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Advice on training (to stop barking and lunging at people)


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I'm sure I've seen some discussion on these boards about this, but I'll post for some ideas. My 5 month old BC mix Cricket will sometimes bark and lung at people when we walk him. He doesn't do this every walk. He also really seems to like people, and is all wagging tail and soft ears when people approach him directly to pet him. He reacts when we're walking and people are striding past him without stopping. He also sometimes does this with cyclists and runners, but not always, and he sometimes does this with other dogs but, again, not always. I don't like the lunging and barking at people thing at all.

 

Here's what we are trying to do - if you could please let me know if we're on the right track: I am trying to get him to sit and focus on me each time a person (dog, cyclist, runner) approaches, so I can distract him. This works part of the time, but not all of the time. He's very smart, and can tell when we're trying to "bribe" him to either do or not do something. He has a good "leave it" if treats are involved - not so good if I just tell him to leave something and don't offer an exchange of a treat. He's only 5 months, so I don't expect him to be perfect at "leave it" yet. I've also tried walking him quickly past people while telling him "leave it" over and over again, but I worry that walking quickly past the object of interest might stimulate him more.

 

Why does he do this? He's a confident little pup and we've had him since he was 8 weeks old. His interactions with people (and other dogs) have always been good and safe ones. Why would a puppy develop this behavior?

 

 

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Mine does this also and is almost 11 months. We walk on a local walking/biking trail. When we walk by someone she thinks they are her long lost friend and wants to jump up on them so they can pet her. That's highly my fault for letting her jump up on me when I get home everyday to say hello. I am now working on making her keep her feet on the ground when I get home. I'll turn my back and ignore her and she sits, then I face her and happily greet her. On my walks with my previous dogs on the trail, I found that if I continued walking with the dog in a heel position, then just keep going, then they eventually start ignoring bikers and other walkers. Now this BC named Rey which is my first is a different dog. I am working on this and am having some success. I tried stopping and having her sit to she could see the bike coming, but I wonder if that doesn't unintentionally make her focus on it more. When they get close (biker or walker) she crouches like she's going to go herd them or something. I feel like I am having better results by continuing on, walking at a brisk pace and a shortened leash for this, and ignoring them acting like they are not there. It'll be interesting to see what others say about this and BC's.

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I am also following this as we are having a similar issue with our pup, also sporadically and with people in a very excited manner hoping for some attention but with cars he is lunging with loud barking and what appears to be fight or flight response. This is fairly new and we are not sure why. He doesn't do it all of the time but it is getting worse and it scares me as we live on a fairly busy rural street. I have tried to have him sit when I see cars coming and get him to relax and not react but this does not seem to be working.I will try offering him a treat as suggested for his other behaviors to see if this helps.

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Look into the Leslie McDevitt’s Look at That (LAT) protocol. It's been outlined here and is also outlined in her book Control Unleashed (I'm told the puppy revision has much more information over all.) There's also lots of info on it online, including many videos.

 

Essentially what it is is desensitization and counter-conditioning for reactive dogs. But the element it includes that most other D/CC protocols don't is asking the dog to look at whatever s/he's reacting to before turning their attention away from it. It seems to work much better to allow the dog to have the choice to look at whatever's setting them off rather than simply requiring them to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exit a all.

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I had this problem with Spillo as well. a very well socialized puppy, that at some point started to be reactive with moving things in general.

for my experience reactivity is a mix of over-stimulation and fear.

if the dog is reacting to the fast movements (a person or a bike passing by), I would practice in a place where there are people jogging for example, keeping the dog to a comfortable distance.

I did not like the idea of "distracting" the dog with a different activity, as looking at me, I preferred to work on his self-control allowing him to look at the joggers, and rewarding him for keeping his "cool" ;-). I would allow avoidance signals, such as sniffing around, particularly with fast bikes passing by.

the leash would be short but never tense. the point is: the dog will need to make the right decision and work on his self control. it takes time and patience, particularly when starting to reduce the distance from the moving object but it did work well for me. today we run on very busy trails with almost zero issue.

your dog is very young, so there is this to consider as well, but the idea is to desensitize him gently.

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Thanks for all this great advice, and it's helpful to know other pups have this issue. Today we took him on a walk along a well traveled trail and he was very good. No barking and no lunging. I know the "look at that" technique and I've been trying to incorporate it into our training. The funny thing is some walks, like today's, he'll do well and other walks he seems on edge and will lunge and bark. Maybe he's tired on those days? Over stimulated? Having a tough day? :)

 

Same thing with cars. We'll have a stretch of days when he doesn't do more than turn his head when a car passes us, and then all of a sudden, he's back to lunging! He's a funny little pup.

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Thanks for all this great advice, and it's helpful to know other pups have this issue. Today we took him on a walk along a well traveled trail and he was very good. No barking and no lunging. I know the "look at that" technique and I've been trying to incorporate it into our training. The funny thing is some walks, like today's, he'll do well and other walks he seems on edge and will lunge and bark. Maybe he's tired on those days? Over stimulated? Having a tough day? :)

 

Same thing with cars. We'll have a stretch of days when he doesn't do more than turn his head when a car passes us, and then all of a sudden, he's back to lunging! He's a funny little pup.

 

Yes, he could be tired those days or just having an off day. But mostly he is only 5 months old, which makes him still a young child. If you are having partial success with the "Loot At That", then you are having success, for a puppy that age.

 

As with everything else when it comes to dogs (of any age), absolute consistency is key. Just patiently keep up the training, and it will become second nature to the dog and to you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We still have this issue with Lucky - jumping and getting excited when he sees people. When people come by, he barks, jumps, lunges. We've worked with him with cars on the road when we walk him. He's gotten very good at sitting when a car goes by - even without asking. I guess we need to take the same approach with people coming to visit. We just need more people to come visit so we can practice!

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The funny thing is some walks, like today's, he'll do well and other walks he seems on edge and will lunge and bark. Maybe he's tired on those days? Over stimulated? Having a tough day? :)

 

Same thing with cars. We'll have a stretch of days when he doesn't do more than turn his head when a car passes us, and then all of a sudden, he's back to lunging! He's a funny little pup.

 

When we got Nala she was dog-reactive in a kind of similar way, where sometimes she completely ignored other dogs, sometimes she greeted them politely, and sometimes she started barking and lunging. I think in some ways it would have been easier if her behavior was consistent, because I definitely spent too long letting her "try" saying hello and trying to work out a pattern (Was it that she had an issue with big dogs? White fluffy dogs? Was it better if she'd gotten more exercise that day or worse? etc.) Once I stopped trying to analyze the behavior so much and started preventing it (by keeping her far enough away from ALL dogs that she wasn't reacting to ANY of them, and rewarding appropriate responses) we made much faster progress.

 

Since Cricket is so young and since he generally likes people, I think you're going to have really good success if you consistently reward the behavior you want to see. When he has a stretch of days where a car drives by or a jogger comes past and he just looks at it, reward the HECK out of that every time you can! You ideally want him to get to the point where when he sees something startling (like a car, or a person walking swiftly by, etc) his natural response is to look at you for a treat. That's the response the "Look at That!" game is trying to invoke. Somewhat counter-intuitively, once you've gotten to that point the presence of the trigger often becomes way less interesting and Cricket may decide he doesn't even need to check it out.

 

On "bad" days, just do what you can to keep him as calm as possible--no big deal if he has a little outburst, but once it's happened try to get him someplace quiet so he's not getting too worked up. Remember you're looking for improvement, not perfection :)

 

Good luck. I remember when I was working on this stuff with Nala it was super stressful and scary, and I worried about her getting in fights, someone getting hurt, etc. I think these issues are pretty common, especially with herding breeds that are more or less designed to be sensitive to their environments and react quickly, and once you know what to do it's not so hard to change the behavior. And good on you for being on top of this when Cricket's young and still making his mind up about things!

 

The other thing I'll say is that if you're feeling overwhelmed, hiring a professional for a session or two might be really helpful. I did a lot of reading and found a lot of useful advice on these and other boards, but doing just one session with a very good trainer outside a dog park got everything into my muscle memory. And I totally love the trainer we found, so now I have another contact in case any other "oh my gosh, what now??" issues ever come up :)

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I posted above #2. As far as lunging towards other people, we have been taking her out more. Lowe's, lots of walks and I am finding that she's getting better at ignoring other people and heeling better. I think it's just getting her more repetitions so to speak.

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  • 3 years later...

Thank you all so much for these posts! We have had our border collie Hook since he was a puppy and he is now 9 months old and so loveable UNTIL my husband walks him and he becomes extremely agitated at bikers and cars....:wacko: We adore him and really want to break him of this so your posts....we had training set up before covid so it has been difficult but really good to know that we are not alone in this struggle:Dmany smiles, Suzette

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