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Chloe is a 5 year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. As a puppy she was great. We arranged play dates and took her to puppy play time at Petco. At about 6 months she lost interest in other dogs and growled at them if they wanted to play. It gradually got worse. At about 2 years she would growl and lunge at dogs 100' away that weren't even looking at her. Our vet recommended a behaviorist.
The behaviorist said Chloe was the most assertive dog she had ever seen. It was her personality and couldn't be changed, but it could be improved. She recommended her Canine Good Citizen course where Chloe would be in close proximity to other dogs, but not allowed to interact with them. We did that. At first it was horrible; Chloe went berserk. The trainer gave us a prong collar and Chloe calmed right down and was fine for the rest of the course.
She improved dramatically but was still highly reactive though. The vet recommended prozac, and now people remark on how much calmer she is. Yesterday we passed 4 dogs on a 6' wide trail. She ignored them until they lunged at her. Then she reacted defensively. Can't blame her for that.

I normally walk her off leash on trails, about 4 miles a day. We don't see many other dogs and the etiquette is to put your dog on a leash if you see another dog. Chloe comes to me and sits for the leash when she sees another dog. A couple times that system has failed. If the other dog is calm and willing to sniff for a while Chloe will actually play. If it runs straight at her and wants to jump on her, she will drive it away. Again, can't blame her for that.

Today I was waiting for her to jump in the back of my car, when another dog on lead walked across the foot of our driveway. I should have grabbed her collar, but she seemed okay. She even crouched to jump, but then raced out at the other dog. She sniffed it, but he was terrified of her. She then attacked him. She never actually touched him (she has never bitten anything...) but it was certainly atrocious behavior that could have hurt the other owner or gotten one of them hit by a car.
Presumably she didn't like him being on her property and/or took offence at his unwillingness to sniff her.

So, my question... can anything be done about this, or do I just have to be more careful to not let it happen? Any advice would be appreciated. My wife wants to put her in daycare to get her acclimated to other dogs, but I don't see how that is going to work.

I walk 4 miles daily; she does much more, running around freely. She does agility, herds sheep, dock dives, and knows about 15 tricks. She loves people. She won't let me trim her nails, but has no problem with groomer doing it. Aside from attacking other dogs, she is perfect.

A side issue... nearly all the dogs we encounter lunge and growl/bark at her. I don't know if it is because nearly all dogs are poorly trained, or if she somehow brings it out in them. She is our third dog; I simply don't remember how other dogs reacted to the first two. They were not reactive.
 

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Do not do daycare. Most doggy daycares aren't set up to be able to handle reactive or dog-selective dogs, and are very likely to make her behavior worse, not better. They're high stress, overstimulating environments for dogs who aren't already highly dog social and polite. Given her most recent altercation, it could even end in you paying vet bills for someone else's dog (and your own, if she gets into it with the wrong dog).

If she were mine, I would do my best to prevent this from happening again. Minimize off-leash time where possible, especially in areas where there's likely to be other dogs passing. My reactive dog gets walked on leash to the car, then on leash onto the trails or fields until I reach a spot where I'm confident I have good sightlines and can let him off. He goes back on leash well before we reach the entrance of the trail/field as we're much more likely to be surprised by someone else with a dog at these locations. If I don't feel confident that I can keep a good distance from other dogs, whether it's because the area is busy, I have poor visibility, or because he's having an 'off' day where he's not as good about recall as usual, he stays on a long line.

It sounds like you're doing really good work and making great progress, so I don't think you need to do major changes to your current approach, but it's really important to prevent these encounters, for everyone's sake. She practices rude and confrontational behavior, the other dog has a nasty experience, the humans are all stressed... and again, if she goes off on the wrong dog, you could be looking at serious injury.

And it is possible her body language sets off dogs more easily due to her reactivity. A lot of reactive dogs, even when they're doing well and not barking and lunging, will stare intently at other dogs, display stiff, tense body language, or have other non-verbal cues that trigger a response in the dogs around them that a relaxed dog won't. I'd guess what you're seeing is a combination of this and just being more hyper-aware of reactive dogs than you used to be due to having to manage your own pup.
 

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Reactive dogs can be tricky, but one thing is for certain: you need to manage your dog more closely. No more being off leash unless she is in a securely fenced area. No meeting strange dogs. No walking in areas where you might encounter off leash dogs, because each encounter is a major setback! She's not a good candidate for those things because she's unpredictable and clearly uncomfortable. She's been very lucky so far in that she hasn't messed with the wrong dog and gotten into a fight or injured another dog. She has likely traumatized the dog she attacked in your driveway even if there was no physical damage.

Take a look at this thread with resources for reactive dogs. There are many training tips and guides you will likely find useful.

Again, the most important part of owning a reactive dog is management. You are responsible for avoiding areas you know your dog might encounter triggers, like off leash dogs. You're responsible for keeping your dog contained if you know she might attack another dog. Every time she is made to feel uncomfortable, her reactions are going to get bigger and scarier, as you have witnessed. Some things can't be helped, I know, like escaped dogs (I've encountered my fair share in the middle of town, and they're always a training setback), but by doing your best to mitigate those negative encounters and load her with positive ones, you should make progress.

Also, accept there isn't really a cure. She's always going to be reactive, to some degree. She's never going to like other dogs (don't do daycare or dog parks!!!). She can, however, learn to ignore triggers and go to you for protection and comfort.
 

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Excellent advice given above. I'd just like to ask - are you still using the prong collar on her when walking? If so, I'd suggest you stop that immediately. Adding a painful correction to dog-dog encounters, even if it's not every time, will probably continue to exacerbate the situation. She won't be 'calmed' down - she'll be shut down (until she gets a chance to go off on another dog) It's not a 'fix'.

And absolutely do NOT put her in daycare. You're very right in realizing that simply wouldn't work. She has been telling you for a very long time that she is not a fan of most other dogs. That would pretty much be her worst nightmare come true.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I didn't use the prong collar except at the first CGC class 2 years ago.

I can't give up walking her off leash; we both enjoy it too much. In the last 3 years we have spent about 3,000 hours doing with no problems. The behaviorist said that it was unlikely we would encounter a dog willing to stand up to her and so far we haven't. Maybe 3 dogs have charged her, but have quickly run away. (Two dogs have actually played some because neither dog got nasty) I know encountering a vicious dog is a possibility, but so far it seems that people don't take vicious dogs back there. Besides that would be a problem whether she was on a leash or very gentle.

She has only acted like this once before; about a year ago with the same dog. Even years ago, as a puppy, she didn't like that dog.
 

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OK, so, what exactly are you looking for, recommendation-wise, here? If you continue as you have been doing, you should expect more of the same. If you're OK with her level of reactivity, then... keep on keeping on. If not, and you're not willing to make changes.... well, I'll just say that if you aren't willing to change yourself, your actions or anything else, then WHY are you expecting her to change?

I'm sorry, but this seems to be your S.O.P. Complain about dog's behavior. Ask for advice. Ignore/disregard advice. Let things ride, or add in your own form of 'training' for a time (maybe months or years) then... Return to forum & ask, once again, WHY this dog is the way she is??

Just for the record - I have absolutely NO faith in any recommendations, suggestions, or training tips provided by your "behaviorist" who originally suggested the prong collar. Any read this person had on your dog is most likely wrong. I don't think she's 'assertive', I think she's fearful. Now, I can't prove my theory (I've never met your dog) but her actions speak loudly of a nervous/fearful dog who uses "Napoleon Complex" behavior to ward off situations that make her uncomfortable (ie - I'd better act big & bad, so as to get them before they get me!!)

The more often you put her in uncomfortable positions, the more she will escalate her defensive behaviors. Do what you want, the choice is obviously up to you, but... Ask yourself - "Is what I'm doing making my dog's behavior better? or worse?" And, if the answer is "worse" & you want to actually improve her behavior, why are you so resistant to advice from other, more experienced dog owners?
 

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I have no problem with anyone using what they need to manage their dog - right up to a prong if that's all that works with strong dog and not-as-strong woman. However, I have a big problem with off leash dogs since very few of the people who let dogs off leash can really control them in the presence of another dog. I have a bigger problem with anyone so selfish they let a dog they know is reactive off leash. I really don't give a damn how much you enjoy it or think your dog does. Loose dogs coming at me and mine risk a face full of bear spray and a really nasty encounter with me. I'm sure there are others who feel as strongly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have no problem with anyone using what they need to manage their dog - right up to a prong if that's all that works with strong dog and not-as-strong woman. However, I have a big problem with off leash dogs since very few of the people who let dogs off leash can really control them in the presence of another dog. I have a bigger problem with anyone so selfish they let a dog they know is reactive off leash. I really don't give a damn how much you enjoy it or think your dog does. Loose dogs coming at me and mine risk a face full of bear spray and a really nasty encounter with me. I'm sure there are others who feel as strongly.
The nearest she ever was to being in a fight was when a dog came at her after I put her leash on. As I said, when she see a dog on the trail, she comes to me to put her leash on. I dropped the leash so she could defend herself. The behaviorist said I did exactly the right thing; if I held onto a leash it could have escalated into something more serious had she been unable to chase him off because of the leash.
The only two times she has ever run at anything, were the two times in my driveway. I wouldn't have blamed the woman for using bear spray there; it would have been a fair call.
That is what I am trying to stop. Off leash walkies have no bearing on that.
 

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I have to echo Bkaymuttleycrew here...What do you want? What do you want to hear? What are you willing to do?

If the answer is "nothing more than I'm already doing" I'm not sure why you're asking us what you should do, but not only are you putting your own dog at risk, you're jeopardizing other dogs. If your dog attacks another dog, no "I've gone 3,000 miles without incident" or "She's never liked that dog since puppyhood" is going to matter. You could lose your right to walk your dog off leash, anyway. It doesn't even take your dog seriously injuring another dog...If I was the owner of that dog your dog attacked, you can bet I would be calling to report you every time I saw her off leash and unconfined again.

If you want an improvement in her behavior...yeah, you're going to have to change some things. It's not always convenient, but it's better than dogs getting hurt. I used to walk my dog on a 50' long line. It was much like being off leash, but I had full control. It truly wasn't that difficult, and still enjoyable.

Bottom line...nothing is going to change if you don't change. There isn't a magic solution to this. Your dog is reactive and proven her willingness to go after other dogs if they look at her wrong or "don't sniff her". You've been incredibly lucky to not have met a dog who can and will seriously harm her.

Off leash walkies have no bearing on that.
BUT THEY DO. Not being off leash itself, but you said in your first post she has failed to come to you "a couple times" when you have encountered dogs. You know she shows fear aggression when she doesn't like another dog. She is also approached by off leash dogs. It is an incredibly bad idea to take your known dog reactive dog to a place you know you are going to encounter other off leash dogs, which makes her uncomfortable. Why are you forcing her into situations where she is so incredibly likely to encounter her triggers?

It would be different if you're off leash on your own property where there are no other dogs. The problem is you're walking off leash on public property where you know there are other dogs, many of which who are likely to be off leash. Your dog is telling you that she is not comfortable with other dogs, repeatedly. Every time she encounters another dog and feels uncomfortable, or is approached when she does not want to be approached increases her defensiveness, which is perhaps why she decided to attack the dog walking past your driveway. She's also learned that acting aggressively makes the dogs go away. Continuing to expose her to triggers is going to increase the number of incidents like the one you just had and make her more unpredictable.

You can't control what other people do with their dogs, but you know many incidents where your dog has felt the need to react have occurred at the trails. It's like taking a person terrified of spiders and throwing them in a room full of spiders.
 

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If your driveway is the only problem, then she gets leashed going to and from your car or you install a fence around the property with a gate across the driveway, end of story. But it's worth considering what others have said about off leash situations.

I'm lucky to have several places I can go where I can tell if someone else is coming from a good distance, way before there's any risk of my reactive dog taking off to engage with them. I cannot let him off on narrow, twisty trails with poor sightlines, and I do not let him off on the parts of the trails that are most frequented because the risk of someone surprising us is too high. If all I had access to were popular walking areas or spaces with poor visibility, he'd never be off leash. He still gets a lot of freedom on a long line, but I'm not risking setbacks in the work we've done or injury to him or another dog.

Also: assuming that you will never encounter a dog who will take offense at her running up to them on one of those rare times she blows off the recall is dangerous. There are dogs who will fight in that scenario, I guarantee it, and saying it's fine just because it hasn't happened yet is a lot like saying it's fine if you drive without a seatbelt because you've never been in a serious accident. Yet.
 
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