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I adopted a nine month old lab puppy last month. I have an 11 year old Ridgeback that is my heartbeat. My Ridgeback is so gentle, sweet, and kind - and along comes this puppy. She's so very reactive. I can't take her anywhere on a leash because she barks and barks - mainly at other dogs and some people. She's fine off leash and at the dog park but on leash she's a nut. She barks at neighborhood noises, other dogs barking, anything (and I mean anything) new in her environment. Sometimes I have no clue what she's barking at. I got a new grill and she spent 30 seconds barking at it. I absolutely hate her reactivity. I can deal with normal puppy behaviors but not this. A professional is coming on Friday to help us. I really haven't bonded with her. Anytime I try to pet her or sit with her - she bites me, slaps me, and chews on whatever part of me is closest. I've cried more this past month than I have in the last six. I cry because part of me wants to give her back but then I cry because I don't want to but am afraid I'll have to. I cry because I feel guilty and like I'm failing her. I cry because I'm afraid she'll never change. I can't live like this forever. I'm single, 32, and live in a very dog friendly city. Not being able to take my dog in public isn't an option. She's not aggressive but I'm afraid her reactivity will manifest into that. And let's face it - when a 50 lb dog is barking it's head off, people assume she's aggressive. Does anyone have any words of hope that this will get better?
 

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@MorganE84 - welcome to DF!

I'm glad to read that you have a professional coming. I would really recommend making sure that any professionals that you work with are R+.

What sort of training have you done with the pup? Did you get the pup from a rescue? Can they tell you anything about her history?

As far as the biting on you goes, she sounds a bit bored. Several short training sessions per day may really help take the edge off for her. Start with basic obedience then try teaching some tricks- something that would be fun for both of you. What is your reaction when she bites you? Does she have things that she can chew on? When she bites something that she shouldn't, redirect her to something that she can bite and chew on.

I will not be as helpful as other members on the reactivity so I will defer to them. I know @PoppyKenna has been dealing with a VERY reactive dog so hopefully she'll chime in.

I really think there's plenty of hope for you and your pup :)
 

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The trainer that is coming uses positive reinforcement techniques. It's what I did for my Ridgeback. She has plenty of things to chew on but she's getting to the point where she just tries to destroy toys. She split her Kong last night. She busts every tennis ball. Then tries to eat the bits she pinches off.

I've tried a few things when she bites. I yelp like a dog. Sometimes I just get up and walk away. If its relentless I shove her with my forearm or leg (she loves to bite feet). Her bite inhibition is better. But honestly the biting is nothing compared to reactivity because I know that should fade.

We do a few training sessions a day. She's learned sit, sit/stay, down, and sit/wait. All of those are pretty solid. She was a stray taken to a high kill shelter. Then she was rescued by a no kill so she went to a foster home. She was actually adopted and returned because the family said the kids weren't interested in her and it wasn't fair to her (I'm wondering if that's the truth now) so she went back to her foster mom and then she came to me. This was all over 2.5 months. The rescue totally sugar coated her reactivity. They said she "says hello to other dogs sometimes". Right. She says "hello" to all dogs and some people. And it's a deep, mean-sounding "hello"

The trainer said for me to keep her in environments that minimize triggers for right now - so leash walks are out and even our yard is difficult because she barks at neighbors and other dogs. So I keep her outside but as soon as she barks I bring her in.

Before the trainer I was throwing her in those environments in an effort to desensitize her. We would stand in a field and when she would look at the dogs I would give her treats and each day we would move a little closer to the road. She can walk on the pavement and will not react part of the time but then freak out on a person wearing a hat or a street sign or something else random.

Honestly - next to aggression this type of reactivity is my worst nightmare in a dog. Because reactivity looks like aggression to everyone who doesn't know her. When I adopted her I wanted her to be a therapy dog (I'm a speech therapist). And the rescue was well aware of that and they said that with some training she would be a great one. Well, we're no where near that. Last week a mentally disabled girl
asked to pet her and Winnie freaked out on her and made her cry. I don't know if I've ever been so mortified in my life. I'm crying just thinking about it.

I never expected this level of reactivity from a puppy. It's why I got a puppy to begin with. I really hope there's hope for us. I would hate to send her back but I can't have a dog that I can't trust in public. :( I think that's my biggest fear - having to send her back.

@MorganE84 - welcome to DF!

I'm glad to read that you have a professional coming. I would really recommend making sure that any professionals that you work with are R+.

What sort of training have you done with the pup? Did you get the pup from a rescue? Can they tell you anything about her history?

As far as the biting on you goes, she sounds a bit bored. Several short training sessions per day may really help take the edge off for her. Start with basic obedience then try teaching some tricks- something that would be fun for both of you. What is your reaction when she bites you? Does she have things that she can chew on? When she bites something that she shouldn't, redirect her to something that she can bite and chew on.

I will not be as helpful as other members on the reactivity so I will defer to them. I know @PoppyKenna has been dealing with a VERY reactive dog so hopefully she'll chime in.

I really think there's plenty of hope for you and your pup
 

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I'm sorry, I wish that I could tell you that it will all just magically get better or that I had some sort of awesome success story. I still have hope for my boy, though, and I'm sure there's hope for your girl!

It sounds like she probably has a lot of anxiety in general. Have you talked to your vet? There are supplements and other things you can try - you don't necessarily have to jump right to medication. My boy is on trazodone and is starting prozac now. I'm not sure what we'll end up at with that combination, but I'm optimistic.

As for training, it's hard when there so, so many triggers. I really like BAT training which emphasizes distance between your dog and the trigger, among other things, using functional rewards...but it's hard if your dog is already hyped up and super-anxious. That would probably be where the vet comes in.

For now, try to make the inside of your home as much of a safe haven for her as you can. Play music, put up blinds, whatever it takes.

I hope you have success with your trainer. :)
 

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I just took Winnie to the dog park. I know that might sound ridiculous but I've never seen her play with unfamiliar dogs and I wanted to be able to tell the trainer what I know.

She did great. She was very timid at first. Very unsure of her surroundings. Other dogs came to sniff her and she tucked tail and froze. But after a few minutes she opened up. She started running and having other dogs chase her. She splashed in the pool. She greeted new dogs at the fence and was good with all the people there.

Most importantly - she didn't bark. So her reactivity is mainly leash and fence. If she can investigate the trigger then she's usually fine. I hope the trainer thinks this information is encouraging.

I think what I'm dealing with here is a very insecure and unsocialized puppy.
 

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First, congrats on the new labby! I'm a little biased, but they are pretty awesome dogs, particularly the black ones lol. Also I have to commend you for getting a trainer! Many owners don't ask for help until the situation is out of control so you've taken a huge step in the right direction.

To me it sounds more like barrier frustration than anything, maybe with a little bit of fear issues mixed in. For the leash issues/barrier frustration you need to teach her impulse control/call back. Whenever she sees something, someone, another dog, she needs to sit and look at you. If she's near a fence then she needs to learn to come back to you, ideally before issues happen. This teaches her an opposing reaction to her default reaction - namely paying you all the attention instead of reacting to the thing she feels requires a reaction. It will take time though and you need to reward with a treat/toy every time she chooses correctly, and believe me she will.

I introduce people the same way. Ask for a sit, look at me/eye contact, treat, and once she's settled she can greet. No pulling/jumping/barking allowed ever, if she does any of the big 3 then we walk away, calm down, and try again. If walking up, she seems nervous or scared then we begin our interaction far away (repeat of above only with a lot of space) and work our way closer.

If "things" are an issue, and they always are then we work on touch/look at that. Every time she seems nervous/anxious on something she needs to look and/or touch it, starting with treats close to the object and then working on her going to/looking at on her own.

Hope all that makes sense. I'm on my tablet and sentence structure obviously wasn't a concern to their inventors.
 

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You've got a real tough situation there Morgan, and good thing you've called a professional to help you out to that situation. And they are right, take time to train that dog and exercise more often that will make her not bored.
 
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