View Full Version : Dog Reactance

Daisy's Mom
20th February 2008, 02:52 PM
As I've posted in the Showing and Training area a few weeks ago, Daisy and I are doing Intermediate Obedience right now. The graduation test is the Canine Good Citizen award test. A lot of it has to do with having your dog completely under control amidst distractions, including other dogs. This is Daisy's Achilles Heel, so I don't expect to pass. That's OK with me. The trainer said very few dogs pass on the first try anyway. I'm mainly taking the course to try to get Daisy past some of her dog reactance. She's very good around people of all shapes, sizes, colors, etc. But she is crazy on the leash around other dogs.

The teacher has turned out to be very good. I had posted once that she kind of yelled at me about Daisy's behavior around other dogs. But now she understands that I am completely aware of how dangerous and annoying it is, so she's much more empathetic and helpful about it. She has never mentioned a choke collar, and she has specifically said that leash corrections don't work, etc. So I think she is a really good trainer.

She said I have to "train around" this problem instead of avoiding situations with other dogs, as I am doing now. She talked to me about a half an hour after class giving me ideas on what I can try with Daisy. She said she has a Border Collie who had the same problem who she finally managed to train so that he can now be walked anywhere. She said the first Obedience course he was in, it took her 6 weeks to actually get inside the building because he was so nuts with the other dogs in the parking lot! That's patience!

I have to admit that Daisy doesn't get walked as much as she should because of her behavior whenever another dog is near. It's just a matter of time until she acts stupid around the wrong dog and she's going to get hurt. My dream is to be able to take her on a walk in public without her going crazy every time we pass another dog. Actually, If I am able to let her approach and make contact with the other dog, she is MUCH better. She hunkers down and does the sniffing/tail wagging thing like a normal dog. But very few owners are going to let a snarling, barking, lunging dog approach their dog -- I know I wouldn't!

The trainer has commented several times about how Daisy could be very good in competitive obedience if she didn't have this dog reactance. She is awesome at heeling, basic commands, etc. As the teacher says "When she's on, she's on." She's a rock at staying and heeling, rarely taking her eyes off of me. And when she does, she just rolls her big eyes over at the other dog and then back to me, never moving.

My question for you all is: Do you think Daisy could get over some of this more easily if we got another dog? Would she get used to being around other dogs and it wouldn't be such a big deal to her anymore? She is fine with other dogs off leash once she gets past that initial over-excitement. Or at least she was with my brother's shih tzu at Christmas. We also fostered 2 rescue Cavaliers right before Christmas, and she was very good with them, too. She was kind of pushy at first (no aggression at all, just over-interest), but within a very short time, she just let them be. They weren't interested in her at all -- they only had eyes for each other. In fact, they are up for adoption on Lucky Star right now and the Lucky Star people have decided that they have to be placed together because they are so bonded. (Rose and Cody -- my kids named them. :))

I sometimes think that if we had another friendly, playful dog that she could chase around with, that maybe she would do better around strange dogs. Maybe I'm just wishful thinking because I'd dearly love to get another Cavalier. I'd like to get the opinions of other multi-dog households, especially if any of your dogs have had issues with other dogs.

Sorry so long! I guess I'm very wrapped up in this issue right now! I would do anything for Daisy and we have to find a way to get over this problem! It's gone from just basic over-excitement when she was a puppy, to complete mania now.

20th February 2008, 03:22 PM
I'm no expert but I wouldn't avoid the walks. I think she may get over excited as she isn't out often. Dylan pulls more if he has missed some walks when I'm not well. They do get over excited. Do you react when you see a dog coming? Maybe your tension can trigger her reaction. If you try to relax maybe it will help a bit, worth a try?

Daisy's Mom
20th February 2008, 03:53 PM
I probably do tense up. I try not to, but whenever she goes on "dog alert," it's very hard not to.

One reason I signed up for this next Obedience course was that I was hoping to desensitize her somewhat by being so near to so many other dogs. I hope it helps. I'm committed to making this all work, so I definitely am going to go back to our walks. I think you're right about that.

She has the same problem with cars, and I've begun making her sit and "watch me" whenever I hear or see a car approaching. It works most of the time if I get the timing just right. As you can probably tell, she is a handful on a walk, even in a very quiet neighborhood! It's definitely a good workout for my patience and serenity! (Serenity Now! Serenity Now! Any Seinfeld fans out there? ;))

Thanks for your suggestions!

20th February 2008, 04:01 PM
You are already on the right path going by the above post. :) Yes you can train around this and it may actually be the leash that helps contribute. I'm curious why your trainer doesn;t give you some ways of approaching this? Basically you deal with it by making dogs in the vicinity be a good thing rather than bad thing -- you reward with food. You also need to work with her on look commands and sit commands, so that she is rivetted on YOU and given something she has to do, not on the distraction (other dog).

It is easiest to deal with this with a trainer in a regular obedience class where interactions with dogs and distances to them can be easily controlled. Tara and Lisa regularly have dogs like this as part of their normal obedience classes at Dog Training Ireland.

If you don't have a trainer who works with these issues, look for an APDT certified trainer (www.apdt.com) as these use rewards methods -- or should.

See: http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/onleashreactive.html

Barbara Nixon
20th February 2008, 04:02 PM
I've had aweful behavioural probelms with Teddy and these are 99% sorted in the house, but he is unpredictable outside, especially around balck dogs.

I took him to PaH , last week and he wanted to tangle with a rottie and a noisy cross breed pup, in the incapable hands of a young child, so I bought a packet of treats and spent half an hour using them to get him to pay attention to me and gradually moving closer to dogs in the store.

We got to within about 10 metres, with good attention, then we'd had enough, so I'll try again shortly. Good dog 'looking at me' get's treats but the dog who looks away, gets a reminder to 'Look at me. I've got treats'.

Daisy's Mom
20th February 2008, 08:14 PM
The trainer did give me some ideas to try in our conversation after class. Her main suggestion is to introduce clicker training and click (and treat) whenever her attention is on me in the presence of another dog. (Very much like the link you put in your message recommended, Karlin) And to walk Daisy away from whatever she is lunging toward. Goodness knows we have already been working on that for a while with walks and during class. Whenever she pulls me, I stop or go the opposite direction. That's another reason we haven't been going on real "walks." We generally get about 10-20 yards from the house before both she and I are completely sick of me stopping and moving the opposite direction about 150 times. We literally get nowhere on the leash now. So unless I give in and let her pull me, we don't really "walk" in the regular sense at all. And I know giving in is the worst thing to do, so we just go in the driveway and the street in front of our house and go back and forth about a million times as she pulls and I stop, she pulls, and I go the other direction. I'm sure the neighbors think I am insane.

I try not to let her pull me from the car into the obedience class, and I make her sit outside the door before I will open it, but sometimes, I just have to get someplace with her, you know? I'm telling you, she is a constant challenge whenever she is on her leash. For many different reasons! I have never seen anything like it. I've had 5 dogs in my life, and she is both the best and the worst, behaviorally! Maybe God sent Daisy to me to teach me patience.

The trainer also said that with her Border Collie, certain things are just (as she puts it) "inexcusable." Lunging at other dogs is one of them, and whenever he would do it, she would march him off and put him in a sit away from the action and actually say "Inexcusable!" She said she saved this word only for the most heinous crimes, things that could get him into big trouble. She told me that after she finally was able to go into the building with him after several weeks of class, she spent most of the time with him back in the corner in time-out. So it sounds like she's very patient and persistent! I hope Daisy and I get to the point some day where we can look back at all this and laugh!

Wish us luck! We need it. If I ever get another puppy, I will never, ever, ever move one foot forward if they pull on the leash, from Day 1 at 10 weeks old. I did a lot of reading about getting puppies used to the leash, and so I tried to be "kind" to Daisy when she was a young puppy and make sure she was comfortable being on leash and liked walks, etc. I let her pull the leash around in the house, I made sure I never pulled (i.e., she didn't pull) so I wouldn't hurt her neck, etc. Wrong, wrong, wrong. She definitely learned the wrong thing. With some dogs, that might work, but with her, the message was "Zoom and mom will follow! The harder I pull, the faster we get to go!"

Scouty girl
21st February 2008, 03:37 PM
I have the same problem with Scout. We were walking the other day and a neighbor was walking her dog. Both dogs were on leashes. Scout acted as if she was going to attack the dog and kill it. She lunged at it barking and pulling. I sat her down and tried to calm her. I didn't like it at all.

The very next day we were walking again and a neighbor's Golden came bounding out of the yard, very non-threatening and came right over. Scout's tail went between her legs and they sniffed each other, very friendly. Scout already has a big sister, so I'm not sure if the 2nd dog theory will work. I think maybe she's just scared being confined on a leash and seeing a strange dog. Who knows.

Oh she used to lunge at cars too, but she's stopped that. Thank God.

Daisy's Mom
21st February 2008, 03:51 PM
Well, at least I'm not alone! It's great to hear that Scout has stopped lunging at cars. We are working on that, too!

Although we have kicked around the idea of getting a 2nd Cavalier, I think we will put that on hold for a while, at least until we get Daisy showing more manners on a leash. She's great indoors and off-leash, but she would run right under the wheels of any oncoming car or truck if she ever escaped outside of our fence. It scares me to death. She seems to think cars are prey, dogs are prey, rabbits are prey, the soccer ball is prey....

21st February 2008, 04:36 PM
I have the exact same problem with Harvey - when he see's another dog even if its right across the other side of the road he barks like mad like he's going to attack - I have tried taking him up to the other dogs and i have tried irgnoring the other dogs and walking by quickly as if there is no issue and i have tried treats, but nothing so far has worked. I do find it embarassing as the other owners look at you strange and i was once stood in the street chatting to a friend when another dog came by - Harvey went mad as normal, it became so difficult to chat that i had to cut my conversation short, appologise and walk away to stop the commotion.

I have noticed that this seems to be a lead/leash problem though - if we come across another dog while out on a walk and Harvey is not on the lead he acts like he wants to play rather than fight!!

Problem is that it is not that often that i am somewhere that he can be off lead!

We have other cavaliers at home and it doesnt seem to make any different if they are out on a walk together or alone....

Good luck with your training - i do hope that you find a solution - i would be extremely interested to hear how you get on!!!

Sonja x x x

21st February 2008, 06:31 PM
Cavaliers are bred to be fearless and this includes the inability to know they will be squished flat by an oncoming car. All four of mine would happily walk into heavy traffic and it is one of the things I constantly stress to homes taking my rescue cavaliers -- never ever let them off lead near traffic, and never use a Flexi lead on walks near traffic as they so easily drop or unlock and a cavalier will go right in front of a car. You can train any dog to automatically sit and wait for your release before crossing a road, and this is probably a good idea.

On lunging at cars -- the exact same approach of clicking and treating for the dog to look at you, not the car, is the way to go. If people don;t use clickers you can also just treat for the desired behaviour.

I'd totally agree with your trainer's advice and methods. There are no shortcuts -- a well behaved, calm dog is trained to be that way; few are born that way. Many dogs incidentally are reactive on leads and not when off lead. Also they can be reactive to some dogs and not with others. Lily is very reactive but she tends to like male dogs, especially small ones. :rolleyes:

For anyone with a shy or reactive dog, my number one piece of advice is: get your dog enrolled in a good, rewards based obedience class with a supportive trainer! This should be fun and rewarding for both of you. Dogs tend to be shy or reactive because they don't meet enough dogs or didn't meet enough of them when young. A class situation enables controlled mixing with other friendly dogs. Keep in mind there's a difference between a reactive and an aggressive dog -- reactive dogs are fairly common and the situation can be addressed through patient positive training.

On the difficult walks -- I'd recommend the Sense-ible harness for anyone with a dog that constantly pulls or lunges. Tara and Lisa regularly use these with dogs that do either of these things as it makes it hard for them to do either and makes walking a much happier experience for you.