Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
We have had a lot of trouble with our 3 year old Toller with other dogs. After a great deal of work she is able to play with other dogs (as long as they aren't too rambunctious) and is usually able to ignore other dogs that we pass while walking. I think we are 90% of the way there.

But I have noticed that nearly every dog we see walking on the road, and perhaps half of those we pass on trails, get wild when we get near them. I don't think it has anything to do with us because the other owner will frequently stop and grab their dog's collar to try to contain them as we approach, so I presume the problem is with all dogs.

So why do dogs do this? Do they just want to get to the 2nd dog to socialize? Is it aggression? Or maybe prey drive?
I say prey drive because my first two Tollers never did it (people would frequently say to their dogs "see how good that dog is? Why can't you be like that?") They also had no prey drive, while Chloe has a very strong prey drive. They didn't particularly like other dogs, but were perfectly calm around them.

I also wonder why dogs on trails seem to be better behaved than those on road. Could have something to do with being 6' apart rather than 20', or maybe only better behaved dogs are taken to trails. Or maybe only better owners like trails.

Any thoughts on these questions?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,743 Posts
Leash reactivity is related to barrier frustration in many ways. You're restricting the dog's natural movements, so behavior gets amplified. Sometimes it's an anxious dog who has a flight or fight response, and when they can't run away because of the lead, they resort to putting on a big show to scare the other dog off. Sometimes it's a highly social dog that wants to interact with every other dog it sees, and becomes explosively frustrated when it can't get there. Sometimes it's because leashes force unnatural movements (dogs naturally approach each other in a curve, for example, not a straight line), which the barking dog sees as rude or aggressive and has reacted because of that. And yes, there is a rare dog who is truly dog-aggressive and is driven to attack other dogs as its primary motivation, but it's highly unusual. Granted, any of these scenarios can escalate to a dog fight if the dogs physically meet in a heightened state, so it's generally a good idea to give reactive dogs as much space as you can and passing as quickly as possible.

I don't believe it's directly related to prey drive, but I think dogs who are very intense in other ways (Sarah Stremming calls it having Big Feelings) are more likely to struggle with leash reactivity. So it's not surprising to me that a dog who's mellower overall has an easier time learning to ignore other dogs on leash.

And I do think trails are more likely to attract owners who, at the very least, get their dogs more exercise and mental stimulation than average. Not in the least because trails themselves offer dogs better physical and mental exercise than the average walk around the block. Even if the owners don't do a lot of training, making sure those needs get met goes a long way towards improving dog behavior overall.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Leash reactivity is related to barrier frustration in many ways. You're restricting the dog's natural movements, so behavior gets amplified. Sometimes it's an anxious dog who has a flight or fight response, and when they can't run away because of the lead, they resort to putting on a big show to scare the other dog off. Sometimes it's a highly social dog that wants to interact with every other dog it sees, and becomes explosively frustrated when it can't get there. Sometimes it's because leashes force unnatural movements (dogs naturally approach each other in a curve, for example, not a straight line), which the barking dog sees as rude or aggressive and has reacted because of that. And yes, there is a rare dog who is truly dog-aggressive and is driven to attack other dogs as its primary motivation, but it's highly unusual. Granted, any of these scenarios can escalate to a dog fight if the dogs physically meet in a heightened state, so it's generally a good idea to give reactive dogs as much space as you can and passing as quickly as possible.

I don't believe it's directly related to prey drive, but I think dogs who are very intense in other ways (Sarah Stremming calls it having Big Feelings) are more likely to struggle with leash reactivity. So it's not surprising to me that a dog who's mellower overall has an easier time learning to ignore other dogs on leash.

And I do think trails are more likely to attract owners who, at the very least, get their dogs more exercise and mental stimulation than average. Not in the least because trails themselves offer dogs better physical and mental exercise than the average walk around the block. Even if the owners don't do a lot of training, making sure those needs get met goes a long way towards improving dog behavior overall.
That all makes sense. I've read a few articles on leash reactivity and find that, though trial and error, I am doing what is recommended to break it. It also explains why my first dog chased cars when on leash or behind an invisible fence, but not when he was off leash. I have two questions....

1) Around here people leave their dogs off leash when on trails, but put a leash on when they see another dog; as do I. Would it be better to try it without the leash? She is reasonably obedient and I think she would stay with me, but I haven't tried it.

2) How do I tell when the other dog is afraid as opposed to wanting to be social? Would my dog be able to tell and avoid the afraid dog? I think my dog just wants to be social because when off leash dogs have come at her, they just sniff each other and it seems like she is okay with it. She may growl at another dog that comes straight at her, but I guess that is acceptable.

Thanks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,743 Posts
1) I believe there's a lot of value in off-leash hikes if it's safe for you to do so, but I'd be hard-pressed to recommend letting an adult dog off-leash in an area where other people/dogs frequent regularly when you don't know how they'd respond. It'll likely be safer to start with a long-line to give her more freedom and work really hard on recall at greater distances, especially around really interesting things like people/other dogs. Full disclosure, I DID start my younger dog by just letting him off in the woods, but this was when he was a baby puppy, and it's very rare for a baby puppy to just take off (or get very far if they try).

2) You really can't. I mean, you can ask the owner, but there's no guarantee the owner actually knows what they're talking about. And a hypersocial but frustrated dog can absolutely start a fight. My older dog is one of these; he'll get SO worked up and frantic that he'll often wind up jumping all over the other dog rudely (causing the other dog to defend itself), or just start snapping himself because he's too amped up. Not every time, but often enough. That's why I say it's safest for everyone just to avoid a reactive on-leash dog if at all possible (and my older boy is no longer allowed contact with any other dog on-leash, excepting ones he's lived with and knows well enough that he doesn't go nuts over them).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
1) I believe there's a lot of value in off-leash hikes if it's safe for you to do so, but I'd be hard-pressed to recommend letting an adult dog off-leash in an area where other people/dogs frequent regularly when you don't know how they'd respond. It'll likely be safer to start with a long-line to give her more freedom and work really hard on recall at greater distances, especially around really interesting things like people/other dogs.
She is 3.5; I have been walking her off leash for about 2 years now. We walk 5 miles and only see another dog about 10% of the time. She is frequently 100' away, off in the woods somewhere, but always comes promptly when I call her. Once she was a head of me and got to a dog before I even saw it. Recall was ineffective, but nothing bad happened. That was a year ago and I expect she would do better now.

Except for that one incident, I call her when I see a dog; she sits and lets me hook up the leash.

She often takes off after rabbits, squirrels, or goundhog; but they duck into the brush and lose her pretty quickly. Last month she went after a huge snapping turtle, but came back when I called her.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
11,799 Posts
Rabbits and other small mammals will quickly go to ground when pursued by anything much faster than a beagle. But if you have deer in your area, they can lead your dog on a merry chase well into the next county.

The whitetail deer around here are the main reason most dogs I've had were never off-lead on the trails. I've had just two dogs with deer-proof recall.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Only seen one deer in 2 years, and Chloe just stared at it. So I think we are good there.
She is terrified of horses; well, she was 2 years ago when we saw a Police Horse.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,743 Posts
Then it sounds like you've got a good foundation to try, though only you will know if you feel confident and ready and are okay with the risks. I'd start in an area with minimal terrain hazards (especially tempting ones, e.g. a fast river if your dog loves water) and minimal risky wildlife if at all possible. But once you have a solid recall built up, the best way for a dog to learn how to be off-leash is to be off-leash, imo.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top