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Reactivity to new neighbors.

3680 Views 20 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Laco
Hi everyone! I joined this forum a year ago when we first adopted our rescue dog (lab/hound mix), Kinzie. She came to us very anxious, nervous and reactive to other dogs and people. As I mentioned in previous posts, it was completely overwhelming at first and I wasn't sure I could do it. A year's worth of patience, consistency and love has paid off as she is much more calm and obedient now. We still have issues with reactivity, but much improved. She can ignore other neighborhood dogs now and is only reactive maybe 30% of the time (versus 100% before!)

That was, until last week when new neighbors moved in. Our old neighbor was a single guy who was super quiet. The new ones are a family with three young (noisy!) kids. Now her reactivity is almost like it was a year ago. She is on high alert in the backyard, barks loudly whenever they talk or move in their backyard. To make matters worse, one of the kids likes to yell back at Kinzie when she barks and will mock howl or yell back to her...which makes her bark MORE! I spoke to the family and let them know she is reactive and it will calm down in time, but to not yell back at her. The parents seemed so understanding and were really nice, but the kid still does it.

Im just frustrated. It feels like Im back at square one. I need some words of wisdom!
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Okay lets get some things straight:

1. Our dog is not left outdoors alone, ever. My husband and I are outside with her whenever she is out because we have been actively working on training her and her reactivity. A child ending up in our yard alone with the dog, would never happen.

2. When our dog begins to bark, she is brought indoors right away. We do not let her bark her head off for an extended period of time because we are quite aware that noisy dogs are annoying for neighbors and I respect that.

3. I understand kids are noisy and I would never expect them to be silent in their own yard.

4. Working with a reactive dog is different then a "regular" dog.

5. Of course my dog barking the neighbors is a "problem"...that is why I came on here to seek advice.

6. I agree socialization is key here. Our dog came to us as a rescue at 1 years old and was clearly not socialized in her past life. This is a work in progress. I am also careful not to put through her into situations that would spike her reactivity (which is fear based). Meeting the neighbors may be step taken with careful consideration.

7. New neighbors seemed very understanding of dog barking and where I am coming from- they have not expressed any frustration towards me. I have heard them tell their son to stop barking/yelling at my dog countless times...the child still does not stop.
Sounds like you are doing a really good job training and managing your dog! Keep it up! Things will likely settle down in a bit.

Training wise you might want to go just straight forward Counter conditioning since you're always outside with your dog. If unfamiliar, more or less just tossing some food each time you hear the kid. Generally what happens is automatic attention when the dog makes the connection that something tasty follows the noise. Later You can build on that attention once the association is established. Perhaps by asking for and rewarding incompatible behaviors.

Another nice option (similar but involves a marker such as a clicker) is the Listen to That game. It's a play on the look at that game and for auditory triggers. Sara Owings has a pretty nice tutorial on youtube.

Or if able (sounds like maybe you are) and your dog isn't completely loosing it, you could just interrupt and redirect the barking, though it tends not to eliminate all barking. That's the route I tend to go most of the time myself because I like my dogs to alert bark. They bark and I check it out. If it's no big deal (neighbors out, mailman, deer, etc.) I normally just thank them, ask them then follow me and then go do something different.
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