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We got a dog from the humane society about 5 months ago. We believe she is around 6 years old. In most respects, she is a great dog. Very friendly and loving, usually very calm, etc.

Once per week, we take her with us to the park (my husband and I are on a kickball team) and put her on a 10' tie out. She is tied in a place just off the field so she can still see us and is close to all of our stuff. She is not alone the whole time, but on and off for brief periods. With most people, she is completely fine when they walk by. However, with random people, she quickly becomes loud and almost aggressive. She never does this to strangers when we are on walks, so I don't think it is just leash reactivity. How do we discourage her from barking or even growling at strangers who are possibly just walking by in the distance, not even necessarily walking right up to her? If we are standing there, we tell her no and redirect her so she isn't facing the distraction anymore, but we need to curb this behavior. I don't want the other team players to feel that they can't walk by. The other option is never bringing her with us, which would also be sad, because overall she really likes the socialization of being with all of our team mates.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
 

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We got a dog from the humane society about 5 months ago. We believe she is around 6 years old. In most respects, she is a great dog. Very friendly and loving, usually very calm, etc.

Once per week, we take her with us to the park (my husband and I are on a kickball team) and put her on a 10' tie out. She is tied in a place just off the field so she can still see us and is close to all of our stuff. She is not alone the whole time, but on and off for brief periods. With most people, she is completely fine when they walk by. However, with random people, she quickly becomes loud and almost aggressive. She never does this to strangers when we are on walks, so I don't think it is just leash reactivity. How do we discourage her from barking or even growling at strangers who are possibly just walking by in the distance, not even necessarily walking right up to her? If we are standing there, we tell her no and redirect her so she isn't facing the distraction anymore, but we need to curb this behavior. I don't want the other team players to feel that they can't walk by. The other option is never bringing her with us, which would also be sad, because overall she really likes the socialization of being with all of our team mates.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
If she's 5 months old she's a little young to be left alone for that long on a tie out when she can't see you. Obviously she's scared by whoever she is lashing out against *whatever the reason*. Are they all men? Are they all tall or sticking their fingers in her face? A lot of people don't have good dog manners and will go up to dogs and shove their hands in their faces going "AWWWW good puppy!!!" petting them, but that's offensive and intrusive to the dog, so they get irritated. Similar to if randos come up to a pregnant woman and rub her stomach without her asking-she gets pissed. If they get her permission, usually she says ok. Similar with your pup. If people come up nicely, she's probably fine. My guess is the people weren't very nice.

I would avoid the park if you can. But if you insist on bringing her, I would put a sign up that says please don't pet me or come too close (something to that effect), although that may turn people off and make people think she's aggressive. If you can bring a friend to sit with her while you play who can watch her that would be ideal. That way you can know exactly what's going on. Right now you really don't know what's going on, you're assuming since you weren't there.
 

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What you're seeing is happening for the same reason that dogs bark when left alone in their yards. Barking is a self-reinforcing behaviour in situations where people are just walking past. She's essentially trapped in an area, without her people, and is being physically prevented from moving away from things that are scary to her, so her only recourse is to give a warning bark.

If this was happening in your yard, the answer would be to not leave her in your yard unsupervised, and to work with her on calming behaviours when people are passing by.

I would really consider leaving her at home in any situation where you can not always be with her. No matter how friendly your dog is, if you're not there to watch her constantly, in a public space this could be a real liability if someone tried to go into her space and she reacted poorly to it. I'm not saying your dog is a terrible dog, just that it's unfair to put her in a situation where she doesn't have the option to flee and expect her to be perfectly behaved when she is stressed.

Being able to see you run around and not be able to get to you, with the addition of balls, and all manner of other high energy behaviour from teammates and others, makes for a very highly charged situation for her emotionally. It might seem like she's friendly to a lot of your teammates, and she might genuinely like some of them, but often dogs that are wagging and asking for petting from strangers are performing appeasing behaviours to people they are intimidated by.

A good rule of thumb in public places is that if you wouldn't expect a six year old to be able to do it, don't expect your dog to be able to do it. You wouldn't expect a six year old to sit quietly on a blanket and wait patiently for one or the other of you to visit occasionally while you played kickball, and to never get afraid of people that pass by. Yeah, they might talk to some of your teammates, but expecting a child to never be afraid of strangers while you aren't sitting with them? Both unrealistic and dangerous.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
If she's 5 months old she's a little young to be left alone for that long on a tie out when she can't see you.
We have had her for 5 months, but she is 6 years old and not a puppy.

As I mentioned, she can see us while we are playing and we can see her. Although she often watches us, she doesn't try to get to the field and never whines or barks at us for leaving her. She usually just lays down.

The people she most often barks at are not even approaching her, but walking down the sidewalk 30 ft away. Also, I would say she is not alone for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

The teams are co-ed, and since so many other people around the park also bring their dogs on tie-outs, people tend to be very respectful of the animals.

I agree that she is probably nervous about people coming into her space. Is there a way that I can make her feel more secure or something we can work on at home that would help? Or is my only option to just leave her home?
 

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If we are standing there, we tell her no and redirect her so she isn't facing the distraction anymore, but we need to curb this behavior. I don't want the other team players to feel that they can't walk by.
I think this is the key here. She's getting corrected for being afraid and giving warnings.

Rather than redirecting, you could work on building positive associations, such as people in the distance equals all the tasty treats in her mouth as fast as she could possibly eat them, then she will start to be less concerned, but there's no guarantee that this will carry over to her being by herself because dogs are not great generalisers. She may very well learn that people in the distance are okay as long as one of my owners are near, but getting her to chill out when you are not able to focus on her will be hugely difficult.

Think of it another way, would your dog happily lay there without the tie-out if she had any other choice? The answer is probably not. I think you should go out without your dog, enjoy some kickball and your socialisation with your teammates, and take the dog out for an activity that's actually rewarding for her at a different time.
 

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We have had her for 5 months, but she is 6 years old and not a puppy.

As I mentioned, she can see us while we are playing and we can see her. Although she often watches us, she doesn't try to get to the field and never whines or barks at us for leaving her. She usually just lays down.

The people she most often barks at are not even approaching her, but walking down the sidewalk 30 ft away. Also, I would say she is not alone for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

The teams are co-ed, and since so many other people around the park also bring their dogs on tie-outs, people tend to be very respectful of the animals.

I agree that she is probably nervous about people coming into her space. Is there a way that I can make her feel more secure or something we can work on at home that would help? Or is my only option to just leave her home?
Ok, a 6 year old is better than a teeny pup at the park. I still think she's scared. If you can, maybe take a day when you're not playing kickball, set up the same scenario that you do when you are playing, and practice some CC. When she's calm, reward her and when she reacts to people coming her way, redirect her to you and then treat when her attention is on you. I would do this once a week or so. Maybe go an hour before the game and practice this. There's not a real way to pick out who she's going to react to, so if you can get her to reinforce calmness, you're in the clear. But I would still decrease the amount of time you leave her alone so you can watch her progress.
 

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You can work on counter conditioning her to strangers. The training needs to be done in many different areas, including the field where you play kickball. It's important that you are keeping her below her threshold during the training. If you're not familiar with counter conditioning you can look in the training and behavior section for some articles. Until she's been counter conditioned, you'll need to leave her at home because the more the practices this behavior the more entrenched it will become.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I will definitely try some of these suggestions. Also, I have never heard of counter conditioning, so I will definitely look into that.

Thanks!
 

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If you're not already doing so, I would also start taking her out for walks in all sorts of environments. I know you said she doesn't show re-activity to people when you're on walks, but does she get walked in a lot of different/very busy places? If you can narrow down a specific characteristic or trait in a person she's reacting to you might be able to better target your counter conditioning.
 
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