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Discussion Starter #1
How do I train my dog to not react when people are trying to upset or scare him on purpose?

He's reactive, so he'll let out a few barks if he thinks a stranger is scary(I've been working on it) and for some reason almost every single day people bark or growl or whatever back at him, causing him to FREAK. He'll go from a 2 to 110. The training I do only helps for people who ignore him.
It's mostly different neighbour children and recently adult neighbours too. Sometimes strangers out of my area on walks or at stores do it as well. I think because he's small and somehow his fear is funny to them. Starting to think this is why so many small dogs are reactive if this happens to other people too..
Anyway I've tried ignoring them and it didn't stop, so I've started asking people to stop but people only respect that half the time. I've actually had a lot of people start either arguing with me about it, continue antagonizing him, or just straight up mocking me and laughing. I really can't see it improving so I have to find a way to raise his tolerance to it, but I don't know how where it's his number one worst trigger, from basically any distance. I currently do a combo of LAT and open bar training when it comes to normal stranger comfort training(as well as having known people outside feed him when possible) and it just doesn't seem to work for this where he's reacting SO badly. Help please!
 

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That's a really tough situation, people are just the worst. I'm sorry that you're finding yourself around so many rude people. I would suggest two things: (1) Keep him away from unknown people until his reactivity is under control. Maybe have some friends or coworkers that he doesn't know help you to train this. If that isn't possible for whatever reason then (2) Train a "look" command. Have him sit and look at you anytime ANY person walks by, even if they are ignoring him. You'll have to be paying attention and cue it up before the person is too close for him to ignore you. Reward heavily while he's looking at you. You may also want to get him a vest that says "In training" or something similar.
@PoppyKenna has a reactive dog, maybe she can help?
 

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The only way you will be able to effectively help your dog not being as reactive, is to step up and tell the people who antagonize your dog to get lost. If they do all the tings you said they do, I would not be so friendly with them in return. Yes, I may sound like a bitch, but it's my dogs and my rules on how I want to train them, not other people who are obviously lost causes. I have no patience with this sort of thing from strangers as well as people I know. I have told people who visit that if they can't follow the rules in my home with my dogs, then I will ask them to leave. Once they get the picture that I have no tolerance for bull****, they behave appropriately and respectful around my pets.
 

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I don't think it's the people thinking his fear is funny. I don't think they understand it as fear. I think most people would see a little dog barking and think, "Oh how funny! That little thing thinks he is all tough and bad", find it funny, and bark back. There is NO reason why they shouldn't respect your wishes after you ask them to stop, though. It might help if you explain that he's afraid and what they're doing is only causing him more fear though?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm guessing you didn't read the full post, timber? As I said I have told people off.
I have an anxiety disorder, so no I don't get in screaming matches with people, especially where most of the offenders are young bratty children, but I definitely say something almost every single time.
I live in a townhouse community and there's no way to get out of my area, or even get the dogs out to pee without passing other houses/people. This is where all of this happens. With people on their own property or shared property, and me on the sidewalk or road.
My boyfriend and mother have spoken up other times as well when they've had the dogs. We've said "Please stop", "Don't bark at the dogs", "He's scared, you need to stop.", "I'm working on training him to not bark and you aren't helping", etc etc. while trying our best to get distance between us. Sometimes we lose patience and some swearing ends up in there too.
My mother is the one with the most patience and multiple times now she's gone out without Rudy and explained to the children in my row that he's scared, that it's not nice to bark at him, and that if you antagonize a dog a lot it could lead them to biting. One of the times a parent started yelling at her for saying that. :S
Then the other day a group of grown men, at a neighbours house, were growling and barking at him. He went absolutely crazy. Worse than he's been in a while, probably because there was about 5 of them. and I said "Seriously? What do you get from scaring a Fing puppy?" as I'm trying my best to get past them while Rudy is thrashing everywhere.. And one of them goes "Aww did I hurt his feewings?" and the whole group started laughing at me.
I've never known anyone with large reactive dogs to have this trouble, or even medium sized dogs. I grew up with a corgi mix who was reactive when young and no one did ANYTHING like this. I've honestly never experienced this before, especially not AFTER I've asked people to stop. I'm going to start reporting the repeat offenders to my landlord, but honestly my LL company already think of us as trouble makers for requesting things so much so I've been trying to avoid that..

As you can see, I don't have many other options now but to find a way for him to learn to deal with it. I'm just not sure how to get him there where his reaction is so extreme. That's what I need help with. I can't be dealing with this the rest of the time that I live here(which is at least another year). He can't just never go outside and I need to find a way that I can make him even slightly more comfortable as this affects my anxiety as much as his at this point.
 

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Yeah, people can be real jerks sometimes.

I appreciate your situation and even more your being realistic regarding the most probable solution. You get it. You can't change the jerks out there but you can train your dog to ignore the jerks and as you already know, that's the solution.

First, " The training I do only helps for people who ignore him ", this sounds great and you have a starting point. Keep rolling with this type of training and make it an everyday event, numerous times throughout the day.

It seems, by your description, that your dog becomes reactive when he thinks someone is scary and starts the process by barking and then it escalates from there due to the barking by the morons agitating your dog. So, get the training down to as close to perfection regarding your dog's behavior around those who ignore him or don't incite him. While you are working on perfecting this discipline, start training the dog with some impulse control exercises and extended down stays/sit stays etc. I also would start to train the dog to focus on you and start to build the dog's confidence. It sounds like a lot but many of these training exercises somewhat go hand in hand and make them easier than it may sound.

Once you feel you have the dog pretty bulletproof with people who ignore him, start to up the ante. Find a friend or someone your dog is not that familiar with and recreate the situation which triggers your dog but have the person at a great distance mimicking the jerks you have to deal with. The starting distance should be greatly exaggerated but still within a distance so the trigger is still apparent. You know your dog's signals, postures and gestures just before he ramps up I assume, even though it is a hair trigger of sorts as you described. Your job is to keep your dog focused on you, whatever it takes and the moment your dog starts to pay attention to the trigger, you need to redirect the dog's attention on you, once again, with whatever it takes. Now, the moment your dog ignores the trigger and you have regained your dog's attention and engagement, you make it a payday for the dog. Sometimes this needs to be mellow, sometimes it doesn't matter but the reason I mention it is, sometimes the excitement of the praise or reward can get a dog jacked up a bit and makes it harder for the dog to maintain. You will know which is best for your dog. This is where you start process and slowly but surely you close the distance between your helper and you with the dog. The goal is to keep the dog's attention and focus on you when you command it, so there is no sense in going too quickly during the process because every time the dog loses it, you kind of are taking two steps backwards.

Effectively, you are desensitizing the dog to the jerks and getting the dog to ignore them as well as the ones who already ignore your dog. Getting your dog's focus, attention and engagement, especially the engagement will far outweigh any of the other distractions the jerks offer.

It is difficult to teach a dog to "like" many things which a dog might find "scary" but you most certainly can teach a dog to ignore these things. It takes training, consistency, good timing, knowing your dog's body signals and gestures and patience on your behalf.

Eventually, you will be able to walk by these idiots with your dog looking at you under command such as a heel and walk right by them confidently. It sounds like you have already started the process, so just keep with it.
 

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I would look at this as 2 separate behavior issues, and work on them independently, as well as together.

Your dog is reactive to strangers: keep doing as you are doing. You may try catching/redirecting him BEFORE he barks, literally as soon as you see someone, get his attention on you, particularly if they look like the type of person he's typically reactive to.

Your dog is strongly reactive to people barking, growling, and otherwise provoking him: You can desensitize him to this, and ideally it should be done by people he knows, before people he doesn't know. Hopefully he isn't reactive when people he's familiar with do it, or minimally so, or your work will be harder. Make it a game, and enlist some of your housemates to help. He should learn that when people get crazy like that, he can turn turn his attention to you and get a reward. Once he's consistent with people he knows, you can have strangers do it as well, though you will likely have to decrease the expectations on the other criteria (distance particularly).
 

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God, what the hell is it with people who bark at dogs? Do they realize how ****ing stupid that is? It's like they're bored and just want to see a reaction, because dogs exist for their entertainment and nothing else. You see people do this to animals at zoos, too. It's one of the reasons I can't stand zoos.

I had Dorje in a yard once and was chatting with a neighbor boy. Then I walked around the back to get some gardening supplies for a minute while Dorje was in the front yard. The boy started barking and yelping at him through the gate. I heard him. I immediately walked back, and the boy stopped as I walked around the corner. So he KNEW he was doing something he's not supposed to do.

There's a homeless man in my neighborhood who's obsessed with Dorje. He always tries to pet Dorje, and I let him, but once the homeless man started invading MY personal space and I told him to back off. Then a couple days later my dog walker informed me that the homeless man followed them both for two blocks howling and barking like a crazy person (which he is). It's like the dude deliberately waited until I wasn't around to start bothering my dog. Ugh.

I know this is not helpful. Just saying I relate.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks everyone. I'll give it all a try. These situations have given me a few panic attacks myself now... I dread going out with him more than ever. It's hard.
He's got separation anxiety as well as being people reactive, so I don't get a break from his problems in or out of the house. I'm doing my best but it's all really hard. I'll probably come back and update on progress in a few weeks.
 

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Thanks everyone. I'll give it all a try. These situations have given me a few panic attacks myself now... I dread going out with him more than ever. It's hard.
He's got separation anxiety as well as being people reactive, so I don't get a break from his problems in or out of the house. I'm doing my best but it's all really hard. I'll probably come back and update on progress in a few weeks.
I wish you success and look forward to your updates. FWIW, and with complete respect, your attitude is huge in the process, calm on your behalf begets calm from your dog. The two of you together will both win as you lead him confidently past those who make it difficult. Be patient and consistent.
 

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I am so sorry you have to go through this!! People can be so infuriating. I totally agree that teaching him a "ignore it/ look at me" command is the right way to go. (I would probably tell mine in his ear "cos they are idiots and you are the boss my boy" )
Good luck! please let us know how it goes.
 

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I totally feel you on this one. So frustrating.

My dog was just getting over her fear of new people, men specifically, when we walked up to one of my neighbors because he wanted to meet my dog. I asked him to pet her gently under the chin, as not to be frightening. Instead, he deliberately waves his hands in a scary manner above my dogs head, intentionally trying to test him to see if he would react... to see if he was friendly or not. Which is very threatening for any dog. I was so angry. My dog was very afraid and barked.... when she calmed down... he did it again... after I told him not to.

What does LAT stand for? I would like to look it up.

Do you have any friends or relatives around with dogs who you could plan to meet somewhere to train with?
 

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Look at that, it's a great way of teaching you dog an appropriate way of pointing out things that interest/worry them.
 

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I'm guessing you didn't read the full post, timber? As I said I have told people off.
I apologize I misunderstood your post. I'm sorry you have to go through all of this with people who just don't get it. I have no real advice for you, I just feel for you and your situation.
 
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