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Discussion Starter #1
Male adolescent dog, not yet neutered, has aggression/reactivity issues

Scenario 1: my dog standing next to me, leash loose. Another senior off leash dog approaches calmly. My dog wags tail then lies down, and when the other dog comes close enough he stands up, greets the dog politely and then we all walk away as if nothing happened. No growling or barking, wide space area, other familiar people present (not just me and him). This was when he was about 8 months old, first time not reacting to a dog after a while.

Scenario 2: today, 11 months old. Dog walking in front of me in a narrow path. A woman with her male puppy (she said it was young, didn’t have my glasses or contacts on so the vision was blurry) in front. Dog tightens the leash, I stop, again he wags his tail and lies down. The other dog was also tightening his leash so his body language looked unfriendly. After exchanging a few quick words with the owner, we decide it’s best not to let them meet and I turn around and pull my dog. This time he did let out a sound, closest to a growl. He did seem more aroused after that encounter.

Should I have let him meet the other dog? The tail wag and the lie down were both present, but it seemed to me like the second scenario wouldn’t have been so successful. If this happens again, should I let him meet the dog or go away?
A thing to note: this dog has aggressive displays to some dogs and some not. I fail to see a pattern here, and have been avoiding meeting other dogs for a while now. That said, he has been successfully introduced to a female puppy and they are now friends.
 

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Is the lying down a trained behavior, or something he does on his own? How was the rest of his body language - tense, staring at the other dog (fixated), lips tight, any lip-licking or uncertainty? Do you know the source of the reactivity (most frequently it's fear, insecurity, or frustration)?

I'm inclined to say that not allowing the dog to meet the puppy was the right choice, regardless. Especially when you can't monitor the interaction carefully. I wear glasses too, and I definitely wouldn't want to be supervising a potentially volatile interaction without vision correction! And sadly, experience has taught me that I usually can't trust the judgement of strange dog owners (okay, a lot of us are strange, but I mean ones I don't know) when it comes to how reactivity should be handled.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
He was rather stiff looking, didn’t see the lips though. His reactivity is, I believe, mostly fear with some hormones mixed in. His first playdate was with a LGD mix puppy who was quite bigger and played roughly, and when I look back he was quite stressed and I didn’t notice. Since then he approached other dogs by lying down and crawling (this he does on his own, not trained). When he was 5-ish months he started reacting (fear-it would stop once he sniffed the dog). Around 8-ish the hormones kicked in and he stopped reacting to females, puppies and older dogs. Recently it has gotten unpredictable and without pattern. I will schedule his neutering once this blasted heat subsides.

I think the encounter would have gone better if he was on a long lead and in an open space (that path was a triggering space before). And my glasses on, of course!
 

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The leash is often a big factor in reactivity. Dogs know its there, and both that their natural body language is limited, and that they don't have the freedom to get away if they want/need to. Even most non-reactive dogs greet and interact more politely in open spaces, for sure! It's good that the lying down isn't a trained behavior. Some people try to 'fix' reactivity by asking their dog to give them a calm behavior - sitting or lying down - and then forcing them to stay in that position around other dogs. Often this can make fear and anxiety worse, because you're limiting their ability to control their environment even more! There probably is a pattern, but it's not necessarily something you'll be able to figure out - based on scent, for example, or subtle body language.

If I could do things over again with my leash-reactive dog, I wouldn't have allowed any leash greetings. My focus would have been on helping him learn how to focus on me and learn that on-leash time isn't also social time. Now our scenario is slightly different, because my Sam is reactive out of frustration (why can't I greet that dog!!!), but I do believe it can also really help a nervous dog to learn that they don't have to stress about other dogs on-leash because they don't have to interact. Great cues to work on for this are "watch me", "U-turn", and a focused heel (or whatever words you want to use). The first is to stop them from fixating on other dogs (the longer and harder they stare, the more stress builds and a higher chance of an outburst). The second is to help your dog move away from another dog in situations where that's possible, and the last is to help a dog move past a trigger (other dog, in this case) with minimal reactive behavior. For most dogs, you're going to want to train these in low-distraction environments first, and build up a strong history of reinforcement so that your pup is more able to do them in exciting, high-distraction environments. Kinda like how we might be able to recite a speech at home in front of a mirror pretty easily, but would have to practice a lot more to do it in front of an enormous audience... or on a roller coaster!

Patricia McConnell's booklet "Feisty Fido" was a big help to me. It's short, relatively inexpensive, and has really good, clear explanations for how reactivity works and how/why to improve it. Since your pup is young he'll likely improve pretty quickly! It's a long journey for us, but Sam was 5 by the time I really buckled down and started figuring out how to change his behavior, so he's had a lot more time to build and reinforce bad habits.
 

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NEVER let two dogs meet on leash. If forces unnatural behavior. Dogs meeting Face 2 Face often find that greeting rude and a challenge. Your dog is showing tremendous ability to try to be "polite" and not be reactive.

WHY do people EVER let dogs meet F2F on leash is beyond me.

Be ASSERTIVE and ADVOCATE for your dog by moving on by and placing yourself between the strange dog and your dog.

You have a SUPER nice dog. Don't louse it up with Face to Face greetings on leash unless you want your really nice dog to become reactive after meeting a couple of dogs that ARE not very nice (or their owners are clueless and allow the dog to be reactive).
 

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I have never let my dogs meet strange dogs when they are on leash. I have seen too many dogs that think they should play with every other dog and there is no reason they should have to meet them. As I compete in Agility with my dogs I want them to ignore other dogs, not think it is play time with all the dogs around. Even my dogs I do not compete with, they have lots of opportunity to play with dogs I know if they want to.
 

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Quite honestly, I’ve decided to screw the meeting new dogs thing. Especially on leash. If I ever want to participate in agility, he would need to ignore all the dogs around him no matter how much they are screaming (god knows they do on courses). Nothing left but to train hard, I guess. And neuter him
 

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Quite honestly, I’ve decided to screw the meeting new dogs thing. Especially on leash. If I ever want to participate in agility, he would need to ignore all the dogs around him no matter how much they are screaming (god knows they do on courses). Nothing left but to train hard, I guess. And neuter him
I would not bother to neuter either. No need. You aren't going to breed him and you are not going to let him roam. Unless there is a currently medically necessary reason to do so, why do it? Oh right.. some vet will say it is healthier for the dog. It is not. I would not risk anesthesia any more times in the dog's life than necessary. Anesthesia for the surgery is riskier than the dog having his testicles.

I never neuter a male unless there is a real need due to an existing medical condition OR if I have intact females and have them in season and the male whines constantly which can drive anyone a little nutz.

Save your money for agility training costs!!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
He’s a rescue, and the shelter makes neutering compulsory. Here where I live it is not advised to do so before the dog is 10 months/1 year.
 

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He’s a rescue, and the shelter makes neutering compulsory. Here where I live it is not advised to do so before the dog is 10 months/1 year.
Kinda odd that a shelter would adopt out a male that isn't neutered in the first place. But yeah, I had to spay my female at 6 months.
 

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Meeting 1-2 known dogs in a safe, enclosed off-lead space with a second owner who's knowledgeable about dogs (or at least will listen to your instructions!) can be really great. But I agree that meeting strange dogs on-lead is probably far more risky than it's worth. Particularly when your pup's already showing some reactive behavior. Working on him being dog-neutral is a great goal!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Kinda odd that a shelter would adopt out a male that isn't neutered in the first place. But yeah, I had to spay my female at 6 months.
He was a tiny puppy when I adopted him, just under 2 months. We don’t practice early spay/neuter here. Females around 6 months (before first heat), males later.
 
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