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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey!

Just writing as we're having some issues with our dog. She is a 10 month old pitbull mix (not sure with what). We've had her for about 3.5 months now and there are things that we just have seen absolutely 0 improvement on even though we've been training her every day. We've done private classes and group obedience classes.

Her major issue is she completely loses her mind around other dogs. If there are no dogs on a walk, she's really great and has shown great improvement with pulling. But once a dog is introduced into the mix, no matter how close or far, she immediately loses her focus on us.

The type of treats don't seem to matter. Whether it's hot dogs, cheese, cooked chicken, liver, store bought treats, etc -- her only attention and focus is on the other dog.

It's not an aggressive interest, she simply wants to play. But until the dog is out of sight she is impossible to control or even get her attention. We did group classes to possibly desensitize her to other dogs, but those classes were incredibly tough for her. The trainers recommended we re-do the basic course to continue to desensitize her -- which we're going to do.

We really... really want to be able to go on walks with her where we don't have to be hyper-alert and dodging dogs and hiding behind parked cars so she doesn't see them. We're frustrated because we haven't seen ANY improvement. We've sunk a lot of money into private and group classes and we're going to have to continue putting money into it as well.

Do any of you have any advice? Is it just patience? Is she just at an age that's especially unruly? Have any of you had a similar dog that doesn't seem to be the most food motivated but has these behaviours that do need correcting?

thanks for the advice and I hope everyone is doing well!
 

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Check out the "sticky" at the top of this training section for "leash reactive/ aggressive dogs"

Tons of resources. Some links may have gone bad since I posted it, but you can google the trainers and techniques referenced

Reactivity is often excitement based so don't let the "aggressive" par of the title turn you away

And it will take TIME. No quick fixes and as the dog matures, behavior and attitudes can change along the way also
 

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This is very common but sure doesn't mean it is easy to deal with! Look up the reactivity sticky thread at the top.

I'm doing group classes with Bucky. The other dogs are learning how to sit and all that. Not him. Watch me. Get closer to other dogs and people without lunging and barking is our goal.

If you are inside then ask or bring a barrier with you, perhaps a sheet to put over some chairs or simply leave the room when he's over the top. Outside work within his limits. If he cannot listen to you then move away. Bucky was able to work with the group at times and other times it was impossible so I moved away. Coming and going was harder than being in class. Use lots of treats. I usually take a full day's diet with me and the dog gets regular meals as well. Treats are given out as often as I can for watching me. If he cannot take food then he's reacting and I need to move him away.

A dog in another class with the same issue was unable to join class ever. Bucky was about 10' from other dogs playing at the end of the first class but a group walk and dogs leaving got him going again so it is always something. Work the dog and do your homework so when she's able to focus you can practice with the class.
 

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Agree with Shell's advice to look up the resources on "leash reactive/aggressive dogs" thread. This isn't just for aggression issues, but reactivity because of excitement, too. Your dog is probably excited about seeing other dogs, gets frustrated that she can't get to them because she's on leash, so reacts poorly.

Keep going to group classes! They can be really rough, but the more she learns that focusing on you around dogs is rewarding, the better she will get. And yes, patience is required. For example, my dog has been going to group classes for the last 2 years and trials in agility, and he STILL gets excited when we see other dogs. It's certainly better than when he was barking and lunging, but he still spaces out and focuses on the other dog sometimes.

Also, yes, 10 months is a difficult age! The reactivity around dogs might get better as she gets older, but I doubt it will go away without training. Also, have you tried using toys as a reward instead of food? Sometimes dogs are more toy motivated than food motivated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hey all! Thanks for the replies. I will definitely read the leash/reactive dog thread -- I had read it a while ago but need to brush up.

It's just tough. I don't think there's been 1 dog we've passed in 3 months that Max has walked by calmly. The complete lack of focus on us, when there's a dog, makes it especially hard. Even if the dog is standing 100 yards away. She just lies down and refuses to move or just stares transfixed regardless of the command we say or treat we offer her. I would love for her to realize that the reward she's getting is an actual reward but how is that possible when she spits the treats out of her mouth she's so excited!

She might like a toy more. She has little interest in carrying toys around or balls or anything like that, but she loves pulling ropes. We have yet to use "play" as a reward so perhaps we can try that.

In classes she has been able to practice sit/stay around other dogs while other times we had to stay in the far corner blocked by a barrier for her to even look at us.

Definitely not looking for a quick fix, I guess expressing frustration that we haven't seen any improvement on this in 3 months even with classes / private training. We've worked her since day 1 and accomplished a lot -- she wasn't even house trained when we adopted her, could not walk without pulling, etc. But yeah, just a bit of frustration on our part! We're going to keep at it and re-do the basic obedience class with other dogs as tough as it is.
 

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You might try keeping a journal, because in reality she probably has improved, but the improvement was so slight and so gradual that you didn't even notice. But for a dog, that's HUGE! I started keeping a little thread for my dog on here just to be able to look back and say, hey, I was really struggling with this issue a month ago, but now I have less distance before I'm dealing with a reaction, or maybe a reaction wasn't quite so severe, or maybe he responded to a cue after two barks instead of three.

Have you tried deli meat? This is gonna sound gross, but I"ll get deli meat then let it sit in my fridge for a week so its...ripeish. It's not rotten or bad or anything, but its a little smellier than it might be fresh, and my dog goes crazy for it. I use it only for when I'm working on off-leash training or at agility trials for a special, special treat. Roast beef or turkey seem to be the favorites here. I mean, hot dogs and cheese really aren't that stinky. Roast beef and turkey seem to be smellier.
 

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Our boy's also got excitement/frustration based leash reactivity. I've worked on and off with it for years, but don't worry. His lack of improvement has more to do with my lack of experience and major life changes getting in the way of training, not that the issue is impossible to improve!

My major mistake in the past has been rushing things. I've been expecting Sam to be able to refocus on me in highly exciting situations (another dog coming towards us on a walk) BEFORE I've put in the work teaching him how to refocus on cue in much less intense scenarios (IE the living room, a quiet yard, etc.). We've gone back to basics recently and I'm working on teaching him "watch" from the ground up - and not asking him to do it around other dogs until we've built up a really solid history of reinforcement in increasingly more demanding scenarios.

Dr. Patricia McConnell's Feisty Fido is largely the program I'm following currently, and I found the book broke things down into really clear steps with understandable explanations for the how and why. As well as suggestions for managing situations before your dog is at a point where you can work her around other dogs.
 

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What was tried/recommended in your private lessons?
 

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That is only half what you need to do. Stand at a distance she can eat at, obey cues and look away from the other dog. Once she can do that EITHER move closer and repeat OR have other dog move around. You may have to start out so far away you can barely see the other dog. Start shoveling food in as soon as YOU see another dog that will trigger her. Moving closer in a gentle arc is much easier on her as well.

Bucky is extremely reactive but moving closer and further depending on what is going around he has gotten better. He'll be able to lay on his side 10' from other dogs when nobody is walking around then need to be 30' away when we are supposed to be going for a walk in a line and when class is beginning and ending all bets are off, he's a mess. On neighborhood walks when dogs approach he's horrible but if they turn away and are still he is calmer.
 

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Stand at a distance and feed her treats when she focuses on us when there are other dogs around!
This is a good general recommendation but on its own typically does not work rapidly enough for very high arousal or high anxiety dogs. How you are handling the leash matters. How long your repetitions and training sessions are matters. Where you are matters. Body language matters. Breaks matter.

There are so many levels of subtlety and complexity to this, I hope what you wrote is not the ONLY thing that was recommended for you. Key note being, even if your dog is doing well for the first few seconds, continuous exposure to the trigger often increases stress and sets the dog up to 'explode' after a period of taking treats. Again, movement and handling are key components as well. It is impossible to give a step by step process without seeing the behavior, since each dog is different and this is a very common yet complex issue.
 

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Thank you for this thread. I am dealing with something similar though my dog is showing a little more of "aggression" (not really the right word but she is not pulling to play but to bark and charge. If she is actually confronted she doesn't escalate in an aggressive way) I have started a thread to document our progress which is motivating for me and will hopefully help me to look back and see progress. (The thread is called "Sybbie's Leash Reactivity") You may wish to do this too. Sometimes when I read it I recognize what I'm doing wrong.

One thought I had for you is if her drive is to play, make sure she gets to play sometimes, in specific situations, and help her to learn that leash walks are not for play, but other scenarios are! Also, try to be more exciting than the other dog. Treats and toys are great but your voice and body can be exciting as well. I know how hard it can be to control the proximity of other dogs so that you are staying out of her red zone, but that was good advice. Something I'm doing is rewarding for attention with things that are not big triggers But can be activating, like kids running, trucks, bikes...my dog is ok with these things but if she looks at them and then back at me I reinforce. This way she is succeeding as much as possible and strengthening her attention for trickier circumstances (dogs).
 

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I'm also struggling with something very similar (excitement/frustration based leash reactivity). Our progress feels ridiculously slow as well, but I'll share one bit that has worked well. Does your dog do ok at dog parks? If so, one thing we've been doing is taking our pup to the dog park for a little while. We'll let him play off leash for maybe 20 minutes or so. Afterwards, we leave the dog park and walk him on his leash around the park (outside of the off leash area) and practice all the different training methods. He tends to do so much better after this! It's like he needs to get some social time with other dogs, and after we have given him that opportunity, he is better on a leash, so we try to positively reinforce him with lots of treats. I hope this helps with your situation!
 
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