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u/MicroCuts · 6 pointsr/reactivedogs

Hey there!

First of all I'd recommend to schedule a session with a dog trainer who deals with reactive dogs on a regular basis. I went for an exercise walk with mine to analyze behavior, and she really was a huge help.

Also the /r/dogtraining wiki has a page about reactivity which I found quite helpful.


I'll try to provide some input on your particular situation from my own personal experience with a reactive dog (taking care of a 4y old reactive Border Collie myself now since about a month):

>Then I tried distracting him with treats. But hes so focused on the other dogs that it doesn't matter.

When Opie is in his reactive state it's probably best to remove him from the situation (emergency u-turn, etc.). If he calms down after increasing distance, you can turn it into a learning opportunity by following the CARE protocol.

>So I guess I'm just asking for advice on how to handle him correctly in those situations where I cant avoid running into other dogs. And should I even be trying to avoid them? Or is exposure good with the right training from me? What training is the right training?

Try to avoid situations that trigger Opie, IMHO it's only stressful for the dog and he won't learn anything when he's spaced out barking. Exposure is good as long as he is not reactive and you're in control. For training sessions, you'll probably need an assistant and another dog that triggers Opie's behavior. Then follow the steps outlined in the CARE protocol, also explained in this video. You should (hopefully) slowly be able to gradually reduce the distance where Opie gets triggered by other dogs.


Things that helped me get started:

  • Use high value treats (freeze-dried liver, 100% lamb, etc.) to reward non-reactive behavior
  • Use a clicker (to give a consistent reward marker which you'll need a lot of)
  • Train LAT: Video guide
  • Look into other relaxation methods like this, this
  • Choose your routes for walks very carefully so you're one step ahead of Opie (aware of your surroundings) and always have an exit strategy
  • Find a place where dogs are commonly walked where you can position yourself safely at a distance. You can use this spot as your training location
  • Read into common dog behavior, sth. like Decoding your Dog

    Hope it helps! I'm just getting started with my own reactive dog journey so it would be great to hear what others have to say =)
u/CountingSatellites · 2 pointsr/reactivedogs

Try to keep enough distance between your dog and others so that yours doesn’t go over threshold and react.

Always have treats that can get and keep your dogs attention.

Work on counterconditioning and desensitization in planned controlled environments. Work at a far enough distance from other dogs that your dog notices them but isn’t upset or super focused. The moment he looks at another dog, say yes! and treat with something really good, like real chicken. You will need lots of treats (be sure to cut back meals appropriately). Your goal is to change his perception from fear to “yay!l

When you see other dogs you can also play the engage/disengage game. Make sure your dog knows a look/watch cue first and that you practice it at increasing distraction levels. See other dog>give look cue> yummy treat, rinse and repeat.

There is so much more you can use to help your dog, it could fill a book. In fact, I really recommend the book Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash Reactive Dog - Written by well-renowned behaviorist Patricia McConnell, who has lots of experience dealing with reactivity. I call it the Reactive Dog Manual.

I would also really recommend consulting with a behaviorist or taking a class specifically geared towards reactive dogs. The best thing about these classes is having someone experienced giving you feedback on your technique and timing. Timing really is everything in dog training.

u/Pseudaelurus · 3 pointsr/reactivedogs

Her theory could not be more false! You can totally train with treats and wean off them, but really I don’t see why. If trained correctly you can get fanatic responses without always needing treats. Not just for “tricks”. However, you can use other rewards too like a short game of tug (but this can amp up overly excited dogs more).

Dog park could be ok, but I would go on off times when there are only a few dogs and see how she responds. If it seems like too much, maybe hang out across the parking lot from a pet store or groomers, less action and pretty predictable routes for the dogs.

Edit: As a side thought, the "treat dependency" she's talking about may be more in the line with luring (I still disagree with her whole heartily - all professional training programs and schools use treats/reward based). Luring is showing the treat before the behavior and prompting/leading them into it. This CAN lead to a treat dependency, which is why the cue and behavior should come first, before the treat. Police dogs can be trained with rewards, then perform in the field without or even ignoring treats, so saying that treats always cause dependancy is hogwash.

Check out the wiki for how to find a good trainer, and look for someone who uses positive reinforcement and has some sort of certification (Cpdt-ka,KPA-CTP). Anyone can call themselves a trainer, and I've met so many people who are not qualified. Also get a copy of the book Fired up, frantic and freaked out. Great book, easy to follow and inexpensive.

u/timetobehappy · 6 pointsr/reactivedogs

We have very similar dogs (mine's a chihmutt too, possibly chihminipin). We've had her for 7 months, and she's basically plateauing after the initial training we were able to give her for the reactivity. She also does really well at doggie daycare and adores/trusts all the attendants there. They say she's blossomed and come out of her shell and is more sociable with the other dogs too. She was found on the street, probably dumped with her leash and harness still on. She's also on clomicalm and previously dog prozac. Both of which have worked a little but nothing dramatically different.

Not sure what specific training you got, but here are the big things that made the most impact for us.

  • on walks, lots of counter conditioning along with 'look at me' (basically lots of high value treat dropping when seeing dogs and strangers). Her threshold used to be ~50 yards before going nuts but now she's a good 8-10 feet. It's so hard to see the progress you've made because the impact of their negative behavior can be so stressful. I feel you!
  • managed introductions: so not just letting new people come in the house without meeting them outside first (with high value treat dropping as soon as we meet strangers). She normally barks a little but as soon as doggy meatballs or people food drop she starts eating them. People are always instructed to ignore, ignore and ignore. We walk for a few minutes around the block and then when we get in the house she's much more calm. Still NO petting or staring/attention from friends in the house. Basically, she's treated like a cat, with attention only on her terms. While they're in the house, lots and lots of treats dropping every 30 seconds (nobody hand feeds either, just dropping snacks to the ground). She hates it when people put hands out for sniffing for whatever reason, so people don't do it either. It's really the most helpful for people to completely ignore her until she decides she wants to sniff or ask for attention. After ~20-30 min, she's usually begging for attention (they can't pick her up, but she finally asks for some scratches). This method has been absolutely, positively fantastic. We've had several couples over and a dinner party of 6 people. I'm guessing your dog never got to meet strangers either :(


    Books/podcasts/websites that I recommend:

  • On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals. I felt like this book opened my eyes to how dogs talk to each other. Now I can look at her, identify her body language and intent AND see what other dogs are thinking/feeling based on their body language. It's a simple, yet super helpful book.
  • Feisty Fido. Not sure why your trainer suggested a stroller, but that seems really strange. This book was excellent for managing our walks a bit better as well.
  • Youtube Channel: Kaelin Munkelwitz Trainer. She films her client visits so you can see what she's doing with the dog in real time.
  • Youtube Channel: Sophia Yin. (rip). She's well known in the training world and is so amazing with the dogs she trains on her channel.

    We struggle with her every day, just like you and I know exactly how you feel. There's no going back with her.

    At least your dog can be crated while you're gone. Ours has separation/isolation anxiety and is overly attached to my husband as well. So even when I'm here, she doesn't care so much because he's not. We've barely left our house because we haven't been able to find evening sitters :( We're almost $500/ month on doggie daycare so we can go do things during the day when I'm off of work. It's been a slow, uphill climb.

    Hang in there, you're an amazing dog parent and he's so lucky to have both of you!
u/peanutbuddy · 1 pointr/reactivedogs
  • Harness - I use the Freedom Harness. I find it more secure than the Easy Walk and I love the option of clipping the leash in the front or back, or both. We use this for walks where we're not likely to see other dogs and when May plays on her long lead.
  • Head Halter - After trying and rejecting the Gentle Leader and Perfect Pace, we're now using the Halti. It fits better and has more padding than the others. May tolerates it.
  • Leashes - I use just a plain rope leash with a traffic loop. I tied knots along the length of the leash so I can easily shorten the length. I also have a double ended leash to use with the two clips of the Freedom Harness, but I don't use it that often.
  • Hands Free Waist Leash - I have two hands free bungee leashes from Ruffwear, a shorter one and a longer one. I love them both!
  • Long lead - I have this nylon one, it's smooth and easy on the hands. But it gets funky and gross when wet.
  • Clicker - I have so many clickers but this is my favorite one. I hook it on a wrist strap so I don't drop it when I'm out walking.
  • Treat Pouch - Somehow I have three treat pouches. This is the one I use most often. It's small but holds a lot, so I can grab treats easily and it doesn't get in the way. A tug on the drawstring keeps the bag closed. To clean it just it turn it inside out to wipe down it.
u/nicedoglady · 1 pointr/reactivedogs

There are over the counter supplements and products you can try that may help such as: adaptil, calming care probiotic, zylkene, solliquin (l-theanine). They can help take the edge off for some anxious, stressed out, or freaked out dogs but they aren't true behavior medications.

When was the last time that the vet was consulted about medications? Does the vet know the real extent of these behaviors or were they downplayed a bit? At the end of the day, vets are not behavioral experts. I would recommend seeking out different opinions with a vet with behavioral knowledge and experience, or consult a veterinary behaviorist because its unfair to the cats, to you and your partner, and the dog to have this sort of stress in your day to day. If you want to pursue medication options, a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist is a vet who has gone through additional behavior residency and has the best range of knowledge to prescribe, combine, taper on/off and transition medications.

The alpha thing is bunk nonsense in dog-human relationships. When you try to 'correct' her or try to get her to listen she's most likely just afraid and nervous and not as familiar with you, so she is running to the person she finds most comforting and trusts more. What region are you in? Perhaps there is a trainer or resource we can recommend to help.

I also read in your comments that you work from home and are therefore with her all the time - I'm betting that this is really, really exacerbating things. Its hard to work, relax, chill, have a good relationship with a dog that is putting you on edge all day and night! Have you explained this to your partner? Does he truly realize how challenging and exhausting this can be? I went through the same thing when we first adopted our dog because I was freelancing from home and with her 24/7 for nearly a year. It drove me bonkers and I was on edge - turned me into a reactive human! I recommend just taking a step back and finding an activity you and the dog enjoy doing together and spend some silly quality time with her. Could be blowing bubbles, cuddling, playing with some toy, making dumb noises, whatever.

And lastly - this is a really good, short read on Resource Guarding, which seems to be one of the primary issues you are dealing with. It is one of the most highly regarded resources on this issue so I would strongly recommend giving it a read!

u/AZSouthsideGirl · 4 pointsr/reactivedogs

Oh, how we feel your pain! This sub will be your lifesaver--it's been mine. Here's a great place to start:

Also, check out YouTube videos by Dr. Sophia Yin and Patricia McConnell. McConnell has a great booklet on reactive dogs, and you can get it pretty cheap used.

We've also had good success with Feisty Fido and Reactive Rover classes, which were pretty inexpensive through our Animal Welfare League and Humane Society. My girl is making slow but real progress. She still reacts but she calms down much faster, and my hope is that reaction/calming time will shorten and eventually the reactions will fade away.

The people on this sub are awesome and full of support and ideas. Good luck on your journey!

u/AlpineSummit · 6 pointsr/reactivedogs

I'm by no means an expert - and I think that the behaviorist you are seeing is a great start. We did that with my pup, and while expensive, was worth every cent!

My Catahoula sounds similar to your dogs. She reacts to every dog we see on walks, sometimes people too. And there has been a few times she has been in fights with other dogs that were in her territory.

First, I would recommend getting a break stick to keep near by if you do get to the point of introducing to a new dog. Pit Bulls and other dogs tend to clamp down and not open their jaws for anything. The break stick helps you to "twist" their jaw open from the back. The ear injury is pretty common in these types of fights, especially if people are trying to pull dogs apart. I unfortunately have experience in that just like you.

Second look into Behavior Adjustment Training. It has really helped our dog. Positive reinforcement and redirection have worked wonders too. Learn how to best get your dog to redirect their attention to you- or know how to do a quick "u-turn" on a walk to avoid a potentially bad situation. Are your dogs treat motivated? Find the most delicious treat you can and always be sure to have it with you on walks! I use string cheese, personally.

We have semi-successfully introduced our dog to new dogs. We always start at a neutral place, like an empty dog park or empty tennis courts and keep the dogs on leash. Then we walk around our neighborhood together and finally into our back yard if all has gone well. But I usually always keep my dog's harness on and won't leave them unsupervised. There's always lots of treats, praise and monitoring my dog for her "warning signs" such as acting extra protective of me or stealing the toy from the other dog.

Finally, you're not alone in your anxiety. It's taken me a long time to feel comfortable and confident walking our dog and sometimes we'll have an encounter that brings all the anxiety back. Don't just train your dog but work on training yourself too. The more confident you feel the more success you will have.

Good luck and keep coming here for support!

u/winning-colors · 2 pointsr/reactivedogs

I treat my dog whenever we encounter another dog, but we're at the beginning of our training (just rescued him in May; got behaviorist last month). We avoid other dogs too. He does have a [Ruff Wear No Pull Harness] ( which makes it a lot easier and I don't worry about choking him. He's also not a big dog (beagle-lab mix; about 30-35lbs depending on how many treats he's had!), but he is very food motivated. We work on sit & "look at me" when there are no dogs around (when walking off peak times) and I give him a training treat instead of a high value treat. I do second someone else's comment about muzzle training because it will give you peace of mind.

ETA: Apollo is adorable! He looks like a cuddly guy :)

u/sydbobyd · 2 pointsr/reactivedogs

Well one of the things I liked about this harness was that it has two easy attachments on the back that are padded. So that I wouldn't have to put her leg through anything (because that wouldn't go over well), only have to attach in two places (instead of three or four like some harnesses), and I could clip it relatively easily without worrying about catching any fur. It's simple to put on. So my dog wasn't fully okay with it, but with some delicious encouragement I think I can get her comfortable with it quicker and easier than many other harnesses. I imagine it depends a bit on exactly what about harnesses your dog is fearful of. This one also has the advantage of having both a front and back loop to clip the leash depending on what I want in the moment.

I got it off amazon, it's the Ruffwear Front Range harness.

u/turnipfairymagic · 1 pointr/reactivedogs

Have you looked into a training class? There are many trainers that have classes on mannered walking. Look into positive reinforcement trainers!

Basically you'll want to stop/even turn around every time your dog pulls. Reward the dog for walking next to you. It doesn't take long for them to realize what you want. Read more about loose lead walking.

Equipment is very important -- we use an Easy Walk Harness (you only want front clip harnesses! Back clip harnesses make pulling worse). Also purchase a Matingale Collar. The most secure you can be is to clip the front clip of the harness to the loop of the martingale collar.

Another alternative is to use a Head Halter (halti or gentle leader). When the dog pulls forward the equipment redirects their head so they'll basically turn back.

Harnesses and head halters are the most humane methods you can use. They'll give you added control until the training piece catches up!


Best of luck!

u/efletch · 2 pointsr/reactivedogs

Sorry you had a rough weekend. Two things that stand out from you post is that your dog is overaroused outside and has resource guarding issues.

Resource guarding is pretty common, dogs either guard from humans or other dogs or both. Dogs can guard food, toys, spaces (bed, couch etc), people and more. Since it is so common there are a lot of resources out there. Start with the book Mine! to learn about resource guarding and how train it.

As for the overarousal outside I recommend the Relaxation Protocol. It is amazing! Here is a writeup about what it is and some mp3 files that talk you through the process. Start inside your house and then slowly work you way outside (backyard or low distraction area first).

Working with a trainer is a great idea. Make sure they've worked with these issues before. There are plenty of good trainers who can teach a dog to sit or come but don't have experience with behavioral issues. How may resource guarding clients have they had? What was the outcome? Would they be ok with you contacting a previous client who had resource guarding issues as a referral? It is great that you recognize there is a problem and you're willing to work it. It is not too late to start training and helping Maya :)

u/gladhunden · 2 pointsr/reactivedogs

I foster scared and reactive dogs for my local rescue. I've found four resources that I love so much, they have become my foundation for every dog, whether they have behavioral issues or not: 

1.) (Free) CARE for Reactive Dogs -  

2.) Grisha Stewart's Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) -

3.) (free) Relaxation Protocol -

4.) Karen Pryor's Click to Calm -

And if you're looking for a qualified behavior consultant/trainer to help more hands-on, I highly recommend checking out

u/lzsmith · 2 pointsr/reactivedogs

Isolation can do that, but especially if it's combined with occasional unpleasant interactions with other dogs. If he's usually alone except for occasionally seeing other dogs and feeling super threatened by them, then over time he'll feel worse and worse about other dogs. For example, say he never meets other dogs, but barks defensively at them when he sees them out the window. Every time he sees a dog he feels bad (scared, threatened, defensive, frustrated, etc).

On the other hand, if he's isolated from other animals a lot but every time he sees dogs he feels safe and has fun (e.g. he plays games with you, he forms social bonds with them, you praise and give him treats, etc), that's way less likely to result in any sort of reactivity issue.

If he's isolated from other dogs most of the time, then the way to prevent issues is to make sure whatever exposure he does have to other dogs feels safe and positive for him. So, for example, don't leave the blinds open for him to bark at dogs out the window during the day.

If he lived with other dogs previously (and if he got along with them!) then there's a good chance he at least understands some doggie body language, which is a good start. He might not have good meet and greet skills with strangers but once he becomes acquainted and is used to the other dog you might see a different side of him. It's also possible that he's leash frustrated, meaning he would naturally be tolerant but he's so frustrated by the leash repeatedly preventing him from sniffing the other dog, and forcing him to see other dogs head-on, that he displays the frustration with barking and lunging.

I'd avoid dog parks entirely. They tend to create more aggression and social issues than they solve. Dog parks tend to be crowded and the dogs in them tend to be rude, pushy, and over-excited, which would make your dog feel overwhelmed. It's a bit like trying to practice eye contact and handshakes in a mosh pit at a punk rock concert. Not the right environment.

Can he be near other dogs (like 15 feet away), if nobody is approaching him, staring at him, or threatening him? If so, a fun group obedience class or a meetup group for group hikes/walks might work well to let him be near other dogs occasionally without feeling threatened. That's a nice way to get him practice behaving politely around other dogs that doesn't require you to bring friends home to socialize.

If you decide to let him meet other dogs on leash, don't let them approach each other directly nose to nose. Instead, try taking them for a walk together. Parallel walking together in the same direction is good (even if the dogs aren't very close to one another at first). Walking toward each other nose-to-nose is bad, because that approach is very threatening to dogs.

If you think he can't even be near other dogs without freaking out, then get a trainer to help you introduce him systematically. There are entire training methods (like BAT 2.0) devoted to helping dogs meet dogs/people non-confrontationally.

In general, keep in mind that leash tension will probably make things worse. Try to practice getting him to walk near you (use treats and practice indoors first!) so he doesn't feel leash tension so much during the walk. Use extra treats to keep him with you when you pass other dogs. Most dog trainers will coach you to relax your arm and hold the leash a specific way--there are all sorts of theories and opinions, but one commonality is almost all of them have the leash hang loose when the dog is near you behaving nicely. That's one thing you can focus on on your own, that won't hurt and might help a lot.

If you decide to get a trainer to help, this sub has a wiki page on how to choose. Dog training in most countries requires no certification, so anybody can call himself a "dog trainer" and take your money. It's important to do your own research and find a trainer you like and trust--always arrange to observe his/her sessions with other dogs before deciding.

u/AutoModerator · 1 pointr/reactivedogs

Looks like you may have used a training acronym. For those unfamiliar, here's some of the common ones:

BAT is Behavior Adjustment Training - a method from Grisha Stewart that involves allowing the dog to investigate the trigger on their own terms. There's a book on it.

CC is Counter Conditioning - creating a positive association with something by rewarding when your dog sees something. Think Pavlov.

DS is Desensitization - similar to counter conditioning in that you expose your dog to the trigger (while your dog is under threshold) so they can get used to it.

LAD is Look and Dismiss - Marking and rewarding when your dog sees a trigger and dismisses it.

LAT is Look at That - Marking and rewarding when your dog sees a trigger and does not react.

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