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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our new rescue is very reactive to other dogs and people walking by. I did not experience this level of barking and aggression with our previous dobe. Any tips or advice on helping her to be less reactive, not bark at other dogs so much, etc.
 

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Heh, I'm experiencing the same with a mutt I bought from the shelter 2 weeks ago. Will be watching closely to see what others have to say! I will suggest reading Click to Calm, though. That has been enlightening for me.
 
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How long have you had your rescue? They need a few weeks to decompress and get to know and trust you.

See if you can find a friend that has a calm dog that doesn't care about much. Try to meet in a park where you can distance your dog. I would suggest not feeding them and taking high value treats (like cheese, hotdogs, chicken and even steak). Have your friend (and eventually their dog, once your dog becomes ok with just walking by your friend) walk towards you and you and your dog towards them. As your dog's attention STARTS to be on your friend (or their dog), draw their attention to you by giving them the treats. I cut my treats up in very tiny pieces. You want to be a treat dispensing fool, as though your dog just won the biggest slot machine win ever. Once you feel the treats may not be working as much, do a 90 degree turn away from them (enough that your dog can see them but know they are getting further away. Once your dog brings the focus back to you or away from them, release them and get them lots of praise and play with them. Do this maybe two times, definitely 3 tops because you don't want your dog to lose focus on the treats and be full. And I would try to do this a few times a week. Once your dog becomes comfortable with that friend and their dog, see if you can do the same with another friend and their dog.

The absolute worse thing you can do is correct your dog. You want your dog to start thinking that strange people and strange dogs are a good thing and treats are coming.
 

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Our new rescue is very reactive to other dogs and people walking by. I did not experience this level of barking and aggression with our previous dobe. Any tips or advice on helping her to be less reactive, not bark at other dogs so much, etc.
Remember the the three 3's. 3 days just to adjust to what has happened. Three weeks to figure out where he's at and who he's with now, and 3 months to adjust to his new family and their routines.
 

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So if we are walking and see a stranger, throw kibble along the sidewalk/road?
Sure--the basic idea is to take her attention and mind off the "other" (thing, people, whatever) that is making her bark). I don't think you need to scatter a whole handful--just a few pieces, enough to get her attention. But if I was doing it and I could I'd first try turning around before the "stranger" got close--or cross the street or turn down another block--and you can do the scatter at any point--hopefully before her attention is all on the stranger .

dobebug
 

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Yes, but from a distance. You may need to drive to a neighborhood where no one knows you :) to avoid embarrassment as your dog vocalizes at new people/dogs.

Here is some information targeted towards puppies but may help you with your dog.

These are tips that may help you build that bond with your puppy and shape desirable behaviors that will set you and your puppy up for success when he is older. NOTE: These also work on adult dogs but may take longer and require some modification.

Do lots of engagement work! Stuff your pocket with puppy kibble and make high happy noises and call to your puppy in a high, happy tone of voice so he knows that coming to you equals good things.

Every day, all day start imprinting behaviors - if he sits, tell him ‘YES!’ and reward with a bite of kibble. Work on all the commands that way, use his incidental and unconscious puppy actions to build the foundation and gently show him what they mean.

Training never stops so if you walk to the kitchen, see if you can get him to walk in heel position as you go (lure him with a yummy in front of his nose). Another great practice is to ask for a sit and wait before you put his dinner down or give him an appropriate chew toy.

All these things will have such a profound affect on the bond you are building. You have a perfect little piece of clay and, now. the work is on YOU to mold him into a masterpiece.

Read as many books on dog training as you can. I strongly advise the reading:
  • How to Speak Dog by Dr. Stanley Coren (my favorite)
  • When Pigs Fly by Jane Killion
  • The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
  • How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Sophia Yin
  • And keep reading!

Understand the difference between socialization and interaction. Socializing is not just taking your puppy around other puppies, it is also exposing him to the human world so that he can learn how to be a good canine citizen. Expose your puppy to daily experiences at home and away.

At home, make a puppy obstacle course where he has to walk over different surfaces (Black trash bags, towels, unopened packs of paper towels, carpet, rubber feeding mats, anything that he can walk over that will get him used to different surfaces) - make it safe and make it fun. Do some simple things like putting on hats and sunglasses and slowly opening and closing an umbrella in sight of your puppy. You can also expose him to different noises (YouTube is great for that) at a quiet volume (at first).

Away from home, take your puppy to places where he can observe people, dogs, cars, and more FROM A DISTANCE. The parking lot of a shopping plaza is great, especially if that plaza has a Petco or PetSmart. Don’t GO IN to the pet places, just roll the window down a bit and let him sniff to his hearts content. If he gets fussy or barks, don’t make a big deal of it, just scatter some kibble or tiny bits of high value treat. The key is to get him comfortable with new sights and sounds.

Engage with him by playing, cuddling, talking to him. Put in the work to building the bond. Build his confidence through slow exposure to different sights, sounds, textures, scents, etc. Take things slowly and enjoy this squishy stage.

All these things work to build his confidence which is HUGE in having a balanced dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Also, is it aggression? or is it a lack of confidence or over-excitement? What does the rescue organization have to say?
I believe the rescue thinks it is lack of confidence.
Seems pretty aggressive to me though. I took her for a jog today. Second lap she seemed to settle in and be less energetic and jumpy— but then we saw a person. I immediately gave a treat and told her “it’s ok”, but it only helped momentarily and then she started lunging and barking ferociously. I’m sure my neighbors think I’ve got a “scary” dog now.
 

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Ha! Have you had people call the cops due to a dangerous dog? If not, I have you beat. :ROFLMAO: True story, but all kidding aside. Aggression is not always shown as reactivity and reactivity doesn’t always mean aggression. I advocate for getting some training from a reputable balanced trainer familiar with actual working dogs like Malinois, Doberman, etc. Additionally, you may want to consult a behaviorist.

I think you need to give her space. Let her watch the world go by from a far distance. It may feel ridiculous to you, but it may be 1/2 mile away where she can see the action but not have it close to her. Also, I wouldn’t coddle her and tell her “it’s okay”. I would matter-of-factly, head in the opposite direction and then when she comes with you…or you muscle her your way, toss a piece of hot dog (if you need to pull out the big guns) in front of her (opposite from the ‘threat’ and tell her to ’find it’.

For now, I would NOT take her jogging or around people or dogs. Denise Fenzi had a great video on this - not all dogs need to be walked. You can get their physical fitness in other manners and mental work at home.

While my situation is different than yours (raised my from a 10-week old pup), I have had a recent breakthrough with my boy (just turned 2 at the end of July) and it was the realization that I am on HIS timetable, not mine. Humbling, vexing, and frustrating but true. Working through things at a slower pace than I ever imagined and recognizing that he is his own dog and not a reincarnation of any of my other wonderful “easy” dogs, has given me an abiding appreciation for all he brings to me. So, take it easy on her and yourself. Slooooooowwwww down, examine all the things you are doing to set up routine and structure for her (consistency is key), take a hard look at yourself and what your body posture, actions, vocalizations may be doing to escalate her. There are a million little things that we don’t even realize we do that help or hinder our dogs.
 

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Working with a positive method based trainer experienced in dealing with reactive dogs is the best solution. If that's not doable, then this online class starts October 1st. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - BH150: Management for Reactive Dogs Dr. Cook also has an on-demand video that uses the same techniques taught in the class. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - LS205: Living With & Training a Reactive Dog
I think Rosemary's post is spot on and I second all of it.

Reactivity can be complex. Understanding your dog (what soothes them, what arouses them, and having some ability to predict a range of their behaviors with some accuracy) is really important. This will probably be difficult with a new dog with a potentially unknown history. And timing of response and management can be critical to making progress in dealing with reactivity.

So, I would recommend you work with an experienced and thoughtful trainer, even you only meet with them for a session or two, so that you get hands-on guidance and feedback. If you're a fairly experienced and capable trainer, you might be able to figure it out with online only class.

In the meantime, I would stop walking her because it's a self-reinforcing response without proper management. For now, I would only take her places where you are reasonably confident that you won't encounter any of the things she's reacting to or that you're able to control the environment well-enough to avoid reactions (like, going to the vet and waiting in the car instead of in the lobby, stuff like that).

It might sound extreme to not walk her (for now) but she's basically practicing the reaction with you every time it happens and you really don't want that to become (in her mind) the norm with her new person and in her new home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yeah basically not sure which advice to take— the advice to not walk her, or the advice to walk her and reassure her/give treats etc to make people a positive thing. This will be an unpopular opinion in this group— but here’s the thing— family walks, and hikes, and dog parks is what it’s all about. So I don’t want to NOT walk her, and not hike her. That’s what you do with a family dog.

both advice is confounding to me because it seems with the treat giving approach I’m almost rewarding the barking. With the not walking I’m just avoiding it all together which seems like it’ll be harder for her to make gains and get used to it.
I think I’m hoping that she’ll settle a bit and be generally less activated with people and dogs. She barks when they walk by the house, barks on walks, barks at everything.
 

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I agree 100% with brw1982. I had a reactive dog, spent years training, worked with highly specialized trainers, etc. She's right - the more she practices this behavior, the more ingrained it will become. If you don't get a good training plan in place with a highly skilled trainer, and instead attempt to do this on your own, there's a great chance the whole situation will backfire on you and everything will get a lot worse.

Just my opinion, of course, but I've had this kind of dog. I also have a ton of friends who are trainers. It's unfortunate that rescues are adopting out dogs like this and leaving folks to flounder, but it seems to be far too common now.
 

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When you treat a dog in this situation, he has had to remove his attention from the thing which is bothering him and pay attention to you (or the treat.) You are rewarding him, either actively by giving him a treat when he looks at you, or passively by making the treat available in his environment (treats from the sky), for paying attention to you, not for his out-of-control barking.

You are rewarding him when he has been able to stand down enough to think of something other than reacting to another dog. If he continues to focus on you, he can earn more treats (or praise or a toy, whatever you are using to get his attention.) A dog that looks to you when he is in a situation that bothers him is where you are trying to go.

If you can't get that response from him while you are walking, if he continues to get aroused even with your careful management, you shouldn't be exposing him to that kind of situation. Each time he is aroused and not able to calm down, even with your help, will set that behavior even more strongly as his go-to response in similar situations.
 

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Yeah basically not sure which advice to take— the advice to not walk her, or the advice to walk her and reassure her/give treats etc to make people a positive thing. This will be an unpopular opinion in this group— but here’s the thing— family walks, and hikes, and dog parks is what it’s all about. So I don’t want to NOT walk her, and not hike her. That’s what you do with a family dog.

both advice is confounding to me because it seems with the treat giving approach I’m almost rewarding the barking. With the not walking I’m just avoiding it all together which seems like it’ll be harder for her to make gains and get used to it.
I think I’m hoping that she’ll settle a bit and be generally less activated with people and dogs. She barks when they walk by the house, barks on walks, barks at everything.
  • You are asking for trouble if you insist on dog parks.
  • You can walk your dog but all you will do right now is increase the reactions unless you are working with a skilled trainer to correct and redirect (hence the treat protocol).
  • You don't reward her when she is barking - you get her attention to stop the barking and then, mark that behavior. For example...tonight on a walk, there was a very aggressive and pushy dog walking towards us with a very intent stare. My boy was getting tense, so I got as far off the sidewalk as I could and asked him to look at me instead of continuing to stare and get worked up by the other dog. A year ago, he would have SCREAMED bloody murder at that dog. But because of ridiculous amounts of training, exposure, more training, reinforcement, blah blah blah, I am able to redirect him avoiding a situation.

It sounds like you need to get a good trainer, who will train you how to train the dog. Ideally, you can find someone that trains working dogs.

Good luck
 

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^^ the above is what we're doing and finding SOME success after 3 weeks in the home with us.

We also have ours on Prozac for now, to remove the fear causing the reactivity so we can work on socialization in another week or two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
  • You are asking for trouble if you insist on dog parks.
  • You can walk your dog but all you will do right now is increase the reactions unless you are working with a skilled trainer to correct and redirect (hence the treat protocol).
  • You don't reward her when she is barking - you get her attention to stop the barking and then, mark that behavior. For example...tonight on a walk, there was a very aggressive and pushy dog walking towards us with a very intent stare. My boy was getting tense, so I got as far off the sidewalk as I could and asked him to look at me instead of continuing to stare and get worked up by the other dog. A year ago, he would have SCREAMED bloody murder at that dog. But because of ridiculous amounts of training, exposure, more training, reinforcement, blah blah blah, I am able to redirect him avoiding a situation.

It sounds like you need to get a good trainer, who will train you how to train the dog. Ideally, you can find someone that trains working dogs.

Good luck
Yes I need a trainer. The barking incessantly at the window is almost worse than reactivity on walks.
 

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Have you tried blocking access to the windows in the interim?
 
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