Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Share your experience and tell us how using positive reinforcement training methods has changed yours and your dogs' lives.

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Erica
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Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Erica » Sun Aug 07, 2011 6:56 pm

So I dogsit/walk dogs for a family every weekday - they work all day - and their Malamute, Amadeus, was very dog reactive. If he even saw a dog from far away, he would instantly fixate on it and if it got closer, go beserk - barking, lunging, jumping around, etc. What their trainer suggested was, upon seeing another dog or people walking or anything, pull out a cheese stick or hot dog and constantly feed him a little nibble. Sore hands were common, but what a change! There are two incidents that come to mind - one, a "dogsitter" (I'd never EVER go to her - she's a yank-'em-spank-'em type and doesn't know how to mind her own dern business) had the gate open in their yard or something and the three dogs that were there all got out - a pointer mix, a GSD puppy, and some other dog that I don't remember. The older two dogs went back into the yard, but the puppy was running around for at least five minutes, and I got Ami to sit down for most of it - occasionally he would stand up, but he would sit again when I signaled him to.

Another time, two Australian Shepherds left their yard (they do this often) and were running circles around us - trying to herd us or something - but I got Ami to sit and wait while I yelled and swung my arms at the other dogs - that's what gets them to leave. It's such an amazing change! I wouldn't have imagined that happening at the beginning of his training. We can now even walk past someone on the other side of the road with a dog! It doesn't sound difficult, but I'm sure several of you know how much you have to put in to change a dog's habits.
Delta, standard poodle, born 6/30/14

Shepherd103
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Shepherd103 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:28 am

When dealing with a dog of any type that go nuts when they see other dogs in sight is because the dog believes he's the leader and that it's his right to protect and put the other dogs in their place. When the dog goes crazy, calmly take him by the collar and put him in a confined room for 2 minuets. When you let him out, ignore him for 2 minuets. He'll think " Oh, why did I do that? Now I can't be with the pack. " And after a few goes he'll realize " Oh, okay this isn't getting me any where. If I keep doing that, this is where I get put. If I'm good, I don't get put in here and I get to stay with my friends." When he see's a dog, and he behaves good, praise him. When you take him to a confined room. Don't get edgy, take a deep breath, if your calm, he'll start to wonder" She's calm, so it must not be that important" Then he'll start to ignore them.
Persevere, hang on till the end. Don't quit, keep going!
Shepherd103

jacksdad
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by jacksdad » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:24 am

Shepherd, with respect your advice is wrong.

First, a dog who goes "nuts" when it sees another dog does NOT think it's the leader. Frankly, dogs who behave this way are NOT leader material anyway. who wants to follow a "nut case" who can't control one's self, who flips out easily, etc. Real leaders (human or dog) that people (and dogs) want to be around are calm, confident, don't go nuts at the drop of a hat.

When a dog goes "nuts" when it see's another dog the root issues are generally fear and/or low confidence. Again, two traits that are NOT leadership traits. There are also some dogs who do not fear other dogs, but just get so excited over seeing another dog they lose control because they just have to go over and sniff and offer to play etc...but in a way over the top way. Again, NOT leadership material. When they go "nuts" they are NOT protecting their people. frankly depending on the dog and how intense the fear or confidence issue and how worked up they get they get tunnel vision and basically lose awareness of you being near them. part of the reason they sometimes turn on their people. they are so worked up into a survival flight or fight state they are just lash out and anything close due to a "get the threat before it gets me" strategy. It's every dog for them self.

Dogs aren't pack animals, at least not in the image that they most people think. most people think that anytime a dog gets around people or dogs they think they are in a pack. NOPE. Proper dog packs are family units, mom, dad, pups or just mom and pups depending on the situation. Occasionally random dogs to pack up when there is an advantage to, but this "pack" dissolves when the advantage disappears. Researchers who have observed both types of packs found a much more benevolent structure to the "packs" then most people realize. But this is individuals of the same species. Dogs and Humans aren't packs, they are two separate species living together for mutual benefit. A situation humans have capitalized on and encouraged through breeding and training.

As for your time out suggestion. Time outs can be very useful for addressing behavior that is inappropriate BUT the dog finds rewarding and fun. You can use timeouts for other issues, but generally it's best to save time outs for things your dog finds FUN and rewarding but is inappropriate behavior. For other things it's best to make sure your dog really gets what is should be doing before going to a timeout. For time outs to be most effective they need to last NO more than 10 to 15 seconds. any longer and your dog looses the association of "when I do X I get a time out which isn't fun".

In the case of most reactive dogs, seeing the other dog is absolutely NOT a fun experience for them, so timeouts or any other "punishment" no matter how non aversive it is, is NOT appropriate. Working with them at a safe distance (the distance they don't go "nuts") and rewarding them for staying calm while KNOWING the other dog is about is the most effective method for helping fear full or low confident dogs to learn that other dogs does not automatically equal sometime to be afraid of.

I can't emphasize enough, that this isn't about dogs wanting to be leaders over random dogs or their humans. most people don't understand leadership and what makes a good leader and so do not get it. Most issues that people want fixed in dogs that gets attributed to "dog wanting to be alpha" is often behavior that is complete opposite of what a real "leader or alpha" type dog is. If you want to see how this plays out in the human world, there is a book call "generation kill". it was written by a Rolling Stones reporter who got embedded with a US Marine unit during the initial invasion of Iraq. What is relevant here is the person that got labeled "Captain America" and his behavior. in the dog world he would have been labeled a reactive dog and because of this behavior he lost the respect of the Marines under him. he was impulsive, couldn't keep his cool in stressful situations, couldn't read the intentions of the Iraqi's that were encountered and on and one. Not only did the Marines loose respect for him, but he became a joke, got insulted to his face and they no longer felt safe around him. The same basics apply to dogs. a dog that flips out and goes nuts is unpredictable, doesn't read the world around them accurately, does not create a sense of safety and calm and things are going to be ok. No dog (or human) wants to be lead by someone like that.

Shepherd, if you want to get up to speed on what is going on with dogs who react to dogs and some very effective methods for helping these dogs we list out some very good books here viewtopic.php?f=4&t=11503
Last edited by jacksdad on Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

jacksdad
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by jacksdad » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:28 am

Sounds like your on the right track. keep it up. it takes time, but you can get there.
Erica wrote:What their trainer suggested was, upon seeing another dog or people walking or anything, pull out a cheese stick or hot dog and constantly feed him a little nibble. Sore hands were common, but what a change!
If the sore hands you mention are from lots of teeth involved in getting the treat when other dogs are about, you might still be too close. with my dog, the more teeth I feel the more aroused and too close to scary he is. simply calmly lead the dog away for more distance while still providing treats.

emmabeth
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by emmabeth » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:08 pm

shepherd103 - could you read through the forums and see the advice we give please as unfortunately some of your theories are WAY off base.

Advising a time out as you describe is WRONG, and will just confuse a dog - whilst a time out can be useful and we do advise them sometimes, knowing why and how they work and using them properly is crucial (and properly is for ten seconds, with the game or whatever being resumed immediately teh dog returns to the room. For many dogs 2 minutes is long enough for them to forget WHY they were timed out, and a further 2 minutes ignoring them would cause confusion and in some dogs serious distress!).

Also PLEASE will you stop publishing your email address within posts. If you have your email address entered within your profile it will show up as a button on your posts IF people want to email you. Suggesting that people do so is verging on spamming the forums and additionally you are likely to find it 'scraped' by bots for spamming and your inbox will be filled with rubbish! If you haven't removed your email from your posts by later today I will edit them for you (or if you don't know how pm me, and I'll edit them for you.)
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

Erica
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Erica » Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:59 pm

jacksdad wrote:Sounds like your on the right track. keep it up. it takes time, but you can get there.
Erica wrote:What their trainer suggested was, upon seeing another dog or people walking or anything, pull out a cheese stick or hot dog and constantly feed him a little nibble. Sore hands were common, but what a change!
If the sore hands you mention are from lots of teeth involved in getting the treat when other dogs are about, you might still be too close. with my dog, the more teeth I feel the more aroused and too close to scary he is. simply calmly lead the dog away for more distance while still providing treats.
It's more that he wants more than I'm giving him, and that I have somewhat sensitive skin, but I'll try that. The problem is that sometimes, trying to get him to move will make him think it's okay to move toward the other dog...not quite the point! There are also a lot of hills/curves/trees in the neighborhood, so it is great for getting him away when he's a bit too over-the-top (which, now, is only when it's the lab/rottie mix that his owners are terrified of and which he has begun to hate), but when we do see a dog, there's only so far we can go before he can't see them and there's no chance to train.

Also, @Shepherd - time outs don't really work on a walk. ;) Other members have posted the other problems I have with your advice.
Delta, standard poodle, born 6/30/14

Shepherd103
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Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:15 pm
Location: Te Puke, New Zealand

Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Shepherd103 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:23 pm

Hi,
I get my inspiration from the wolf pack.
When the dog gets time out, it gives him time to think and realise, that he was separated from all his friends. It does work. But I can understand where you are coming from.
Sorry.
emmabeth wrote:shepherd103 - could you read through the forums and see the advice we give please as unfortunately some of your theories are WAY off base.

Advising a time out as you describe is WRONG, and will just confuse a dog - whilst a time out can be useful and we do advise them sometimes, knowing why and how they work and using them properly is crucial (and properly is for ten seconds, with the game or whatever being resumed immediately teh dog returns to the room. For many dogs 2 minutes is long enough for them to forget WHY they were timed out, and a further 2 minutes ignoring them would cause confusion and in some dogs serious distress!).

Also PLEASE will you stop publishing your email address within posts. If you have your email address entered within your profile it will show up as a button on your posts IF people want to email you. Suggesting that people do so is verging on spamming the forums and additionally you are likely to find it 'scraped' by bots for spamming and your inbox will be filled with rubbish! If you haven't removed your email from your posts by later today I will edit them for you (or if you don't know how pm me, and I'll edit them for you.)
Persevere, hang on till the end. Don't quit, keep going!
Shepherd103

Shepherd103
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Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:15 pm
Location: Te Puke, New Zealand

Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Shepherd103 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:28 pm

Hi,
I wasn't talking of a time out on a walk.
But at home.
Erica wrote:
jacksdad wrote:Sounds like your on the right track. keep it up. it takes time, but you can get there.
Erica wrote:What their trainer suggested was, upon seeing another dog or people walking or anything, pull out a cheese stick or hot dog and constantly feed him a little nibble. Sore hands were common, but what a change!
If the sore hands you mention are from lots of teeth involved in getting the treat when other dogs are about, you might still be too close. with my dog, the more teeth I feel the more aroused and too close to scary he is. simply calmly lead the dog away for more distance while still providing treats.
It's more that he wants more than I'm giving him, and that I have somewhat sensitive skin, but I'll try that. The problem is that sometimes, trying to get him to move will make him think it's okay to move toward the other dog...not quite the point! There are also a lot of hills/curves/trees in the neighborhood, so it is great for getting him away when he's a bit too over-the-top (which, now, is only when it's the lab/rottie mix that his owners are terrified of and which he has begun to hate), but when we do see a dog, there's only so far we can go before he can't see them and there's no chance to train.

Also, @Shepherd - time outs don't really work on a walk. ;) Other members have posted the other problems I have with your advice.
Persevere, hang on till the end. Don't quit, keep going!
Shepherd103

chay
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by chay » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:45 pm

jacksdad wrote: Dogs aren't pack animals, at least not in the image that they most people think. most people think that anytime a dog gets around people or dogs they think they are in a pack. NOPE. Proper dog packs are family units, mom, dad, pups or just mom and pups depending on the situation. Occasionally random dogs to pack up when there is an advantage to, but this "pack" dissolves when the advantage disappears. Researchers who have observed both types of packs found a much more benevolent structure to the "packs" then most people realize. But this is individuals of the same species. Dogs and Humans aren't packs, they are two separate species living together for mutual benefit. A situation humans have capitalized on and encouraged through breeding and training.
hi shepherd!

as jacksdad has touched on, the 'wolfpack' idea is based on decades old (like we're talking 50's and 80's) observation of captive wolves. modern science and observation of actual DOGS has established, that domestic dogs behave nothing like captive wolves, which in turn behave nothing like wild wolves!

the "wolf pack" thing is a commonly held belief, but modern science regarding dog psychology and behavior has moved on, and that approach is not really advocated on this board.

if you are interested, there is a brilliant book by john bradshaw called "dog sense" which breaks down the modern science about dog behavior and how it applies to our pets. it is not a "how to train your dog" book, but makes the behavioral science information really accessible.

there's also some great articles over in the article section here viewforum.php?f=20, with lots of great reads regarding the perception of "dominance" and lots more (this one in particular i think is great - viewtopic.php?f=20&t=600)

emmabeth/jacksdad have already explained why timeouts for 2 minutes are not the best idea, in theory you're right but the duration needs to be no longer than 10 seconds or the dog no longer connects the activity he just did, to the fun being stopped.

welcome to the forum, there's heaps and heaps to learn here - i have learnt SO MUCH just from reading around the articles and the advice given in threads! have fun and make sure to ask any questions you may have :)

Shepherd103
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Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:15 pm
Location: Te Puke, New Zealand

Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Shepherd103 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:56 pm

Hi,

I am also wanting to learn more of Victoria's methods, I love her TV episodes.
I guess everyone has their own methods that are succsessfull.

I was told during a time out that it is meant to be 2 minuets,
But of late I've been doing one minuet as I don't what the dog to forget why he was put there.

the website I use is www.janfennellthedoglistener.com
Persevere, hang on till the end. Don't quit, keep going!
Shepherd103

jacksdad
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by jacksdad » Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:11 pm

At the risk of "do as I say, not as I do..." sounding. please lets not derail Erica's success story thread anymore than already has been. The incorrect information has been addressed, and if anyone wants to discuss it more in general terms, verse a specific dog, please start a fresh thread in the General topic section here viewforum.php?f=11 If there is a specific dog you want to discuss, the training advice section here viewforum.php?f=4 is the place to start the discussion and ask for help.

Shepherd103, I hope you stick around and continue to ask questions and learn. you have been exposed to some very out dated information/ideas, but then haven't we all. when I first came here I was trying to understand how basically strangling my dog would solve the problem..thank god I didn't and keep looking for a better way. I can't think of a better place to come and learn up to date information than here.

Erica's, I also hope you stick around and continue to update us on the dog your working with. If you run into any thing that leaves you with questions, there is a wide range of backgrounds and experience here, someone will have an answer or advise.

Bluedog
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Bluedog » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:04 pm

Through experience I believe the only way to reduce reactivity towards other dogs, is to reward the dog for appropriate behaviour in the presence of other dogs. Just as described by the original poster describes.

I have a dog reactive dog and have found out that everybody is an expert regarding dog behaviour!! Some advice useful others just plain rubbish. I have tried lots of approaches including consciously changing my own behaviour.

Some of the suggestions have positively made my dog worse - used to take him to obedience and agility classes which he really liked despite the potential for reacting - in the main his behaviour was good so long as he was focussed on me or an activity. However he would get into trouble when we were waiting around for the agility course. The dog trainer there suggested correcting the dog strongly ie yanking the lead hard as soon as he reacted. This I believe increased my dogs anxiety levels and overall made his reactivity worse.

We don't go anymore.

I think dog reactivity is quite a complex issue and though a large part of it will be fear based I think there are other things going on. I know the word dominance is deeply problematic I think it accurately describes some of my dogs behaviour towards other dogs, particular young dogs - he wants them to be scared of him.

Anyway back to the positive reinforcement for good behaviour, my dog can now approach other dogs as long as I stay calm and constantly praise him. An important aspect is removing him before there is any trouble.

The answer is positive reinforcement and for me to act as the Alpha calm, fearless and in control.

jacksdad
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by jacksdad » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:13 pm

Bluedog wrote: However he would get into trouble when we were waiting around for the agility course. The dog trainer there suggested correcting the dog strongly ie yanking the lead hard as soon as he reacted. This I believe increased my dogs anxiety levels and overall made his reactivity worse.

We don't go anymore.
Your absolutely right to not want to yank or inflict any level of pain/punishment, because as you say it will make things worse.

If I had to guess as to why your dog was "getting into trouble" it would be your dog was not ready for this activity yet. Of course to be clear in case someone is just browsing and reading. In this context your dog is most defiantly NOT being bad. Reactive dogs are almost always acting out of fear and dealing with it the best they know/can.

Earlier this year I thought my reactive dog was far enough along to try some lure course racing. He was to a point. While he didn't go into reactive "mode", he was getting complete sensory overload and was heading toward shutdown mode. which for him is not his typical response. so, needless to say we do not participate anymore.
Bluedog wrote: I think dog reactivity is quite a complex issue and though a large part of it will be fear based I think there are other things going on. I know the word dominance is deeply problematic I think it accurately describes some of my dogs behavior towards other dogs, particular young dogs - he wants them to be scared of him.
It is very complex as there is really no way to know where genetics ends and life experiences begins in terms of why a dog becomes or is reactive. and helping a dog overcome this so much depends on the dog it's self and us humans being able to read our dogs as accurately as possible in order to have any hope of knowing how they are dealing with a situation. are they improving, getting worse etc.

The reason dominance is deeply problematic in relation to reactive dogs, is people often think of dominance as describing trying to be in charge. But that isn't the proper use of the term. dominance is properly used to describe who wins access to a resource. and who wins can change even between two or more of the same dogs depending on the resource and who desire for it's strongest, and wining does NOT require "aggression" either.

Typically when we talk about reactive dogs the root cause is fear and low confidence. neither of which make for a good leader. the other issues is "Alpha" dogs and dogs who want to be "alpha" aren't dime a dozen and people who push dominance as a catch all explanation would have us believe ALL dogs are driven to be "in charge", and that just doesn't seem to be the case. particularly with fearful dogs. Many of of which have the overwhelming goal of driving other dogs away, not lead them or control them.
Bluedog wrote: Anyway back to the positive reinforcement for good behavior, my dog can now approach other dogs as long as I stay calm and constantly praise him. An important aspect is removing him before there is any trouble.
That is great, shows progress....sometimes. sometimes the progress is not really progress but dogs shutting down emotionally because scary is WAY to close. It is important to KNOW the difference. It's also (in my opinion) NOT necessary to arbitrarily approach other dogs just because you can and your dog isn't shutting down or "acting out".
Bluedog wrote:The answer is positive reinforcement and for me to act as the Alpha calm, fearless and in control.
I agree the answer is positive reinforcement based methods and doing your best to be calm and fearless your self. but "acting as the Alpha..." wast of time. your not a dog, your dog knows your not a dog. when it's goes into reactive mod (being shutting down or acting out) it's really not to concerned about you or who you think you are in relation to it. Its focused on scary not you.

Bluedog
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Bluedog » Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:20 pm

Thanks for responding jacksdad - I've just read some of your other posts! Wow you are working hard. Don't think Blue has quite so many issues.

I have had my dog since he was a pup, the issues started arising when he was hitting puberty around 7 months. Issues are just around other dogs and not all dogs, generally he is better with bitches and worse with young dogs of either sex. He seems to be very intolerant to poor social skills in others - anyone looking to long, anyone who looks at all if he has already started eyeballing, anyone with paws up even though he has indulged in all these himself he appears to think it is his place to correct these behaviours.

Recently he has taken to lying down on the approach of other dogs. How would you read this?

In all other respects he is the perfect dog, playful, quick to learn (double edged sword I know) and very tolerant of children and our other pets!

Erica
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Re: Dealing with a dog-reactive dog

Post by Erica » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:55 pm

Bluedog wrote:Some of the suggestions have positively made my dog worse - used to take him to obedience and agility classes which he really liked despite the potential for reacting - in the main his behaviour was good so long as he was focussed on me or an activity. However he would get into trouble when we were waiting around for the agility course. The dog trainer there suggested correcting the dog strongly ie yanking the lead hard as soon as he reacted. This I believe increased my dogs anxiety levels and overall made his reactivity worse.

We don't go anymore.
I have the same issue with my own German Shepherd - she would be brilliant at a dog sport, either agility or flyball or anything - she's very intelligent and has good hips/elbows and lots of energy - but the only dog-sport trainer within an hour's drive was the one we used for puppy training...for one, there were fleas everywhere there, and the more convincing reason not to go is that the main trainer is one of the dominance-based trainers. She combines R+ with P+, which I'm not fond of (uhDUH)...she recommended we get a prong collar for Opal's reactivity to dogs and people, which we used without any success, but once I got an EasyWalk harness and showed my dad how to use it (he's the one that walks her, most days), that thing went into the cabinet and hasn't seen the light of day since. :) She's also at a similar point as Amadeus - sometimes she can sit and wait while other dogs walk past, sometimes, she gets really focused on the dog and looks like a crazy attack dog, though she's not at all aggressive. (We took her to the dog park a few times when she was younger, and a dog bit her once...she tried to run away instead of even nipping at the attacking dog. She doesn't enjoy the dog park much and we don't go anymore.)
Delta, standard poodle, born 6/30/14

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