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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Howdy, this is my first post. I have an Australian shepherd, Charlie, that was well socialized as a puppy, but later on learned bad social habits, and he received trauma from an older dog in the same home as he got bigger. I am not the original owner so I'm not entirely sure of the dynamic in detail. This other dog is a double merle aussie so genetic issues have led him to be more anxious/scared/reactive than most dogs, and this anxiety etc was frequently directed at Charlie/ active around Charlie (such as barking and reactivity to stimuli external to the home).

I'm fairly certain that Charlie's base demeanor is very chill compared to the average Aussie, and I have seen him enjoy the presence of other dogs ( and even play) so I don't think he's a lost cause for becoming friendly.
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Does anyone have any advice for maybe first approach for resocializing? like maybe some skills to try to teach him to make it easier? Originally I had been giving him treats whenever he saw dogs, but it didn't seem to do too much. Maybe I didn't continue long enough, or had the timing off?
I'm a young person and don't have the money at this point in my life to do extensive trainer sessions, so please don't post those suggestions as they will just add clutter (and I already understand that that is usually most helpful).

The greatest thing would be to be able to take him on hikes and stuff without worrying about him freaking out because of another dog on a trail, and not worsen his issues. Or worse when people let their dogs off leash in areas highly trafficked by other dogs.
 

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Firstly hello..

I think @JoanneF can really explain this better than I can but there is a method called the three D's (distance duration and distraction,)

We used this techinque with Murphy our Stabijhoun who like many of his breed suffers general anxiety and that ranges from one of us coming in with a hat on, to changing a bin liner or a person carrying a case, parcel or (big trigger) umbrella. To a cat walking past another dog getting anywhere near us etc etc. Then he would bark lunge or do the crazy dog dance at the end of the lead.. This wasnt always the way, until he was about a year he was fine and then something just seemed to grow in him that caused this overwhelming social fear.
We tried training and that went well with the very small group we went to, just 4 other dogs their owners and trainers and no mixing allowed during the lesson..This kept him safe but allowed him to see other dogs and people at a safe distance and get used to them being around him for longer spells of time (duration) his distraction was the treats he got for completing each task. Timing is crucial its 'Yes ' and treat in the same breath no delay..

When we adopted George who thinks the whole world is his BFF Murphys attitude got even better,,, if George didnt think this person or dog was an axe murderer then nor did he and then in December with new year and the firework madness that dominates my country looming we tried CBD oil just 2 drops a day in his food, this helped to take the sharp edge off his nerves and we used that to take him into areas with many more dogs and people. With George greeting everyone like a long lost brother and the effect of the CBD Murphy relaxed and we now have a dog who can walk past 99% of dogs without any trouble.. The ones he does react to are the ones who bullied him when he was a pup.. He walks past strangers, prams, briefcases, bikes, and even people with those daft nordic walking sticks.. Hes not perfect, this morning he barked and lunged at a jogger who crept right up behind us ,on a huge wide path the man came within two inches of our heels so I cant blame Murphy for that reaction the man made me jump too.

For this reason we are still keeping him on lead but our hope is that with continued trainiing and exposure to these social situations he will once again go off lead..

It is a long road there is no easy overnight fix but it can be done..
 

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Thanks @Mad Murphy .

@horristhetalkingmule , first I think.you may need to accept Charlie may never be really friendly with other dogs. And that's ok, dogs are not natural social butterflies. He has some trusted friends and that's good but generally being dog neutral is far more normal and is perfectly fine.

In terms of re-socialising him, there are a few points. First, the science of it is that it's too late - the critical puppy socialisation window closes at 4 months of age. Second, can you imagine a person who was introverted and socially very shy being pushed into attending lots of parties and functions? They would hate it, and it would be the same for Charlie - you actually risk sensitising him to other dogs which you really don't want.

So, you are on the right lines by giving him treats (or whatever he loves, a favourite toy works for some dogs - whatever Charlie loves most). You are trying to change his perception from ”OMG, dog alert” to ”Yay, dog - I get a treat, woohoo!”

So, his freaking out is likely because feels anxious so has to put on a big display of 'I'm big and scary, don't mess with me'. And it generally works for dogs, the scary thing usually does retreat so it becomes a reinforced behaviour.

He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure. It's called flight distance, anything within that space triggers his fight or flight stress response, which you may have heard of. Find out what that is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is relaxed. Give him the treats or the toy to build that positive association.

Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, 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. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance he was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

As Mad Murphy said, 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.

Also you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks @Mad Murphy .

@horristhetalkingmule , first I think.you may need to accept Charlie may never be really friendly with other dogs. And that's ok, dogs are not natural social butterflies. He has some trusted friends and that's good but generally being dog neutral is far more normal and is perfectly fine.

In terms of re-socialising him, there are a few points. First, the science of it is that it's too late - the critical puppy socialisation window closes at 4 months of age. Second, can you imagine a person who was introverted and socially very shy being pushed into attending lots of parties and functions? They would hate it, and it would be the same for Charlie - you actually risk sensitising him to other dogs which you really don't want.

So, you are on the right lines by giving him treats (or whatever he loves, a favourite toy works for some dogs - whatever Charlie loves most). You are trying to change his perception from ”OMG, dog alert” to ”Yay, dog - I get a treat, woohoo!”

So, his freaking out is likely because feels anxious so has to put on a big display of 'I'm big and scary, don't mess with me'. And it generally works for dogs, the scary thing usually does retreat so it becomes a reinforced behaviour.

He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure. It's called flight distance, anything within that space triggers his fight or flight stress response, which you may have heard of. Find out what that is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is relaxed. Give him the treats or the toy to build that positive association.

Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, 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. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance he was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

As Mad Murphy said, 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.

Also you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.
Thanks a lot for the input. Just out of curiosity; (from what I've heard) he was properly socialized until he became large enough to pose a threat to the other dog in which his trauma began. Do you know if the foundation of the friendly social baseline he had before is still there somewhere, or is that all overridden by the trauma?
 

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It should still be there but I'm always a little wary when people say a dog was well socialised” - a lot of people don't really understand socialisation and mistake quantity for quality. Socialisation ought to be carefully managed and allow the puppy to have positive experiences of seeing and hearing a range of different things like men with beards, people wearing hats, hearing sirens etc. A lot of people think it's about him meeting lots of dogs and that can be overwhelming. If his socialisation had been good, I wonder if he might have found it easier to shrug off the trauma of what happened with the other dog (you didn't say what that actually was though, so I don't know).
 

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Discussion Starter #6
That other dog was highly aggressive with him and would start fights over dominance with unyielding tenacity from what I've heard
 
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