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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So my dog is 2 years old and is generally reactive to dogs and people. But has been kept under control to an extent.

However, the majority of his reactive episodes lately have been in the house towards seemingly nothing.

I've tried everything i can think of from closing the windows so he can't smell anything outside, to playing music to muffle any noise coming from outside or from neighbours, but it hasn't worked.

A lot of the times he gets up from sleep to growl and bark, or I'll be giving him belly rubs and he'll suddenly spring up and growl/bark. And usually in the direction of the window despite it being closed, and when you check outside there's nothing there.

He's always done this, but closing the windows used to do the trick. Not anymore. I noticed it getting worse around the time he had the worst off leash encounter in his life, which set him back with his reactivity in general.

The only thing I've been able to do is lessen the episode when it already happens, I bring treats out to distract him. And it doesn't work all the time. I've also been doing that since the first time he's started doing this so it hasn't seemed to help stop this from happening.

Anyone got any tips?
 

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If he is reacting towards the window, maybe he is associating it with something he saw before - dogs have weird memories sometimes. An acquaintance had a dog who was asleep under a coffee table, woke up and banged her head on the underside but 'blamed' the ceiling fan and growled at it whenever she came in the room.

It might not help much but you can buy opaque film that clings to your windows and obscures his view out (it clings rather than sticks, so it's easy to remove and it can be reused).

You could also try a pheromone product, these have a scent like a lactating bitch and help calm some dogs. Or skullcap and valerian is a natural herbal product that might help too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If he is reacting towards the window, maybe he is associating it with something he saw before - dogs have weird memories sometimes. An acquaintance had a dog who was asleep under a coffee table, woke up and banged her head on the underside but 'blamed' the ceiling fan and growled at it whenever she came in the room.


It might not help much but you can buy opaque film that clings to your windows and obscures his view out (it clings rather than sticks, so it's easy to remove and it can be reused).

You could also try a pheromone product, these have a scent like a lactating bitch and help calm some dogs. Or skullcap and valerian is a natural herbal product that might help too.
That sounds plausible. Before when we used to keep the windows open and the curtains up, dogs and people would pass by and he'd have an episode.

That's not the case anymore, and I'm not sure what triggers him nowadays since we play music loudly and close the windows and cover the view. A lot of the times he's growling but staying in his spot. It is almost always facing the direction of the window though, even if he's not running up to it.


I'll look into those products, thanks!

The reason I want to put a stop to this so bad is because I assume it's trigger stacking. We sometimes go days without him reacting to dogs or people, with a few successful reactivity training sessions. But unfortunately reactivity in the house is a daily occurence.
 

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Having a reactive dog myself, I can sympathize. The most useful approach for mine has involved consistently reinforcing that her job is only to notify me there's someone there, and it's mine to go assess the threat - some days it feels a bit like being a jack-in-the-box, but it's been worth it to see her gradual improvement. Maybe something similar could work for yours?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Maybe the shadows of people walking by, or still hearing them? No joke, some dogs do react to moving shadows with suspicion.

Have you looked into LAT training by chance?
Could be he still hears things we don't.

Fortunately I don't think it's shadows of people since the sidewalk is meters away from our window.

LAT is basically what I do when I go outside the house to train, minus the look cue. I just wait for him to look at the trigger and reward.

I'm not sure how I'd manage to do this in my house though since there's no visible trigger. Are you saying I should do it when he starts barking and growling randomly? I could maybe use my watch it cue? Tbh I do something similar, I get him to come to me and give him treats, or i'll scatter treats on the floor. Both will stop the barking, growling but sometimes he'll resume. Not exactly the same but the methods are all trying to achieve the same thing.
 

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Could be he still hears things we don't.

Fortunately I don't think it's shadows of people since the sidewalk is meters away from our window.

LAT is basically what I do when I go outside the house to train, minus the look cue. I just wait for him to look at the trigger and reward.

I'm not sure how I'd manage to do this in my house though since there's no visible trigger. Are you saying I should do it when he starts barking and growling randomly? I could maybe use my watch it cue? Tbh I do something similar, I get him to come to me and give him treats, or i'll scatter treats on the floor. Both will stop the barking, growling but sometimes he'll resume. Not exactly the same but the methods are all trying to achieve the same thing.
Do you actually get up to look when he barks? Doing so may reassure him that the threat is being evaluated seriously.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do you actually get up to look when he barks? Doing so may reassure him that the threat is being evaluated seriously.
Sometimes!

But I usually do it right after I get him to stop, and then sometimes he'll start again.

I'll automatically get up to try and do commands ( watch me, touch, etc) and/or get out of my room and to the living room where he's at when it happens, Sometimes I act hastily.

I suppose I'll stop checking the window and try to be more calm about things.
 

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Sometimes!

But I usually do it right after I get him to stop, and then sometimes he'll start again.

I'll automatically get up to try and do commands ( watch me, touch, etc) and/or get out of my room and to the living room where he's at when it happens, Sometimes I act hastily.

I suppose I'll stop checking the window and try to be more calm about things.
When mine barks, I've found it helps to be very consistent in responding, which with her means the following:
  • She barks (usually quietly, at this point).
  • I respond with "Are we okay?" (Not sure why this one works to stop her sometimes - I think she comes to check in with me to reassure me.)
  • If she continues or escalates to loud barking I say, "I'm coming" to let her know I'll deal with it, which saves the trouble of rushing and having her interpret that as confirmation of the threat.
  • I insist she sits on the step (where she can see whatever it is, but is fairly far back from the door).
  • I reward her for sitting quietly by making a show of looking out the window and naming whatever it is I see: person, dog, truck, car, nothing.
  • I tell her she's okay and sit with her on the step until it passes and she relaxes.

Not saying this would work for yours, but some parts of it might come in handy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hey guys. Update.

Whenever my dog starts growling I've been saying "hakuna matata" and he stops, I reward him with a treat and he doesn't move.

When he does get up, he doesnt go to check put any particular area of the house, he just has his head up barking. The "hakuna matata" phrase still works for the most part.

Is this OK? I hope I'm not suppressing his communication. I don't want to stop his growling if it means he'll just be silent and uncomfortable, however, if I don't do anything, it usually escalates, so ..

Also, lately we've had people knocking on our door and he just barks. When we come into the house we just open the door right away, knocking usually means someone unfamiliar by the door and on occasion, about to come in to the house, so I think he now has a negative association with knocks on doors.

Anyway to desensitized him to this? Should I have training sessions where we go by our door and I create a knocking sound? Perhaps whenever we come in the house we should knock first (though gaurenteed that will start a reaction) so he'll anticipate one of me or my parents being the person behind the door, thus creating a more positive association?

Any tips?
 

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For people knocking on the door, you could teach him that one bark is fine, but thats enough. I'd do that by teaching him a ”quiet” on cue. And I'd do it like this.

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

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

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

When he 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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Another slant: play an audio clip of a door knocking, like from YouTube, on low. High enough he hears it, low enough he can easily ignore it. If that is not enough, try a lower volume or playing it from a different room. Pair the sound with treats or play time. Just a couple seconds/minutes to start. After awhile, whenever you think he is ready, notch it up. Rinse and repeat. One thing about +reinforcement is that rather than suppressing feelings, +reinforcement helps change perceptions and feelings about something-whether it's making recall a fun game or a door knock the harbinger of chicken rather than doom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Another slant: play an audio clip of a door knocking, like from YouTube, on low. High enough he hears it, low enough he can easily ignore it. If that is not enough, try a lower volume or playing it from a different room. Pair the sound with treats or play time. Just a couple seconds/minutes to start. After awhile, whenever you think he is ready, notch it up. Rinse and repeat. One thing about +reinforcement is that rather than suppressing feelings, +reinforcement helps change perceptions and feelings about something-whether it's making recall a fun game or a door knock the harbinger of chicken rather than doom.
I actually did this with dog barks, fireworks and thunder for a few weeks all the way back when we first got him. I would pair kongs or a bully stick with the noise.

He didn't seem to mind the noise and I would notice when it had him on alert since he would perk his ears up with his head held up high and look around. Obviously I would tone it down when that happened, but we worked our way to a decent volume.

He's still scared of fireworks and thunder, moreso than ever..

Either I didnt continue long enough or I didnt notice signs of him being uncomfortable. The latter seems very unlikely, since it was always on my mind to notice any signs of going too fast. Come to think of it, he doesn't really like kongs and hard bully sticks anymore unless I hold it for a bit till he's interested enough.

Of course, I'll still give it a go since there's not much for alternatives (other than what's been said here).
 

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Have you considered trying any 'calming solutions' such as JoanneF mentioned?
DAP - dog appeasing pheromones can be helpful for some dogs, CBD oil may be helpful too.
My anxious, storm phobic golden mix was helped a lot when I started giving her CBD oil, (make sure it has no THC), it also helped my anxious, reactive boy Joseph have a happier, more relaxed quality of life. CBD oil is not a 'cure' for their anxieties, but it can help to make life so much easier for them while we work to desensitize/counter condition them.
 
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