We have a three year old Border Collie/Retriever mix named Tribble (if you know Star Trek, you know where he got his name!) He's basically a very sweet dog, but he lunges at other dogs when we go on walks.
Some background...I do know that dogs on leashes often lunge when otherwise they get along perfectly well with other dogs. They feel trapped by the leash when another dog is approaching. Tribble goes to a doggie day camp a couple times a week, and they love him there. He always gets A+ on his report card! So I know he's basically friendly. But when we go on walks, it's a different story.
I do know that you are supposed to get dogs used to having other dogs around. The place we walk is a route around Seward Park in Seattle. In many places there are large areas on both sides of the path that we can move off to the side whenever other dogs approach. In other places it narrows down to a path about 20 feet wide.
I have been walking him there for about a coupe of months now. At first he would get anxious and bark at everything - people and other dogs. But by using lots of treats, I've helped him understand that he gets good things when we see people. Now when we walk by he hardly pays attention to people. I knew that other dogs would be more of a challenge. When there is enough space I have been moving off to the side, giving treats as other dogs pass. If we are walking along one of the narrower parts of the path and I see larger dogs approach I just quietly turn around and go back to one of the wide spaces so that we can pull over and I can let him watch the dogs pass.
It has gotten to the point that he will sit and watch as they pass, although I can always tell he's on the alert. But it seems to have gotten better with smaller dogs. With smaller dogs we can still be on the path, but just off to the side, and he will sit and pay attention to me, and I reward him with treats the whole time. This morning we were on the path and I saw a smaller dog approaching, and somewhat farther away were two large dogs walking together with their people. I thought I would give it a try, so I had him sit, and he was perfectly fine as the smaller dog went by. When the larger dogs approached, I almost thought he was going to be OK, but suddenly he lunged. He is 70 lbs, and I knew if I tried to hold on he would pull me off my feet, so I deliberately sat down on the ground. The people with the dogs were smart enough to keep walking calmly away. They asked if I was OK, and I said yes, and they said it had happened to them in the past as well.
I just wonder if I'll ever be able to get him to stay calm around larger dogs.
I want to add that after doing some reading, I've determined that Tribble may be an especially anxious dog. I was used to our old Lab, Elwood, who lived until he was 13, and just loved everyone. He would wag his whole body when he saw friends, human or canine, and approach gently. Now with Tribble, if I stop to chat with anyone he barks and hides behind me. Even when we have friends visit our home, people he knows, he will bark at them for several minutes until he calms down. He's not aggressive, just barks.
We got Tribble from a Craigslist post. We just loved his picture (we also made the mistake of choosing him because he looked just like Elwood did when he was a puppy. Stupid, I know). We know that he was about 7 weeks old, which was a bit too young, and we knew that he was the last of the litter, so he may have been on his own for a while. We were picturing cute puppy kisses, but on the way home he went nuts, crying and howling and thrashing around. After a couple of days he did adjust, but then he would get very upset if one of us left the room. He wasn't happy unless we were both there. He was also extremely rowdy, chewed things, and bit a lot (not aggressively, but the kind of thing that being among his litter mates longer would have helped control.) He eventually calmed down, and he seems very happy with us, and he loves going to his doggie day care. But we've realized that any kind of new situation makes him anxious.
Wow, this has gotten so long! Sorry about that!
My basic question is, though, whether anyone thinks he'll eventually be comfortable going for walks on a leash around other dogs. Does it sound like he has more than normal anxiety? Should I be thinking about having a professional trainer work with him?
Any suggestions would be most appreciated. I really want to do the best for Tribble, but sometimes I get really sad, missing my sweet Elwood.