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Hello all,

Me and my husband adopted a small Shepard mix three months ago from a local shelter. Indoors, he's a sweetie and tends to behave. I can get done what I need to get done, clean the house, etc. Very affectionate, too. He knows all basic commands, and overall always tries to be the goodest of boys. Outside, though, I can't get a hold if him, and I'm honestly quite confused as for what his behavior means.

He's extremely reactive to other dogs; he fights the leash, his head harness, and his eyes look as if he wanted to say, "OMG, everybody's here to get me!" (the bulging eye look). At times he'll freeze with his tail down, lick his lips, and sit. When he's closer to dogs that are behind fences, he'll go into complete freakindogfrenzy and try to attack them.

At times, it loooks as if he wants to run away, but when he's closer (but the dog is still behind a friggin' fence), he tries to attack. When dogs bark, this is obviously the frenzy times 2435326423, but even calm dogs that are just nicely heeling next to their owners he can't get over. They might not be even paying any attention to him, but yet he's all stiff, trying to get at them and lunge at them. It's seriously so frustrating I don't know what to do.

I have been trainig him several times a day with the gentle leader, feeding him treats for every tiny accomplishment. I feel like he has done lot of progress with other animals, but the dogs are still an issue that doesn't seem to be getting any better. It's getting worse! Even after coming home from a walk full of outbursts like that, he can't calm down for the longest time, pacing around along walls to see if there are dogs plotting his murder on the other side. It honestly almost seems as if he has PTSD from back when he was a stray.

I've tried everything. "Leave it command" works, but it only works on certain distances, and I seem to have stalled for a while and can't decrease the distance. The more I try, the worse it gets. I try to calm him down and feed him treats as we walk (he obsessively loves food), but nothing matters when dogs are around; it's the constant fight or flight. I'm not really sure whether he's scared or he really does get his dopamine shots from attacking other dogs. I'm flabbergasted.

Any suggestions? This would be highly appreciated!
 

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Always get between him and the other dog. This lets him know he does not need to take care of things, you will.

When out and you see another dog, your job is to step off to the side and have your dog sit and pay attention to you. You probably have to start the sit and focus game at home and then do it elsewhere. You have to see the other dog before your dog sees the other dog... then have your dog sit and pay attention to you. You reward his attention.

You are correct in identifying his reaction as fear. It usually is fear. Be careful with rewards.. for not reacting as you are currently practicing. It can become rewards for BEING reactive.

When you are out and about, do NOT let people pet your dog. Do not let other dogs approach your dog regardless of how friendly they are. If someone asks, the answer is no you may not pet my dog and No your dog may not meet my dog. Be your dog's support system.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thank you for the response!
Always get between him and the other dog. This lets him know he does not need to take care of things, you will.
I always get in between him and other dogs; however, this can be at times difficult because dogs can be on both sides of the street. For example, one dog is next to me behind a fence, and another dog is being walked by someone across the street. He'll look left and right, trying to slip through his collar and attack any of the dogs (whichever he can get to first). It's pretty scary, especially when traffic is involved.

When out and you see another dog, your job is to step off to the side and have your dog sit and pay attention to you. You probably have to start the sit and focus game at home and then do it elsewhere. You have to see the other dog before your dog sees the other dog... then have your dog sit and pay attention to you. You reward his attention.
This is exactly what I'm doing. He'll do that pretty well for a while, but there is this point where he can no longer pay attention and snaps. He tries to either run away or attack, and it at times look as if he were confused himself as for what is the best course of action. It tears me apart.

Indoors his obedience game is on point, but outside he's in constant "I have to protect myself" game even though I am here to protect him. I feel like there's no confusion with regards to leadership because in terms of other animals, he'll usually heel next to me when he's concerned or hide behind me when he hears loud noises. He understands that I am protecting him otherwise. Just other dogs are the awful exception to this rule.

You are correct in identifying his reaction as fear. It usually is fear. Be careful with rewards.. for not reacting as you are currently practicing. It can become rewards for BEING reactive.
For sure. However, I only really reward him for accomplishments like "hey, you just ignored this big, scary horse. Good job!" or "for the first time, we were able to walk by this fence; great job, bud." Otherwise, as soon as his outburst hits, I change directions and take him into the driveway for as long as needed until his emotions calm down or just take him back inside. Sometimes I'm unable to continue because he's so overstimulated that he's out of control.

When you are out and about, do NOT let people pet your dog. Do not let other dogs approach your dog regardless of how friendly they are. If someone asks, the answer is no you may not pet my dog and No your dog may not meet my dog. Be your dog's support system.
So true! This is a big one. A lot of people tell me he's so adorable, but I never want any kids or people with dogs approach him. One of my neighbors told me to just let him greet his dog because otherwise "he'll never learn," but I told him kindly that this is a serious behavioral problem, and he can get himself killed or get others killed.

He did slip out if his collar once and squeezed through a fence to attack another dog. It was awful.
 

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Check out the sticky post at the top of this forum section for links, books, etc on leash/other reactivity.

I compiled them several years ago so some of the web links themselves might not be active but the names of the behaviorists and trainers will give you something to look into
 

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Check out the sticky post at the top of this forum section for links, books, etc on leash/other reactivity.

I compiled them several years ago so some of the web links themselves might not be active but the names of the behaviorists and trainers will give you something to look into
Thanks, Shell! I'll have a look! :)
 
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