We have a four year old minature schnauzer. He has never been good at encountering other dogs while on lead, pulling, rearing up and lunging at other dogs and barking. He was well socialised and we did take him to puppy training classes but he was so disruptive we did not finish the course. He is better off lead but I do the majority of his walks and have 2 yr old DD with me in the buggy and as his recall is not brilliant, off lead is not always an option. He gets plenty of excersise - two walks a day and three mornings a week a dog walker comes and he is walked for an hour and a half with about six other dogs. The dog walker never ever has any issues with him and says he is a pleasure to walk.
He is getting worse - he pulls so hard on the lead and just starts barking madly as soon as we step out of the door. He seems anxious to me rather than agressive. It makes me so sad as he is the perfect dog in doors. He is fantastic with our DD which is amazing as we did have concerns as he was always a bit nervous of kids.
I just don't know what to do for him, nothing helps and he is getting worse. We've paid a trainer which made no difference, we've tried shushing him, distracting him with treats, a halti, nothing works. I was in almost in tears after walking him this afternoon, I feel so sad that he is obviously unhappy and I'm so sick of the looks from other dog owners who are obviously wondering why I can't control my dog.
Sorry this is so long and thank you if you've read this far. Hope someone can offer some advice.
No advice either I'm afraid but I feel your pain. My border terrier has been attacked a couple of times on lead and now barks and lunges at other dogs when on lead. I am trying to find a behaviourist and in the meantime trying to do an about face whenever we encounter another dog....
Thanks for replying. I have spoken to the dog walker about it before - I think he's fine with him because he's with the other dogs (he's been walked by the same walker since he was a pup) and I think he sees them as his pack so feels safe with them if that makes sense? I can speak to him again when he's back from holiday but just felt desperate after today's walk and wanted to see if anyone could suggest anything!
Oh I know how you feel, the last 10/12 weeks have been a nightmare for me as well, I just dread taking our 9 month M S out. As soon as ours see anyone or another dog, he barks for England. I have tried all sorts of things. He was fine till about 6 months old and has just got worse. I tried taking him to tailwaggers and the 1st week he barked for 43 out of the 45 minute class. They have said to try and distract him, but he won't have any of it.
I know how it feels, when people give you a wide berth and look as if to say " Can't you control your dog ". The neighbour opposite looked at me last week as if to say - I see he's no better then as I just smile through gritted teeth and say Buster No Barking and usher him inside.
The ironic thing is we took him to a car boot sale yesterday, where there were hundreds of people & numerous dogs and he was as good as gold - which I can't understand why. He is slightly better for my DH but since most of the walks are down to me I am finding it very hard. We have bought a gentle leader, which may help you for not pulling on the lead. Someone else has told me, he make think he is being the leader of the pack and is barking to protect me & have suggested he walks slightly behind me to show him, I am the pack leeder and not him, they have also said we should not let him on the settee so he knows his place. It will be interesting to see if anyone has any good ideas as to what to do with.
Again ours is fantastic inside the house and will wait until I say he can have his food / sit & stay - but when it comes to barking, everything just goes out of the window.
If he normally will respond well to treats of high value (like chicken or livercake rather than kibble or treat strips) or squeaky toys etc then it is worth going back to positive reinforcement. If he is already barking when you are trying to distract him it's too late. People may mention 'over threshold' or keeping them under threshold - basically this is the level of coping with any given situation they have - in order to work on raising it - say from being ok with a dog on the opposite side of the road instead of barking - you need to work slowly with the dog always under threshold consistently rewarding calmness and at first looking at you for a cue. It is so important to recognise exactly when your dogs stress levels start to rise that working with a behaviourist (not a dog trainer) may be the best thing while both you and your dog are learning some techniques, you can read his body language and he gets more confidence in you. Make sure you get a behaviourist that is APBC registered and does not use flooding techniques or any pack theory based ideas (although no reg'd member should be). They will do a whole assessment so you are working holistically.
It takes time and commitment to help an anxious dog. You are asking them to relearn patterns of behaviour you have reinforced and get over a fear. You have to learn different reinforcement too and focus on what you've been telling your dog vs what you want to be telling them in the house as well as out. I imagine your dog walker has firm boundaries and clear expectations of behaviour, rewards them when they do it right and automatically stops the reward if they play up (can't walk if you aren't behaving) your dog also has other dogs that know appropriate responses to give confidence and act as a buffer of safe dogs between him and any others. Do you always walk him with your DD and the buggy? You can make a start at home either with clicker or voice training (clickers are easier for the dog) and getting a positive interruptor trained to use while waiting (have a look at Kikopup on YouTube or her website Dogmantics for how to videos - start with first things to teach a puppy, don't jump straight in to barking videos) it will help build your relationship and getting him to listen to you so you are in a good place to start working on his interactions.
Thanks mybearhug - it really is hard isn't it! How strange he was fine at the car boot sale, you'd have thought he'd have been beside himself. Our dog is also slightly better with my DH but due to his long hours his walks through the week are down to me apart from when he's out with the dog walker. The trainer we hired before told us boundaries to enforce in the house such as not getting up on the sofa unless invited, no longer sleeping on our bed (he has a basket in the corner of our bedroom now) but these things haven't made any difference I don't want to use her again as she advised us to use a slip lead which to me looked like a noose and he pulled so hard on it he almost passed out. The lead went in the bin and I didn't contact her again.
TotallyBursar - thanks you've given me some good advice. I've heard of clicker training but haven't been very sure how it works, I will check out those YouTube vids. I spoke to DH last night and we have agreed to find a behaviourist to work with as I just feel we can't go on like this, the second we step out the door he is beside himself with anxiety and I dread taking him out. The only time walks are enjoyable is if the four of us (me, DH, DD and DDog) go somewhere he can get off his lead and this is what we do at the weekend, or else DH takes him on his own and let's him off lead (the local moors, playing fields or the beach). The second he's back on his lead to go back to the car he is back to lunging and barking at any dog we meet.
Once DD goes for her nap I'm going to go online and see if I can find behaviourists in our area - might also give our vet a call and see who they recommend (I have mentioned this problem to him on several occasions but he just says I need to be a bit more assertive with him - not very useful!)
Just an update - I have found two behaviourists who cover the area where I live - both need vetinary referrals so will be making an appointment with the vet as soon as I'm home (staying at mums in another town just now). Really wanted to say thanks to TotallyBursar for pointing me in the direction of kikopup and clicker training - I wish I'd looked into this sooner! We've just done our second session this evening and he's already mastered "sit" and "down" with no problems! As soon as I brought my "clicker" torch out this evening he was following me about with hs tail wagging! It's going to be our little bonding session in the evenings to build up mine and his confidence before we start with a behaviourist.
So glad! A good behaviourist will really help you gel together in general and most importantly give you tools specific to your dog to help head off any issues in the future. Once you know how to talk to each other everything else is just a matter of time. Clicker training, or positive reinforcement in general, is an excellent mind set to get into - almost a turn around from pack theory. Building a relationship that is trusting, gives confidence to the dog and is immediately beneficial to boot means all the work you do gives them more reason to want to do things for you. It also reframes the way you think about them and you can stop the adversive feelings in their tracks. Stops things getting too frustrating.
It really is a breath of fresh air compared to all the things we've read before/been told to try ie making sure they know who is boss as opposed to working with them to build their trust. I know now that I've been unwittingly reinforcing his behaviour by my reaction to it and he's been picking up on my own anxiety etc. Everything the lady on the kikopup videos said made sense and I wish I'd seen it before. But, onwards and upwards! I will post an update of our progress
I'd love updates! It sounds like you're at the start of really being a little team and enjoying each other. Reactivity and anxiety does take time and patience, it's not always going to be an easy ride but approaching it with kindness, for both of you when we inevitably make a misstep, is the best way to go imo. How can you get rid of fear with punishment? You can ease fears with trust, confidence to be brave and the tools of proper communication.
I've worked with, bred, competed and shown dogs for a long time <ahem> and I learn new things constantly, and still have a dog or two surprise me, I'm sure you'll find the same. It gets a bit addictive! Can't wait to hear how you all get on.