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Discussion Starter #1
First nice day of the spring and take my dog for a walk. Lots of people out.

<RANT>And why WOULDN'T I be more than a little annoyed by the three people walking their dogs on a #$%Q^^&$%#@ HARNESS with said dogs SNARLING at the end of the leash nearing slipping said harness (because it is a front attach NO PULL harness) and saying in a falsetto voice "Oh POOKY it's OK.. and that is just a dog... " and just STANDING there so much space in that twisted and stretched out harness that a whole 'nother dog would fit in it.

Pooky doesn't need that. Pooky needs a COLLAR that cannot be slipped and Pooky needs to be let know in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that this is UNACCEPTABLE and that Momma isn't so cuddly when Pooky acts like a jerk. Pooky needs to understand HE does not have (pardon the pun) a dog in this fight because Mom is a LEADER.

Your leash reactive dog needs a CTJ moment from you and needs it now.. because if he/she/it slips that stupid harness you AND Pooky are gonna find out I am VERY unfriendly.

Oh. Meanwhile MY dog is behaving, focused on me and is so balanced genetically that Pooky is worth no more than a glance. <END RANT>

At least no one had a flexi lead...
 

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Discussion Starter #4
EXACTLY although Pooky in this case looked like two pit bull mixes and what appeared to be an American Bull dog. The bull dog was as large as my German Shepherd and of the three that owner was the better one. He had a collar on Pooky with a line to it along with the useless harness.

My dog is so balanced in the head that he really just glances at these dogs. He is very young (a year old) as well. At this age the smack down is likely to come from ME. Not sure if it would be directed at the dog or the owner.. maybe both.

If you have a dog like this you need to deal with it. If it is taking you "years" or even "months" to get reactivity under control then you are doing it wrong.
 

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To be fair, I can't imagine that my leash reactive dog would ever be able to slip out of her harness. What makes you think that it's that easy? I'm confused.

Again though, it's easy to say for people with 'balanced dogs' to rant about super anxious dogs. I'm trying to deal with mine but it's nowhere as easy as you make it sound (but I turn around and avoid other dogs as much as possible when I walk mine at least... common decency).
 

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I agree with the collar thing (harnesses are fine, but I'd also want a backup collar just in case the dog slipped the harness), but punishing a reactive dog makes it worse because then it associates other dogs with fear AND imminent pain. What do you suggest?

Also, I envy people who have never had a reactive dog, I really do. You have no idea how much it sucks.
 

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Sounds like the dog(s?) in question needs a more secure harness. And yes, they exist, even front-clip ones. I'd never put my reactive dog on a collar, nor suggest anyone else use a collar to control a reactive dog (except perhaps as an emergency backup in case of harness failure) because ime dogs will gag themselves silly when they're excited or over threshold. I'd rather my dog look like a loon than be dealing with collapsed trachea, damaged thyroid, or neck vertebrae injuries. Not saying collars are super dangerous and nobody should use them, just that the risks inherent in their use are magnified when you have a dog who will practically hang themselves on a regular basis because of either excitement or fear.

You'd probably make all kinds of assumptions if you had to pass me and my boy out when we don't have space to duck down a side street or otherwise create distance. You might even hear me say something like "It's just a dog" in a calm (or slightly exasperated if it's a bad day) voice. If you saw any consequences, you may actually see me - gasp - treat my dog once we've passed.

What you don't see is the hours we've worked on focus and attention at home, the small victories, the way the distance at which my dog reacts is slowly shrinking over the weeks and months, and how much more quickly he's recovering afterwards than he used to. When we are forced to pass another dog in close quarters, that is not a training scenario to us; he's not ready to actually think and learn in these moments. It's a management scenario, and my goal is to either pass as quickly as possible, or pull off to the side and let the other dog go by us depending on the space I have and how the other dog/handler is behaving. I've even been known to pick up Sam to get away ASAP.

I'm not saying all the people you saw today were definitely working hard to reduce their dogs' reactivity. Plenty of people just shrug and deal with it, either assuming it's not something that can be improved, or not willing to put in the time and energy to work through it. But just because it'd make you feel better to see a dog face consequences for their behavior doesn't mean that's in the dog's best interest in the moment, nor that the owner is doing nothing to address the issue.
 

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You can be annoyed that you had an unpleasant encounter.

But punishing a reactive dog, particularly a dog reactive from fear, is some of the stupidest shit you can do and a near guarantee of the dog's reactivity increasing and turning to true aggression.

The annoyed/upset part of this is valid. Wanting to be sure your dog is safe is very valid. Your idea about what you should do in that case is some of the most ignorant crap I've ever read and WHY many dogs go from a little frustrated or unsure to full on lunging, barking, growling, willing to put teeth in people and dogs to start with.

PS: My reactive dog spent all weekend at an agility trial. Not bothering other dogs or people. In close quarter with people and dogs. In many cases off leash and working very well. She's had plenty of discipline in her life. She's had very little punishment and no painful stimulus in response to behavior.

Really FUNNY WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU AREN'T AN IDIOT AND ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND DOGS instead of one breed, one training method, and one sport! And bother to LEARN THINGS instead of climbing on a high horse about what other people should do with their dogs, in situations you know nothing about.
 

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Why is everyone assuming its some sort of reactivity issue? Could just be the dogs know the owner cant control them and are just dragging the owner around doing whatever they want...... Come to Jesus moment could definately be in order for that. Not every dog that behaves that way has some sort of issue that requires doggy " counseling ". There are dogs that know they can get away with acting like jerks....so they do. My wife couldn't walk the last three dogs I've owned. They were loose leash trained for me at least. Not so much for her. The dogs knew she didnt know how to control them. The same with certain other things. She has zero interest in training, doesnt take part in it. None of them obeyed her like they did me. Dogs tend to sense these things. Really, how many of us know people with untrained dogs that walk all over their owner? I'm betting alot. Doesnt mean the dogs have issues. The owners have issues. Of coarse I'm not talking about the people who have dogs with legitimate anxiety/fear issues.
 

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Oh and PS: I use a harness on my dog. She can slip out of it. She uses a separate attachment that connects her leash (which is attached to the harness) to her collar. Except at the agility trial, where she wears a slip leash and no harness or collar. That said it's a harness for signage not control. Her (or my other dogs) would have to dislocate a leg to get out of most front clip harnesses. PARTICULARLY the kind that have martingale action in front or the front rage type.
 

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Why is everyone assuming its some sort of reactivity issue? Could just be the dogs know the owner cant control them and are just dragging the owner around doing whatever they want...... Come to Jesus moment could definately be in order for that. Not every dog that behaves that way has some sort of issue that requires doggy " counseling ". There are dogs that know they can get away with acting like jerks....so they do. My wife couldn't walk the last three dogs I've owned. They were loose leash trained for me at least. Not so much for her. The dogs knew she didnt know how to control them. The same with certain other things. She has zero interest in training, doesnt take part in it. None of them obeyed her like they did me. Dogs tend to sense these things. Really, how many of us know people with untrained dogs that walk all over their owner? I'm betting alot. Doesnt mean the dogs have issues. The owners have issues. Of coarse I'm not talking about the people who have dogs with legitimate anxiety/fear issues.
If the dog was just dragging the owner around and out of control there would be no barking or lunging around at the sight of another dog.

My dogs wont' do loose leash stuff with my husband either - and don't listen to him at all. Not because of the presence or lack of 'come to Jesus Meetings' but because he's inconsistent as shit in his expectations of behavior. He acts the same toward them no matter what they do. I reward good behavior, ask for incompatible things, and they know how to behave to get stuff from me that they want - so they do. (And yes, sometimes I tell them to knock their crap off, or stick them in a crate, or even tell them 'shush' in a fairly harsh tone - but come to jesus meetings are few and far between).

They don't start lunging, barking, and giving other people trouble because he's on the other end of the leash. The absolutely non-reactive but happy and strong puppy who doesn't care if he's alive would, you know, pull and wag really hard and he might get dragged toward someone. The other dogs drag him around toward things that interest them but that's not people and dogs.

Lunging and barking though? That's what reactivity IS and it's an emotional issue - either fear or frustration - EVERY TIME. Emotional state doesn't change that much based on lack of control/training/listening
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Punishment in either case will make it worse. More with fear than frustration but terrible for both. There are times and places my response to punishment is 'that's not my style' and times and places I think 'valid' and times and places I go 'only tool you've got in your box and you're wrong but whatever'. Then there are times and places it's suggested and my reaction is 'you're a fool and this is stupid and going to create massive problems and wtf is wrong with you'. This? The latter.
 

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I realize it's super hard for people to put themselves in other people's shoes, but I wish people could understand that having a reactive dog SUCKS. Walks are spent trying to avoid other dogs. When that's impossible, you have to endure the judgment of people who have no idea what you're going through and how much training you do and think you should be smacking the hell out of your "bad" dog for barking and lunging at theirs. You can spend tons of time rewarding your dog for watching other dogs calmly, gradually decreasing the distance between your dog and others, seeing definite improvement, only to have some "friendly" off-leash dog rush yours and set all your progress back... and then have its owner think you and your "mean" dog are the bad ones.
 

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I've read a lot of crazy stuff on this forum, but the fact that there are two people here promoting "disciplining" and "correcting" a reactive dog is really blowing my mind lol. I can only imagine either neither of you have had a truly reactive dog - or if you did, you acted in this manner with your dog and made it so scared of you that is managed to mask the problem (which was luck, not skillful training). If your suggested methods for 'curing' reactivity worked and worked well and consistently on most dogs...no one would have reactive dogs. Just doesn't add up.

While I can appreciate the fact that you were annoyed, nothing actually happened. Their dogs didn't actually do anything wrong (not until one of them slipped the harness) just annoyed you, which sounds like a personal problem - so it was up to you to walk away if it made you uncomfortable. Yeah, that's annoying, but it's life.
 

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I will readily admit the only experience I've had with what I'd call reactivity was our dogs that grew up way out in the country and hardly ever saw strangers. On the occasions when the dogs were taken to town for some reason, or we did run into dogs or the very occasional person while walking down the road those dogs would act like nuts. In those instances the dog would get a correction and be told to knock it off, which they did. We currently live in a rural area. The dog I have now has had a ton of exposure in town, at boat landings, parks etc. We dont get people walking the roads here often. A couple months ago there was a jogger coming up behind us, which was definately not a part of the usual walking routine. Beau gave a little growl and an alert bark as he ran by, I gave him a slight correction, told him we're good, no need to worry and that was it. On the way back the guy jogged past us again and Beau gave no reaction at all other than giving the guy a hard stare.
I was speaking from my experience with my own personal dogs only, and thats about the extent of my experience with it. I guess I must've been lucky that we've had dogs that could handle corrections for that kind of thing and been ok for it. Ours have had the kind of temperaments that a correction just didnt affect them in the ways people are suggesting. I wasnt trying to imply that all dogs can or should be handled that way, just that my own personal experience suggested otherwise than saying that every single dog who reacts will suffer negative consequences for just being told to knock it off in no uncertain terms.
Wasnt trying to offend anyone......
 

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It's very possible you were lucky with your country dogs. As someone mentioned earlier, dogs who are reactive out of frustration may be more resilient to correction than those reactive out of fear, though of course I can't say for sure which your pups were. I guess my question would be: did they ever stop acting 'nuts' when they were brought into town? Or did you have to correct them every time? Because if it's the latter, I'd argue that while the corrections were masking the problem, they weren't resolving the root issue.

I'd also say that Beau doesn't sound reactive at all, which is awesome! From your story, it sounds to me that while he was maybe startled, he was still in a state of mind where he had emotional control and could process the situation well. A truly reactive dog looks quite different: they pull and strain, bark/whine/scream frantically, maybe their eyes are bloodshot and their hearts are pounding. They might twist around and fight the collar or harness, as 3GSD described in their encounters. They become unresponsive to cues. These dogs will often not take treats that they'll otherwise try to move mountains for. Wave a bloody steak in front of them and they just try to crane around it because it's blocking their vision of the trigger. This is also when, ime, they'll absolutely choke themselves if they're on a collar or harness that puts pressure on their trachea. I wouldn't even use a head harness on my reactive dog because I don't trust him not to whip his head around lunging at the end of the line and hurting his neck. Basically, a correction severe enough to get through to a dog in this state has to be pretty intense, and especially if the dog is reacting out of fear? It may absolutely result in an animal who becomes more reactive and even genuinely aggressive because they move from "this situation makes me uncomfortable" to "this situation causes me actual physical pain".

You always have to weigh risk vs benefit with physical corrections. And in this scenario, the risks can indeed be very, very high while the chances of actually resolving the underlying issue causing the reactivity is far too low to make it worth it. I'm honestly with CptJack: there's a lot of situations where people use corrections while I wouldn't. And in most of these, esp. if the person is having no behavioral problems? I say you do you. In this situation, however, it can be downright dangerous.
 

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Daysleepers, I get what you're saying now. You're talking about dogs that are basically in a state of something akin to temporary insanity? No I've never had a dog that behaved that way.
And yeah, our country dogs were so seldom in those situations that they did require a correction each time. We knew they didnt get the exposure to behave consistently out and about, it was so seldom it just wasn't a priority. Vet visits and such they were just muzzled and that was that. We gave them their shots and everything ourselves at home.
I guess I was just putting it out there that there are dogs like that around.
 

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I'm not even sure that annoyance is justified. Sounds like just another day out in the public realm to me.

The other dogs were leashed and harnessed, which, technically speaking, means they were under control and not a threat to safety. I use these as training and trust-building opportunities for my own dogs pretty much without a second thought as to the other dog. Focus on me, walk on past, and it's treat-party time. Smiling at your own dog during the situation is a wise thing. Merely showing annoyance through facial expressions etc can upset the trust / confidence which has already been established.

Man I'll tell you, you probably wouldn't want to walk into the training hall on any given night if you become annoyed by reactive and unruly dogs on leash. You simply ... deal. Again, just another day.




Loose dogs ? whole different story, of course.
 

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It's what a lot of trainers and behaviorists refer to "over threshold" - meaning they're past the point where they can think clearly and learn and don't have control over their emotional and physical responses. I'd say it's akin to something like a panic attack in humans, or when a toddler is just so overwhelmed and overstimulated that they start throwing a tantrum. In both cases, often the person has to leave the situation before they can recover, and no amount of cajoling or punishment will actually calm them down until they're actually away from what's triggering them. The aggression comes in as a desperate attempt to make the thing pushing them over threshold go away as quickly as possible, because of course it's not a comfortable or fun state for the dog to be in either. Of course, humans can learn strategies to manage their fears and reduce the impact of their triggers (and in the toddler example, maturity helps a lot, which is one reason frustration-based reactivity can be worse in puppies than in adult dogs), but in dogs it's on us to teach them those skills.

How you handled your country dog makes a lot of sense - I think it's a fairly common thing for farm or rural dogs, actually. Clearly it's not a major issue for their well-being, so I can see why you didn't go through a ton of work and training to get them more comfortable in those situations. But for dogs who live in cities or towns, working through it can be the difference between the dog getting out on regular walks and being able to participate in family outings, y'know? This is something we deal with every day.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Well, I did not intend for this to go off the rails but here is the thing. The dogs need to understand one thing. Snarling at the end of the leash is NOT THEIR JOB.

In two cases I can honestly say that pulling the dog back, getting between their dog and WHATEVER they are reacting to and driving the dog back by stepping in their dog's personal space and, if necessary, grabbing their dog's collar to push them back UNTIL they looked up at their owner and responded would have been all that was necessary. This is not abusing the dog.. it is conveying a simple message. Reacting to and defensively protecting from this other dog is NOT YOUR JOB. Period.

I can just about guarantee these dogs have never had that happen at any time.. and so they did/do whatever they wanted.

Harnesses are for one thing. Pulling.
Harnesses offer no clarity to the dog or any way for the owner to BE clear with their dog. Dogs like clarity. Just be clear with your dog. Most owners are unclear with their dogs.

They love teaching them things like "how to" with a clicker and getting their dog to "want to" do those things (except focus.. most pet owners have no clue how to get their dog to want to focus on them). The break down seems to come when the dog knows how to and has always wanted to.. until that day when they don't want to at which point the dog needs to learn "sorry. Now you HAVE to."
 

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In two cases I can honestly say that pulling the dog back, getting between their dog and WHATEVER they are reacting to and driving the dog back by stepping in their dog's personal space and, if necessary, grabbing their dog's collar to push them back UNTIL they looked up at their owner and responded would have been all that was necessary.
Well then, what you're advocating now is not really a CTJ moment, is it. Patiently teaching over time, leading by example, and possessing a calm demeanor is what is required. Not holy punishment and flying off the handle.

Glad to see you've pulled in your horns a bit.
 
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