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Hi all,

I'm hoping for some advice on Bailey's hyperarousal around other dogs while we're walking on leash. It's excitement not anxiety based, and is very much 'A DOG! Let me see them! I want to say hello NOW!!!'

We try and watch the road in front and manage the situation, eg, cross over or take a different route (trying to get him back past his distance threshold), but that's not always possible. He'll lunge to the end of his leash, 2 front paws up in the air, and If he doesn't get to see them he gets barky. Absolutely nothing gets through to him, treats, squeaky toy, commands, clicker, nada. He's much bigger and stronger now which is becoming difficult for me to manage, so our trainer advised us to get a front no pull harness, and also a head collar, to help us regain some control physically while working to get control of him mentally with training. We plan to start with the harness first, and use the head collar only for situations where we know things might be difficult (busier areas etc).

We just have no idea what to do once he starts doing his lunging/scarab beetling and it's making walks stressful. As background, he was heavily socialised as a young pup, but primarily off leash, we didn't do much meet and greet (3 second rule) on leash, and it shows! He has no manners or boundaries whatsoever and clearly thinks that every dog wants to see him and be his friend. Our friend has another collie and has offered to do some side by side walking with us, something Bailey has had no opportunity to do with lockdowns, and usually just tries to lick the other dogs face excitedly...!

 

Any other recommendations would be wonderful so we can help him manage his excitement, and so we can let him say hello to another dog without the lunging!

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You can't train a dog who is already over-threshold of excitement. So the thing to do is work hard on training a calm sit and wait in areas where you will not run into any other dogs at all. Once you have that very solid then you introduce a dog at a distance far enough that he can barely tell it is there. And work up very slowly to the point that the dog is closer. Any time he breaks his training and starts to go over-threshold, back off and go back to repeating the previous level of training for a while and then try again. Don't rush this. I would work the training without distractions for 2 weeks to a month, then with a distraction at a distance for as long as it takes for him to become reliably calm with a dog at a far distance, and then work up very gradually. Once you can get a nice sit and wait with a dog at a closer distance, you can start rewarding the sit by releasing him to greet the dog.

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Hi D'Elle,

We can certainly work on building that up for him, and we can get a nice calm sit with no distractions, or with dogs that are a fair distance away and not walking towards or near us. So we cam definitely work on slowly decreasing that distance.

Unfortunately i don't see how we would avoid him meeting/seeing dogs at all, for example on walks and even just round the block as there are plenty around. I've also heard that socialisation is really important at this age again. So would a combination of working on the calm sit while decreasing the distance threshold, and also when we do pass a dog on a walk work on the 3 second meet and greet and move on (even if he is excitedly pulling towards them) be a compromise we could work with?

We find the biggest issues arise when he isn't allowed to see/meet the dog at all. If we do a quick hello/sniff and move on he quickly snaps back into focus, albeit a bit more excited, but not OTT.

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1 hour ago, Meghan said:

Hi D'Elle,

We can certainly work on building that up for him, and we can get a nice calm sit with no distractions, or with dogs that are a fair distance away and not walking towards or near us. So we cam definitely work on slowly decreasing that distance.

Unfortunately i don't see how we would avoid him meeting/seeing dogs at all, for example on walks and even just round the block as there are plenty around. I've also heard that socialisation is really important at this age again. So would a combination of working on the calm sit while decreasing the distance threshold, and also when we do pass a dog on a walk work on the 3 second meet and greet and move on (even if he is excitedly pulling towards them) be a compromise we could work with?

We find the biggest issues arise when he isn't allowed to see/meet the dog at all. If we do a quick hello/sniff and move on he quickly snaps back into focus, albeit a bit more excited, but not OTT.

You can't to everything at once. If you are not getting calmness when he sees another dog, if as you describe he goes instantly over-threshold at the sight of another dog, then you won't be able to train him under that circumstance. A three second meet and then essentially having to drag him away accomplishes nothing except frustrating the dog. So, no, I don't think a combination or compromise will work for what you want to do.

As for socializing, do you have a group that you can get together with to do playdates with your dogs? Or even just one other person? Or, is there a doggy daycare you can use even once a week so he gets that play time?

And as for walking to train without the presence of other dogs, even if you have to drive to another part of town or out of town for this, it is worth doing.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi D'Elle,

Thank you for your advice on this, we've been looking into your suggestions and advice further over the last few weeks and have consulted a behaviourist for help. Bailey has always been a bit excitable as a pup, but now that he's hit adolescence it's got far worse which is apparently fairly common.

He's what is known as a frustrated greeter, completely fine off lead but really struggles to stay calm when on lead. Unfortunately it's not possible to avoid dogs all the time as even in our street there are multiple dogs, but where possible we walk him in quiet areas and are working on engage/disengage and keeping him calm while reducing his distance threshold. 

With Covid and lockdown it has been difficult to have puppy playdates, but we're going to work with our behaviourist and her dog to teach him :)

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No advice here, but I sympathize. Our pup is about 6.5 months now and going through similar things. She used to be scared of other dogs, we didn’t get to socialize much with pandemic and are still under a “stay at home” order here. So we started sending her to a dog daycare a couple mornings a week to play and she loves it. She plays like mad when she is there and gets along with all the dogs really well. Now she loves other dogs and desperately wants to meet them all. It is tough to manage walks always to avoid passing other dogs in a “trainable” way, staying under threshold. She will “look at that” at a distance (we have been working at this, a work In progress for both of us) but is hard to walk without ever encountering other dogs closer than she can manage without getting over excited. In those cases, I just try to damage control, get her focus back as quick as I can.

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@Journeyit used to be daily with his 'pack' at the park, but he became increasingly demanding about wanting to always go there so that has been scaled back to 2 or 3 times a week only. With the pandemic we haven't been able to have other puppy interactions (at home/in the garden etc) how we would like to. 

@Rosaleeit is really hard and makes walks stressful. Walks used to be the best part of our day when he was a terror ay home, but now it's the opposite, he's wonderful at home but you never know what the walk will end up being which is stressful. We decided to get help from a professional behaviourist as it's such an important time in his development, and frankly, something we can't afford to get wrong and allow to continue to adulthood!

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Meghan, under the circumstances I think you are making the right decision to hire a behaviorist. Make sure it's a positive reinforcement trainer; not all are. Best way to do that is have a conversation ahead of time. Make it clear you are not trying to get them to tell you all their methods for free, but just wanting a sense of how they approach training dogs. Best of luck!

 

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