs on our walks- she never gets hot dogs unless there are other dogs around. As soon as she sees the other dog, I say "gypsy, watch!" And so long as she keeps making eye contact with me I feed her hotdog bits. In the beginning, she was too excited to follow commands, so I would just put the hotdog in her mouth and not say anything. Slowly she is getting the idea that other dogs = hotdog time and not freak out time.

Www.functionalrewards.com has some really helpful articles and videos.

I am going through something similar with my rescue right now- I understand how confusing and scary it can be. Once you find an exercise that works well with her, stick to it and remember it is *good* to stay inside your comfort zone in this case. Don't feel bad if you have to take things really slowly and go back a few steps. There will be good days and bad days. Lots of supportive people on this board are going through the same thing.


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About the citronella spray/pepper spray (is that normal pepper spray?)- Yes, I meant to use it towards the other dog, not Vixen. I would use it in a situation when another leashless dog just won`t stop approaching her and is getting too close... like with the boxer. Another time a chihuahua was on its yard and sprinted at us from very far away- I practically had to pick Vixen up by her front half and pull her away as much as I could until the owner slowly took their time getting to us to take her dog away. I`m just afraid that if a dog continually approaches her when she is that scared and "over threshold" as you mentioned that she might hurt both herself and that dog.

I`ve been hearing a lot about BAT- and one thing that worries me is that it talks about clicker-training, but is that necessary? I`ve never clicker-trained Vixen and got her when she was 1 year old.

Are head halters just as secure? I`ve never used one or even seen someone walking their dog with one. She is definitely a strong puller, and I hate correcting her with the pronged collar- and to make it worse, a lot of the time she pulls even through the corrections, she`s very strong and I know it`s the right size and placement because I`ve had a trainer adjust it and honestly it works the best how it is right now. Unfortunately the best still means pulling quite a bit.

Would you suggest switching to a head halter? Or any other suggestions for training that has worked particularly well with you to keep your dog from pulling on walks?

I like the idea of a treat for whenever she sees dogs on our walk... in fact.. hot dog is a great idea! I think I might try this. She is at the point right now (on a normal walk when no leashless dogs sprint up to her) that if she sees a dog across the street or even 20 or so feet away on the sidewalk, that she definitely looks at them with a fixed eye.. but we can usually get around withOUT any whines or barks from her. She generally only barks and starts lunging if the other dogs start barking at her (especially if it`s a dog her size or bigger).

I think I will introduce the treats when she sees any kind of dog because I know she is looking at it and aware of it`s presence.

Thank you both so much for the advice!
 

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About the citronella spray/pepper spray (is that normal pepper spray?)- Yes, I meant to use it towards the other dog, not Vixen. I would use it in a situation when another leashless dog just won`t stop approaching her and is getting too close... like with the boxer. Another time a chihuahua was on its yard and sprinted at us from very far away- I practically had to pick Vixen up by her front half and pull her away as much as I could until the owner slowly took their time getting to us to take her dog away. I`m just afraid that if a dog continually approaches her when she is that scared and "over threshold" as you mentioned that she might hurt both herself and that dog.

I`ve been hearing a lot about BAT- and one thing that worries me is that it talks about clicker-training, but is that necessary? I`ve never clicker-trained Vixen and got her when she was 1 year old.

I haven't done clicker training with Woolf, instead my marker was 'yes'. I've watched others using clicker training, and it is a quicker marker, my coordination just never caught up :eek:. The main thing to remember with BAT, is that you are relaxed, loose leash and staying under threshold.

Are head halters just as secure? I`ve never used one or even seen someone walking their dog with one. She is definitely a strong puller, and I hate correcting her with the pronged collar- and to make it worse, a lot of the time she pulls even through the corrections, she`s very strong and I know it`s the right size and placement because I`ve had a trainer adjust it and honestly it works the best how it is right now. Unfortunately the best still means pulling quite a bit.

Would you suggest switching to a head halter? Or any other suggestions for training that has worked particularly well with you to keep your dog from pulling on walks?

Some have good success with Halties, I'm not a fan of them. Woolf managed to break the halter when I tried it. I moved to the Canny Collar which stood up to the tests of Woolf. At the time he had such a small threshold and was a bucking maniac with forward aggression I was still concerned about neck injuries, so changed to prong with a martingale as a back up collar. The Canny is different then the halti, instead of pulling the dogs head sideways, the head is pulled in a downward motion

I like the idea of a treat for whenever she sees dogs on our walk... in fact.. hot dog is a great idea! I think I might try this. She is at the point right now (on a normal walk when no leashless dogs sprint up to her) that if she sees a dog across the street or even 20 or so feet away on the sidewalk, that she definitely looks at them with a fixed eye (you want to catch her before she gives the 'eye').. but we can usually get around withOUT any whines or barks from her. She generally only barks and starts lunging if the other dogs start barking at her (especially if it`s a dog her size or bigger).

I think I will introduce the treats when she sees any kind of dog because I know she is looking at it and aware of it`s presence.

Thank you both so much for the advice!
Be careful of the timing of your treat. IN LAT, treat with no reaction and her focus is on you. To begin with you may have to call her name, get her to look at you then treat. You want her to develop the habit of looking to you first when she sees a dog. If there is a reaction, move back a few feet and try again. In BAT, your marker is given, then when you are back at your starting point, treat. If there is a reaction, give her a couple of minutes to settle, then try again - have your stop/turn point at a further distance from the other dog.
 

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If my dog starts pulling, I take that as being over threshold and we turn and walk the other way. I do use a prong on her because it lets me control her in an emergency, and she will think twice about lunging. Some dogs don't do well with head collars, others do. If the prong collar is the tool that works the best for you, it's fine to use, but you just have to make sure she doesn't start to associate the pain from the collar with the approach of other dogs.

We are currently working on keeping a loose leash and a nice heel through this method: http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/leash-walking/

Yes, it is really difficult to follow through but it does work! Especially if you can find a quiet place outside with no distractions, or walk her very early in the morning, you can teach her not to pull. But you have to teach the loose leash walking first and get it solid before you can expect her to do it around other dogs. She probably can't learn new skills very well with other dogs around. Eventually you can practice with a dog behind a fence that she can see at a distance, then a little closer, and so forth.


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Ok- I see Twyla, I`m beginning to understand BAT better now. So when we near another dog at a good distance and she is aware of it (but not fixated on it) and she either gives me her attention or looks away from that dog, I give the marker and we move away from the dog as a reward- then I can give her a treat as well.
Also about the collar.. I think I want to stay on the pronged collar in case she does ever lunge it`s the best way to control her (well, control her as much as possible)- but I definitely will be working more on getting her to not pull at all while we walk so I don`t regularly have to even correct her.
Thank you so much for the advice!

Kaimeju, thanks for that link! Unfortunately Vixen still pulls a lot not just because she is over threshold (although when she is she definitely pulls noticeably harder). Yeah I agree that is one of the hardest parts is first teaching her to walk with a loose leash- I`ve been trying for months (although I admit the first few I wasn`t very well educated, never had a dog at all before). How to get a dog that is anxious walking around other dogs to even focus on walking with a loose leash? You`re right, I try to walk during times when I know not as many people with dogs are out (surprisingly enough early morning is actually a busy time here) and I take a route I know has less dogs in yards, etc.
 

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Some links for obedience training:

Dog training explained - YouTube

Training Positive | Dog Training Explained

For working on her walking; on the weekends find an empty office park, during the week a church campus, even a cemetery. 2 bonuses to this - first she and you will be able to relax and just enjoy the walk - much smaller chance of running into dogs - second - she will be able to learn since she won't be on alert for dogs.

Also, you can work on her walking in the backyard as well. Walk in squares, switch up to circles, then to wavy lines. No tugs to get her with you, she has to keep her eye on you to keep up. If on the longer walks she pulls, fall into the same routine of changing directions. She stays with you - praise, praise. What I've done with Woolf is train him to walk to the left and slightly behind, makes it easier to block him if needed.
 
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