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Leash Reactivity? Maybe?

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I decided to ask about this, because, although it's difficult to help without seeing the actual behaviour, maybe someone will have some ideas about what might be going on. I'll preface this thing by saying that this behaviour only started after the resource guarding started (which in turn only started after spending a month with my family's poorly-mannered dog), but while the resource guarding has improved a great deal on its own, this "leash reactivity" is following its own weird path. It's only happened a few times, but he's only had the chance to practice it a few times, and I'm not keen to let him do it again.

 

The first time it happened was quite recently after we discovered his resource guarding. It had improved to some degree, and at this point as long as he didn't have anything in his mouth or directly in front of him he wouldn't guard it. So we took him into a pet store, a PetSmart, big open area, and walking around a little beagle puppy came up to sniff him. They were both straining at their leashes, I was cautious but I let Aed sniff. I guess I misread his body language, because after a preliminary sniff he started snarling and lunging, I pulled him back, he stopped for a moment and then started yelping and barking, still snarling a bit. I picked him up and he continued as the other dog and its owner scurried away. At that time, I assumed he'd started up again with resource guarding me.

 

Fast forward a few weeks, no incidents since, he's played with dogs at the off leash park with no problems, he's walked past dogs on leash with no problems, and he's briefly sniffed some of them in passing. We thought the incident was a one time thing. But then as we were walking along the harbour a young husky came up with her owner, leashed of course. They wagged their tails, seemed to everyone to be friendly, got close, almost played, and then suddenly Aed went ballistic, snarling and snapping and going crazy. The owner hurried off with her dog.

 

At this point we understood that he clearly could not greet dogs on leash, but just a few days after that I was standing on leash with him at the grocery store, and he started yelping again like he had in the pet store. There was another dog, I don't know how old, standing with its owner a few meters away. He had been fine with them as we approached the store and while we were standing for a while, but suddenly started with the yelping - I wasn't looking when it happened so I'm not sure what set it off. Anyways, the other dog was curling its lip back and Aed started doing the same, snarling a bit. The owner and the dog were walking away at this point anyways, so I just picked him up and he calmed down.

Sorry for the wall of text, but I'm hoping to get all the information I have out there, since it's so hard to diagnose without seeing the events firsthand. In all three cases I paid no attention to the other dogs at all, and he was not positioned as if he was trying to keep them away from me, which might indicate resource guarding. It's possible that all three were young dogs, but I can't imagine what the third one could have done to upset him at that distance. There hasn't been another incident yet and we try not to let him anywhere near other dogs on leash, but I'm not sure how to handle this otherwise because I have no idea what's setting him off and I don't know how to find out without setting up another one of these situations.

Right now my ideas (which are by no means mutually exclusive) are:

-Resource guarding

-Leash reactivity, fearly or excited.

-Going overboard on correcting a younger dog

-Insecurity from dealing with my parents' dog's consistent attempts to dominate him

-Something teenager thing unrelated to resource guarding

 

But that's it. What's going on?

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Wonky fear period/hormones kicking in perhaps. I don't think I'd worry too much about the why right now but focus on prevention (which will be similar no matter what). No more meet 'n greets (as you've stated), be clear about what you want him to do, be alert for other dogs so you can give him a "bubble" and step between him and other dogs to facilitate the behavior that you want - something relaxed with calm focus on you.

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Hello!

 

I'm pretty new here, so I'm sure someone will chime in with more/better advice than mine:) But this is exactly what started happening, and progressively got worse, with my dog Jolene. She was fine up until about 8 mos on the leash around other dogs, and suddenly things changed. She was barking and lunging at every dog, sometimes just acting excited, then suddenly barking her scariest bark and lunging, also sending owners and dogs scurrying off.

 

From advice I found on this forum, I bought the Control Unleashed puppy book and taught Jo the "Look at That" game. It is seriously changing our situation. She is able to point out dogs, and anything else that she's anxious about for that matter: motorcycles, loud trucks, bicycles, loud people, kids, birds, and get rewarded for doing so.

 

Jolene is also completely fine off-leash- all of this only occurs on leash. She is 10 mos. now, and with this game it is certainly getting better, thankfully, but there was a period where I was uncomfortable going for walks anywhere we'd have to see another dog, or even one in a window!

 

Maybe it was her teenage onset, maybe she became more fearful, either way- Look at That is working and I'm SO thankful:)

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Two quick thoughts- don't let dogs greet each other on the street, especially if either or both are straining on a leash. It's never a good idea nor is it polite. Think of how excited a dog is when they pull hard on a leash, then they greet a complete strange dog. Dogs should really only meet when calm to better set yourself up for a successful greeting. You also don't know the behavior of a strange dog and what his reaction will be.

 

Second, I wouldn't pick the dog up. I always see owners of little dogs doing this, and it does nothing to help the dog understand the situation and usually just increases their confusion or insecurity, making them bark or growl more.

 

I also wouldn't be so hung up on why. Focus on preventing it- I wouldn't care if my dog was the friendliest golden retriever, I don't think they need to greet strange dogs in public. I sure don't want to greet every human stranger I come across. :) When we are out walking on leash, we keep walking when we pass another dog or if the dog is pulling its owner on the lead, we cross the street or go up in someone's lawn as they pass. Once your pup learns that he does not get to or have to meet every dog he sees, his behavior should change. Just because he is pulling to see the other dog, it doesn't necessarily mean he wants to greet them. If you show him that he doesn't have to greet every dog or any dog, and that you will take care of the situation (moving away and not allowing contact), I would expect his reactivity will change. If you really can't resist the temptation to let him greet another dog, cross the street. Overtime, if he can calmly walk up to another dog, who is also calm and not pulling, whining, yelping as they approach you, then you could consider allowing them to greet.

 

Control unleashed could also be very helpful for this. My current dog used to growl at any dog we saw (even far away, though he never pulled on the lead) and over time,he has learned that he doesn't have to acknowledge them if he doesn't want to because I won't let them near. His confidence went up when he realized that not every dog was going to approach us. Now, he will wag his tail or put his ears up as he calmly walks passed any dog on the street with no growling or tail tucking.

 

Good luck!

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My old border collie went through this at when he was about 18-24 months. We were in the military and had 3 moves in one year, so he missed out on some socialization, but I don't know if that started it. What stopped it was obedience classes. He rarely acted out there and it soon become a non-issue, though I was always cautious when meeting other dogs, especially males which he seemed to challenge more.

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Pulling on leash can result in some unintentionally aggressive body language from dogs. If you look at a polite off-leash greeting, dogs approach each other in a wiggly or circular path - coming straight on is a charge.

 

Stiff tail wagging and nervous play can be signs of a dog that's highly stressed - look for loose eyes, ears, and body posture to distinguish lower-arousal situations where you can let him greet.

 

I like to practice U-turns with my leash-reactive dog rather than picking him up. It seems to give him a chance to focus on something else.

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My dog can be leash-reactive too. Sometimes it is mild to non-existent and other times it is stronger. I will also not allow my dog to 'greet' another dog while on leash, preferring to walk on by while trying to keep my dog's focus on me or I will also give another dog a wide berth.

 

As others have stated, straining on leash to get to another dog is usually not a good way for 2 dogs to greet each other. Also watch out for a high tail and ears forward.

 

As to the 3rd situation you described, where your attention was elsewhere (hey, it happens), your dog and the other dog could have been having a staring contest (hard stares). If I notice my dog start to do that, I get his attention or move away.

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I don't remember how old Aed is, but this sounds a lot like what I experienced with Tansy. I don't know her early history; I adopted her at 6 months old and was she fine with other dogs at the time and for several months afterwards. Somewhere around 10-12 months of age, she became reactive. I'm not aware of any bad experiences she had with other dogs, and I was working at training her to become a therapy dog, so she was around dogs quite a bit.

 

I work heavily with the Look at That protocol with her. Things are getting slowly better, but it takes time and patience. And lots of practice, which means exposure so that you can work on it over and over and over again with different dogs.

 

One thing I've been doing lately is taking her to a training class where there are a few other dogs (3 in this case). She was behind an extended ex-pen with a solid barrier in one area where I could step behind it and block her vision of another dog if she became aroused. On the 3rd week we were able to come out of our area where the other dogs were working, though keeping a distance. On the 4th week we were able to get closer and she was wanting to do some butt sniffing, though still reactive if the dog turned towards her. So in her case at least, it's fear rather than aggression. (I suspect we'll have to keep doing this in different classes with different dogs for this to generalize.)

 

She also reacts to dogs on TV, so we play the Look at That game when that happens as well.

 

I agree with not picking Aed up when this happens. A quick U-turn and a click and treat would be better to teach him he has the option not to interact.

 

Best wishes through this journey. Aed's lucky he has someone so dedicated to helping him through this.

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Why - as in what's going on in the dog's head - really doesn't matter much. Recognizing the things that are going to set the dog off is important, so you can try and stay ahead of it - but whether it's resource guarding, fear, or frustration doesn't so much because the treatment is the same.

 

Look At That is seriously the best thing ever and there are some really other helpful attention exercises in CU.


The other thing I will say is that when working on this keep the distance high and the rate of reinforcement incredibly high, at first. It's actually kind of a mentally exhausting thing to work with, but it is what it is and it DOES work. Just... realize that it's going to take a while and settle in for a long haul with it.

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Oh, also:

 

She also reacts to dogs on TV, so we play the Look at That game when that happens as well.

 

Molly does this. It both cracks me up and frustrates me.

 

I mean. Seriously, dog?

 

Glad going to a class to work on reactivity is helping you GL.

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Yeah, this definitely isn't uncommon. My dog has some issues as well. He's excited about every dog but only reactive towards certain dogs, especially dogs that do something to indicate any type of aggression (stiff posture, lip curl, barking), that will set my dog off right away. I see this problem as having three parts: management, prevention, and re-conditioning.

 

Management: This is when the dog has already entered the reactive state. Like others have said, definitely stop picking up the dog. For most dogs this is pretty much like getting a huge reward for what they are doing. You want to avoid rewarding this behavior. Also, you don't want to do anything to scold the dog (yanking on the leash, yelling, whatever else their might be), this can only make the reactivity escalate. Basically, once your dog enters a reactive state you have missed the opportunity to teach anything and you have to switch into management mode. Like GentleLake said, U-turns are good, especially if you are on a narrow path. If your dog's posture stiffens while just hanging out somewhere then you may want to try to just step in front to block the view of the other dog. If I can I will do a body block and start walking into my dog so we can gain some distance without me needing to drag him and to make it so he can no longer 'lock-on' to the other dog. EDIT: I just wanted to add that I try not to really acknowledge this behavior in any way. If my dog gets over threshold my attitude is more just like "I'm going this way, I don't know what you are doing." Not negative and not positive, just basically acting like I have zero interest in what my dog is doing. When I do a body block and walk into him I'm not trying to push him, I am more just acting like he is in my way (even though I put him in my way). If I do a U-turn to late then I just walk on like what he is doing doesn't matter. Ignoring it and getting my dog to a place where he can be brought below threshold is my goal at that point.

 

Prevention: Give your dog the space it needs until this is corrected. Be on the lookout for other dogs and try to determine when your dogs state of mind changes. Right now you may think it changes when you are 5ft from the dog, but if you pay attention the reactivity might be starting 20ft from another dog. Whatever the distance is, add about 10ft to that and that's where you should be keeping your dog for now. Sidewalks are terrible for dogs (as others have mentioned). They bring dogs head on to each other, which in their world is aggressive. Move off the path and make a wide arc if you can. If not, then make a U-turn.

 

Re-conditioning: I'm with everyone else, start the Look at That! game. It's done amazing things with my dog in agility class, and we are working on it in everyday situations now. This will help you train the dog a better response to other dogs.

 

Good Luck!

Edited by Chanse

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I mean. Seriously, dog?

 

Yeah, it's pretty funny sometimes, especially when Tansy's trying to game me into giving her a treat for looking at the dog on TV. If I'm not paying attention she'll run over the the TV barking and then run back to me to make sure I saw the whole thing and give her a treat. Darn dog's too smart for her (my) own good. :lol:

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I've been told that a lot of dog fights start on leashes because it causes unnatural posture and can be misinterpreted by the other dog. My trainers have always told me never let a meet and greet happen on a leash because there is just too much room for error. Leash to me at least should translate to focus on me and go where I'm asking you to go not playtime. I usually tell others that want a leashed meet and greet that my dog doesn't like other dogs very much or that she is too nervous to say hello.

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I have been told the same thing about dogs greeting on leashes, it can promote aggression, they even have signs posted at the dog park telling you to remove the dogs leash before entering.

 

What I have done is just move out of the way when I see people with dogs walking towards us ( i do this with runners joggers bikers baby buggies and what not ) she sits at my side as we let them pass. A simple leave it or sit stay is all she needs to let them go past with no issues. Little by little she has gotten used to all the things that pass us, we even at times just keep walking with no issue. I just keep an eye on her, if she seems to be excited then its off to the side sit while they pass.

 

For mine she is just a busy body! She thinks the world is there for her entertainment.

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I often don't let Tess meet other dogs we pass, because we don't HAVE to stop for every dog, but as often I do. She loves other dogs and greets apropriately, and I make sure her leash is always loose during a meet. I also tell the other owner to keep the leash loose and explain why.

 

There's lots of off leash dogs around here, no owner in sight, so if they aproach to meet I look at her. She's good at reading other dogs, and will not want to meet the ones that don't send good vibes. With those, I step in front of her and send them on their way, but if she's relaxed and happy, I often let them sniff each other. It never went wrong. Usually some sniffing is only what both want, but now and then she meets a soul mate and they really want to play. I also let her, if the place is apropriate.

 

I kind of think that a fair amount of access to other dogs makes them more banal, reduces their value. Provided of course our dog is sociable.

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