Any trainers about? Reactive dog

(44 Posts)
MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 10:57:43

Hi all, can any trainers give me some hints on how to work with this.

Dog is friendly and lovely with all in the house. Once he's in public he decides he 'dislikes' certain people. No common factor, nothing with men/women/hats/hi vis etc. Just fearful of certain people.

When he has this reaction he will bark, often try and lunge and continue to bark until he's away from them. To me it seems a fearful reaction. As he can growl as well he wears a caution harness and leash.
Distraction with food is not an option. He's wound so tightly on a walk he won't take any treat, no matter how high or smelly the reward.

How do I get him past this? I took him to a shopping village last week where he happily walked without issue and I thought he'd finally got there, but when I sat down for a coffee he spent ten minutes barking at everyone who passed to the extent I ended up leaving as I was getting 'the look' from people across the courtyard.

Any advice appreciated.

OP’s posts: |
justilou1 Tue 21-Jul-20 11:30:55

I have an unpredictable dog like this. It is very much fear-led aggression.
This is your friend. Your dog won’t love it, so introduce it gently and with lots of treats in the house, etc before you use it out walking. If your dog lunges, it will turn him/her in a circle away from what they are lunging at. It is not a muzzle, so if required, the dog can still defend itself.
I have a giant-breed dog who weighs almost as much as I do, and this has made walking her possible again. (They come in lots of different sizes and you can buy them from pet shops too.)
www.amazon.co.uk/Canac-Gentle-Leader-Dog-Medium/dp/B00Z6FQ9BS/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=gentle+leader+for+dogs&sprefix=gentle+leader+&tag=mumsnetforu03-21&qid=1595327197&sr=8-2

MellowMelly Tue 21-Jul-20 11:39:50

I am not a dog trainer but I had a reactive dog to bikes and big men and she also wanted to greet everyone that walked past or sniff and try and eat every darn bit of litter on the floor that smelt of food.

I had a dog trainer in who taught me to distract her with a simple quick snap or tug of the lead. So I had to pre-empt the behaviour before it came even if it possibly wasn’t going to happen.

So for instance a bike was coming, I could slightly feel the strain on the lead as my dog would go to react, quick tug on the lead, dog distracted, followed by me calmly and soothingly saying good girl.

Big man approaching, quick tug on the lead, dog distracted, me saying calmly ‘good girl’, so on and so forth.

It took time, consistency and patience but she walks perfectly on lead now. I know sitting for a coffee might not be as relaxing if you have to keep one hand on the lead ready to tug the lead so she doesn’t bark at everyone walking past but it might be worth starting on that behaviour somewhere with less foot traffic.

Hopefully someone will post something for you that might be more effective perhaps but that’s what worked for me.

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 12:23:46

justilou1

I have an unpredictable dog like this. It is very much fear-led aggression.
This is your friend. Your dog won’t love it, so introduce it gently and with lots of treats in the house, etc before you use it out walking. If your dog lunges, it will turn him/her in a circle away from what they are lunging at. It is not a muzzle, so if required, the dog can still defend itself.
I have a giant-breed dog who weighs almost as much as I do, and this has made walking her possible again. (They come in lots of different sizes and you can buy them from pet shops too.)
]]

I’ve tried one of those in the past and he can slip it alarmingly quickly, even when you think he’s used to it.
Factoring in the possibility he might snap if he did slip it, it’s not a risk I’d want to take with him sadly. He’s a small terrier, lightning fast and once distracted will not listen.

OP’s posts: |
MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 12:24:44

MellowMelly

I am not a dog trainer but I had a reactive dog to bikes and big men and she also wanted to greet everyone that walked past or sniff and try and eat every darn bit of litter on the floor that smelt of food.

I had a dog trainer in who taught me to distract her with a simple quick snap or tug of the lead. So I had to pre-empt the behaviour before it came even if it possibly wasn’t going to happen.

So for instance a bike was coming, I could slightly feel the strain on the lead as my dog would go to react, quick tug on the lead, dog distracted, followed by me calmly and soothingly saying good girl.

Big man approaching, quick tug on the lead, dog distracted, me saying calmly ‘good girl’, so on and so forth.

It took time, consistency and patience but she walks perfectly on lead now. I know sitting for a coffee might not be as relaxing if you have to keep one hand on the lead ready to tug the lead so she doesn’t bark at everyone walking past but it might be worth starting on that behaviour somewhere with less foot traffic.

Hopefully someone will post something for you that might be more effective perhaps but that’s what worked for me.

Something to try on our walk later. He wears a Julius harness so a swift pull won’t do him any harm. Thank you.

OP’s posts: |
MellowMelly Tue 21-Jul-20 12:41:39

@MadSweeney

I’ve just looked at your Julius Harness and he should still feel a sharp quick tug/snap motion that is enough to distract him briefly.
I have found watching ‘Dogs Behaving Badly’ is great for learning how to thwart unwanted behaviours (my dog also loved attacking the hoover and lawnmower) and the man that does the show has great success with the gentle swift tug lead approach. He also makes some kind of ‘ah’ sound that goes with it to let the dog know it’s an unwanted behaviour.

It might be worth a watch so you can see how it works exactly rather than my flimsy attempt at explaining it grin

ViperBugloss Tue 21-Jul-20 13:16:17

Please contact a qualified behaviourist to help you sort this. It may initially cost money but you will be on track for a solution quicker than advice on here.

Do not quick jerk on your dogs lead. You need someone in RL to observe your dogs reaction see when they first react which will be way before the bark and the lunge and work with your dog before they get to this stage. Most people will need help with this as when you are close to the dog on lead it is hard to miss some of the subtle signals

IMDT, APDT will all be able to help you

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FoxesAreFabulous Tue 21-Jul-20 15:08:06

MadSweeney I would highly recommend you join the FB group Reactive Dogs UK. There is loads of useful advice on there, it's a very supportive and non-judgemental group with 1000s of members now and there are qualified trainers and behaviourists on there, able to offer very specific advice to individual members.
It does sound like fear-based reactions from your dog - please DO NOT tug/pull/yank on his lead, no decent trainer or behaviourist up to date with modern training methods would ever suggest this. What you ultimately want to be aiming for is to alter your dog's emotional reaction to the scary thing and that cannot be achieved by distraction. You actually need your dog to notice the scary thing, but from a far enough distance not to react, and you then treat him while the scary thing is visible, stop treating as soon as it disappears, so he will start to associate that thing with treats appearing. It takes time but it does work! You say it's really difficult to tell what he's reacting to, but I suspect that with close observation, there will be some patterns emerging and it might not be so much WHAT he sees as how close that thing is. This is where a qualified behaviourist is so valuable, as they will see things that you can't, and will be able to give you a training plan. The RDUK FB group can also recommend a good behaviourist in your area.
I'd also steer clear of 'Dogs Behaving Badly' - the training methods used are out of date and sometimes aversive. They might look like they're working but there is no such thing as a quick fix in dog behaviour, and the results are being achieved through fear and aversive techniques, not positive reinforcement (which is the ONLY acceptable training method).
Best of luck!

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 15:14:46

and you then treat him while the scary thing is visible, stop treating as soon as it disappears

He will not take treats of any kind out of the house. I've tried that method before. He's too wound up to think of anything other than the person he's seen that he's barking at. It is a fear response, absolutely.

I have called a local trainer but at £360 in the current climes its not something I can afford to pursue, hence me hoping for some pointers here. Currently scouring YouTube for methods of dealing with this that don't involve food.

OP’s posts: |
ViperBugloss Tue 21-Jul-20 15:27:15

You can get a trainer a way less thatn £360.00. Look at the IMDT website and they will charge way less. I mean way way way less.

The reason your dog is not taking food is that he is over threshold and too uptight to eat. You will need to move back from the trigger until he is able to eat. A trainer in rl will be able to see when he is relaxed and it is at this point that the work needs to take place.

BAT will help.

Looking at counter conditioning will also help BUT the timing is crucial and you can waste hours trying to sort it out yourself and it not work but with expert advice this will be prevented.

CARE for reactive dogs will help

moosemama Tue 21-Jul-20 15:59:41

Viper’s suggesting is the best, imo.

I have had two reactive rescue dogs. One to anything (people and dogs), one just to dogs.

You need a professional to observe the dog’s behaviour, as it can sometimes be more complex than you might have thought, especially if the reactivity seems random.

I would highly recommend BAT training, it made a huge difference with our dog reactive boy, to the extent that, once we’d done the work, we could take him anywhere and he would walk past other dogs on the lead calmly, even on the same pathway. I only wish it had been around when we had our first reactive boy.

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 16:02:33

I'm at the end of my rope with him.

Just taken him to sit quietly on the edge of the park. Not a sole in sight and he's still too wound up to take the treat or to even look at me. He's gone mental at the bloke next door (again, won't even acknowledge me let alone the lump of cheese in my hand)

I give up. If anyone knows a trainer in the Staffs area that can help that doesn't charge the earth please let me know. At the moment I feel like rehoming him completely because I'm so down with it all.

OP’s posts: |
Ihaventgottimeforthis Tue 21-Jul-20 16:07:33

How is he inside the house, and when you are making preparations to go out for a walk - getting lead, keys etc?

If he finds walking stressful, there doesn't even have to be particular triggers as I understand it - every little thing just 'tops up' previous stress levels.

Do you have a garden? Is he stressed there? Have there been traumatic experiences that might have contributed?

ViperBugloss Tue 21-Jul-20 16:10:42

flowers It can be very hard to have a reactive dog - but things can get better.

are these near you
or this one

Have a couple of days off and just play in the garden if you can to get both your stress levels down a bit.

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 16:14:08

Ihaventgottimeforthis

How is he inside the house, and when you are making preparations to go out for a walk - getting lead, keys etc?

If he finds walking stressful, there doesn't even have to be particular triggers as I understand it - every little thing just 'tops up' previous stress levels.

Do you have a garden? Is he stressed there? Have there been traumatic experiences that might have contributed?

He's fine, he gets excited, pulls me all the way to the gate then goes absolutely mental at a leaf blowing down the road.
I walked him at the weekend with my daughters Daxie and he was much better. We walked right through a shopping village without issue at all, until he stopped, realised he was out and suddenly started to get wound up. This coupled with the Dax who's only 7 months anyway so thought joining in a great game, caused a huge ruckus and we had to leave.

He's fine in the garden and there have been no experiences that could have started this that I can think of. He spends most of his life in the bay window grumping at anyone who walks up the street.

I know this is my fault, he's always been quite highly strung but he started getting really bad about 2 years ago and it became so stressful that I took to walking him in places where there were no people to go mad at because it was easier. Now he's at the stage where everything starts him.

I've done three things.
1. Had a good cry
2. Ordered a front fastening harness
3. Emailed a trainer from IMDT to see if she perhaps can help without a £400 bill.

We're off on a small holiday in October which theoretically he could come with us. I cant see any way this is possible.

OP’s posts: |
squeekyclean Tue 21-Jul-20 16:16:15

There's a Facebook group called Reactive Dogs (UK) that is brilliant. They are able to recommend properly qualified behaviourists near you and also have loads of documents with ideas etc of how to manage reactive behaviours. Lots of members will have had similar issues and I've found them all really helpful.

(I'm not in any way affiliated, but am a member and an owner of a reactive dog).

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 16:16:28

ViperBugloss

flowers It can be very hard to have a reactive dog - but things can get better.

are these near you
or this one

Have a couple of days off and just play in the garden if you can to get both your stress levels down a bit.

Thanks Viper. Have emailed the custom canine one as she's close.

OP’s posts: |
Ihaventgottimeforthis Tue 21-Jul-20 16:21:10

Him getting excited and pulling you to the gate may just be another stressed symptom though - he has learnt that being out means being stressed. He's been stressed for a long time it seems to me, as that is what I would call highly strung, plus he is reactive and guarding when at home too.
So you have an already stressed dog who can be tipped over the edge when he leaves his territory and is in defensive mode.
I hope the trainer has some helpful advice - in the right hands amazing things can happen!

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 16:34:50

Ihaventgottimeforthis

Him getting excited and pulling you to the gate may just be another stressed symptom though - he has learnt that being out means being stressed. He's been stressed for a long time it seems to me, as that is what I would call highly strung, plus he is reactive and guarding when at home too.
So you have an already stressed dog who can be tipped over the edge when he leaves his territory and is in defensive mode.
I hope the trainer has some helpful advice - in the right hands amazing things can happen!

I've moved his chair so he can longer lie in the window grumping at things. That might be a start.

OP’s posts: |
Ihaventgottimeforthis Tue 21-Jul-20 16:49:10

It may well - it could be the dog equivalent of me reading twitter half the day and getting unreasonably annoyed.

Ihaventgottimeforthis Tue 21-Jul-20 16:49:59

But I'm still too stupid to simply ignore twitter, then when the annoying news comes on the telly I'm instantly angry!

Carlamity Tue 21-Jul-20 17:08:33

I massively sympathise. We have a reactive rescue Border Collie. He has hugely improved over the year we've had him with the treat method described above by Viper. I do appreciate that your dog won't take treats outside as he's so stressed. The trainer we had started indoors for several sessions, then moved to the garden and driveway/pavement just outside, and only very gradually extended to outdoor walks. I hope you do fine a suitable trainer at a suitable price as I think there is hope 💐

Wolfiefan Tue 21-Jul-20 17:11:53

Good luck OP. Can you play at home and do brain training for now to let him unwind for now? Some insurance will cover a decent behaviourist.

MadSweeney Tue 21-Jul-20 17:16:45

Trainer has emailed, I have finished a big ugly cry and she's coming Friday.
Hound meanwhile is rather pissed off that I've removed his access to the front window.

@Wolfiefan he's astoundingly good at the brain trainer games. He has one with drawers and levers etc which he can extract everything from in about 20 seconds. I've given him his kong. He seems happy.

OP’s posts: |
Carlamity Tue 21-Jul-20 17:18:27

For us, a lot of it is having eyes in the back of your head! Seeing the potential scary thing far enough in advance to move our dog to the side, treat him and then move on. We still avoid anywhere too stressful eg crowded places, shops etc. If your dog just reacts to everything, then I would stick to the very quietest places for now and get him slowly used to having treats outside. Maybe book a private training field and give treats?? It's a very long, slow process.

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