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Hello,
I adopted a female 5 year old Border Collie mix from a shelter about a month ago. She is extremely gentle and friendly. I can take her favorite toys or food away and she doesn't even beg for them back, she is so gentle. We've become best friends and I've been teaching her basic obedience commands, which is coming along with no problems. About a week after I got her, I took her to a dog park and she did fine. No aggression. Although, she wouldn't leave this one small 15lbs dog alone. Kept trying to mount her, then the dog went on her back and it looked like she was mouthing her leg... I pulled her off and the other dog was moved to the small dog area again. I left shortly after, afraid she's getting too excited.

I've been having trouble with her on walks. She is very reactive towards other dogs. She gets excited, lunges towards them, barks and growls. Despite my efforts to fix this issue, I'm afraid it's getting worse since I brought her home with me. I have never seen her show her teeth. To me, it does NOT feel like a "I'm going to bite/attack!" bark. So far, it feels more like she's either nervous or frustrated. But I'm worried that it might develop into real aggression. Either way, I think the owners of the other dogs may see it as aggression and become fearful of my dog. When I took her to the vet and we were sitting in the waiting room, another big dog came in that kept lunging at her. My dog was scared and leaned up on my leg avoiding the other dog.

So far, I've been teaching her a "Watch me" command. She has gotten pretty good at it. She looks at me and I give her tons of treats. When she see's another dog from a distance, I say "watch me" BEFORE she bursts at an attempt to turn it into a positive situation. I give her treats when she see's other dogs, but has not bursted yet. I try to do it from a large distance where she is comfortable. Giving her lots of praise for behaving nicely around another dog. Sometimes if she bursts, I try to create some distance and she will listen to the Watch Me command and she calms down.

I live in an apartment complex and dogs are everywhere. I'm right next to the fenced area they have for dogs, so they all tend to swarm around my unit. I even run into them while leaving/entering my apartment, because the neighbors doors are so close together. Creating the comfortable distance my dog needs for training is becoming impossible. Because there's just too many "traps". I can't see dogs coming around from bushes, trees, other buildings, or staircases. So she just keeps bursting out before I can catch her. She's only 40 pounds and I keep her on a 6' leash. So she's really easy for me to control, I never feel like I'm going to loose her to her lunging. It's still scary and... embarrassing. :( When she bursts, we are so close to another dog, that I just have to calmly walk away and create the distance and "hide" again from the other dog. But I'm afraid this is just training her to learn that if she barks enough then the "threat" goes away.

She is only like this when she's leashed. Once I put her in the fenced dog area. Took the leash off. Another dog came in and she was so calm it was like the other dog wasn't even there. Sometimes she also barks at very large/tall men who don't even have a dog.

Anyway, what should I do? :confused: Is this a serious problem that I should consult a professional with asap? Or is this something I can fix with some changes in my training? Any suggestions on avoiding outbursts when I get surprised by other dogs approaching?

Sorry this was so long... but I really appreciate your help and suggestions, I love my little doggy and want to help her out. :)

Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
When I first got her, she would just lunge at other dogs out of the excitement. If they were close enough, then they got to say hello to each other, which was peaceful. But the lunging turned into barking, which turned into growling. :(
She's got that border collie in her, so I wanted to sign her up for agility classes. But I just can't see doing that if she is behaving this way.
 

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It sounds like you are on the right path with the counter conditioning, but not being able to avoid the other dogs is a problem.

A behaviorist would likely be a big help to you. He or she would be able to help you determine whether your dog is a frustrated greeter or if he's fearful and trying to drive the other dogs away. Once you know that a plan can be tailored that would work best for your dog. If you go the trainer route make sure that the person only uses positive reinforcement and does not use dominance based methods. The later will make your dog worse in the long run while seemingly "fixing the problem" quickly.

Here's a thread that may have some tips that will help you http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/reactivity-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/
and here's a website for reactive dogs, it has a lot of info on working with them, www.careforreactivedogs.com
 
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Discussion Starter #4
It's relieving to hear that I'm on the right path. I did as much research as I could as this problem can be a delicate situation. whew.

Thank you so much for these resources! I'm looking at these impulse control games too and this looks like something I should practice with my dog.

I love the "look at that" game to practice outside a dog park. That will get us away from all the dog "traps" around my apartment complex and we'll have some better training sessions I think.

We had a good training day here. We managed not to have any big dog surprises for once. All the dogs we saw appeared at a good distance. Not one outburst. She was happy seeing dogs and taking treats for it. So lovely. :D
 

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@MollyDoggy I think you're on the right track and Rain already gave you some excellent suggestions.

I think you might find a "Reactive Rover" class extremely beneficial and I would look into seeing if you have a class like that available near you. The trainers will be able to help you with more ideas and those sort of classes are very well controlled so you can work on things.
 

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@MollyDoggy I think you're on the right track and Rain already gave you some excellent suggestions.

I think you might find a "Reactive Rover" class extremely beneficial and I would look into seeing if you have a class like that available near you. The trainers will be able to help you with more ideas and those sort of classes are very well controlled so you can work on things.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'll try to find a Reactive Rover class. So far all the ones I found have already started or start right when I'm moving in 2 months. I might try to find a individual trainer in the meantime.

Could I get your opinion on something? Let's say my dog has an outburst at a dog and barks a lot, but then some distance is created, she calms down and happily does the "watch me" and takes treats for being calm around the same dog.

Is it okay to do this? Give treats to reward the calm behavior after bursting out? Or if she has an outburst, should I just call it quits until the next dog comes around and start fresh?
 

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I'll try to find a Reactive Rover class. So far all the ones I found have already started or start right when I'm moving in 2 months. I might try to find a individual trainer in the meantime.

Could I get your opinion on something? Let's say my dog has an outburst at a dog and barks a lot, but then some distance is created, she calms down and happily does the "watch me" and takes treats for being calm around the same dog.

Is it okay to do this? Give treats to reward the calm behavior after bursting out? Or if she has an outburst, should I just call it quits until the next dog comes around and start fresh?
I'm not sure about other people but with my people reactive boy what I do when he has outburst depends on a couple of things.

If it's just one or two reactions what I try to do is get some distance between him and the person and if he can watch them quietly I'll feed him treats while he does so. To get distance between us and the trigger I use the "Let's Go!" cue, and I practice it when no ones around and make it a very happy cue so he does not come to associate "Let's Go!" with scary people.

If he's starting to react to more then just a couple of people, and we do have walks like that, what I do is just end the walk and take him home. For whatever reason he's too stressed to handle a walk and it does him no good to continue trying.

The third thing is that he nearly ALWAYS reacts to a couple of people that live around here, a couple of them have really scared him in the past, and a few of them walk past "his" window multiple times a day or they used to walk past it, so he views them as public enemies #1. Those people are special cases and the only time I stick around when I see them is if there is a lot of space between them and Zody. If there is I work like crazy to make the experience a great one for him, if there isn't we go in the opposite direction (hopefully before he's in full blown crazy dog mode).
 

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I'll try to find a Reactive Rover class. So far all the ones I found have already started or start right when I'm moving in 2 months. I might try to find a individual trainer in the meantime.

Could I get your opinion on something? Let's say my dog has an outburst at a dog and barks a lot, but then some distance is created, she calms down and happily does the "watch me" and takes treats for being calm around the same dog.

Is it okay to do this? Give treats to reward the calm behavior after bursting out? Or if she has an outburst, should I just call it quits until the next dog comes around and start fresh?
The "Watch Me" command around the same dog is a terrific idea. Don't worry, you are rewarding for the Watch Me, and not for her bursting out.
 

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The "Watch Me" command around the same dog is a terrific idea. Don't worry, you are rewarding for the Watch Me, and not for her bursting out.

That actually depends. I accidentally taught my dog that he should bark, look at me, then get his treat:eek: I realized what I had done when I noticed my dog glance at a person, bark, then happily look up at me, eyes alight, tail wagging, eagerly awaiting his treat:rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
@Rain @Turtle11 Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, this is very helpful for me!

Molly has been improving the past week. I can tell it's going to take several weeks for her to really be "cured" from it though.
 
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