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Dog becoming reactive to other dogs(23 Posts)
Looking for some advice really.
We have a 2 year old dog (3 in a few months) that we have owned for coming up to 2 years. She spent the first year of her life with her previous owner who then passed away. She is generally very friendly, loving and quite relaxed. In the last year I have noticed she has become more reactive to other dogs in certain situations. She will bark like crazy at dogs walking past our house and the same if she’s in the car and sees a dog outside. If we take her into somewhere like a pub she is generally fine if there is another dog there already. However if she’s there first and then other dogs come in after, she usually barks at them. and not in a friendly way. She was always fine meeting dogs out on walks when she was on and off the lead but in the last year she has started reacting to some dogs when on the lead. But not all dogs. I can see her tense up and then she sort of growls and barks as they approach. To be fair some of them bark at her first, I am wondering if they pick up on each other’s tension sometimes. Yet other dogs she largely ignores. It’s a bit strange.
For info, she went out with a dog walker in a group of dogs (including travelling in a car together) for a year with no issue. Two other dog walkers have taken her for short periods at times when we’ve moved house or been away and both have said she has been no bother and often a calming influence on other dogs in the pack.
We have also moved house twice in the less than two years we have had her. If that’s relevant.
Any advice welcome! Tonight she saw our neighbours dog when we were both outside on the pavement with both dogs on the leads. No problem. But ten mins before when I was walking down the road she went nuts at a Boxer dog which was about 20 metres ahead coming towards us. Both on leads. I had to cross the road. She also barks at dogs when out on walks if it’s in the dark.
Sounds more like an anxious bark rather than aggressive one. Does she move backwards whilst barking if approached by her perceived danger. Also a vet check might be an idea as they can’t always tell us when they are unwell; we have to look for changes in personality.
Sort of moved backwards but also forwards. And often still barking over her shoulder as I drag her away
Are you anxious or stressy?
I have a reactive dog also, but she is only reactive with me (and I’m quite nervy!).
She has a dog walker also and socialises beautifully!
I’m wondering if she’s perhaps like my dog and picking up on anxiety from you and acting accordingly?
Maybe even guarding you?
Because if it was purely fear, I’d expect her to be the same for the dog walker?
No I’m not stressy. Neither is husband and he takes her out alone too.
When she used to go out with the dog walker last year she was collected from home, put in car with other dogs and then taken for off lead walks. So I guess it’s an on lead thing the dog walker never saw?
Hm, I think it’s unusual she’s only like it with you and not the walker.
Very much like your dog, mine is lovely with the dog walker and not with me.
The behaviour in the house and car sounds like territorial aggression.
I wonder if she’s guarding? Or maybe being bossy/bullying?
I am 99.9% sure my dog is a bossy/bullying/guarder type.
For my dog, her body language is like this:
Fearful dogs are more like this:
A good Positive reinforcement trainer might be able to help you with this sort of aggression.
I think she would be like it with anyone walking her on the lead. But It’s not with all dogs. She comes to work with me, it’s a very small office and recently another dog (puppy) has started coming in too. She barks when he comes in (as with her usual territorial thing) but then completely ignores him for the rest of the day. If he was in the office before her she won’t bark when she walks in.
What I’m saying is that the dog walker never walked her on a lead, she took her to open forest land to roam off lead with a pack of other dogs, so probably never saw these tendencies then. She hasn’t been with the dog walker since last Sept as she comes to work with me more often now. There will be many times I walk her on the lead and pass another dog or several dogs without any bother but other times when she will bark at an approaching or passing dog. There is no pattern to it which is what I can’t understand. The rest of the time she is the most kind and soppy dog. When we met our new neighbour she invited us round in to her house with our dog, we went in and her dog was in the house charging about like crazy, ours was on the lead and was fine, she just lay down on the floor and pretty much ignored the other dog. Same when in-laws occasionally bring their dog to our house or vice versa, ours is fine in either scenario and doesn’t bark at it.
If she was anxious and/or aggressive surely she would do this all the time to all dogs? I am at a loss as to what to do, because I never really know when it will happen. Most of the time she is fine.
Is she only ever aggressive on leash then?
Could be barrier frustration?
No she wouldn’t necessarily do it all the time.
My dog started off only reacting very rarely to certain dogs.
Most of the time she was friendly.
And to begin with the reaction was mild.
I had no problem continuing to let her meet dogs because she was fine with most and I was persistently told she was just correcting rudeness of setting boundaries and other nonsense.
When I started to question I got trainers advice and started positive reinforcement training - counter conditioning, ‘look at that’ game etc.
It didn’t work for her, she got much much worse.
I think maybe if she was fearful it would have worked as I understand the overwhelming majority of the time aggression is fear based and positive reinforcement seems to work well for lots of dogs.
For mine though, nope.
Now doing balanced training, I have had a blip with it when I let her greet a small dog off leash and she aggressed at him and I had a moment of panic and despondency, am omg this is the only only option left to try and she’s still aggressive but really, I think I moved too soon before she was ‘ready’.
I am not letting her meet other dogs yet.
Yes only slightly agressive on lead, only some of the time. Other times utterly calm and non plussed. I walk her off lead at the park and beach a lot where there are loads of dogs and she mostly ignores them or will stop for an occasional friendly sniff.
She’s a small dog, mixed breed but neither breeds are known for aggression, she shows lots of positive traits from both breeds to be honest
I think your best bet is a proper behaviourist really, my (non professional) assumption would be it’s barrier aggression/leash frustration based on the fact she’s fine off leash.
The reading your post I think you should correct her by a quick tug on the lead and a “Sush!” whilst standing blocking the view of the other dog. You have to be assertive and confident so that she knows you don’t need protecting thankyou. Also do this if the barks in the house at anything outside.
She may not bark at some dogs due to their calm aura.
Watching with interest as my dog is doing exactly the same She's fine off-lead, but on-lead she is barking like crazy at most approaching dogs. Also, when we are in a pub or cafe, starts barking the minute another dog enters
I have to put my view forward on paperdolly
So, I agree (personally) that IF the aggression is confident guardy aggression that she should be ‘corrected’ BUT first of all you said she is a small breed?
Small breeds are particularly prone to collapsed trachea.
You could actually do her some damage leash popping.
Secondly, the advice to stand and block the other dog.
Some dogs if sufficiently aroused will actually redirect onto their handler and bite the handler..
If you are quite sure the behaviour isn’t fearful and want to go down the ‘balanced’ training route she needs a prong collar.
Before mumsnet goes apeshit let me quickly say why:
- the motion on a prong is SUPER gentle, as in a barely there curling of the fingers.
No harsh leash pops on a prong.
- the prong evenly distributes pressure all around the neck so there is very little chance of tracheal damage unlike a choke chain or a flat collar which both distribute pressure directly against the throat if ‘popped’ or pulled against.
- many studies on their safety have been done and time and time again they have proved to be very safe.
- Dogs really don’t mind wearing them!
They really don’t, it needs no desensitisation training like a head collars, dogs don’t shirk away or look at all fearful if you correct properly (gentle curl) in them.
What breed is yours spidereye?
Mine is the same and same age, only on lead and only certain dogs. He remembers the dogs that have barked at him and now seems to want to get in first and warn them off. In my case I think it's fear/uncertainty.
I just read this and the arc/line theory is interesting
Aversive techniques/tools (those intended to discourage an unwanted behaviour through intimidation, fear, discomfort or pain) have no place in modern dog training. We know they're not as effective as positive methods, we know they adversely affect the human-dog relationship, we know they're highly likely to cause behavioural fallout elsewhere.
If every time a dog encounters their trigger something unpleasant/scary/painful happens are they really going to feel more confident or calmer in that situation?
I would highly recommend anyone struggling with a reactive ( dog join the Reactive Dog UK FB group. It's a fabulously supportive group run by professional force free trainers/behaviourists and you can find both excellent advice and recommendations for decent professionals in your area if that's something you want to explore.
They advocate the use of the CARE for Reactive Dogs protocol. Correctly applied and used consistently this will work. It may take a long time and progress isn't always going to be a smooth upward curve but it will work.
Beverley Courtney of Brilliant Family Dog runs a free five day mini-course for owners of reactive dogs which is worth a look. She's also got an accompanying set of books; Essential Skills for Your Growly But Brilliant Family Dog.
Other books that are worth looking at are Behaviour Adjustment Training 2.0: New Practical Techniques for Fear, Frustration and Aggression in Dogs by Grisha Stewart and Inspiring Resilience in Fearful and Reactive Dogs by Sally Gutteridge.
If you want to find a professional to work with then the FB group Dog Training Advice and Support has some excellent advice in their 'Files' section on finding a decent one (this article in particular is a good read) and, as with Reactive Dogs UK, you can ask for recommendations for someone who covers your area. You can also go through organisations such as the APBC, APDT, PPG or IMDT.
Positive reinforcement training is great, it’s the best way to teach new behaviour without a doubt and for a lot of dogs with behavioural issues it works really great.
It should be the first method you try for a challenging dog.
But the assertion that it will work for all dogs is just not true.
There are many many owners out there who were told their dog is unfixable and the only option is to euthanise it who sought out balanced trainers and the dog is still alive and more importantly happy and well behaved.
While I am not for one second insinuating that dogs look up to people as fellow dogs (they don’t) I would urge you to try and find a natural example of purely positive behaviour in the social animal world and I would bet you can’t.
Social animals largely ignore good behaviour and they challenge bad.
You will see evidence of this in pretty much any group of social animals.
The idea of not punishing/correcting poor behaviour is very unnatural and for some dogs they will never improve unless clearly communicated to that their behaviour is wrong and will elicit consequence.
You can’t do this under purely positive because it involves a brief correction.
A correction that will be mildly painful but extremely quick and correctly done does NOT cause the dog to vocalise, cower, jerk away or act in any way fearful.
So if you have a horrendously vicious dog and have tried positive training and it’s still dangerous, you can’t safely ‘manage’ it and you don’t want to try corrections, what do you do?
There’s only one option left for you.
The phrase ‘death before discomfort’ seems to sum it up well.
That ending the dog’s life is somehow kinder than a few extremely quick, rapid ‘corrections’ that the dog isn’t even that bothered by.
It’s utter madness.
Thanks everyone. I had a look online for a local dog behaviourist and found someone with rave reviews, but on further reading realised he uses something called canine correction technique and some sort of electronic collar. I am not keen on that.
I have signed up for the 5 day free mini course mentioned above and sent a request to join the dog training advice Facebook group.
My dog went to the groomer today. The groomer was so surprised when I told her about what our dog can be like on the lead sometimes. She is such a calm happy dog everywhere else!
What is his name?
He sounds like a balanced trainer.
If so, he should be ABDT (association of balanced dog trainers) registered.
I am fairly sure e collars are banned in the UK..
I hope the mini course gives you good results.
This sounds very like our dog.
He was attacked by another dog at around a year old while on his lead and ever since has been very reactive to other dogs but only when on lead near our house. I think it's partly territorial and partly anxiety about the attacker dog (who lives nearby) reappearing. At its worst it was extremely stressful and walking was very difficult. For a while we were in the 11pm/6am walk club too! Luckily we found a brilliant behaviorist and he is making slow but steady progress so please don't give up OP. He is now walked in a muzzle which means I'm more relaxed and other dog owners (usually) give us a wide berth. We have also been working on him focussing on us much more during walks, every time he looks back or makes eye contact while on the lead he is verbally praised and/or clicked or treated. We also play games by getting him to jump on/off things, find treats in the bushes etc while on walks to redirect his attention from constantly scanning for other dogs which had become the focus of his walks. Hope this helps x