Welcome to PetForums

Join thousands of other pet owners and pet lovers on the UK's most popular and friendly pet community and discussion forum.

Sign Up

Increasing reactivity despite training

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by theonewiththescarydog, Jul 2, 2021.


  1. theonewiththescarydog

    theonewiththescarydog PetForums Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2021
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    My dog has had reactive issues for the whole 8 months he’s been with me. First he had problems with other dogs only, which were fairly easy to deal with counterconditioning and making our “lets go”- command stronger. After a few months we started to have more setbacks with our training and he seemed to progressively become more reactive, not only towards other dogs but also towards other people, children and especially towards people in our yard and hallway (we live in an apartment complex). It went to the point that he barked and lunged at almost everything.

    We’ve been to the vet five times in the last five months, and his health should be okay. He has recurrent skin problems and his teeth were bad when he first came to me, but those should be fixed now. Although I feel that there could be some underlying health reason that causes him to behave this way, we haven’t had any luck in discovering what it is.

    Since his reactivity worsened, we’ve been training with lots of set up-situations with dogs and people. We’ve also just hung around with other dogs and people (bit like bat-style) while keeping him under the threshold. In training situations he works really well, even when the set up is really close to a real life situation. But still, in our walks he has no self control and he's really stressed about everything.

    It feels like he’s trying to do the command and bark/lunge at the same time, and it just causes him to be barking/lunging and in between turning around to look at me. I try to reward the contact to me (we use a clicker), but nowadays the contact has fallen shorter and shorter, though our training has increased. His barks don't often have the fear-sound in them nowadays, and it almost sounds more alert, so it feels like we’ve succeeded in making people and dogs not-so-scary but also somehow increased the reactivity. It also seems like his rewards, which we're previously very high value for him, aren't currently as rewarding as before. I've tried to find a more rewarding treat with no luck, as currently it feels like the treats have the same effect as clicking and offering small rocks.

    He’s a semi-active breed so he gets 2-3 hours of daily exercise/activation and I try to make sure that he also has relaxing walks by taking him to hike in the woods (then he’s usually off-leash) or by walking him at night (we avoid rush hours).

    What can I do differently? Does anyone have experience about increasing reactivity and if so, what was the cause?
     
  2. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    May 23, 2018
    Messages:
    9,952
    Likes Received:
    31,337
    Hi and welcome :)
    Oh reactivity can be a hard nut to crack.
    I have a little scaredy dog who in the last 10 months has progressed from complete avoidance and shut down, to going in to screaming potato stuffed under my arm. I'm holding out hope that there are a few more gears between shut down and screaming potato that we will eventually find :)

    How old is your guy and what breed is he? (Trying to see if you can pick him up or not.)
    Have you worked with a trainer? Sometimes it's really helpful to have someone with a new set of eyes on the situation.
    If you can share your general location, maybe a member can suggest a trainer in your area :)
     
  3. theonewiththescarydog

    theonewiththescarydog PetForums Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2021
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    He's almost six, but according to the last owner he's only had reactivity issues with other dogs in the past, so the reactivity to people etc. should be completely new to him. He's a Pyrenean Shephard and weights almost 20 kg, so picking him up is impossible (I'm very small and sometimes even controlling him when he lunges is quite a trouble:Nailbiting). We have worked with a trainer, but the advise that has been given hasn't worked very well in our case and I feel like there's something missing from our training. I have contacted another trainer that specializes in problem behavior but while waiting for the training I would love to hear some opinions and ideas! I'm from Finland so sorry in advance for any spelling errors! :)
     
  4. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2014
    Messages:
    3,196
    Likes Received:
    6,553
    If he’s still barking and lunging then on these occasions he’s still too close to whatever sets him off. You can’t do anything with reactivity if your dog is already reacting and over threshold.

    Have you been doing ‘watch me’ as a default behaviour? Absolutely not recommending, just asking.
     
    #4 Linda Weasel, Jul 2, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2021
    Magyarmum and Lurcherlad like this.
  5. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    27,619
    Likes Received:
    44,527
    I agree, if he’s reacting then he’s still too close to the trigger.

    Continuing to train him by trying to get him to calm down while he’s too close, will increase his sensitivity rather than reduce it ime.

    Dogs rarely take treats when they are stressed or anxious.

    What methods have you been told to try up to now, in order to get him to not react?

    Getting him to face his fears will exacerbate the problem (or cause him to shut down - but the fear is simmering below the surface).

    What methods does the new trainer advocate?

    Trainers are not the same as Behaviourists by my understanding. I’d try and get a good behaviourist on board who uses positive, reward based methods.
     
    Magyarmum likes this.
  6. TTouch

    TTouch PetForums Senior

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2021
    Messages:
    439
    Likes Received:
    264
    My advice would be you need to do everything you can to build his self confidence as most reactive dogs it comes from fear/anxiety( and then starts to become a habit) and that starts with lots of mental exercise and where it is safe for you both, so in the home, simple things like teaching a trick, like 'watch me', so treat/toy up to your face, as soon as he gives eye contact, command 'watch me', things like 'leave it', dog on lead ( so you have control) , show treat/toy and place it on the floor ( out of reach), and 'leave it' ...then 'watch me' and release and as you do 'free' or 'find it'... put him out of the room, hide several small treats around another room, dog on lead and guide him towards finding the treats, so he uses his nose to give him information about where they treats are and you command 'find it', you will only need him on a lead the first time after that he will understand the 'game'.. and any other trick or game you can think of ( lots online) this is engaging his brain and that is thinking mode ( not reactive mode)...nose games are great as it teaches him to use his nose to gain information, so he gains information before he 'sees' someone meaning it is not a shock and he doesn't 'need' to react to the 'shock',all the commands once taught/understood all help you and are transferable to outside........ agility training also builds confidence and focus again he is learning commands and engaging his brain and you can always use a training tool if it means it makes you more confident him being around people/dogs like a well fitting muzzle.... again if you do train him to wear it, so put it onto his nose, immediately off and treat and do that over a couple of days before you even secure it...when training a muzzle ( I always train all dogs of mine to accept one as one day they might need to wear one even if it is just at the vets ) I call it 'jewellery' because jewellery makes you smile, it is a positive thing and that passes onto the dog.... each meal you feed use it as a training exercise, a recall, sit, wait, put his meal in a kong so he works and earns his food, all that engages their brain and buids confidence........ evrything you do set him up to succeed, which means on a lead so you can help him understand, stay calm and silent apart from the command words, so he doesn't have to work out what is important information and what is 'chatter/noise' and not important

    Many people try to change a negative behaviour at the point where it happens however it is far better to plan/ prepare/teach and condition your dog ( and you) so you have automatic commands you use and he understands away from the negative situations that these commands are positive, they mean engage brain and THINK don't react.

    Hope that is some help
     
    Barkingmad57 likes this.
  7. TTouch

    TTouch PetForums Senior

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2021
    Messages:
    439
    Likes Received:
    264
    Oh and take your time, don't be afraid to go back a few steps ...it will be 1 step forward and 2-3 steps back at first but keep the faith and continue, it has took him 6 years learning how to 'protect' himself and in reactive mode, you are now asking him to learn to think and behave in a different way, so it can take time but you will see a break through as he hands 'power' over to you and trusts you will deal with what causes his anxiety/fear
     
  8. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    19,010
    Likes Received:
    13,434
    I bet that when you see another person or dog at close quarters now, you tense up waiting for him to react. He'll sense that and be more likely to kick off. Living in an apartment that's going to be a difficult one as you can't anticipate other peoples' comings and goings.
    What happens if you stop and talk to whoever he's reacting to? Does he settle down once he's realised they aren't going to have a go at him?
     
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice