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My Boston Terrier is a little over a year now. If he sees another dog or person when we are out walking or anything, he starts screaming and we can't get him to stop. The only time he doesn't scream in those situations is if the dogs or people acknowledge him and give him attention. Not only is it embarrassing but I'm worried that people will think my little guy is mean.

I've read articles about removing your dog from the situation and praising him when he is quiet but I don't understand how that solves anything. To me, that's not fixing anything. It's just avoiding the situation.

Please help. We just moved to a new neighborhood and our next door neighbors have a puppy pug and I'm afraid my little guy has come off as mean or that we are bad parents. :(
 

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Have you heard about rewarding your dog during those stressful moments?

It's a technique using classical conditioning, where the dog begins to associate seeing others with getting treats.

The method that you're using now may be reinforcing the unwanted behavior. The dog gets upset, and the more upset he gets, the more likely you are to bring him away from the scary thing into a quiet room where gets treats. Thus, reinforcing the chain of behaviors.

There is a lot more to all of this, so I recommend reading The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson for more insight.
 

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Bostons are... special dogs. They do tend to have some wild vocalizations, and this kind of reactivity isn't uncommon- a surprising number of Bostons I see tend to lunge and sometimes screech/bark/vocalize when they see other dogs. Of the two Bostons I've had, one was severely fear reactive and now at just under a year my second is starting to show reactivity that I think seems to be rooted in excitement and frustration. I do see an equal number of fear reactive ones as over excited/frustrated ones, as well.

Most often, this kind of reactivity (which really is just a fancy way of saying "over-reacting to a stimulus"- in this case other dogs) ends up being rooted in anxiety or fear- kind of a "get them before they get you" sort of mentality, but with Bostons I have seen a lot that seem more excited than fearful. Given the amount of information, I hesitate to even guess what the cause is, but from my experience and from the report that he stops vocalizing (and presumably calms down) when he gets to meet the dogs, I would guess he's more likely excited than afraid. Bostons do tend to be veeeerrryyyy friendly dogs. My 11 month old fixates and starts lunging when she sees other dogs about half the time, but she's just so excited to see them she can't contain herself. She also will often zoom around and bark if she does get the meet them (which I usually avoid because it just excited her further).

The other thing that could be happening when he stops vocalizing when he meets them is he could be shutting down and just freezing and hoping they go away, but I'd honestly be surprised if a fearful Boston didn't attack when it was afraid. They tend to be pretty scrappy little dogs.

Honestly, I would suggest working in person with a trainer. Personally, I would probably avoid aversive methods/correction based training with this kind of an issue, because in an already crazy excited dog, they are IMO primed for associating a correction aimed at stopping the vocalization with the stimulus. Personally I don't love using corrections with bulldog/bully breeds like Bostons, Pits, Frenchies, etc because I see a lot that will shrug off physical force to the point that the amount of force it takes to get their attention is actually enough to hurt them or at least above the level I would consider useful/humane in a training situation. This is a force free forum, so you're not going to find a whole lot of people advising anything that uses force in training.

I would target this in two ways:
1) work on general impulse control/inhibition
this is often best done with using food at first. Teach a strong "leave it" and work on making him wait for things instead of getting them instantly. Put down food, make him leave it and make eye contact with you before he gets it. Throw treats at him while making him leave them, then give the OK. This helps with the concept that good things come to those who wait. This has helped my over-excitable Boston A LOT.
2) work on teaching the dog that when they see another dog, they should look at you. You can do this two ways (or both ways). One would be an "open bar/closed bar" sort of situation. Use a very stinky, smelly, exciting treat (pepperoni and hot dog pieces are good choices) and as soon as the dog notices the other dog, preferably before he starts vocalizing, start stuffing treats in his mouth. You're using a really high value, stinky food so he'll find the food more exciting than barking at the other dog. With a very food motivated breed like a Boston, you're unlikely to run into this problem, but their is the potential the dog will find barking more exciting than the food, in which case this obviously isn't the technique to use. The food starts (/the bar opens) when your dog sees the other dog, and ends when the other dogs leaves his line of sight. The other way is to train the "look at that" game. If you google it, you'll find a whole lot of info on that. You start by teaching the dog to look at something on cue, and then to look back at you, and work towards the dog looking at the trigger (other dogs) and then back at you for a treat, at the trigger, back at you for a treat, etc. In both cases, you're teaching him the behavior you want (being quiet, looking at you), and also giving him a strong incentive as to why (because he gets a really exciting treat).

With any positive reinforcement based training, you start at a distance from the trigger (other dogs) that your dog isn't reacting. You don't throw them right into a real world situation. During the training period, you work to manage the dog so they're not in a situation where they will react. With my first dog aggressive dog, this meant walking her when there weren't a whole lot of other dogs out and never taking her places where there were likely to be a lot of dogs (ie, street fairs, pet stores, dog parks, etc). With my current dog, this just means making sure we give other dogs a wide berth when passing so she doesn't start lunging (crossing streets, walking around parked cars or in the bike lane, etc). As you progress in your training, the distance the dog can be from other dogs before reacting will lessen, until hopefully you can just walk right by.

As I said, I would really suggest looking for a good trainer who tries force-free methods first before using aversives/correction based ones. Working this out on your own is possible, but it will be quicker to work with a trainer.
 
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