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I'd say you want to give him the treats while he is aware of the other dog, you are trying to create something called a positive conditioned emotional response (Google +CER if you want to know more). This means his response changes from 'oh no, scary dog' to 'woohoo, another dog means treats'.

And, if he is already stressed you are right, you are too close. The sweet spot is where he is aware of the other dog but not actually showing a reaction to it.
 

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2) when should I not give him treats? For instance, if he is visible stressed (neck fur straight up for instance and he makes «worried» noises), should I still give him treats or does that reward stresses behaviour?
yes, still give him the treats - in the early stages of working with a reactive dog, rewards are not contingent on behavior, but used to begin the process of changing the negative emotion to a positive one.
You cannot 'reward' emotions (or the behavior driven by those emotions) - no dog would or could 'choose' to feel stressed or afraid - those behaviors are instinctive/reflexive, not something the dog has control of (is consciously 'doing').
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I'd say you want to give him the treats while he is aware of the other dog, you are trying to create something called a positive conditioned emotional response (Google +CER if you want to know more). This means his response changes from 'oh no, scary dog' to 'woohoo, another dog means treats'.

And, if he is already stressed you are right, you are too close. The sweet spot is where he is aware of the other dog but not actually showing a reaction to it.
thanks. So not getting his attention by calling his name - that doesnt «count» in towards getting a good association with other dogs? How about showing him a tennis ball instead of treats? Im asking because he loves that ball and gets really excited about it
 

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Ideally you want to react before your dog reacts. The treats are simultaneously a distraction, a calming signal, and a reward for staying calm. Watch for other dogs, get his attention (moving him further away from the other dog and blocking his view with your body if needed) and start shoveling treats into his mouth before he reacts.

Theoretically you should not give treats when the dog is behaving badly. However, there is also a concept of "reward a good attempt." So, when I move my dog 10 meters further away from something and he changes from barking to whining, I will give him treats. 1) Whining is an improvement over barking. It is a good attempt, and I want to reward that. 2) Being willing to eat the treats tells me that he is calming down; we are at a good distance. If he won't eat the treat I know he is still too upset to think or to learn anything, and we need to move further away.
 

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Sky arrived at my door highly reactive and wearing a pinch collar upon the advice of local animal control.

It isn't some magic solution. Badly used, it causes pain that the reactive dog ascribes to whatever they've fixated on (which makes them more afraid in the long run). You also run the risk of pushing their pain tolerance so high that no amount of negative feedback can distract them (Sky had welts on her neck from lunging against the collar). Not to mention the preponderance of evidence that using negative feedback substantially increases the risk of seeing aggression in a dog - not a risk worth taking, in my opinion.

Sky's reactivity didn't start to improve until I swapped the pinch collar for a regular slip lead (admittedly, not something this forum likes either, but I will stress that I do not use leash corrections as a technique, and would rather run with her than allow it to overtighten).
You repeatedly say you know that suggesting the use of a slip lead is frowned upon on this forum, and you continue to mention the fact that you use one.

Don’t you realise what a ready-made excuse that is? That it acts like an endorsement? “Well someone on a forum uses it, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t?” Or even worse, how quickly your mentioning using one goes from a mere statement of fact, to a suggestion? “Someone on a forum mentioned they use one, and suggested I do the same”.


Any more mention of your use of a slip lead will be taken as a breach of the rules.
 

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You repeatedly say you know that suggesting the use of a slip lead is frowned upon on this forum, and you continue to mention the fact that you use one.

Don’t you realise what a ready-made excuse that is? That it acts like an endorsement? “Well someone on a forum uses it, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t?” Or even worse, how quickly your mentioning using one goes from a mere statement of fact, to a suggestion? “Someone on a forum mentioned they use one, and suggested I do the same”.


Any more mention of your use of a slip lead will be taken as a breach of the rules.
Though I've been very careful to avoid suggesting that anyone else use a slip lead, and not only in adherence to forum rules but because they can be downright hazardous in careless hands, I will avoid the subject in future.

I apologize if hearing that I use a slip lead has made anyone concerned. Unfortunately, it's the only style of collar/leash available locally which doesn't have plastic parts. Having had too many other leashes and collars fail unexpectedly for that reason, it's not a risk I'm willing to take with a dog as reactive as Sky is. Please be reassured that I do not use it as anything other than a secure leash. The stop is set such that it can't tighten any further than a regular collar, nor is it used as a slip lead is generally employed: for leash corrections.

To anyone confused as to whether I would ever recommend a slip lead to a stranger over the internet, or without fully knowing the dog, the owner, and their handling technique, the answer is an unequivocable "NO".
 

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regarding leashes: I use mostly a vest for him as the dog trainer said that leashes could make him feel more «trapped» in a tense situation.
Your trainer has given you some rock-solid advice. I have participated in multiple classes with reactive dogs, and the trainers always recommended a harness to take the pressure off the dog's neck and to enable better management/ physical control in high stress situations.
 

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Without direct observation, I'm hesitant to say with absolute confidence what is the cause. Having trained large dogs, while I do not condone aversive methods in any way, I do endorse negative reinforcement. Science (lab data) shows us that this is the most effective way of training both desired and undesired behaviors. Parents use it on kids every day every time they utter the word "No". Negative reinforcement is simply not giving the dog or removing something they want. I spent 4 years training and caring for security dogs for a children's camp; with large dogs, it is imperative that an owner maintain full and absolute control over their dogs. You do not need to punish them to do this, you do need to show them that it's in his best interests to follow direction. Like children, dogs also need to understand when a specific behavior is undesirable.

As an example, place a treat on the floor after telling your dog to sit. If he goes for the treat provide audible and visual stimuli that this is not a desired behavior. Uttering a 1 syllable word even a nonsense sound ( mine is "Eh") provides the audible, placing a foot over the treat can be the visual. With the preceding stimuli, the dogs natural reaction is to look at you... when his does, point to the floor (Visual), use word the dog associated with a reward (audible) and lift the foot.

Say your dog charges the door when the bell rings. Visual stimulus .. Pointing away from door, audible "Eh"! When they do it, issue praise word and toss a treat.

For your problem, I recommend a harness specifically designed for this problem. I used to use a leash / collar with a double grip (one hand holding handle loop in left hand, leash running behind me with right hand loosely held about 1 foot from collar. When a situation arose, I'd tightly grip with my right hand and turn away ... not retreating backward to walking forward and removing the other dog from my dog's view and being between him and the other dog. Head collars were popular for a but but I don't like pulling at the neck level of above. This harness makes it a lot easier with a back clip typical of most harnesses which better allows you to resist the pull and a chest clip that directs where the shoulders are pointing

Next an understanding of what's causing the dogs reaction ... sometimes it's the dog's notion of a need / desire to protect you that is the cause. In such cases, it's important fro you to maintain a confident posture... if you retreat, you're showing you are afraid. From you're description and assumption, I'd lean to the cause that it's primarily his fear that is the trigger but if you are retreating you are exacerbating his reaction.

Along with an appropriate harness, you'll want to have treats available. When your dog reacts as you have described, you want to remove certain stimuli and apply others .... a) uttering your monosyllable will shift some of the the dogs attention to you, b) keeping your dog on your left and turning to your right removes the dog's view of the other dog, removing that stimulus and c) dropping a treat after the undesired behavior ceases in order to reinforce the desired behavior... Again, ONLY provide treats AFTER the dog has "chilled" and displays good behavior never as a distraction or the dog may initiate the behavior to get treats.

You can practice with a friend who has a dog or go to a dog park and stay outside the fence. If you are walking your dog with a family member, when another dog approaches, stop and walk over to the other dog walker say hi, .... let's your dog know you are not afraid of the other dog. Have your family member practice the above steps if your dog displays undesired behaviors.
 
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