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Hi, I am having issues with Dog on Dog Reactivity and I am not sure which direction to go in so I am asking for advice. My Dog is new to me, I adopted him from a German Shepherd Rescue a month ago and other than the Reactivity he is an good Dog. House Trained, Crate Trained, No Anxiety, knows many commands and learns quickly, good recall, does a good loose leash walk, great around other people and kids, basically a great Dog. Once I get his Reactivity under control I am thinking about trialing him for his Schutzhund BH Certification. My Dog is a German Shepherd, male, 6 years old. He is neutered, UTD on all of his shots and in excellent overall health. He is bright and alert. I take him out 4 times a day and his midday walk is a long one and we do his training on that walk.

The issue we are having is this; my Dog does not like other Dogs and whenever he sees another Dog he reacts by taking an aggressive posture and barking, growling, and lunging. My Dog also does not like Cats and Squirrels as well. When we are walking I am always on the lookout for other Dogs, Cats, Squirrels, etc. If I see one on the other side of the street from us I tighten up on his leash and try to walk him past it. When he sees the other animal(s) he always alerts and sometimes he will make an aggressive move towards the animal to which I say "Leave It", give him a leash correction (sometimes 2 or 3) and keep walking. This works in many instances and we continue on with our walk.

The main issue I am having is when my Dog and I are stationary such as when I am on a walk and I meet someone I know and want to talk to them. My Dog will sit by my side and behaves well but when another Dog comes up on us as soon as my Dog is aware of it he reacts and goes after the other Dog. If my Dog and I were walking I would know what to do but how do I handle a situation where another Dog comes up on us and my Dog reacts. Case in point; I took my Dog to a parade this morning to show my support for the cause the parade is supporting. For 30 minutes my Dog sat by my side and I must have had 30 people walk by and say what a good looking Dog he is and how well behaved he is. Towards the end of the procession there were people in the parade walking their Dogs and when my Dog saw them he went off. These Dogs were not being aggressive towards him they were minding their own business and walking in the parade and my Dog just lost it and this is what I want to train him out of but I don't know how or what I am doing wrong so any suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you.
 

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I would suggest you first take a look at the Reactive Dog sticky thread, which is a compilation of many resources for helping dogs with reactivity issues. Lots of training guides and other tips.


I would also suggest you stop correcting him for having reactions. Stop tightening up on the leash. If he's having a reaction, he's already way over threshold and not in a place to learn anything. At best, he's not learning a thing when you correct him, and at worst you're making it worse because he thinks he gets corrections when other dogs are near, so he tries harder to make them go away. You must start your training from a distance that is comfortable for him where he is not reacting so that he is in a place where he can learn.

To help you frame what's going on in his brain, imagine being deathly, hysterically afraid of creepy crawlies (or whatever gives you heeby jeebies and makes you want to get the heck out of there), and then someone is asking you to behave and keep getting closer to the thing and act like nothing is wrong the whole time. You're expected to walk beside them, sit calmly, lay down. Them yelling at you or jerking on your shirt collar doesn't make you feel much better or make the thing less scary, does it? But, what if that person started giving you twenty dollar bills? The more you behave, the more money you get. Pretty soon, those creepy crawlies aren't so bad. You get rewarded when they're near. They're still gross, but far more tolerable.

Slowly changing a dog's feelings toward the thing is the goal when you're dealing with reactivity. Your dog likely will never like other dogs, but he can learn that they're not scary, you have his back, and that good things (treats) happen when other dogs are in site. He can learn to ignore them and be calm in their presence.

The cats and squirrels I'm guessing is more prey drive than fear, which is pretty normal for many dogs. Desensitization training and obedience training will certainly help.
 

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6-Year Old Male American GSD.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@Lillith Thank you for your comments and suggestions. They mean a lot and I agree with what you wrote but there are things that I am still having trouble understanding. As far as the prey drive that makes sense. My Dog is a German Shepherd and GSD's do have prey drive towards small animals. I agree with your comment about "over threshold" and it is like me trying to use a squirt gun when the entire forest is ablaze. It won't do any good at all and will probably make matters worse. That plus I have read that when I try to correct my Dog and he is over threshold it just adds my voice to his and it amps up his energy levels even more as in a hunting pack mentality.

You also wrote that I should "stop correcting him when he is having reactions". Distance does tend to act as our friend in these situations. When I am walking him and he sees another Dog I can generally walk him past the Dog and once he forgets about the Dog (and he does that pretty quickly) he is fine. When he goes full tilt should I just hold onto the end of the leash and walk him past the stressor or is there something else or something better that I should do? Also, how should I act when we are standing still as in I am talking with someone and another Dog comes upon us?

Your thoughts are appreciated. Thank you.
 

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If you can, try to create distance when you see the another dog. Cross the street, turn you dog around, whatever you need to do. Of course, sometimes we have no choice or are caught by surprise, and yes, at those points you hold on and try not to add to the reaction. Some things you can do are body block your dog so you are between the scary thing and them, or you can get them moving away from the thing while feeding them treats. Sometimes the best I could do was shove treats in my dog's face until the trigger departed, but I was usually able to act happy and backpedal or jog away from a trigger while feeding my yummiest treats to keep the reaction to a minimum.

Your dog likely is not ready to be sitting while a dog approaches quite yet. You may have to end the conversation when you see a dog coming and create distance. A quick, "Hey, I'm working through some stuff with my dog and need to focus on him as this other dog comes, chat later" will work. Believe it or not, sitting still while a trigger approaches seems to be more difficult for dogs to master, but movement seems to dissipate that nervous energy. Being able to sit while a dog goes past will come later, but you have to put in the training when the dogs are at a comfortable distance for your dog, first. It would be like asking you to sit still in a chair while a bear approached.
 

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I also recommend the book Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell. It's a great primer in leash reactivity, discussing both why it happens and how to address it. This kind of behavior is usually fear or frustration based, though very rarely you get a dog who is genuinely dog aggressive and just wants to kill every other dog it sees. That's pretty rare, though, and you'd probably be having issues beyond what you're describing if that was the case. Fear and frustration can typically be worked through the same way, so it's okay if you're not sure which is the underlying emotional trigger for your dog. I mention this because a lot of resources assume reactivity is fear based, and I want you to know that the advice is largely still good even if your dog is dealing with more frustration than fear!

With my leash reactive dog, when I encounter a strange dog on a walk, my strategy is to find a way to get as far out of the way of the other dog as possible. This may mean crossing the street, taking a different route, going up someone's driveway, turning around and going back the way I came, etc. If I can't get enough distance to pass while keeping my dog under threshold, I'll ideally find move behind a physical barrier that blocks him from seeing the other dog, or body block him as best as possible, then have him do either some obedience work, or something like a treat scatter or pattern game until the other dog has passed us. I avoid actually passing the other dog close enough that they could physically make contact with each other if at all possible, because I can't trust the other person to control their dog and give us space, even if my dog's screaming and lunging. You may have less of an issue there, because a reactive shepherd is more intimidating than a reactive poodle, but still, more distance means less chance of an accidental physical altercation.

It's also really helpful to learn the signs that your dog is reaching threshold so you can interrupt the early stages of the behavior and get him out of the situation before he reaches the point where he's actively showing reactivity. This is a really helpful diagram for the typical escalation of behavior when a reactive dog notices a trigger:
Font Rectangle Parallel Slope Number

The bottom text is relevant to Grisha Stewart's Behavioral Adjustment Therapy 2.0 system for reactivity, which is another good resource but definitely a lot more... dense and involved than Feisty Fido. Check it out if you're interested, but don't let it overwhelm you! The important part is the top with the descriptions of a dog who's approaching threshold. Teaching cues like a U-turn or focus on your face and practicing them until they're super, super reliable can be a great way to interrupt a dog who's heading towards reactive behavior so you have time to create more distance.

I'll note that everything above is about managing reactivity, not actually working to improve it. I don't like using random dogs on walks to actually train reactivity with, because we're both in motion and there's too much unpredictability. If you're lucky enough to have a good local trainer that offers reactive dog classes, that's ideal, but otherwise I try to save working around other dogs for settings like large pet store parking lots, where I can set up far enough away that my dog stays under threshold and it's really unlikely someone with a dog will come near us, but we can observe dogs going in and out of the store. This can also be one of the few places a dog park is useful, if you happen to have one that you can see from a distance. Then I work on just hanging out, being relaxed and getting lots of treats around the trigger. Keeping things low key but positive and fun. I might also play the Look At That game, which is a strategy popularized by Leslie McDevitt - you can find lots of examples on YouTube.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
@Lillith @DaySleepers Thanks for your responses. I just got back with Max from our hourlong daily training walk and he did well. I took my treat pouch loaded with the Lil Jacks Liver treats that Petsmart sells (he loves those). I generally try to work on a theme for his training walk and today it was Sit and Engagement. At random times during our I would call his name and when he made eye contact I would Mark it and Treat him. Also I choose routes that have a lot of crosswalks. When we get to a crosswalk I stop and put him on Sit. When he Sits I Mark it and Treat him. He did very well today.

@Lillith This morning I looked at the reading that you suggested and the article on Calming Signals struck a nerve with me and I see a lot of Max in that article. I am tall and I walk a brisk pace and sometimes for no reason that I can see Max will slow down and lag behind me. He did this 3 times today and each time he slowed I slowed and matched his pace and he sped right back up. Also, there are times when we are out and I ask Max to sit and he will move a step or 2 ahead of me and sit with his back to me. I don't believe in yelling commands to a Dog and I have rarely ever yelled at a Dog but my voice can be a little acidity when I am giving commands sort of like Megan Leavey and her "REX SIT" faux pau. I try to speak to Max in a calm normal tone and keep the acidity out of my voice but I am not always successful but I am getting there.

@DaySleepers thanks for the info and thanks also for the chart. I am quite familiar with the Blue Zone. Whenever I see an animal and I am not sure if Max has seen it I watch his for his alert signs and if he alerts aka Blue Zone I know I need to move him past the trigger. That happened last night on our 10:00PM walk. We saw a family of Foxes and I know for a fact that Max saw them because he went Blue Zone and stiffened possibly into the Yellow Zone. I turned us around and we went the other way. Within 20 seconds he was fine. This morning I had no where to go. I saw the 2 dogs at the end of the parade procession and Max definitely saw them but I truly had nowhere to go. Apparently, I added fuel to the fire by trying to correct Max and now I know better. One of the Dogs that triggered Max was a an extremely well-behaved Rottweiler and the Dog's handler took the Dog into someone's yard to increase the distance but Max was in full ought posture by that time. A Woman approached me and I apologized and she said "No worries, we dealt with the same thing; you will get there". Apparently, the person who was handling the Rottie was her Daughter and they went through the same thing with their Dog. Also, there is a Pet Store 20 minutes from where I live and it is in a strip shop with a huge parking lot. In the morning around 9:00AM the parking lot is deserted and a small number of people are dropping their pets off to Doggie Day Care or for Grooming. I think one or two days next week I will take Max and the treat pouch to the parking lot and we will hang out at the far end.

Thanks to both of you for your help.
 

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If you are serious about a Bh and Schutzhund, you need to get involved in a club.

Be aware of the commitment and large time suck of this sport! Training is typically ALL DAY one day of EVERY WEEKEND plus one week day evening PLUS you training on your own.

A good club with a good TD (training director) will help you deal with dog reactivity. A Bh requires two dogs on the field. One dog is working the routine and the other dog is in a long down. The club would help you train this.

In the US you can search for clubs in your area through German Shepherd Dog Club of America SV programs or United Schutzhund Clubs of America or, through Protection Sports Association American Schutzhund.

Be aware that many clubs may come across as "cold" to new comers because most new comers do not understand the tremendous time commitment to training. They have been burnt by investing hours and hours in new members who burn out in 6 months (or less) due to the time dedication to training.

Leash and dog reactivity is typically fear based. This issue would be quickly dealt with in any Schutzhund (now IGP) club.
 

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Leash and dog reactivity is typically fear based. This issue would be quickly dealt with in any Schutzhund (now IGP) club.
Perhaps you could explain in detail for the OP how "any" Schutzhund club can "quickly" deal with fear based reactivity. Typically speaking.

Please concentrate your explanation on the aspect of quickly.
 

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Reactivity is replaced with strict obedience. The exact method depends on the club/TD.
Strict obedience. Hmm.

So .. they don't work on changing the dog's emotional reaction. Rather, they work on suppressing it, most likely via correction.

Like old school. As in the twisted logic of 'I didn't correct the dog for reacting, per se. I corrected him for breaking the down'. In the midst of something that is scaring the bejesus out of him, no less..
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@3GSD4IPO I have an idea of how time intensive the training for the BH certification is. Honestly I have nothing but time on my hands. I am retired, divorced, and my kids live in another state and seem not to want to have anything to do with me (thank God!!). I am not new to Dogs, I have had them in my life all of my life. I am familiar with GSD's and other Working Breeds and I have done a small amount of training. The reason for my message here was that Dog-on-Dog Reactivity can be a difficult problem to deal with and I have gotten some good advice which I plan to start on tomorrow.

My Dog is a pet and that is all he will ever be but he is very smart and I have had 2 people who know the GSD breed ask me "Are you sure he is not Working Lines?". Getting him his BH will be a challenge for both of us and I have never backed away from a challenge in my life. In my State I don't think there are any Schutzhund Clubs, I have looked on the United Schutzhund Clubs of America web site. Across the border in my neighboring State there are 3 Schutzhund Clubs and each is within 2 to 3 hours from me. I have already spoken with the President of one of the Schutzhund Clubs and I am going down there with my Dog in November to watch a Schutzhund Competition and have them look at my Dog. Even if I trial my Dog the first time and don't make it I don't think anyone would laugh at me and it will be a learning experience for both of us. I will say that BH is as far as I will ever go.

I will never trial my Dog or any Dog I have anything to do with in Protection. First off, my Dog is 6 years old and not Working Lines. I think the physical requirements would be too much for him. Second, I do not care for the protection competition competitions. I know they are popular and show the highest levels of training and the sport but they also pose huge risks to the Dogs.
 

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@RileyDog0816 I wish you the very best of luck!
My first dog I trained for over 2 years in obedience and protection knowing full well Bh was as far as she would get (well bred West German showline). I drove 2.5 hours one way every Sunday.. and I was working FT.

When I first started I thought driving 45 minutes one way was a lot. I learned how wrong I was.

Ultimately, you likely need a club to train with. I was just letting you know how it can be due to so many people not realizing the huge time suck!

I am currently in a small training group. As an example I trained half of Tuesday, half of Wednesday and all day Friday plus tracking on my own Monday and Thursday. Dog had all Saturday off as I helped at a trial and today we trialed in an AKC venue (we just dabble in AKC obedience a little as something a little different and because the dog is having fun).

This week I already have 3 days pretty much dedicated to training...

It's like that.
I like it. The dog likes it. If we didn't have fun we wouldn't do it. We are training for his 2 and 3... fingers are crossed that we get these titles this fall.

The dog doesn't have to be a typical Schutzhund/IPO/IGP dog to be in this sport. I have seen a Sheltie get a BH and a Border Collie win in tracking. Many different breeds have trained in the sport. Not all dogs do protection phase. Remember, the Bh is a temperament test. Part of the test the dog is tied out (handler is out of sight for this) and a neutral dog is walked by. The tied out dog can look at the neutral dog but will fail the temperament test (and the Bh) if he reacts by lunging and barking at the neutral dog walking by (regardless if the reactivity is fear based OR aggression based). For the Bh the failed dog can try again another time.

American Schutzhund has a similar test called the Bt. In American Schutzhund (which is under PSA) if the tied out dog lunges etc at the neutral dog, then that dog is permanently banned from American Schutzhund and can never come to another competition.

The origin of the Schutzhund sport was as a breeding worthiness test for the genetics of the German Shepherd dog. As competitions started to become more focused on training, that has slipped some.. and the current venue is called IGP. However, genetically deep calm grips (essential for a dog tending sheep) and genetically steady nerves.. power in attitude.. still show up in competitions. When those dogs are also well trained and well handled they tend to do very well.
American Schutzhund under PSA has attempted to return the test to one of breeding worthiness.
 

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If you are serious about a Bh and Schutzhund, you need to get involved in a club.
On the other hand, if the OP is more serious about simply helping their dog to become a calmer and more trustworthy canine member of society, I would follow the good advice and resources already provided by Lillith and DaySleepers (ie : Grisha Stewart, Pat McConnell, Leslie McDevitt etc). If at some point the OP is still struggling I would suggest they enlist the services of a force-free trainer or behaviourist to assist in reaching this goal. Also, if some form of third party affirmation is desired for whatever reason, keep in mind the AKC has the Canine Good Citizen certification test.

However, if the primary goal is to hang a pretty little Bh certificate from United Schutzhund Club of America on the wall, ... well then ... carry on with the notion of becoming involved in a ScH club, I suppose.
 

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FWIW building a trustworthy dog and joining a UScA, GSDCA or AS/PSA club with the goal of getting a Bh or Bt certificate are not mutually exclusive events. :) The goal is the same.. a well adjusted dog that calmly tolerates life with strange dogs and people in the vicinity

Training methods and approaches depend on the number of experienced club members and the skills of the TD just as with any training. A dog with a Bh or Bt should easily pass an AKC CGC or AKC temperament test.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
To address a few of the comments here what I want is what I have always wanted for any pet that has been a part of my life and that is for them to be the best that they can be and for that to happen I have to be the best I can be for them.

With that said I had a "Come to Jesus" moment this morning and it was amazing. For a long time I have believed that if a Dog reacts to another Dog and I am patient I can work my Dog through it and I am wrong. As said here in this discussion when a Dog sees another Dog and goes into a full-on offensive or defensive posture the best and only thing that can be done is ride it out. The best option is to prevent a reaction before it starts. I have been working very hard with Max on his focus and engagement and it is showing. Over the weekend we encountered several squirrels and a fox on our walks and when Max alerted (in all instances I was on the lookout and saw the triggers at or before Max did) instead of stopping and staring and letting Max go offensive or defensive I stayed firm with him and walked him beyond the trigger and within a very short time he settled down and was fine. I had to give him a leash correction in each incidence, but I did that to keep him focused on me and not his trigger.

This morning it all came together. I just got back from taking Max on his morning walk and we encountered a Man I know and call a friend. He lives 2 cul de sacs down and we see each other on our walks. He retired from the US Military and I have a feeling he was an Operator because he has made remarks to me that "When I retired they let me adopt my Dog". This Dog is a beautiful Belgian Malinois and the Dog is trained at a level that I can only dream of and is 100% off leash reliable. I have seen this Man work his Dog and it is nothing short of amazing. Max and I were coming out from between a couple of houses and we saw the Man and his Dog and they saw us. I didn't say a word; Max alerted and I pulled him to my side and continued walking. Max didn't start barking, he didn't start lunging because I didn't let him. Every time Max lost focus on me I corrected him and pulled him back to my side. Within 30 feet Max was fine as if it had never happened. Sure he was amped up, breathing hard, and his tail was going 100 miles an hour but he was not the out of control hellion that I have had to deal with in the past. As we were walking away I waved to my friend and I saw that his Mali was on Sit facing him with rock solid engagement. I find that to be simply amazing

I think my biggest issue with Reactivity is that I didn't truly understand it and I have always believed that when a Dog started barking at another Dog that the Dog was just saying Hi or maybe wanted to pick a fight and I was wrong. What the Dog is actually saying is "hey I'm not comfortable in this situation, I'm nervous, I'm afraid, please go away".

Thanks everyone for hanging in with me and for all the great advice. Today was a good day and a breakthrough day and in about an hour we are off to Petsmart to hang out in the parking lot.
 

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Training methods and approaches depend on the number of experienced club members and the skills of the TD just as with any training.
So, the OP should just 'roll the dice' with a TD whose skills are largely unknown ? and IF, as it turns out, they're good, MAYBE they will help ? or if they're not, maybe they will make things worse.

If it were me, personally, I'd stick with the scientifically proven and trusted protocols of KNOWN experts as noted previously in this thread. I am merely reiterating and supporting what those particular posters suggested to begin with.
 

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Less gently this time: RileyDog has been presented several options, and can choose for themselves which they want to persue with their dog, or can ask questions if they want further clarification. No need to turn this into an argument, and if I have to intervene again I'll be deleting threads and/or handing out temp bans.
 

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@RileyDog0816 it sounds like you have your dog figured out and have made excellent progress.

The first time I saw someone train the focus you describe of "Man and Dog (Mal)" I knew wanted that in my dog. In my case it was a young girl and her German Shepherd training out behind a Beer store in a parking lot... Street lights and light rain. I think a bomb could have gone off next to them and that dog would have stayed focused.

I learned how to train it and I got it. The good news is You can too, even with a 6 year old dog! It does take time and dedication and lots of rewards!

My dog at the time was reactive. I got her focus and that pretty much ended her reactivity and she was a dog with a LOT of nerve issues. My second dog (also female) was working lines and also started the reactivity stuff around 3 months old. Again, focus training fixed the problem. Were their corrections? Not at first... First we trained hard to get the desired behavior WITHOUT the pressure of reactive triggers. Then we added distractions and we added going different places to generalize the focus behavior. Once she understood focus, a correction was used if she broke focus.. and a good reward used when she focused back.
Then, one day a trigger appeared.. and the dog remained focused and did not react. Big win for sure and the reward was really good (by then I was using a toy to reward with a good game of tug).

The dog simply learned that focus on me was more rewarding than "other things" AND I was her SAFE PLACE.

The current dog is not reactive and the most confident dog I have ever had. Training was still the same.. I taught him heel position (called "Basic" with the dog sitting next to me on the left, focused on my face), was the bestest, most wonderful, safest and rewarding place he could be.

You can get there. I hope you do! Congratulations again on your progress!
 
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