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Reactive dog owners- group walks?

(14 Posts)
Blackfellpony Tue 27-Dec-16 16:31:29

Wondering if i can pick the brains of other reactive dog owners or anyone experienced in training really?!

So, reactive GSD. Never bitten but typical lunging barking mess when out. Frightened of life and 'diagnosed' by a behaviourist as fear aggressive. He runs up to dogs or people and barks/snaps at them if he does not know them. He is friendly once he knows the person or dog is no threat.

Anyway we have been doing lots of positive training, treats when we see other dogs etc following a training programme set by behaviourist a few months back.

We also have been attending a group walk once a week with many different dogs. Every week there are different or new dogs and it is not ran by my trainer but by a rescue organisation. It's basically a free for all, turn up let dogs run wild and go home.
In all honesty he has been brilliant and is very submissive and non reactive when off lead, except nipping other dogs when they run (or trying too-he is always muzzled!)
He has never been in any real trouble there and seems to just do his own thing really. Other dogs have fought but thankfully not mine!

However Day to day his training has stalled and I am still struggling with the reactivity every single time I leave the house with him.

I am wondering if this sort of group walk type thing is actually bad for him? He has been 'told off' a few times by other dogs as he has no manners and I'm not sure if this is setting him back? Last week there was also a bad fight between two dogs and it's scared me as if it was him he would have curled up into a ball and been torn apart, he wouldn't defend himself and is muzzled so couldn't anyway sad

Is it safer to just avoid interaction altogether rather than risking him getting a fright and being back to square one?
I suppose the fight has made me question whether letting him interact with 15 strange dogs a week is actually making him more frightened? He seems okay at the time but I've read they can shut down and actually appear to be okay when they really aren't?

drinkingchanelno5 Wed 28-Dec-16 09:23:57

How old is he? If he is still young he may just still be learning his manners, and will settle down eventually.

Secretspillernamechange Wed 28-Dec-16 09:29:50

I think a 'free for all' for a pack of dogs that changes each week is a recipe for disaster.

I attend a training class with my Bigdog and a few people with reactive dogs attend. They get to the point where they have a level of training where the dog will still focus on the handler when requested regardless of the distraction, which sounds as if it could be what you need.

I'd have though a volatile environment such as you describe could very well be too much for a fear aggressive dog and may well damage confidence further rather than enhancing it.

Blackfellpony Wed 28-Dec-16 09:47:04

Thank you to both of you. I'm conflicted as he appears to enjoy it but I'm not sure if he is just over stimulated and running wild rather than having fun. Not sure how I would tell!

I don't know the temperament of any of the dogs which is worrying but the mantra seems to be let the dogs be dogs and sort it out themselves without people interfering.

He's about 1-5- 2 years old, so young but definitely fearful, not normal adolescent behaviour. I've had many cocky shepherds but he is the least brave creature I've ever met.

ToffeeChops Wed 28-Dec-16 14:54:21

I'm no expert but in your shoes I'd probably continue with the group walk. Your lad sounds a bit like mine and we do a group walk from April - October which I think has been helpful for him. I do sometimes have my heart in my mouth but DDog has definitely got better at working out how to interact with other dogs and responds fairly well to being put in his place.

Having said that, any really 'full-on' dogs are usually kept on a long-line initially, and one is muzzled. The leader is an animal trainer and I have confidence in his judgement about the dogs. Perhaps it would be worth a chat with the person leading your walk to see what they think? Good luck, whatever you decide..... owning a reactive dog is a real challenge sometimes, I feel your pain!

drinkingchanelno5 Wed 28-Dec-16 19:04:29

Alternatively could you find a smaller walking group with dogs that you know he gets on with while you work on his training? It will be hard to make progress with the current group if it's just different dogs all the time (also can be setting him up to fail if there are badly behaved dogs in the group - some owners see group walks as an excuse to be lazy and let their dog run wild).

TrionicLettuce Wed 28-Dec-16 19:31:46

If he was mine (and I do have a reactive dog myself) I wouldn't be taking him on these walks anymore. To be honest I wouldn't be taking any of my non-reactive dogs either. If fights are breaking out and the dogs are frequently correcting each other they're clearly not being managed appropriately as a group.

As your dog is fearful of other dogs, exposing him to a large number of them is basically a technique known as "flooding". Although it can work in some cases it can also backfire horribly and either make the dog worse or result in the dog becoming shut down. This article about it is well worth a read. The specific situation is different (day care vs. group walks) but it's very relevant.

I would be avoiding interaction with other dogs for now unless it's supervised by your behaviourist or another behaviourist/trainer who is experienced in dealing with fearful and reactive dogs. A good professional with appropriate "stooge dogs" can be absolutely invaluable in tackling reactivity, if your behaviourist doesn't offer this it might be worth looking around to see if there's anyone locally who can.

Blackfellpony Wed 28-Dec-16 19:49:02

Thanks. That article is really good I had i idea that dogs could appear calm when they weren't sad

I will look for an alternative!

LumelaMme Wed 28-Dec-16 20:43:18

I have a reactive dog - great with those he knows, lovely round the house, put a pita with unknown dogs. I wouldn't feel happy with him in a large group with fights etc.

What's working for us is some very focused training, the rationale being to get him to expect to focus on me whatever the situation is, and it's really helping, to the point that other local dog-owners starting commenting on his improved behaviour after a matter of two or three weeks.

PM me if you'd like more info. I'm not a dog trainer, but I do know a bloody good one!

Shriek Thu 29-Dec-16 11:47:58

Sounds like your worst nightmare throwing a load of different unstable ddogs together. Just sheer numbers will cause problems for the sufferers.Put with stable and well socialised ddogs to learn from and gain confidendence with or are there not enough of those around any more. So many aggressive/fearful ddogs out there. Are there far more than ever used to be or did I have sheltered upbringing'

Blackfellpony Thu 29-Dec-16 11:52:13

Shriek that's the problem- I can't find any!
I see so many aggressive, fearful and reactive dogs but the owners don't seem to care or do anything about it. The reason my dog is horrible is because he was torn apart by two out of control dogs who's owners laughed and were half a mile away. He is terrified now sad

We had a lovely walk today with no reactions even when a dog walker with 11 dogs passed so I'm feeling much happier today!

Shriek Thu 29-Dec-16 12:06:49

Maybe you have found the answer. Did you speak to the 11-dog walker? would they vouch for the ddogs they walk to be gentle with yours whilst still in recovery? as tgis could be your way forward just to walk a similar closeish path to theirs and get closer over time if there is a pattern to ddog-walkers outings that you could coincide with?

Shriek Thu 29-Dec-16 12:09:18

I try to do a similar thing with dpups. To ask whoever is nearby if their ddog is happy to give tolerance to dpup (including well socialised scoldings for over-bearing behaviour)

Bubble2bubble Thu 29-Dec-16 16:34:49

15 dogs of unknown temperament in a free for all situation sounds a bit of a nightmare tbh, however well intentioned the organisers might be.
The fact that your boy just keeps to himself would make me think he's not that comfortable and in fact a lot of dogs wouldn't be.
If you have had small successes with introducing him slowly to nice dogs individually and perhaps parallel walking with dogs he is comfortable with, then that is probably more helpful.

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