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Admiral's Dad
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Fellow Doberman Owners,

Our pup is just turning 18 months old and he is calming down a lot, but he still has a huge play drive. When we are walking on leash he is very bad about getting worked up when another dog is approaching. He will respond very well to my commands to sit and wait while the dog approaches, but once the dog is very near, Admiral will often lunge out towards the dog in a burst of Doberman energy and let out a bark or two, tail wiggling furiously.

It is very clear to me that this is aggressive but not at all vicious. He wants to greet and play with the other dog, but it often frightens the other dog owner (and usually sending their dog into a play frenzy even if the other dog was very calm before).

I respond by apologizing to the other owner controlling him with a hand on his muzzle, putting him back in a sit while speaking very firmly, then putting him in a down and making him wait. He is very good about all that.

I have considered keeping a bitter spray bottle on hand to spritz him on the back when he is in the act of lunging, but I was wondeing if anyone else had any advice for how to combat this behavior.

He can pass every other element of the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, but this one is quite a challenge.

Thank you!

A Frequently Embarrased Dober-Dad.
 

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I would take an alternate approach vs correcting and show him what to do. I'd find a good trainer to show you how to desensitize, countercondition, work under threshold, maybe do control unleashed or behavior adjustment training. The correction may make him be quiet but it won't fix WHY he's doing the behavior. It won't necessarily make him any "calmer" inside his head so to speak.
 

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I see owners shoot themselves in the foot quite often on this specific issue.

In the name of developing a dog who is dog friendly (and I wouldn't describe your dogs behavior as "aggressive"--out of control perhaps but not aggressive if what he's indicating is tail wagging desire to PLAY with another dog) people allow their young dogs to "meet and greet" and play ON LEASH with every dog possible when they are very young. Then when they hit 12 or 15 or 18 months the same owner who encouraged behavior like this when the puppy was younger can't figure out how to get control of the dog now that it's older, heavier, stronger and wants to do the same thing.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, you get to go back to the beginning (and buy a copy of Control Unleashed before you start this) and retrain the dog and yourself while keeping the dog at a sufficient distance that he is still under control and NOT in a frenzy.

One of the things that helps is to make sure that the dog has a rock solid "sit" complete with a rock solid "stay". And that you know what his distance limitations are so that you keep him under threshhold while the retraining is in process.

You'll have to apologize less and won't have to explain that he is friendly and "just wants to play" (which is a phrase that usually causes me to start walking with my dog across the street because a big percentage of owners don't know if their dog "just wants to play" or if he is hoping to get close enough to tear the other dogs throat out).

It helps to have professional assistance while you are trying to rework the initial training but it is something you can do yourself.

For everyone else--teach your puppies that when on leash they are NOT going to be playing with other dogs--tell other owners what you are doing and why and suggest that you all find a nice fenced place (your yard or theirs or any place else suitable) turn the dogs loose and let them play. Don't do it while they are on leash at any age.
 

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I would suggest you get and read Control Unleashed as dobebug recommends but if possible, I would cross the street instead of making your dog come face to face with another dog. You start crossing at a distance where he sees it but is not yet reacting. As he learns he is not going to come face to face or be confronted by the other dog, he becomes more relaxed. You shorten the distance as your training progresses. Be sure to have high value treats ready to reward him for looking at you and not the other dog. I have been where you are now and used this method. It takes a lot of patience but works. I can now take my dog to an agility trial and walk by many dogs, granted she has a space issue, but she can maintain composure and that is what you want. Good luck!
 
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