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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think the saddest and most embarrassing thing about having a reactive puppy isn't when she barks at dogs. It's when she barks at kids. Or when kids ask to pet her and I have to say no. It's so sad to me. The trainer says she does this out of excitement but it doesn't really matter the reason. The more trainers we have and the more classes we attend just brings me closer to the realization that I don't know if there's hope for her. I don't know if she'll ever be able to be calm or channel her excitement. Ugh. We've worked so hard.
 

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She'll calm. She will get older and more mature and develop more impulse control. It's hard for many puppies to control their excitement.

Reactivity that is based in frustration or excitement is so, so much easier to deal with. You'll put in the hard work and it will pay off - you'll see it someday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
She'll calm. She will get older and more mature and develop more impulse control. It's hard for many puppies to control their excitement.

Reactivity that is based in frustration or excitement is so, so much easier to deal with. You'll put in the hard work and it will pay off - you'll see it someday.

I say puppy but she's 12 months. Which I know is still a puppy but she's nearly full grown. I will say that tonight she didn't bark at the little girl who wanted to pet her. Which is an improvement. But I hate to see the disappointment. I love to share my dogs and give others positive associations with animals. I just hate that I can't do that with her.
 

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I'm sorry. It is hard. I had a reactive dog. We did a lot of training and and at a certain point, I moved into management techniques, and yes, I lost hope for big changes. And it was ok! We had 15 good years together and I adored him, quirks and all

If she's still a puppy don't lose all hope prematurely though!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm sorry. It is hard. I had a reactive dog. We did a lot of training and and at a certain point, I moved into management techniques, and yes, I lost hope for big changes. And it was ok! We had 15 good years together and I adored him, quirks and all

If she's still a puppy don't lose all hope prematurely though!

My whole fear the entire time I've had her is that I'll fail her and have to give her back to the rescue. I have small children in my family and she's an 80 pound powerful, reactive puppy. Not a good combination. But she's been bounced around so much and we've been working so hard. It's like she knows what's expected. She's smart. But she can't control her impulses.
 

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Hang in there! I can feel how desperately you want to help her. What is her absolute favourite thing treat wise? Is there one child that you can "use" to train her. the idea is if you can get her to associate this child with this treat and get her behaviour suitable just towards this one child. then move to another?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hang in there! I can feel how desperately you want to help her. What is her absolute favourite thing treat wise? Is there one child that you can "use" to train her. the idea is if you can get her to associate this child with this treat and get her behaviour suitable just towards this one child. then move to another?
No. I live almost 3 hours from my family. Normally I go home every month to visit but I haven't been home since July because of her. The holidays are coming up and I'm not sure what to do with her.
 

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My whole fear the entire time I've had her is that I'll fail her and have to give her back to the rescue. I have small children in my family and she's an 80 pound powerful, reactive puppy. Not a good combination. But she's been bounced around so much and we've been working so hard. It's like she knows what's expected. She's smart. But she can't control her impulses.
My reactive dog was smaller (20 lbs) I used a lot of gates when my kids were growing up and were very young and I couldn't be there right watching carefully. (Which honestly, is a good idea with any dog and small children.)

As they got older, I was able to loosen up a bit on the gate usage because my kids matured.

But I can see how the size of your dog would add an extra challenge with kids.
 

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No. I live almost 3 hours from my family. Normally I go home every month to visit but I haven't been home since July because of her. The holidays are coming up and I'm not sure what to do with her.
These kids don't live in your household? Oh ok, that adds a different (and better) dimension

I would get creative with solutions.

Have you tried a Gentle Leader? That is probably the one tool that worked to calm my reactive dog the most. I would tether him to me with the Leader when we had guests and use treats to keep him happy and calm near me. It had a very calming effect on him. I don't know how they work with larger dogs and I would not use it without a trainer helping you first to determine if it is appropriate and how to use it.

I did give up the idea that kids could ever pet him. That just wasn't in the cards. And that's ok.

Another idea is to kennel her near wherever you are going to be for the holidays.

Have you talked to your vet about medications, even on an as-needed basis? That is one thing I regret looking back...I didn't go the med route but I should have looked into it.

Anyway, just throwing out ideas. Hang in there!
 

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The best piece of advice I've ever received from a trainer is to "train the dog in front of you". If that means she's the kind of dog that needs separation from kids, or isn't pet by strangers, or even family members other than you for now, so be it.
There are far too many dogs (and people!) out there doing things they really have no joy in because people thought it was what they "should be doing" with that dog.
I have an example with both my dogs. Levi (my Aussie) is a good jumper. I wanted desperately to do dock diving with him. It looked so fun, and Aussies seem to do really well at the sport. As soon as we tried to teach him to jump in the water, I could tell he wasn't enjoying it. He did it, because I asked him to, but he didn't have a ton of joy in it. So I decided to do things he did love, like agility and rally instead.
Heidi (my Border Collie) was raised the exact same way as Levi. Puppy classes, heavy socialization to dogs and people. She's never had a bad experience, but she doesn't really care for strange dogs. She likes to control their movements, doesn't like them touching anything she deems "hers" (picnic table, her people, a pine cone) and as a result, she isn't a very good dog park dog. I recognize this, and we only go to the park during off-hours or meet for play dates with friends. We also have to be very careful at pet festivals that no one gets in her space.

Everyone's dog has something that makes them no longer the "perfect" dog. (Even something as small as getting a Border Collie that isn't fast enough). Keep working with her reactivity and impulse control, but recognize that maybe being incredibly social is just going to be too hard for her.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks! No, they don't live with me but I've been very isolated from my family for the past few months bc of her. I thought we could get her excitement under control but very little luck thus far. She bloodied my grandmas arm twice from jumping/pawing. Having a dog that kids can't interact with isn't realistic for me. That screams liability. Unfortunately there are kids in public that will just come up to your dog. I don't want to be on edge every time I take her out. My sister is having a baby in Dec and I'm very worried about my puppy and the baby.

I keep giving her time extensions of when I'll make a decision. At first it was until the end of summer break. Then it was her first birthday (mid Sept). Now I don't know when it is. Her group class ends next wk. Im going to ask the trainer what other options we have. I have hundreds of dollars in training in her. I just feel like if I fail her and give her back then no one will adopt her and put this much work into her. But then again, maybe her excited reactivity wouldn't bother others like it bothers me.
 

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Thanks! No, they don't live with me but I've been very isolated from my family for the past few months bc of her. I thought we could get her excitement under control but very little luck thus far. She bloodied my grandmas arm twice from jumping/pawing. Having a dog that kids can't interact with isn't realistic for me. That screams liability. Unfortunately there are kids in public that will just come up to your dog. I don't want to be on edge every time I take her out. My sister is having a baby in Dec and I'm very worried about my puppy and the baby.

I keep giving her time extensions of when I'll make a decision. At first it was until the end of summer break. Then it was her first birthday (mid Sept). Now I don't know when it is. Her group class ends next wk. Im going to ask the trainer what other options we have. I have hundreds of dollars in training in her. I just feel like if I fail her and give her back then no one will adopt her and put this much work into her. But then again, maybe her excited reactivity wouldn't bother others like it bothers me.
Look into the Gentle Leader. That is probably the one tool that allowed us to keep our dog. But only with a trainer's guidance

I agree, it is hard managing a dog like that. We exercised ours mostly in our enclosed yard but he was small. I can see how your big dog would need those walks.

Even if you rehome, remember all of your work isn't a waste, she will carry it with her. And you can keep her and still put her up for adoption through a rescue. You and her may not be the right fit right now, but there absolutely may be someone who wouldn't be as bothered by her reactivity or perhaps is in a different life stage or living situation where they could accommodate her.

Just curious what breed is she?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Look into the Gentle Leader. That is probably the one tool that allowed us to keep our dog. But only with a trainer's guidance

I agree, it is hard managing a dog like that. We exercised ours mostly in our enclosed yard but he was small. I can see how your big dog would need those walks.

Even if you rehome, remember all of your work isn't a waste, she will carry it with her. And you can keep her and still put her up for adoption through a rescue. You and her may not be the right fit right now, but there absolutely may be someone who wouldn't be as bothered by her reactivity or perhaps is in a different life stage or living situation where they could accommodate her.

Just curious what breed is she?
She has a GentleLeader. She flops to the ground with it on.

She's a lab and mastiff mix. She's an absolutely beautiful dog. She's made some progress in the group class. But then she lunges at a little girl in the park. And yes, it's out of excitement and frustration of not being able to greet - but it's still potentially dangerous.

I don't feel super bonded with her because of her behavior. I couldn't pet her for weeks because she'd bite and slap. That's better but I feel like our whole relationship is me modifying and managing behaviors. And that's no fun. So part of me is like - am I trying to force it? I don't know. It's definitely not a fun process at all. Those moments of progress are rewarding but those are few and far between.
 

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It takes a lot of time and energy to train any dog (I am in the middle of it right now with a puppy, it can be exhausting) but the motivation is to have that companion for many years
Honestly, and please don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you are just not that committed to making this work with her? Not that you haven't been putting in work and patience, but that long-term commitment
Which is fine, it happens. Sometimes there is a mismatch with a dog and human for any number of reasons
If she is only a year old and she is beautiful, maybe contact a lab rescue group and try to rehome her while she is young
From what you write, I think there are still solutions to explore but it may be more than you are willing or able to do right now....and that's ok, truly. It's good to know our limits with dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
It takes a lot of time and energy to train any dog (I am in the middle of it right now with a puppy, it can be exhausting) but the motivation is to have that companion for many years
Honestly, and please don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you are just not that committed to making this work with her? Not that you haven't been putting in work and patience, but that long-term commitment
Which is fine, it happens. Sometimes there is a mismatch with a dog and human for any number of reasons
If she is only a year old and she is beautiful, maybe contact a lab rescue group and try to rehome her while she is young
From what you write, I think there are still solutions to explore but it may be more than you are willing or able to do right now....and that's ok, truly. It's good to know our limits with dogs.
I can't rehome her and wouldn't - it was in my contract that she goes back to the rescue. And who wants to adopt a dog that's reactive? I wouldn't have had I known. There aren't many people who would knowingly sign up for this.

I'm not sure what you mean by "not committed to making it work". If you mean that I am not committed to keeping her regardless of all circumstances. Then that's a fair assessment. Do I WANT to rehome her? No. But at the same time I can't imagine having a dog that can't be integrated in my life or family. Not to mention future children. I can't stay away from my family or kennel her everytime I want to go home to visit. I can't walk on pins and needles everytime she needs to go to the vet, walk on a leash, or when I want to have people over in my own house. I've been willing to live like that for the past five months while I've literally spent hundreds of dollars and hours on her training. But that's not a long term situation that I can deal with.
 

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I can't rehome her and wouldn't - it was in my contract that she goes back to the rescue. And who wants to adopt a dog that's reactive? I wouldn't have had I known. There aren't many people who would knowingly sign up for this.

I'm not sure what you mean by "not committed to making it work". If you mean that I am not committed to keeping her regardless of all circumstances. Then that's a fair assessment. Do I WANT to rehome her? No. But at the same time I can't imagine having a dog that can't be integrated in my life or family. Not to mention future children. I can't stay away from my family or kennel her everytime I want to go home to visit. I can't walk on pins and needles everytime she needs to go to the vet, walk on a leash, or when I want to have people over in my own house. I've been willing to live like that for the past five months while I've literally spent hundreds of dollars and hours on her training. But that's not a long term situation that I can deal with.
I'm so sorry, I can see I may have offended you. And if I did, please accept my deepest apology from the bottom of my heart. The last thing I would ever want to do is upset someone who is in a stressful situation like you are in.

I was sincerely coming from a place of experience and compassion for you and the dog and I can tell you care for her very much. If that didn't come through on my comment, then that is 100% my fault and I should have been more careful.

I hope the best for both of you.
 

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But that's not a long term situation that I can deal with.
I think this statement is very telling. Not everyone is cut out to deal with a reactive dog, and that is perfectly acceptable. I know @PoppyKenna can have a run of super good days, and then have days where it seems like she's made step backwards with Chisum. (Who is SO freakin' cute. Seriously.) I would think long and hard about if you want to put in the massive amounts of work this dog might need. Some of her reactivity might go away as she ages, but labs stay puppies for like 5 years.

I do think possibly PM-ing @PoppyKenna and chatting about reactivity and how she deals with it might give you some insight.
 

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@MorganE84 - it's funny, your dog's description reminds me of a young Lab that is in our obedience class. She's a barky thing, super excitable, and loves to jump. I'd bet if someone were to take her on a walk in the bark she'd bark quite a bit.

Would I be willing to take that on in a dog? Absolutely. It's funny, before Chisum I thought of reactivity as a dirty word and an awful thing, but I've experienced the different types and I can deal with frustration/excitement. It's annoying sometimes, sure, but for me it's not impossible and is so much easier to work with than fear.

But, as @Shandula said above, reactive dogs - regardless of the type - aren't for everyone and there's no shame in that.

With Chisum, I deal. Thankfully we live on a farm and he'll most likely stay there with my parents when I leave. I had this talk with our obedience instructor and, while he's very impressive and actually does really well in the class, she wondered if he'd be happier there than in the higher stress situation of "town".

He's made amazing breakthroughs and I am so, so proud of him but sometimes it's just situation to situation management and there are steps backward, sure.

BUT at the end of the day, pain in the rear or not, he's my little boy. It's easy to get frustrated with him but we are totally bonded and I love him to pieces. The bond didn't come easily, granted - like you, I wanted a dog that I could take anywhere and that could move with me when I left and it took awhile to mourn that wasn't the dog I got. But at the end of the day, I absolutely love the dog I got :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I can't rehome her and wouldn't - it was in my contract that she goes back to the rescue. And who wants to adopt a dog that's reactive? I wouldn't have had I known. There aren't many people who would knowingly sign up for this.

I'm not sure what you mean by "not committed to making it work". If you mean that I am not committed to keeping her regardless of all circumstances. Then that's a fair assessment. Do I WANT to rehome her? No. But at the same time I can't imagine having a dog that can't be integrated in my life or family. Not to mention future children. I can't stay away from my family or kennel her everytime I want to go home to visit. I can't walk on pins and needles everytime she needs to go to the vet, walk on a leash, or when I want to have people over in my own house. I've been willing to live like that for the past five months while I've literally spent hundreds of dollars and hours on her training. But that's not a long term situation that I can deal with.
I'm so sorry, I can see I may have offended you. And if I did, please accept my deepest apology from the bottom of my heart. The last thing I would ever want to do is upset someone who is in a stressful situation like you are in.

I was sincerely coming from a place of experience and compassion for you and the dog and I can tell you care for her very much. If that didn't come through on my comment, then that is 100% my fault and I should have been more careful.

I hope the best for both of you.
No, I really wasn't offended. Just not sure what exactly you meant. One of my trainers made me feel horrible for thinking of returning her. She said "how could you do that? what if you adopted a child with issues - would you just send them back?" We don't work with her anymore because she was incredibly condescending and frustrating.


I will say that each time I want to give up and throw in the towel - she does something to make me rebound and keep trying. I'm sure this is just a low moment and I've had many the past five months. Some much lower than this. My first dog was just born good, I think. I adopted her at 18 months and she's perfect in my eyes. We had some stupid puppy-ness but never had to work like I am with my current puppy. Now my puppy is much younger so it's not a fair comparison but they couldn't be more different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
@MorganE84 - it's funny, your dog's description reminds me of a young Lab that is in our obedience class. She's a barky thing, super excitable, and loves to jump. I'd bet if someone were to take her on a walk in the bark she'd bark quite a bit.

Would I be willing to take that on in a dog? Absolutely. It's funny, before Chisum I thought of reactivity as a dirty word and an awful thing, but I've experienced the different types and I can deal with frustration/excitement. It's annoying sometimes, sure, but for me it's not impossible and is so much easier to work with than fear.

But, as @Shandula said above, reactive dogs - regardless of the type - aren't for everyone and there's no shame in that.

With Chisum, I deal. Thankfully we live on a farm and he'll most likely stay there with my parents when I leave. I had this talk with our obedience instructor and, while he's very impressive and actually does really well in the class, she wondered if he'd be happier there than in the higher stress situation of "town".

He's made amazing breakthroughs and I am so, so proud of him but sometimes it's just situation to situation management and there are steps backward, sure.

BUT at the end of the day, pain in the rear or not, he's my little boy. It's easy to get frustrated with him but we are totally bonded and I love him to pieces. The bond didn't come easily, granted - like you, I wanted a dog that I could take anywhere and that could move with me when I left and it took awhile to mourn that wasn't the dog I got. But at the end of the day, I absolutely love the dog I got
One of the reasons I've fought so hard for her is that I know she's a sweet dog. She's a sweet dog that loves everyone and dogs. She's so excited to go places and meet new people. But it doesn't come across that way when she's barking and bouncing around. The kids bother me the most cos I hate that they can't pet her. But she'd jump on them.

I'm going to ask my trainer tonight. Maybe she needs to repeat this group class again. Maybe he thinks she could maybe try a regular class. Or maybe he'll have other suggestions. We'll see.
 
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