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Mocha
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Up until a year ago, when I took Mocha for a walk, and she saw someone approaching, or even worse, another dog, she would go totally ballistic so I was resigned to the fact we would spend the rest of our time going off trail whenever we saw someone coming. I chatted with and exchanged emails with a couple of forum members and got some great advice (You know who you are, thank you so much!), and have been putting in some time with my girl to see if we could work through her reactivity before it got totally out of control.

First of all, it takes a LOT of work, time, patience, and love, and we're moving forward in baby steps, with plenty of setbacks along the way so this is in no way a miracle cure story because we're definitely still a work in progress and most likely will be, for a very long time...but that's fine.

The very first thing I learned was, that the saying that feelings run down the leash is a truism. And how. I can't even remember exactly when, but one day while we were out I realized that when we saw other people coming, or someone with a dog approaching, that I started getting anxious and worried that Mocha was going to go nuts. And around the same time, I also noticed that whenever Mocha saw someone or something, the very first thing she ALWAYS did was look at me. So in part, she was feeding off my emotions and actions, and lack of clear direction. I immediately changed things up, and when we saw someone coming at us, instead of me worrying, I started acting like they weren't there, and I talked to Mocha, while partially distracting her by directing her attention to anything else, even if it was me, or a treat in my hand, a flower or plant, anything but the approaching people/dog. No big deal, nothing to see here, let's just keep on moving along. At the beginning, we still kept a distance, and if I saw her hair starting to go up, we went further off trail until I saw her relax a bit. Another thing I did was to take her to the park and I would sit on a bench in a spot where she could watch people going back and forth, and walking their dogs from a distance, in the hope she would get a bit desensitized. A lot of rinse and repeat, and over time, I think we're seeing some results.

We've been going at it for about a year now, and have made what I consider to be fairly good progress. She'll bark if someone knocks on our door or rings the doorbell, or if she's on the back deck and sees someone close to the house. But we're to the point where I can take her out in public, and if she sees other people, or even dogs, she no longer goes ballistic. Yes, she still puts her ears up and watches them very carefully, but unless the other dog reacts towards us, she shows no signs of aggression/fear (I'm convinced it's always been fear and lack of confidence, not outward aggression). This morning, I took Mocha for an early morning hike at the park. We met a few folks along the way, one couple stopped to admire what a beauty Mocha was, and the lady petted Mocha and told her what a good girl she was. Another couple was walking their 2 dogs, and although Mocha's ears went up and she was on full alert, watching the dogs, she was fine until one of the dogs started barking at us right as they passed; then she growled and her hair went up. That's the tricky part; you never know how the other dogs will react. Most owners will start moving off trail or way over to the side while shortening their grip on the leash which tells me right way their dog may be reactive too which gives me plenty of warning to give them a wide berth but you always have that one that seems to think 2 dogs almost getting into it is entertaining.

So while I still don't have a dog that's ecstatic to meet everyone or wags her tail at all people and dogs that come our way, I do have a dog that's a lot more relaxed on our walks now, and to me, that's progress, and we both enjoy our hikes a lot more than we used to.

Edit: I also wanted to add that although I'm not 100% sure, it seems like Mocha gained a lot more confidence around her third birthday. Maybe a late bloomer?

And while I'm here, I may as well upload a few recent pics :)











Yes, I know I have a piece of grass in my mouth, what of it?








Did I say A "few" recent pics? LOL
 

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Way to go! That's excellent news!
 
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Mocha
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Discussion Starter #3
Way to go! That's excellent news!
We don't have any behavior specialists close by, and I didn't want to go with any of the local trainers either. I figured, I have nothing but time and who knows my dog better than me? Still plenty of work left, but we've come a long way :)
 

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Mocha
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Discussion Starter #4
And MeadowCat, thank you so much for all the advice you gave me.
 

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And MeadowCat, thank you so much for all the advice you gave me.
If anything I ever learned can help someone else I'm glad to share it! I've made plenty of my own mistakes, that's for sure.
 

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Hairy Dog, RIP Caesar, Katana, Kip, Capri
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So wonderful of you to stick with it so patiently....I’m glad it has become more comfortable for both of you guys.

Your pictures are always so clear and focused, and your model is (appears to be??) so cooperative. :) I’m jealous.

Oh, and what was happening when you took the last couple of pictures??
 

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Mocha
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Discussion Starter #9
So wonderful of you to stick with it so patiently....I’m glad it has become more comfortable for both of you guys.

Your pictures are always so clear and focused, and your model is (appears to be??) so cooperative. :) I’m jealous.

Oh, and what was happening when you took the last couple of pictures??
We had just finished playing fetch so she was tuckered out; that's about the only time she'll lay down like that and let me get photos.
The last two; I had gone down on my knees so I could get the pics head on and I think Mocha was checking me out to see what the heck I was doing.
 
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Hairy Dog, RIP Caesar, Katana, Kip, Capri
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We had just finished playing fetch so she was tuckered out; that's about the only time she'll lay down like that and let me get photos.
The last two; I had gone down on my knees so I could get the pics head on and I think Mocha was checking me out to see what the heck I was doing.
:2smile:
 

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Mocha
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Discussion Starter #15
Another small update in our long journey. I get every 2nd Friday off so today Mocha and I went for an early morning hike in the woods. A guy was jogging with his dog (a lab) and coming toward us. Now in the past, I would have had to go off trail into the woods so Mocha wouldn't go ballistic. We're at the point now where we could stay on the trail and although at first Mocha went on alert; ears up, checking them out, by the time they got close to us, she almost acted nonchalant, like they didn't exist. Good girl!!!!! Nothing but time, baby, nothing but time :) And it's so rewarding and gratifying to see progress in your dog, knowing she isn't all stressed out every time she sees someone or something.
On another note, on the drive to the park, at a red light, a guy was behind us on a motorcycle and he was wearing one of those helmets that has a Mohawk thingy on top and Mocha went off on him through the rear window of my SUV. Not sure if she felt he was too close to us, or if it was the helmet but man oh man, she was letting go with her big girl bark.

A couple of cellphone pics from this morning




 

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Good girl, Mocha! And good Doberdad, for all his hard work!
 
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Mocha
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Discussion Starter #18
We're still not "there" yet, but like I said, there's no hurry or timeline. But we've come a long way from the days where Mocha would throw dandruff like mad when other people were walking on the same path we were on, or how she would go totally ballistic whenever she saw another dog. And along the way, I've learned just as much, if not more, than she has.
 

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Hairy Dog, RIP Caesar, Katana, Kip, Capri
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Those are cell phone pictures???? You put me to shame.

You'v put in so much hard work...it's nice to see that it is all paying off.
 

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My Jada has certain things or people that tick her off. Not sure if it will ever get better. And the worse is a motorcycle that gets too close to our car. Whether passing us or at a red light.

The other is someone in a hoodie. She is the most friendly girl in the world. In fact in her WAE test the evaluator commented that her reaction to the friendly stranger is what they were looking for. But,
she will act very badly, no that was too nice to say, go ballistic at anyone walking in front of our house with a black hoodie.

Good work in what you have done with Mocha. Such a pretty girl and I loved the photos.
 
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