reactive dog training advice

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azaelia
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:49 pm

reactive dog training advice

Post by azaelia » Thu Feb 11, 2016 6:29 pm

hi,
i just need a quick few questions answered - my 17month gsd Maximus is reactive on the lead. he's good with dogs off lead and people he doesn't bother too much with but has been known to bark and lunge, he's had an opportunity to bite once and didn't, so he's just vocal. on lead he's a little terror, he'll bark and lunge at anyone who talks to him, walks towards him or gets too close. he particualry hates children and big dogs on lead. he's also very fearful at the vets.

i admit it's my fault, he missed out on crucial socialising when he was younger. SO to combat this i now take him to my local park 3 times a week, theres a school there so i take him out when the schools closing so he sees PLENTY of people, dogs, kids on scooters, with balls running and shouting ect. it's also a large open area where i feel that he's safe. i stand just off the path, he's comfortable, he sits and watches the wold go by and ofcourse PLENTY of treats!

is this enough? would a behavourist be better? i spend alot of time watching kikopups videos on youtube and i'm doing some of the reactivity training with him, things like "lets go" so i can quickly change direction if theres a problem, and methods to calm him down ect. is there anything else a behavourist could do for him? i'm just reluctant to pay all that money if they're just going to tell me to do what i'm already doing!

i've been following kikopup for a while now and all the other training methods i've used have worked brilliantly, he FINALLY walks properly on the lead! (almost) so i trust he methods and i'm comfortable with clicker training.

also does anyone know how long these things take before i see an improvement? just so i can gauge his progress to make sure the trainings working

any advice anyone can give me will be appreciated.

many thanks

azaelia

mansbestfriend
Posts: 301
Joined: Mon May 20, 2013 7:35 am
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: reactive dog training advice

Post by mansbestfriend » Thu Feb 11, 2016 8:22 pm

Hi. Apart from the issue of fear/defensive behaviour the vet, an easy quick way to reduce barking and lunging on-leash is avoid the triggers, or at least take a wider berth around possible triggers. Try HARD to see potential sources of angst before your dog.

When training, if your dog looks at a trigger (EG: another dog on-leash) and reacts, move further away from the trigger. If it looks at a trigger and doesn't react or only reacts a little , click and treat. Repeat.

Tab289 also has some good videos on youtubes, with his GSD. One is about asking for attention and eye contact when you need it -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oo6tcSxWWg

Some behaviours can change quickly with training, some take longer, some also need management. Cheers. :)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Sit.

azaelia
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:49 pm

Re: reactive dog training advice

Post by azaelia » Fri Feb 12, 2016 12:35 pm

thanks for replying.
thats pretty much what i do. we're down to 3 or 4 meters and he's happy and relaxed with people and small dogs, with larger dogs its more like 10m. every time he looks at someone i click & treat him.

i'm working on eye contact with him, he's not good enough at it yet with such high distractions but we're getting there. & thanks for the link, i'll have a look.

should i expect that (with time) his reactivity should decrease as he becomes more comfortable around people? he's usually pretty good but today he was very reactive, i had to stand well away from people today :( he's got an ear infection atm though so its probably that making him feel vunerable/whatever.

many thanks

JudyN
Posts: 7018
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:20 pm
Location: Dorset, UK
Contact:

Re: reactive dog training advice

Post by JudyN » Fri Feb 12, 2016 12:54 pm

Yes, I think as long as you work to keep him within his comfort zone as much as possible (so view every lunge as a 'mistake' on your part) he'll improve. He's at a 'difficult' age right now and will mellow as he matures.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

mansbestfriend
Posts: 301
Joined: Mon May 20, 2013 7:35 am
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: reactive dog training advice

Post by mansbestfriend » Fri Feb 12, 2016 8:09 pm

Hi. If your dog reacts at a distance of four metres, stay seven or more metres from the trigger. If the bark&lunge distance is ten metres, stay fifteen or more metres from that trigger.

Barking and lunging events mean stress overload, but every trigger causes a spike. Stress builds quickly and dissipates slowly. Maybe google something like "how adrenalin and cortisol affects dog behaviour".

Sounds like you have a great young dog that feels somewhat vulnerable on-leash, and has a sore ear. Cheers. :)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Sit.

jacksdad
Posts: 4887
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: reactive dog training advice

Post by jacksdad » Fri Feb 12, 2016 9:05 pm

you got some really good advice, so let me just expand on a couple already brought up points and one of your unanswered questions.

the safe distance from scary...aka the trigger.

our dogs set this distance. it doesn't matter that we may feel 10 feet is far enough, or that 1000 feet is far enough. the dog sets the distance. setting the safe distance by what we feel is reasonable or enough is one possible road block to progress because the dog may not feel safe at the distance we feel is enough and when you don't feel safe, learning is at the least hindered, at the worst not happening in the direction we want/need. thing could get worse, not better.

setting the safe distance is part experience, part reading your dog. have you done any work on learning to read dog? how to tell when they are afraid, worried, on alert, relaxed etc?

being sick or injured.

if your dog is sick or injured DO NOT TRAIN until your dog is healed up. It is a judgment call if you should do some indoor training, silly tricks, sit, down etc practice, but you should for sure NOT be taking your dog anywhere near their fear trigger. you can set your self back significantly doing this. take a break, go quite places where scary isn't likely to be. learning happens best when feeling safe, when you are weak, sick, hurting, you are not at your best and being out in the world can make you feel unsafe even at distances you would otherwise be ok.

speaking of breaks....less is often more.

don't try and work your dog every single day to reduce their fear of whatever it is they are scared of. Take at least 24s between sessions with scary. this really helps. take 48s if you are early in the training. Repeated exposure can, particularly if you are making lots of mistakes early on, cause your dog to become MORE scared. this is NOT because your "reinforced" the fear, its a concept call sensitization.

we can control two things. duration and intensity. duration is how long your dog has to "deal" with scary during training. intensity is how close you are. so consider keeping sessions short. 1 min, then go for LOTS of distance and take a break. then try again a few minutes later. build up to 2 minutes of "exposure" etc. make sure you are only getting as close as your dog needs to "be aware" of scary, but not have a unwanted reaction. lunging, barking, growling etc.

so build in breaks. keep sessions short. take days off.

how long this will take?

it all depends and there is too many factors to even make a guess over the internet. however, the less you push and try and rush, the "quicker" it will go.

would a behaviorist help? again it depends. for example, in the USA there are literally just a handful of true behaviorists.

see here = http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/we ... ectory.php

The US vets also have a behaviorist credential and there are very few of them as well. All told, less than 200 for the entire USA. There are LOTS of people calling them self behaviors, but by what definition/criteria and what is their education? what is their experience?

Working with fearful dogs is it's own specialty in reality, just like you would not typically choose a trainer who only knows about obedience competition to learn about Agility, you need to really, really check out, ask questions investigate is this trainer actually qualified to work with fearful dogs.

having said that...someone qualified in fearful dogs can be help. but if you are willing to spend sometime and money on books and some select DVDs, there isn't any reason you could not learn to help your dog. If you want to go that rout, we can help with suggestions resources. Not the least of which is this forum...there are a few Pro's floating around here

azaelia
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:49 pm

Re: reactive dog training advice

Post by azaelia » Sat Feb 13, 2016 3:16 pm

hi, thanks everyone for replying, you've all been a big help!

think now i'll increase the distance a bit. not too much though as i do think he's relaxed at this distance, he lays dnown on the grass and has a good sniff about after a while so thats telling me he's relaxed. i think the new plan will be to walk in big circles so we spend a few mins close to people then move away a bit so i dont overwhelm him.

i do know a bit about dog body language, my last dog was extreamly fearfull of lots of things and very reactive to EVERYTHING, he taught me alot about body language ect. i can read Maxi pretty well.

the kids are off school for a week so he can have a break while his ear heals, i'll just do lead work as he seems to have taken a small step backwards (little tinker)

i only manage to get him to the park on a wed & fri so atleast i'm not over doing things.

i'm going to give him untill summer, so maybe 3 or 4 months and see how he's doing until i decide if we need to go 'shopping' for a behavourist

many thanks everyone, i really appreciate it!

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