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Rescue dog goes mad at other dogs out walking! Help!(26 Posts)
We recently got a rescue pup, approx 1.5years old. Before getting we were told she was lead trained (definitely was not), dog friendly and child friendly. She is definitely child friendly and must be dog friendly to a degree as we seen her interacting with other dogs at the rescue.
However she was dreadful on the lead but this is something we are slowly but surely overcoming. But one issue I can't seem to over come is how reactive she is to other dogs out walking. I've tried all the tricks in the books, treats before during and after noticing dogs, crossing roads, distracting by turning and walking opposite direction...Nothing works! She pulls so hard on the lead that I am genuinely concerned that she will hurt herself. Nothing I do seems to distract her at all as she goes absolutely daft!
Would anyone have any other advi
ce or tips as we are desperate to take her out properly with us instead of ending up walking the routes I think will have the least dogs
My brother has a rescue dog who was the same (he is disabled so I had to train her for him). The "watch me" technique is the best ime and is a favourite method of Dogs Trust. Work on it without distractions and at home at first, then out and about but away from other dogs, then gradually build up to doing it with dogs in the distance then with them closer.
I initially only walked bros dog on a short route where there are little woodland tracks branching off every few feet along the main track and as soon as I had seen a dog in the distance we diverted straight onto a little off branch and looped back to the main track when the dog had passed. We did lots of watch me practice. Then gradually I let the dogs be every so slightly closer before we diverted onto one of the little off branch tracks. The idea of this method is you don't want to let another dog get close enough to trigger a reaction as it only reinforces the need to react and you are gradually making you "watch me" command so perfect things won't distract. It takes a fair few months, of daily successful (no reaction) walks to build up to a level that lets you walk past dogs without issue.
We also did work with her mixing with my spaniel - we started with mom holding bro's dog and me holding spaniel (who was only a little pup when we started this) and us walking parallel to each other, we progressed to standing next to each other chatting. Then we progressed to mom siting one end of a 3 seater sofa with bro's dog on her lap (in my house) and me the other end with my pup on me. Then we progressed to letting one down onto the floor at a time whilst the other was on our lap. Until eventually bro's dog came over and sat next to me on the sofa, whilst pup was in my lap (completely of her own accord). After that they progressed to being happy to ignore each other loose on the floor together. This took a good few months of doing it in small sessions at least every few days.
Now she can pass most dogs without much issue (some dogs still make her bark but she is not full on trying to attack like she would have previously) and will greet calm spaniels (the only type of dog she is happy to greet - she is not a spaniel, so I assume it's because of my pup being a spaniel).
One other thing - make sure you are well versed on dog body language. My bro was told his rescue dog was great with DC of all ages and dog friendly - she was actually neither - dogs terrified her so much she thought she needed to attack them before they hurt her and young DC frighten her if they are within around a 5foot radius of her but it's only by being aware of her body language that you can tell - she tenses a little, keeps licking lips, yawns, turns away, whites of the eye can show a little, etc.
Sorry one last thing - walk dog on a harness (not one that tightens if they pull) with front d ring - that way she shouldn't be able to hurt herself and you can use a double ended lead attached to normal harness d-ring and to the front d-ring which can help turn dog back to you.
I would only ever have a collar, as a back up for a particularly large and strong reactive dog and never as the primary control.
No time to write a proper response right now, but which rescue did you get DDog from? Some are better at assessing dogs and offering follow up behavioural support, and they should be your first port of call.
As she interacted nicely with other dogs at the rescue, she may either be a frustrated greeter rather than truly reactive, or she may be dog selective. I spent months thinking mine was lead reactive - he's actually a frustrated greeter. It would, however, be quite unwise for a lay person like me to start trying to diagnose a dog over the Internet! For the same reason I'm not going to start doling out behavioural advice.
I second the advice of switching to a harness - a dog that pulls can start to panic when the collar places pressure on the windpipe. You don't want one of the ones that tighten (often sold as a no pull harness) as then you're getting into aversive training methods. I bought a Perfect Fit harness and starting to use it did coincide with making more progress with my own reactive dog.
thank you for pointing me in the direction of an explanation of why my small lurcher/border collie will be on her hind legs super overexcited when she meets humans and/or their accompanying dogs - this happens whether she is harness controlled or not.
I think it is 'frustrated greeting' rather than fear or aggression as when we walk on or off lead and meet no-one she is absolutely fine.
If it is dogs we know - she is quite happy to meet and greet then ignore (ditto people)
will work on the watch me command to try and get her to tone down the 'greeting'
Sorry to contradict SpanielsAreNuts although "Watchme " is a great tool it is useless for reactive or lead lungers.
Think about it - you are either very excited to see the dog on the lead (frustrated greeter) or terrified of the dog.
Either way if you ask the dog to look away from the dog the situation is ramped up. If you were terrified of something and told not to look at it how much more scary would it be - in your head it would become massive and way more frightening.
A better behaviour is "Look at That" encourage the dog to look at the dog that is approaching, then reward, the dog is then being rewarded for looking at either the frightening dog or being rewarded for just looking and not lunging at the amazing dog (frustrated greeter)
With a reactive dog you need to rewardsfor looking at the dog at a distance that is not causing a reaction. Then in future when your dog sees another dog, one he will be conditioned for it to be positive eg gets a treat and also conditioned to turn towards you in a less emotional state than using watch me.
Thank you all for the replies! I will definitely take on board the advice. It's just been very frustrating because she is perfect in every way but it's so hard taking her out!
She is definitely child friendly, I have a 5yr and 10yr old and she loves nothing more than to snuggle with them, but they are well warned that they're to leave her alone if she walks or turns away.
I have to say I'm not sure how my own frustrated greeter came to be sorted out. It just... resolved itself over time. TBH I think it was a combination of sufficient exercise and lots of dog social contact - perhaps he realised that even if he didn't get to say hello to the dog on the opposite side of the A road, he'd probably meet another one sooner rather than later. Obviously he didn't get to say hello when he was kicking off at another dog! It now only very occasionally rears its head - and it's almost always because he hasn't had his regulation min 2 hours of walkies per day.
I'm sure there are more scientific ways of addressing it, but there is hope! Certainly exercise is a massive part of it for PestDog.
I also have a frustrated greeter - i use a halti style head collar because he pulls and lunges, but unfortunately his massive excitement at seeing a dog, whilst on his halti, just looks aggressive - panting and puffing and thrashing at his lead.
I think my mistake was over-socialising him while he was a pup so he just sees all dogs as MASSIVE fun.
I try to correct him when he's lunging, reward him as soon as he's calm... and just hope he'll grow out of it in time. I'm trying to teach him 'Watch me' though, that does seem to work
Why is she pulling? Is she excited to say hello or is she scared or aggressive? I think you need to be certain on that before you solve it.
If she's just excited an option is to teach her that if she pulls you'll turn and walk the other way, but if she sits and waits she can then say hello in a controlled fashion. If you have a co operative friend with a mellow dog they could help you work on that approach. The idea is to teach her that pulling like crazy achieved the opposite of what she wants, but that calm behaviour is rewarded with saying hello.
She is definitely excited. We meet a few of the same walkers/dogs on our walk, so one of them kindly brought their dogs over to us (I think he wanted to try and help me overcome the struggles of encountering dogs on our walks lol) and she just sniffed and was then happy to walk on nicely. My heart was in my throat the whole time because I wasn't too sure what would happen.
But to approaching people, I suppose it could look aggressive.
The hard thing with rescues is not being too sure of the background she had. She was rescued from a pound by the rescue just as she had reached their "expirey" date. But she has obviously been in someone's home as she was fully house trained and understands most basic commands. I just don't think anyone did much with her outside of the house.
I completely appreciate what you are saying about it looking like aggression - people have crossed the road to avoid us when he's kicking off, and tbh I'd do the same as I'd assume a reactive dog that needed space. It's impossible for a stranger to know the underlying emotions - mine looks very similar when he's being a frustrated greeter, reactive (not to dogs) or just overtired and throwing a tantrum.
However, I find that once he's over the threshold and has started barking, he's a lost cause even if the other dog comes closer.
DDog is from a similar background, and all I can say is that it can get better - and don't forget that DDog is coming to the end of adolescence, which did seem to make mine suddenly become a bit more sensible around other dogs (eg 100mph greetings are now a rarity)
Also there is no way my brother's dog would have taken a treat whilst franticly barking, lunging and summersaulting - not that I would want to try to treat a dog for having a panic attack - not helpful. The point of the look at me is a distraction and a reassurance, that conditions the dog to no longer see it as something that needs to be reacted to. The dog is also never forced to look away from the thing that scares it. Perhaps you should look into a method more and ensure you understand how it works (and how many dog reactive dogs a very large charity is able to rehabilitate using the method), before claiming it is useless.
Totally agree about your brothers dog not taking a treat when he is lunging, he was way over threshold and would be learning nothing at all. He would need to be moved further away from the trigger so that he was able to think and learn. For some dogs this can be as far as the other end of a football pitch, gradually this distance would be decreased.
I have studied dog behaviour and only give out advice that has solid scientific grounding behind it. The watch me command was popular in the early 90's. Reactive dog work has come on leaps and bounds since then and rather than creating a distraction which watch me would do, we now are able to change the dogs emotional state which is a more effective way of dealing with reactivity.
Counter conditioning and desenstisation is a very effective way of dealing with reactivity and that is what the "Look at that" does effectively.
Can you link to the Dogs Trust page with the watch me command? I will speak to the Dogs Trust Behaviour team and see if this info can be updated - thanks for bringing it to my attention
You still don't get it. The watch me works to recondition and desensitise! - that was the whole point of doing it and exactly what it achieved in my brother's dog. In all honesty I struggle to believe you've studied canine behaviour in-depth enough, if you can't fathom that.
As a tiny speck of a dog in the very far distance got that full on panic attack reaction your method would never have worked for her, as there would either be no visible speck of dog (hence no re-conditioning work possible) or severe reaction!
I didn't get watch me from a webpage, I got it directly from dog trusts behaviourists (the rescue she was from wouldn't help and had lied in the first place about her anyway (despite their good local reputation), so dogs trust very kindly helped me out - this was 2years ago now).
SpanielsAreNuts I am sorry you feel I do not understand. I do understand, I am a professional behaviourist and totally understand the science.
I am sorry that my comments have annoyed you that was not my intention.
I do feel you comments are a little bit harsh as you know nothing about me .
Thinking more about it.
Watch me would work if the dog has seen the trigger and then turns to the owner .Which is basically the same as look at me. But if you are preventing the dog from looking at the trigger by watching you then it will only distract.
So I expect the Dogs Trust are encouraging the dog to look at the trigger and then back to owner _ which is actually look at the dog.
I have emailed a Dogs Trust Behaviourist to clarify what they do.
look at me - look at the trigger!
I'm not annoyed and my comments are not harsh. I have simply pointed out that watch me does work to recondition and desensitise - that's the whole point of doing it. The fact that you can't fathom that makes it hard for me personally to believe your claims (that I have no way of verifying) that you have studied canine behaviour in any in-depth way. Had you have done then surely you would be able to comprehend how it works to desensitise and recondition and why a very large charity like the dogs trust still uses it to rehabilitate dog reactive dogs. That's not harsh and I'm sorry if that upset you.
Although perhaps it's not my words that upset but the fact that you called the method useless, when you clearly don't even know how it works and that I pointed that out and also pointed out that your method won't work for extreme reactive dogs?
Sorry cross posted (a DC got out of bed and delayed my post).
Yes. Once they have been taught the watch me with other distractions to 'proof' it in normal situations, it is used as soon as another dog enters the vacinity where reactivity can happen, so dog is perfectly aware there is another dog but they are getting reassurance and the distraction of their most highly desired treat. Over time the other dog can be closer and closer before watch me command is given. Now bro's dog only reacts very mildly to some dogs passing but passes most without any fuss.
Op I joined Reactive Dogs Uk on facebook to learn and help my girl. They mainly advocate the CARE technique to change your dog's emotional response to the trigger.
In simple terms firstly your dog needs space from what is scaring him/her. So if you're one side of a football pitch and your dog sees another dog on the opposite side and doesn't react, you treat. You don't ask for any behaviour (sit/ watch me etc). Just treat until trigger has gone. If your dog does react you're too close. You need to back off until they are able to calmly take food without 'pinching' or snatching. Dogs can't eat when they're stressed so it's a good indicator of how they're coping. If the other dog moves towards you they are now entering your dog's safe zone and you need to back off.
In time your dog should associate other dogs with yummy good stuff. All this takes time and should always be at his pace.
I also would say ditch the halti headcollar. They tighten around the muzzle as the dog lunges increasing the panic/ frustration.
Really, join that facebook page, they are awesome
Sorry op, it wasn't you using the halti- I take that back. ( tired and double vision)
I joined the RDUK facebook page, but didn't ever manage to implement what they said because
a) they seem to spend a lot of time doing no walks when a dog is judged to have cortisol that is too high. I understand the science behind this is correct, but DDog has a great tendency to go stir crazy, and his reactivity goes through the roof, if he doesn't get a lot of exercise (brain games don't cut it for him!) so overall I think this would be worse for him.
b) I can't control the distance at which he sees his main trigger, due to where we live and the nature of the trigger.
I have, however, stayed in the group as it provides a useful reminder that DDog isn't that bad in comparison, which helps me keep a sense of proportion!
I generally avoid posting about the method I was taught by an APBC behaviourist for dealing with DDog when he's being reactive (unrelated to him being a frustrated greeter) for fear of people applying it in inappropriate situations - but in essence it involves a "this way" command and walking away from the trigger, and then delivering a very high value treat as the trigger is passing by if DDog doesn't start barking. Walking away from the trigger has involved walking into the driveways and front gardens of many a perfect stranger; I'm mainly surprised that no one has objected yet, with the exception of some builders on a building site we walked onto! Needs must! Major progress has been made - he's now starting to look at me in anticipation of a treat when he sees the trigger rather than reacting.
When he's gone over his threshold and started barking and lunging etc. I regard him as being a lost cause - I can only separate him and the trigger, either by waiting for the trigger to pass or by dragging him away and then let him calm down. He's not going to learn anything in that state, and nor am I going to give him a treat when he's doing exactly what I don't want him to do.
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