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Hello all!

I have a 3 year old American Cocker Spaniel called pepper who is reactive to other dogs mainly when we go out for a walk. I was wondering if people on here would suggest group walks with calm dogs as a way to help her? I have provided some background info on peppers history below, but if you’re not interested in that, please read the last paragraph.

We got her from a registered breeder at the age of 12 weeks, where she met our then 3 year old cavoodle treacle (who is VERY shy and socially anxious around dogs). pepper loved treacle, but it took treacle a while to fully warm up to pepper. We enrolled her in puppy school for 2 weeks after we brought her home. She was the laziest puppy in the class, and wasn’t fond of interacting or playing much. The instructor had to put her in a play pen in the middle of the room to get her to observe the other pups playing, and when she was out of the pen, she normally had her tail down and looked uncomfortable. Not a good sign, but we were insistent that she learn how to behave around other dogs. We took her to quiet dog parks, and once puppy school was done, took her to obedience. She was great at obedience, but we noticed she got snappy at dogs that were excitable/ in her face. The instructor was absolutely useless and didn’t help with this at all, so after term 1 we quit.

Pepper showed signs of aggression around 4 months of age. If she was woken from sleep, even gently, she would go after treacle. Snap at her with ferocious snarling, then stop as though nothing happened. This got dramatically worse when she was spayed at 8 months of age. The aggressive bouts towards treacle got worse, to the point where we thought we might have to rehome her. We consulted a trainer, and she had no idea what was happening. Needless to say, we didn’t continue using her services! i consulted another trainer on the phone, and he gave me some great tips for ways to make our house a safe, quiet place for pepper. She started to get better, and we felt more comfortable with her around our other dog. The main problem now is other dogs.

Pepper is a very nervous/anxious dog. Telling her off too loudly upsets her, to the point where she sometimes wees a bit. I believe her reactivity is purely based on fear and insecurity. I have walked her with a friends dog, and she calmed down within 5 minutes and was able to walk OFF LEASH with the new dog for the rest of the walk (we were in an empty field) with no issues. She and treacle ignored the other dog for the most part. Generally with other dogs, She seems to snap first, ask questions later. At the groomers, she is very well behaved and gets along well with other dogs. At home and on walks, she’s very well behaved too. She walks by my side, even off leash, and seems content staying in the middle of the group. But if another dog gets within 10 metres of her, she barks, and would get aggressive if they got closer. She’s much worse with excitable/jumpy dogs. Overly submissive dogs she’s totally fine with. Am I right in thinking she is just insecure and requires gentle exposure to calm, submissive older dogs to help her gain some social skills? Also yes, I am an anxious person too and I realise that I need to be more confident for both my dogs in order to help them.

Thank you for your time! Any advice/ opinions are welcome :)

Sophie, pepper and treacle :)
 

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Plenty of dogs don't really like the company of other dogs, or they just don't care to be approached by obnoxious, impolite dogs. That's fine. Advocate for your dog and do not let anybody approach her with their dog. It also sounds like she is a bit leash reactive. Sometimes dogs feel trapped when they are on a leash, so they react quite explosively when they feel a dog is getting too close.

I would suggest that you read the Reactive Dogs Sticky in the dog training forum. It has some great information on training reactive dogs to focus on you and ignore distractions.

Some other advice is that you should not force her to interact with other dogs. Accept that she doesn't usually like their company, and respect that. Also, don't yell at her when she has a reaction. You're just reinforcing that the thing she is reacting at is scary because you yell.
 
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