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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For whatever reason, our 10 month old dog HATES the neighbors. They haven't ever done anything to her, but she loathes them. She barks like mad and pulls on the leash to get at them when we are on walks. Normally she is very friendly with everyone else.

Today, the neighbor said, "why don't I introduce myself and she'll relax."

My dog lunged at her and gave a very vicious growl. It was not a friendly, "i'm warning bark" but a "I'm ready to sink teeth in your" growl. She almost got skin but I pulled her back and the woman stepped back.

This is not acceptable, obviously. Tips or suggestions?
 

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Without seeing the dog it is hard to say and we also do not know the neighbor.

I had a dog that was very friendly (years ago) but he was dangerous around one person. Turns out that person was on anti seizure medication. Later, when the medication was discontinued (head injury situation) the dog was fine and was friendly.

You might be dealing with something like that.

I suggest you teach the dog a single command and require the dog to obey that command no matter what. You cannot punish the dog for its feelings but you CAN require the dog be obedient and you can most certainly correct disobedience.

The PROBLEM with that is most people do not have dogs that TRULY know what you want and the required response (I often hear people say, "He Knows Sit/Down whatever" and the dog does not really know.. so correcting is completely inappropriate).

My dog? I would just keep away from the neighbor. No need for the dog to love your neighbor.
 

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As noted a single command to be obeyed all the time is good. I like “ watch me” said as one word quickly and sharply works well. Be ready for instant reward. Also be ready for when the dog looks with out Command . This is the Day day the dog trusts you and is looking for direction. When a situation goes critical I often just stop if the dog looks I instantly reward other wise help with the command word. Some times Speed is your friend so speeding up with reward as the dog looks to you. You have to judge the situation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
New addition to the story:

Our dog actually bit a different neighbor now, so it appears it wasn't just the one set (though she still hates them). The neighbor across the street came over and said hi to our dog. She was completely fine, though too wound up. When her daughter came over, she was super scared around our dog which wildly ramped up my dog. She was trying to get her mouth around the young girl, though it was tough to tell if it was just energy or there was aggression. When her mom and I started to get the dog to lay down and relax, she nipped my finger and bit the mother pretty hard on the hand, though not strong enough to draw blood. Throughout it all she was wagging her tail and barking, but going extremely aggressively.

This is getting really bad. I will simply not tolerate an aggressive dog, even if it's not truly meant as aggression. I'll try to get her to obey a single command, but honestly her energy overtakes her and she listens to nothing when in these moments.
 

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It sounds to me, from the little you've told us, like she may be getting over threshold. A wagging tail does NOT always = happy. It is possible your dog is nervous on the leash and the signs are being misinterpreted.

If she's over threshold (her "energy overtaking her"), you need to be removing the stimuli, not letting them interact (allowing the person to try to say hi, allowing the mother to try to get your dog to lay down). For whatever reasons, she is showing you she is uncomfortable and it is your job to get her out of that situation, rather than allowing it to escalate. She is essentially a trapped dog if she's on a leash, surrounded by a child and woman she isn't comfortable around or being approached by a stranger she's shown you she doesn't want near her, and instead of helping her get out of that, she was being handled further by the woman or being approached by the person she wasn't comfortable with while still "trapped".

Quill, once over threshold, is impossible to break through to until I get him removed from the situation and if he gets over a certain point, I don't doubt he would bite even me because he's too worked up for it to process.

How does she do with people off leash generally? It may be a case of the leash is making things worse (is she barking at other people on leash, or generally more calm), or it may just be she is nervous in general around new people. Regardless, she's on a leash so she should be under your control so it seems like it would be best for you to not let her interact with people on leash. Without more information, it's hard to say exactly what is triggering it, but it doesn't really sound aggressive so much as reactive to me.
 

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New addition to the story:

Our dog actually bit a different neighbor now, so it appears it wasn't just the one set (though she still hates them). The neighbor across the street came over and said hi to our dog. She was completely fine, though too wound up. When her daughter came over, she was super scared around our dog which wildly ramped up my dog. She was trying to get her mouth around the young girl, though it was tough to tell if it was just energy or there was aggression. When her mom and I started to get the dog to lay down and relax, she nipped my finger and bit the mother pretty hard on the hand, though not strong enough to draw blood. Throughout it all she was wagging her tail and barking, but going extremely aggressively.

This is getting really bad. I will simply not tolerate an aggressive dog, even if it's not truly meant as aggression. I'll try to get her to obey a single command, but honestly her energy overtakes her and she listens to nothing when in these moments.
Your dog sounds unstable and it may be exacerbated by your lack of clarity. Dogs like black and white communication. Not to bash you, but most pet owners have no idea how to clearly communicate with their dogs. If you have a dog that is nervy and fearful and defensive to begin with and something happens to push the dog past threshold, your behavior becomes even MORE important. The more amped up the dog and "naughty" the more amped up the owner and the two feed each other. Not saying that is happening here. Just saying it is common.

At this point your dog has bitten. This means you have a liability and that is serious. If she has bitten once, she will bite again. Knowing her triggers and how to behave will help. Better yet, a fence/kennel/crate and no interaction with strangers is truly your only safe bet.

Again, not seeing the dog or you or the interaction it is difficult to say what to do. I have known people that just were not good with dogs and all their dogs have ended up a total mess and a bite liability. I have known others that would be OK with a low drive stable dog.

OTOH I have seen many rescues that really need experienced owners. There genetics are the sum of their behavior with nervy and defensive coupled with fearful being a recipe for disaster in the hands of an inexperienced owner who just wants a friendly pet dog.

With a bite history you need help from a knowledgeable person OR you need to not have this dog.
 

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If she's over threshold (her "energy overtaking her"), you need to be removing the stimuli, not letting them interact (allowing the person to try to say hi, allowing the mother to try to get your dog to lay down). For whatever reasons, she is showing you she is uncomfortable and it is your job to get her out of that situation, rather than allowing it to escalate. She is essentially a trapped dog if she's on a leash, surrounded by a child and woman she isn't comfortable around or being approached by a stranger she's shown you she doesn't want near her, and instead of helping her get out of that, she was being handled further by the woman or being approached by the person she wasn't comfortable with while still "trapped".
I agree with this. It's your responsibility to get her out of these kinds of situations and to avoid them in the future. I would not let your dog interact with strangers until you've done a lot more training (for both of you) without the triggers present.

Without more information, it's hard to say exactly what is triggering it, but it doesn't really sound aggressive so much as reactive to me.
I agree.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks everyone.

Some background: she's a border collie/Aussie mix so she's high energy to begin with.

When she bit the neighbor, she wasn't on leash, she was on her long lead in the yard so she could go anywhere she wanted. She was just at the end of her lead when she was playing with the mom. The girl was just out of reach when my dog started freaking out.

I've had dogs my entire life. I'm not saying that's proof I'm communicating well with this one, but I've never had this issue before with any of my previous dogs.

When we are in public: the beach, restaurants, etc., she is great. She is too jumpy, but she's not aggressive in a negative way. On hikes she is happy and wagging the entire time, regardless of who we come across.

Our trainer mentioned the same thing: because she's so high energy, she gets over threshold quickly. We'll try keeping her energy level down when strangers approach and removing her from the situation if she starts to show signs of amping up.
 

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I wouldn't necessarily say a dog has to be "high energy" to be reactive, so much as "excitable" (in a negative OR positive way). Quill is not high energy, but he is easily excitable (e.g. people come over and he is constantly amped up, he's easy to get a reaction from if you stare to long, etc). Not sure if that information does any good, but worth noting. Tiring an excitable dog out does not remove the excitability, where a high energy dog would probably have the edge taken off with mental stimuli and exercise.

A reactive dog is a whole different story than previous dogs if none of those dogs were reactive. I grew up with dogs my entire life and NEVER experienced a dog like Quill until I got Quill. It has been a HUGE learning curve. When he first started his leash reactivity, I had no idea what to do. I was embarrassed, I apologized profusely to the people he barked at, and was at a loss of how to handle it. He was a puppy, people wanted to say hi, I wanted my people-loving dog to get to interact, I didn't know what to do. A specific class designed for reactivity, taught by a behaviorist helped me so much. I'm not saying you have to do it, but I am saying it can be very helpful to work with a professional who has experience with reactivity to learn what you need to be doing to be helping your dog and yourself. It is awesome you have a lot of dog experience, but past experience with non-reactive dogs is a totally different world.

Also remember she's 10 months. That's about when Quill's reactivity started and it only escalated from there as he matured. Working on it now rather than pushing it aside as an occasional thing won't be beneficial in the long run. You would be better off getting a handle on it early. I speak from experience because I waited, being oh-so-sure I could handle it and we would work through it. Quill went to his DDRP (reactivity) class at 1 1/2 years old when it was finally so out of control I couldn't do anything on leash with him. I'm just giving this as a heads up because Quill was totally fine everywhere on leash, then started his reactivity, then reached a point he couldn't go anywhere on leash...it was a slow progression and I regret not doing something earlier.

And I wouldn't let strangers approach her, unless you mean passing by on walks, until you've got this better under control. She doesn't need to be approached on leash, and probably should not be if she is so worked up she's biting. If you insist on letting her say hi to people on leash, it needs to be on YOUR terms. Someone waits while you walk toward them, and if she's getting at all worked up, you turn and walk away. When she's finally calm you can tell her to go say hi very briefly, then have her come back to you. Our reactivity trainer had a three second rule: Dogs should not fixate on something more than three seconds, and when they greet someone they have three seconds to say hi before they need to be back to focusing on their owner.

As for the long lead, I'm not sure how you legally handle that. It seems like a bad idea for her to be out there on that lead if she's getting this worked up, so personally I wouldn't let her out like that while you're dealing with these issues especially if children and strangers are approaching her while on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Marvel, that's really helpful. I've never had a reactive dog so it's true I'm not skilled in handling one. We're going to a professional trainer tomorrow for an assessment so we'll hopefully know more soon.

Were there any techniques your trainer gave you you found especially helpful or insightful?

The long lead is inside of our fenced in yard so that's not an issue. You have to go through the gate to get to her.
 

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Ahh okay that's better then! I thought it was a matter of just a leash out in the front yard.

Good luck with the trainer! Quill is super smart, so the class itself wasn't *super* useful (he got used to the classroom routine and picked up on what he needed to do to get treats, while the other three dogs were farther behind so we couldn't move to the "new" things that still worked Quill up like fast moving people/playing dogs/etc), but the learning HOW to handle a reactive dog was invaluable. I went from being embarrassed and apologetic to realizing I needed to ignore the people and focus on my dog. Who cares if he is barking -- he's on a leash and I am doing my best to work with him and prevent him from getting over threshold.

I think the three second rule is very helpful. If he can't fixate, it means he's focusing on me and not getting a chance to get himself up near his threshold. So he can check something out, then I firmly say his name and have him look at me. Sometimes we'll even do a couple tricks. If he shows signs of starting to amp up (trying to fixate, puffing up, tensing up, tail up, etc), I get his attention on me and if he can't get focus on me, we move further away from the stimulus. It is a building game, where you work up to being able to walk near or around the things getting the dog worked up. I still wouldn't approach a stranger on leash with Quill. People we know he can walk toward and get the "go say hi" command, but even that he still struggles with and we have to stop and walk away a lot before he gets the reward of going to say hello (and that's how you look at it...getting to "check it out" or "go say hi" are rewards he earns by focusing and working with me rather than fixating and reacting).

I would say the biggest thing is paying close, close attention and figuring out the signs your dog is amping up and not letting her get over threshold. Every time she gets over threshold is a step back, so maintaining her at a level where she is working with you, relaxed, and paying attention is key to making progress. Even if that level means you are ridiculously far away from others at first, that's okay. You'll also want a super rewarding treat. For Quill at first that was a tennis ball being tossed to him, but now we can use his regular treats as he's gotten better and better.

I wish you the best of luck! I was so lost when I realized Quill was reactive on leash, I literally NEVER walked him on leash because it was so stressful. Now we take leash walks daily and he's making great progress! I would also say it is worth noting there are various forms of reactivity too (for example, Quill is leash reactive though can get over threshold with new people since he's nervous as well, but off leash walks he is fine), so just watch as she develops in case she is reactive off leash as well.
 

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I was going to reply yesterday, but actually chickened out.

Aussies as a breed standard are supposed to be "aloof with strangers" - and I'm sure border collies are quite similar. Atlas as a puppy was pretty ok with strangers - not excited, but tolerant of petting and attention. As he's maturing (almost 2 now), he's showing me that he is now NOT ok with most stranger interactions. This is a huge learning curve for me too. I'm having to learn to be his advocate (which is difficult for me to tell people "No, you can't pet him.") I'm finding I prefer to avoid having actually say it by engaging with Atlas and moving briskly past something, or concentrating on him - if you look like you are actively working/training, many people just comment or ask a question but don't interact further than that. (I also recently bought a 'bark note' that says 'Do Not Pet' but haven't had a chance to see if it will be helpful or not yet.)

He's only starting, so I'm hoping by being on top of this now we can improve before things get too far. (This involves me learning not to be so polite and letting everyone pet him - but I am Canadian, so this might be tough! Lol.) Marvel brings up awesome points about focus - one I know I need to work on with Atlas, but it's also gotten me thinking that I need to ask for that focus further out than I have been. (Because given a chance if we are walking towards people, he is looking at them in an engaging manner like he wants attention, but what he really wants is them to ignore him and maybe let him sniff them - which is part of the problem I have!) He's also hyper focused anytime we see another dog, so that is another huge challenge for us.

I don't have much advice to offer, more like positive vibes because I'm on the same journey now. :)
 

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My Aussie is extremely high drive as well as excitable. Having dealt with this in the past and now for 4 more years, everyday I can say that I would get to basics classes then ongoing classes even if you have to do several a week. Give your dog as many good experiences as possible.distance is usually your friend. I like to give the dog reason to focus on me. I use a command “watch me” and reward at every opportunity. Espically when she looks to me without Command.

I don’t allow any interaction with dogs we don’t know. Very few people train their dogs at all. I’m not nice at all about letting strangers approach us. If I can control the situation then I allow it. I don’t allow kids especially little kids anywhere near us. Kids running around wildly arrouse the prey drive in the herding dogs and can create issues.

Again classes can help with this. We go to several training centers. One us very chaotic in that it is close quarter with terrible acoustics. There are lots of fast moving events going on. I like it for the ability to use the focusing on me.

Another center is much more quiet but now all the dogs are focused on the trainer or object, so it changes the situation and forces my dog to again pay attention to me and not other dogs.

The third center is very quiet with good acoustics. Here each dog is more or less the center of attention for various times so the dog learns that he can get good and safe attention.

All of this is to present changing situations that the dog has to concentrate on. As a result when something new or unusual comes up he doesn’t get overly excited.

Keep in mind that this is an ongoing thing not an overnight quick fix. It’s a pure joy when you can depend on your dog to behave under difficult circumstances. My dog had to watch calmly as I was loaded up by the EMS team then she had to go outside with total strangers to her.
 
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