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About 2 months ago we moved into an apartment with our 10 year old pitbull mix and our 2 year old beagle mix. Now the pitbull has always had issues with barking at strangers or people she thinks are trying to invade her space, but since we've moved into our apartment she has begun lunging at people that we pass when we take her outside. We are at our wits end trying to find a solution. Our vet says that there isn't anything wrong with her health. We've tried to train her to ignore people using food and treats but she just ignores us or listens till she gets the treat and goes back to barking or lunging. We've tried no bark collars that let off the vibrations to get them to stop barking, as well as the remotes that emit a high frequency noise. The methods work maybe one or two times before she begins ignoring them. My fiancee keeps threatening to get a shock collar for her and I'd really rather avoid it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
 

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First your bf is not going to like the results of a shock collar, pits are typically very restant to pain stimulus, the amount it takes to get results is.. upsetting.. and will need to be constantly increased. How much exercise is she getting. You said apartment do I'm guessing maybe that's less space to play? If you don't think that s the issue I'd consult a dog behaviorist. In the meantime to keep everyone safe I'd suggest a double ring collar that will allow you proper control and a mouth restrictor (not a muzzle it's more like a bungee cord that won't allow the dog to fully open his mouth) and sound aversion if it will work as a starting point.
 

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Is there any way to make strangers more attractive? Do you know anyone who your dog doesnt know who would be prepared to walk past and at the moment she starts to lunge or bark throw a treat.. You would need a few people willing to help but maybe get her to think that strangers are a source of good things and maybe that would reduce her protective behaviour.
 

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First your bf is not going to like the results of a shock collar, pits are typically very restant to pain stimulus, the amount it takes to get results is.. upsetting.. and will need to be constantly increased. How much exercise is she getting. You said apartment do I'm guessing maybe that's less space to play? If you don't think that s the issue I'd consult a dog behaviorist. In the meantime to keep everyone safe I'd suggest a double ring collar that will allow you proper control and a mouth restrictor (not a muzzle it's more like a bungee cord that won't allow the dog to fully open his mouth) and sound aversion if it will work as a starting point.
Weather permitting we try and take them for a walk around our local park everyday but its only about a 10 to 20 minuet walk. She has never really been a dog that likes to run around the house, she likes to show us her toys then settle down to chew on them until the toy is shredded.
I have noticed that when we take her for a walk and she has her harness on she does not bark at people, she will still pull me towards people but when the harness is on she doesn't seem as aggressive. When we take her out just for a short bathroom break we usually just have the leash attached to her collar and thats when if someone gets near she will get aggressive.
 

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Is there any way to make strangers more attractive? Do you know anyone who your dog doesnt know who would be prepared to walk past and at the moment she starts to lunge or bark throw a treat.. You would need a few people willing to help but maybe get her to think that strangers are a source of good things and maybe that would reduce her protective behaviour.
We might. One of our neighbors also has a pitbull who is very well behaved and everytime we see him and we have our dogs he is very friendly and nice, even when she lunged at him when he was coming outside.
 

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I second looking into a qualified behaviorist and getting a good, professional evaluation of whether this is caused by anxiety or something more like territorial behavior, and getting a plan of action. Your vet may be able to recommend a veterinary behaviorist in your area (this is a veterinarian who specializes in behavior problems, solutions, and medications if necessary), or you can look at organizations like CCPDT or IAABC who certify behaviorists who've gone through rigorous training, hours of hands on work with dog behavior problems, and passed exams proving they have an up to date understanding on the science and current best practices when it comes to dog behavior and behavior modification. I say this because, sadly, in most countries (US included) literally anyone can claim to be a dog trainer and behaviorist - you definitely want someone who actually has the cred and experience to really earn the 'behaviorist' label.

A shock collar isn't an appropriate tool here. It's just as likely to teach the dog that strange people cause pain than that their barking/lunging causes pain.

Apartments can be difficult for a lot of dogs. There's constant sounds and smells of other people and animals, and they don't have space to relax or unwind. This can lead to them just constantly being on edge, so they react to things outside more quickly and more intensely. You might want to try some kind of white noise or music to help your pup feel like the apartment is a bit more isolated and less overwhelming.
 

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I want to say throwing a treat after a lunge is the exact thing to NOT do, you are rewarding for agression!!! You need a behaviorist to help you. If you can't find one near you please explore on line options. I know Simpawtico (ian) is offering low cost online assistance. His videos are exellant. There are so many questions that need asked first, especially if you are sure your dog is a pit, as the dog you are describing (low energy, territorial, human agressive) is not typically pit behavior. It may be whatever its crossed with, but still needs a full eval by someone. Under no circumstances hit your dog or allow anyone else to.
If you really want to try something, try the sound aversion, its low risk high reward. walk the dog towards a willing stranger when the dog tenses BEFORE the lunge happens make a really loud sharp noise. Do NOT use the dogs name or no, just a noise, I d avoid a clap too as hand agression seems o be an issue. It needs to be loud/sharp enough to startle him out of the behavior. You may need to use a device to start. the desired behavior is that he stops and looks at you. This should be almost instinctual then YOU give him a treat, if he doesn't pull him in the other direction until he self calms. Do not treat or comfort him durring this time it will reinforce the agression, and reset for another try. Ensure the stranger understands propper nonagresive stance ie. Generally ignoring the dog. Eye contact is considered aggressive behavior for most dogs although pits usually take it as consent to play. Either way it's not what you want. You should treat for ignoring the stranger at first, as that is your desired behavior. Then you can try to get them to tempt her with treats.
 

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Be really careful with sound aversion if your dog is at all sound sensitive (doesn't like thunder storms, fireworks, the vacuum, etc.), or if there's any possibility of anxiety at play here - which is honestly more likely than genuine human aggression. If the dog finds a sudden sound distressing or startling, even if it doesn't seem like it should be to us, they'll pretty quickly connect that to the presence of strangers. Like with a shock or any other negative stimulus, this can cause the dog to be even more reactive, because they now think the people cause the scary/stressful/painful thing.

A good alternative is a positive interrupter. This is a sound like a kissy noise, a tongue click, whistle, etc. that you teach the dog (at home first!) is always followed by a good reward. This will eventually result in the same kind of automatic behavior where the dog immediately refocuses on you, which you can then reward with both a food treat and moving away from the stimulus (the people causing his reaction).

Here's a good video that explains it better. One of her older ones, but Kikopup/Emily Larlham knows her stuff:

If he is so worked up by the other people that he cannot respond to something like a positive interrupter or eat treats at all, he's too upset in that moment to actually learn. It's called being 'over threshold' in dog training lingo. You're going to need to start with either at a greater distance from his trigger (this is where a helper can really come in handy), to the point where he notices them but doesn't immediately freak out, or start with things that catch his attention but don't result in a total meltdown. For my frustration-reactive dog who goes off on other dogs, we started with things like baby carriages and people with big bags on the street. He'd perk up and focus on them, but could still think clearly enough to disengage and come back to us for a reward. Practicing this meant that he had a good foundation of disengaging and walking away from the trigger when we encountered another dog. He's still a work in progress, but improving.

But reactivity has a lot of facets, and it can be so helpful to have a skilled person observe you and your dog to really get the details about what's going on in your specific case, and what's going to work best for you and your specific dog.
 

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Thanks for the correction. I didnt think about sound being a trigger. It just seems a preferable suggestion to rewarding the agression. A behaviorist is by far the best choice as this is not really a quick fix issue.
 

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Your dog is 10. A behaviorist may be a very expensive choice for an older dog. Not that it is the wrong choice and it certainly is your choice.

Typically reactivity starts at the handler end of the leash not at the dog's end of the leash. When you see someone coming toward you, do you tense up and shorten the leash? That tension is read by the dog like a paper back novel. When was the first time this happened and what happened exactly. Think about it hard.. and try to remember every detail of what YOU did and what the other person did.

A thing to remember is that if a dog pulls it is because you pull back.. oppositional reflex kicks in and it is a tug of war.

To have food work as a diversionary tactic the dog needs to be HUNGRY and the food needs to be very high value and the dog must be under threshold.

An electronic collar that delivers any sort of stimulus of any kind is the wrong tool. If you correct a dog for going at a person you can trigger real aggression as the dog will associate the stimulus with the person and not with you wanting the behavior to stop.

You need to train a consistent SIT in the house and then in the yard or driveway. Then take that sit to other locations with low stimulus and reward heavily that trained sit. Eventually you ask for the sit when you see a person a ways off.. and before the person gets near you you can remove the dog from the situation (cross the street etc). Eventually (and this will take weeks, not days) you should be able to ask that dog to sit at any time no matter what.

You cannot punish/correct the dog for his feelings toward people (be it fear or something else). You CAN correct the dog for breaking a sit. First, however, you need to train the sit. This means sit until the dog dies, you give a different command or you release the dog. Most people don't train with enough consistency in the HOUSE to get this let alone on a walk. That dog, once in a sit (and with time and patience and daily training) should sit when you leave the room and come back.. while you are making dinner.. sit until told to do something else or released, no matter what.

When you get it inside, do the same outside.. then on walks and build it that way. It takes time.

In the end what you are training is that if the dog sits and stays sitting NOTHING will hurt him and he will get yummy treats some of the time.
 

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Thanks for the correction. I didnt think about sound being a trigger. It just seems a preferable suggestion to rewarding the agression. A behaviorist is by far the best choice as this is not really a quick fix issue.
No worries! Behavior modification works a little differently than standard training, since the goal is really to change the underlying emotions rather than the behavior directly, so you can't actually reward the negative behavior in the way you're thinking. You can certainly reinforce it with certain behaviors ("Boy, my owner freaks out when I bark at this dog, it must be REALLY DANGEROUS"), but you can't really make the dog more fearful (using fear as an example because it's the most common emotion causing reactivity) by adding a treat or praise reward.

Once the underlying emotion is changed to something more positive, the behavior actually becomes less intense and frequent on its own. You do get some dogs who learn to take advantage ("Oooh, a dog! Bark, bark! Where's my treat?") but IMO that's a huge win, because the dog is now thinking about how to earn a treat, not practicing that negative emotional response. It's usually really noticeable when this happens, because again, the barking/lunging behavior is different, less intense, more of a ritualized thing than an emotional reaction - think about someone faking being scared vs. genuine terror. At that point, you can have a lot more success training what you want instead of the barking.

Dr. Sophia Yin made a great video available here showing how pairing a negative stimulus with a reward, regardless of the dog's behavior, results in the behavior improving:
Training Aggression? Counter-conditioning a Dog to Blowing in Face

Leash reactivity is a bit more complicated than the example above, because you do have to keep the dog in that state where they CAN learn, which is typically before they go into a full-fledged meltdown over their trigger, and of course most of us don't live in an environment we have much control over once we leave our house/yard.

@Kfinch901, I wouldn't worry too much about what caused your dog's reactivity originally. At her age, when she's had a history of milder reactivity and has had a major life change that's likely causing stress (the move), it's not really going to help deal with what's happening here and now. Definitely try to stay calm when the dog is reacting, without leash jerking or shouting, but what's done is done.

I say this as someone who contributed to my older dog's reactivity through my inexperience and ignorance about socialization when we first got him. I didn't do anything majorly 'wrong' and certainly not abusive, but allowing and encouraging interaction with as many dogs on-leash as possible, combined with his temperament, and my inability to see the problem until he'd had a few years of practicing it and escalating, all tied in. But knowing that doesn't make it easier to manage and improve his behavior, nor does it really change HOW I'm doing that at all. And dwelling on it only serves to make me feel bad and actually gets in the way of making improvements because I'm focused on what I should have done then, rather than what I'm doing now. I try to acknowledge it and move forward.
 

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We've tried to train her to ignore people using food and treats but she just ignores us or listens till she gets the treat and goes back to barking or lunging.
This sounds like a simple case of misapplication of positive reinforcement technique.

Do not train her to ignore, but rather to CALMLY ACKNOWLEDGE

Donna Hill has a great video on youtube about L.A.T., or Look At That. This technique is almost always very effective for reactive dogs, when it is applied correctly and consistently.

Your dog is 10 tears old, with somewhat of a history. Re-training her using L.A.T. will likely take considerable time, effort, and dedication on your part.
 
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