Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
3,228 Posts
He sounds like a classic nervous/fearful dog. It's very normal for these kinds of behaviors to become more pronounced as a dog grows up. The barking and straining is very typical of a fearful leashed dog as well - they have a fight or flight response, but because they're leashed, they don't feel like 'flight' is an option, so they instead try to scare the other dog (or whatever's scaring them) away.

I wouldn't expect a dog who is naturally nervous and less social to become friendly, even with skilled behavior modification. Playing with strange dogs in a dog park or allowing strange humans to pick him up, for example, are often unrealistic goals. I'd instead aim to help him be comfortable around strange dogs and people - to lessen his overall fear and to avoid putting him in situations that push his boundaries - even if that doesn't involve directly interacting with them much.

I'd start with Dr. Patricia McConnell's booklet the Cautious Canine. She's an excellent resource and has worked many years as a dog behaviorist. I find her writing to be very straightforward and digestible, and she explains why dogs with these issues behave the way they do as well as going over strategies to help them. It's also available as an ebook, so no waiting for it to ship if you can't find it locally.

If you're looking for something with a little more of a class structure, I did find a trainer that is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) that does online classes, and is at least in your time zone here: Online Classes – Dog Solutions. Not as convenient as someone local, but might be an option! Or they may know somewhere more local to you if you contact them to ask - the dog trainer/behaviorist world tends to be pretty small that way.

Another option would be the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, which offers courses and webinars entirely online throughout the year - and not just about sports or sports-related topics. I've heard a lot of great things about this class that will run starting August 1st: Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - BH110: Dealing with the Bogeyman - Helping Fearful Reactive and Stressed Dogs called "Dealing with the Bogeyman" that specifically addresses fear and reactivity. You can audit it - which means you can follow along and read the forum posts but not participate - or try to get one of the limited gold or silver spots, which allows you to submit a certain number of videos and get feedback from the instructor, as well as participate on the forums (though they come at a higher price point, of course).

And we can try to help with specific issues here, of course! But remember most of us (myself included) aren't professionals, and may have conflicting viewpoints, so I figured I'd give you some resources from people who have the experience and certifications to back up their training/behavior advice first.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
3,228 Posts
That's definitely good! It's pretty normal for adult dogs to prefer to socialize with familiar people and dogs, and become a bit aloof or indifferent to strange people and dogs as they get older, and that's going to be more pronounced when there's fear involved. Sounds like you did a good job getting him used tot he vet and he's more comfortable in that location and with those people than other settings.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
3,228 Posts
Yup, that's called 'reactivity' or specifically 'leash reactivity' in dog lingo. My older boy struggles with it too (frustration in his case, rather than fear, but training/management is very similar). I'll link to this sticky for more resources - it's older so some of the links might not work, but it's got a good list.

But some good basics. Work on really solid cues that require the dog to focus on you. Something like 'watch me', which may or may not include a sit. Work on training a cue that means 'U-turn' on a leash, and maybe a positive interrupter, which is a sound or word that you've taught the dog means something good is always coming. Practice these a lot, as much as you can in different environments, until they become automatic. These skills will help your boy be able to disengage from his triggers, rather than fixating them and amping himself up. Here's a video that explains positive interrupters better than I can:


Watch his body language. Usually, by the time dogs are barking and lunging, they're too upset to do much learning. At that point it's all management and getting distance between the dog and trigger so he can calm down. Before that point, you might see 'tall dog' behavior, where the dog slows down and fixates on a target, ears pricked, movements stiff instead of loose and happy. This is when you want to be encouraging disengagement with the above cues and other positive means (funny noises, patting your leg, whatever gets attention), before the dog passes that threshold and goes full flight or fight. A great illustration of the progression:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/25/2a/08/252a085e09b036f72794d47c27e93079.jpg

With fearful dogs you can reward with distance from the trigger! So as soon as you can get your dog's attention, enthusiastically jog/run him back from the scary thing a few feet, and reward with food. When he learns that you'll support him in getting away from scary situations, he'll be more willing to be closer to people without freaking out. Any disengagement from the trigger or interaction with you gets big rewards, even if he's still doing some barking or lunging. You're trying to change his emotional state here, which will then impact his behavior, so you don't have to worry about 'rewarding' the unwanted behavior with treats. The treats will help him learn that people and dogs are positive things, and the aggressive behavior you're seeing will naturally reduce as he becomes calmer and more interested in earning treats than making the scary things go away.

For in the home, I'd actually suggest guests drop treats as they're walking by (and away) from him, toss treats over to him, or toss treats over him so he can move away from them to get rewarded. This should all be done without staring or fussing - essentially the guests ignore him and act like he's not there, but magically produce treats he does NOT have to approach them to get. Offering a dog food to come closer works for puppies and confident adult dogs, but it's a bad idea with fearful dogs. They'll often force themselves to leave their comfort zone if the treat is good enough, but then the treat is gone and they find themselves way too close to the scary person, with no food buffer. Worst case scenario, people get bit this way. More often, the dog becomes very stressed and conflicted, and can even start seeing the treat as punishing because it predicts such a scary/uncomfortable interaction.

Basically, let the dog have all the control when it comes to approaching guests in the house, reduce pressure as much as possible (staring etc.), and when your guest dispenses treats, try to make sure the dog either doesn't have to move to get them, or is encouraged to move away.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
3,228 Posts
Sounds like a good start! Practice those refocusing behaviors until the dog does them practically without thinking - that way the training and muscle memory have an easier time overriding the fixation on their trigger.
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Top