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Discussion Starter #1
I was wondering if anybody had any input on an issue that I'm having with Patrick. He's about a year and a half old, he's got basic obedience commands, and he is pretty good about walking on a loose leash when there are minimal distractions. We go on at least two, more often three, brisk thirty minute walks a day, punctuated by shorter potty breaks and games of fetch, etc. inside the apartment. He plays with other dogs at day care once a week and has never had a single problem there.

The issue I have is when he sees other people or dogs on walks. Critters aren't such a problem; he likes to lunge at them, but then he's back beside me and leaves it alone. Dogs and people are a different story.

When he spots another dog, he goes ballistic. As soon as he is close enough, he is usually fine (almost always very tense at first, another issue I wonder about, but barring the occasional dog that he just doesn't get along with he's usually playing after introductions), but if he sees another dog across the street he loses it. At the end of the leash, dancing on his hind legs, lunging, and barking and growling at the top of his lungs.

He is slightly less reactive to people. A person twenty yards away won't set him off the same way a dog will, but if for instance we come across a person in the hallway of my apartment building or in the courtyard, he is equally likely to go berserk. He has never bitten anyone and I don't believe that he would, though that doesn't keep me from being extra careful. Usually he just lunges until he's within a small radius, and then barks madly until the person leaves his sight again. It makes it impossible to stop and talk to people because we have to yell over his incessant barking. People he treats this way can talk sweetly to them, hold out their hand for him to sniff, etc., and he just ignores it; doesn't try to bite, doesn't stop to sniff, just continues his maniacal barking.

I am wondering if there are any practical ways to curb this behavior. Clicker training doesn't work because he just ignores the clicks; trying to calm him down is equally ineffective because he just doesn't hear me/listen to me over his excitement. Sometimes, inexplicably, I can get him to sit down, but that doesn't really calm him down, and he is usually at it again as soon as we start moving.

Is this something that I can hope is just a consequence of being a very energetic, excitable puppy, that he will eventually grow out of as he becomes older and wiser? Or is there something I can do during walks to discourage the behavior/encourage better behavior? Any input would be greatly appreciated.
 

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You should search for the "look at me" game. Basically you reward the dog for looking at something that is normally a trigger while they remain relatively calm. The way you keep the dog calm is to carefully manage their environment to keep them below threshold. If a dog one block away sets him off, move further away. As his behavior improves you can move closer and closer to the thing that makes him go berserk. The trick is to catch them when they are just beginning to look, before they start to react. It takes time, but this can start to 1. change their emotional response to the stimuli through classical conditioning (trigger that used to = bad/scary in the dog's mind begins to = awesome/treats), and 2. reward their calm behavior through operant conditioning. I suspect that your dog hasn't been responding to the clicker or taking treats because you've been offering these things when he is already over threshold. Your dog is to watch him and catch him earlier than that.

Hope this helps! I'm sure others will be by with advice soon. :)
 

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Thank you for the reply.

This is a method that I learned when I started training him about a year ago. While we were training loose-leash walking and I was carrying treats and a clicker on all of our walks I used it, but it never seemed to be very efficacious. Of course, I never thought his walking was improving either, and that changed gradually. Perhaps I was just not quick enough on the draw, or not patient enough in waiting to see results. Maybe I should resume carrying treats and clicker with me on walks and keep trying.
 

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Thank you for the reply.

This is a method that I learned when I started training him about a year ago. While we were training loose-leash walking and I was carrying treats and a clicker on all of our walks I used it, but it never seemed to be very efficacious. Of course, I never thought his walking was improving either, and that changed gradually. Perhaps I was just not quick enough on the draw, or not patient enough in waiting to see results. Maybe I should resume carrying treats and clicker with me on walks and keep trying.
Definitely do so. It took me a year to cure my old dog of going berserk when he saw other dogs. It is slow going, but kafkabeetle's method does work. The mistake most people make is trying to work with the dog when they're already over threshold. If the dog is barking or otherwise reacting, forget it. You can't train a dog that's over threshold. You need to learn where the dog reacts but stays under threshold and start there. Click and treat for calm behavior. Once you can reliably get calm behavior at (for example) 50 ft, move to 48 ft and start over. If you move closer and the dog immediately goes over threshold, you went too quickly, move back.

Just be patient and persistent and you'll get there.
 
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