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I have an 11 month old BC puppy, who I re-homed from another family when she was 6 months old. She spent most of her first 6 months on farm properties and I feel like she had never really experienced all of the sights and sounds of a suburban area until she moved in with us. As a result, she was very reactive to strangers and other dogs at first (lunging and barking). We have taken her to obedience classes and we have been doing a lot of training with her. She is no longer reactive to strangers during the daytime and she is slowly getting more comfortable passing other dogs (we are slowly closing in the space between us and them and rewarding her with lots of treats in the process). However, we live in a country that only gets a few hours of daylight during the winter months. I've noticed that she seems a little skittish in the dark and tends to be reactive to passers by. Our trainer told us it's not unusual for dogs of her age to go through a fear phase, with darkness being a common fear. I take her for her evening walk a little later when I know there will be less people around. Tonight, we were walking down a short and narrow, snowy footpath (a route that we take most evenings). All of a sudden a woman came out of her house and was following us down the path. My pup stopped and turned around and I could tell by her body language that she was nervous. Then, out of nowhere a guy appeared at the bottom of the footpath and started to walk up towards us. She panicked and was running in circles on her leash and I fell over backwards on the ice. I managed to regain my balance and hold on to her. She had dropped to the ground which is generally what she does before she starts barking and lunging at a person. I was trying to get her attention with treats, but the space between her and the guy was just too close for her. I thought he would see me struggling and give us a little space, but instead he walked right towards us, and of course, she jumped up and started barking / lunging. I explained to him that she was very nervous, but he totally ignored me. He continued to try and get past us and I couldn't move at all because she was pulling so hard and the ground was so slippery. In future, do you think it would be a good idea for me to ask people to stop and give us some space to pass to avoid getting caught in a situation like this? I usually avoid narrow paths and stick to the wider roads while we're in training, but this one is so short and we've been walking down it every night for weeks without any events. Do you have any advice on how to better handle these situations in future?
So we went to the first class. Overall, great experience. He went from looking like a scared, stressed doggie to happy wags, tell me what to do next, doggie. Wowza. No, he wasn't perfect. Actually, when he saw a dog waiting to go in (at quite a distance) he squealed like a tortured piglet. He did shut-up when I went in (he was the 1st dog inside), and then keeping him busy, his mat (from home), training games (lots of treats) kept him out of 'melt-down', yay. At the very end, he did bark once or twice (single barks, not melt-down). About the class : Good stuff : *only 4 dogs, enough space, dogs reactive 'enough' to be useful (Sonic does not 'react' to calm dogs). *Room is separated by a glass wall divider, with plywood half-door so a dog can be taken into that space to calm down with the handler still able to follow and listen to instructions. *instructions and strageties to handle reactive moments, u-turns, recalls, etc.. the usual. Weird stuff : *sprayed something called DAP on a bandanna to put on the dogs. I'm just a skeptic, but if it works, or is a placebo, don't care : may even look into getting it (except it probably doesn't work out doors in the wind) but if helps calm in class, I'm all for it. Really weird stuff : Recommends using a groomer's muzzle (the kind that holds the mouth closed, not basket style) to 'calm' a reactive dog when you are stuck in a place where you can't calm your dog and your dog starts the crazy barking. Barking itself ramps them up, so stopping the barking will prevent them from getting worse, I guess....(it's very hard to handle a dog and pay perfect attention the whole time so not sure exactly what she said). She did emphasize this was a temporary measure, and was part of recommending that dogs should be conditioned (with treats, of course) to wearing these in low stress times, so that they 'like' or 'love' wearing it. Having tried that with halti's on previous dogs, I find there is a huge difference between 'floppy thing on face' equals treats and 'dog helplessly restrained' in a real word scenario. I do 'get' that accustoming a dog to a muzzle is a good idea and plan to do so (our neighbours dog spent his last day on earth in the back of their station wagon because no one could get near him to bring him into the house (he was in severe pain), so conditioning to a muzzle might have let him at least have a comfy bed and home for his last day), say, yes, any dog might need a muzzle someday in the future. I'm just hugely skeptical that muzzling an 'over-threshold' dog actually would have a calming effect. I'm open minded about training (all aspects) but unless I hear otherwise, if Sonic has a meltdown in class and she hands me a muzzle, I'll be saying, 'no, I'll take him outside and calm him down there (my husband is with me, so he will stay and attend the lesson and fill me in should this happen). And my own pet peeve : Sonic was completely awesome, attentive, drilling holes in my face with his eyes. It was a culmination of two months of sweat and tears, everything coming together, and what does she say, when I say I'm thrilled that Sonic is so focussed on me ? 'that's just the border collie in him'--blah, would it have killed her to hand me a compliment ???