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I don't think I can cope with my highly reactive dog anymore

(26 Posts)
boxfreshbox Thu 18-Aug-16 07:37:12

I don't even know what I'm asking. We have 2 dogs. Both rescues. 2nd one we've had for 6 months.

She just isn't the dog I thought we'd chosen.

She's housetrained, great with the kids and suffers no separation anxiety. Not stressed in the car. Great with the other dog.


Walks are becoming an utter nightmare. She has no recall so always on lead. I do canicross with them which she's really good at but when I can't run its like wresting a lion. She's only beagle size though.

My husband is fine with her. I've tried all sorts of headcollars and harnesses but I'm at the end of my tether. We hire a secure field weekly to let her run. We've been to training and workshops too.

The dogs only get walked 1st thing -6am and 11pm now to try and avoid other people/dogs.

So this morning start walking - dog1 off lead. She's on my waist belt but she sees rabbits and goes mental. I'm 10st but over an hours walk I'm getting really sore. I'm doing 'watch me' and giving space to other dogs but it's fucking miserable. Get back towards the car and she's lunching and barking at passing traffic. I'm rewarding the sit and watch me... Fine... Returning to the car and see another dog, gave loads of room, praise for remaining calm.

I'm home now just thinking wtf am I doing? I hate walking her now. She's getting worse. We can't just go to the pub or anything like we used to and sit in the garden because it'd be such a nightmare getting there then I'd be all nervous about others approaching.

I'm just ready to call the rescue centre and ask for help finding another home. I just don't think I can do this for the next ten years. sad

BeachysSandyFlipFlops Thu 18-Aug-16 07:48:01

I could have written your post. We are now 18 months in with our rescue. Exactly the same, on lead dog due to being an ex hunting dog, we do canicross too and all the training etc. I completely understand the exhaustion of being pulled around on your waist belt smile

One thing that has helped is he runs with a canicross dog walker who will take 5 or 6 dogs at a time. He's learnt the discipline of running with other dogs and doesn't react when they are running together.

He still barks big time at anyone coming to the house unexpectedly, though, which can be very off putting for visitors or workmen etc.

I think it's just keeping on with what you are doing. Does your training centre have a decent behaviourist that you could do a one to one with (although it sounds like you have all the right approaches) or where you can do controlled meets in the dog field?

Well done for rescuing and for getting this far. I do understand the 'not having the dog you hoped for' completely, but he's so gentle and loving in the house, I'm not sure we could give him back now....

boxfreshbox Thu 18-Aug-16 08:01:19

Thankyou for your post.

After I wrote my op I thought I probably do need to have a 1:1 with the behaviourist. She came out for dog1 and was great. She's led the training we've done with dog2 so knows what she's like.

We have an occasional dog walker (contracted to the trainer) and I had a good convo with her. I bought a squeaky ball to get dog2s attention (and reward it) which has been helpful.

I'm also wondering about separating them and come how doing individual walks - not quite sure about that tbh.

georgedawes Thu 18-Aug-16 08:02:18

Sounds really tough sad do the rescue you got her from offer any support post adoption? Maybe a behaviourist you can contact?

Do you think she is reactive because she's scared?

WaitrosePigeon Thu 18-Aug-16 08:04:15

Oh god, sounds an utter nightmare.

I absolutely cherish my walks with my dog. It should be a relaxing time for you both to bond and I'm sorry you're not getting this. It must be very upsetting for both of you. You can't carry on like this, can you?

Fair enough if you're done but maybe contact that behaviourist and see if that helps? brew

BeachysSandyFlipFlops Thu 18-Aug-16 08:06:32

We were advised to do separate walks too, but I really don't have enough time in the day, frankly. We were also advised to not let ddog run free in the garden, as he wouldn't understand when he was out not to run free. I can't bear to do that either as he loves roaming around the garden on his own.

I would go back to the behaviourist and see if they can arrange controlled meets. Our place is very good like that, bringing in a non reactive dog for them to meet in a healthy way. You've reminded me that I need to go back. I do find the training incredibly stressful though, you're just on edge the whole time, waiting for a snarl or lunge smile

Toooldtobearsed Thu 18-Aug-16 08:13:14

Walking them seperately is a great idea, it worked for me. Knackering and time consuming, but effective.

My problem was different, i simply got a second dog before the first one was properly trained. Walking them together was a bloody nightmare. I was going out at 5am, just to avoid people and letting them run wild. I contacted an ex police dog handler who is now a dog trainer and tried to book some sessions with him. He was fabulous, told me he was not going to take my money when this was something i could fix myself. His advice:

Walk dogs seperately.
Do not feed before walks, take their food with you (i feed raw, so a bit of a pain)
Reward with food - if dog is hungry, more likely to respond well when training.

I took one at a time, early morning, along with food. Let him off for a run, throwing ball, just to run off excess energy, then did serious recall and walking to heel training, rewarded with food. Came home, picked up second dog and repeated. Within 3 weeks, we semi cracked it.

I now take them out together, use dehydrated liver as treats and they are reasonably well behaved. The only time i ever have any problem is if they see their doggy friends - no amount of calling them will stop them from going for a mad 5 minutes romp. Apart from that, they are great. Just back from a 3 week touring holiday with them, had them in pubs, beer gardens (not an alcoholic, honestly)! Walking up and down really busy narrow streets, they went everywhere, and were brilliant.

Keep going, you will get there!

boxfreshbox Thu 18-Aug-16 09:28:48

Thanks all. I'll reply properly later. Out with kids now.

Just briefly spoke to dh before coming out (he's home with dogs today) and he reminded me we used to do seperate walks with dog1 and old dog (now deceased). It was because old dog couldn't hack long walks. We had a great routine and I'd completely forgotten we did that successfully! blush

I feel better already. Will be back tonight.

boxfreshbox Fri 19-Aug-16 19:48:05

Sorry for delayed return. I've done a fair bit of thinking.

Sorry I can't scroll up and see pp saying about feeding whilst you're out. How does that work practically please? We feed raw too.

Also the dog not allowed to run in the garden - that doesn't sound quite right does it?

Our trainer puts huge importance on sniffing - mentally and physically provide really good exercise.

Toooldtobearsed Fri 19-Aug-16 20:33:28

Box, i am the raw feeder with two dogs and the trainer who gave me free advice.

I made mine a breakfast of chicken wings, cut in half, dehydrated beef strips, chicken strips and chunks of beef. I used zip seal bags and had wet wipes. However, i then discovered Millies Wolfheart - fab alternative, highly recommended, so wholst on this regime, i fed them millies whilst doing morning training - they thought they were fetting something REALY special😂😂

I let mine play and run around as normal in the garden, dont understand the theory behind not letting them have some 'playtime'. They are not daft, they do know the difference.

I also did a LOT of mental stimulation with my eldest dog. I had to keep him as immobile as possible for weeks following surgery when he was very young, and it really does tire them out. We have just been away for 3 weeks, touring around with them and they have been knackered every night. We have not walked any more than usual, but the new experiences and mental stimulation really shattered them - particularly going to the pub😆

Good luck with it all, i honestly thought mine would always be a nightmare and was staggered that a lot of work, but in a short time period sorted them out (by and large) although youngest still rolls luxuriantly in any kind of stinky shit, no matter how screechily i scream at her and threaten her with death 😢

BusPuppy Sat 20-Aug-16 16:31:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BusPuppy Sat 20-Aug-16 16:32:38

Aghhhhh posted in the wrong place, sorry to hi-jack, getting it deleted now...

boxfreshbox Sat 20-Aug-16 18:47:16

Oh - thanks for clarifying! I thought I'd missed something interesting!

Today I ran with the dogs (kids on bikes) and it worked well.

Hold on be right back....

boxfreshbox Sat 20-Aug-16 19:15:31

Yes so basically I ran with them but really made the effort to train them. So getting their attention and rewarding them prior to any 'trigger' - cars passing/other dogs. Gave loads of space and rewards.

Only time when it went wrong was lack of space and oncoming car. They both went crazy. I just held onto them until the car had passed. Very noisy though.

I ran at11am so busier than normal and with the kids too so I feel it was a successful day smile

100milesanhour Sat 20-Aug-16 19:24:25

No advice but one of my dog approaches other dogs fine and then stops and sniffs them. Once she's sniffed she goes mental and barks even though she would run a mile of the other dog took a step towards her.

She's also a rescue.

boxfreshbox Sat 20-Aug-16 20:21:47

Do you get tense 100? I know I do. I know it's part of the problem.

Greyhorses Sun 21-Aug-16 08:50:56

I felt like this at one point with mine. It got to the point where I hated taking her out.

After consulting a behaviouralist the first step we took was taking everything back to square one. I literally only walked her at quiet times in a deserted field with no pressure and tried to avoid everything that triggered Her. We did lots of training at home to establish the sit etc so I had something to ask her when out.

We then gradually built it up, treating her every time she saw a dog or person or car or whatever triggers her (most things!) if she was calm. I ask mine to sit and watch as it makes people leave me alone, treat when she looks at the trigger but does not react and looks back at me and then treat again once it's passed.

It has worked to some extent but it's been a long and frustrating road, ive been messing about every time I see a trigger for a year and I still can't trust her in some situations. When she's excited or worried I might as well forget it as she's an embarrasment.
I can't even have a holiday as she hates people too so I know how you feel with the wanting to sit at the pub thing sad

100milesanhour Sun 21-Aug-16 11:37:54

Mine is fine on the beach if she is near a bigger dog, but if we're walking down the street she can be a nightmare!

It can be stressful but I don't feel stressed when I see another dog approaching, I just say how scared she is and keep her at my heel. If she barks, she's turned to face the other way and when it walks past we carry on in the direction we were going.

It's only dogs bigger than her that she does this with, she's fine with any dog that's smaller and our other dog is tiny which I think helps.

She was more reactive after a collie nipped her when she sniffed. The owner apologised but the damage had been done.

RebeccaWithTheGoodHair Mon 22-Aug-16 14:08:21

Just posting to add support. My smaller dog (Spaniel) is calm and great on his lead/recall and pretty much perfect. I trained him from a pup by doing that thing where you stand still if they pull and wait for them to pay attention to you before you start walking again. Took a while but it does work and I congratulated myself on the fantastic job I had done!

Then ... got my Weim, she's a rescue I got her when she was 6 months and she'd had NO training whatsoever. 4 years in and she's still a 'work in progress'! She still pulls if I don't loop the lead over her nose, she goes crazy if she sees another dog when we're walking on the road (perfectly friendly and playful when off her lead), her recall isn't 100%, and she is a complete nightmare in the car if she sees another dog.

At weekends I drive so I can just let her out of the car rather than having to walk out of the village but day-to-day we walk along the street before I can let her off. I can't say it's entirely enjoyable and sometimes I wonder when the hell she will calm down but I love her to bits and if she never changes then so be it.

I hope you find a way forward with your girl, they only challenge you cos they love you (that's what I tell myself!).

HenDogismylife Sun 28-Aug-16 18:47:17

Keep at it. 1:1 training is definitely the way forward. I went through hell and back with my baby but we have really turned a corner now.

boxfreshbox Sun 04-Sep-16 23:05:45


boxfreshbox Sun 04-Sep-16 23:07:29

Thanks for all posts so far.

We're OK here

She's been an absolute star with canicross. She's really got the hang of it.

Dh and I are starting separate walks this week, so we'll see how we get on..

She is adorable really smile

EasyToEatTiger Mon 05-Sep-16 18:11:03

Good news, Box. Well done. It can be tough keeping dogs with ishoos. I sort of joke that our house is full of the dogs that no-one else wanted. It's not always straightforward. I was really pleased though, when we were away on holiday that a sheep farmer complimented their behaviour, and said what lovely dogs they arehmm. The dogs spent pretty much all the time off-lead with livestock roaming freely. The dogs were far more interested in barking at falling water!

BeachysSandyFlipFlops Wed 07-Sep-16 11:01:34

Well done Box. Have you any canicross groups near you? Our reactive dog has been so much better doing canicross in a group. If they all running in the same direction, attached to owners, the stress of being surrounded by other dogs seems to be less.

We have a large group on Facebook.

BeachysSandyFlipFlops Wed 07-Sep-16 11:04:44

Sorry I was the one advised not to let him roam free in the garden. The behaviourist was basically saying that if I just open the door and let him charge around wherever he wants (it's a big space), then when I let him off the lead somewhere with no fences, he'll just charge around and not be inclined to come back.....

We start another recall class next week!

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