Reactive Dog Questions

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Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Calypso » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:57 am

So I've pretty much accepted that Pixel is some what reactive. He's not scary reactive and I don't fear that he's going to hurt someone or another dog like I was afraid with Beamish, but I can't always predict his reaction when he sees another dog.

Anyway, I don't punish him for his initial reaction to a dog - I try to redirect him as soon as I can and if I can't play our little "Where's your friend?!" game to settle him down, I get him out of the situation.

Sometimes, though, he decides he doesn't want to be redirected and he goes bonzo. If he's on leash, he shrieks and snarls and spins and leaps. He rarely has this kind of reaction when he's off leash, so I've been trying to make sure he has a loose leash and a visible escape route or is behind me when we see another dog.

The last two incidents we've had, Pixel escalated quickly and he didn't respond to our usual routine, and with no apparent reason and I got in his face to let him know this was not appropriate.

I don't want to make things worse by punishing him when he sees another dog, but I'm not punishing his first alert or warning to the other dog - I'm punishing his over the top, inappropriate (to me) reaction. Do you think he will learn the difference, or do I need to try to jolly him past his testosterone fueled rage? Last night I didn't really care because he redirected his fury to a dog he plays nicely with when her housemate (also an intact male) did his usual asshole thing toward Pixel. But today's incident that just kept going and going at a dog beyond a fence could have been handled in a couple of ways, but I went with Wrath of Mom falling on him. Once the dog was gone and I put him down (I had to pick him up or risk falling over him as he spun and shrieked), he went on his walk like his regular self - he didn't even turn back to see if the dog was coming back, unlike Havana who would like to learn how to heel backward so she can keep an eye on all the things.

He did respond to me when I told him to hush his noise - at least for 10-15 seconds which I take as complience in that situation - so I don't know that he was out of his head or so aroused he couldn't focus.

He has been doing so well with reacting to other dogs and disengaging quickly that I haven't had to think about how to handle extended periods of reaction.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:18 pm

Hello there from one reactive dog mom to another...

I hear your struggle, it is so hard sometimes.

What do you do to "punish" him? For some behaviors a loud "No" or "That's enough" seems to work with Ranger, immediately followed by praise if he stops and/or by asking him to "Watch me" or some other desirable command for which he gets praised too, so redirecting.

Of course, this does not always work. If nothing works I try to stand up confident and just get out of the situation. I was once told that if he reacts really badly it is like him being in a burning building. Now, what would I want if I were in a burning building? Someone to take my hand and get me out confidently, not with any hesitation or uncertainty. So that's what I try to do then, tell him we are going and get out of the situation. Believe me, I still struggle regularly with this one as I am the first one to not be confident anymore if he acts like crazy, but I try.

Also, if you are on walks, can you do the "circling" technique, to where you turn and walk the other direction as soon as he starts to become aware of the other dog ask for him to keep watching you and then turn back around and as soon as he looses his focus on you turn again? As soon as he cannot stay in heel position anymore or goes too crazy can you go to the side as far from the other dog as he is comfortable with and then just click and treat for "watch me" or take a ball and play "catch" to keep his focus on you?
That's the other thing that Ranger and I are doing, circling and as soon as he is too tense to stay in heel position go to the side, as for a sit and just repeatedly click treat for watching me and not the other dog, or play catch until the dog is passed.

Those are just some suggestions that were given to me and I still struggle...A LOT. But I am also inpatient and am hard on myself haha.

Also, my trainer told me to remember that we cannot get rid of these behaviors, and we need to accept that, all we can do is try and teach a behavior that is better and that may replace those behaviors at least most of the time because they are more rewarding to the dog, but that also means to work on it constantly...

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby UpwardDog » Fri Jul 25, 2014 1:56 pm

Punishing or correcting when he's over threshold are not helpful and will generally make it worse over time. Getting frustrated with your dog (often when we're embarrassed by their behaviour or feel like it's making us look bad) for being upset can take a toll on your relationship and in their ability to work with you and trust you or defer to you. If you were upset and scared, would someone getting angry with you make you feel better or worse about what triggers you? The cat is outta the bag at that point. Just turn and say whatever his "let's go" cue would be. Help him get to a distance he feels safe. It's not a training moment. He *might* learn not to growl but do you want to take the ticker out of the time bomb or do you want to help him change his underlying emotion about the trigger?
It's not HIS fault he's been put in a situation where he feels overwhelmed. It's your job to keep him under threshold whether it's setting up D&CC or using BAT to put the pennies in the jar once they've been dumped out.
I had trouble not getting irritated and frustrated with tricky sometimes ( 'Oh FFS. you are being %^&*($@ ridiculous' knee jerk reactions) and I now just say to myself "this is her killer bees" --because that's MY irrational fear after watching truly terrifying show about them on discovery channel. It's snaps me out of judging her for how she feels and back to useful dog trainer mode.
But what I needed to do was teach Tricky that she could count on me and I would help her in situations where she was freaked.For her that's dogs too close, dogs coming straight at her, can also be pretty much anything out in the world that comes straight towards her. I taught her to get behind me and move with me as I move so i could be her moving body block and now instead of having to feel the need to bolt or freak out, she will work WITH me. I am also extremely careful to avoid her triggers . It's made an enormous difference in increasing her confidence and situations that used to be awful for her have gotten better and better.. When Trooper came I only had to cue her to get behind once before she would just offer it when she was scared or overwhelmed.

What would you tell/ do with a client? keep records and journal so you can acquire a bitter understanding of his triggers thresholds and see patterns. Break things down and get to work on the specific triggers in watered down versions he can be successful with and build carefully and thoughtfully on his successes and at HIS pace.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Jen » Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:25 pm

When we first had Bella, we did try punishment for "attacking" my dad, and it absolutely made it worse.
It's not a training moment.
This is so key for me. That's what I had to realize too. And there have been plenty of times where I'm trudging in the opposite direction of where we were headed while a tasmanian devil whirls on the end of the leash resisting being pulled in the opposite direction. But it's not a training moment and the only solution is to get out of there fast (or as fast as possible when you are a weakling who weighs just over twice your dog's weight and she's pure drive and muscle :whistle: ).

You do eventually learn when they're about to go over threshold. For me it was an ear twitch. If I saw that twitch, I knew to turn around and get out of dodge even if I didn't see anything worth reacting to.

You have to keep him under threshold as much as possible while you work on changing his attitude toward the world, and you have to leave the situation if he goes over inadvertently (and there will, of course, be those times because you aren't perfect and all you can do is try to fix the moment as best you can).

In your situation, I would have left. It's absolutely not fair that their dog was the instigator, but that's neither here nor there.
he decides he doesn't want to be redirected and he goes bonzo.
I don't think it is deciding he doesn't want to be redirected. I think it's being so close to threshold that he can't be redirected. And you might think, "But he can be redirected in this scenario other times." But maybe he had 4 other things that stressed him that day and this is the straw that broke the camel's back. If he truly enjoys what you're offering - treats, toys, games, etc. - and he's choosing to freak out over a stressor, that's his hind brain kicking in. If he sees another dog and can't be redirected, that's your cue to get out of there.
I haven't had to think about how to handle extended periods of reaction.
In my opinion, you don't handle them. You remove him from the situation.

It's good that you're able to work with him early! I wish I'd known half of what I know now about dog training when we first got Bella.

caveat: I don't know if his reactions are different from my experiences because they are a "testosterone fueled rage," but even so, I would bet that it's the same principle. Convince him that the situation isn't worth raging over just as we convince fearful dogs the situation isn't worth freaking out about.

More stuff:
For some behaviors a loud "No" or "That's enough" seems to work with Ranger,
Yeah, for me, if I caught it early enough, a sharp No or whatever could be a useful interrupter. I don't use No because it sounds negative to me, but it wouldn't have any different association for Bella than the "Hereyougo!" I do use. If she's about to react, I can say, "Hereyougo!!" (all one really fast word) and it's an almost Pavlovian head swivel to me for a treat (kind of like a really reliable recall). Once she's not looking at the trigger, I can ask for behaviors or move in another direction without the full meltdown. But I don't think of that as a punishment.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:59 pm

Jen, I agree, I do not see it as punishment. I usually try a nice approach to getting his attention, excitement, happiness, anything that might usually work, but sometimes the harsher works if he cannot seem to turn his focus away. I mostly use it inside my apartment. I moved to a first floor and while I most of the time have to curtains closed as I face the parking lot, sometimes it is nice to have actual light inside. Ranger barks at every dog that walks by and growls really badly at some, getting super upset. I am working on calling him to me and treating him for coming etc. But I also feel like inside he can learn that "No" or "Leave it" means to keep quiet at the first moment he makes a sound. Like when he used to go for my flipflop to chew on: "No" then redirect. Not working great so far, but I am not sure what else to do aside from just leaving the curtains closed :(

Outside when approaching dogs I usually just do the circling/sitting routine.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:07 pm

Getting frustrated with your dog (often when we're embarrassed by their behaviour or feel like it's making us look bad) for being upset can take a toll on your relationship and in their ability to work with you and trust you or defer to you. If you were upset and scared, would someone getting angry with you make you feel better or worse about what triggers you?
This is THE hardest part though, along with keeping calm and confident. :sad: . I love Ranger, but sometimes it is very tough with him. Plus I am always the one doubting myself, thinking I should have done and do more, I make too many mistakes, maybe if he would have had someone who would have worked with him better he would be better off now (he really started being more reactive in the last couple months, it was less when I first got him; although I do think puberty played a big role too as he will only be 1.5 years in August), and I tend to be embarrased having the misbehaved dog (although I am getting better at just shrugging this off). Anyway, doubt and lack of confidence generally and calmness in extreme situation are my biggest enemies. One day, one day, I have the hope of overcoming this and until then, one step at a time...(at least I am truly learning patience haha)

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Jen » Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:18 pm

But I also feel like inside he can learn that "No" or "Leave it" means to keep quiet at the first moment he makes a sound. Like when he used to go for my flipflop to chew on: "No" then redirect. Not working great so far, but I am not sure what else to do aside from just leaving the curtains closed
He can learn that but not if he gets to practice going over threshold in between training sessions. Curtains closed until he learns. B was not allowed in the room with a front facing window at our first house. At our second house, I set up an expen/blanket crime against decor to block her view. And we vetoed any house with a front facing window in the main living spaces when house hunting this time. Now she hangs out watching the world go by. But it took years of management, lots of specific training, acupuncture, and herbal supplements. :hmm:

Someone else with more experience/knowledge might have gotten the job done in fewer years, but I was definitely in "on the job training" mode. :p

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby maxs_mommy » Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:31 pm

We struggle too. I can't echo enough that once you're over threshold training or even commands don't work. There is so much adrenaline coursing that all you can do is remove yourself until the dog is rational again, which may take a long time. Have you thought about BAT? It's the training Max gets the best results from and may work for Pixel.
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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby UpwardDog » Sat Jul 26, 2014 1:15 am

Window film (looks like etched glass) part way up windows works fabulously well for me. I too love BAT and I think it makes a lot more sense to dogs than straight up D&CC. I swear a though bubble appeared over trick's head that said "finally you understand that sitting and eating a treat does not make me feel safe from threat. finally"

If you do bark --> cue ---> reinforce, you will often get a nice solid behaviour chain of bark-cue-behavior.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:06 am

Ok, stupid question, what is BAT or D&CC?

Jen, unfortunately I live in a college town and one bedrooms which allow dogs are extremely rare. The one I got was the ONLY one which opened up in the time frame that I needed it, I would not voluntarily choose a first floor anyway if I had the choice. I am hoping that now that I am in their system I can go early to tell them that if anything opens up 2nd or 3rd floor and/or towards the back, facing a hill, I want it. But that won't be until Spring.

Also, since I am in an apartment I am not allowed to mess with the windows, etc. So applying anything screen like to prevent his view is impossible. I try to keep the curtains closed, but as it is my ONLY light source for the whole apartment aside from the bedroom window which does nothing to my living room/kitchen, it is hard at times as I am the first person to go crazy sitting without daylight all day...

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby UpwardDog » Sat Jul 26, 2014 2:53 pm

BAT is behaviour adjustment training- name of a protocol.

D&CC is desensitization and counter conditioning.

window film is a sticker basically--easy to pull off all in one piece when you want it gone. I have basically a bay window that is floor to ceiling in my front room. I put "etched glass' window film on so that I can easily see out, but the dogs can't. it's blissful. i can't stand having blinds closed--makes me claustrophobic.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Sat Jul 26, 2014 2:58 pm

Ah ok, was not familiar with the abbreviations.

I will have to look for that. I get claustrophobic too haha so hopefully that'll be the solution. Is etched glass one still letting a lot of light in?


http://www.amazon.com/Etched-Leaf-Windo ... indow+film Do you think this will work or too see through?

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Jen » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:06 pm

I only put window coverings as high as B is tall (and removed places where she could put paws to get higher). :) The windows still let in plenty of light and I could see out of them. Since we were only in that house temporarily, a temporary solution was a sufficient but ugly solution.
I swear a though bubble appeared over trick's head that said "finally you understand that sitting and eating a treat does not make me feel safe from threat. finally"
Bella's thought bubble seemed to be, "What the heck? I can move away from the scary thing? Why didn't you tell me before?!"

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby UpwardDog » Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:10 pm

LOL Jen. All that time Bella bought she was doing her job being hyper vigilant about dogs and letting you know about them. Such a good girl. haha

I think that is the brand I used. Mine is the plain etched and it does let light in but my window is also only "etched" for the bottom half. I thought it might look tacky but I think it looks cool and I like the extra privacy. Now I can flop on my sofa in my jammies and know that nobody walking by would ever see.

here's a blog link about reactive dogs and window film. You can see mine from both inside and out --Heather and Rosie (red aussie) http://eileenanddogs.com/2013/10/10/rea ... ndow-film/

rosie wants you to know she is not the reason for window film, that dog looks like he's freshly beaten when you point a camera at him.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:54 pm

I was thinking about just etching the bottom half too. I like the leaves design, but I wonder if he'll be able to look through the little leaves if he wanted to? Or do you think that's me overthinking?

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby whiteboxerboy » Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:41 pm

You guys are telling me I'm the only one who had to screw plexiglass panels into window frames to contain my menace to society???
Ha, the looks on my San Jose landlords faces when i oh so casually walked into the house with sheets of plexiglass... then Brinca had to go & knock down the back fence chasing a squirrel. LOL

Hmm, she really was kind of a tank, wasn't she? Hindsight. LOL

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby UpwardDog » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:46 pm

Katrin, I would go look at it and see. I'm not sure. I got mine at a Canadian (read has way less stuff) Home Depot

Sheets of plexi glass? wow!

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby KatrinH » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:27 am

I live in the middle of nowhere ;) but it doesn't matter, the one wiht the leaves is too expensive anyway for the size that I need. I will go with the regular white one that is bestseller on Amazon. Thank you for this idea!

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Calypso » Mon Jul 28, 2014 10:21 am

I decided to alter our walking route so we're not next to the dog park when it is busier. It's a small park and the fence is right next to the bike path so there isn't always a dog there to run the fence, but if there is a dog, he'll go nuts. The problem in this last week was that we were outside the fence, on leash, with no plans to go in. A boxer in the park ran the fence next to us for what felt like at least 2 ir 3 minutes. The owner was useless and that section of path is a alley with the park on one side and a ball diamond on the other so we couldn't get away from this dog. We've never encountered such a persistent dog beyond the fence before.

Thankfully this weekend I was able to keep him below threshold at the dog show, even though he decided he doesn't like Picard Shepherds and they were everywhere.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby whiteboxerboy » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:32 am

Hijack: wait, wha? A persistent single minded obnoxious Boxer? Running a fence? Ya don't say.

Welcome to my world. Except they run the fence in a friendly way.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Calypso » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:15 pm

Lynn - I totally thought of you! I enjoyed watching the dogs' athleticism as it bounced and leaped along the fence. Well, until the owner was a useless twit who just walked away with her other dog instead of getting her dog.

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby UpwardDog » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:29 pm

berger Picards everywhere? I think that's one for our breed scavenger hunt!

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Re: Reactive Dog Questions

Postby Calypso » Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:05 pm

I like the breed a lot and they were putting on the Open Show after the regular show, so everywhere we turned, there they were!


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