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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have researched leash reactivity quite a bit, but it's hard to tell how to handle it. I see so many people insisting that their way is better and that anyone else's is a waste of time.

My GSD has fear based leash reactivity. He is very obedient but as soon as he sees another dog, it's gone, even from quite a distance. I have seen many posts in which people say they have "made progress," but I'm curious if anyone has had permanent success and what methods you used.

My gut instinct tells me that if he could find about dogs to practice with that he would be better but no one is willing to do this because of course he looks very scary and like he actually might bite. I doubt he would, but of course people would say that's my opinion and not worth risking.

I'm tired of being afraid. I try to take takes in places without dogs but I still somehow always manage to find other dogs. Of course with a GSD he needs lots of exercise so I can only keep him at home or restrained so much or he gets a little crazy.

Anyone advice from someone who has had long term success would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much.
 

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Yeah, I did with my own dog and have with countless others. Keeping your dog totally away from other dogs will only make his reactivity worse!

But, to change it, YOU need to be calm cool and collected first! Any anxiety you feel when another dog is present feeds right down the leash ro your dog!

So yeah, is it possible, yes! Can YOU do it, time will tell!!!

It takes a certain mindset to make that work...do you have it?
 

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I brought my gal-dog to a small class to be taught how to hang around with other dogs calmly. She wasn't there to play, just to be around other dogs while listening to me. It was a good balanced trainer. I told him from the start that I wasn't there to teach my dog sit and stay, etc, but for the exposure. He watched how we worked together and suggested a few small things that made a big difference.
Confidence comes from achievement. The more often you have a calm pass of another dog the more confident you and your pet will be. Start in controlled situations with people who can mentor you and know what to watch for.
That being said, some dogs are very high strung and anxiety may be something to be managed their whole lives.
 

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You need to work on it from a distance, until your dog is solid no use getting closer. Catch your dog loading before it reacts and work on OB and praise success.

My girl starts loading up with a stare, so we have been working on "ignore" means stop staring and pay attention to what we are doing.

Only problem we now have is if the other dog acts calm and then lungs as we pass, this happens so fast I don't have time to catch her before she responds in kind. I never pass another close enough for them to reach each other.

If the other dog is lunging and reactive before we pass heel and ignore work to have Jaz pass without reacting.
 

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car2ner's suggestion is similar to what worked well for my dog who was reactive to people rather than dogs.We took a class. It's a controlled and safe environment so it tends to relieve tension. We spent the first class just watching.It really was a game changer for him.We went on to more classes and obedience competitions.
 

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What has worked for my female rescue is patience, practice, conditioning in baby steps and lots of obedience work. The key is work in baby steps. And don't overlook good obedience. It matters.

My adult son did most of this because I only have one working leg. And he takes her out and about to all her public outings. I have a farm and she was a great farm dog for me and my animals, and cats.

He wanted Heidi to be able to safely socialize with other dogs. Really, he also wanted to socialize with other dog owners when he took her out.

He started by walking on the outside of fenced dog parks. Far enough away that the other dogs could not get to Heidi but she could watch the other dogs playing with each other. After several visits and after her
relaxed state, he took her inside the dog park. She was sociable enough off leash but tended to be a bully,
steal the other dog's ball or toy but basically OK w/ most dogs. She did get put in her place a couple times but that's OK. No harm done. There's so many variations of doggy interactions at the park and she understood none of this but gradually learned what's OK and what's off limits.

He did the same taking her to the dog beaches here. Again she had to learn doggy interactions.
She's not perfect YET. But just this week she's met and played with several nice GSDs. Not all dogs like her because she gives off vibes to them. It's a process. Baby steps. And good obedience.
Do every step gradually and get your dog accustomed to whatever situation you want it to learn to relax in.
GSDs are smart. Just continue to patiently work with your dog and don't give up. It's doable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yeah, I did with my own dog and have with countless others. Keeping your dog totally away from other dogs will only make his reactivity worse!

But, to change it, YOU need to be calm cool and collected first! Any anxiety you feel when another dog is present feeds right down the leash ro your dog!

So yeah, is it possible, yes! Can YOU do it, time will tell!!!

It takes a certain mindset to make that work...do you have it?
This helps, but I guess I feel like I am pretty calm, and then out of the blue a dog will come out from some corner or situation unexpectedly and it's craziness. For me it's almost like a bomb explosion. We're all comfortably walking along, loose leash, moderate pace, I've forgotten that he is reactive, and then suddenly it's chaos before I even know what's going on.

I mean if he's lunging and barking at another dog, should I assume it's too late and I wasn't calm enough? Try again in a better situation or next time?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I brought my gal-dog to a small class to be taught how to hang around with other dogs calmly. She wasn't there to play, just to be around other dogs while listening to me. It was a good balanced trainer. I told him from the start that I wasn't there to teach my dog sit and stay, etc, but for the exposure. He watched how we worked together and suggested a few small things that made a big difference.
Confidence comes from achievement. The more often you have a calm pass of another dog the more confident you and your pet will be. Start in controlled situations with people who can mentor you and know what to watch for.
That being said, some dogs are very high strung and anxiety may be something to be managed their whole lives.
I feel like this would be helpful. I should pursue this more. I think he needs to meet other dogs on a lease in a controlled environment and build the confidence for all of us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
What has worked for my female rescue is patience, practice, conditioning in baby steps and lots of obedience work. The key is work in baby steps. And don't overlook good obedience. It matters.

My adult son did most of this because I only have one working leg. And he takes her out and about to all her public outings. I have a farm and she was a great farm dog for me and my animals, and cats.

He wanted Heidi to be able to safely socialize with other dogs. Really, he also wanted to socialize with other dog owners when he took her out.

He started by walking on the outside of fenced dog parks. Far enough away that the other dogs could not get to Heidi but she could watch the other dogs playing with each other. After several visits and after her
relaxed state, he took her inside the dog park. She was sociable enough off leash but tended to be a bully,
steal the other dog's ball or toy but basically OK w/ most dogs. She did get put in her place a couple times but that's OK. No harm done. There's so many variations of doggy interactions at the park and she understood none of this but gradually learned what's OK and what's off limits.

He did the same taking her to the dog beaches here. Again she had to learn doggy interactions.
She's not perfect YET. But just this week she's met and played with several nice GSDs. Not all dogs like her because she gives off vibes to them. It's a process. Baby steps. And good obedience.
Do every step gradually and get your dog accustomed to whatever situation you want it to learn to relax in.
GSDs are smart. Just continue to patiently work with your dog and don't give up. It's doable.
I've definitely seen how smart they are. He does pick up quickly. How long did it take? Mine has a very strong prey drive, and any small animal or person will get his attention. Although at least with kids he knows it's play time and it's a happy wanting to go towards them.
 

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Excited, aggressive and fear reactive may all present in a similar display but all need to be approached slightly different. Or a lot different.

My dog is fear reactive and we needed to progress at a painfully slow rate. Flooding a fearful dog is likely to have exactly the opposite effect you want. Dogs cannot learn in a fear fueled state and a fearful dog is more likely to get aggressive when pushed.
Waiting until the dog explodes is not the right approach, you need to catch it much earlier. Obedience is a huge part but you need to work on the obedience before you add the stimulus.
My dog has a mind your business command but I need to catch her right when she sees the dog if I want the command to work without a correction or reminder. Once that line is crossed a different approach is needed.
 

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I know that a stare along with some other bod language would cue me into my dog about to react. I taught a look at me command. Whenever he was about to blow up I would give the command to look at me. If he didn’t, I would correct him. If he exploded, I would lift straight up and turn away from the other dog. Then I would give a sit command as I sat him back down.
 

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I mean if he's lunging and barking at another dog, should I assume it's too late and I wasn't calm enough? Try again in a better situation or next time?
Yes, once the dog is losing it, it's too late to get through to them. Strong obedience is key though. Training is all about "what to do" not what not to do! Contrary to popular belief, or at least popular terminology, you don't train a behavior out of them, you train them what you want them to do instead!

Reactivity is a common issue for people and their dogs. It happens a lot! The quickest path to resolve it is (a) remain as calm as you can, (b) train rock solid obedience with distractions present ahead of time, and (c) practice practice practice.

I've said before, I go out of my way to practice next to houses where I know there will be dogs barking at us. At first, just being able to focus on heeling without losing it. Then later being able to sit or down and stay for a short time. Then, to do a more extensive obedience routine, all while being barked at!

Before you jump to criticize me for tormenting people's dogs, I don't focus on a particular house, typically you shouldn't have too much trouble finding several such houses in any neighborhood. So spread the wealth!

Remaining calm is more than just just a state of mind. It's a relaxed posture, it's not tensing up on the leash with your arm position. It's remaining calm even if your dog does lose it! It takes practice!

Anyway, that's my 2 cents...
 

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I've definitely seen how smart they are. He does pick up quickly. How long did it take? Mine has a very strong prey drive, and any small animal or person will get his attention. Although at least with kids he knows it's play time and it's a happy wanting to go towards them.
weeks and weeks of practice. What you want to happen is 1st, have a dog that listens to you and you've practiced teaching impulse control. Do you understand corrections when on leash? A low voice command or a quick jerk on the leash if the dog is misbehaving.
Forget prey drive and think about teaching your dog to control their first reaction. Think, control, behave, listen to you and have some leash manners when out.
Obedience and engagement is important too. For another method, read "Feisty Fido" on Amazon less than 10. bucks.
When your dog is out and on leash- you need to be in control, not the dog. Go back to the beginning and
install some good obedience and manners. The dog must understand you call the shots not him.
Eleminating the behavior of leash reactivity is a process, not a one step process. All aspects of good behavior must come into play here also. Again, obedience, manners, listening to you, engagement.
 

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My GSD has fear based leash reactivity. He is very obedient but as soon as he sees another dog, it's gone, even from quite a distance. I have seen many posts in which people say they have "made progress," but I'm curious if anyone has had permanent success and what methods you used.
If your dog is afraid of other dogs it may not be as simple as "just learning about other dogs". Why do you think he is afraid? What is his background? How long have you had him?
Flooding is a bad idea for fear based behavior. It is a method developed to "bomb proof" horses that got badly misused and then crossed over to dogs where it got even more badly misused. It doesn't work, and it can make things worse. What it teaches your dog is that you don't have his back and he cannot count on you. Obedience is a first step but has to be rock solid away from stimulus before you add stimulus. Then you add the object of the fear at a distance sufficient that your dog is still attentive to you and will take treats or play. If that means ten feet or two blocks that is your start distance. You work on obedience and focus and decrease the distance by an inch or a foot or whatever your dog can take without reacting. Your focus should be on ignore the other dog, not on play with the other dog.
That said, you stated that your dog was fine at a dog park which TBH sort of cancels out the idea that this is a fear issue. If my fearful dog saw another dog while she was loose, she would run. Even on leash I have to watch for her trying to slip her collar. She only tries to fight because she can't run. Typical fearful behavior includes freezing, bolting, sitting, staring, sniffing, crouching or shaking.
We're all comfortably walking along, loose leash, moderate pace, I've forgotten that he is reactive, and then suddenly it's chaos before I even know what's going on.
You can't do this. You can't just forget that he is reactive. There are no short cuts. Reactive behavior takes time and work.
 

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A class can help, but it's such a different setting that you'll likely still have a lot of work to do at a park or somewhere where you can control distance. Stay far enough away that your dog is aware but not overly troubled by another dog's presence.

It really does get better! The thing is, everytime a dog charges up out of nowhere and your dog explodes, that tends to override weeks of successes. So until you can train and play with your dog with other dogs nearby, best to avoid that situation!

Drive the dog somewhere where you have some control of his environment. Again, it's temporary, but important!

I do this in a large park, where I could park on the street and sit on the grass near my car. The hiking path was initially 100+ feet away.

Fair amount of foot traffic and dogs. Slowly we inched to within 8 ft of the path - I think it took at least a couple months. Then further practice on walks in the neighborhood and on that same path passing other dogs.

It just takes time and persistence and patience! I proofed all that with a couple class sessions with my dog, and she took and passed her CGC test shortly thereafter.
 

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I have researched leash reactivity quite a bit, but it's hard to tell how to handle it. I see so many people insisting that their way is better and that anyone else's is a waste of time.

My GSD has fear based leash reactivity. He is very obedient but as soon as he sees another dog, it's gone, even from quite a distance. I have seen many posts in which people say they have "made progress," but I'm curious if anyone has had permanent success and what methods you used.

My gut instinct tells me that if he could find about dogs to practice with that he would be better but no one is willing to do this because of course he looks very scary and like he actually might bite. I doubt he would, but of course people would say that's my opinion and not worth risking.

I'm tired of being afraid. I try to take takes in places without dogs but I still somehow always manage to find other dogs. Of course with a GSD he needs lots of exercise so I can only keep him at home or restrained so much or he gets a little crazy.

Anyone advice from someone who has had long term success would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much.
My suggestion is to find a trainer or training group that can help you expose your dog to stable dogs in a controlled environment. This is typically an easy fix over a few weeks with classes and homework to do. Fearful dogs take comfort in the structure of known commands. You just need someone to help you along the way of teaching the dog and you how to lay the foundation and then react to different situations.
 
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This helps, but I guess I feel like I am pretty calm, and then out of the blue a dog will come out from some corner or situation unexpectedly and it's craziness. For me it's almost like a bomb explosion. We're all comfortably walking along, loose leash, moderate pace, I've forgotten that he is reactive, and then suddenly it's chaos before I even know what's going on.
I mean if he's lunging and barking at another dog, should I assume it's too late and I wasn't calm enough? Try again in a better situation or next time?
When he gets to lunging & barking, it is too late for good behavior. You have to de-escalate with whatever works at that point, & endure the consequences (which hopefully won't amount to more than embarrassment & maybe dirty looks).
I'm another one who had a reactive dog & the most important thing said so far, IMO, is that you do need to deal actively with it - but the good news is, the baby steps you take every day to diminish the behavior will be good for both you & him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I thought I would update this to say that I am moving to Switzerland and started dog training in Switzerland. It's very different. I've not addressed his reactivity yet, but they have a solid path forward, and to be honest I'm not sure I understand the path.

One trick, and for people who have no sense of humor, I'll say up front this is a joke, but you can avoid the embarrassment by telling people your dog is a rescue. You'll be a hero when your dog reacts for taking on such a hard case.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
So 7 months later after my last post, I have made great progress. I did not succeed with the "Swiss" approach that I had discussed. To recap, I had worked with many many trainers, including some you see on YouTube, and failed to solve the reactivity issue after 2.5 years. I was really terrified to even take the dog outside at all for any reason and felt I was kidnapped by my dog.

The good news is that I found a trainer in France who was very successful, In fact he was able to stop the reactivity with in 10 minutes. Brice Thomas if you look him up. I did a board and train with him for 3 weeks. I don't understand French and he doesn't understand English too well. I was unable to complete the training due to travel reasons, but he emphasized that I need to learn to handle the dog to effectively deal with the issue. Nonetheless I reduced the reactivity by about 80%. The dog didn't react at all with him handling him.

Since that time I have find Shield K9 with Haz in Canada who offers essentially the same method. I like that he trains professional dogs, because it means he really knows his stuff and he is not like so many trainers who were good with dogs when they grew up and now think they can be trainers.

Haz has a board and train program as well as an online program. I am currently following the online program and already have had dramatic and excellent results, and am very optimistic about a 100% overcoming of this issue. Haz covers some fundamentals of training that were essential for me to really grasp the how and why. This is essential to my commitment and success.

Anyway, I hope this helps.
 
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