I have a dog that is reactive when meeting other dogs. We are working on it every chance we get. I keep wondering what the best way to adress his behaviour.
Example: We are walking down the road and out of nowhere a dog turns the corner and my dog starts barking.
What would be the best way to address this situation? Thanks!
Be alert at all times. If you see dog approaching, try to focus your dog to something else, treats are easy. Just give treats as long as other dog has passed you. After that you can give some “good girl/boy” compliments. Repeat that. In time you can slowly lessen amount of goods, eventually you can leave them altogether. My dog (8-year old rescue) passes other dogs nicely even though she is not in leash, but it took time.
Work with the problem: Your dog is fearful of other dogs.
Whenever you see a dog at a distance, reward the dog no matter what your dog does. If a dog turns the corner, turn around yourself and move away from the dog.
One method I like is the treat scatter and also the focus method. Teach your dog indoors first and teach focus or eyes on me. To do this, I always started by just holding up a treat near my face, when my dog looks at me, click and reward. Gradually move your hand/the treat and click and reward for eyes on you. Once they’ve learned focus inside, practice it outside but not when other dogs are around. Another tool to prep indoors would be teaching a treat scatter. I like to tell my dog “ready?” To get her attention and then “Go find!” and then will throw down some treats on the ground around me. Soon she hears “ready?” and anticipates treats being dropped. Again, practice outside without distractions around. Now that you’ve got these two tools, be on alert and looking ahead on walks. If you see a dog in the distance – preferably before your dog has a chance to spot them, get your dog to focus on you and treat. If they’re approaching, step off of the path a ways and keep your dog engaged. Maybe ask them to sit and focus. If they start getting distracted, the treat scatter works well too. Ready is your cue word that the treats are about to be dropped.
Again, this is hard and definitely practice with a huge distance between you and the other dog. As you get better, you can practice the focus when a dog passes. Any time they pass a dog and automatically look to you, give a HUGE treat payout.
It takes some time but this method worked for me with my dog when I was working on teaching her that we can’t say hi to every dog, and for when she would get distracted by squirrels.
My pup has this problem…and it’s difficult when we’re both surprised by a dog…I always feel like ‘oh great, all our good work down the drain’…but I continue to work at it and he’s really learning.
Here’s what I do:
1)before dogs are close…I notice them and say hey look there’s a pupper, and give him a reward for being calm. I never used to let him look but now I do. All the time he’s looking I’m watching for changes in body language. If he’s still calm and looks at me when I ask him to, he gets a treat. If he’s becoming stiff and focused, I wave a higher value treat in front of his nose and then throw it away from the direction of other dog. We will play ‘snuffle in the grass’ for treats or I get him to do his tricks like speak or shake, so we’re back in fun/relaxed mode before we move on.
My trainer also taught me to look up not at my dog so I can assess before he does whether the other dog is moving closer, whether other dogs have entered our space etc. It’s helpful. He starts to learn that I an aware and present and keeping us both safe
2)as dogs move closer….Continued treat games as we walk. Watch his behaviour. If he’s becoming concerned, I move off the path, up a driveway or wherever I can, and very rigorously keep his focus on me (throw treat, hold treat and let him try to pull it out of my hand etc) move further as needed to bring him back to calm. Once dog passes – LOTs of excited praise and treats. Let him look (trainer says it’s ok once dogs bum is visible rather than their face) at the dog, let him sniff after the dog. Talk.to.him about what a good pupper that was and what a good boy he is. Continue walking. If he’s not acting tense, I might let them greet for a few seconds. He’s not reactive with all dogs. Some he enjoys meeting. I just assess very carefully before allowing another dog to approach.
3)if he lunges at passing dog or is surprised by a dog and has a big reaction….spin on my heel and literally run in the other direction, calling him to join me. Not angrily or panicky if I can manage it. If I try to pull him while facing his direction, it’s easier for him to pull me off my feet. Pivoting quickly 180 gives me more leverage to lean forward, walk, and bring him with me. Once we’re out of danger zone I stop. I do not scold. I calm down then as k him to calm down. Once he’s calm I reward him. ‘good calm’. (Practice this pivot and run at home before an emergency, so it’s second nature when something happens)
4)if a dog attacks us, all bets are off. My dog is right to react and protect.
5)at home and in car – I’ve started to point out passing pups through the window. He used to have big reactions. Now I say ‘look! Puppers!’ And throw him a good treat. If he begins to growl or bark, ‘stay calm. I see them. No need to worry.’ it’s taken some time but he can now quietly watch them pass. He may give an alert bark but now I can see him actively working to contain himself from going any further. It’s actually kind of cute to watch. He knows, and wants to please me, so he works very hard at his ‘calm’.
WHEW! Who knew I had it in me to write all this down!! I guess I write it because I feel your pain. My guy was a super pleasant boy until he turned about 2 and a half. Then he got very anxious and super reactive. I think something was building neurologically that caused it because shortly after that started he started having regular grand mal seizures and has been diagnosed with epilepsy. The meds made him even more reactive for awhile as his brain tried to rebalance.
I love him to bits and commit to him everyday that I’ll help him. So we work on this, and some days he’s ok and some days he’s not. Just like us I guess. Whatever happens, I try never to scold him. Only to reward him when he’s able to be in control and calm. I wish you luck, and hope some of this is helpful to you on your journey!