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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 2 year old hound mix who is reactive. He falls into the enthusiastic greeter category. We've been working on it using an engagement/disengagement exercise that I found on another site and it has worked very well for us to a point. His minor triggers, squirrels, ducks and people aren't even an issue anymore. He sees one of those and turns to check in with me and gets a treat. He's become very reliable about it. I'm really proud of him actually. Dogs are still a cause for some excitement, but I have seen an immense amount of improvement. He no longer has a complete meltdown, just fixates a bit if the trigger is close. Our walks are now relatively relaxed and enjoyable.

However, all of this is out the window after about 5PM. If I take him for a walk in the evening he is like a different dog. He becomes hyper-vigilant the minute we walk out the door. If he isn't sniffing intensely he is constantly scanning his environment, looking for something, I don't really know what. He seems to be in a hurry. He gets over eager and starts to pull the leash, something he rarely does in the day time. He seems tense and his head is just back and forth, back and forth. He still behaves fine around those minor triggers, he checks in (although maybe less often) and keeps going. If we see a dog though, he flips out. It's as though we haven't done any training whatsoever. My sweet pup just completely loses it, jumping, pulling, whining and barking. It's the only time I've ever even heard him bark. I don't get angry at him because I honestly feel like he can't control himself. It's that extreme, and when we get home he paces and whines for a while afterward. I hate to see him like that, but I don't really understand what is going on. This happens on the same route that we take for our breakfast and afternoon walks, so it's not as though it is a new area for him.

For the most part I just don't take him on that walk in the evening anymore. We go elsewhere and just spend some time walking laps around a big empty field instead. It gives him exercise and he's fine for the rest of the evening after that, no pacing or whining. I just don't understand why the huge difference in behavior based on the time of day. Does anyone have any ideas? I have scheduled a consultation with a trainer, but she was pretty well booked for several weeks, so we wont see her for a bit longer.
 

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It's the end of a long day. He's basically 'done'. Probably some trigger stacking going on? In any event, I'd not worry about long walks late in the day. Potty outings? Fine, but nothing longer. If he needs to burn up some energy at the end of the day, maybe look into some nosework games that can be done in the house. If you have an evening route that his IS comfortable with, then go ahead & utilize that one, but -- don't feel you have to give him an evening walk (beyond relieving himself) Perhaps some calming chew time or licky mat time would be better for him in the evening? Or even a short training session which focuses on calming & self-control activities?
 

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Don't aviod outings all together past 5pm, horrible idea, you will never get past it.

Do exactly what you are doing right now, but use a super high value treat, and keep sessions (walks) very short. Reward what you want, ignore or say no to what you want. Again, keep it short. go outside for 5 mins, try your best to keep focus, do this every night until your dog can ignore triggers for 5 mins on a evening walk, then increse your time.
 

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Don't aviod outings all together past 5pm, horrible idea, you will never get past it.

Do exactly what you are doing right now, but use a super high value treat, and keep sessions (walks) very short. Reward what you want, ignore or say no to what you want. Again, keep it short. go outside for 5 mins, try your best to keep focus, do this every night until your dog can ignore triggers for 5 mins on a evening walk, then increse your time.
And why, exactly, does the dog NEED to go for walks, in the dark, after 5:00 pm? If he's not enjoying the outing, then... WHY? Dogs don't freak out & become reactive just for the heck of it. It's their way of telling us that things are too much for them right now - we all would be better guardians to listen to what they are telling us & make adjustments as necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Don't aviod outings all together past 5pm, horrible idea, you will never get past it.

Do exactly what you are doing right now, but use a super high value treat, and keep sessions (walks) very short. Reward what you want, ignore or say no to what you want. Again, keep it short. go outside for 5 mins, try your best to keep focus, do this every night until your dog can ignore triggers for 5 mins on a evening walk, then increse your time.
This is probably going to sound kind of silly, but it's just something that I've been thinking about. I know that my dog was at the shelter two times. The lady at the shelter said he was surrendered the first time because he failed at being a hunting dog. Is it possible that he could have been trained to hunt night creatures? There's a very brave possum (probably a couple) that shuffles around our screened in back porch occasionally. It makes the dog insane, over the top, even more than other dogs do. A couple times we've encountered it after dark when I take him to potty with the same reaction. His reaction to squirrels is fairly mild, but this possum is like his arch nemesis. Could it be that he just senses that the night time animals are waking up and stirring at a certain time of day. I obviously have no way to control possum encounters, so I'm not exactly sure how to deal with that.

You're probably right about using higher value treats though. I've kind of slipped into the habit of using kibble lately because he has been so easy to deal with, but maybe I need to get back to the good stuff for these night time outings. I should have realized that myself actually.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It's the end of a long day. He's basically 'done'. Probably some trigger stacking going on? In any event, I'd not worry about long walks late in the day. Potty outings? Fine, but nothing longer. If he needs to burn up some energy at the end of the day, maybe look into some nosework games that can be done in the house. If you have an evening route that his IS comfortable with, then go ahead & utilize that one, but -- don't feel you have to give him an evening walk (beyond relieving himself) Perhaps some calming chew time or licky mat time would be better for him in the evening? Or even a short training session which focuses on calming & self-control activities?
You could be right of course, but I can't help but think there's more to it. For the most part we do stick to the daytime. I just feel bad if I don't give him a little 'night-cap' walk.
 

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Is it dusk or near dark at 5 pm where you are located this time of year?

If so, it is probably less about the time of day and more about how the senses engaged on a walk change, for both you and the dog.

A dog uses scent a lot and what little advantage a human might have in color vision (debatable) or clarity in daylight (also debatable) they will lose in dim light against the nose and ears of a dog, especially a hound dog.

Its darn near impossible to train against prey drive and reactivity in dark/dusk because you are always one step behind.

I'd be curious if you see similar evening walk results in the summer or in a very well lit urban area.

I'd agree that you are likely fighting a losing battle to try to combat reactivity in dim light, esp if there are night critters like opossums around.

Pick your battles and solidify good training and good reactions when you have the upper hand on the surrounding environment
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Is it dusk or near dark at 5 pm where you are located this time of year?

If so, it is probably less about the time of day and more about how the senses engaged on a walk change, for both you and the dog.

A dog uses scent a lot and what little advantage a human might have in color vision (debatable) or clarity in daylight (also debatable) they will lose in dim light against the nose and ears of a dog, especially a hound dog.

Its darn near impossible to train against prey drive and reactivity in dark/dusk because you are always one step behind.

I'd be curious if you see similar evening walk results in the summer or in a very well lit urban area.

I'd agree that you are likely fighting a losing battle to try to combat reactivity in dim light, esp if there are night critters like opossums around.

Pick your battles and solidify good training and good reactions when you have the upper hand on the surrounding environment
Yeah, it is the time of day where it is just beginning to get dim. Shorter days might make this winter challenging, lol. He's perfect in every other way though, so I guess I will just work around this and be thankful that he has made so much progress on his daytime walks. Thank you!
 

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Congrats on all the progress you've made! As someone who also has a frustrated greeter/high arousal leash reactive dog, I know the hard work it's taken to get there.

I would also guess that being able to rely less on sight has something to do with the difference in behavior. In general, avoiding walks at those times is a perfectly valid solution if that works for you! If you do want to work on it for whatever reason, I've found that my own boy responds really well to pattern games (Leslie McDevitt is the big name to search for if you want to look for videos or articles), and they help him refocus on us and calm down in exciting situations. You could try focusing evening outings on more stress-diffusing activities than trying to complete a specific walking route, and incorporate things like treat scatters and calming games or practicing trained behaviors he knows very well. This might help reduce the power of the environment and increase the value of interacting and engaging with you over time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Congrats on all the progress you've made! As someone who also has a frustrated greeter/high arousal leash reactive dog, I know the hard work it's taken to get there.

I would also guess that being able to rely less on sight has something to do with the difference in behavior. In general, avoiding walks at those times is a perfectly valid solution if that works for you! If you do want to work on it for whatever reason, I've found that my own boy responds really well to pattern games (Leslie McDevitt is the big name to search for if you want to look for videos or articles), and they help him refocus on us and calm down in exciting situations. You could try focusing evening outings on more stress-diffusing activities than trying to complete a specific walking route, and incorporate things like treat scatters and calming games or practicing trained behaviors he knows very well. This might help reduce the power of the environment and increase the value of interacting and engaging with you over time.
Thank you. It has been an effort, but I think he's made a lot of progress, more than I reasonably expected in such a short time. It has been a very interesting and gratifying process.

I think we'll just forgo the evening walks for the time being and concentrate on solidifying the good behaviors that he's currently offering. We'll revisit the later walks next summer when the days start to get longer again.

In the meantime I plan to practice some of those stress-diffusing activities with him when that pesky possum decides to poke around the screened patio. Leslie McDevitt's videos seem like a good place to start. Thanks for the recommendation!
 

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I think the biggest thing to keep in mind when training a dog who is over stimulated is to take it slow. I agree with both scenarios, avoiding night time walks and using mind games outside in backyard or inside, but not entirely because it is not actually addressing the issue.

The key is little by little and not pushing him farther then he can cope with.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Night time bathroom breaks have to happen even if we don't go for a walk, there's just no way around it, and the possum encounters are completely out of my control. I will come up with some sort of after-care plan, as it were, to help him relax and get settled after those events, but I'm wondering if there's anything at all constructive that I can do when he's spotted a critter and is over threshold like that? He's a bigger dog and I struggle to get him turned away in those situations. I feel like wrestling with him or trying, and failing, to force him just makes things worse. I've been thinking about trying to train him to look at me when I touch him on his hindquarters or maybe his neck or something, since he's generally baying so loudly that I'm not sure he even hears my 'look at me' command, but I'm not sure that would be effective. Any thoughts?
 

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Night time bathroom breaks have to happen even if we don't go for a walk, there's just no way around it, and the possum encounters are completely out of my control. I will come up with some sort of after-care plan, as it were, to help him relax and get settled after those events, but I'm wondering if there's anything at all constructive that I can do when he's spotted a critter and is over threshold like that? He's a bigger dog and I struggle to get him turned away in those situations. I feel like wrestling with him or trying, and failing, to force him just makes things worse. I've been thinking about trying to train him to look at me when I touch him on his hindquarters or maybe his neck or something, since he's generally baying so loudly that I'm not sure he even hears my 'look at me' command, but I'm not sure that would be effective. Any thoughts?
Creatures of the night are hard. There is no denying that, & trust me I can sympathize. I'm not sure what your home set up is like, but what I do when we have a heavier than usual critter load is this - Turn on all outside lights. Go out (without dogs) and make a lot of racket. Wait a minute or two. Then take dogs out to potty. It's not foolproof, but it helps to run the varmints off before the dogs go outside.

As far as redirecting him once he's caught sight/scent of Peter Possum & is freaking out? Sadly, this is not a teachable moment & all you can do is damage control. You have a good front clip harness, right? I'd just loudly announce "Let's GO" and then walk back inside - yes, you'll be dragging/forcing him some, but... there are times when you gotta do what you gotta do. Don't make a big deal out of it, or try to get him to do his 'look at me' (if there is precious little chance he's going to respond to the cue, don't bother wasting your breath) Maybe go inside for a few minutes & (if he hasn't relieved himself yet) try again in a little while. ?? Is it perfect? Well... no, but then again, neither is life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Sadly, this is not a teachable moment & all you can do is damage control.
I had a feeling that was probably the case.

I live in an apartment (It's just in a very woodsy kind of area), so I wont be able to light the yard up, but I can take a flashlight out there and make a racket around the bushes and trees. I bet Mr. Possum will even appreciate the warning, lol. OK, thank you so much.
 

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Night time bathroom breaks have to happen even if we don't go for a walk, there's just no way around it, and the possum encounters are completely out of my control. I will come up with some sort of after-care plan, as it were, to help him relax and get settled after those events, but I'm wondering if there's anything at all constructive that I can do when he's spotted a critter and is over threshold like that? He's a bigger dog and I struggle to get him turned away in those situations. I feel like wrestling with him or trying, and failing, to force him just makes things worse. I've been thinking about trying to train him to look at me when I touch him on his hindquarters or maybe his neck or something, since he's generally baying so loudly that I'm not sure he even hears my 'look at me' command, but I'm not sure that would be effective. Any thoughts?
No, I wasn't suggesting no outings altogether, he has to go relieve himself, but limiting the walk to just going to the bathroom and playing more mind games inside.

As for training him to ignore night critters, that might be an uphill battle I'm afraid, but what about making games to play outside with you on the leash to keep him engaged on his own? Might be easier to get his attention back if he does see a possum. But I would keep nighttime outings to just going to the bathroom for now and work on training at night seperately in baby steps little by little. Just a suggestion
 
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