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Discussion Starter #1
My started showing signs of reactivity close to 2 years back. Since then we've worked up to the following: we can pass other dogs (as close as across the street). I also bring him on trails but now go off the trail path so he can see dogs at a distance but have some long line freedom. In addition, he has social interactions/play sessions in a controlled small group on an ongoing basis at his training facility. He also goes to classes here and there.

It's been months now (maybe close to a year) and he has not reacted up until just a recent encounter. We were on the trail path and another dog he sighted about 30 or so feet away (it's a path we go to often, see numerous dogs at a distance and again he has not had reactions for months). In fact he's never had a reaction when on a long line (15ft +), this was the first time. In addition any blow up he had was always on a short lead and a dog in closer proximity...that's why I am rather stumped about this one.

Something caught his attention about this dog and next thing I knew he took off and hit the end of the line. He went pretty crazy from that point, continually trying to lung (let out a couple growls which he rarely did, think I heard him only vocalize twice ever). It wasn't just stand there react, this was trying to chase full speed, almost like a prey driven response. But when I looked at the other dog he was a rather large dog so the prey thing wouldn't make sense right? (thought maybe he though it was a rabbit, cat, etc). I kept him moving and that was that.

But now I'm rather shook up about taking him on a long line as the impact of him running like that was a little challenging (he's a pit mix, muscular and very strong!).

I should say I am always very aware of my surroundings and if I do see him getting the least bit fixated/aroused I redirect immediately. Mostly now though he will just look and go on his merry way, or on the occasion he's unsure he'll look back at me and I'll mark that/praise him or might add some movement and reward for a good choice either with food/play.

So it got me thinking after all this time what set him off at such a far distance when his threshold has been so much closer than that? Also, maybe there might be a better leash/collar/harness set up for when he's on a long line (right now I was using biothane) maybe something with a better grip, etc. I'm not anticipating it to happen again, but with a strong dog I want to be absolutely prepared.

Just wondering if anyone had any ideas of what might have caused this reaction and if anyone had experiences similar I'd be very interested and would appreciate to hear!
 

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That does suck. I wonder if the other dog surprised him somehow. I know we get a more intense response with a suddenly appearing dog than one Sam sees/smells from a distance. Maybe as simple as the other dog was upwind?

There's also the possibility of trigger stacking. Even excitement and other positive stressors can contribute to lowering that threshold of reactivity. Did anything else stressful, exciting, or new happen in the day or two leading up to the incident?

Either way, I wouldn't assume this is the new normal unless it starts happening regularly. Sometimes dogs have bad days, just like us, or was reacting to something we can't begin to guess at. Or even just took offense to that one dog in particular for reasons we'll never fully understand. If he does suddenly seem more reactive overall, I'd consider a vet visit to check for pain, tick-bourne illnesses, or hormonal issues like hypothyroidism, since a sudden change like that can be a sign of a medical problem.

Something that we've been doing lately is using a double-ended lead, one clipped to the regular back ring on the harness, the other to the front ring. This way, if we're in a reactivity situation, we can get control much more quickly by using the front ring, whereas for regular walking we mostly use the back. I know that's not as easy to do with long-lines, though. I've been experimenting with Grisha Stewart's long-line handling techniques too. They're focused on giving the dog a feeling of freedom, but she has tips on control and safety too. I'm just not good enough with it yet to try to explain how to do them myself.

Has he been muzzle-trained? If he were mine, I'd consider walking him on a basket muzzle (after conditioning him to think it's a fun and awesome thing to wear) so that if (god forbid) the worst should happen and you lose control, he physically cannot bite, or be unfairly accused of biting. People can be funny about bully breeds, after all.

Good luck, and keep us updated!
 

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Also consider that your dog might have reacted to scent rather than sight and, that could be the other dog or the owner of the other dog.

My four are fine or shy off (wolfdogs) from most strangers to them however, there are two people whom they growl and bark at aggressively if they so much as walk down the road in front of my house. All four react the same way, even when separated and, even my 12 week old puppy.

I won't go into details but, if the dogs sense half of what I know about those two people, then, I don't blame them one bit - not good people.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Yea might of surprised him, the other dog/owner did stop and stare as well now that I recall so he possibly could have felt threatened and the stop of movement triggered him.

I don't remember any moments leading up to the even to have caused the response.
Since then he's been fine (no blowups, no acting out of the norm) so I guess I'll have to be super vigilant and proactive to notice any body language before a response should it happen again (I'm sure there was a moment I missed before the reaction, even it it just was a second or two that I could have redirected him).

I wish I can find a place that's rather secluded like a very large open field where I can just let him be...I'll have to do some searching

I guess I was more worried about slipping the lead from my hand, maybe if I had it attached to my waist, I know that might be dangerous with a large dog but I'm walking of fields of grass (not pavement/concrete) so I'm not too worried about injury should I fall? Any maybe nylon/cotton long lead vs biothane as might be able to grip better? I know they have ones that don't tangle but will still get heavier when wet. I consider myself a pretty good handler and I don't anticipate this at all to happen again at all, I'm going to create even further distance now this happened even if it was just the one time, but I am just wanting to take extra precautions.

Hmmm, the reacting to scent rather than sight is interesting, didn't think about that one.

Maybe also using his backpack everytime he's on a long line for now, might slow him down a bit more mentally and physically? I did have his line attached to his chain martingale, might have amped him up more once it might the hard contact? Maybe attaching to his backpack (he has a ruffwear) and then backing up to his collar...
 

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There are walking belts that have padded backs, so if the dog does pull the weight is supposed to be more evenly distributed. I haven't used them myself, personally. But you could check out what people use for canicross. I think some even have leg straps to keep them in place so they stay in the best/safest position.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Oh that's a great idea will look into it! Also some have the bungee attachments which might help too
 
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