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So recently Ginger has started barking (and sometimes lunging) towards other leashed dogs on her walks. We've had her for a year now and I'd say this behavior started in the last two weeks(ish). Before this started happening she pretty much just ignored every dog she encountered on a walk whether she got to "meet" them or not, she's just always been very aloof towards other animals. She still completely ignores dogs that are fenced, even if they bark at her, but suddenly other dogs on leashes are driving her bonkers? I can't think of anything that could've triggered this. Sure, a few other leashed dogs have barked at her in the past but she always just ignored them. Now she's the one to bark first!
I wouldn't say her demeanor is particularly threatening when she does it. Yes, she's barking but her tail is wagging hard. Any ideas? Does she maybe just want to play? Otherwise she walks like a dream and is 100% normal in her daily activities. And like I said, in general she gets along with everything. Even the neighbor's outdoor cat comes up to greet her on walks and she'll give it a sniff and go on about her day. Outside of a leashed dog on a walk...she's fine with dogs that she encounters is other settings.
She's nine years old (approximately) and my parents fostered her for a rescue until we happily claimed her last year. Not much is known about her past but there is suspected abuse because she came to the shelter with an old injury to her eye and was a bit fearful of a few things at first (loud voices especially) although she's made great strides and is generally an extremely easy-going, lazy, patient old gal. I'm not really sure how to go about turning this behavior around because truthfully, I can't really put my finger on what caused it.
*ETA because it feels important - we don't really introduce her to many leashed dogs on walks anyway. it's something we've always avoided for various reasons but occasionally it has happened. Not to mention that given her general nonchalance towards other animals the sudden interest seems weird.
Last edited by Gingerr; 08-09-2019 at 01:32 AM.
Reason: forgot something
I had first thought if anything had changed in her eye sight before reading she has had a pre-existing eye injury.. Something I had experienced in one of my elderly GSD's loosing her vision to start being more barking towards things and situations off property.
I don't either as far as introducing my dogs to other dogs .. I consider my dogs working when we are out and about on lead going to and from places. Proper for them to behave and stay on task of heel sit relaxed at my side if we are stopped to engage another dog owner with their dog. That is my expectation of being out with my dog on other business. Nothing wrong with requesting your dog to learn it that way.
for right now I would work on management for the behavior.. You know it's her response. Avoid, distance, and space will be what you have to work with. ..
Avoid- moving off the path of engagement up a driveway to wait or across the street , changing complete direction turning around
Distance and space. if you can't avoid completely.. then getting the dog to the outside of the situation from the other dog, short lead reinforce a task command of heel.
It sounds like she has developed some leash reactivity. It happens for various reasons and there are several articles on how to deal with it.
My dog Pepper was always a very energetic, high-strung, happy dog who wanted to greet and play with everyone. I finally got her to be loose leash trained so she wasn't always pulling in excitement and for a while everything was going great. Then suddenly at about 4 years old she started doing exactly as you described. She snarked and lunged and barked at other dogs she met on leash. I was shocked at first and thought maybe the other dog was giving her attitude, even though it seemed to be her who started it. Then it happened again. And again. I couldn't believe our super friendly dog was acting so aggressive! How could this happen? Well I learned it's not really aggression it's reactivity. She's frustrating that she can't go meet and play with every dog she sees so instead she reacts that way. It's particularly bad if the dogs have a chance to sniff noses, or even stare at each other from a distance.
Pepper is almost 7 now and we basically have to avoid other dogs on leash. No greeting at all on leash ever. If we have to pass another dog I try to keep her distracted with treats (this works only if done early enough, not once they've already locked eyes).
Your dog's reasons for reacting might be different from my dog's, but the reaction is the same.
Any sudden behavior change - especially in a mature adult dog - would have me considering a vet visit. It could be something directly contributing to the reactivity, like vision problems as Patricia suggested, or something underlying could be going on that increases her overall stress (arthritis pain?) or even impacts behavior overall (like hypothyroid). Medical causes to behavioral problems are often really hard to manage successfully until the underlying issue is treated, so getting her a clean bill of health would be a great first step.
Otherwise, working on handler focus and redirection with lots of rewards for disengaging from exciting things has made a big difference for us. You have to try to work with her after she notices the trigger (other dog) but before she's into full-blown barking/reactive territory, since most dogs aren't in a good mental space to learn when they're that worked up.