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Reactive Rescue Saluki

Discussion in 'Dog Rescue and Adoption' started by costococoa, Mar 19, 2021.


  1. costococoa

    costococoa PetForums Newbie

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    Hi everyone,

    My partner and I recently adopted a 2 year old Saluki. We were initially told he was 12 months old, but the microchip record shows he's actually 2. We've had him for about 3 weeks now.

    We're not first time owners, we have a retired racing Greyhound. We decided to get a second dog that has more energy as we enjoy hiking and would also help our first dog with confidence following being attacked last year.

    We spent a while looking for a new dog, and found a beautiful Saluki. He was believed to have been used for Lamping and was found with a broken leg which he has a plate in his leg for and is on a rehab programme with incrementally loading his walking times (now 3 x 15 minutes a day). He's not allowed off lead anywhere including the garden, and is only allowed off lead in a smaller room in the house. Otherwise he's tethered to us. He's cuddly, easily trainable at home, playful, sleeping well and gets on really well with our Greyhound.

    He has lots to work on as you'd expect. Extreme Separation Anxiety, Being on a lead, General Obedience, Occasional Marking and Barking at anything he sees outside. All of which is ok with us and we're enjoying working on with him. We were told he was excitable on the lead, but were also told they thought he would calm down the more walking and exposure he gets to other dogs. Until we got him, he had been crate bound for a couple of months to help the leg heal.

    However, his reactivity on walks is very bad, and it seems to be getting worse. Frequently it has driven us to breaking point. If he sees another dog, as far as 250 feet away, he will rear up, or launch himself into the air. Barking wildly. He is secured on a two point harness with a double ended lead, and tied to our belt for security.

    He has a very deep bark and understandably people and dogs around us are intimidated, and he's scaring children and neighbours. We can only walk him early morning and late night when it is generally quieter.

    We think it might be frustrated greeting, but we're concerned that he might hurt his leg again, or worse another person or dog because his reaction is so extreme. We live in a small green city, and it is very hard to control his exposure to stimulus without driving out for each walk.

    If anyone has any suggestions or tips to help us, then I would really be grateful. We have a behaviourist follow up next week, but it's starting to feel like he needs intense professional training.

    We're at a loss as he really is a gorgeous dog at home and exactly what we wanted otherwise, it's heart breaking.
     
  2. Silverpaw

    Silverpaw PetForums VIP

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    Hi and well done for taking on a dog with so many issues.I gather from your post that you adopted him very recently.What you are describing sounds like work that will be in progress for a long time to come.I'm by no means an expert in this area but there are some very knowledgeable people on here who I'm sure will come along soon.My rescue dog was very very reactive to people and other dogs when he arrived as a 7/8 year old.Now,years on,he is greatly improved but we still need to manage his environment to some extent.Is there a problem with your dog traveling in the car to access walks that he can cope with better.I know my dog simply couldn't improve when he was surrounded by the things that he couldn't,at that stage,deal with.Dogs are extremely resilient but need the right environment, and as much time as it takes, to move forward.At least that's my experience.Your dog sounds lovely, good luck with him, I'm sure he will be worth all of the effort you have to put in.
     
    lullabydream likes this.
  3. costococoa

    costococoa PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you for your reply.

    Travelling in the car is generally ok, however if he sees another dog outside he will react quite strongly too. We're trying to calm him before going out and doing sniffing games too to try and get some of the energy down with little success.

    I think we're struggling a lot as we have always said that one of the reasons to get a second dog would be so that it can greet and intercept other dogs first before approaching our nervy grey.
     
  4. Blacky90

    Blacky90 PetForums Member

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    I'd go somewhere that you can at least try to simply walk with him without too much contact and build from there. Also maybe get him used to wearing a muzzle so that if needs be you can always have him wear it. Good luck as Salukis are, I think, even weirder than your average sighthound.
     
  5. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    At three weeks in, he probably still has a pretty full 'stress tank'. There is something called trigger stacking, where the dog doesn't have time to calm down from one stressful event triggering their anxiety before a second one happens. So if you can imagine a bathtub, with buckets of water being poured into it with every stressful event - it fills faster than the water can drain out until it spills over the edge in a meltdown. That's what happens in trigger stacking as the stress hormone cortisol keeps getting topped up without the chance to drain down. So an event that your dog might be ok with on a normal day might cause a reaction if it comes close after another one.

    If you think of the injury, the shelter, the pain, the rehoming - his cortisol levels are probably really topped up so seeing other dogs is just tipping him over the edge.

    So, I'd suggest a few days with minimal stresses. Try to get those cortisol levels right down. In humans it can take up to 72 hours, studies in dogs are inconclusive.

    Then, starting with an empty 'stress tank', you said he reacts with a dog at 250 feet - so that is too close for him.

    He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure. It's called flight distance, anything within that space triggers his fight or flight stress response, which you may have heard of. You know it is more than 250 feet, so find out what it is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is aware of them, but relaxed. Your goal is to train that he doesn't need to react; not to stop a reaction in progress.

    Reward him for being calm with something fabulous, like frankfurter sausage or a very special toy. The aim of this is to change your dog’s emotional response to the stressful thing (the other dog) by repeatedly pairing it with something good. In time, your dog will learn that scary dogs mean sausages appear and this creates something called a positive conditioned emotional response (+CER).

    This website explains it in more detail - http://careforreactivedogs.com

    Gradually, over weeks and months rather than days, you can work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily.

    However, going back to his cortisol - the safe distance can reduce when he is stressed so be aware of that.

    Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration - your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15; and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is, a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

    In addition, the conformation (shape) or even colour of some dogs can trigger a reaction. Very broad fronted dogs (such as mastiffs or bulldogs) create the impression of 'facing up' just because of their shape, which can be intimidating even if their temperament is perfect. And black dogs are thought to have facial body language that is harder to read. Some dogs will be more reactive to un-neutered males, or particular breeds for no apparent reason. Learn what triggers reactions in your dog so that you can give him the extra support he needs.
     
    lullabydream, Ian246, O2.0 and 2 others like this.
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