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Hello! I adopted a rescue pug mix in February. He’s the sweetest dog, but gets overexcited on a leash with other dogs. This can be a problem in my apartment building, as he throws tantrums in the lobby and comes off as aggressive. I’ve tried a pet correcting spray can, treats when we see other dogs to distract, and have gone through a few months of training with a dog trainer. This is a habit he just can’t seem to shake, what can I do? We’ve practiced with other dogs and he’s better over all outdoors, but in any space that is remotely confined he loses it and throws a tantrum. How can I help him be more secure? I have a prong collar, and a thunder vest for him. The gentle leaders he can’t seem to take to.
 

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First thing is to please get rid of the prong collar and corrector spray. Adding pain and fear are definitely not going to help with this. And, if your trainer suggested these, or even knew about them, please get rid of that trainer too.

I would also be cautious with the use of a gentle leader on a brachyephallic cross too; his ability to breathe may be compromised already so it could be harmful to use a tool that puts pressure on his snout.

Behaviour like you describe is almost always rooted in anxiety. He likely feels anxious but being on lead, he can't get away so has to put on an even bigger 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, and that's what you are seeing. Find out what that is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is relaxed. Reward him for being calm.

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.

I appreciate that might be difficult in an apartment block, if you have neighbours with dogs can you politely explain you are working on this, and maybe see if you can work out a schedule or some system where they can alert you they are going to be passing through?

But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for several days 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.

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.

Alongside that 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.

You might find this resource helpful.

 

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Yes, first of all get rid of the prong collar, correction spray and maybe even the trainer. I’m just curious, how do you use a gentle leader on a pug? A gentle leader is the same thing as a halti right? Is that even possible to use on a pug?

Do you think he is overly excited and over social and just too happy and excited when he sees dogs? Or is it due to insecurity and fear? I.e; does he want to greet the dogs or scare them away? I’ve worked with dogs on both issues and generally used the same method.

Joanne have already mentioned it. But basically you gradually build up the dogs acceptance to being around, or meeting, other dogs. Have a high value treat, try to find something your dog would do anything for. Preferably use clicker training with this. I can try to include a video where I train this with a dog (without clicker though). So that it might be somewhat clearer?

So this is a video of an overly social, overly excited dog. In the video it’s a human she’s reacting to but it’s still the same thing. In this training session we just sat on a bench for maybe 30-40 minutes, training on people and dogs that went by. You can see that she’s clearly excited/distressed by the way she’s shaking but that’s just because she’s containing herself. I’d already trained her to take contact with me if I said her name so that’s something you need to establish first of all. If the dog can’t follow through with the command you need to lower the level difficulty. Longer distance, less distractions etc. As you can see in the video I also gradually increased the demand on her since she had to look at me longer each time to get a treat. The goal with this exercise is for the dog to be able to not care or to just take contact with you whenever someone passes by.
 

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Hi! He actually really likes other dogs. He is over excited, there’s no growling or anything like that. An he doesn’t have a pug snout, he’s just a pug mix! Mostly shows in the tail. Generally the howling and barking is because he wants to go see the dog. However, I’m quite sure it doesn’t come off this way to most people and dogs by their reaction.
 

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Hi! He actually really likes other dogs. He is over excited, there’s no growling or anything like that. An he doesn’t have a pug snout, he’s just a pug mix! Mostly shows in the tail. Generally the howling and barking is because he wants to go see the dog. However, I’m quite sure it doesn’t come off this way to most people and dogs by their reaction.
Okay, sorry I missed that he was a mix and not a purebred pug, then I understand. However you still need to be careful with using a gentle leader. You shouldn’t pull hard at all since this can cause damage to the dog. If you don’t have to use one I would suggest not to. I’m not against using them, I’ve used them myself but that was on a reactive 150 pound dog. I simply used it because I had to be able to hold him if our training failed and he decided to lunge at another dog. If you however decide to keep using it, remember to not pull on him, use your voice and treats to communicate with him instead. Since I’m already on the roll of sharing videos I can share an example of this too:
 
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