Hi everyone!  I have a 7 month old Australian Labradoodle who is sweet and adorable.  However, he cannot pass or even see another dog when we take our daily walks without barking his head off and lunging toward them.  He does this if he sees a dog on tv or from the car.  It seems like he is afraid and not aggressive.  We are working with a trainer but his behavior seems to be getting worse, not better (to be fair though the trainer has only seen Lucky a few times and we are starting with relaxation methods, not seeing dogs).  Help!  What has helped those of you who have experienced it overcome it.  It's not fun for anyone- Lucky, us or the other dog owners!!  

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  • Exposure and /sit/ can be magic.  Take him places that have triggers - but stay far enough away not to send him into a frenzy.  Let him watch. This is a universal socialization method so won't interfere with any other training.  I don't know why sit works but it seems to once you don't have a dog going nuts.   Knowing your dog - watch his body language and don't force if possible. Avoid the confrontation when possible.   It is a magical tool and the easiest thing in the world. 

    I also have a dog that is reactive, also not aggressive.  We are retired and travel in our RV quite a bit so it finally boiled down to two choices - leave Charlie at home or try one more training method. We tried several training methods and finally resorted to e-collar training. We did not try to use an e-collar by ourselves but worked with a trainer.  It has taken time, but we see tons of success.  Caveat, I don't think I would try an e-collar on a puppy.  

    Just so you know there ARE different ways trainers use e-collars.  Ours was meant to get the dogs attention on us as we gave a command - NOT on punishing the dog for not behaving. It taught us to really look at Charlie's body language and to anticipate his possible reaction to something and redirecting his attention to us before he got in the 'zone.'  It taught Charlie to look to us to take care of 'whatever.'  We still use it in our RV still because it somehow relaxes Charlie to know that he doesn't need to be on high alert. On many walks we never need to use it, and if I see him getting too alert (body stiffening, stare, etc), I give him a command (mine is leave it) and if he continues his stance, I will give the remote a 'vibrate' with my command.  If needed I put him in a sit - gosh Charlie has the best sit in the world! and we watch the dog walk by.

    • Thank you for your response.  It would be awesome if we could get to a sitting position while watching another dog walk by!  That would be our goal! 

      It feels like we can't have Lucky even SEE another dog.  There isn't a distance where he feels safe.  If he sees a dog up the street, like all the way up the street, he just loses it.  Sometimes he doesn't see that it's a dog but when he does, it is barking central.

      We are going to wait on the e-collar since he is still a puppy, as you said.  

      Thanks for your input!!

       

      • Charlie would lose it if he saw a dog up the street also.  We did so much avoidance when walking.  We worked very hard to get him to where he is today.  Our method with an e-collar was out of desperation, with a trainor's assistance and on a dog that was 3 years old.  The sit is pretty effective now  but our first goal was sit and watch that dog all the way down the street - then avoid it getting closer by walking away.

  • Even sweet and adorable dogs can be monsters with other dogs.
    7 months is early in the second fear period that dogs go through in their teenage period. 

    Is this new behavior or has he always behaved this way toward other dogs?  

    Has he been socialized with other dogs ever?  Has he had a really bad experience with other dogs?

    I mean it seems like the work to do with a trainer or even vet behaviorist who specializes in dog-dog reactivity, so if your trainer is experienced in this, just keep plugging away and do your best to avoid passing by other dogs on your walk.  Keep your eyes peeled and cross the street or turn back in the meantime.

    • We got Lucky when he was 4 months old (17 weeks) from his breeder who didn't have the time to socialize him (at all).  He has always been a very fearful dog with us.  He has gotten much better about being around strange people, but it's the fear of other dogs that is really troubling.  He has been this way from the beginning.  

      We definitely walk all the way across the street and once I went all the way up to a person's driveway/ house to avoid the dog (I had to leave a note in their mailbox later becuase I'm sure their camera picked up a strange lady standing in her driveway with her dogs).  And if we turn around, then Lucky knows the dog is behind us and keeps turning around and barking.  It's really really hard.  

      Thank you for your response as well. Any other thoughts?

      Jen

      • That's too bad that his breeder didn't put appropriate care into him.  It's not fair to the dog and really irresponsible of the breeder.  That's not your fault, but it sure makes me mad that these types of breeders even breed.  It's the breeder's job to do what a dog needs at whatever developmental stage that dog is at--if a dog isn't sold at 8 or 9 weeks, then that dog needs the appropriate socialization and training to grow into a normal, healthy dog.  Were there other dogs on the property he interacted with--did he just stay in the house or a kennel 24/7? 

        Has he ever met or played with a dog since he's lived with you?

        So what I've learned from people who claim to know things is that by 12-16 weeks the window of socialization kind of closes. Meaning...before that good associations/exposures more or less seal in confidence with certain situations/people/dogs.  BAD associations/exposures can seal in a negative outlook with those same things.  It is both the first fear period AND the prime socialization period.  Dogs need to have positive exposures to the world in order to seal in that good outlook toward the world.  But they are also learning what to be afraid of and what is safe.  Either he never learned other dogs are safe, or he had a bad experience to make him view all dogs negatively, or he simply has a temperament defect genetically--maybe a parent or grandparent was also similarly reactive and that got passed down.  Those three are the most likely explanations.

        So if he has a bad experience he will need A TON of good experiences and one amazing trainer and lots of work.  I have no experience here.  

        • Yes, it is really unfortunate, to be sure.  I am not sure if there were other dogs on the property, but he stayed inside the house with the family.  It was supposed to be her son's dog.    Lucky has met a few other dogs and barks and barks and barks, but eventually will settle and be okay with them.  We have a 4 year old schnoodle (13 pounds) and they are best buds.  My daughter has a big bernedoodle and he barks at Milo every time, but he is okay around him (not confident but okay).  He has met a friend's very calm dog and he was very scared and barked a lot.  He was anxious the entire time and right by my side.  He was curious a tiny but but reverted to barking.    It's really sad to me.  

          I am going to keep trying with this trainer and see if we can work towards something a bit better for Lucky.  

          Thanks!

           

      • You can't believe the places I 'hid' with Charlie!  I feel your pain!

         

        • Thank you!!

  • I have Murphy, a 10 year old ALD who has been dog reactive his whole life.  We worked with an amazing trainer for two years, and Murph became the best behaved dog ever with everything except reactivity to dogs when on a leash.  He is great off leash and does really well at Daycare.  We tried many different strategies with him and at one point when we were feeling desperate even tried an e-collar (against the recommendation of our trainer).  I really think that was a mistake for him and made him even more insecure.  Thankfully we only used it a few times.  I know for some strong dogs it's a good training approach, but for us it wasn't the answer.  I really wish I could tell you that there was a method (and we tried them all) that worked...but there wasn't.  We adopted Murph, and so we're not sure about the details of his background, but it's clear that he did not come from a good responsible breeder.  He is very insecure and although we constantly (still) don't cater to his insecurities...they are there.  So I truly believe when he's leashed and walking with us other dogs are frightening to him...and he goes into the "fight or flight" reaction.  I don't believe he would ever actually fight with another dog, but he needs to try to show that he's a "tough guy" by barking and lunging.  He works himself into such a frenzy that no "correction" or "redirection" is effective...it just doesn't register with him in that state so it's pretty useless.  So how do we deal with it?  We recognize and support the fact that passing other dogs when he's leashed is more than he can handle.  That means we can't walk him in our neighborhood.  For eight years since we truly understood what he was feeling we have taken him twice a day to parks in our town and walked him there.  We walk in large open areas where we can always spot other dogs and change our direction.  We "have his back" and now he knows this and trusts us.  If we happen to not see a dog approaching, we turn quickly and I have him facing me and I stay totally calm...and always have cookies in my pocket.  I sincerely hope that your Doodle doesn't have the same insecurities as Murph, but if he does I can tell you it's not the end of the world.  You won't get to take those walks or bring him to soccer games with the other "family dogs" in town, but you will know you're doing what's right for him.  Again, I hope this helps and that my situation is not what you end up experiencing but having been in your situation I wanted t share.  Best of luck!

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