Please help! JRT woth behaviour issues

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Lydia Serrant, Jan 24, 2018.


  1. Lydia Serrant

    Lydia Serrant PetForums Newbie

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    Hello this is my first post. I am desperate for advice and was wondering if anyone could help.

    My Jack Russel, Harry, is a lovely dog. He is 20 months and plays and romps woth other dogs just fine. The only problem is when he is off lead he doesn' come back, he sees another dog and he bolts.

    The simple solution was to keep him on his lead, but since we had him castrated 3 months ago, he has become very aggressive towards other dogs when on his lead.

    He doesn' hurt the other dogs, he just lunges towards them snarling. We read that is can be a vunerablity issue and he is snarling out of fear, we have been tried several techniques to calm him, including stopping when another dog pass and trying to distract him and calm him, we have also tried physically blocking him from the other dog, and trying to calm him. We have tried clickers, both to try and get him to come back or distract him when he is on lead, nothing works - I'd feel better even if we saw some improvement, but no. He ignores us more off lead now then when he was younger, and his snarling when on the lead has not improved. In fact it is getting worse. If he sees a dog he knows well he is okay on the lead, but dogs he doesn't know or has only met once or twice, he snarls and snaps. I am extremely upset by this. I have come to dread our walks where I used to love them and we would be out for hours. I also hate the idea of poor Harry feeling afraid, and God forbid if he hurts another dog! This is also a fear of mine as he get older.

    Please help I have had many dogs before but have never experienced this behaviour. Some or any advice would be appreciated.

    Thank you

    Lydia
     
  2. MissSpitzMum

    MissSpitzMum PetForums Member

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    If he is highly dog driven off lead (bolts to play / say hi without any fear) then his on lead behaviour could be frustration. A behaviourist is best to ensure this is what you are dealing with. My own dog can be lead reactive (he can look and sound really, really aggressive) but his is just frustration at wanting to play with the dog, but I only knew this when my trainer, who also has over 20 years of experience in dog behaviour, was able to tell me. Merlin also reacted differently to dogs he knew than strange dogs, he was far more excited about greeting a new dog so he reacted more, so different reactions to dogs he knows / doesn't know doesn't always signify fear either.

    The 'remedy' for fear and frustration is very similar, but with frustration you can use greeting dogs as a reward so you need to be sure before you embark on any training. For now, until you can get a behaviourist in, you need to keep your dog at a distance from other dogs that he won't react. At that distance, and only at that distance, can you begin to counter condition his response to the sight of another dog. Once you've found the distance from the dog where he can cope, then everytime he looks at the dog he gets a really yummy treat (his absolute favourite). Its quality over quantity with this, so don't take him out for an hour at the edge of the park to practise, but try and aim for 5-10 mins a day of solid counter conditioning then avoid dogs all together. If he is more interested in tuggy toys than treats, you can use that too.

    If you get caught short and turn a corner and there is a dog, just get as far away from the dog as possible without any fuss or speaking other than a happy 'let's go!'. If the dog is across the street, toss a load of treats on the floor to keep him occupied. It is hard in the city to avoid dogs so I had to use the throwing treats method of distraction quite alot. Ducking behind cars is another trick I used. Eventually his tolerance radius of dogs will get smaller and smaller. For example mine would react badly if he saw a dog two road widths away to begin with, but now he can be less than 2ft away without reacting (other than trying to say hi). This is after a month of solid counter conditioning.

    As for recall, well I have ALOT of experience with that! After months and months of training, and a neuter, I managed to give my dog a 80% reliable recall and an emergency stop for that last 20% if he was heading into danger. What I did was this;

    Have three recalls. One soft 'this way' that I used alot just to signify he was going the wrong way. One trained 'Come!' that he got a treat for everytime he did that I only used when he was likely to respond. One emergency whistle that he got an absolute bonanza of treats for that I would use perhaps 1-2 times a walk for practise, and the other times only in an emergency (bolting to play with dogs). Because the whistle one was rare, he listened to it more. I never used the whistle for lead time unless it was absolutely necessary for his survival, if I had to then I did a few tricks whilst holding onto his collar so he wouldn't associate whistle = lead.

    To make coming back to you simply fabulous, you need to be a walking fun factory. Take out his best treats (a variety), his most favourite toy that you ONLY use on a walk (I found a sheepskin tuggy to be fantastic for this, if you're in the UK you can find them on tug e nuff), a backup surprise toy (so he would be like -omg what is that!!), and a smile (even when he's ignored you for half an hour and you've been chasing him, never be angry!).
     
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  3. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    It could well be fear aggression. Too late now but if anyone reads this in future, leaving neutering until later might have helped him build up his testosterone 'brave' hormone. However. He likely feels anxious but being on lead, he can't get away so has to put on an even bigger display of 'I'm big and scary, don't mess with me'.

    He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure . Find out what that is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is relaxed. If you are using a clicker, click to mark the calm sit and reward his calm behaviour. Slowly try to click just a fraction later so you are asking for longer periods of calm. Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance he was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

    I wonder if the loss of recall is perhaps coincidental and may be related to adolescence. Perhaps a harness and long line might help reinforce the recall. Perhaps others with more experience will advise on this, but when you say you use a clicker be careful of your timing - if you normally click to mark a desired behaviour, when you use it for recall you need to be careful you only click as he lands at your feet because that is the result you are aiming for. Then reward.

    If you can find a secure garden or field, with no distractions, that's helpful for recall. I like my whistle - I started with simultaneous whistle and treat; several times to make the association. Then from the garden, other rooms etc, whistle and reward on arrival. Then building up from there.
     
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  4. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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  5. labradrk

    labradrk PetForums VIP

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    Have you tried working with a good trainer? or behaviourist?

    Lot's of things potentially at play here; the dog being conditioned to 'romping' with other dogs then suddenly finding itself on the lead most of the time, subsequent frustration at not being able to get to other dogs thus the reactivity, the dogs age, the dog possibly reaching mental maturity/getting his adult temperament and his behaviour towards other dogs is changing, the reduction of testosterone from the neuter that can lower confidence.....

    A fresh pair of eyes may give you an idea behind the intent of his behaviour and point you in the right direction.
     
  6. Lydia Serrant

    Lydia Serrant PetForums Newbie

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    Hello All

    Thank you so much for your responses they have been very helpful. We plan on sitting down tonight to work out a concrete system so we are both doing the same things consistently. Ideally we would always walk him together but it is not always possible.

    We think that he is fustrated rather than fearful. It makes more sense now you have said it, whilst he snarls, his tail is wagging! which we ever understood. When he is afraid he makes himself as small as possible and his tail goes under! So we will try suggestions based on the fustration assumption as all the techniques to conquer fear have all failed :-(

    We have been working with him every day for over 3 months with no improvement so far so it is worth a try. I think we need to seperate formal training time and general walks. We have been combining both which i don't think is helpful for Harry. We have looked at behaviourists and training schools and the ones we can get to on time are unfortunatley outside of our budget. I will keep looking though.

    We have always mostly had him on the lead since we started walking him at 12 weeks (building slowly from 5 mins around the garden at first, to longer and longer walks as he got older). We had a problem with him not wanting to go back in his lead when we did start letting him off when he was around 5 months, he was enjoying new found freedom too much! But we got him out of this within a few days. I think when he was small and new to the world he was nervous to stray far from us. Now he is bigger and more confidant we are a second thought :(...luckily the lead itself isn't an issue. He always stops and let's us put it on when we tell him (when there are no other dogs around).

    His recall when off the lead and no dogs are around is excellent. So I don't know if we need practice in a field with no dogs? he has it nailed 99% of the time, our only problem is if another dog shows up!

    I will keep you all updated, thank you so much for your help.

    Sorry if my spelling is a little off, the website isn't loading on my desktop so I am having to use the tiny keypad of my phone!

    Thanks again

    Lydia
     
    #6 Lydia Serrant, Jan 26, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
  7. Lydia Serrant

    Lydia Serrant PetForums Newbie

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    Oh and an additinal note. We got him neutered at 18 months, which we didn't think was very young compared to some?

    Also he is always on an extendable lead. Not sure what difference this is making. I bought a harness for him because I prefer to use it, but is a battle to get my boyfriend to use it, he prefers the collar, which I don't really like because it chokes Harry if he strains.

    A friend of ours who trains hunting dogs has given us a choke lead, whilst I do not like this idea at all, I know that Cesar from the Dog Whisperer suggests using them for dogs that have issues whilst out on walks. I am also aware that it is a TV show and don't want to base my decison whether or not to use it soley on that! But he does give good advice....

    Thanks for your help and suggestions
     
  8. MissSpitzMum

    MissSpitzMum PetForums Member

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    A wagging tail doesn't always mean happy or friendly. A dog can want to kill another dog and have a fast wagging tail at the same time. So even if he's wagging his tail whilst snarling don't let him greet another dog. Even if it is just frustration at wanting to say hi, the frustration itself can make some dogs react with anger towards the other dog. He only gets to greet other dogs when he's quiet and calm, which will take you a while of counter conditioning. It is a long process, and you might not see progress for a while, but if you keep working with treats at a distance your dog doesn't react he will begin to change his emotional reaction to dogs. Some dogs take days, some weeks, some months, so don't think it isn't working just because it isn't an instant fix. Trust me, I thought 'oh this isn't helping' then one day it just clicked and we made huge progress.

    Bin the choke chain and forget Cesar exists. Cesar shuts dogs down so they appear 'well behaved' but if you know dog behaviour you can see the dogs are stressed as hell and are just shut down. You can't explain to a dog why you are doing things, so aversive methods can backfire hugely.

    For example, if he sees a dog and he's already feeling frustrated and angry and then something around his neck is choking him, he might well start to not only associate dogs with frustration but also with pain. Then, if you're lucky and he does associate the pain with how he is acting and not the dog, it will still do nothing to change how he feels about the dog, only how he reacts. You might think he's 'cured' because he's quiet, but get close enough to the dog and he might well unleash all his hidden frustration out at once in a very unpleasant way.

    As for recall you don't want to go straight from no distractions to the ultimate distraction, but you can build up the distractions slowly. Have your partner play with your dog a little way away (not far to begin with) then you call the dog. If he doesn't come, have your partner just stand there and be boring. As soon as your dog comes back to you for his reward then he can play with your partner again. Sometimes you can even call him and your partner can then walk over and give him the treat then get back to playing.

    Gradually increase the excitement of the distraction and the distance you are away from it until you have a consistant recall, then you can find some dogs to practice with. Make sure you know the dogs and the owners before hand so they don't mind if he does blow his recall and goes to greet their dog. If he does blow his recall, don't call him again, just go over and remove him from the situation without any anger, you can even give him a treat for leaving the dog behind with you even if it wasn't strictly his choice.

    Good luck! Dogs can be hellions. :rolleyes:
     
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  9. Lydia Serrant

    Lydia Serrant PetForums Newbie

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    Hello All...thank you all so much for your advice.

    I know hasn't been long but I thought I would provide a quick update.

    We are Finally making some small progress with Harry. I was out with him this morning and he growled at 1 out of 3 dogs.

    I decided we should be working in babysteps, so im trying to just get him out of the habit of pulling on the lead, trying to get towards other dogs. If he sees a dog in the distance I throw treats to the ground. This is BRILLANT for distraction, that dog is all about the treats! However these treats are his nomal dry food, so I dont mind if he is having a lot. He only gets his extra special bacon treats when he either walks past a dog without growling, or comes away from a dog nice and calmly.

    Thankfully my boyfriend doesn't follow through with a lot of what he says, so the choke lead has gone by the wayside. At least I haven' seen it since it arrived in the post last week. I've made it very clear that I am not on board with using it.

    I will let you know how things develop, it is a process. I also just wanted to thank you all for taking time out of your day to help us.

    Lydia
     
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  10. VickyandNero

    VickyandNero PetForums Newbie

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    Lots of good comments already my also 20 month old has always been obsessed with all other dogs and would also run off if he saw one across a field.
    We straight away got a 10 meter training lead so he still has space to run and say hello to dogs when we allow him too.
    When on a short lead he will some times whines to play with another dog but we just say 'no, come on, leave it, lets go, this way' all words he associates with leaving or going on to something more fun.
    He has never been aggressive but we have met lots of dogs that grumble at him either it seems out of frustration they can't play or just a way of saying I will be the boss in this game.

    What you are doing by distracting and throwing treats is great and I have seen this work with other dogs before.
    I have also learnt to never stop and wait for another dog to walk past as I find this works up my dog a lot more.

    You can also try playing games at home with him to make you a lot more exciting than another dog, which is what I am doing at the moment.