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Hey everyone,

Just needing a little motivational boost this evening, after working *hard* for several weeks on Willow's dog reactivity problem.

Basically, she's always been easily excited/aroused by other dogs in the vicinity, but instead of becoming more confident over time, she became more and more reactive. I'm sure this is due to my poor handling when I first got her (i.e., constantly tight leash, transmitting lots of tension, being afraid to let her meet other dogs). Thankfully, my handling of her has improved dramatically since way back then, but now the problem is ingrained. Now that the weather is warm and there's lots of people out walking their dogs, I'm taking the time to really work hard on this problem.

I read through Control Unleashed several times, but found it a little too advanced for our situation. I recently bought Click to Calm, and have been working through it with Willow every day. I'm already seeing a huge difference in her reactivity towards other dogs, but we still have to stay about 50' away to be sub-threshold for her. And if we are actively walking, it's more like 100' away. We've been "ambushed" a few times during the walk home by other dogs, and that has been disastrous, but I'm trying hard to just ignore that and keep focused on the big picture.

But, the flip side is, she is now consistently offering her new behavior - look at the other dog, then turn and look at me - knowing that it will earn her a click and treat. Her reactions are less intense and she recovers more quickly. She can offer her sit, down, and shake while the other dog is still in the vicinity.

And, I've been going through the same exact protocol with my cats - and I'm amazed at the difference in her. She seems to have generalized the "look at dog, immediately look away" behavior to the cats and offers it frequently during controlled training. Also, she can now sit, down, and shake within 3' of a (crated) cat, keeping her focus on me most of the time. She still has outbursts but they are not the same intensity as before. It makes me wonder if she is not actually acting out of prey drive, but out of the same reactivity she displays with other dogs.

Progress is so slow and it's such stressful training (for both of us) that I could really use some great stories of folks who overcame this problem with their dogs - especially folks who used methods from Click to Calm or similar ideas. Anyone care to share and give my morale a little boost? :)
 

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Yup, it's a very slow process with some dogs. Also, depending on the dog, a change in venue may be necessary as well. Like for my Betty, I could have probably worked with her forever and she may never have gotten 100% over it. But I rehomed her on a ranch, being she's a cattle dog, and she'd doing very, very well. This week she get's to start working with him on the cattle. She's in cattle dog heaven now. I believe she's much happier now than living in town. It was just stressful for her being in town.
 

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Kelli, you're right, it's sure slow. But I'm hoping the results will be worth it. I've read your posts with Casper and I think about you guys often when I'm working with Willow.

Lonewolf, thanks for the input with your Betty. I read her story recently and it's great that she ended up in such a wonderful situation!

I understand what you mean about a change in venue. When we first adopted Willow, we were about a month away from moving to our new place in the country. I wanted to wait until we actually moved to bring her home, but the rescue was so close to where we were currently living that I decided to just adopt her right away.

At the time, we were living downtown in the city, on a postage stamp lot in a crowded, busy suburb. I knew it wasn't the environment I'd personally choose to raise a dog in, but I figured we'd be able to handle a month of it before we moved.

Well, who knew that Willow was so reactive and sensitive to her environment? She blew up at every passing dog when I took her outside for bathroom breaks. Walks were impossible. The neighbors literally walked on the other side of the street to avoid my house if I was outside with her (even though she is not reactive to people and very friendly). I was at the point where I was certain AC would show up at my door if I didn't get her out of there - my entire neighborhood believed she was a wolf, and they openly expressed to me their concern for their children and small pets. :rolleyes: And me in the midst of it all just trying to learn to be a new dog owner! :)

A week before Moving Day, I sent her ahead of me to "vacation" at my parent's house, close to where we were moving. A week later we moved in, got situated and brought Willow home. She hadn't really changed, but thanks to good management it was like having a brand new dog. Outside, things were calm and quiet - you can't even see traffic from our yard, it's so secluded in the country. There were no other dogs in sight, just trees and the occasional deer or rabbit.

She now had a "safe zone" where she can relax, which she didn't have at our old place. From there I've been able to push her gently by exposing her to new people and other dogs for just a short time each day on our walks. I'm 100% positive that if I had intended to remain at my old place and adopted Willow, she wouldn't have stayed. It would not have been fair to her at all.

Wow, what a novel I just wrote! Guess I'm chatty this evening. :) Just trying to say that I understand and I'm just thankful that I live in an area that works for my girl.
 

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Cool, and it really helps to work with a dog in a much calmer environment as well. When I had Betty, we took some herding classes over by Seattle. But it was out on a ranch, and she had no issues at all there, not even with the other dogs, all BC's and a larger guardian dog. She seemed at home when we went there. But then when we got back to town, she was watching for every nook and cranny where's she's seen dogs before, lol. It was hard to let her go, but I think it was best for her. It took a while, and I've rejected several offers, but this one was a one-in-a-million offer, to actually work with cattle on a huge ranch. I could not turn it down. And the guy is a really great guy as well, and he knew exactly how I felt, as he had just lost his cattle dog a couple months ago due to old age. But anyways, it will take time with your dog, but being in a better environment, it should be much smoother and easier to work with.
 

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She now had a "safe zone" where she can relax, which she didn't have at our old place. From there I've been able to push her gently by exposing her to new people and other dogs for just a short time each day on our walks. I'm 100% positive that if I had intended to remain at my old place and adopted Willow, she wouldn't have stayed. It would not have been fair to her at all.
I'm so glad that things are going well!

I took home a rehome show dog who was really a rescue - horribly treated, and suffered physically and psychologically. Had to be hand fed 6-7 times a day in order to keep food down (severe gastrointestinal problems), and he exploded at other dogs, people w/or without dogs walking by - just everything. My former window terrorist and dog aggressive guy is a very sweet gentleman these days, with lovely manners, and is gentle and tolerant of puppies, kittens, cats, and any dog I bring home to foster. I kept his exposure to other dogs within his level of comfort, only gradually moving him closer, with lots of densensitization and counter-conditioning. So keep up the good work!

Willow is gorgeous, BTW!
 

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Willow sounds like my sheltie. Like you, I did all the wrong things in the beginning. She is still awful to take on walks. God forbid if a dog is coming towards her on the sidewalk. She never relaxes on the leash.

When I take her to obedience and agility, I have a completely different dog. Go figure :) She loves agility, is focused on me and can ignore the frenzied barking of the dog running the course and the dog sitting beside her. A couple of times she's startled if the BC runs (he is a speed demon, lol), but I wish the dog I have at agility would act the same when we walk neighbourhood.

Last winter she hated snowblowers, so I would tell her to look, and clicked for even a hint of a glance at them. Eventually she could look at them for a few seconds and we could walk by them fine.
 

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When we got Allie we couldn't walk her without her blowing up at everything, cars, skateboarders, bikes, strollers, other dogs, squirrels. She was/is leash reactive. Now I can walk her past cars, strollers, bikes, skateboarders with no problem and 90% of the time we can now walk on the other side of the street from a dog without her going nuts. She will whine some but *usually* that is it. I used things from click to calm and control unleashed with her. We have had her for a year in a week or so. I used to have to walk her at midnight/1am all the time.
 

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It sounds like your story is a success! I just started a new thread about the puppy I've had similiar problems with, though not as severe. She did an excellent job last night at the club being calm when another dog aproached her. I'm hoping we are nipping this problem in the butt. Reading your post made me feel like even if this is an on going problem we can work trough it! I'm impressed by your resolve to fix the problem and work hard at it. Willow is so lucky to have you.

My cattle dog was horribly timid of people for the first 2 years of her life. She would bark at anyone walking towards us even if they were on the opposite side of the street, and try to run away or hide behind me. She wouldn't so much as acknowledge that I existed let alone give me attention. She now for the most part ignores or even approaches strangers and only shys away if they reach out towards her or if it is a big man, especially wearing a hat. I am now having to work on the opposite problem at the obedience club, which is NOT to run up to other people and beg for treats :). We recieved our clubs "most improved" award last Christmas because of her transformation. I know that this isn't quite the same problem that you are having, but it presents the same kind of frustration and hard work. I know you will have success if you keep doing what you are doing!
 
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