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To ask how you walk an extremely reactive dog

(47 Posts)
meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 18:44:48

Hi all,

I'm really struggling and could use some advice.

I have a lovely border collie who is reactive to everything on the lead, dogs, children, birds in the sky the list goes on.

He is the most affectionate dog at home with us and strangers.

I've been a really bad owner as it's just made me not want to take him out. He barks so loud and lunges.

He's absolutely fine off the lead at the beach and we make sure we go for long walks at the weekend but I know
He needs a walk everyday. We also play fetch in the garden in the day. I've also bought some games.

As a result of this he's very unfit and has put on weight as well so I've reduced his food.

I've tried taking treats out and distracting him with them but he's now associated treats with something that's going to make him anxious. Toys don't hold his attention very well.

I've paid to have a dog behaviourist come out but she follows the wolf theories which didn't seem to fit. There aren't any others that are around us.

Has anyone had a really reactive dog and has turned it around?

Bamchic Sun 07-Apr-19 18:47:31

I haven’t but my dParents NDN’s have got a gorgeous dog who is quite reactive. Lovely at home though. They just walk Ddog at 6 am off lead at the beach.

ThroughThickAndThin01 Sun 07-Apr-19 18:49:25

I walk mine at 6 am. Although he’s not reactive to birds.

Singlenotsingle Sun 07-Apr-19 18:50:06

Can't you walk him off the lead every day?

JaneEyre07 Sun 07-Apr-19 18:53:44

My dog was badly attacked last year, and he's now very wary of other dogs.... plus we have a very timid puppy. I tend to walk early am, and off the beaten track from other walkers. I also have a yellow "nervous" bandana and lead for them both. You can get red ones that say "no dogs" on them.... most sensible owners are aware what they mean. And get a good harness so you feel secure that you can keep hold.... we've got Ruffwear ones.

Can you try and rent a secure dog field locally? Or find a local landowner who would let you use one of their fields that don't have public footpaths through? May be worth a plea on local FB sites or parish magazines.

Eliza9919 Sun 07-Apr-19 18:54:47

My dog got a little bit pre-emptive reactive after being attacked by dogs so I took her to a training place where you have muzzles on them all and let them all off (in a contained space) and just walk round and round. The dogs follow and all walk round too and teach other dog manners while you all walk.

It seemed to help her, it gave her back some confidence.

MadMillie Sun 07-Apr-19 18:57:08

Border collies need lots of stimulation, one walk a day for them isn't enough, is your dog from working stock OP?

sweetkitty Sun 07-Apr-19 18:57:47

Walk her on leash with a harness or off the beaten track where we are unlikely to meet anyone else. She’s a lot better these days those actually “asks” for a treat if she walks past another dog calmly.

The problem is over flaming owners. They see her on a short lead but still allow their dog to bounce on up to her, my dog tries to run away and lunges about on her leash which is a nightmare as she’s 6 stone +.

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 18:58:22

I've got a toddler so at the moment i can't go out with him really early in the morning and in theory I could walk him off lead everyday but practically I don't know if I could. I would also to need to wrangle them both. I could do an extra day though as my mum can come with me on Wednesday to help.

I could do the evening but worried I will annoy my estate as any noise really echos.

ParoxetineQueen Sun 07-Apr-19 18:58:56

If you 'do' Facebook, try the Reactive Dogs (UK) page. I've found lots of their tips useful and they will help you find a postive, reward-based trainer/ behaviourist.
Scentwork is really good for tiring their brains.
Dogwalkingfields.uk have lists of secure fields that you can hire by the hour, for some safe off-lead fun.

AutisticPenguin Sun 07-Apr-19 18:59:44

Find an APDT trainer or APBC behaviourist to help you.

I think sometimes it is best to not walk a dog like this as much.... at least to start with as they need gradual (oh so gradual) increase in exposure to triggers and one bad walk can set you back to square one. Do as much as you can in the house and garden. Use kongs and training etc to make him work for all his food. Keep in mind that playing repetitive fetch can just wind them up more... play find it instead. Get some agility equipment for the garden.

They have a multitude of needs that a daily walk meets conveniently but they don't need a daily walk... they just need the needs met!

RuggyPeg Sun 07-Apr-19 19:00:59

Nothing worked with mine. Rescue dog, too far gone. Everything tried made the dog so distressed & I'm not kidding when I say we tried everything (sedatives, distraction techniques, different behaviourists, special equipment etc). Border collie too. I did early morning and late night walks and spent my life ducking round bushes! Rented secure fields every week and spent loads of time doing games and puzzles at home. I found it very stressful and distressing and broke my heart over that dog.

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:01:27

@MadMillie no he's not from working stock and has always been pretty lazy. He's more couch potato then worker.

He didn't used to be so reactive but we lived on a farm for 4years so had all the outside time and exercise he wanted but we've now moved back to civilianisation and that's caused the problems.
If I could go back in time I would have done differently.

I got him when I was younger probably a bit to young

Squickety Sun 07-Apr-19 19:03:45

Walk early, and take lots of cheese! We are lucky in that our estate has lots of possible routes but we often spend walks doubling back on ourselves or hiding up side streets to avoid other dogs. We also hit the park early or on weekdays when there are less other dogs around. Mine is "only" dog reactive but will snap and lunge if another dog stares at her or gets too close and she's a big lump so can be tricky to handle. It's tough isn't it flowers. Our behaviourist basically said any improvements are likely to be small as it seems she wasn't socialised properly as a pup (rescue) so all we can do is learn to handle it.

Industrial estates are usually good if there's one near you, especially on weekend mornings.

RuggyPeg Sun 07-Apr-19 19:03:48

I took some comfort in the fact that experts told me that actually, a bc doesn't necessarily need to be physically worn out but mentally worn out. Like I say, I did endless games with him in the house and garden. It was the best option for this particular dog.

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:04:01

Thanks @AutisticPenguin I think that's the issue when I've tried to get out with him in the past. I think he gets more nervous the longer I'm out. Maybe I just need to do 5 min walks at a time

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:07:07

@RuggyPeg I'll try and up his mental stimulation. I fear he's to far gone aswell.

I feel absolutely awful it's got this bad. He is content at home and has no other issues ie destructiveness but is missing out on outside time

pigsknickers Sun 07-Apr-19 19:07:42

How long have you had your dog OP, and is it your first collie? Because they're generally not suited for this sort of life ie mostly lead walks in towns. They need to run a lot and need mental stimulation (not stress) or they often become really reactive and sometimes aggressive. I've had two and neither of them ever did really stop being nutters on the lead but learnt to be brilliant off it. Sorry if that's not very constructive, but a lot of people think you can teach a collie to behave like a labrador for example, and you often just cant.

PeachNut Sun 07-Apr-19 19:08:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pigsknickers Sun 07-Apr-19 19:08:41

Sorry just read your updates, you obviously do know about collies.

bellabasset Sun 07-Apr-19 19:08:43

He's an intelligent working dog, try taking him to agility classes and then train him at home. We had a border bearded collie cross from 7 months. She was good as gold with dh but a right terror with me. So try that with him.

What was a problem was she wanted to herd and she would nip at dcs. She became a lovely dog though.

yummumto3girls Sun 07-Apr-19 19:08:45

We had a reactive dog and our behaviourist told us to stop thinking we had to take her out for a walk as it was too stressful for her (and me). She was a lazy dog anyway and we just use to walk her in fields rurally to us. After about a month of letting her reaction hormones die down we started doing some desentisation training with her, it helped but certainly didn’t cure! Ironically the one thing that helped the most was getting a puppy, the puppy taught her how to be a dog and play and although unconventional was a real game changer for us!

PrayingandHoping Sun 07-Apr-19 19:08:59

Collies need a job for their mind. Enrol in some classes. Agility would be ideal but to be honest anything is better than nothing.

The reactivity is prob being made worse from a lack of exercise and frustration

RuggyPeg Sun 07-Apr-19 19:09:32

Yes, industrial estates! I forgot about them. I spent many an hour walking on industrial estates! Especially at the weekend. Never once felt unsafe, as that dog was seriously wild towards other people and no way would anyone ever approach! I occasionally took my life in my hands and took him out on my bike, to run the legs off him but my god, that was like playing Russian roulette with my life!

PeachNut Sun 07-Apr-19 19:09:44

Sorry, wrong thread blush
I’ve asked for it to be deleted.

Hazlenutpie Sun 07-Apr-19 19:10:29

Have you been to classes? We went to classes for older dogs, as ours was reactive to everything. The classes were brilliant and the teacher showed us how to stop her reacting to other dogs.

aweedropofsancerre Sun 07-Apr-19 19:10:35

my dog is reactive when on the lead because he was attacked by two little terriers when on lead a couple of years ago. He is fine off leash....he needs regular walks or it makes him really grumpy with other dogs...I get anxious taking him out so I head up to the woods instead of the local park. I try and go when its quiet.... Good Luck as I know how stressful it is and I do most of the walking too

ABC1234DEF Sun 07-Apr-19 19:10:53

Haven't read the replies because dinner is almost ready(!) but you need to get rid of the behaviourist and forget anything she's taught you.

Find yourself a behaviourist registered with APBC or COAPE - ask your vet, they should have someone they can put you in contact with

Dontgiveamonkeys1350 Sun 07-Apr-19 19:11:09

Mine went from nervous to nervous aggressive and reactive. I did everything. Vets and behaviourist. Read and read. Watched video after video. Then within one week. He reacted to a motorbike by going for it and pulling me in the road. I was nearly killed. And I mean I really was nearly killed he missed me by cms.

He then went for my sons neck as he was walking past him. He reacted to everything. I feel ur pain.

RuggyPeg Sun 07-Apr-19 19:14:57

Classes probably aren't an option tbh. I had no idea how bad a dog could be until I got mine. Had lots of BCs in the past, so knew about the breed but this was something else.

My best advice to you is to accept that this dog won't change. Love and accept him as he is. Make his life at home as good as possible and stop pressuring yourself to go out with him. Not ideal, I know but the best option for you and him. Until you've experienced it, it's impossible to know just how awful it can be.

jiggsymalone Sun 07-Apr-19 19:15:38

I walk mine after dark, take her to secure fields that we book out, I do canicross with her (she is so focussed on pulling and running that she stops noticing the things she's reactive to) and take her hillwalking at the weekends (really big hillwalks where we do a 2 or more munros in a day can knacker her out for a good couple of days). It took us a while to find the groove and get in a routine which worked for her and us. We actually also stopped walking her for a while at the recommendation of a behaviourist. This was to give her a break from the things she reacts to (which used to be everything). We would do brain games to tire her out instead and play with her for ages in the garden. We then started taking her out in a way that gradually reintroduced her to things she was reactive to, in a very controlled way, and would give her treats when she did see them so she would start to associate them with positive things. This helped and there are many things she can cope with now that she just couldn't before, but there are other things she still can't cope with (such as off lead dogs running up to her) so we do our best to avoid them.

adaline Sun 07-Apr-19 19:21:53

Walk them at stupid o'clock in the morning and/or very late at night, or walk them off-lead every day.

You say you don't have time but I'm afraid that's part of owning a dog. I would wager that a lot of the dogs' problems are because he's chronically under exercised and under-stimulated. A game of ball in the garden is something that should be done in addition to a walk, not instead of.

Collies are working dogs (even if not from working stock) - they need stimulation. That doesn't have to mean hours of exercise a day but you do need to walk him daily. If you don't have time then pay for private dog walks. Your dog is crying out for attention and exercise - having a toddler to take out as well isn't an excuse, I'm afraid.

A good off-lead walk in the morning plus a shorter leashed walk in the evening is ideal, but if you can't do two walks then you can substitute the second with training - 15 minutes of trick training or similar would be good for tiring out her brain.

AutisticPenguin Sun 07-Apr-19 19:25:14

OP, get yourself onto a trainer from one of the organisations I mentioned before. But I just had a thought... Also have a look at a book called "Fired up, Frantic and Freaked out".

Crunchymum Sun 07-Apr-19 19:26:10

How is the dog with your toddler? shock

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:29:57

Thanks everyone lots to think about

@Crunchymum he's fine with our toddler but they are separated by a baby gate 98% of the time.
I think because he was here as a baby that did nothing he was able to get used to him at each stage.
If he knows the dog/child he's fine, he gets on brilliantly with my mums dogs.
He also loves everything that comes into the house.
I could get burgled and he'd welcome them in

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:32:36

He's to bad to take to any classes unfortunately. We did go to lots back in the day but they were only on weekdays so had to give up with work.
Lots of mistakes have been made

Senac32 Sun 07-Apr-19 19:33:10

I sympathise with you - we've had 2 border collies. This was when we were living in the country. As well as being very intelligent they can be very 'highly strung.'
The male was very neurotic - chased vehicles, barked at strangers walking past the house. We tried to train him out of it but in the end he attacked one car too many. He would have been much worse in a town.
The other a female, was much more obedient and lived to 15 years.
But she also had some neurotic habits. She was our little sweetheart, we still miss her, but she would have been miserable in the town where we now live.
As for advice, sorry to be blunt, but has he been castrated?

PrayingandHoping Sun 07-Apr-19 19:33:26

Lots of agility clubs will do 121 training. So will tire his brain without the stress of other dogs

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:35:23

@Senac32 thank you, they're brilliant dogs but they are do have their fixations. Yeah he was castrated when he was younger

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:36:16

Unfortunately there's not many agility classes around here especially any offering 1-2-1

Pinotjo Sun 07-Apr-19 19:38:15

Our dog was the same, cut up very small nits of cheese and a hot dog sausage put it in a sandwich bag in your pocket, the dog will be able to smell it, when walking past other dogs etc rustle the bag, if he gets past without reacting give him a treat. It worked for us, dog was so distracted by the bag in my pocket he kept tripping over!

PrayingandHoping Sun 07-Apr-19 19:40:13

@meepmoop have u posted on agilitynet? I'd be really surprised if there wasn't anything nearby. Agility is everywhere nowadays

meepmoop Sun 07-Apr-19 19:43:07

@PrayingandHoping I haven't but I will definitely have a look

billybagpuss Sun 07-Apr-19 19:44:00

Try doing some calming things with him before you go out. I've been doing a course for the last few weeks with my equally reactive collie x.

First thing we did was calming circles - literally walking backwards and forwards for 10 - 15 paces at a time at a ridiculously slow speed ignoring the dog, who is with you on a lead, this took a good half hour the first time for her to disconnect from the environment and focus on me.

Then do loads of focus games and whilst on the walk try and pre-empt the lunging possibilities, so if you see a duck, do an on lead recall and play focus games or add a calming circle in until the duck has gone, or use a treat to bribe him past.

Honestly week one of this course I did a 2 mile walk along the canal (it took ages) using these tools and she only lunged once.

The main advice we have had was it doesn't matter how far you walk but it has to be in control. Midweek of the first week following the course we got to the mile marker of our walk with no issues and I realised how long it had taken so had to put her on the halti to get home without pulling and lunging. I haven't needed the halti since.

I also have a recall issue with mine in some locations so this week I've used a long line along our canal bank and other than 1 hare and some rowers (rowers are evil incarnate) and she is so much better. I've even managed a couple of times to get her past cyclists without barking although that is a work in progress.

billybagpuss Sun 07-Apr-19 19:45:25

Also have a look for secure dog fields, with a toddler that could be your answer.

gggirl Sun 07-Apr-19 19:58:27

I second what @ParoxetineQueen was said about the Reactive Uk Facebook page. They have lots of tips and advice that will help. I also have a reactive border collie who used to lunge at cars, bark at birds etc and found it was due to the over stimulation from the noise or moving object. Try going on short walks to begin with and aim to avoid a trigger, then slowly build up to longer and longer walks. This will build both yours and your dogs confidence and hopefully reduce the amount of reactions

Indecisivelurcher Sun 07-Apr-19 20:00:08

I didn't manage to 'fix' my reactive lurcher and he was also not good with my Dd when she was born, so he went to live with a friend who lives on the banks of a river in an isolated spot. He gets triggered a lot less there and consequently his background stress levels are just lower, which has helped him massively. So In my opinion you won't be able to fix this. However, this doesn't mean you won't be able to manage this issue. I would suggest reading feisty fido and a book on behavioural adjustment training. Teach some counter conditioning, such as 'watch' where you clicker train them to look at you. Then use this to get past hazards. Really short training walks at first, aiming to get out and back without an issue. Then build it up. Stage some situations with other dog friends, so for example you know where they will be, you know how close you can get before dog reacts, so you can practice your counter conditioning or use BAT. Also agree with pp about finding somewhere quiet and low stress to walk, like a secure dog field or industrial estate. The more 'good' non-reactive walks you can get in a row, the better. And how about trying something like ability? Could give your dog a positive focus? Good luck!

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