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Reactive in selective situations(7 Posts)
My just one year old male intact cocker has become gradually more reactive in specific situations. No original triggering event, just gradual decline
If strangers come in the house, obviously usually after ringing the door bell, he now barks from the ring ( not ideal but ok) but also now when they come in and stand in the hall or move in the house. Fear barking as if they go near him he backs off barking etc
Similarly as we set off on a walk he will usually bark at the first thing he sees, whether it be a well known neighbour who he likes or a passing dog walker or a stranger on their driveway a couple of streets away, etc.
But, in the case of visitors once they've been there a couple of mins he's fine, on the walk once he's had a bark at the first couple of things and away from home he's fine in parks, villages, crowds, pubs, other peoples houses, with people and dogs. Loves a play and chase with dogs, loves a pat from strangers. Totally different dog..... just reacts in his property or as he leaves it
Any thoughts on how to turn this around?
Around this time, many dogs go through a 2nd fear phase which makes them more fearful and reactive than normal. It should pass but the trick is for this behaviour not to have become habit by the time it does.
The problem is that every single time the dog displays this behaviour and it works (i.e. it keeps the bad thing away) then dog has had another opportunity to learn that barking and lunging when afraid is the right thing to do.
Fear can also be contagious, spreading out to similar situations (in the dog's eyes). e.g. the doorbell one day, doorbells on the telly the next, all bell type noises the next.
In your situation, considering you have seen a gradual decline and there already seems like quite a wide range of triggers, I would be consulting a behaviourist to help you and your dog through this. They may be expensive (£200+ for a consultation) but when weighed up against a lifetime of fear I would be tempted to go hard at stopping this right now.
They can observe the dog properly and suggest ways in which to train alternative behaviours and encourage different emotional responses to the things he is currently fearful of.
p.s. territorial aggression may be helped by neutering , fear aggression may be made worse. In neither case is the result guaranteed.
Another good reason to consult a professional to help you assess what is happening and the best way forward.
Initially I would be distracting in situations you know he will bark eg the doorbell rings and treats are miraculously scattered on the floor away from the front door. Do not encourage interaction with visitors let him do it in his own time. Same on starting off on the walk treat and distract
2nd fear phase! Mine is just one and coming through the other side of his now. It's totally normal, don't worry.
sorry should have said this started about 2-3 months ago, as I say a very gradual decline from just barking at the doorbell to continuing, and just barking occasionally when leaving the house to every time
I did think it was 2nd fear phase so thought it would pass but with it going on a while and getting worse I have started to fear the worse!
Will try to keep him away / distracted from the sources of the anxiety - the problem is those random delivery arrivals / visitors etc! and we never know who / when we meet on the walk. I think he will be hard to distract too as he does get very tense. But will try!
This might be a bit late but putting a doorbell ring tone on your phone and get the dog used to the sound of the bell matched with a treat without the stress of there being someone actually at the door.
In a sense you are lucky because you know when he's going to be reactive. Try and practice lots of really short walks giving lots of treats and asking for lots of focus before you get out the house and he can start being reactive. One of the best things I've used is teaching my dog to look at me when she worries. It's easy to do, when we're walking and she looks back at me she gets a treat. When you first start you may have to do something to attract his attention but when they get it it's fab. She now regularly checks in with me and I can tell when she's worried because the nunber of times she checks in increases.
Hope this helps and good luck.