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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,
Been a while since I've posted anything, but I thought I'd seek feedback from the forum. I appreciate anyone's time to give their opinion. :)

So our dog sienna (2yr old female, english sheperd/australian kelpie cross) has developed such a bad attitude at the dog park. From the time we got her we've taken her to puppy class, and the park and when young she was really good at meeting new dogs, playing (although rough at times), and generally just being an active/good dog at the park.

She is an 'only dog' and really grew up with my wife at home, so she is very close and protective of my wife. Lately when we go to the park, pretty much every dog she meets, starts out with the initial muzzle to muzzle sniff, then goes into a snarling, growling tussle that I have to separate her and put her on her back.

She often times will sit next to/lean on my wife, until my wife moves enough that she gives up or comes by me, then I walk away as well. we greet the other dogs that come to us very friendly/calm, and sienna will try to wedge in between my wife and the dog. It got to the point today that after enough snarls, she cowered after every time she did, because she knew I was going to put her on her back... snarl/cower, snarl/cower.... dogs shouldn't have to be like that, and it's sad that we can't have a positive experience at the park.

It's so embarrassing to have a dog that we know is good, at home she listens to commands, doesn't leave the property or chase anything except squirrels, lol, only to have her be the 'b i t c h' at the park. we just don't know what to do to help her welcome dogs better, and it's to the point now where we get tense with every dog (even puppies!) that she meets which we know isn't good, so we're calling her off before she gets a chance to even 'meet' the dog.

I wanted to try going to the park without my wife to see if that would change the dog's mindset, but we don't know what else to do.

 

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Well, putting her on her back is entirely useless, and may be causing the defensive behavior. . .a dog on its back around other dogs feels very vulnerable, so she may feel like she has to assert herself to the other dogs before looking helpless in front of them. Most "aggression" is caused by fear/insecurity.

There are desensitization exercises that may help in this situation,and I'm sure that someone with experience in working with dog-reactive dogs will pop in soon. But I'll also point out that some dogs just don't have the right personality for dog parks, and there's nothing wrong with that.
 

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STOP putting her on her back, you're causing her to associate other dogs with getting punished! It really sounds like she's resource gaurding your wife and the punishment you're dishing out is making her MORE reactive to other dogs, that reactivity is based on FEAR.

Now you're going to have to undo the damage and retrain her to associate other dogs with good things. You could use this technique, just make sure you use stable polite dogs to do it http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/17428-desensitizing-dog-inanimate-objects.html just substitute the dogs for the inanimate object. Also when introducing other dogs you want to use this http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/6755-meet-me-middle-best.html

I'd forgo the dog park, she has a negative association with it now, instead try getting together with stable dogs and thier owners in small numbers and work on her reactivity in a POSITIVE manner.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Willowy and cshellenberger,
I know most issues arise out of faults in the owner, and I'm open to constructive critique/criticism. I'll take a look at the links above and see what we can do. We do have a couple friends that she knows well and gets along with their dogs, but even so she can get growly with their dogs if the person is giving them attention.

Thank you for taking the time to write. It's usually the humans that F things up, lol.
 

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LOL no problem, if it seems you're havingtrouble you might look for a good trainer to help you out. If you need help finding one let us know.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Understanding that we'll probably avoid the dog parks for a while, if she does get in a tussle, what's the best course of action? let the dogs sort it out (if the other owner is ok with that), or separate her, not to praise or reprimand, but to simply get her attention on me to follow me and remove her from the situation?

I would always welcome recommendations/referrals for a local trainer... we live near Green Bay, WI.
 

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IF she attacks another dog grab her by the back legs to stopo the fight and get her away from the dog. If she's snarking Immeadiately and quietly turn her away from the dog, place her into a sit/stay. You might teach her to focus on you as well (counter conditioning, putting in a state where she CAN'T react) this is what I do with dog reactive girl.

"Watch Me"

Start the training at home in a quiet environment with no distractions. If your dog will work for his kibble at this early stage of training I suggest you use this, or even use some of his daily food ration before he has eaten. As the training progresses on to harder locations with distractions then you can begin to use something a bit tastier. However, if it is hard to grab your dogs attention while training then try using something else such as cheese cut into 1cm squares.

Have your dog sit in front of you with his lead on the floor.

Place a piece of kibble in between your thumb and index finger, so it looks like you are pointing upwards with your finger.

Let your dog sniff the piece of food and bring your hand up to your face with your finger between your eyes, as your dogs eyes follow your hand and he makes eye contact praise and give him the piece of kibble immediately.

Continue with this exercise a few more times, but gradually bring the reward straight to your face, instead of letting him sniff the food and luring him every time, other wise you may end up with a dog that will only watch you if he knows food is coming.

As he gets better at this start to say ‘Watch me!’ as soon as he looks at you, holding his gaze for a few seconds, then give him the treat and tell him how clever he is.

You can now phase out holding the treat as a lure, just use your pointed finger in between your eyes with the command ‘Watch me!’. Try and practise this command while he waits for his food, or while you ask him for a sit before walking out of the door, as well as during training for a few minutes a couple of times a day.

Shaping the Behaviour
When it is clear he understands he has to look at you you can start to shape the ‘Watch’. Start to increase the time that he has to watch you for, but be fair and increase the time gradually through training sessions. You want your dog to get it right so don’t push him too fast. Only start to treat and praise for a perfect ‘Watch me’ so he starts to work harder for the reward.

Training with distractions
As well as increasing the time he has to watch you for it is also very important to start using distractions inside the home. I like to start by getting the dog to watch me and then slowly start to raise one of my arms to the side, just by 10cm or so. If he looks at my hand I say ‘Too bad’ and wait 30 seconds before asking the same again. If this proves to be too hard at the beginning then you will have to start by moving your hand ever so slightly, remember, you want your dog to succeed and get a reward so he understands what he has to do. Build this up each time so eventually you can raise your hand, drop a treat on the floor and still have him watching you. Although if you try this when your dog is ready you have to make sure if your dog breaks the ‘Watch’ and jumps towards the treat you must quickly step on the treat and not let him have it, or we all know what is going to happen next time! I like to teach this as a distraction in case of any dropped items that may be dangerous to the dog, this way I can get his attention immediately. Try training in the garden with distractions too, such as cars driving past, birds flying low or a family member walking around.

When your dog is doing really well inside the house and yard you can take the training outside, start from the beginning again as you did inside the home. Make sure there are no distractions and if at any point you think your dog will not cooperate then don’t ask him to.

Set your dog up to succeed
If you ask for a ‘Watch’ when he hasn’t been trained to do so while a cat runs across the road then you are teaching your dog that he doesn’t have to watch you at all and setting him up to fail. Remember, when the training goes outside or there are distractions you can start to use a better tasting treat, something your dog doesn’t normally get so he will want to work harder for it. It is also important to understand that the ‘Watch me’ command should be used before your dog fixates on any distraction, if he has already zoned in he will find it difficult to break that stare.

As with all training keep it fun, in short sessions and try not to get frustrated if your dog doesn’t pick it up quickly. A happy confident dog will pick things up a lot quicker.
 

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No added suggestion, just an observation: It seems like Sienna needs more socialization with lots of other dogs (as Carla suggested). Dog Parks are not good place to learn social skills, they are where socialized dogs can get together and play.
 
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