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Discussion Starter #1
Hello.
We adopted a 1 year old lab/hound mix about 2 weeks ago. She is a good girl overall, but does have fears/anxieties towards other dogs. She will bark as soon as she hears or sees them. Today for example, she heard a dog through a bedroom window (the dog wasn't even barking, just walking by) and she started barking and barking and barking.

We started training with a private trainer this week and brought up this issue. He said that we need to get her attention in that moment and have her watch us for direction. This makes sense in theory lol. We have been working on a focus exercise, watch me, which she is good at when not distracted by dogs.

So, I'm wondering- until she has mastered the "watch me" and can/will look at us during a moment of anxiety/distraction for her (always with other dogs), what should we do to break her out of that moment? Do we ignore the barking, tell her quiet, remove her, time out her? I just need some direction. Thanks!
 

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Hopefully someone will be able to speak with actual personal experience, but from the reading I've been doing, it sounds like one of the best ways to deal with this is actually to teach the dog to bark on command so that you can then also teach them to be quiet on command.

Excessive Barking | Dog Star Daily

Unfortunately, I have no personal experience, so hopefully someone else who does can speak up. Good luck! <3
 
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Hello.
We adopted a 1 year old lab/hound mix about 2 weeks ago. She is a good girl overall, but does have fears/anxieties towards other dogs. She will bark as soon as she hears or sees them. Today for example, she heard a dog through a bedroom window (the dog wasn't even barking, just walking by) and she started barking and barking and barking.

We started training with a private trainer this week and brought up this issue. He said that we need to get her attention in that moment and have her watch us for direction. This makes sense in theory lol. We have been working on a focus exercise, watch me, which she is good at when not distracted by dogs.

So, I'm wondering- until she has mastered the "watch me" and can/will look at us during a moment of anxiety/distraction for her (always with other dogs), what should we do to break her out of that moment? Do we ignore the barking, tell her quiet, remove her, time out her? I just need some direction. Thanks!
Teaching her to bark won't help because she's reactive.

Until you've mastered the watch me command, you need to remove her from the situation/avoid the situation. Really, once a reactive dog is barking, there's no point in trying anything at all. They're over threshold and not thinking or even capable of thinking at that point. You just get them away from the stressor, let them calm down and try again later.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
@amaryllis- I think you are right about not teaching her to bark. I thought that too, but then I researched it and it just doesn't seem like the right option for a reactive dog. She's reacting out of fear.

I appreciate your feedback. Today was hard because she heard a dog outside the window and that set her off (the window was closed). When that happens I get frustrated (I dont get mad at her at all) and I try the watch me technique but she's not there yet. It's only been 12 days- so I hope it will come in time!
 

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I've had a lot of success with Look at that (LAT) training. Basically I have my dog look at what she would normally react to and immediately give her a treat. This way she builds confidence and learns that she can look at something and it doesn't have to be barked at, that I've got this.
 
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@amaryllis- I think you are right about not teaching her to bark. I thought that too, but then I researched it and it just doesn't seem like the right option for a reactive dog. She's reacting out of fear.

I appreciate your feedback. Today was hard because she heard a dog outside the window and that set her off (the window was closed). When that happens I get frustrated (I dont get mad at her at all) and I try the watch me technique but she's not there yet. It's only been 12 days- so I hope it will come in time!
It is hard and it does take time, but you will get there. I promise.

I use watch me for my dog to keep him from tearing my arm off when he sees squirrels (rabbits, birds, cats, deer). It took about 2 months doing it every day, but now he looks at me as soon as he sees a squirrel. It's become automatic. I make sure to give him a treat randomly for doing so to reinforce the reaction.
 

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My dog is fearful/reactive, too. He used to bark at everything that went past our door, come running out from the bedroom all concerned, and be very hard to settle down. So we started acknowledging his 'warning', going to the door or window to check it out and then saying "oh it's just ____, no problem. Thank you for letting us know". (They don't understand the words, but do get the general gist of it). Over the course of a few weeks, his learned to watch us and would quiet down as soon as we headed to check out the situation. Now, when he barks, we can yell from the other room "Thank you", and he'll stop barking, and come out of the bedroom for pets/praise, then quietly return to his nap/guard duty. We don't want to eliminate the barking altogether, because there are some individuals around who'll take things from the front yard, so the system works pretty well.

Not saying it'll solve your problem, but it may help. Dogs believe their job is to alert the family when things aren't right, so acknowledging that might help reduce his anxiety. That, and being there longer so that he becomes familiar with the usual goings-on of the neighborhood will also help.
 

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I've had very good luck with acknowledging the reason for barking, then saying "okay, that's enough" and distracting with a toy. If she is not over threshold already, that might work well for you.

Since she is rather new to your situation, try and cut out any visual and/or auditory cues that another dog could be around. This will bring her overall stress level down, bring the stress hormones down, and make it easier to work with her. You could do this by blocking the lower part of windows, keeping her away from large windows, playing music or the TV softly, etc...anything that would cover up the stimulus. If she is going off, remove her to another room, away from the stimulus. And of course never scold her for that even if it is frustrating.

It will be best to work with he on "Look at that" and other counter-conditioning exercises in a controlled situation, usually outside, where you can gradually decrease the distance from the other dog. Your trainer should be able to help you set that up. Until she is more comfortable, inside the house is going to be a hard place to work on that, with dogs going by close outside.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, we are going into week 4 of having Kinzie and dealing with her reactivity/barking. Not a ton of progress has been made, but some small successes. Her barking in the house is still happening when she hears a dog outside or walk by- it's very difficult at this point to break her out of that moment and have her direct her focus on me or something else.

I have done some counter conditioning with her- rewarding her with treats/praise when she hears a dog and doesn't react. Not sure how much she is changing her connection with dogs from fear to treats/praise, but I guess this will take time.

Backyard time is hit or miss. When its calm and quiet out, so obviously does fine. We live in a busy neighborhood though- so noises from children, lawn mowers, BBQs, people, etc are always happening. She struggles to feel "safe" when it's so noisy. She will be in a very high alert stance/pose during these times and as soon as a dog barks in the distance, she's barking loudly back and getting overwhelmed.

We will continue to work with her through training, etc, but I'm wondering if some of this reactivity will diminish or lessen as she begins to settle and feel more safe in her backyard?
 

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Teaching other behaviors doesn't change how she feels about other dogs. Your goal should be creating what's called a positive conditioned emotional response (+CER). I'd use classical counter conditioning and desensitization. This means keeping your dog far enough away from other dogs so she doesn't react.

When she sees the other dog, you feed high value food bits. Choose something she really loves and reserve them for this purpose. As long as the other dog is in sight, continue to feed small bites. You want a high rate of reinforcement. Don't be stingy. When the other dog is no longer in sight, stop feeding and leave.

This type of behavior modification is best done in controlled sessions. Try to have your dog positioned so that the other dog is not coming straight at her. Keeping your dog under her threshold (no barking, lunging, reaction) is important. Make sure she is associating the food with the dog. Don't crinkle the bag or container that holds the food or she may associate that sound with the delivery of the food. One session a day is plenty.

Trigger stacking happens. This is when a dog is exposed repeatedly to whatever she's reactive to. If you've had one good session, quit while you're ahead. Letting a dog repeat reactive behavior reinforces that behavior.

The goal is not to distract your dog. Change how she feels. Emotion drives behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with teaching a dog to focus on you but it's rarely effective for dogs that are reactive, as you've described your dog. Imagine that you are terrified of spiders. Your asked to focus on the person holding your hand while you're in a room full of spiders. Not happening. You're going to be on high alert, scanning for the spider that's ready to pounce on you. You can't think rationally at that time. You're going to be doing everything in your power to keep the spiders from getting you, regardless of how irrational that may be. It's no different for dogs. We can't explain to our dogs that the other dog means them no harm or so we all hope. Dogs that are barking and lunging are doing what's referred to as distance increasing behaviors. They want to keep that dog away from them.

This is a good site with a detailed explanation and plan. Many dogs, including my own, have made huge progress using this protocol. Care for Reactive Dogs
 

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It will definitely get better over time. It did take my dog a very long time to get used to the 'neighborhood' noises, over a year. And, four years later, he won't even bark if I'm in the bedroom with him, and Tara barks out in the living room. He alerts and listens, but if I tell him it's ok, he stays quiet. This might seem like a very long time, but keep in mind that my dog is EXTREMELY wary, and I very much doubt the average dog would take nearly as long.

Even after he was ok in the house, if he was out in the yard, he'd bark and we'd have trouble distracting him/calming him down. What really helped us was to put up a fence that really blocked his vision from what was happening outside the yard. He'll still bark if he hears something going on out there, but much less and if he's engrossed in something like training, he doesn't even notice.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Thank you @Grabby and @Dia for your advice!

I have been doing the high reward treat thing with her when she hears dogs from inside the house or when we are in the backyard. We are having some success with this (we just started it this week). She is also able to regain focus on us more now, which is encouraging. If we catch her before the bark, we are able to calm her quicker.

The other day, the neighbors dog came out and after barking like crazy for a minute, she stopped. I was standing next to her and was just telling her it's okay and saying "It's just Toby" (the neighbors dog). The neighbors dog continued to bark and Kinzie didn't! I will count that as a great first step in helping her overcome her fear of other dogs.
 
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