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I have a 1,5 years old neutered female chihuahua. Don't get me wrong, she is lovely dog, who always makes me smile and I love her very much. But it is pretty bad when we are outside our house.

The worst thing is other dogs. When she sees another dog, she barks, is very tense, pulls in a leash. When on my lap, literally tries to jump down. I don't usually carry her, but sometimes just when we are going outside, we see another dog and I can't let her down, before she has stopped that. I always carry her down our stairs.

But she will continue barking after The dog has gone away. If I try to wait her to relax, she will bark about 20 minutes non stop. Then she will take about 3 seconds breaks during barking. I have tried to praise her when she has been quiet 3 seconds, but it caused her to come take a treat when she barks. Would a clicker help her to understand that it's good when she stops?

She also can't stand another dogs barking or even a fresh smell. If she hears barking, she has to bark. And depends on a situation for how long. I have considered desensitization, but I haven't done it yet, because I don't know how slow I should start it. I know the dog should stay behind The line when it starts to react. I think It would be fine to start with something that smells another dog, and make it a good thing to her. Then start to play her barking, from my phone, first with very low Voice and gradually raise it. Maybe later move to dog plushie that smells like another dog.. (she is scared of everything that even remotely looks like another dog).

When we are in a dog bark, she barks until we get to The another dog. Then she stops and starts to sniff and lets The another dog sniff her. But I can see, she is scared. It depends on a dog how scared. With small dogs, she has started to play when we have Been in a park for about an hour. We don't go to dog park anymore, because I have red about The desensitization, and that I should start it slow.

If she sees another dog in a walk, she can't relax or concentrade on anything else during rest of The walk. All her other behaviors will be worse. I try to get her to stop pulling. When we don't see any dogs, she usually does quite well. But If she has seen a dog, she will pull The whole walk and it takes about half as long as without dogs due to stopping so that I don't reward her for pulling

She is pretty reactive otherwise too. If she sees for example a bird, she zooms after it. I usually try to call her back. She usually tries to go for about 10 seconds and then comes. This is not so much a problem, but just an example. We have worked on her impulse control. She waits for her food, when she is going out from The Doors, out of her Cage etc. But it does not seem to help with other things. Also when I let her get The food, she zooms to it and eats it as fast as possible. She has shown food aggression too. We have removed any conserning thing from her feeding Time. Our cat is in different room etc.

So the main questions are:

1. Can I use a clicker to show her that it is a good thing to stop barking? And if I can, do I just click when she has been quiet for a second or do I wait longer?

2. Would that what I said about desensitization help her?

3. Should I still work on impulse control? I would do it more.. for example I could do it outside too or tell her to sit, throw a ball and then let her go get it etc.

4. What should I do when she barks to other dogs? Should I wait for her to stop barking, or completely relax? And should I tell her to stop it (not yell or just use no. I would train her to stop it on command), or just wait? Or should I try to take her attention away from it? It has not work that well. She is not interested in toys or food or noices when she sees a dog.

I hope this is enough information. If you need anything else to give me advices I will gladly tell.
 

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Hi and welcome.

First thing here is, as much as I adore clicker training, I wouldn't use one for the situations you describe. Because with the barking at dogs, you aren't trying to train her to stop barking as such, you are trying to help her relax with them, and that's at a deeper emotional level. In fact, animals can't learn anyway when they are in a heightened emotional state. If you can get her to be more relaxed, she shouldn't feel the need to shout at them.

So, I'd look at this as two similar but separate issues, other dogs; and the other stuff (noises, smells etc).

Looking at other dogs first, this sort of behaviour is actually not uncommon and aggressive behaviour is almost always rooted in fear (as you have observed yourself).

By putting on a big display, your dog is trying to frighten off the other dog, her body language is saying 'I'm loud and big and scary, don't come close to me if you know what's good for you'. And almost always the other dog will retreat, or be taken away by his owner, so your dog's behaviour becomes reinforced. It worked, so she knows she can do it again.

This sort of behaviour often happens when your dog is on lead, which means that she has found herself closer to the other dog than she would have chosen if she had been able to.

She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure. It's called flight distance, anything within that space triggers her fight or flight stress response, which you may have heard of. Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is aware of them, but relaxed. Your goal is to train that she doesn't need to react; not to stop a reaction in progress. So, you are not waiting for her to stop barking so you can reward, you are trying to make her feel she doesn't need to bark in the first place.

Reward her for being calm with something fabulous, like frankfurter sausage or a very special toy. The aim of this is to change your dog’s emotional response to the stressful thing (the other dog) by repeatedly pairing it with something good. In time, your dog will learn that scary dogs mean sausages appear and this creates something called a positive conditioned emotional response (+CER).

This website explains it in more detail - Care for Reactive Dogs

Gradually, over weeks and months rather than days, you can work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily.

she sees another dog in a walk, she can't relax or concentrade on anything else during rest of The walk. All her other behaviors will be worse.
If your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone cortisol spikes, and that's what you are seeing here. In fact, it can stay in the body for some time and keep getting topped up - so she is constantly on high alert. Studies in dogs are inconclusive but it may be several days for it to dissipate. That means that if her cortisol level is already high, the distance she was comfortable with on one day might be too close after an event or even on another day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration - your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15; and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is, a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

In addition, the conformation (shape) or even colour of some dogs can trigger a reaction. Very broad fronted dogs (such as mastiffs or bulldogs) create the impression of 'facing up' just because of their shape, which can be intimidating even if their temperament is perfect. And black dogs are thought to have facial body language that is harder to read. Some dogs will be more reactive to un-neutered males, or particular breeds for no apparent reason. Learn what triggers reactions in your dog so that you can give her the extra support she needs.

Barking at other things could more of a training issue, but it depends a bit on why she is barking. If she is,serious, then yes blocking the sound or gradual desensitisation might help.

If she feels safe indoors and is alert barking, you can teach a ”quiet” cue, as in ”I've got this so you don't need to”.

I like this method. Get a yoghurt pot, and smear the inside with wet dog food, squeezy cheese, yoghurt or anything else your dog likes. When she starts to bark, you can offer the pot to lick - she can't bark and lick at the same time.

As she is doing that, repeat the word that will become your ”quiet” cue.

After some repetitions and you think she has got it, give the cue and if she stops barking, give the pot as a reward (if she doesn't stop barking, stay at step 1 for longer).

When she is stopping on cue, gradually increase the delay between the cue and reward.

Once it is reliable, you can start fading the reward to something more convenient.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi and welcome.

First thing here is, as much as I adore clicker training, I wouldn't use one for the situations you describe. Because with the barking at dogs, you aren't trying to train her to stop barking as such, you are trying to help her relax with them, and that's at a deeper emotional level. In fact, animals can't learn anyway when they are in a heightened emotional state. If you can get her to be more relaxed, she shouldn't feel the need to shout at them.

So, I'd look at this as two similar but separate issues, other dogs; and the other stuff (noises, smells etc).

Looking at other dogs first, this sort of behaviour is actually not uncommon and aggressive behaviour is almost always rooted in fear (as you have observed yourself).

By putting on a big display, your dog is trying to frighten off the other dog, her body language is saying 'I'm loud and big and scary, don't come close to me if you know what's good for you'. And almost always the other dog will retreat, or be taken away by his owner, so your dog's behaviour becomes reinforced. It worked, so she knows she can do it again.

This sort of behaviour often happens when your dog is on lead, which means that she has found herself closer to the other dog than she would have chosen if she had been able to.

She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure. It's called flight distance, anything within that space triggers her fight or flight stress response, which you may have heard of. Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is aware of them, but relaxed. Your goal is to train that she doesn't need to react; not to stop a reaction in progress. So, you are not waiting for her to stop barking so you can reward, you are trying to make her feel she doesn't need to bark in the first place.

Reward her for being calm with something fabulous, like frankfurter sausage or a very special toy. The aim of this is to change your dog’s emotional response to the stressful thing (the other dog) by repeatedly pairing it with something good. In time, your dog will learn that scary dogs mean sausages appear and this creates something called a positive conditioned emotional response (+CER).

This website explains it in more detail - Care for Reactive Dogs

Gradually, over weeks and months rather than days, you can work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily.



If your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone cortisol spikes, and that's what you are seeing here. In fact, it can stay in the body for some time and keep getting topped up - so she is constantly on high alert. Studies in dogs are inconclusive but it may be several days for it to dissipate. That means that if her cortisol level is already high, the distance she was comfortable with on one day might be too close after an event or even on another day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration - your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15; and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is, a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

In addition, the conformation (shape) or even colour of some dogs can trigger a reaction. Very broad fronted dogs (such as mastiffs or bulldogs) create the impression of 'facing up' just because of their shape, which can be intimidating even if their temperament is perfect. And black dogs are thought to have facial body language that is harder to read. Some dogs will be more reactive to un-neutered males, or particular breeds for no apparent reason. Learn what triggers reactions in your dog so that you can give her the extra support she needs.

Barking at other things could more of a training issue, but it depends a bit on why she is barking. If she is,serious, then yes blocking the sound or gradual desensitisation might help.

If she feels safe indoors and is alert barking, you can teach a ”quiet” cue, as in ”I've got this so you don't need to”.

I like this method. Get a yoghurt pot, and smear the inside with wet dog food, squeezy cheese, yoghurt or anything else your dog likes. When she starts to bark, you can offer the pot to lick - she can't bark and lick at the same time.

As she is doing that, repeat the word that will become your ”quiet” cue.

After some repetitions and you think she has got it, give the cue and if she stops barking, give the pot as a reward (if she doesn't stop barking, stay at step 1 for longer).

When she is stopping on cue, gradually increase the delay between the cue and reward.

Once it is reliable, you can start fading the reward to something more convenient.
Hi, thank you very much for so detailed answer. So I assume I should lower her stress levels a lot before training? But she will get stressed out even If I take her out to pee. She will immediately start to look for something scary, but I have to take her out. So what should I do in this situation?

Also when I have gotten her stress levels down, I think I should start to desensitizate her very slowly and never let her get spooked? So for example I should not force her to see dogs on walks If it's not a training situation. But The problem is that she is scared of some people too. She is constantly scared of something when we are outside... I was thinking that maybe I should just start with people, since they are harder to avoid than dogs. And when she is fine with people, move to dogs.

Can I do this with people just rewarding her when she sees people? If she doesn't react. And gradually move to scarier people. With dogs I was thinking that I could go near a dog park, but far enough for her to not react (atleast immediately), Click and reward. And go away soon enough that she will not get too stressed. So short training sessions.
 

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should lower her stress levels a lot before training? But she will get stressed out even If I take her out to pee. She will immediately start to look for something scary, but I have to take her out. So what should I do in this situation?

Yes - can you do 3 - 5 days with no walks at all? Just out at very quiet times to toilet, try to avoid seeing anyone? You want her cortisol reserves to be empty, so you are giving you both the best chance of success. It might mean walking at strange times - or if you live in a busy town, can you go somewhere quiet by car?

I should not force her to see dogs on walks If it's not a training situation
You shouldn't "force" her to see dogs even if it is a training situation. If she sees them at a distance, and is calm, that's what you are aiming for.

If she finds people scary, I'd take the same approach (distance, duration, distraction) but you can't work on the basis of her finding dogs less scary once she is used to people. That's like saying if you are afraid of spiders and snakes, you can work on getting used to spiders, then your fear of snakes will be easy to fix. It won't. You still have to start at the beginning again with the snakes. Does that make sense?
I was thinking that I could go near a dog park, but far enough for her to not react (atleast immediately), Click and reward. And go away soon enough that she will not get too stressed
Almost. Yes, go near, but far enough that she doesn't react - but go before she reacts at all, rather than ”not immediately”. Watch for very subtle signs - an ear flick, tension in her muscles, wide eyes. If she learns you will listen to her and get her away before she can no longer cope, her confidence will develop as she knows she won't be forced out of her comfort zone.
 

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Also when I let her get The food, she zooms to it and eats it as fast as possible.....

So I assume I should lower her stress levels a lot before training?
Have you ever seen this type of impulse control training? It's yer choice. I linked a video from YouTube.

I used it before a training session with my pup to help him calm down and just think before going for the treats/food. I still use it when I need him to focus and calm down, even outside.

Disclaimer: the only thing I'm not sure on is working with food aggression, so @JoanneF can confirm if it's safe to do this training. It's really helped for my pup and one of the 1st things he learned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes - can you do 3 - 5 days with no walks at all? Just out at very quiet times to toilet, try to avoid seeing anyone? You want her cortisol reserves to be empty, so you are giving you both the best chance of success. It might mean walking at strange times - or if you live in a busy town, can you go somewhere quiet by car?



You shouldn't "force" her to see dogs even if it is a training situation. If she sees them at a distance, and is calm, that's what you are aiming for.

If she finds people scary, I'd take the same approach (distance, duration, distraction) but you can't work on the basis of her finding dogs less scary once she is used to people. That's like saying if you are afraid of spiders and snakes, you can work on getting used to spiders, then your fear of snakes will be easy to fix. It won't. You still have to start at the beginning again with the snakes. Does that make sense?

Almost. Yes, go near, but far enough that she doesn't react - but go before she reacts at all, rather than ”not immediately”. Watch for very subtle signs - an ear flick, tension in her muscles, wide eyes. If she learns you will listen to her and get her away before she can no longer cope, her confidence will develop as she knows she won't be forced out of her comfort zone.
Yes I understand. And by forcing I ment going past dogs when they home to
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yes - can you do 3 - 5 days with no walks at all? Just out at very quiet times to toilet, try to avoid seeing anyone? You want her cortisol reserves to be empty, so you are giving you both the best chance of success. It might mean walking at strange times - or if you live in a busy town, can you go somewhere quiet by car?



You shouldn't "force" her to see dogs even if it is a training situation. If she sees them at a distance, and is calm, that's what you are aiming for.

If she finds people scary, I'd take the same approach (distance, duration, distraction) but you can't work on the basis of her finding dogs less scary once she is used to people. That's like saying if you are afraid of spiders and snakes, you can work on getting used to spiders, then your fear of snakes will be easy to fix. It won't. You still have to start at the beginning again with the snakes. Does that make sense?

Almost. Yes, go near, but far enough that she doesn't react - but go before she reacts at all, rather than ”not immediately”. Watch for very subtle signs - an ear flick, tension in her muscles, wide eyes. If she learns you will listen to her and get her away before she can no longer cope, her confidence will develop as she knows she won't be forced out of her comfort zone.
Sorry I sent it too early. But I understand and by forcing I ment going past dogs when they get too near. I live in a City so here is rarely so quiet that we don't see anyone. But I will figure this out. Thank you for helping me :)
 

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The key is to prevent this type reaction to a trigger is to prevent it in the 1st place by trying to keep the trigger below threshold, meaning stay far enough away and praise heavily (but calmy) for remaining calm.

@jankku66 I sat with my fearful reactive pup in the front window watching passerbyers and rewarded him talking calmy and praising for his calmness just watching. When he was doing well with that, we moved to the front porch, then front yard and closer to the street. If at any point he reacts, it means I have moved too quickly and we go a step.

I know how hard it is to avoid triggers in the city, so why we started in the house watching out the window. Also it helped to curb guarding dog reactivity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The key is to prevent this type reaction to a trigger is to prevent it in the 1st place by trying to keep the trigger below threshold, meaning stay far enough away and praise heavily (but calmy) for remaining calm.

@jankku66 I sat with my fearful reactive pup in the front window watching passerbyers and rewarded him talking calmy and praising for his calmness just watching. When he was doing well with that, we moved to the front porch, then front yard and closer to the street. If at any point he reacts, it means I have moved too quickly and we go a step.

I know how hard it is to avoid triggers in the city, so why we started in the house watching out the window. Also it helped to curb guarding dog reactivity.
She reacts when looking out from The window... That's The problem. She will bark If she sees anything scarier than a bird out there.
 

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Have you tried holding her maybe watching together out the window? Warn her and point out a trigger calmy? Talk to her, tell her what it is, like a 'person' or 'bird'. Be like "there's a bird, how nice, what a good girl 'watch'." It's just hanging out there being a good bird, (your dog's name) sees it, good girl". If she's ok with birds, start there.
 
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