Reactive dog at close range

(11 Posts)
Snappymcsnappy Thu 04-Oct-18 00:06:40

Posted about her before..

My dog is not comfortable around other dogs, on sighting them she becomes very ‘alert’, tail up, ears forward, very still.
Or sometimes alternatively will lie down.
Will try very hard to approach normally, lowers her tail, goes for a normal sniff greeting but freaks out and starts growling at them, but is capable of being nice, playing, has a few doggy friends.
My dog walker has no concerns either.

After a few nipping incidents (mostly against her friends!) I researched her bad behaviour more thoroughly and contacted a behaviourist.
financially I couldn’t afford what the behaviourist was asking for but I bought a muzzle and have been mostly avoiding contact with dogs opting to walk past them while eating treats instead and calling her for treats the second I see the tail going up.

She has made great progress in that she now spots strange dog, returns to me for biscuit and walks happily munching even with strange dog right up next to her.

Today though....
We had an ‘incident’.
She found a ball and we met a young puppy in the field which had LOTS of dogs in it socialising nicely.
Puppy behaved, like a puppy, racing round, trying to pull the ball out her mouth and she behaved like she usually does when she has a toy and completely and utterly ignored puppy except for a few growls when puppy was trying to rip ball out of her mouth.
All very good.

Then it happened, there were lots of dogs on the field, pup had got her ball and she was following him to get it back when a big white dog approached her.
They went to sniff and for no apparent reason she freaked out, loudly!
So loudly and suddenly that other owners gasped and the puppy owner who was talking to me stopped abruptly.

She didn’t nip or bite him or anything, just noise but it’s so embarrassing and frightening in case she does, god forbid bite one day.
I already have a few owners who actively avoid us due to her bad behaviour...

She just can’t handle such close contact.
Even when she plays (rarely) she will only play chase, dare her playmate actually touch her she will freak out.

If I keep on doing what I am doing, with the treats will she eventually be able to greet normally do you think??

I don’t need her to be a social butterfly, I am happy to mostly avoid other dogs but it would be nice for her to be able to encounter another dog without growling or snarling...

OP’s posts: |
AvocadosBeforeMortgages Thu 04-Oct-18 08:19:54

Firstly, it sounds as though you've made great progress with her - well done!

Secondly, though I also have a reactive dog (though dogs in general are not one of his triggers), I'm not really qualified to advise on such things. Have you joined the Reactive Dogs UK Facebook group? There's lots of people on there in similar situations who can advise.

I would, however, suggest avoiding young puppies for their sake. They're particularly vulnerable to being psychologically impacted by scary experiences. A scary experience can just be a lot of noise - no need for a bite - and then that puppy could end up being reactive too. Adult dogs are much less vulnerable to picking up such problems from one mildly scary incident.

YeTalkShiteHen Thu 04-Oct-18 08:21:34

As the pp said, well done getting this far!

Have you seen the leads/harnesses that tell other dog owners your dog is nervous and doesn’t socialise well? That might be an idea while you’re working on it?

Nifflerbowtruckle Thu 04-Oct-18 08:57:12

What breed is she? My friends border collie is pretty similar. It took months of daily meeting to get him used to my dog (Shih Tzu) and only when we moved in together that he actually started playing with her. He allows her to jump up at him playing yet any other dog he would react. The vet said it's really common with border collies and German shepherds as we have bred the flighty traits into them. What my friends dog doesn't like from people and dogs is unpredictability if they stood still as a statue and let him do what he wanted he would be fine (generally).

Snappymcsnappy Thu 04-Oct-18 09:01:53

She is a border collie!

She doesn’t have the flighty temperament though, she is a fairly confident, stable dog.
She is reactive due to being attacked more than once, prior to that she was very tolerant.

Also, just to clarify, it was the big white (adult) dog that provoked the reaction, not the puppy and the puppy really didn’t care, carried on racing around with her ball happily, the big white dog didn’t seem overly bothered either.
Not that that makes it okay mind.

OP’s posts: |
UrsulaPandress Thu 04-Oct-18 09:12:28

Reactive Springer here. We just avoid all other dogs. Recall if see one, straight on the lead, moral high ground achieved, walk away.

Kennycalmit Thu 04-Oct-18 09:58:27

Well done on the progress you’ve made

However I will say, just like humans, perhaps your dog just isn’t very social?
There’s an article I’ll try and find by a dog behaviourist who hates the fact we try and force our dogs to be social. Some dogs, for whatever reason, find being social stressful. By forcing them into those social situations we cause them stress.

I’m lucky my dog is super friendly however DP’s isn’t. He is towards humans just isn’t bothered with other dogs. DP tried for years but he could never relax, it was all too unpredictable - he didn’t know how his dog would react. Until one day he just stopped trying to force his dog to be social.
If he saw a dog he’d cross the street or walk the other way - and the dog is so much happier!! Sometimes I don’t want to stand there and chat to people and I imagine if I was forced into it I’d feel mentally drained. It’s the same for dogs.

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Vallahalagonebutnotforgotten Thu 04-Oct-18 15:31:53

Border Collies and reactive dogs my speciality!

You have done well but I would look at changing your dog walker - your gut feelings are spot on hers are a bit shifty!

Do not encourage interaction with other dogs - your dog has so far politely shown you that she does not want it. I think she has been very patient and is clearly telling you that she is not happy.

What you are aiming for is a dog that will relax in dogs company but will not play rough and tumble or interact with other dogs. This is very common with collies, they want you - not the rabble!

You need to protect your dog from situations that make her uncomfortable. If you don't she will up the anti and will nip and bite. So far she has shown amazing self control by just making a noise etc. However many "she is friendly" dogs will take no notice of this and the only option your dog will have is to attack. This will increase her stress levels and attack will be her first option.

Many (most) collies hate interaction with other dogs (they are working dogs and get really stressed with the play interaction from other dogs).

My daily plan would be:-
To walk away from other dogs.
Walk in an area that has dogs on lead and under control - Keep your dog under threshold so have a big distance between the other dogs and you - fed when seeing a dog but then turn away from the dog instantly. This will give your dog confidence that dogs are ok and you are in control of the situation.

I would not push past this point for a month or so.

Vallahalagonebutnotforgotten Thu 04-Oct-18 15:35:16

Also your dog will be extremely stressed but the outburst she has had.

If this does happen she will be more alert,more stressed and will react quicker the next time she sees a dog. Trigger stacking is the term used to describe this.

If she does have a scary moment look at the option of avoiding all stressful situation for about 72 hours - this may mean no walks if that is the only way to quarantee her to relax.

Collies are amazing and brain work will tire her out just as much as a walk and help to relax her.

Scent work is great for this

I live with 6 collies so do feel your panic when I say do not walk her but trust me brain work will give you a much more chilled collie than a stressed walk collie

whateveryousay Thu 04-Oct-18 22:00:26

I have a reactive GSD, and I think Vallahala’s advice is spot on.
If I’m out with my boy, and we see another dog in the distance, I treat him for looking at it, but then we walk away in the opposite direction. Far less stressful all round!

LatentPhase Fri 05-Oct-18 18:07:58

Reactive JRT here. Had a dog behaviourist in and she advised doing what you have done. You’ve done brilliantly to get her to come to you at sight of a dog. Well done.

We do what Valhalla says. There’s always when off lead (parks etc) the possibility of a dog just appearing suddenly. Nothing is 100% unless you keep the dog on lead IMO.

The ‘don’t worry my dog is friendly’ owners are a constant things. Can’t blame them I suppose. I can count on only one hand when owners have respectfully put their dog on a lead.

Also as my JRT is small the yellow coat/bandanna/harness is completely ineffective, nobody can read it until at close range!

It’s not easy.

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