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How to Socialise a Reactive Dog

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Cleo38, Mar 25, 2011.


  1. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Roxy (GSD) is very reactive around other dogs. She acts completely OTT whioch can then cause the other dog to act either defensively or aggressively towards her.

    I don't believe in most cases, she would be aggressive to the other dog wonce they had met but how can I gauge this? She met my sisters 10mth old Lab at Xmas & after the intial OTT behaviour they got on brilliantly. With other non-reactive dogs she has met she has been fine with but ..... I am still worried about how she can turn quite quickly although this has only been a couple of times & it was more noise than actual bites.

    I am taking her to a park on Sunday where there will be alot of other dogs, we don't usually meet any on our walks which isn't helping her so I need to take the plunge.

    What I want to know is how close do I let her get? Should I let her get right up close? I don;t want to keep denying her access to other dogs as it will make her worse but then I am concerned about how other dog owner will react if she does snap or kick off when/if their dogs approach.

    I don't want to be complacent about her behaviour but then again I don't want to be too nervous & expect her to behave perfectly before she is allowed any interaction.
     
  2. RAINYBOW

    RAINYBOW PetForums VIP

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    watching with interest ;)
     
  3. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    LOL, this is in preparation for taking her to the Gogs on Sunday!! I want her to enjoy herself & interact with other dogs (not sure if it will be this time) but am just so worried in case she does get aggressive when they get near, especially as she is a big dog.

    I don;t want to keep limiting her access to other dogs but at the same time I am aware that she may be a bit much for some dogs & their owners.

    I also think that off lead dogs that are not responsive to their owners are a fact of life & as much as they may make her feel freaked out they will always be around & I need to deal with this.

    I think if she were off lead she would be much better but then her recalll would be 0% non existant if other dogs were around :rolleyes: so I don't think this is an option at the moment.
     
  4. newfiesmum

    newfiesmum Banned

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    A very quick meet and greet on lead to start with, I would say, just a few seconds, then walk off. Bring her back for a second go round and see how she behaves. You won't know until you try.
     
  5. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    I know, I think sometimes it's so easy just to stick to our usual walks but I know this really isn't helping her issues.

    Well, Sunday it is then!!! :D
     
  6. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    You don't want your girl frightened and over-whelmed do you?

    So there's no answer, but to watch her body language and play it by ear. If she meets some handsome dog she wants to flirt with, then very good :)

    There's nothing to gain by planning set distances. If you do meet sensible dog owner with non-reactive dog who's motivated to help, then walking along quietly in same direction and letting things settled does seem to relax situations.

    I'm not very keen on staying stationary too long, as that's when other dogs shows up, or play focusses on resources causing a bone (bad pun sorry!) of contention.
     
  7. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    Its not advisable to "take the plunge". It is important that dogs are kept below threshold. That may mean working on proximity or indeed keeping the numbers or types of dogs to a level she can cope with.

    You can't expect her to be able to focus and keep her arousal under control going from zero dogs to lots and lots.

    I don't believe that you should keep her away from other dogs either. Be selective to whom she is introduced though, and only one at a time.

    Approach a dog but require calm behavours from her for progress, literally one step at a time ;)

    If you are worried about her 'kicking off' then this may not be the place for her yet.
    It is likely that her arousal levels escalate too fast hence things getting more serious.

    It may appear that she is quiet when surrounded by lots of dogs but this may be that she has been flooded and is overwhelmed.

    Introducing her dogs under strict and close supervision may be helpful but the types of dogs should be chosen carefully.
     
  8. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    In some ways I am going to be over whelming her (which is a worry) as we rarely meet dogs on our walks so this will be very different for her (I have been before with my other dog) but we are so restricted where we currently walk.

    I am new to the area so don't know many people & those I do know (unfortunately) have reactive dogs.

    I used to take her back to the rescue centre & walk around when they were excercising the other dogs which she did actually do quite well in those surroundings & we got to the stage with a couple of dog where we could approach them. But it was quite a way to drive every weekend & a few weeks in a row they had quite reactive dogs in which I was then concerned may make her worse.

    In some ways I feel that by being too selective we are not making any progress. We do attend special needs classes every other Saturday run by a qualified behaviourist but I don't think this is enough, & I think the more I am not mixing with other people & their dogs outside the more I am getting nervous about doing this & therefore it may turn in to my problem!!
     
  9. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Will you be going to somewhere with good open spaces, preferably grass fields?
     
  10. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    There's no real easy answer to this. You need to find confident doggy friends and introduce her slowly but often. One dog at a time- a short play session, lots of positive association, some games and a walk along side the other dog- then gradually build it up. Obviously, if you don't know anyone, this can be hard and it means you are going to have to find people that don't mind you using their dogs.
     
  11. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    I have worked on dog-dog friendliness with my boy for six years and I am still selective about who gets to greet him.

    He is pretty much bomb-proof with other dogs while out and about, on and off leash and that has taken us years of work. But I would never put him in a position that he would find unpleasant where i can.

    If he does have a particularly unpleasant experience with another dog, most likely because I have messed up :rolleyes: , then I make sure he has at least three or four nice meet n greets with carefully selected dogs.

    Any time we work on behaviour modification we start with the easiest scenario. This means having her interact with dogs at a distance and with dogs of personality that she can cope.

    As she gets better you can up the ante but it is our responsibility to protect our dogs from unpleasant things, particularly if overwhelming her will set her back.

    Working with reactivity and other emotional issues takes time and works must be gradual and most importantly at the dog's pace. Nobody, other than her, can say whether and when she is ready.

    If you are taking to such a place, keep your distance. Do tons and tons of calming work with her so that her arousal level is maintained. Some tips in here: Taking Calm on the Road | Pet Central's Pawsitive Dawgs Blog!
     
  12. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    If its the Gog Magog hills near Cambridge there is plenty of room. Several very large open grassland areas (as far as I can remember).
     
  13. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Yes, it is Gog Magog hills, there is quite alot of open spaces & we will have our car to go back to should things get OTT. She can go back to the car, calm down the try again as we have done when walking round Downham Market (as she had started growling at people on walks). This has worked well & she has been fine with people in general, we just need to work on those that approach us directly.

    I don't think with Roxy it is fear with other dogs, it is just pure excitement. I have learnt with her that she is more comfortable at home but when she has been able to mix with other dogs freely she is actually fine. The problem starts with her seeing another do & not being able to meet them which she will have to get used to as in some situations she will not be able to.

    Her & Toby get on brilliantly, they did from the start. She got on really well with my sisters dog & the dogs at the rescue centre she was allowed off lead with so I do think it is pure excitement when she sees the other dog although I do realise that this can quickly turn in some cases
     
  14. GoldenShadow

    GoldenShadow PetForums VIP

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    I agree with newfiesmum. On 'Its Me Or The Dog' Victoria Stilwell deals with loads of reactive dogs and she literally gives them about three seconds to say hello and then off they go before they get chance to make their mind up about whether or not they like this other dog.

    When I was walking to uni the other week I saw a dog like a goldendoodle with its owner and had just passed an elderly labrador. Goldendoodle went trotting up, it was textbook greeting waggy tails sniffy noises then BOOM one of them went for the other and a full fight began. They had been fine for something like 7-8 seconds but one of them had obviously had enough time to decide I don't like you kind of a thing. Victoria Stillwell etc build up the time but just give enough time to do quick sniff and off we go kind of a thing.
     
  15. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Thanks for all the replies - that's how I was sort of hoping to deal with things; keep moving , if things get OTT back in the car, if things go great then a few seconds meet & greet then off again.

    The problem with Roxy is although she isn't directly aggressive her OTT behaviour seems to piss off other dogs who are normally ok.

    I think the problem at the moment is my apprehension coupled with her behaviour, we need to take the plunge but also be mindful of what is too much stimulation.

    Sometimes it seems like we are on a never ending road of behaviour modification & I'm not sure that I am the most competent owner for her :(
     
  16. GoldenShadow

    GoldenShadow PetForums VIP

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    I wouldn't worry massively about getting it wrong and over stimulating her. Until you do you just aren't going to know what is too much for her like you said. Are there any kinds of dogs in particular you are going to try her with, as in her sized dogs or smaller ones etc? Hope you can continue to move forward nicely.

    On a lower level, sometimes Rupert gets into the habit of desperately trying to greet a dog or a few dogs for a few days if he sees one who particularly floats his boat. When he's like that I see another dog in the distance or one of the aggressive ones and my stomach just goes 'oh nooooooooo not today :(' and I think he is distinctly worse for me thinking like that, but what can you do..! Sub conscious half of it isn't it..!

    Think I saw you say she is muzzled, so she can't bite, and I'm guessing you wont have her offlead so its not like she can actually hurt any other dogs. All she's got left is a bit of body language and noise, naturally she'll probably embarrass you but there isn't a day goes by I don't get embarrassed by our two :rolleyes: :D
     
  17. Emmastace

    Emmastace PetForums VIP

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    You may or may not be the most competent owner for her, but you are the RIGHT owner. You love her, you are doing your very best for her, you are determined to give her the best life you can whatever it takes. How much you care shines through all of your posts. It may not take so long with someone with more experience but they couldn't do it better, you will make sure of that x
     
  18. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    You are absolutely the right owner doing your very best for Roxy :) Training never ends - it is a life long endeavour.

    The most important thing is to keep a record of your work so you can track your progress and see if there is improvement or not.
    Plus having support and that's what we are here for ;) :D
     
  19. GoldenShadow

    GoldenShadow PetForums VIP

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    Didn't see the bit about you worrying you arent competent enough. Don't be daft, lots of folk are like me and don't have an ounce of patience let alone the amount you have had with Roxy so far! You're very determined and have a lot of willpower to have gotten this far I dare say a lot of people wouldn't, me for one! :)

    I think it's really hard to feel right for a dog who is like Roxy and has her issues here and there. They haven't been put there by you and have probably been conditioned by someone else but it doesn't make you not right for her you're just on the slow process of conditioning her to your requirements and she will become more and more right for you as time goes on hopefully. I was really impressed how you dealt with her hassling Toby no idea what I would have done in your shoes there..! :)
     
    #19 GoldenShadow, Mar 26, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2011
  20. Malmum

    Malmum PetForums VIP

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    Be interested to know how you get on as Flynn is exactly the same and it worries me that he'll get in a fight because of his reactions.

    I have stared letting him see dogs at a distance and walking behind them, gives him time to smell where they've just been too - that's in the street though where we're not likly to encounter an off lead dog. He did meet one by accident the other day, it came round the corner as we were walking round, it was on lead but Flynn went off, all growly and jumpy - I should have known as he was sniffing the air before it appeared.
    Flynn is far better with distance and building up, getting too close is too soon at the mo.

    Keep us posted. ;);)
     
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