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Advice and opinions wanted... helping Buddy meet on leash.

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OK, so quick summary of Buddy's history: came home very reactive to dogs, people, noise. Has made much progress over 3 years. No longer fearful of most people, charming with babies, calm while dogs are in his presence but not in his face. Off leash, pretty good with dogs, though meetings can still be tense when dogs get "in his face", and result in Buddy's snarling to try to drive the other dog off. On leash, meetings are still more tense; part of this is due, I'm sure, to my own tension, but I'm pretty sure part of it is the fact that on-leash meetings produce a face-to-face staring thing, which Buddy hates and views as a challenge.


So... when we're in the woods and I see a dog we don't know coming, I leash Buddy just in case. I've previously told other owners, "He can meet nice as long as there's a bit of air space between them," and he does fine. If he looks tense or ready to react, I pull him back, which causes him to shift into "snarl" mode probably 70% of the time.


Lately, though, I've noticed that there have been a few times when I didn't leash Buddy, but just looped my fingers through his collar as the other dog met him. In this posture, with me able to sort of hold his head steady, he seems much more relaxed and calm. He'll stand there and let the other dog sniff his butt, and he seems to get over the tense part of the meeting and able to move on to normal old dog behavior.


This surprises me, because with the leash on, I've always thought that a big part of the tension was my being in the mix. But when I hold Buddy's collar and keep his head steady, I'm much more "in the mix" than I am when there's distance between me and him. I'm wondering if it's the fact that I am preventing the eye-to-eye part of the meeting that he hates or fears? Or maybe he's taking my advice about how I want thim to behave, because I'm actually physically keeping him from making his tense moves?


Any ideas? Do y'all think I could make better progress actually using this posture as an interim training tool to get Buddy desensitized to meeting strange dogs? Suggestions? Thoughts about what's going on there?


Thanks in advance. This is a curious and random thing that I just noticed by accident!



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It's always hard to give advice without knowing the dog and seeing him in action, but Buddy sounds a lot like my little man CK.


By way of background CK is a VERY soft dog who was jumped all over by a bouncy goldie when he was 4 months old. (I know, I should have been looking after him better, but first time dog owner, ignorant etc etc). At just under 2 CK exhibits most of the behaviours you mention, except he's not great at warning and goes straight into dominating mode with dogs he doesn't know who annoy him by jumping in his face. In a formal environment or with dogs he knows and trusts he is VERY tolerant because he knows he won't get hurt. (Think mega quick BC in a flyball ring actually lying on his back begging pats while every other dog (5 other BC's and 2 Kelpies) in the ring was going nuts when the lights malfunctioned.)


First thing we've done is not to put him in situations where he is likely to encounter unruly dogs or dogs that will threaten him. (Dog parks and dogs we don't know.)


Next and most importantly.........


I was at agility camp a month or two ago and saw something that is working wonders for us. Basically you shape the behaviour you want - looking to you for guidance. Whenever we get into any situation CK isn't comfortable in I wait for him to look at me and then say 'yes' (cue word for - you do good) and then treat. At first you have to do this at distance so that he has the opportunity to do it, but you work up to being closer and closer to the 'problem'. After 2 months of being really dilligent with it (painful bc you have to carry treats everywhere) whenever he now feels uncomfortable he looks to me immediately and waits for a treat or an instruction (next step).


On the day in question one of the trainers was using the technique on a DA dog that had only ever been corrected for growling and barking at other dogs, not trained positively. (not sure why a dog like this was at agility camp, but that's another story.) Within 10 minutes the dog was beginning to calm down. By the end of the weekend it was working (close to it's owner) off lead.


Hopefully you find this of some use - it may be no help at all, but is certainly something that is working for us.








ETA - I've also found with CK the less pressure on his collar/lead the less likely he is to have his little snarl thing going on. Maybe your pup finds the hand under the collar less restrictive and feels more secure - almost like being off lead.

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Will be interested in this thread, as we have the same issues. What we are doing is similar to what Reddii describes. We work on him looking to us when he is nervous or tense. We are also working on calm leash greeting with dogs he has gotten familiar with in agility class. We let him approach a dog on loose leash (very important), sniff and greet for a second or two, and we click for the greeting, he turns away for his treat, we call him a few steps away, treat, and then sometimes let him go back for another sniff and greeting, click, call away, treat. It seems to be helping alot, but have not graduated to strange dogs yet. Like you, I get super tense with him on leash with other dogs around, and I know he reads that and reacts. So in a big way, the practice at class is practice for the human part of the team!

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I am also inclined to believe the hand under the collar is more like being off lead. Also, when pulling back on a leash I find Daisy to be super reactive. I think this is because me pulling back on the leash will somtimes help her raise off the ground (she likes to do the meerkat thing when looking for someone, so she's good at standing on her hind legs) giving her a more dominant stance over the other dog, causing the other dog to then react and it's game on after that. I also find that she does better meeting strangers off leash, so I think a lot of our tension goes straight down the lead. We are working on a "watch" and it seems tp work fairly well to a point. Sometimes the trigger is too close. The biggest one we are working on is dogs walking infront of our house. If she can stay calm and have all eyes on me, she will get some treats, if not she gets a verbal correction and placed indoors. I know off leash out side, this will not work, but if Buddy can learn to look at you when he's uneasy, it may help. Unless of course, you've already tried that and it doesn't work in a situation like this.



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