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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone have any success stories with training their leash reactive dogs? I just need to read some for encouragement. I feel like I'm just sliding down a mountain. Stella's behavior just gets worse or remains bad even though I try really hard to change or prevent it. I know a lot of the struggle is my lack of patience and emotional strength now, but...I really can't say how upset I am about this. Stella having such a high prey drive to cats and other animals is bad and restricting enough but her being reactive to other dogs will not be tolerable. At this point I don't even know if she's good with other dogs (aside from Tyrion) off leash anymore. I'm scared to have her interact with other dogs. I feel like someone stole my sweet puppy and replaced her with this nasty dog I don't want. I can't count how many hours I've spent training and socializing her to try and mold her into a dog I could take everywhere--which she was up until recently! Now I feel like I can't take her anywhere without problems. Stella was the only thing in my life that was good and going well and now I have nothing. I look into her confused face and just see my own failure and dashed hopes looking back at me. Now I'm also really upset because I was going to try and apply to a live in job at an animal sanctuary but I feel like I would be tempting fate having Stella around so many other animals she might attack, kill or fight with. Plus I can't even pursue a relationship with anyone that has a cat or other pet, and now I might not even be able to try one with someone who has a dog. I HATE having a dog-reactive dog, I HATE it and don't want to do it again. Where Stella once made me feel more comfortable and happy going out and doing things now she's making me feel trapped and ashamed. I love her but now I feel like keeping her OR even thinking about rehoming her will destroy me. I don't understand why nothing works for me when I try so had. I know inside that it's not my fault, it's just...who she is but that doesn't change how I feel. *sigh* I'm probably going to try and get someone else to train her if I can but it takes all my strength to not all to pieces every day over this.
 
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I have two success stories! My dad's dog who was extremely dog aggressive can now pass by other dogs without a reaction. We're not asking him to play with dogs and so he knows his job is to stay calm around other dogs. I trained him myself!

My own dog Pip is a WIP, but we get better and better every day. When I got her, she was human and large dog reactive. Now, she's non-reactive to either on leash in most areas. She's still iffy in crowded spaces, but communicates well her discomfort without needing to resort to aggressive displays. She responds easily to her cues now.

However, I'm also a dog trainer and have a lot more resources for set-ups and dog-savvy people for her to meet.

I know how hard it is to have a reactive dog. It's heartbreak when you have to celebrate those amazing victories alone (aka "My dog walked down Locust Street without a meltdown") or when your dog does perfect, only you know how hard it was to get there ("No reaction as we passed by a dog barking and lunging on a tie out.") I know the frustration when it feels like your dog has taken several steps back in training or when an unexpected thing has undone MONTHS of training.

Pip's human reactivity and fear of people is difficult because she is such a cute dog. Her progress had been going well until someone ran up and hugged her out of the blue. She was an extremely fearful rescue I adopted from the animal shelter. It took a few extra months of confidence building to get her back to doing public outings. She's my girl on fire now! Love her! She actually asked a stranger to pet her the other day!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@Pipsmom Thank you. The worst part is I am actually a certified dog trainer (with massive deficits of confidence in my ability). Right now I'm also obviously going through a lot of depression and anxiety so it's destroying my abilities. And not only is it terrible that Stella behaves this way but this used to be a non-issue. I've socialized and trained her since she was a little puppy but now it's like she just matured and forgot it all, or it doesn't matter. She loves people (used to love other dogs) and before all this happened I was training her to be a therapy dog to visit people in the hospital. Other trainers said she had that good nature too and even said she was very good wit other dogs and extremely tolerant. -sigh- but thanks. How long did it take for Pip? And what was your process? Right now I'm just trying to recondition her with treats every time we see a dog.
 
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Many a police K9 begin their journey as being reactive, as long as they are not flight oriented rather fight oriented they are acceptable. Take a look at LE K9s and ask yourself how reactive they are. Hopefully, you will see a dog which minds its manners but believe me, they were/are highly reactive but maintain because of the training and command and control.
 

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DriveDog has a lot of good info about the temperament of certain dogs making them more reactive as they mature.

Pip is a high drive, high energy terrier x herder mix (terrier x cattle dog). She has been through several homes and through several shelters before she got to me (at a year old!). Right now, we work her brains a lot in training. She needs a lot of confidence boosting with trick training. Her favorite thing is probably precision heeling. She's quite reactive to things as a rule, so we do have to focus on teaching her how to manage her stress in healthier ways than running/going crazy/shutting down/going bitey mode.

For her reactivity, we work her sub-threshold. We keep her comfortable. I use kibble most of the time because high value toys or treats will skew her thresholds. If she can't eat kibble, I'm waaaay too close. For emergencies or for things I didn't plan for, I have a tub of wet food in my pocket that I open and stick in her face. We do a lot of work with counterconditioning and desensitization. We also do a lot of BAT and LAT and engage-disengage pattern. But it's SO important that the dog feels safe and confident.

This is a great video that might help you understand where she's coming from: https://youtu.be/KwnSdvHI8mg (Love Suzanne Clothier)

If you aren't confident in handling your dog's reactivity, you may need to work with another trainer. That's okay, it will help you grow your skillset. I know that feeling. I remember with Otis, I always wanted to be a dog trainer and people would say, "Looks like you don't know what you're doing!" when he went insane on the leash. And his genetics were just not good. He was nervous and not very stable, but even he was able to learn that, working with me was his safe zone, his thinking space where nothing can touch him.

I remember once, there was no way we could do the emergency u-turn out of a situation. And I just said, "We got this buddy." And because I ALWAYS was smart about what he could or could not handle, it was like he said, "Well, you said I could handle it and you NEVER put me in a situation that I can't handle, so I guess I can handle it." And he did it. He was awesome!

Pip is actually improving really quickly. The things I've learned work SO much better with her than with Otis because she has a great temperament underneath her fears. She is very balanced between handler focus and environmental focus. She's curious when she isn't afraid and she's drivey as heck. I make sure that I work on teaching her she's safe. I think her reactivity is just her temperament plus being completely mishandled for her first year of life and bouncing from home to home. I will attach some videos of my work with her.

https://youtu.be/EMc-RVIg-A4
https://youtu.be/kgouJrSLHBs

I set her up on meet-ups with my students and other trainer's dogs sometimes. We don't have any set goals per session, we just let her be herself, process her stress and the stimuli around her, and let her learn her method of dealing with stress. Like Otis, a lot of displacement sniffing. Reactivity training should really be boring. She's made such leaps and bounds in the seven months I had her that people can't believe she's the same dog.

When she's confident, she's my little girl on fire! Amazing dog to work with. I'm so lucky to have adopted her. I jokingly say she's half Tasmanian devil-half deer. I love little bitey, crazy dogs. Just a whirlwind of fun, and yes, if you get one, you need to know how to deal with the reactivity that comes along with that temperament.
 

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Exactly. You can talk about all the different methods, but that all means nothing (as the Suzanne Clothier video explains) if the dog doesn't trust the situation and doesn't feel 100% safe.

traciek88 - I hope you find success with Stella soon. I know that sometimes, I felt like Pip and I plateaued in her training. However, I keep very copious notes and videos about her training, so just looking back at her progress from a month ago, two months ago, and I see that it's still forward going.

Work with a reactive dog is never a clean progression. It feels like some days are awesome, the dog just makes you so proud as she rises to the challenge and works through it all and is so amazing. And then some days are awful, that it feels like you went nowhere in all your work. I know that day in which I thought that nothing was going on, it was because all I saw was that Pip was still stressed. I looked at a video where she was so nervous, on the verge of shutting down, and realized "Wow. Look how far she's come."
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I really do appreciate all the support and I emailed someone tonight asking for help. But I have to say that I don't think Stella is acting from a place of fear. She's not fear aggressive, and in fact she rarely acts fearful of much at all. I've had her since she was 13 weeks and the only things that ever truly scare her are motorcycles. Otherwise her 'fear' reactions typically last a few seconds until she realizes something like a new trash can is just a new trash can. Its not like she's low with a low tail lunging and backing away or demonstrating any fear body language I know of. It's a full on, forward offensive display.
 

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Is she just frustrated that she can't get to the dog? Those sort of dogs are usually fairly ok with other appropriate dogs off leash unless they have other issues, but can run the full gamut of reactivity/aggression on leash.

Prey drive? IME dogs that are prey driven towards other animals aren't typically very loud, unless they're doing the screech and/or some may be barkers due to the frustration of the leash restraint.

If not, what you describe could be "forward fear", a dog who is afraid of/defensive toward something but feels that the best defense is a good offense. One common example of this is often dogs who bite the vacuum cleaner. These dogs really don't want the vacuum getting near them, and may shut down if you make them actually stand there and get vacuumed, but they will bark, growl, and often bite it left to their own devices while it's on near them. These dogs may never act particularly fearful of anything, because they're not really inclined to flee or shut down, but rather to stand their ground and fight back.

My first APBT was fear aggressive with people and also very dog reactive/aggressive to strange dogs (ok with most if introduced slowly), and to look at her when she was reacting to another dog, you might not have guessed that she was acting defensively. She would appear to be spoiling for a fight, up on her toes, ears perked, tail up, then lunge, scream, and if they got close enough, try to grab them. Technically, I guess she was looking to start a fight, she wanted to take them out before they could get us. Her behavior improved significantly when it was made clear that I would be dealing with the strange dogs, and her job was just to hold a sit while that happened, preferably behind me so she had less visual stimuli and it would be harder for the dog to feed itself to her. She was never a particularly "fearful acting" dog, she was not one to tuck her tail, slink around, or avoid things she was afraid of, no environmental fears, she'd go anywhere, do anything, as long as you didn't expect her to mingle safely with strange dogs or people.

Most dogs who are dog aggressive in the most true sense (wanting to fight just for the sake of fighting) aren't particularly reactive to other dogs, as they want the other dog to get close enough to engage. That of course doesn't mean that dogs who are reactive won't fight, just that the fight itself is probably not their main motivator.

I hope the person you emailed works out for you. It's much easier to work on things like this is a controlled environment with other dogs and owners who know the drill rather than taking your chances with whatever dog(s) you encounter on the street. Much less stressful for you too, which will only help :)
 

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Just a thought, because it worked for me. I live on a narrow road where I must walk in the traffic zone, so a single lunge is super dangerous if it happens at the wrong moment. So I've been accustoming Sonic to a traffic lead (it's a multi-function leash with a two foot loop). I do the same training that I've done on the full 6" length, which is all those red-light/green light games, silky leash, turn arounds, etc.. moving forward on a slack leash, stopping on a tight leash, and practicing in low distraction zones.
I find that at the end of a six foot leash, Sonic's brain can be spinning at 100mph processing a million dissastisfying options (all the things he would want/need to do if only he wasn't tethered to me) but on the traffic lead the options are reduced to a point that he can handle. Walking by the tethered bully-breed mix without either dog reacting is my measure of success.
It's new turf for me, but I'm guessing that 6" length is long enough to torment him with options that cannot be satisfied, the traffic lead ends those options and allows him to concentrate on a simple task. If he's into treats, those are supplied, otherwise, he's rewarded with go sniff, pee on a pole, or anything else handy and acceptable as soon as it is safe to do so (ie, the small freedoms a 6" leash affords).
I do all the counter-conditioning, but mostly LAT any time possible, but opt for the short leash when it is necessary, and train for that moment away from distractions (so the traffic lead doesn't become a stress predictor).
Sonic is leash reactive, high prey drive but social with dogs off leash and not deeply fearful of the world at large.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Is she just frustrated that she can't get to the dog? Those sort of dogs are usually fairly ok with other appropriate dogs off leash unless they have other issues, but can run the full gamut of reactivity/aggression on leash.

Prey drive? IME dogs that are prey driven towards other animals aren't typically very loud, unless they're doing the screech and/or some may be barkers due to the frustration of the leash restraint.
No, she doesn't just want to go see them. If she wants to see another dog (there is at least one she still really likes) she wiggles and wags and pulls forward with pulled back happy ears, and has more bounce to her movements. It...COULD theoretically be fear but...I feel it might be more controlling, even bullying. She's got a very strong personality.

Also, it's not prey drive to other dogs because Stella does best with small dogs and usually does well with them on leash too unless they agress first. She has super high prey drive to other animals but she doesn't see little dogs as prey.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Today on our walk things went pretty well. We only saw one dog (it was a little fuzzy thing, a puppy I think.) Stella isn't that bad with little dogs but this one was barking his little head off and she does react to that most of the time. But even though she looked at him I got her to keep looking at me while I fed her cheese and she didn't bark at him once! :)
 

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I just want to offer Jasmines services to help.

If you want a dog to try to introduce Stella to I can volunteer Jasmine, she is very good at appeasing other dogs. She even has all the mean small dogs on our block sniffing at her now rather than growling and barking whenever we walk by. (of course that might be the chicken jerky we always have with us!)

I know from experience she either calms down the other dog by appeasing the crap out of them, or if she senses any danger runs between my legs, so I am not concerned about her getting hurt. Her first reaction when she is barked at is to lay down and happy wag her tail.

Anyway I am free weekend afternoons if you need a doggy training tool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
@Ems. Thank you. I think I'll take you up on that. I'll be interested to see how Stella takes the the appeasement because appeasement from puppies tends to annoy her for some reason!

Are you doing anything this coming weekend? And today I definitely saw a...good sign? We went to the vet today and she was fine with the other dogs except when they barked at her. She reacted badly then but it's not like she flipped out first. I had a good amount of treats on hand too. She seemed like she wanted to play/meet some others nicely too. Maybe it was different because we weren't walking?
 

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I can see why puppy appeasement is annoying, Jasmine used to do that, lay down belly showing, then as soon as she got any sign that the other dog was OK with her, jump right on them! The shock would have them growling at her! Then the owner would usually tell their dog off for growling at a puppy! Puppies are annoying!

Thankfully her appeasement is a bit calmer now. She now waits for the other dog to initiate play before she jumps on them. She is also totally used to being barked at (if you met the dogs in our area you would understand why lol!)

I am free Saturday (I think) we are going to the zoo on whichever day has better weather! Please text me, I got a new phone and lost my numbers!
 
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