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On-Leash Regression

December 17th, 2008, 08:38 PM
We've (more like I've) been having some issues with Skylar.

A brief background: After we got her she was displaying some serious on leash aggression, I was having a hard time controlling her. We had a private session with a trainer who made a training plan with us to help with her on-leash problems. It was working to a point but then we seemed to plateau. So we decided that maybe doing an OB class would be good for both her and us. We did a 7 week course, she was often over stimulated when other dogs were moving around or being used to demonstrate exercises. It wasn't as bad by the end of the course and we could pretty much get her focused pretty quickly.

She has always been pretty good at off leash dog parks or when she's around specific dogs for long periods of time (ie: SILs dog)

We moved in August and don't see dogs on our walks, so she's not getting her practice anymore. When she sees a dog she goes ballistic, I'm trying to continue with our training.

Tonight we took her to the off leash park (our visits are few and far between)
she was playing with another dog her size for a good 20 minutes then all of a sudden they were attacking each other viciously. This seems to be how our off leash visits end nowadays (which is why we rarely go). We try to read when she's becoming over stimulated an leave before she brawls with another dog.

I'm not sure what we should be doing here. We follow what the trainer said to do, but she doesn't ever seem to get better.

If we never go to the off leash park again that's fine, but her on leash aggression is my immediate concern. It seemed way better when we had daily practice with other dogs walking around, but our new neighbourhood is very lacking in people who walk their dogs:frustrated:

is there a magic pill?

December 17th, 2008, 08:46 PM
is there a magic pill?

If you find one, let me know. Kailey could use a good supply of them. :rolleyes:

I don't know about Skylar, but for Kailey we've found her leash aggression is motivated by fear. We're having slow but continued success with creating a positive association with seeing strange dogs. As soon as we see one approach, we immediately have her do a down-stay for treats until the dog is out of her zone.

Fortunately for us, we discovered she LOVES other dogs and is always gentle with them, so off-leash socialization is going a long way. If Skylar is acting aggressive off leash though I wouldn't take that chance and stay away from the dog park for a while. Instead of the dog park can you take a drive and walk her in a busier area so she gets more practice?

December 17th, 2008, 08:57 PM there a magic pill?

If there is, I'm investing in the company and getting it delivered here by the truckload.

I'd stop going to the dog park too, especially if there's a risk of injury. All I can advise is that you continue with the training. Can you return for more classes?

We reached that same plateau with Penny. There were only so many ppl who we could arrange a "set up" with to aid in our training before we ran out :shrug:. It's hard to control a situation when you can't control the strangers around you :shrug:. We still do all the distraction/redirection training with her at home but, we moved too...away from parks and people and dogs...on purpose. We're less stressed, and she's less stressed.

December 17th, 2008, 10:15 PM
It's just so frustrating, you know? She's such a perfect dog inside the house, but once we get the leash on she's like a different dog sometimes. She even seems overstimulated by just being outside, frantically smelling everything and running side to side with her nose on the ground, frothing at the mouth, pulling like crazy (less so with her gentle leader on). DH says she's not really like that when he walks her, maybe I'll leave the walks up to him from now on, lol.

Is there something about me that makes her behave this way, do I project some sort of negative energy? Perhaps another training class is in order.

It's hard to control a situation when you can't control the strangers around you :shrug:.

So true, and our trainer was trying to tell us that we should be approaching other dogs for very brief meetings, just enough to sniff then move on, but no one want to come within 10 feet of a dog that's lunging and barking like a maniac to let their dog meet ours. When the trainer assessed Skylar she was being a perfect angel, of course, and didn't display any of the problem behaviour that we told him about so he didn't fully understand what we were concerned about.

December 17th, 2008, 10:20 PM
Any way you can take this guy with you on a walk? Or have him walk a dog toward you when you're out on one so he can assess her 'in action', so to speak?

December 18th, 2008, 04:42 AM
you need to have a calm submissive dog walk with you, Brina and Skylar did very well together on leash, don't react when she barks at other dogs, just give her a "jerk" back to your side and talk to her so she's watching you, not the other dog....she needs to be refocused, is there any dogs you know that would fit the bill that you could have over say on weekends for playdates??

December 18th, 2008, 09:16 AM
Having the trainer "randomly" meet us with another dog might be a good idea. Perhaps I'll call him and set something up.

We have done walks with calm dogs, SILs, and unfortunately Skylar has still had the same reaction when she spots another dog. We don't consistenly walk with other dogs though (SIL lives in Illinois) and we haven't met any dog owners here yet, no one seems to walk their friggin' dogs.

December 18th, 2008, 09:41 AM
Brina doesn't get a chance anymore to play with large dogs, so this morning I took her to daycare to keep her socialized, I'm like you Stacer, there are no families around here that walk their dogs daily. I wish you were closer so we could let the two of them play off the energy

December 18th, 2008, 10:49 AM
. I wish you were closer so we could let the two of them play off the energy

I know, me too. :sad:

Dog Dancer
December 18th, 2008, 02:24 PM
Stacer, sorry you're having this problem. I know exactly what you're talking about though. My girl Halo barks like a fool at incoming dogs on our walks, and I have to distract her by putting her in a sit or down and making her work for a treat. This always works if I get her started before the dog gets to close (and I cross the road because my older girl is a fighter so I can't stay where the other dog is if I'm focused on Halo and Shadow could lunge). Halo is also walked with a Halti to help with the pulling (she's 8). She's never improved on this with me, but my husband and son can both walk her with no problem at all. Even in the car, if I'm driving and we go by a dog she's a blithering idiot in the back seat (I can't open her window more than an inch in case she flies out). In my husbands truck she just watches them go by and never makes a sound. She's Jeckyl and Hyde I tell you. So it sounds a lot like Skylar with you and your husband. I honestly believe that Halo senses my anxiety over a dog approaching and reacts that way. I think she also knows that we don't let dogs near Shadow so she's kind of telling me "Look out there's a dog coming!!!" But I'm quite sure it's mostly my fault as she doesn't react this way with anybody else. And yes, she's quite friendly with the other dogs if she gets a chance to say hello, so I feel your pain. Good luck to you.

December 18th, 2008, 06:32 PM
Dog Dancer, it sounds like you've kidnapped Skylar! Your description is exactly my situation.

I will have to resolve myself to having a dog that acts like a complete arse, sigh. At least she's a sweetie when there are no dogs around.

December 18th, 2008, 10:26 PM
We have the exact same problem with Leia. Perfect angel inside the home and great with other dogs in the backyard (loose). We do not go to off leash dog parks. Mainly because almost every unstable dog seems to be at all the dog parks in our city :shrug: and the owners are clueless and irresponsible dog owners. They seem to just turn off as soon as they are at the park. Also we have boxers. Alot of dogs and their owners misunderstand the boxer play for being too rough and aggressive. Leia runs around dogs when she plays and growls at them. Although she means no harm b/c she is play growling. We know that from experience with her but others take it the wrong way.

Anyhow we are working hard with Leia in Reactive Dog class. She wears a Gentle Leader head harness. She seems alot calmer with this on. We walk her with our other dogs but sometimes that is a night mare. I agree that if you walk or try to train your dog by having someone walk towards you or beside you or behind you...they should have a perfectly balanced dog. A trainer's dog would be best.

We try to do the same thing with Leia by trying to get her attention. Our training has us working on getting her to "Watch Me" command. We practice this sooooo much. Inside the home and outside, with distractions and without. These distractions can be dogs, cars, cats, people anything. What we are now doing is trying to get her to "Watch Me' when another dog passes. As soon as she does we give her the jackpot of treats! Try to determine your radius. How far can you be btwn another dog before she goes off. Work on making that distance closer. It takes alot of time and patience. And remember just because she is doing great one day she could easily have a meltdown the next. But don't let that get you down. Its hard I know. DH and I constantly go thru this too. But try not to stress. Any anxiety that you have is automatically being sent thru the leash to your dog.

Good Luck! I know that its hard. We have never had a reactive dog before like this so believe me I sympathize with you. :)

December 18th, 2008, 11:25 PM
I am actually reading an interesting book right now called "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDervitt which is written for agility competitors but focuses on how to teach self control to dogs. The writer brings up a very interesting technique which she calls the "look at that game". Basically by trying to teach a dog to focus solely on us and ignore all other stimuli we stress the dog by having him worry about all the stuff he is "not able to look at". This means the dog never really learns to cope with the environment What we should be doing instead is teaching the dog. By rewarding the dog for looking at the trigger you basically countercondition the association to a positive thing :shrug:.

Patricia McConnell has a very similar technique called an "auto watch".

I haven't got any experience with using this (or even clicker training) but found it a great concept. I found a blog entry of someone who has done it and you can google it, it shows up a fair bit.

Control Unleashed, which expands on Leslie’s class by the same name, is entertaining and well written with dozens of innovative, scientifically-sound exercises aimed at creating confidence and focus in dogs who are reactive, lose control or shut down due to various environmental stressors and their own inability to relax. They are presented in a logical progression that you can use at home or in a class setting.

For example, one of the techniques presented is a game called “look at that” - where instead of reinforcing a stressed/reactive dog for focus on the handler, she reinforces them for glancing at the source of their anxiety. For example, she clicks dogs who are reactive to strange dogs by clicking them for looking at other dogs.

Doesn’t make sense you say? Well, actually it does, because in teaching them that it’s OK to look, you reduce the uneasiness and insecurity that causes the behavior AND you GET their attention because the dog is also being patterned to glance at the other dog then WILLINGLY turn their focus back to the handler.

This exercise in particular brought a smile of recognition to my face - I can tell you first hand this approach really works!

Years ago, my sheltie Tiffy was the poster child for “reactive dog”, flying off the handle at virtually every change in her environment, from people and dogs to cars passing by. I was grass-green at the time and at first tried addressing it with “obedience” and “corrections” - which of course didn’t work, as they both were just “band-aids” to suppress the behavior without addressing the cause.

When she was 6 years old, Tiffy injured her neck in a freak household accident, from which she eventually recovered about 75% of her mobility but I was told never to use a collar on her again. So my collar corrections went out the window… and my reactive little shark came back.

Glad she was alive but desperate for a way to deal with her outbursts, I read a couple of articles about clicker training and turned up a few others about this behavior-modification process called desensitization. Clicker training was relatively new at the time, there were no internet lists or local mentors to work with, but I didn’t have anything to lose so I decided to give it a try.

My very first clicker-training experiment was clicking and treating Tiffy every time a car passed by the house. I started behind my house where she was barely aware of the cars, gradually moving closer to the street as she learned to cope. By the time I had worked my way to the end of the driveway, I had a dog who would look at a passing car and immediately whip her head back to me to see if it was good enough for a cookie. This took all of about a month to teach, the results lasted the rest of her 15.5 years.

That crazy dog and that silly game made me a clicker convert.

Just one example of the good stuff in this book. If your dog has stress issues or you deal with clients dogs who do … forget that - if you have a DOG, Control Unleashed is a must read!

December 19th, 2008, 08:12 AM
Totallyhip, the training you described is exactly the training we've been doing with Skylar. The only problem is that we dont' get enough practice due to lack of people walking their dogs on our neighbourhood, so when she does see one (even from a very far distance) she goes ballistic. Before we moved we could get within 10-15 feet of a dog without a reaction (me feeding her treats like mad), now we can barely get within 300 meters.

Teri, that is a very interesting approach, I may do a little reading and try it out on my crazy fuzzbutt.

December 19th, 2008, 11:48 PM
Teri, that is a very interesting approach, I may do a little reading and try it out on my crazy fuzzbutt.

It sounds quite logical to me and worth trying, hope it works :goodvibes:.