Dog Reactive on a Lead

(18 Posts)
Katypyee Tue 14-Jan-20 01:43:33

I am an experienced dog owner. This is my 3rd. We adopted a rescue dog 11 weeks ago (my second rescue dog). She is around 11 months old now. Lovely dog and is friendly and trainable. She is good around other dogs off lead at the dog park and loves to play with them. However, when she is being walked on a lead she is really reactive towards any dog she sees. She tries to lunge towards them (her tail is wagging and I am sure she just wants to play) and starts barking and making a noise almost like she is being abused. I basically have to drag her along like that until we have passed the dog. It is really embarrassing,

I have tried not to tighten the lead and pull but then I have no control over her as she pulls and lunges. If there is a wide enough area between us and the other dog I try to pass by. If there is not I cross the road which I hate doing. If neither of those are an option, I pull her to the side and make her sit until the dog has gone past.

I have never had a dog that has reacted like this before on a lead and it is taking some of the fun out of walking her as I am avoiding areas I would like to walk as they are narrow and I am not sure we could safely pass another dog. I don't fear that she will be aggressive, she just behaves really antisocially.

On our last walk I took a bumbag (I know!) filled with tiny pieces of cheese (a real treat) and every time I saw a dog I crossed over and gave her a piece of cheese. Then when she spotted the dog I gave her a piece of cheese. I kept this up until we were past the dog and then I gave her more cheese and praised her. This did work on a couple of occasions but not every time.

Am I on the right lines with the tasty cheese rewards and do I need to just keep repeating this until she gets the connection? I welcome all tips as my kids (9 and 12) would love to walk her which isn't possible currently. I just want to be able to walk past another dog without her barking like a loon and trying to get to the other dog.

Help me please?!

Thank you.

OP’s posts: |
namechange1041 Tue 14-Jan-20 02:00:00

Hi my dog also used to be like that and I used the same tasty treat method as you. Consistency is key. Stick at it for a while.
I used to take my dog out before his dinner so he'd be eager for the treats, which meant he was quite easy to train as he'd do anything for treats.
Another thing you could try is a clicker. Every time you see another dog, stop, click, when your dogs attention is on you, reward them a treat. That could be a fun thing to do with the kids as well.
Hope I've helped a bit smile

SueDoeName Tue 14-Jan-20 02:15:48

My dog is exactly the same . He
Soft and no aggression in him but he goes into guard mode if in the lead . Trouble is he's a 60kilo guard breed so looks horribly intimidating. Nothing distracts him . If he actually wanted to get to another dog I'd have no chance but he doesn't - just barks like a loon .

QueenOfOversharing Tue 14-Jan-20 08:43:21

I've fostered a couple of dogs who were like this - was taught by behaviourist to make them sit & encourage them to look at me. Treat when they look at you, build up to treating when they look at dog then look back at you with no reaction. Keep doing this until they can let dog walk past. If they start being reactive, walk in opposite direction, but it does take a while with some.

My beagle who I adopted 3 yrs ago used to chase runners or cyclists - used this technique & he stopped pretty quickly.

QueenOfOversharing Tue 14-Jan-20 08:44:24

Oh other things is to use highest value treats (cheese is perfect!!) and only use those for training. Sounds like you're doing the right thing.

adaline Tue 14-Jan-20 09:17:10

Ours used to be like this!

Find his threshold (eg. How far can he be from another dog without reacting) and work from there. High value treats and praise whenever he sees another dog.

Slowly you should be able to move him closer to other dogs without the barking and lunging. Mine will now sit while another dog passes him - six months ago I wouldn't never have believed it!

We use cocktail sausages which he doesn't get at any other time.

FleaTrainerExtraordinaire Tue 14-Jan-20 10:22:18

Honestly, the best thing you can do is grw a bit of a thick skin about appearing rude (sorry!). The very best way to tackle this is to ensure your dog is always kept as a distance she feels comfortbale about - which means crossing roads, ducking behind cars, doing a u-turn when you see someone, heading into bushes etc.

Once you accept that your role is to keep you dog at a distance she feels comfortable, regardless of how silly or rude you might seem, it gets better smile

This is the best way for her to see that other dogs are not threatening.

If you take her too close then she will feel fear which is unpleasant for her. This will reinforce the idea that other dogs make her world worse.

If you keep her at a distance then she doesn't feel afraid and has a chance to learn that other dogs don't really change her world at all. This is the first step.

You can also pair the appearance of other dogs with treats. This will encourage her to see that other dogs make her world better. Be sure to offer/show/give the treat AFTER she has seen the dog, not before. If you do it before you teach her to mistrust food bcause food leads to dogs, not dogs leads to food.

Be very careful about tightening your lead. I know you say you don't but it is almost impossible not to. The other advantage of distance is that you will also feel relaxed which will help her. If you are too close and you start to feel nervous, your behaviour, tone of voice, even smell may change - it is too hard to fool a dog so better not to try.

As pp have said, over time and MANY safe encounters like this you are probably going to find you can get closer and closer to the other dog without a reaction. It takes time though so don't rush her. Everytime she reacts she is taking a step back so try not to put her in a siutation where she feels she has to.

Be careful about asking for a sit near other dogs. She is reactive only when 'trapped' on a lead so forcing her to sit still may well also feel like further restriction on her freedom to get away and make her worse, not better.

If you absolutely have to pass close to another dog, do it quickly and calmly. Don't stop for hellos, just move passed as quickly as possible.


Chesneyhawkes1 Tue 14-Jan-20 10:39:22

One of my dogs is like this. He was attacked by an off lead dog when he was on the lead. He's been fairly lead aggressive ever since.

He's fine off lead and wants to play with other dogs. He's not treat or toy motivated so it's hard to break the cycle.

Katypyee Tue 14-Jan-20 23:02:48

Thank you for the replies. Seems like I am on the right track with the tasty cheese treats for distraction.

@FleaTrainerExtraordinaire My dog isn't fearful, anxious or scared. She plays just fine with dogs at the off leash dog park and loves running around playing with them. Zero aggression. Her lunging and barking is with her tail wagging and wanting to get towards the other dog. I agree in walking by quickly. I hate it when some owners want to stop for chit chat which just makes it a whole lot worse! I am trying to give other dogs a wide berth which does make passing easier. However, sometimes if I am on a trail path that is narrow it makes it harder. Some good tips though, so thank you.

I am going to keep up with the cheese treats only when we are on a walk. Give plenty of room to pass where possible. Try my hardest to not tighten the lead. Tell anybody who wants to chat that we just need to keep moving along. And lastly I shall be consistent and keep at it. Some good advice. smile

OP’s posts: |
SutterCane Tue 14-Jan-20 23:22:23

Are you on FB? If so the group Reactive Dogs (UK) is well worth joining. It’s run with the help of professional trainers/behaviourists and there’s loads of advice and resources for owners of reactive dogs whether they’re fearful or frustrated greeters.

CARE for Reactive Dogs is a training protocol for reactive dogs (recommended in the aforementioned FB group) and it’s great for both fearful dogs and frustrated greeters.

remz Tue 14-Jan-20 23:26:22

As others have said I would carry on using the method you are doing but also making sure you keep the dog under its stress threshold and then slowly build up to dogs been nearer.
Unfortunately lead reactivity is a big thing and I have worked with several clients with this issue, 70% time it is more a frustration at not been able to go to the other dog that they then kick off and bark and lunge and get wound up but then the other dog can read it as been directed at them and then that's when it can turn so even though yours is fine off lead I would still try keep a distance when on lead. A lot of times this builds from dogs always been taken to parks etc and let off lead and allowed to play that they then get frustrated when can't and on the lead, sometimes if they have been rescued as a stray the reactivity on lead can more be because the dog is anxious and with it been on lead it can't use the flight response so it goes to fight and that's why it lunges and kicks off
I would recommended finding a trainer or behaviourist one your area to help as well, just to try and find out the reason why they are reacting

FleaTrainerExtraordinaire Tue 14-Jan-20 23:30:39

You know your dog best but neither tail wagging or lunging towards a dog are guarantees that she is not fearful.

Tail wagging suggests she is stimulated but this can be excitement or fear. The movement, carriage and tenseness of the wag can be good clues.

Lunging towards can be eagerness to get close or an attempt to psychologically push the other dog back away to create distance.

On lead and off lead can be very different experiences for a dog and it is not uncommon for dogs to be very comfortable with other dogs off lead but not on lead.

It's absolutely worth being 100% sure because it affects what solution might work best.

Sleepycat91 Tue 14-Jan-20 23:44:30

Sounds good but I would stick to the one thing, not cross the road, put her straight in a sit and only reward with the cheese when shes looking and concentrating on you if that makes sense x

Katypyee Wed 15-Jan-20 20:18:55

@SutterCane I am on Facebook, although I am currently taking a break from it. I am no longer in the UK and now live in Canada. However, I do feel that group would still be useful so will connect when I am back on FB. Thank you.

@remz Thanks for your advice. That makes sense. I live in Canada now and dogs have to be on a leash at all times unless in a designated off leash area or dog park. So the majority of our walks are leash based. We go to the off leash dog park once or twice a week at most. I don't trust her recall enough for off leash in the forest and mountain trails as currently she wants to say hello to everybody. We work on recall at home and in the off leash park.

She is a rescue dog. Rescued as a stray in Mexico (we live close to the US border so Mexican rescue dogs are common here). We used a reputable rescue (I checked many out). We had a long application process, a home visit and fostered the dog prior to adopting. When she was rescued off the streets in Mexico at 4 months she lived with a foster family in Mexico for 3 months who had kids and other dogs. There they worked on house training and leash work. We have had her almost 3 months now and she is now fully house trained, great with our kids, learned lots of new commands (fast learner) and aside from the reactivity on leash with dogs is pretty good at walking on the leash. We do not have another dog at home. I think she was used to always being around dogs. I have friends with patient and well trained dogs who have offered to bring their dogs on walks with us on leash (we have all met off leash and all dogs were fine) and wondered if that may be worth a try. I have been thinking about contacting a local trainer/behaviorist, and a couple I have been recommended to me so I will look into that.

@FleaTrainerExtraordinaire You make some good points.

@Sleepycat91 This just doesn't work if the other dog is too close, only if the dog is a distance away.

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions.

OP’s posts: |
Katypyee Tue 03-Mar-20 18:48:19

Just wanted to post an update.

I have continued to be very consistent with feeding my dog high value treats when I spot a dog, when she spots a dog and as we walk past.

Her behaviour does seem to be improving.

Sometimes she hardly reacts, sometimes she does react, sometimes she barks. But it is better.

I try to ensure we have plenty of space to avoid the other dog and walk past. If that isn't possible then I make her sit to the far side and I stand in front of her and feed her treats.

Definitely noticed an improvement and she is starting to look at me for a treat when she sees another dog. She understands the word 'treat' too.

Thanks for all of your replies.

OP’s posts: |
gunners111 Tue 03-Mar-20 19:17:28

I have this problem with my dog, I have had him since he was a puppy and am not aware of any trauma my only theory is that he got used to very boisterous play at doggy day care that he used to go to and now sees another dog and wants to play.

I will try these tips and see how we get on

ImGoingSlightlyBrad Wed 04-Mar-20 09:24:25

It doesn't mean there has to be trauma. Dogs can become reactive for all sorts of reasons and often the 'cause' is multifactoral and never clearly known.

Katypyee Wed 04-Mar-20 16:14:57

@gunners111 My dog is fine in the off leash dog park. Runs and plays with all the dogs. It is only on leash I have issues. So could be the same with your dog?

This has taken a couple of months of being consistent every walk to get to here. So it isn't a quick fix. Also, with some dogs it may never be fixed.

Good luck with trying it anyway. Hope you get some sucess.

OP’s posts: |

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