Rehabilitating A Reactive Dog: Topher’s Story

Rehabilitating a reactive dog: Topher's story.

My dog Topher is reactive. When I talk with people about our lovable, goofy, soon-to-be-3-year-old American Bulldog, I try to lead with that. Topher is a work in progress, and one I’m dedicated to sharing, because of the circumstances that created much of Topher’s reactivity.

The morning of New Year’s Eve, 2013, started like most others. When my dog Topher and I set out for our walk, it was the middle of the morning, but very few people were out. We took a well-traveled route, down towards a park at the end of our neighborhood. Unfortunately, that was where the similarities to our other walks ended, and suddenly my dog and I were starting the new year on a very different path than we anticipated.

As we rounded the corner near the park, I spotted two dogs. They were in the road several yards ahead, seemingly accompanying a man. Both dogs had collars, but were also off leash, walking with the man as if they knew him. I stopped at the corner—I think I was hoping they would pass without seeing us, or that this man was their owner, and would corral the dogs and keep them from misbehaving. Neither of my hopes came true. The two dogs spotted us and charged, full speed, towards us.

I have always read not to run away in situations like this, so I backed away as calmly as possible, while trying to entice Topher along. He was anxious to greet the dogs coming our way.

Everything happened very quickly after that. Not more than a second or two passed between the two dogs reaching us and their first snap at Topher. I tried to kick at them, break them away so we could try and run, but with two of them we never got more than another foot before they were latched back onto him. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs the entire time. I remember the man who was with them, standing at the top of that street watching while I screamed for help and doing nothing. I remember the garbage truck going by just as the attack started and I remember the agonizing few seconds where it seemed that they too would do nothing. I remember the only thoughts running through my head the entire time: that these dogs would kill my dog, that I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to carry his body home by myself.

But the men collecting trash that day did in fact step in, chasing the dogs off and then keeping them from following after us as we made our escape. We made it home as fast as possible and I immediately packed Topher into the car. He was bleeding from both of his eyes. Though we’d manage to keep Topher from completely losing an eye as a 1-year old pup, he would still end up blind in his right eye by the end of that week.

Rationally, I know there’s little we could have done to prevent this—we were walking during the day, obeying leash laws, and did nothing to provoke the attack. However, I still feel guilty for “letting” this happen to my dog.

I don’t write any of this to scare people. However, the truth of the matter is that sometimes, awful experiences like this happen, and sharing means maybe it can be of use to someone else if—god forbid—they end up in a similar situation. This is our story. I tell it now, even two years after it happened, to show people that while training takes time and patience, it’s worth it to help your dog.

We’ve been training with and rehabilitating Topher for a year and a half now, and I imagine we’ll be at it for awhile. But if we can get Topher to a place where he understands he doesn’t need to fear other dogs, on or off a leash—a goal that means our dog feels safer and happier? That’s worth a lifetime of work. And after that, who knows? Once we tackle this hurdle, the rest might seem pretty easy.

So if you’re someone in the trenches with us, the owner of a reactive dog, I want to hear your story. We’re all in this together, working to help our dog’s lead happier lives. One day, I hope we can get Topher graduated from reactive dog training classes; I hope one day he’ll even make some dog friends, and overcome this incident once and for all. And after that, who knows?


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Positively Expert: Lucy Bennett

Lucy is Co-Founder of Good Dogs & Co., a website celebrating the ups and downs of dog ownership. She's on a mission to help her dog Topher overcome his dog reactivity, after he was blinded in one eye by a dog attack.


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23 thoughts on “Rehabilitating A Reactive Dog: Topher’s Story

  1. Peggy

    We adopted a 3 year old female AB, our third dog of this breed. We know by experience with the 2 previous dogs that they are rather dominant. But this
    one is extremly reactive with al other dogs, apparently she got attack several times by other dogs being a puppy. I don't know if we ever could walk her without a leash neither without a musle on.
    I am always afraid to meet dogs of leash on our walks. All of this made me decide that this would be our last dog...unfortunately...

  2. Tanja Arias Quijon

    My puppy Emma, a small mixed breed, 5 months old, was bitten by a pitbull nearly two weeks ago, her lower jaw was broken, she is going to lose sight in her left eye, but thankfully, she is healing well. I have another dog, a three years old female pitbull, Maggie. She was a lovable goofball, until Emma was bitten. Since then I can hardly handle both dogs, because they both became reactive to other dogs.
    Just today it happened that a man with his dog on a leash passed by us and both dogs barked and Maggie lunged so hard, I lost her leash, but could catch her fortunately.
    It is not easy, but we will have to work hard, although right now, I do not really know, what to do.

  3. Erin Conley

    I have two fearful reactive dogs. One is because I made the naive decision to go to a dog park with my then 6 month old APBT. We lingered just outside the entrance until Belle felt comfortable, and the other dogs came to smell her. All was fine upon entering, except one guy who stood with his bully dog on a retractable leash. I put Belle on a long lead so I could steer her away from that dog as no other dogs were go near him. Turns out that wasn't the dog I shouldn't have worried about even though he was showing aggressive signs. I was talking to another dog owner while watching Belle, and she was great. She started walking towards the pool, and the minute she got close all the other dogs ran, and all I hear is growling, and what I assumed to be Belle yelping. Being that she was only 6 months, and without thinking I ran over, grabbed one of the dogs collarsto pull her back, and saw Belle laying on the ground on her back. Without thinking I reached in and grabbed her. Luckily I didn't get bit but thinking back I could've been easily bitten. All the other owners looked at me and asked what did your dog do. Mine was the smallest one, and on her back from the beginning as a lady in the other dog area saw from her angle, yet somehow it was my dog which I know wasn't the case. Since then she is selective about the dogs she allows close to her, but with positive reinforcement, and ongoing counter conditioning she is getting better.

    The second one, Faith, was a stray, and has always been reactive. We are working with her as well, but she got well enough to pass CGCA. Unfortunately her and Belle can't be around each other as they set each other off.

  4. Suzanne Cardiff

    Great write up. Good for you for sticking with your boy and helping him through this. You will find one day you look back and realize, you too went through, you were attacked that day also, emotionally and mentally. I've been there a few times in the past few years unfortunately. With each experience I learn more more on how to handle such situations. My dogs and I, we go out, every day, every where. They are my co-adventurers. My male has been attacked 2x. He's a 33 lb beagle/staffie mix. When he was just about 15 mos a large dog tied to a tree in a park we were walking g thru broke off his coller, and chaged us. My dog slipped out of his collar and tried to run home. The dog chased him 2 blocks and bit him on the butt. We finally caught up, Luckily the 1 bite satisfied her and she was easy to grab. He however, became reactive after that. We filly had to bring in a trainer to help. She said he didn't feel like I could protect him. I was too scared of him being attacked again as much as he was. To hear that, it broke my heart again. But we got serious about training, he greatly improved. I over socialized him, but in a good way, till got most of my sweet, friendly boy back. He did over the years graduate from all levels of obedience, performed at agility, (which was still a challenge bc all the pups get all revved up in excitement) and earned his Canine Good Citizen. Then just last year (he's 11 now) he was attacked by an overzealous under trained big dog at the dog park. Fortunately I had learned from years of rescue & educating myself, the body language and dynamics. I saw it coming, so did HE. He brought the dog on his heels snapping like a dragon right past me. I grabbed them both and pinned them to the ground. I held down the other dog, giving correction, and she calmed fairly quickly realizing I was not joking around. I was prepared to do anything to protect my boy! The owner did nothing, just watched then proceeded to try to tell me "dogs will work these things out themselves." To which I said, "here's how WE are going to work it out." And gave her a swift lecture how completely wrong she was, oh and anything her dog does to mine, I was going to do to her. So we got lucky, physically, both times my dog left with a small bite mark & scar. BUT he was set off to be reactive again. This time his reaction didn't esculate to the point t it had before, but its been harder to convince him other dogs are safe. I feel he did learn that I have his back and he reverts to my cues better than the first go round. I expect he will always be somewhat reactive, but we deal with it.
    Because of stories like yours Ive learned to always scan the areas I'm walking in for quick exits. A pick up truck to throw my dogs in, an accessible fenced yard, a nearby store etc. I pray I will never have to try to escape multiple attacking dogs!
    My other story is my little shihtzu. She was at the rescue I vunteered with. I had been working with her biting and trust issues for about 9 months when she was attacked by a pack of 6-8 small to medium sized dogs...at the rescue. I wasn't there, luckily for her someone heard them and broke it up. She was bit all over her body. Couldn't pee for 2 days bc of swelling, lost 4 teeth. And 2 days later was paralyzed in her back legs from a herniated disc. I took her home the night of the attack as a foster. She never left. The rescue paid for the surgery. That was 2 years ago. She recovered quickly and is doing amazing. With the trauma she began biting again, not even I could touch her. Weve always had good communication though so we worked through it. It took about 6 mos before I could touch her. About 18 mos before she really built up trust for me. Even now there are still limits where she will bite me. She used to be completely terrified of everything. She's learning to trust the world and with the help of my boy, and lots of protected socialization, she is progressing into a new dog. I think we aRe bother hauneed by that attack. I may not have been there, but knowing, seeing, what she went through, I feel just as tramautized. I don't like to let her out of my sight. She is not reactive to dogs, submissive actually but for some reason becomes a target of aggression often. She IS reactive to people. I protect her and there are allot of days I have to put a dog, or a person, in their place for it. She is finally liking to greet people and letting them touch her. But only when I'm with her.
    At the end of the day all that matters is our kids are safe. We do whatever has to be done and give them the time they need to work through it. Sometimes we have to make adjustments in our lives for their benefit. It's easy to love a well behaved dog. It's harder to love one that is, well, not so much. In the end, if we can't love them at their most imperfect, what use is love?
    GOOD LUCK TO YOU. stay with it and you'll get the rewards

  5. anonymous

    We got ours as a rescue, supposedly fine with dogs and children. He had issues with recall and may have been reactive from day1 but we noticed when was attacked on the beach by a large malamute and has since had issues with dogs medium to large dogs. Worked him down to a stage where its just those that resemble huskys/gsd/malamute and only occasionally.
    After a lot of positive-based desensitisation training we have built him up to a dog who has training awards, participates in flyball, can attend country shows, fun dog shows and be off lead the beach. It is definitely something that can be worked through but takes a lot of time and patience.

  6. David Few

    My german shepherd is fearful of other dogs as shes had two dogs chase her & shes ran away luckily home. What do you do to help the situation?

    When i see people with dogs on a lead I talk to them & when my dog is in a calm state ill fuss her up. Or if we walk near other dogs whens calm not all anxious ill praise her. Take her on group walks & shes getting on better with them dogs

  7. Rebarka

    My heart raced reading it, at the end my eyes welled up with tears for you
    and for Topher. It is the worst feeling when you "allow" something to happen to
    one of your dogs.

    I had a foster dog with fear aggression issues. It took months to get her
    to a place, mentally, where she was comfortable and confident playing with my
    dogs. I would let two out at a time, supervised every tail wag and ear flip,
    kept it short, lots of treats and rotated frequently. As thing progressed i
    naturally relaxed... and then it happened. The foster was playing with my male
    and got her mouth caught on his collar. He thought she was attacking him and he
    defended himself. In doing so, he knocked her on her back and had her pinned,
    her jaw was stuck under his chin and he twisted to bite her front leg giving her
    no leverage, no way to break free.

    He sounded like a pack of wolves, she was screaming for her life. I
    was yelling, trying to get their attention on me. I threw water. I knocked over
    a coffee table. Nothing was working, i couldn't break his focus. When i
    realized that the foster girl was STUCK i had no choice, i had to get her
    UNstuck! I tried to unbuckle his collar, but that added pressure made the
    foster scream louder - which i still think is the worst sound a dog can make! I
    did the only other thing i could think to do, I grabbed my 50 pound boy under
    the ribs and lifted him up. (i'll forever have a scar on my hand from whoever it
    was that managed to connect) It was enough of a reprieve that the foster's jaw
    slid free and she ran for safety. My boy was a wreck. The foster was terrified
    of me. In her mind, the only human she trusted had yelled at her, threw water
    on her and left her to die.

    My boy was no better, his best play buddy tried to kill him and for that,
    in his mind, i punished him. I had to keep him crated for a couple weeks until
    i was confident that he was "relaxing," for lack of a better word, but he was no
    longer allowed on the rotation play circuit. He was so depressed. It broke my
    heart. For days i would sit at work and cry, let it all out, so that i could
    hold it together when i got home. To see a 9 month old puppy stay curled up in a
    ball, didn't want to play, wouldn't look at me or my other dog... he was
    broken.

    It took a couple months of a new 2-3 minute rotation schedule before i
    could let the two of them out to play together again. After they realized the
    other wasn't out to kill him/her it got better, but i would no longer let them
    "rough house" they could only play with toys. But over time they got really
    good at joint fetch!

    The foster has since moved on to her forever home and it's been eight
    months since the "incident" but my boy is still scared of other dogs. If he sees
    another dog he panics and comes out swinging. Anytime there is a bad experience,
    doesn't matter what time of the day it is, that night he will sleep as close as
    he can with his eyes pressed into me. If it is a really close call, he will
    thrash and cry in his sleep and it looks like he suffers from "night
    terrors."

    I took him to a "scary things" class so he would be in a room with other
    dogs - but ZERO interaction and that helped some. We're now enrolled in nose
    work classes in the hopes that it continues to build his confidence. But i
    dread taking him on walks because of those careless, selfish people that are so
    inconsiderate they let their dogs run wild off leash.

  8. Julie Mayhair

    I have a similiar-ish story.
    I found a poor, pitiful, stray dog at the local River here in Molino, Florida. I worked for six days to get this dog to trust me enough to come home with me. It was February and it was the coldest part of our winter. Normally, Florida doesn't have a temperatures in the freezing range, but we did this past winter. The night that this stray dog finally decided that it could trust my husband and I enough to get it to come near us, and let us put a leash around her neck, it was estimated to be 19 degrees. We brought home this poor, pitiful, wet and tick infested plott hound. We did not have the intentions of keeping her. I just wanted to rescue her (because we already had a zoo, as it was) but my husband and I fell in love instantly. We saw this dog through her best and worst times.
    River, is terrified of any loud noises. She hates thunder, and she hates gun shots. The vet stated that he thought she had
    been shot with pellet guns. Unlike you, I have no idea what this dog has been through. I wasn't there to see anything happen, but I so wish I would have, even if it might have been painful.
    The first few weeks at home were fine. River was sweet, quiet, and shy. After the first month, we began to have problems. She wasn't "aggressive" on her own, but if she was provoked, she would turn into a monster. When she attacked my first dog, Karis, I had no idea what to do. I didn't know if it was time to let her go and take her to a shelter or if I should try to scrape up some money for dog training. I didn't want to give up on her. I felt that there was a purpose for this dog coming into my life. After all, I was just at the river, randomly one day with my cousin. I didn't go there expecting to find something that needed help. Instead, she found me. Over, and over again. Wanting to come to me, but afraid to trust me enough to despite how many treats or how much food I brought. How could I let this dog go? She might not ever trust another soul. I had a dog trainer come out to assess her. I knew that my husband and I could not afford a trainer, but I just wanted to make sure that she wasn't "aggressive" and that none of our animals or people residing in our house were in immediate danger. The trainer said exactly what I did, that she acted on fear. Our vet also said the same thing. I'm a college student, and my husband is the only one currently working in our household. I started to do research on training, and started my own "training."
    I showed River that this was my house. That she could come on my bed, or my couch when I invited her up instead of getting up there on her own and becoming possessive over it with something startled her. She would learn to co-exist with our dogs, and she has. We are still working on cats. She doesn't go after cats, but if they bother her- she'll snap at them.
    Our worst hurdle was when River bit my mom. My mom was staying with me while my husband was out of town on business. I was talking to him on the phone, and my mom went in the bedroom to see what River was doing, in the dark. My mom didn't think about River and how jumpy she is or her history of abuse... she treated her like she would her own dogs and tried kissing her... in the dark. River growled, but sometimes her growls sound like she's grunting from contentment and my mom misread her signals. River bit my mom in the face. I had to take my mom to the emergency room, where she received stitches. Thankfully, my mom realized that River wasn't trying to be aggressive. My mom knew right away, that she was in the wrong. Yes, River shouldn't have bitten her, but my mom should have taken the precaution to turn on the light so she could read her expressions and you should never get in a strange dogs face.
    After this happened, I took River to the vet and got her on Prozac. Between her at home training, and the Prozac she is doing quite well. She is spunky, and fun. She's relaxed and we haven't had any accidents since. However, we know she's not totally out of the clear yet.
    My point is, I don't know what happened to this dog... But I sure know the feeling of not wanting to give up on an animal that doesn't understand why these terrible things happen to use sometimes. Kudos to you for being a wonderful doggy owner! Sadly, not many people would have helped their dogs as much as you've helped your pup. I really enjoyed reading your story! 🙂

  9. Linda Carlisle

    Thx for sharing. I have a cute 17 lb pommy who spent some time on the mean streets of Chicago. I will never know what happened to him to make him reactive. Because I rescued him after he was captured and his first people refused to take him and his brother back. Apparently they put them both out on the street when they could no longer keep them. Today, he does have some doggy friends ...but he becomes a little "Joe Pesci" tough guy with just about one in every 10 dogs we pass. We're making progress...used to be one in 5. He'll actually go airborn on the end of the leash trying to get at the other dog...and they're usually perfectly well behaved and mild mannered. He seems to be fine off leash in large acreage dog recreation areas. No fear, no aggression. Probably because his super power is speed and he feels sure that off leash he can get away if needed. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps to know what kind of experience might have caused this...keep up the good work!

  10. ANA ZIR

    Lucy.. thank you for posting this. I have a Min Pin named Ruby. Min Pins are described as having fearless animation and while this is true (and works for the most part to keep bigger beasts at bay) she was brutally attacked by a pit bull. We were alone in a fenced in dog park. The owner did not see us, and felt her dog was safe to enter the area. After closing the gate behind her, the pit bull saw Ruby and charged, just like you described. There was no time to do anything; it happened in an instant. The dog owner and I did what you did: kicked, screamed, tried to pull them apart (yeah, not supposed to do that). Nothing worked. The thought ran through my mind: this is the end. A 13 pound dog vs a 50-plus lb. pit bull is no match. Ruby miraculously survived. She was bruised, flesh torn, and in shock. Maybe it's the breed but she literally "picked herself up and went back in the ring." To this day she is wary of big dogs. Maybe the mission here is to have all owners in complete control of their dogs at all times and not to have them in public areas off leads. My best guess is dogs can get PTSD just like humans can. We just need to keep them safe as best we can and educate, educate, educate.

  11. riverdivine

    Aw, so sorry for this trauma. 🙁 It was SO undeserved. My dog, a Siberian Husky who I spent many yrs using positive training techniques (to overcome her aggression created by a previous owner) has been attacked on more than one occasion by dogs OFF leash, who have come running up to her, while she is on leash. The owners are passive, impotent, and seem to have no sense of responsibility for the behavior of their dogs. In one instance, I was at the beach on an evening when there seemed to be no one around. My dog and I had gone for a brief walk, and were heading back to my car in the parking lot. Out of the dusk/darkness appeared 2 labs, off-leash...and an owner far behind... One lab raced into my dog's space, they started fighting...After being tousled around, being thrown through the air onto to the pavement from the force of my dog's pulling to go after this lab....I managed to somehow get up, and pull my dog away...Meanwhile, the owner of the dogs arrived, apathetically herded his dogs, and walked away, without even an "I'm sorry", or "Are you OK?". I was bleeding, beaten up, and my dog was traumatized... I hope that your sweet pup is able to recover from this trauma! So glad that you are a caring pet parent. 🙂 He may be reactive for awhile, but if you can consistently respond with patience and love, what he will learn is that he is completely safe with YOU, at least. And this is a HUGE thing. 🙂 Blessings, and best of luck~

  12. Philippa Connell

    My boxapoint boy Floyd was playing with a boxer in a park, and the other dog got overexcited and bit his penis. This kicked off a spiral of Floyd starting fights, and we were unable to break the habit, so gradually we began walking him at 5am so no other dog walkers were around. Unfortunately, we hit a rocky financial patch after I lost my job, and we were evicted from our house in April. We weren't able to find somewhere cheap enough that would let us keep him, so we sobbed our way to returning him to the Blue Cross. Because of his reactive issues, they stated they would be unable to rehome him, and they had him put to sleep.

    It's been four months and it's still really hard to write this. He was the joy in my life, and because we weren't able to afford a trainer and could not find a way to get through to him on walks (and because our old landlords charged extortionate rent) we lost him.

  13. Christa Velbel

    Lucy, I hope Topher is on the mend emotionally, and I look forward to reading about the behavior work you two are doing to help him bounce back from that sad attack you described. Peace & love.

  14. Ebby Coulombe

    Sigh. My Tawko (25lb doxie/shelti mix) is now 10 months old and has had 4 altercations involving being charged/rushed, prey driven at a park (all dogs out of control and off leash while my dog was on leash). He's also been bitten once on the face by a very naive/ignorant neighbour who knew her dog was aggressive/fearful towards EVERYTHING and didn't respect her own dogs need for personal space walking/talking by us (thinking just because the dog knew us it would be fine this time). His reactivity isn't as bad as some stories I've read considering all of this having happened, but I know that's in due part to the fact I'm not giving up on properly desensitizing/rehabbing him, with teachings from Sophia Yin and people like you sharing your experience/education in this matter it is improving, but it's not going to be perfect, which made me realize a lot of the onus is on me as an owner to reactive positively/properly in every meet and greet. What I'm having issues with is other people not being respectful of other dogs needs and allowing their dogs to "just be dogs" as they put it. It's beyond frustrating. It's at the point that I'm carrying a sjambok for our protection (I'm an athlete, there is no way I'm giving a large dog my foot to defend us again) and a pocket full of treats every time we leave the house. It's a good thing he's food driven and that our bond is good, he really doesn't feel the need to leave my side when we do have off leash time in safe places. I'm becoming more confident but still we've had those embarrassing meetings while out walking where I admit I didn't stay calm myself which made it much worse, it's so hard to not internalize their behaviour as a reflection of who you are as a dog owner/trainer. People look at our overreacting dogs thinking we're passive or even worse, abusive to them to have this type of behaviour. I get all kinds of comments of dog owners asking me about his diet as though diet will fix this or those who still spout off the domination BS Millan teaches. After reading this though I feel even more confident in our abilities to move on and both grow from our experiences. Thank you for sharing resources for us folk who can't always control our dogs environments/stimulus and that we're not alone. <3

  15. Caroline Whitney

    After reading the post and all the responses I still don't know what steps to take to cure my Belgian Mal of her reactive issues. Very disappointed to have spent the time.

  16. Kirsty Macfarlane

    I would like to know what happened to the guy and dogs! I have 2 reactive gsds both react for different reasons and I'm not going into detail but we are working through it. 6 months in and I'm noticing huge improvements. You know what annoys me though "it's not the dog it's the owner" not always most of the time it's environment and circumstances.

  17. JustMyOpinion

    Try the AGBEH group. It is a group, run by a trainer who uses positive training to deal with issues like this. The AGBEH stands for AGgressive BEHavior but they offer advice to condition your dog to things that make them lose their minds! I have a GSD that was reactive to dogs, bikes, skateboards and motorcycles. I implemented the advice I got from their site and it worked wonderfully. I know they are on yahoo groups. You can email them explaining what you are dealing with, and the answer that day. You can also use their archives since this is an issue with a lot of people and dogs. Be patient. You are not alone

  18. PF Flyer

    I am so sorry for what happened to this sweet boy. The man responsible should have had his a$$ kicked over the moon, fined, made to pay the vet bills and publish an apology. What a jerk.

  19. Anna Williams

    I have 14 dogs of which 11 are rescue. These dogs have mostly come from death row in the various countries they were unlucky enough to be born in and as such have had to fight to eat and survive. The obvious result is that some are reactive.... to be fair, they should all be by rights but amazingly some are not. The problem in the UK is the law..... under the DDA someone only has to feel threatened by a dog to be able to report it.... if the dog that I'm walking lunges at you or your dog, you are within your rights to report it. Through this fear, we are sadly creating a whole generation of unsocialised reactive dogs.

  20. Beth Elliott Smith

    Wow I can so relate to this! I'm glad Topher made it through the attack. Although forever changed. I have 2 boxers. One has been attacked on walks by off lease dogs a few times, but not ever seriously injured. Ever since then she has been a reactive dog. We still take her on walks but she gets nervous when she sees other dogs and growls and barks at them. Usually this scares the other person walking their dog. She is 6 and loves to play. We also have another boxer who is 4. He goes to day camp and plays all days with other dogs. But when we walk him he barks at everything. We love them both so much, just wish we knew how to help them.

  21. Robin Rosner

    I've shared some of this story before...my pup is reactive...but to people...and not all of the time. We live with my elder parents. Dad is 99 and has a severe hearing impairment but is otherwise active and engaged...mom will be 94 in less than a month and has some severe memory loss issues...My pup and I originally went to classes; it was a challenge to continually train because neither parent followed the rules and interacted appropriately with her, though they love and enjoy her company for petting etc. I had our teacher/trainer even come to the house to try and work with them. Dad stayed at a distance and commented on how it looked like she was getting lots of treats....and mom...well, her biggest issue was that my little one seemed to be demonstrating some protective or guarding type behaviors...and I might have been "it." But life went on. And then one day when my pup went up to say hi to my mom who was sitting on a sofa, and make nice...and nothing at all was wrong...my father observing from a few feet away thought something terrible was happening since he couldn't hear. In seconds he abruptly was on his feet, startling my love, and pulling her off by the collar and beating at her. I was feet away and stunned...as stunned as my pup was. I threw myself over her to protect her. I still remember the shocked look in her eyes, the disbelief, not understanding what at all had happened. That seemed to be the point where she became more reactive...and since it's hard to work on this alone, and because there is a frailty issue with my parents, when we are in the same space, my pup is leashed, and I am on guard. When I'm not home, she is in our room, safe. She really is a sweet and loving and wonderful pup. I hope we can make things better in time.

  22. Jane Cooper

    Exactly the same thing with my beautiful Labrador only issue I had with him was pulling on the lead which I was making progress with. Then came a trip to the park for a dog charities afternoon and three separate dogs all on leashes bit him. Since then he has been reactive to every dog coming towards him. If let off the leash he would run up to them to play as is the Labrador way but i can't risk him being bitten again. He looks and sounds ferocious and if people were brave enough to approach he would slobber their dog to bits but obviously they won't despite me trying to explain. I cannot afford fog rehabilitation classes so am following tips on positively to try and help my beautiful placid boy when we are out. Thank you for posting this x

  23. Lorraine Herrera

    I have a rescue baby, he is a basset hound, was the cutest thing on earth. He was bitten by the neighbor's bull terrier twice, both times the other dog reached directly to his neck leaving him bleeding. This dog used to be so sweet that he even allowed cats from the street to eat his food. A few years later his owner got married and apparently that broke his comfort and confidence, that was the last drop. He became aggressive, that's when I step in and took him back to rehabilitate him. I took him to professional training, I treated some medical conditions that might be triggering the aggressiveness, and got him fixed. He improved a little but never was the same dog, he attacked a friend of mine and my little poodle because she tried to eat his food. He is still the cutest thing, but doesn't trust anybody. I wasn't able to find him a new home, but happily my mom told me to leave him in her house, I was living there for a season, he was in love with me and I was his caretaker, I had to move because of health issues and she told me to leave him there, now he even plays with her, in the past he has bitten her too, apparently he gets in love with his caretaker and trusts nobodyelse.

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