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Why does my dog do this?

Discussion in 'Dog Chat' started by Sienna Nicholas, Jan 15, 2021.

  1. Sienna Nicholas

    Sienna Nicholas PetForums Newbie

    Jul 17, 2020
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    This is my dog Alaska. (I’m not sure what breed he is, I think he’s an American Eskimo x chihuahua)
    When we got Alaska he was already a year old, and the elderly couple he was with were unable to take him on walks or socialise him as a puppy. We take him to the beach everyday and are trying our very best to get him used to being around other dogs. When Alaska is off-lead he plays amazingly with other dogs and has loads of fun, but when he is on the lead walking along streets, he barks and barks at every dog he sees and shines and screeches uncontrollably, we are working on it and making some progress slowly, but it’s really tough. I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas about why he is fine off-lead, but as soon as he is on the lead walking he has a big fit when he sees other dogs? Thanks!
  2. Nonnie

    Nonnie PetForums VIP

    Apr 15, 2009
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    Could be barrier frustration.
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  3. Mum2Ozzy

    Mum2Ozzy PetForums Member

    Dec 21, 2020
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    My friend had a similar issue with one of her dogs; she was absolutely fine off lead but when on lead she'd made an absolute racket when she spotted other dogs. They consulted behaviourist who told them it's because she's anxious on the lead thinking she can't run off or defend herself. I believe it boiled down to her not being socialised properly with other dogs. Maybe speak to behaviourist?
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  4. LotsaDots

    LotsaDots PetForums Senior

    Apr 15, 2016
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    As the previous poster said a lead creates a restriction so prevents the dog from being able to get away from a situation. My dog is reactive on a lead but off lead is a million times better. Someone else will probably explain far better than me but you need to find the threshold where your dog is aware there is another dog nearby but doesn't react then reward them for being calm. Slowly decreasing the distance over time.
  5. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

    Feb 1, 2016
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    This is actually not uncommon but very few dogs really want to get into a fight. All of their instincts tell them not to - in the wild, the risk of injury is simply too great. In fact, aggressive behaviour is almost always rooted in fear.

    By putting on a big display, your dog is trying to frighten off the other dog, his body language is saying 'I'm loud and big and scary, don't come close to me if you know what's good for you'. And almost always the other dog will retreat, or be taken away by his owner, so your dog's behaviour becomes reinforced. It worked, so he knows he can do it again.

    The reason this sort of behaviour often happens when your dog is on lead is because it means that he has found himself closer to the other dog than he would have chosen if he had been able to.

    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. Find out what that 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. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone cortisol can stay in the body for some time. Studies in dogs are inconclusive but it may be several days. The distance he was comfortable with on one day might be too close on another day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

    Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog. And importantly, don't ask your dog to watch you if it is the other dog that is reactive. Your dog should never be in a situation where he could be at risk while she is complying with something you have asked him to do.

    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 givhim h the extra support he needs.
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