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I own a German Shepherd mix. He’s smaller about 48 lbs and 14 months old. We adopted him when he was about 8 months old. He has always been leash reactive toward dogs. He plays nicely off leash and goes to doggy daycare, however when he’s on a leash and sees a dog he turns into Cujo. We started training with him when we first got him with a trainer that uses prong collars and so we trained him with that. The next step was ecollar and that freaked me out, so I went to a positive trainer instead. For the past 4 months I’ve worked on desensitization with him and even went through a reactive dog class with him. He’s no better and may actually be a little worse at this point. I just want to cry because I’ve spent so much time and money on him. We’re out and about every weekend as a family, so if I can’t work him through this I’m not sure what we’re going to do. I don’t want him to spend all weekend stuck in a crate. I’d much rather bring him to my kids games with us.
 

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So you used compulsion methods that often will ramp a dog up. If I"m going to use a correction collar for reactivity, it's a nylon slip collar and I"m going to lift them off their feet to take their air away for a split second. You need a balance of positive engagement and training mixed with telling him No. All positive rarely works with reactive dogs for the every day person. All positive takes a very long time and people want results quick.

First you need to train a behavior that is counter-intuitive to reaction. I used LAT with my dog along with a good Sit. With the help of a balanced trainer, I used an e-collar.
She made wonderful strides until I left her with a friend and she was attacked by my friends dog. But you ONLY do it with a good trainer. You have to try to catch the dog prior to the reaction. Once they react, they can't think and you are in a conflict with them that can really only be solved by removing them from the situation.

Where do you live? Someone here may be able to direct you to a balanced trainer to help you.
 

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Thank you for your response! I’m honestly just a panicked mess and don’t know where to turn. I live in Georgia in Northern Atlanta. The e-collar just scares me to death, because I keep reading how messed up my dog is going to be if I use it. He’s such a good dog other than this, I’d hate to make him aggressive.
 

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If you use it incorrectly, it can be a hot mess. IMO, you don't have a dog aggressive dog. You have a leash reactive dog and he needs to learn how to behave on the leash. If you continue with harsh corrections and no behavior modifications then you could have a DA dog. And that does truly suck.

First, I would work on engagement. Play games with him. Play with him while you walk. You want him looking to you for play, not at other dogs and getting frustrated. Plus you tense up when other dogs approach and they feel that in the line. That tension and pulling you do tells them there is something wrong.

Second, teach him Leave It. Leave It means just that. Start with food on the floor, he never gets the food and is only rewarded from your hand. That will transfer over to every other thing including other dogs. You see a dog, he looks, you say leave it and move on. That's your end goal in this game.

Third, never EVER let him zero in on and focus on another dog. Do what you have to do to break the focus and bring his attention back to you. He gets rewarded for looking away from the dog back to you. YOU are the game. He should be more interested in you than the dogs around him.

My dogs get a correction for being a jerk. And I only use a nylon choke for this. But they also quickly get rewarded for the correct behavior. It's a balancing act of No, you can NOT do this and Yes! You did right!! I teach a behavior that counters the reaction. They can't Sit and react.

I really feel this is one of those behaviors that you will really benefit from having a good one on one trainer. Timing for any corrections and rewards is really critical. It needs to be 98% positive behavior modifications with 2% meaningful corrections.

When you are looking for a trainer, I would be asking questions looking for these answers.

Hopefully someone can point you to a trainer in your area.
 

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If he gets along well with other dogs, find a dog at the doggy day care that he gets along with, have them in an enclosed area and put him on the leash. Have someone bring the dog he gets along with into the area on leash and before your dog has a chance to react, drop the leash. If he does well like you say, he should immediately run to the other dog and play. If you don't time it right and he reacts first and then you release him, you will be teaching him that reacting on leash is rewarded by letting him run to play. If it goes well, repeat it a few times and then next time, move toward picking up the leash while they are playing and instantly dropping it before your dog has a chance to be reactive. Then, gradually increase the time and distance while your dog is on leash. If at anytime your dog shows reactivity before you have time to drop the leash, immediately take him away and put him up for the day.
 

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I too like to use slip lead for reactivity, not the prong. If it's really bad, or the dog is massive, I do use e-collar, but at the "Act of God" level, and then the timing must be correct, the dog must understand the e-collar and concept of correction, and you need to know what you are doing. At that level, it should take very few corrections to give the dog an understanding, at which point you can go into counter conditioning and other concepts without the insane reactivity to deal with. A good trainer can help you with this without ruining the dog. But you really need to find a good one.
 

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I don't consider myself an expert with the e-collar by any means, but I prefer to use it at lower stim levels where the dog learns to turn off the stim by displaying the correct behavior. This requires the dog to offer different behaviors and figure things out which he can't do when extreme stim is used. I'm not saying you can't get results with high stim levels, but it generally creates unwanted baggage or a new problem.
I can only speculate based on Heather's initial posts, but her descriptions sounds very much like a dog that is very reactive when there is a fence between him and another dog and if you were to open the gate and eliminate the barrier, the reactivity would stop. But she has to really know her dog well and practice with dogs she knows won't react toward her dog if he comes charging toward them and with dogs her dog already knows and gets along with well. I would use a long line so that when the line is dropped, if something does erupt, she can still regain control of the line and the other handler should keep his dog on a leash.
 

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Oh, I'm not saying to simply strap on the collar and blast the dog- teach the dog how the collar works, mark the unwanted behavior, and make sure to get the timing right. All that is going to important if you use the e-collar on higher levels.

But sometimes it's necessary, if it's a practiced behavior or one the dog finds highly rewarding.

Once you get rid of that over-the-top reaction, then you can get into lower level work (if desired) and training alternate commands, and habituation, etc. But that's going to be hard if the dog is super amped.
 

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Thank you everyone! Yes, Ace is ok once he gets up to the dogs...he’s just frustrated by the leash. I just know this because he goes to doggy daycare regularly and never has a problem there. He also slipped out of his leash and ran up to a dog only to play bow. Beforehand though he looked like he might kill the dog. He’s just very frustrated by barriers I believe. This is all new to me really. I have a trainer coming tomorrow, so hopefully he’ll be able to shed some light on the situation. I can’t thank everyone enough for responding. I’m seriously going out of my mind with this dog...grrrr!
 

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Wishing you the best of luck!! I've had to deal with this and got so much conflicting advice from various trainers I hired.

Distract and lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
Don't lead the dog away, it'll only think something is wrong it should react to. Put it in a solid sit!
Don't put it in a sit, it's like sitting a kettle on the stove, it'll just blow!
Distract with treats!
Don't distract with treats, you'll inadvertently reward the behavior. Just lead it away when it's lunging.
Don't drag it away, that pulling motion is how we create drive! Put it in a ______! {sit, down, heel}.
Just use a bark limiting e-collar so the dog self corrects!
Stim, uh uh, big no no you can ruin your dog that way. Just use a slip chain and give a correction!
Slip chain, are you nuts! Don't you love your dog's trachea? Use a prong.
Prong? Are you trying to stimulate the dog more? A dominant dog collar is the way to go. Lift it off it's feet briefly.
No no no no. Don't use a dominant dog collar. You just need good obedience. Put it in a sit. Unless it's a full moon then just lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
 

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Wishing you the best of luck!! I've had to deal with this and got so much conflicting advice from various trainers I hired.

Distract and lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
Don't lead the dog away, it'll only think something is wrong it should react to. Put it in a solid sit!
Don't put it in a sit, it's like sitting a kettle on the stove, it'll just blow!
Distract with treats!
Don't distract with treats, you'll inadvertently reward the behavior. Just lead it away when it's lunging.
Don't drag it away, that pulling motion is how we create drive! Put it in a ______! {sit, down, heel}.
Just use a bark limiting e-collar so the dog self corrects!
Stim, uh uh, big no no you can ruin your dog that way. Just use a slip chain and give a correction!
Slip chain, are you nuts! Don't you love your dog's trachea? Use a prong.
Prong? Are you trying to stimulate the dog more? A dominant dog collar is the way to go. Lift it off it's feet briefly.
No no no no. Don't use a dominant dog collar. You just need good obedience. Put it in a sit. Unless it's a full moon then just lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
LOL! Well done!

I think this beautifully illustrates the point that there's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. The trouble is that when a particular trainer (pro or amateur) has had success with one of these methods, then it often seems that that's all they focus on and tend to dismiss any other options as "wrong". Any of these methods might work for the right dog and handler under the right conditions. At the same time, none of these methods are going to offer instant fixes or quick changes. It all takes a great deal of patience and strong consistency.

These thoughts are coming from someone with limited experience, but a great deal of time spent on the outside looking in, watching and learning and thinking. Find someone who's advice you trust and that makes sense to you...then practice it...stick with it....and be ready to make tiny, tiny incremental steps, especially in the beginning. Keep at it, stay consistent, stay confident!....you and the dog can figure it out!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wishing you the best of luck!! I've had to deal with this and got so much conflicting advice from various trainers I hired.

Distract and lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
Don't lead the dog away, it'll only think something is wrong it should react to. Put it in a solid sit!
Don't put it in a sit, it's like sitting a kettle on the stove, it'll just blow!
Distract with treats!
Don't distract with treats, you'll inadvertently reward the behavior. Just lead it away when it's lunging.
Don't drag it away, that pulling motion is how we create drive! Put it in a ______! {sit, down, heel}.
Just use a bark limiting e-collar so the dog self corrects!
Stim, uh uh, big no no you can ruin your dog that way. Just use a slip chain and give a correction!
Slip chain, are you nuts! Don't you love your dog's trachea? Use a prong.
Prong? Are you trying to stimulate the dog more? A dominant dog collar is the way to go. Lift it off it's feet briefly.
No no no no. Don't use a dominant dog collar. You just need good obedience. Put it in a sit. Unless it's a full moon then just lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
Yes!!! I’m seriously losing my mind and have gotten so I’m terrified to do anything. I have been trying to desensitize for the past few months, but that’s super hard without having full control of the environment. I even took him to a reactive dog class, but he ended up being the only reactive dog, with us hiding behind the bushes while all the other dogs pranced in a circle. I just want to be able to walk my dog, because without his walks he goes crazy indoors bored to death, even if I try to get his energy out in other ways like tug...ugh!!!!
 

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Wishing you the best of luck!! I've had to deal with this and got so much conflicting advice from various trainers I hired.

Distract and lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
Don't lead the dog away, it'll only think something is wrong it should react to. Put it in a solid sit!
Don't put it in a sit, it's like sitting a kettle on the stove, it'll just blow!
Distract with treats!
Don't distract with treats, you'll inadvertently reward the behavior. Just lead it away when it's lunging.
Don't drag it away, that pulling motion is how we create drive! Put it in a ______! {sit, down, heel}.
Just use a bark limiting e-collar so the dog self corrects!
Stim, uh uh, big no no you can ruin your dog that way. Just use a slip chain and give a correction!
Slip chain, are you nuts! Don't you love your dog's trachea? Use a prong.
Prong? Are you trying to stimulate the dog more? A dominant dog collar is the way to go. Lift it off it's feet briefly.
No no no no. Don't use a dominant dog collar. You just need good obedience. Put it in a sit. Unless it's a full moon then just lead the dog away before it gets amped up!
Did you ever figure it out?
 

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Did you ever figure it out?

Nope! My guy was attacked by a black Lab at age three and after that was fear reactive when on leash. In the end, we just avoided other dogs, which wasn't too hard where I lived. We had a happy other-dog-free life. My current dog has shown some reactivity since she was a puppy, so we'll see what works for her. No avoiding daily dog interactions where I currently live.
 

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It sounds like you are misreading your dog and the problem has more to do with your reaction to your dog's behavior. If you dog is frustrated because he is so eager to go and play with other dogs, he is not showing aggression and you should be happy that he is social with other dogs. If this is the case, I wouldn't call it reactivity because that infers insecurity and fear. Just train your dog to sit or down before you release the dog to run and play with another dog and then gradually increase the length of the sit or down. You will be more successful if you do a lot of sits and downs with a food reward while your dog is just with you so he really learns the commands well. Another dog is going to be a big distraction and you will likely need to give the dog a good correction to get him to sit or down around other dogs at first. Properly fitting and delivering a prong correction is a separate skill that has to be learned to be effective.
 

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Barrier frustration, okay - my female has this with fences at the park. I've tried a long line and a prong which worked when she wore the prong. I found if I had a high value object (flirt pole) she would ignore the dogs on the other side of the fence.

Have you taught a "leave it" command? I don't remember if this was mentioned in any of the comments. How soon does he start going "Cujo" when he sees another dog?

Felafufu is so right - there's so many ways to address the issue and depending on the trainer, it's the right way or the wrong way. I hope this trainer works out for you guys!
 

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Wow.. intense article!

But yes, if it is growling and barking because dog wants to go greet...that can be misunderstood, especially for this breed!

We actually have worked through this. My dog was not Cujo, but just looked like one sometimes. I remember apologizing to frightened owners.

Our fix was really similar to training methods suggested by Jax08, because we did not have any calm dogs available to “practice” with.

First of all...create distance, lots of distance, so dog is not so hyped. Veering off at a gradual angle better than abruptly dragging dog away on leash. Getting him to look at you and focus on you (with words, treat, toy, whatever it takes) and try to keep his attention as you pass. (My dog’s joints are not so great, so I don’t make him Sit very much.) eventually I trained a command similar to “Heel” and I use that now instead of treats. Adjust your own mood-YOU know he is not a killer dog, so no reason to get so tense. If the other owner looks scared, I would say, “sorry! He just really wants to meet your dog!” ( we tried to keep distance, but sometimes we got surprised turning a corner or on a narrow walkway, etc).

Anyway if you can get some of their brain on YOU and not the other dog, it seems to keep them calmer.

Example: passing dog walker on narrow street the other day. Me saying “stay close. Close.” Rumo knows this command very well, he knows it means to walk near my leg on a short leash and he complied. Other lady’s dog lunging and barking, and she was yelling “no! No! No!” Rumo had clear directions/leadership while other dog just knew he felt excited, owner excited too and yelling, but that dog had no idea what he was supposed to do!

For us it was trial and error. The first few times he looked at me instead of focusing on the other dog...that felt like winning the lottery. Progress was not steady, there were good and bad days until suddenly one day it “clicked”.

Anyway I know this is probably too simplistic! but it is how we got through it.

I think that the desire to greet and sniff each other is a natural social dog behavior...passing each other on a leash is unnatural for them and of course takes diligent training.
 

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That is a crazy story. Wow. Spraying the human was her major mistake, in my opinion. Spraying the dogs, seems like dogs are shot all the time in "defense" by all sorts of people without repercussion so I doubt that would have gone very far.

But, for the OP, there is a short line between aggression and reactivity, it can be a quick fix, but takes some skill and proper use of positive punishment, in my experience.
 

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The guy who came seemed to know what he was doing. He’s been doing it for 9 years. He does low stem ecollar work and first adjusts the dog to the ecollar. He brought his own dog to see how Ace reacted in a leash and assessed the situation from there. I think because I felt more secure and I knew I didn’t need to do anything I saw Ace for what he truly was. A 14 month old puppy who was just super excited to go play. He didn’t bark or growl, he just did everything he could to get away from me so he could play with the trainer’s dog. Now I’m scared to use the ecollar. The trainer comes highly recommended and seemed to know his stuff. His dog was very well behaved of course. Thoughts?
 
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