Helping with a reactive dog

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JudyN
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Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Wed Oct 16, 2019 8:39 am

My friend has started a dog walking business, and one of her clients lives a couple of streets away. The dog, I would guess from photos, is a beardie x lurcher, though he has a fairly short/wide snout so maybe more beardie (or a bit of terrier) than pointy dog.

He's reactive, and also nervous - my friend accidentally dropped a bag right next to her and he bit her :shock: He's also dog reactive... but this is mainly because the husband owner insists that he should be able to walk past other dogs on the same side of the road so rather than crossing over, he grabs hold of H's collar and pretty much drags him past :roll: When my friend walks him she does all the right things, and she hasn't seen a trace of reactivity - H likes to keep half an eye on other dogs, but is more interested in the treats she has.

Jasper would actually make quite a good dog for H and my friend to 'practise' on - unlike his early days, he's usually tolerant of other dogs, and would generally rather ignore them than rise to their challenge, plus he loves other sighthounds. And I can read him like a book so can spot if he might take exception to a particular one - we'd keep them on lead, and start out a LONG way apart, then build up very slowly. It would be lovely if we could eventually walk together side by side, but if it doesn't happen, that's fine.

The main problem I can see is that J loves my friend, so the moment he spots her he will be all excited and then agitated as we won't be able to go over to her, which isn't going to help H feel calm. Is there any possible way round this do you think, or will it make the plan a non-starter?

It might never happen - she's helping while H's owners have both had ops and doesn't know if they'll want to keep her on when they've recovered, and I'm still on crutches when out of the house and need someone to hold J's lead for me. It seems that when the surgeon fixed my knee he managed to tear my calf muscle in the process :evil: But I like to plan ahead 8)
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by Nettle » Thu Oct 17, 2019 2:26 am

While it could eventually possibly with good luck and a following wind be made to work a bit sometimes :wink: IMO too many of the beings involved are going to be too stressed about it. Sometimes dogs can be schooled to feel confident with one person even if the main minders are doing everything they can to create stress and misery (the dragging husband). And with Jas being what he is, not only could much of your good work over the years be undone on a permanent basis :evil: but he could actually get worse. So, given the list of unpleasant likelihoods, I wouldn't do it.

I would suggest your friend habituates flakydog to a muzzle to be worn when he walks with her.

Sorry to hear about your leg problems and hope they resolve soon.
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JudyN
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:40 am

Actually I don't think I'd have a problem with Jasper at all, having seen him interacting with so many dogs over the years (has mingled freely with other lurchers on group lurcher walks on many occasions) - but yes, I'd certainly have to be cautious as if it went wrong it could go horribly wrong, particularly for the other dog. But we certainly couldn't risk making flakydog flakier. He already wears a muzzle on walks, but it's a fabric one that holds the mouth shut :x My friend's working on them to try a basket muzzle - I lent her one of J's, but flakeydog's face is too broad (and probably his nose too short).

Actually I think she said the owners were going to take him to [email protected] for a muzzle fitting... because, obviously, a dog SHOULD be able to walk up those narrow aisles, past rabbits and guineapigs and dogfood, and birdfood, and open baskets of treats and toys, and be fine if he bumps into another dog coming round a corner....
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by Nettle » Fri Oct 18, 2019 3:49 am

You know Jas better than anyone else. I have possibly spent too long working with highly reactive dogs, so I always go with "What's the worst thing that could happen?".

And yes Actually I think she said the owners were going to take him to [email protected] for a muzzle fitting... because, obviously, a dog SHOULD be able to walk up those narrow aisles, past rabbits and guinea pigs and dogfood, and birdfood, and open baskets of treats and toys, and be fine if he bumps into another dog coming round a corner.... many humans seem incapable of joined-up thinking.....
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JudyN
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Fri Oct 18, 2019 1:12 pm

Nettle wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 3:49 am
I always go with "What's the worst thing that could happen?"
If I did that with Jasper I'd never leave the house :lol: Seriously though... if a dog is barking and lunging at him from the far end of a lead, he and I usually just look at each other, say, 'Well, he's a silly dog, isn't he?' and ignore him while I give J a treat. If a dog actually goes for him, he'll be off and hiding behind me and the nearest tree. The ones he can't be trusted with are those cocky ones who strut up to him boldly acting as if the own the whole field.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by Nettle » Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:08 am

:lol: how I detest those!

In your particular proposed scenario, I was thinking more of the likelihood of redirected aggression when Jasper couldn't get to greet his human friend "because of" the presence of another dog which is big, male and insecure. And other dog might think it's the last straw when big, male and assertive Jasper gets in his space trying to greet the human he has felt safe with.
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JudyN
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Sat Oct 19, 2019 6:35 am

You're right, that would be the dodgy aspect. I don't think J would redirect - occasionally he'll spot one of his best buddies on the other side of a busy road and I'll have to overrule - but even if FD had learnt to be cool with other dogs, he might feel differently about one who clearly knew L. A bit like I don't mind females I've never met approaching OH and saying hi, but if they rushed up to him, hugged him and gave him a smacking great kiss I feel a bit different about it :lol:

And just one instance of it going wrong could undo all the work my friend puts in... I agree with you now, it'd be much better for L to work with the dogs that they are bound to encounter now and then on walks (not meet and greets, obv, just spotted in the distance or on the other side of the road) who aren't going to show any interest in her or FD.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

JudyN
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:34 pm

Touch wood - this dog has been brilliant. When he sees another dog, he's ready and waiting to go to the side of the path and take treats - he can see the other dog, but he'd rather focus on L as she has the treats.

I said that he might go back to square one when the owners walked him, but apparently the man - the collar grabber - took him out the other evening and said he was a changed dog :D Hopefully now he'll really listen to what L says he should do, and continue to make progress.

We still won't be introducing him to J any time soon - he needs to see dogs who are 'neutral', not ones desperate to get to him/L.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by Nettle » Tue Oct 22, 2019 4:13 am

Great news! :D
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Sat Nov 16, 2019 4:57 pm

Against my better judgement, and the advice of my elders and betters :wink: I've been on a walk to the park with L and FD... starting from 30' apart and watching for reactions.

Long story short... Jasper was a star. He wanted to get to L but didn't create a fuss when he couldn't. When we were in the park and he was off lead for some of the time,he could tell FD wasn't interested in interacting so just ignored him, and I could call him back when he got too close. Even I forget what a well-balanced, well-mannered dog he is 99.9% of the time, his reputation precedes him!

There's always a lot of dogs in the park but FD didn't snark at any, L keeping his focus on her. But I did see some lip-licking and nervous looks at other dogs - a state of high alert for much of the time. A couple of time he turned sharply towards other dogs but she gave him a verbal correction (I know...), and easily got his focus back on her (one time he just swung back because he had a tickle or something on his hind leg - she gave him a verbal correction because she didn't realise).

He had what I think was a de-stressing moment of madness on the way home, grabbing a stick and leaping around like a puppy on the end of his flexilead - nice to see, but I'm guessing a mark of him not being relaxed on the walk. On the plus side, I think by that point that he'd categorised J as 'not worth worrying about'compared to all the random dogs round every corner in the park. But then I haven't seen him when Jasper isn't there...

I think the park is too much, too soon for FD. As she said when I told her, he was very, very GOOD. But he shouldn't have to be good, because that's because he's suppressing a negative emotion, and he shouldn't need to have a negative emotion. I've suggested going to the local heath instead - more open, clear sightlines, far fewer dogs - NO verbal corrections, and more treats. She can be a very direct, blunt person, but she knows that and that also means that I can be blunt with her and she will listen. Hopefully she'll agree.

I'm glad I went, because I think it's easier to see what's going on when you're not walking the dog yourself while busy scanning for other dogs and being prepared to manage whatever happens. Not that I'm an expert of course, and most of my learning is based on one dog....
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by Nettle » Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:38 am

You are more expert than many. You can read dog body language, you can anticipate, you can judge stress distances and you also understand a dog releasing built-up stress after a tense outing.

You have given a good suggestion and I hope it is followed. If only people would discard their 'shoulds' and 'oughts' and respond to what the dog is telling them. He sounds a really nice dog. And Jas has been brilliant. But it's tightrope stuff.
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Re: Helping with a reactive dog

Post by JudyN » Mon Nov 18, 2019 7:13 am

Thank you Nettle. And I wouldn't want to suggest that it's ever a good idea for someone without qualifications/a great deal of experience to 'play behaviourist' - so though I've learnt a lot over the years, out of necessity really, I'll be very careful never to make the tightrope even narrower. It's more a case of helping L see when she needs to put less pressure on, not when she can increase it.

FD is a cutie - not that lurchery, I'd guess there's a lot of beardie in there. The sort of dog that gets snapped up in rescues very quickly... and often returned not long after...
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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