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Walking reactive dogs

(76 Posts)
Cheerfulmarybrown Wed 16-Mar-16 16:32:57

I know a few of us have the reactive dogs there are some good pointers in this article on how to enjoy walking them

Enjoyable walks with reactive dogs

Springermum1350 Wed 16-Mar-16 19:02:33

The problem I have is he is so stressed he can even function , eat treats or listen to commands.

Today he responded to my watch me command really well. But five mins later when there was another dog it was all gone and no amount of liver was going to cut it.

Some days I just get so upset , wishing I could just take him for a lovely run in the forest where he loves to go. Wondering what I did wrong ( he came to me as a puppy very nervous )

I look at dog owners on the beach throwing balls for their dogs wishing that were me.

I am trying to accept this that he will never be the calm , friendly dog that I want him to be around people and dogs ( he is friendly just nervous reactive)

Scuttlebutter Wed 16-Mar-16 19:04:34

Excellent article. My top tips after having a number of reactive hounds over the years.

BAT is brilliant - it's not a quick fix but it works and can make a huge difference.

Don't be afraid to invest in time at a private hire dog field. You honestly cannot put a price on the joy of watching your dog(s) enjoying themselves and knowing that nobody is going to disturb you. There's a very useful FB page which lists all the private hire fields, and there are more popping up all the time. If you have a reactive dog, it's also valuable for you - normal dog walks require much more alertness and involvement, so having a session regularly where the dogs can play and you can chill out completely is blissful.

Similarly, it's worth checking out a wide range of local dog walks/beaches/parks and choosing the place/time when it's quietest. I'm always baffled when I meet reactive dog owners who deliberately walk them in some of the busiest parks - why set yourself up for a stressful or difficult walk? I'd rather spend an extra 5 or 10 minutes in the car and know I was going somewhere where both me and my dog can enjoy ourselves.

Do everything you can to educate "He's only being friendly" owners/numpties. Some people, especially if they've never owned a reactive dog, and especially if they have a Labrador, seem to imagine that everyone wants to be their friend. Don't be afraid of being thought unfriendly - I'm quite happy and thickskinned enough now to make it very clear that their dog is not welcome. Curiously, even wearing a muzzle and a yellow bandana doesn't do the trick (the dog, not me).

Yellow dog scheme, though a brilliant idea, is still hopelessly under-recognised. Please do everything you can to promote it - posters up in vets, pet shops, dog training classes etc. If you are involved in a dog event, make it yellow dog friendly.

RosieandSW Wed 16-Mar-16 19:18:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Greyhorses Wed 16-Mar-16 20:08:29

Mines reactive to people and dogs (and cars on occasion!)
It's difficult to walk her and it's difficult having visitors too.
To be honest I do miss calm relaxed walks, I also miss not being embarrassed and being able to stroll along not worrying at all. We used to go on dog holidays and spend all day on the beach but can't do any of that now. In my dogs case it is fear aggression which is the worst type to correct I think?

Ive just had to accept its the way she is and try and make the best of it sad

We have just started the BAT type training so hopefully this makes a difference although it only takes one dog to frighten her and she's back to square one. We also don't seem to be getting any closer to her being calmer!

Still, hang in there everyone!

Cheerfulmarybrown Wed 16-Mar-16 20:20:17

I was really excited when I first heard about BAT and have used it on many dogs but I have found that they tend to plateau out at a certain level. I also find they are very quick to pick up when it is a training situation but find it hard to transfer to real life situations. Especially when the dogs out and about do not play by BAT Rules.

Scuttle have you been able to use it to change behaviour or more to manage the behaviour. I have had more luck with LAT approach but I am going to Grisha's seminar in May so hopefully she can tell me the vial bit I am missing smile

starjumper Wed 16-Mar-16 21:01:07

Raises hand to identify as a reactive dog owner


He wasn't this bad when we originally rescued him. He was lovely. Think it's a fear aggression thing. Now he's tricky.

As a pp said I walk in very quiet places at very quiet times of the day. Try and recognise the triggers and act rather than re-act.

I got a tabard saying 'space please'

I keep reminding myself that my dog is under control. If he lunges and barks he's not actually hurting anyone. It's embarrassing, but not the end of the world.

If they let their dog come over to mine then it's their own fault.

tabulahrasa Wed 16-Mar-16 21:58:28

Mine is reactive to dogs, people, cars...random other things he suddenly decides might be dodgy... sighs

He's muzzled and on lead most of the time - I have two places I can take him so he can behave more like a dog...but he has to be well enough and he hasn't been for a while now.

He's muzzled at the vets because he objects to other people touching him.

He's kept away from visitors beyond a select few who we know he likes.

It's not really trainable either because the underlying issue is pain from medical issues and we haven't solved that.

So he's just heavily managed.

It's fun hmm

sulee Wed 16-Mar-16 22:40:25

Loving this thread! My two are both reactive- particularly DD1, with lots of baggage prior to being rehomed by us. Totally relate to Scuttlebuters' comments about the "he's only being friendly" brigade. Luckily, I live on the edge of fields, so can avoid others, which I try to do, but some owners just won't have it. I am also quite anti social and if I'm honest, quite welcome the quiet half hours which my snarling hounds afford me! We still take my dogs everywhere, beach holidays etc, just choose quiet time and places. Hadn't heard of BAT before, so I will have a look at that.

Scuttlebutter Wed 16-Mar-16 22:57:33

We used BAT with a beautiful elderly greyhound boy who came to us as a long term foster. When he arrived, he was highly reactive to pretty much all dogs other than his immediate family, though like many pointies, much less so around other greys. We started work with our trainer on BAT, in a real life situation, in the sense we were doing it where we regularly walk our dogs - our lovely trainer encouraged us to become "BAT Ninjas". smile

We made steady progress and the highlight came when we were able to take him to a small local dog show held in a local park where our vet was judging. He was happy, relaxed, even entered one of the classes,and actually didn't bark at all and behaved so beautifully I still feel all gooey when I think about it.

We were always cautious with him and got to the point where he would happily pass other dogs on a lead, but understandably didn't like being run at/bounced at (again, inevitably sodding Labradors!). It's both painful and a great comfort to me to remember his last day - we went to an event for one of our favourite sighthound charities, and we have pictures of him enjoying playing with various pointy nosed friends, no muzzle, beaming away. Later that evening he passed away, but I am so pleased that BAT gave him a much happier and less stressful retirement and old age. The lessons we learned with him we now use on one of our other dogs who is just mildly grumpy and and we've seen him relax and become more confident too.

I'd agree though that pain is a major trigger. We had an elderly greyhound girl who became very reactive in her old age, simply because her arthritis would give her hell if she got bounced on by 40kg of cannonball Lab. As a consequence, she became understandably very reactive if she thought something similar was going to happen.

RosieandSW Wed 16-Mar-16 23:29:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Springermum1350 Thu 17-Mar-16 07:12:15

Rosieandsw. Yes please. It always nice to know there are other people out there struggling. I wish I could find someone round here in the same situation and we could work on it together.

Springermum1350 Thu 17-Mar-16 07:21:25

See. Mine is nervous reactive. He reacts to .... Bikes , people, wind, noise, suitcases , doors, scooters I could go on and on.
I suppose it's what he gets used to as he ignores gun shots ( we live in the middle of nowhere near farms) and very very low flying helicopters ( we live near an army base and the huge piece of MOD land that they practice on ) damn those things fly low sometime I can see the pilot.

MardAsSnails Thu 17-Mar-16 07:41:03

YoungDog raises her paw to join in.

Hi, my name is YoungDog and I'm a fucking nightmare.

She reacts to everything. In the house, we've had a visitor this week and if she hears him go to the bathroom in the night, she'll bark 3 o clock this fucking morning. Keys coming towards the front door, someone walking past our back gate.

Out on walks, she's terrible. She'll appear all nicey nicey and wait for a dog to approach her, she'll be wagging her tail, and then When they're in snapping distance, she'll snap at them. If she can't get at he other dog, she'll snap at OldGirl NOBODY hurts my little old woof, I'm very protective of my one eyed freak which is obviously not on at all.

The trainer we got in told me that my tactic of treats in the pocket to distract may not actually be doing much good as its treating symptom not cause. However it makes walkies much better for all 3 of us plus the other community dogs and ownership quiet walking route has been closed off for roadworks, and the other direction has no grass (she won't pee in our garden, and if we set off that way she'll pee in areas she can't pee in before we get to the proper bit).

Everything about her stresses me out. We still did the right thing though. She'd have been put down within a few hours of DH hadnt rescued her from the municipality when he did. She also almost died from erlichia and babesia. We've got her in good shape now.

She's also ridiculously well behaved in front of professionals. She'll sit nicely in the vets waiting room, not reacting to anyone, she behaves well for the vet too. When we got the trainer round, he spent 90 mins walking with us, coming across multiple cats and 9 or 10 other dogs, and nothing. She was so well behaved. In the end we found one owner we know and asked him to explain what she was normally like, after he'd joked about maybe we've brought a different dog out that day. So the trainer hasn't seen the worst in her.

We need to find time to go out separately with the dogs. They get plenty of walks (3-4 hours a day) but always with one human. I think it would be best to walk them separately to my awesome OldGirl gets her walkies too (and she loves walking with one of us without the mentalcase), and so that one can dedicate themselves to sorting out YoungGirl. It just never happens. There's 3 of us who walk them, but we cross over a lot with our times that we can walk them. Once visitor goes and the house is back to normal, this is my first plan. I think we need to set it so that DH does an hour an evening just with YoungGirl whilst I take OldGirl out, get her behaving for him, and then introduce her to walking with me and OldGirl, then me alone, and eventually our housemaid who walks then in the day. It's just impossible when there's two fairly big dogs, one person, and one of the dogs is a nightmare dog.

We WILL get her behaved though. We will. We'll get her life nice and unstressful as she's a lovely dog and she deserves a happy life.

YouMakeMyDreams Thu 17-Mar-16 08:03:08

My dog loves other dogs and people off lead. Off lead she is awesome. Great natured won't go far away, excellent recall. Does everything she's told to. Greets everyone well. On the end of the lead she becomes a snarling kite. It's not even particularly aggressive either just loud. Dogs she knows well she will literally sit on if they try and play or approach if she's on her lead to keep them back if she's uncomfortable.
I've never taken her on a walk that hasn't ended up with sore arms. We are lucky we live somewhere where everyone knows each other and most dogs are walked off lead off the main road so she's fine. But we can't take her to anywhere that well behaved dogs on leads are welcome. We have camped with her and when she's been tied outside she kind of reaches saturation point and becomes more chilled out after lots of positive attention from us and passers by but as soon as we are home and on normal walks again she's a nightmare.
We got her at a year old and she had never been used to a lead but 3 years later it isn't much better. She improves for a while but despite being consistent it never seems to stick.

weaselwords Thu 17-Mar-16 08:41:34

Ive got one who is very reactive. I've got used to always walking her on the lead and walking at quiet times. It's not much fun any more and I too am jealous of people with well-balanced, sociable pets sad

Cheerfulmarybrown Thu 17-Mar-16 08:58:21

There is no doubt having a reactive dog is hard work <Looks very sternly at crazy dog!> I also have what people would called "normal" dogs too so this can highlight the huge differences between them.

However don't forget the good things about your difficult dogs, mine loves me to the moon and back, our evening cuddles and the loyalty he shows me are just amazing. I am constantly impressed with how he tries not to react - ok he is not great at this and we do have to have ridiculous distance between us and other dogs but he does try.

He is amazing at agility and is just the sweetest dog when DC's are ill, he will lie with them for hours quietly putting his head in a position to be stroked. My recently widowed Mum is a firm favourite of his and he makes her feel special every time she visits.

I have found some fantastic rural quiet places to walk him and without his reactivity I would not have explored these places.

He has taught me so much about dog training, and my other dogs have benefited from this.

We now have an understanding I will not put him in situations that he can not cope with and he will do his best to deal with slightly more challenging situations.

He has also made me trust my instincts and not be walked over (this has spread to all aspects of my life!) I know what is right for him and I will protect his right to space in a calm, assertive way. I do not care what other dogs walkers think or say -he is mine and I am with him 24/7.

His big problem is that he is a dog - if he were a human and he thinks he is, there would be no trouble!

tabulahrasa Thu 17-Mar-16 09:00:52

"We had an elderly greyhound girl who became very reactive in her old age, simply because her arthritis would give her hell if she got bounced on by 40kg of cannonball Lab."

Yep that's exactly why he's so bad with dogs, only he's a bit of a thug so he'll not wait to see whether it's likely or not.

People he's nowhere near as bad with because I can keep them at a distance so he only reacts if they touch him.

Traffic...tbh, I think that's just him being a git, he barks, they move away - he seems to enjoy it hmm it is the issue he makes most progress with though.

Springermum - mine is completely fine with things that make other dogs scared, fireworks, gun shots, they're no bother, though with mine it's that he's not actually a fearful or nervous dog, he'd be easier to deal with if he was tbh because he'll seek out dogs to have a go at if he got the chance.

Godstopper Thu 17-Mar-16 12:08:16

We have Scrabble, a fear-aggressive BT.

It's taken about two years to manage regular calm walks, and here's what we do:

- Yellow lead with NERVOUS on in big letters.
- Cross the road if another dog is coming, or turn around: you cannot worry what others think. For any dog, approaching another head-on is threatening, and for reactive dogs, more so.
- Choose our walks carefully: we still go to popular dog-walking places, but at quieter time.
- If she has had a run-in, then the next day is a quiet day at home. This is because stress hormones take a while to dissipate, and taking her out within a short time span will just amp it up even more.
- Reward for looking at the dog and not me (this is a common mistake - when your dog is looking at you they cannot see what is going on around them and may well become more nervous).
- Ignore if any barking/paws come off the ground. Complete silence.
- We use a calming supplement (Zylkene). It does take the edge off, but others have mixed results.

She accepts our other dog (they play, sleep together), she is just a bit neurotic of strange ones. I've developed a thick skin since this happened, and come to realize just how many dog owners haven't a clue about their own dogs. I DON'T CARE IF YOUR DOG IS FRIENDLY. MINE IS NOT. IT IS IN EVERYONE'S INTERESTS TO KEEP THEM AT A SAFE DISTANCE. Sometimes, I am very tempted to teach this brigade a lesson by showing them what happens if I let Scrabble off-lead when said dog is, frankly, behaving badly and upsetting mine. I never would of course, but arrrrghhh, these people need to learn!

I don't use a muzzle (yet). She has never bitten. It is a lot of hot air that can look quite alarming to strangers. Now, if you have made it to the end, I've attached some photos to show how far you can get with daily work (this is Scrabble - the Border Terrier - playing/being with other dogs in a v.controlled environment).

samandcj Thu 17-Mar-16 13:30:51

I have tried very hard to identify the triggers for my reactive collie. This morning we spent a pleasant hour walking alongside a (new) friend and her (off-lead) dog. We have been bounced at by a over-friendly dalmation...... no reaction at all!!
However I know that the next walk is very likely to be different.
I have muzzle trained ....but I know it makes ME tense when I use it.
I have just returned from an indoor socialisation class .....I work so hard to keep her focus on me..... will I ever be able to relax?. I have booked onto a "reactive dog workshop" but am already dreading the moment when we have to enter the barn... she just cannot cope with another barking dog.
She came to me from a rescue at 18months. She has been here now for 9 months and I still cannot let her off the lead. She is gorgeous, really loving ...but to be honest if I knew then, what I know now, I think I would have made a different decision.
I'm still hoping it will get better ...Am I being naive?

tabulahrasa Thu 17-Mar-16 13:54:15

"I have muzzle trained ....but I know it makes ME tense when I use it."

Why? Just out of nosiness as I use it for the opposite reason, I know no matter how many numpty owners let their dogs approach him he can't bite them so the worst case scenario is a load of noise and getting whacked by a paw or muzzle, which is much better than if he managed to bite them.

It also weeds out a lot of dog encounters as it deters owners far more than when I was telling them he wasn't to meet dogs due to being in recovery from one of his operations or that his leg or spine are painful...clearly my dog getting hurt by theirs is ok, but any hint of mine hurting theirs and much more of them stay clear hmm

samandcj Thu 17-Mar-16 14:37:11

tabulahrasa I feel it makes Abby's reaction (vocal & lunging) appear more threatening. I know it is MY problem (she doesn't care). It is a relatively recent addition to our options - i think I just need to get used to it.

As an aside - I am using a basket muzzle, I have tried 2 different sizes and have fixed on the smaller one (she is a small collie).During muzzle training (in the house & garden) she demonstrated her skill at removing the muzzle herself. She has never done this whilst on a walk but I am still not letting her off the lead whilst wearing it.(I can just imagine her tearing up to another dog, pausing to remove her muzzle, then launching herself into the fray!) Am I being over cautious? NB I don't think the muzzle is too loose ...she is just extremely dextrous.

tabulahrasa Thu 17-Mar-16 14:45:00

I use the Baskerville ultra - it comes with a head strap for that very reason...

Mine isn't clever enough to try and take it off though, it just suits his face shape, lol.

villainousbroodmare Thu 17-Mar-16 14:53:43

In Vienna, a very dog-friendly city, you'll see dogs in public transport, restaurants, everywhere. All wear muzzles. Mostly soft comfy leather ones.

In other places, a muzzle does help alert other people to the fact that your dog is problematic and they are much more likely to give him the space he needs.

samandcj Thu 17-Mar-16 15:38:13

Thanks Tabulahrasa. I have just ordered one. Hopefully it will fit ...she has a very long slim nose!

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