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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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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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