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Discussion Starter #1
I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I really could use some outside perspective on this situation.

I'm starting to get a little concerned that Mayzie (our new dog) is becoming reactive around other dogs. As some history, we've had her about 3 months. She was rescued from a bad situation where she never had much socialization with other dogs or people. She looooves people and seems to enjoy other dogs as long as our 1st "child," Ranger, isn't in the picture.

Mayzie has been following Ranger's lead with other dogs. If the other dogs are polite, Ranger is cool with them. But if they're pushy (especially if they're bigger), he will tell them to "back off." He never bites or makes contact. It's just a warning to give him some space. When he does this, Mayzie will also lunge into it...again, not making contact. But I don't think she actually knows what's going on. She's just taking Ranger's lead.

Well, we've had a couple of times in the past week where she has started this behavior on her own. Both times, Ranger was there but he was fine with the other dog. But Mayzie charged the other dog and kind of snapped the air...but still no contact. One incident involved a lab that was loose and a lady was trying to catch it. My DH stopped the car and got Ranger out on a leash and the lab immediately walked up to Ranger so they were able to grab the lab's collar. The lady started to walk away with the lab. My DH had the windows down on the truck and Mayzie jumped out of the truck and charged the lab as it was walking away. My DH called to her and she immediately came back.

We have never seen this kind of behavior on her part when she's without Ranger. She appears uncertain of strange dogs - especially when she can see them coming straight at us down a trail or something - and will go into a kind of crouch and STARE at them. But if she meets them on her own, she is generally fine with them. She and Ranger also go to daycare and she's never behaved this way there. And she was great with the other dogs that were in our obedience class (again, Ranger was not there).

It seems like she doesn't have very good "doggie language" - either reading other dogs' signals or giving off appropriate signals of her own. For instance, Ranger will give a warning growl and his body will go stiff before he takes it up a notch. This gives us a little window to remove him from the situation. Mayzie doesn't seem to be giving off these types of signals (or maybe we're just not good at reading them) so we're always surprised when she behaves in this manner so we're left being reactive rather than pro-active.

With her being a fearful dog, our main worry is that this will continue to escalate into full-blown reactivity and possibly aggression, since we've seen her behavior with other dogs build since we've had her. Maybe we're reading too much into it and she's reacting appropriately but we're just not sure.

We contacted the trainer who we took the obedience class with. He said that he's sure she's giving us signals so we need to pay closer attention to them. And then to "stop" the behavior (including the crouching and staring). Then praise her for reacting appropriately. I kind of get this but I don't know that it will change her feelings about the situation, you know?

We've never had two dogs before and I do think "pack mentality" is coming into play here. Has anyone ever experienced something like this before? Any advice or insight would be welcome!

Ugh! Again...sorry for the long post. Thanks for reading!
 

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I have seen this a couple of times, including my own dog. Let me begin with my own story:

Today one of my evil cats, one of many, was doing someting...evil. We usually yell at them by making a hissing sound and/or clapping. As I was doing this, Hunter leaps up and runs to my side, slightly lunging forward as if ready to "defend the pack".

This is usually a natural reaction in most dogs. They will defend who they deem their leader in either disciplining or defending. Sounds like Mayzie is following Ranger, but may not know how to react when alone or has picked up the "offish" attitude toward dogs from Ranger. This is when you need to take the innitiative.

I would start by closely observing her. Start taking her for walks where dogs might be, keep a safe distance, but watch her reactions closely so that you can learn when/if she stiffens, makes too much eye contact, if the tail raises, if the hair on the back of the neck and back raises. These can be signs of trouble.

I'm not sure how you discipline/your training method, but I would correct this behavior as soon as it becomes apparant that her attitude is changing for the worse towards another dog.

I'm sorry if this was too vague but I'm not sure of your training methods, and my method (dog psychology, close to what Cesar Millan uses) is frowned upon in this forum, so I don't want to overstep my bounds if you do not use this method.

I really hope that you can figure this out or someone will be more helpful to you. :)
 

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Oh, this sounds very familiar. My advice would be to pick up these 2 booklets by Patricia McConnel. The Cautious Canine and Feisty Fido. Also you can do some internet reading about Constructional Aggression Treatment.

Jaia had always been fine at the dog park, but we took B'asia once (unsocialized as a small puppy) and she got scared and Jaia flipped in order to protect her. He picked up on her fear and I think wanted to protect her. Sounds like a similar thing might be going on with you guys, but I don't know. Those booklets should give you some good advice, though.

Good luck!
 

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Wow FIS, Jaia and B'asia sound just like my Charlie and Kaya! We had to bring them to the dog park separately until Kaya was more socialized so Charlie wouldn't "feel the need" to protect her when she got scared.

Colorado, I would also make sure that you are staying as relaxed as possible while you are learning how to deal with Mayzie's behavior. If she senses you or your husband tensing up during these situations, it can make her reactiveness worse.

Another book I would recommend is Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide, by Brenda Aloff. Dogs will sometimes "stalk" and "target" (staring) as part of their play, and Kaya will also show her teeth and snap while play fighting with our other dog. But obviously you don't want to mistake play initiation with true aggression/reactiveness or whatever you want to call it. This book shows a lot of little clues to watch for to determine the difference.

Whether or not it is "pack mentality" is really just semantics IMO. My two act differently depending on each and every situation (alone, together, alone with other dogs, together with other dogs, different locations, etc.) so I don't know if it is truly the "pack mentality" or just them reacting to whatever situation they are in.
 

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One of the dogs I walk is leash reactive, he has improved immensely using the methods in the books FIC has mentioned. Even with his improvement, when his owners got a new puppy (as their previous "second dog" had passed away) I walked and trained that pup seperately from her brother for the first six months. She needed to learn to cope with the world (and all the dogs, people and places in it) on her own and develop her own confidence and abilities before adding her insecure brother into the mix.

I learned this the hard way. When I got Cracker at 4 1/2 months she went on all my walks with me and over time developed a very similar "pack mentality" where she saw threats from others that were NOT there, but were only a learned thing from the other dogs I walked (including the GR). Now I have to do the exercises with both dogs...

Your dog IS giving off signals...they may be subtle but they are there. Any "look" that is more than a glance, any slight movement of stance from forward to backward, a narrowing of the eyes, a lowered or tense neck, a stiff or stiffly wagging tail etc..one dog I work with I can tell is going to go when I see his occipital ridge grow more pronounced (that's the bone on the top of their skull), another when his mouth/lips position changes and yet another I can FEEL the low growl in his throat up the leash before I even hear it.

Regardless of method of training...you need to catch/distract the dog the second that focus happens. Once they are in full focus it is much more difficult to calm them down and also more difficult for them to learn an alternate behaviour. With the dogs I work with that means I have to aware of all that is happening, catch them at the first glance, ask for a behaviour like sit and focus on me and reward that behaviour. If I can get the sit first..the full reaction does not occur, the less chance the dog has to practice the unwanted behaviour and is given something ELSE to do that is rewarded, the faster the training goes.

There are some advanced exercises in the book "Control Unleashed" that I found even better and have been using for my dogs that I clicker train. "Look at that" teaches the dog to look at the "scary" or threatening thing and then look at you. So they learn they ARE allowed to keep an eye on the thing but that they are rewarded for focussing back on the handler, rather than getting "stuck" on the target. The only caveat is that you need to have a dog that is clicker savvy and you have to have good timing yourself. This is something not that hard to develop with practice, I have found "look at that" to be faster than the sit and focus for behaviour mod in the clicker savvy dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Wow...thank you guys so much for not only taking the time to read my looong post but to respond to it, too!

I'm glad to hear this isn't necessarily "abnormal" behavior. I think you're all right in that we need to better tune in to her signals. Her big one is staring and crouching when they're at a distance. So that's easy. It's harder when she's in closer proximity to the other dog.

I will definitely pick up those books that were mentioned. And what I'm hearing almost everyone say is that A) Become aware of her signals B) Stop the behavior before it escalates. I also think that working with Ranger on HIS behavior will help, too. I've read Control Unleashed and I like the idea of the "there's a dog in your face" exercise so that they start to associate rude behavior from other dogs as a way to get treats.

Cracker...I'm very interested in your experience with the "look at that" game. I've heard from another trainer (not ours) that the game is kind of backward. That instead of clicking them for looking at the object and then treating them when they turn back...it makes more sense to click and treat at the moment they return their focus to you. She said that some trainers feel that rewarding the dog for looking at their trigger actually encourages the dog to look at the trigger longer and longer, which of course is counter-productive. What are your feelings/experiences with this?

Thanks again everyone. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!
 

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Cracker...I'm very interested in your experience with the "look at that" game. I've heard from another trainer (not ours) that the game is kind of backward. That instead of clicking them for looking at the object and then treating them when they turn back...it makes more sense to click and treat at the moment they return their focus to you. She said that some trainers feel that rewarding the dog for looking at their trigger actually encourages the dog to look at the trigger longer and longer, which of course is counter-productive. What are your feelings/experiences with this?
I'm not Cracker, but I play this game a lot with Wally.

As I understand it, the dog will eventually focus on where the rewards are coming from. You're also teaching him a new behavior chain and the cue is whatever he was looking at when you clicked.

Here's an example. Wally likes to go "bark back" at dogs that bark at him from behind fences. Wanting to break him from this, I had him sit in the view of a dog behind a fence, and of course that dog barked.

The instant Wally looked at the barking dog, I clicked and gave him a treat. Next bark, he looked - a c/t. The third bark, I could see him trying to split his head in half to look at me and the dog LOL. When he focused on the dog, c/t.

The fourth time the dog barked Wally...looked at ME. Victory was achieved. The cue for him to focus on me was the dog's barking. Click and a jackpot and we had a bit of a game and kept walking.

I believe this works because, at least for Wally, a click makes him get whiplash turning around to find me for his reward. I'm guessing this is where Cracker mentions about a clicker-savvy dog. I've also read that how the dog gets a reward also gives him information. It's why I feed him for a down-stay while he's still down and eyes on me. Just like with that scenario I described. He looked at me to see where the treat was and was looking at me when he ate the treat.

So I feel like to him it was at first:

Dog bark -> Look at dog -> Look at handler -> Get reward -> End Chain.

Then it became:

Dog bark -> Look at handler -> Get reward.

It's like the game streamlines the chain because he can predict the next step (i.e. the look at whatever predicts look at handler, so I can just jump to look at handler!). It's almost like how you teach a second cue off a first. Like a hand signal off a verbal cue. The hand signal ends up predicting the verbal cue so the dog just jumps to the next step off the hand signal.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
KB - thanks for the great explanation and example! It makes so much more sense to me now. I've been working with Mayzie on clicker training and she is definitely becoming savvy at it! It's so much fun watching the wheels turn in that head of hers. I've been putting off doing the "look at that" game because of what the trainer said. But now I'm excited to try it! Thanks again!
 

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It's true, when I first read CU I was a bit confused by the LAT game. It seemed counterintuitive to what I knew so far about clicker training (which was still kind of new to me and my dog). KB's explanation is good but my understanding of it was abit different, lol.

My understanding was if something makes the dog uncomfortable, would it make them more or less uncomfortable to be able to look at it quickly or to not see it at all even though they already KNOW it's there? I think it is better to be able to "check" on the scary thing..reassure yourself it's not gotten too close or is gonna bite you in the butt than it would be to pretend it doesn't exist.

So the idea is that the dog is ALLOWED to GLANCE at the scary thing and then gets rewarded..and in a classical conditioning sense eventually the scary thing "picture" means a click and reward..helping to change the perception/neurochemical response to the scary thing.
The trick of course is the timing (hence the need for a clicker savvy dog and an owner who can mark the GLANCE before it becomes a focused look.

Either way, I have found it to be much more successful than simply asking for a look at me. So the click comes for the glance, but the sound causes your dog to look at you and the reward is then delivered. If the glance becomes a stare your timing is off or you are too close/over threshold.

And eventually it turns into what KB described...a quick look at the scary thing and then focus towards the handler.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I hope I don't blind you guys because it feels like light bulbs are coming on for me right and left! Thank you, thank you! So glad I posted this here.
 

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It's true, when I first read CU I was a bit confused by the LAT game. It seemed counterintuitive to what I knew so far about clicker training (which was still kind of new to me and my dog). KB's explanation is good but my understanding of it was abit different, lol.
LOL

Does that mean we have to argue about which of us is right? :D :p


Either way, I have found it to be much more successful than simply asking for a look at me. So the click comes for the glance, but the sound causes your dog to look at you and the reward is then delivered. If the glance becomes a stare your timing is off or you are too close/over threshold.
Yeah, I've come close to that. If he doesn't spin his head around like on the Exorcist, this is what's happening. Frequently, though, the smell of the treat (I put it right on his nose, almost up his nose lol) will get his attention.

Where I think the game gets tricky is when there's nothing you can perceive him looking/focusing at. Like if he hears a sound from who knows where and he looks - hard to see what he's looking at. It's too the point I might c/t anyway because HE hears something (or maybe sees something in the darkness/shadows) so it's the same concept.
 

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LOL...no arguing here. I live in a world where we can BOTH be right...(remember I AM CANADIAN..and it's all about good discussion and good beer!).
 

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Put me on the Look at That game wagon...Mesquite is reactive to both dogs and people, but the LAT game has worked wonders. She now pretty much ignores things on cue, though I've been extremely lax in her training lately...but she still gets it, thankfully.

It's also a good way to give yourself more confidence, I think. I always feel better about Mesquite's reactivity when I know I have a very effective way of dealing with it.
 

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It's also a good way to give yourself more confidence, I think. I always feel better about Mesquite's reactivity when I know I have a very effective way of dealing with it.
Good point.

Always a good thing, confidence. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks again, everyone. I loved reading the "testimonials" about the LAT game.

I talked it over with DH and we decided to go out this weekend to one of the dog parks here with Mayzie only and keep her OUTSIDE the park on a leash and play the game with her. Where DH walks the dogs, it's very unpredictable whether or not they'll actually see another dog, and it's difficult to control the situation when they do see one. This way, we'll be able to be as far away as we need to to keep her under threshold and move closer or father away as the situation warrants...and try to do this a few times a week for short periods without Ranger. And then when she's got the game down, we'll add him into the mix, moving farther back again if needed. Of course, DH will try to incorporate it as much as possible in the "real life" situation of taking them for a walk.

How does this sound to you all? Is there anything you would suggest we do differently?
 

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You might want to watch this episode of It's Me or the Dog. It's a good one.

Booker
 

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another book.. and it is excellant for more than your current problem is "Scaredy Dog" which you can get from www.dogwise.com.

The object of the Look at That game is to have the dog associate the thing he is looking at with something positive. You click when he is looking at the "thing" and with the click he knows a treat is coming so he looks back at you for the treat. I had it wrong from reading the book. KBLover showed me the light too... :)

Look at That is good for anything in the environment the dog focuses on.
 
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