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Birdy
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New to the forum

Post by Birdy » Fri May 06, 2016 6:55 am

Hi I'm new to the forum and hoping to get some support from everyone to help my rescue dog Lottie become less of a bully around other dogs!

I can't attach a photo as they are all too large but she is a cross-breed (German Shepherd,American Staffie, Pointer, Dalmation +) so a mixture of strong breeds.

She is wonderful around people but not around other dogs - some she ignores now, others she will be ok with and a few she will go for.

I've been training her using Victoria's methods, and in the six months I've had her she's gone from attacking all dogs she meets on a lead and having to wear a muzzle to being off lead, no muzzle and attacking one dog every third or fourth walk. So she's doing much better. She loves carrying a ball, and is much calmer with other dogs when she does that - but I don't want her to get obsessed by the ball which she has a tendency to do. Do you think I should carry on letting her carry a ball?

Looking froward to being part of this forum - I watch It's me or the Dog USA every day now!

Best wishes,
Lyndsay

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JudyN
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Re: New to the forum

Post by JudyN » Sat May 07, 2016 6:48 am

Hi Lyndsay, and welcome to the forum. I've moved your post to the training advice section, where hopefully one of the experts will see it soon.

It sounds like you've made good progress - the general advice we give is to try to keep the dog below threshold, so she's never close enough to another dog that she feels the need to react. This may require rethinking where and at what times you walk her. I can't advise on the pros & cons of using the ball to distract her, so I'll leave that to others. Is she food motivated? If so this would be a good alternative.
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jacksdad
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Re: New to the forum

Post by jacksdad » Sat May 07, 2016 11:48 pm

Birdy wrote:I've been training her using Victoria's methods
can you describe what you are doing specifically?
Birdy wrote:... in the six months I've had her she's gone from attacking all dogs she meets on a lead and having to wear a muzzle to being off lead, no muzzle and attacking one dog every third or fourth walk.
while you should be proud of your work and progress, please be open to the advice that your dog isn't ready to be that close to dogs if she is still attacking. she should still be on lead an kept at a safe distance from other dogs. it sounds like you jumped from step 10 to step 100 and skilled everything in between so to speak.
Birdy wrote:She loves carrying a ball, and is much calmer with other dogs when she does that - but I don't want her to get obsessed by the ball
as long as it doesn't become a source of problems with other dogs, I would let her carry the ball.

Since I am advising taking things back a few steps, and not allowing dog / dog interactions, it is most likely safe to allow the ball carrying regardless for now.

can you expand on what you are seeing or thinking that causing you to worry about her becoming "ball obsessed"?

we can maybe help you tweak your training with a little bit more information about what your are currently doing when your dog sees another dog. Also, what is your goal with the training?

Birdy
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Re: New to the forum

Post by Birdy » Sun May 08, 2016 8:18 am

HI thanks for the advice already!

It is great to use this forum as these are questions I've been wrestle with for a little while now.

I've been using treats (her regular food) to motivate her to stay away from most dogs and interact well with them. So she gets rewarded every time she sees and interacts well with another dog. She gets rewarded for coming back to me at all times.This has worked very well mostly, but just on the odd occasions now she will still go for another dog. She now comes away quickly - but I also wonder how I should treat her when she does go for another dog. She's never drawn blood and it's never been a major problem with the dog owners, but it would be lovely to go for a walk and know I don't have to worry. She will now ignore all dogs if they are a bit of distance away. It's just if they come too close (some dog owners want to stop and talk, even if I say my dog needs to move on...). As I say it is not often and most of the time she is ok, so I would feel sad to have to put her back on the lead all the time. I think if I can sort out my reaction to her before and if she goes for another dog, then I hope things would improve even more.

For example, do I put her on the lead if I see her lower herself and do the 'death stare'? I worry that this will give her the wrong message about greeting dogs. Quite often using a treat, and praise, I distract her and she is ok walking past. When not, I am not sure sure if I should be stern with her and say no. Or praise her when she comes away. This is the part I am struggling with.

Regarding the ball obsession - it is just I have heard it is not good for dogs to get too ball obsessed, and then only want to have a walk with a ball. She clearly gets a lot of endorphins from mouthing the ball and doesn't really want to give it up, but loves chasing it when she does. I also thought that it would perhaps prevent her from socialising properly with other dogs. But maybe you're right I should just let her have the ball for the time being until she is fully socialised.

Last issue is with her lunging for food while out on the street. If i see the food quickly enough I can distract her but if not, then she lunges to eat it and it's hard to prevent. Any ideas?

Any advice welcome and I am certainly willing to take on what people suggest.


Many thanks!

Lyndsay

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JudyN
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Re: New to the forum

Post by JudyN » Sun May 08, 2016 1:42 pm

Birdy wrote:Last issue is with her lunging for food while out on the street. If i see the food quickly enough I can distract her but if not, then she lunges to eat it and it's hard to prevent. Any ideas?
I hunted down an old thread I remembered: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=16266&p=122159 Unfortunately, it's not got much advice, it's just other dedicated trainers who have the same problem! But at least you'll know you're not the only one struggling with this.

You could try impulse control (check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipT5k1gaXhc ), and practising walking her past treats. I did this with my dog and could reliably drop treats in front of him which he ignored till I said 'OK'. Unfortunately, this only worked in the training situation and if I dropped a treat accidentally he'd grab it before I said 'leave' :lol: But keep working on leave, and keep watching out for food on the pavements - when you've got a sound leave, you can use these as training opportunities by ensuring she can't reach them and asking for a 'leave' when she spots them.
Birdy wrote:For example, do I put her on the lead if I see her lower herself and do the 'death stare'? I worry that this will give her the wrong message about greeting dogs. Quite often using a treat, and praise, I distract her and she is ok walking past. When not, I am not sure sure if I should be stern with her and say no. Or praise her when she comes away. This is the part I am struggling with.
When my dog was more reactive, I'd put him on lead whenever I saw another dog out of courtesy really, and because even if he didn't physically harm the other dog, he could do mental damage. One thing I've found useful though is to make sure that going on lead is a positive thing, or at least not negative - so he would go on and off lead several times in a walk, and when on lead he'd usually get treats, and be allowed to sniff wherever he wanted.

I do sometimes worry that treating him after he's had a go at another dog may encourage him, but I think it's always better to err on the side of treating rather than punishing or 'telling off'. If he comes back to me after a 'moment' he usually gets a treat or a kind word for coming back, if he lunges while on lead, I tend to be non-commital - I just hang on until the other dog has passed and then walk on calmly. He is SO much better now - generally he'll only snark at dogs who are introducing themselves to him and being too bouncy or in his face, or spending too long sniffing his bum. A lot of the time, he just ignores other dogs but then looks to me for a treat because he knows he often gets one when we see another dog.
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jacksdad
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Re: New to the forum

Post by jacksdad » Sun May 08, 2016 9:02 pm

Birdy wrote:I've been using treats (her regular food) to motivate her to stay away from most dogs and interact well with them. So she gets rewarded every time she sees and interacts well with another dog.
It is important we use the food correctly, so forgive me if I cover something you know, but sometimes people read these posts only, but never ask questions them self.

Timing of the food is important and when to give it depends on what our goal is. If we want our dogs to do something specific when they see another dog such as break "eye contact" and orientate to you, we need to keep as much distance from the other dogs as is needed for your dog to break "eye contact" easily and change focus to you. the starting treat point is the head turn. your dog is looking in the direction of the other dog (the "eye contact", we truly can't know if there is literal eye contact, just that our dogs are looking in the direction of the other dog), then turns and looks at you. as your dog's head turns away from the other dog, we mark (do you know about marking behavior? it's the verbal "yes" or click of a clicker" when our dog does exactly what we want), then provide the bit of food. what you want your dog to do can vary. doesn't have to be a head turn, but for some dogs learning to break that "stare" in the direction of the other dog is a key to keeping them calmer. But you could also ask your dog to fall into a "heel" position, I know a trainer that has her dog go jump on stuff. a rock, bench that kind of thing. the idea is do something other than look at and or interact with the other dog.

If we just want to change the emotional response to other dogs, we can provide a bit of food whenever your dog looks in the direction of the other dog. it won't matter what your dog is doing (sitting, standing, being in a down, standing on their head etc) all that matters is they are aware of the other dog. this make the other dog cause yummy food to happen. so the timing on this one is, your dog looks in the direction of the other dog, you wait 1 second (about the time it takes to move your hand to the food, then deliver it) and then provide the food.

so, which to do? you almost can't go wrong with see dog, food happens. this is known as classical conditioning and the goal is a conditioned emotional response. right now your dog may have the see dog, freak out conditioning emotional response. if you follow see dog, get food your dog's emotional response changes to see dog...dog predicts food...YIPPY I like dogs. Because you are changing the emotional response this is often referred to as counter conditioning. and again, what your dog is doing doesn't matter. it's the other dog's appearance that triggers the good stuff.

If want your dog to do something vs going the classical conditioning route, two good options for starting out are.... If your dog won't look at other dogs, pretends they aren't there. then we want to reward them for looking, then turning back to you. if they can't stop looking, we want to reward for turning away back to you. basically the same idea, just a small subtle change based on what the dog needs to be successful.

Here is the cool part. even if you choose to go the "have my dog do something" route, classical conditioning tags along and with time your dog will develop a conditioning emotional response of see dog, feel good because good things happen when other dogs are around.

no matter which you choose it is CRITICAL you keep as much distance as your dog needs from other dogs in order to be successful. EVERY TIME your dog has the unwanted reaction to other dogs you are set back and the training will take that much longer. NOW, don't dwell on this and let it discourage you because life will make sure your dog will run into a situation that causes the unwanted behavior to happen. when it does, we give our dogs a break, take a breath, start backup. As long as you and your dog have far more successes than not, in the long run it will be ok. but it is important we understand that each time our dog has the unwanted reaction it does set back the training.

Which brings us to....
Birdy wrote:just on the odd occasions now she will still go for another dog. She now comes away quickly - but I also wonder how I should treat her when she does go for another dog. She's never drawn blood and it's never been a major problem with the dog owners
I am going to urge you to take the training back a few steps and NOT have intentional dog/dog social time while on walks, out in the park etc. it sounds like you have gotten lucky so far. But your dog is getting into situations she isn't ready for. if she was, then the bites would not be happening.

take it back a few steps, work the training I suggested above a while longer. if you prevent her from getting to other dogs, or other dogs from getting to her, then you don't have to worry about what to do when she bites because she won't be able to bite a dog that isn't near her and thus practice the unwanted behavior. So that is the ideal that we shoot for.

But life doesn't always go to plan. what to do when someone insists that their dog just has to say hi to your's or you come around a corner and BAM there is another dog. keep the dog/dog social interaction to 3 second and move on. it's stranger, who cares if you come across as "rude" because you want to keep going on your walk. it is the lesser evil to be "rude" than to finally run into that person who insists that their out of control dog just has to say hi to yours, then when yours bites their dog, they file a complaint. or worse your dog is finally feed up with these situation and actually and truly bites putting the other dog in the Vets office.

Birdy wrote: Regarding the ball obsession - it is just I have heard it is not good for dogs to get too ball obsessed, and then only want to have a walk with a ball. She clearly gets a lot of endorphins from mouthing the ball and doesn't really want to give it up, but loves chasing it when she does. I also thought that it would perhaps prevent her from socialising properly with other dogs. But maybe you're right I should just let her have the ball for the time being until she is fully socialised.
I know a dog that was trained to keep a ball in her mouth in order to help tone down greetings. there are a lot of arbitrary and made up worries and rules out there about dogs. which causes us to sometimes dismiss the solution right in front of us to behavior problems being offered by the dogs them self. unless your dog starts resource guarding and fighting over the ball with other dogs, allowing her to hold the ball in her mouth while on walks or when in the future she is ready to interact with other dogs could be a very good thing.

couple last thoughts. with dogs that struggle socially with other dogs, there is rarely any benefit in the early stages of their training for them to socially interact with random dogs they meet on walks that they will likely never see again. There just isn't. so I again strongly encourage you to NOT allow your dog to be in situations with random, strange dogs that increase the risk of her biting or performing other unwanted behavior. As she improves, and there are regular dogs you pass on walks, things will progress naturally and she will get dog/dog social time. but again, no benefit to meeting/greeting random, meet once and never see again dogs.

be your dog's protector. this is a simple step that is super powerful. all it means is you tell the other people to keep their dog back. if a loose random dog comes up, you block it away etc. what to tell people, keep it simple and pleasant... your working on training and your dog needs to focus.

start there. as things progress and your dog improves, the plan will need to change so stay in contact. and never, ever hesitate to ask a question.

Birdy
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Re: New to the forum

Post by Birdy » Tue May 10, 2016 7:09 am

Thanks SO much for the advice! Both make such a lot of sense and I will start taking them on board immediately. You are right maybe I've taken things a bit too quickly - as I thought she was ready. It seems as if I don't have to go back to square one and put on lead and muzzle, but to further adapt the training I've been doing using your advice. I'll let you know how I get on!

ScarletSci
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Re: New to the forum

Post by ScarletSci » Tue May 10, 2016 2:28 pm

As well as the excellent advice you're already been given, I really wanted to link you to this thread, viewtopic.php?f=20&t=6123 where the very knowledgable trainer, Nettle, explains something that I think a lot of dog owners don't understand, or feel bad about. I think it would help you and your rescue dog if you can change your mindset about wanting her to have "doggy social time". For some dogs, many, in fact, doggy social time is not the fun and games we expect and want it to be. It can be very stressful, and clearly, she does find it overwhelming. It's okay if she's not a sociable dog. It's far, far better to let her keep her distance from other dogs, and send away ones who approach anyway yourself, than to have her repeatedly stressed by interactions she doesn't want, or for the worst to happen and for her to really hurt another dog.

Please do keep the distance and watch her body language closely to see when she's approaching threshold, or needs to be removed from a situation. Even if she's never drawn blood, the simple act of being attacked and frightened by another dog could cause reactivity in the attacked dog. I experienced that myself recently, with my very good natured, calm and relaxed and confident girl. She's usually fine with other dogs, but after one young dog was very rude and bouncy - not even aggressive! Just too much for her - she was reactive to other dogs for the following week. I had to work hard to keep her away from dogs and let her stress levels go down before she returned to her normal state, and a more nervous and unbalanced dog might have retained that fear and defensive aggression. Please bear this in mind, and keep your distance, even if there hasn't been blood.

About food treats, as well as the crucial timing that Jacksdad explained so well, I would advise you switch up what you're giving her. Her normal food is pretty boring! She'll be used to it. I find super high value food is essential to train a good "leave it" (and with my two scavenging spaniels, a good "leave it" and "drop" was essential!) Something stinky and fresh is ideal. Cheese, real cooked chicken, liver... find something that will make her drool and hold her attention! It's much easier for a dog to bypass a bit of mouldy bread when they know they're going to get cheese for leaving it alone. Trust me, this works. My youngster is great now, I even managed to get her to drop a bone she'd found somewhere by switching it for high value food, she dropped it when I asked before really registering what she'd done :D Even so, both dogs are ace at finding scraps in hedgerows or on fields, and will still sometimes snarf it before I can do anything. I remind myself dogs are scavengers, have pretty tough digestive systems, and chances are they will be absolutely fine.

Maybe consider investing in a long line lead to use for now, if you're worried about her going up to dogs while off lead and aren't sure she would return? That way they get a lot of range, while you still have control. Is her recall reliable? What Judy said about putting her on and off lead over the course of a walk randomly at times is spot on.

The ball - I would use it. I don't think ball obsession is necessarily a concern. My older boy loves balls and playing fetch, and will be very focused on the ball and want nothing to do with anything else when he has one, so he only has a ball when we go for a walk, not in the house (mainly because they'd chew it up), and I only bring balls on some walks, not all of them.

Lastly, welcome the forum! Sounds as though you're a great dog owner, and coming here to ask questions and tweak your approach demonstrates that you're willing to put in the work to give her the best life possible. That's awesome. Hope you stick around, we're a friendly bunch :D Also feel free to continue updating the thread with more questions, examples of what worked and what didn't, anything else you'd like more info or advice on. Ongoing threads where we get to see the progress made are a joy.

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