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6 month old puppy - lunging at other dogs

September 2nd, 2010, 07:39 AM
We've been bringing our puppy to the dog park / off leash areas since he was very young. He has always loved to play with other dogs & the other dogs enjoy playing with him.
However, when we walk him, he always wants to play and attempts to go for the other dog (especially if the other dog is his friend). Now that he is getting bigger, I am finding it harder and harder to control him when he lunges on our walks. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe he is trying to be aggressive / mean (dominant, maybe?) because he never growls, barks or shows teeth.
I have tried asking him to sit-stay but am finding it just builds too much anticipation & he becomes SUPER fixated on the dog and breaks the stay by lunging (I've been debating bringing the shake-can out & using it to break his focus).
I have also tried "leave it" which only works occasionally & almost always makes the other owner (if they haven't met us before) speed-walk past us out of fear that my dog is vicious or something.
My goal isn't to isolate him / deprive him of greeting...I want him to learn to do it nicely but with the way things are going, he'll either be super fixated & lunging or 'leaving it' & the other owner goes away before we have a chance to 'reward' good behaviour of leaving it. I know I can tell the other owner "we're in training" but everything often happens so quickly I can't even look up at the other person to say hi let alone explain why my dog is being asked to sit-stay or leave it.
I hope someone with puppy experience can help me. Sometimes my neighbours will tell me "he'll grow out of it, he's a puppy" but I don't want to just brush it off or let it slide because every time I allow him to greet after lunging I am only reinforcing bad behaviour. Help!!! :confused:

September 2nd, 2010, 10:29 AM

I think that while this is a new behaviour that it is not necessarily an act of aggression you are correct in trying to nip it in the bud before a pattern evolves.

Whether the cause for this is your pet feeling the need to defend you or a behavior that emerges by feeling more vulnerable on the lead - distraction combined with reward is definitely a method of positive reinforcement.

Your pup sits so you have probably already established a positive reinforcement in this area and your pup is comfortable in this neutral position. Now it is time to add something on to maintain the distraction time before being rewarded. You may want to practice this exercise in an area where the two of you are alone first and as it improves gradually introduce new stimuli by perhaps moving into an open area in a park and finally being able to yield the same result when you are on the sidewalk with other dogs passing by.

So start by revisiting your sits with a reward (ie: Dried Liver treat or other broken up in pieces for training purposes). You want to repeat this exercise several times a day. Start by doing this in the house and then during walks at every corner. Finally you want your pup to listen to this one command whenever and wherever.

Once you have achieved this level go back to the beginning GRADUALLY add on other commands. You can establish a routine of sit "good boy", stay "good boy", down "good boy"- reward. Again start slowly by doing this is your home. The key is to set your dog up for success always remembering to reward and of course praise. And if you can of course eliminate the snacks eventually, even better, but it is nice to have in case of emergency.

Do what works best for you. I had a dog who was uncomfortable with other dogs particularly when on lead and I would simply sing to her as a means of distraction which in turn relaxed me as well. Sometimes we subconsciously can tense up and the dog senses it and reacts.

Good Luck!

September 2nd, 2010, 01:57 PM
When my puppy was 6 months old and lunging at the other dogs I let him go. This was off leash. The other dogs told him that was not how puppies are supposed to approach a dog and they snapped at him and warned him off. I now am often told what good body language he has and I'm sure it's due to his lessons from other dogs.

This method will not be popular with many because you don't always know what the other dog will do. In my experience it's the rare dog who will be too rough in chastising a young one but it can happen. Mine did not get hurt. As a matter of fact I had a hard time convincing some people to let their dog interact with my pup because they were afraid mine would be hurt. As I say, most dogs instinctively recognize a pup and will not use undue force or be aggressive. Most.

September 2nd, 2010, 03:11 PM
Thank you both for your responses. As longblades suggested, we often bring him to offleash (maybe 4-5x a week) to greet & play freely / allow important lessons to be learned through older dogs. I totally have the same issue with people not letting their dogs 'put my puppy in his place' for fear that they'll hurt him :)
When we go for walks I'm going to try sit-stays with treats. I hope this is a phase / a puppy thing...I feel so frustrated & would hate for my dog to be perceived by others as scary because he lunges :(

September 2nd, 2010, 11:21 PM
Wheatenmom, I instantly remembered this video when I read your thread. I'm sure you'll find it extremely helpful for your situation.

September 3rd, 2010, 07:52 AM
I just looked at those videos. They're very good though I do get the impression that was an "easy" dog. Nevertheless, I recognize elements of other training I've read and seen, particularly in the third one where Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleased" methods are very much the same, except I think this is a better video. Do you have a website link for where the videos orginated?

September 3rd, 2010, 08:34 AM
They're very good though I do get the impression that was an "easy" dog.

I think this dog looks "easy" because of the low-distraction environment the handler begins to work in before she gradually increases the stimuli. It's setting the dog up for success which wouldn't be possible if she started off in, let's say, a dog park. I find many ppl have a difficult timing grasping the concept that you have to start with baby steps in a a low-key area and slowly build up as the dogs' comfort zones gradually increase. I use the comparison of learning to drive a car. I think we'd fail miserably if driving instructors forgot to teach us the theory aspect of it and took us straight to a busy highway our first time behind a wheel.

This is pretty much the method we used/use with Penny when out in public areas with her on leash. She's gone from crazy lunging, snarling at strange people and dogs to now using them as her cue to look at me for direction. We also work Lucky this way in our front yard and he can now remain calm and turn to me when horses go by our house. Funny thing, I started this with Nukka when she was just a pup, before she could learn to be reactive on leash, and she's a dream to walk. Goes to show the earlier you start with prevention, the less problems you're likely to encounter.

Here's the Dogmantics website and their youtube channel .

September 3rd, 2010, 10:13 AM
Thanks for the video recommendation. My bf and I actually love kikopup & are subscribed to her video but for some reason never saw that clip before! What she's suggesting seems sooo intuitive & I'm now wondering 'why didn't I try that earlier?!'. I'll be practicing with him lots each day now :)
On a side note...I guess when people said 'it's a puppy thing' there is SOME truth to it. This morning as I was walking him I bumped into two neighbours with puppies that are growing up alongside Goose (they're 7 months & 6.5 months while Goose is 6 months). When I saw them I brought up the lunging & both of them agreed wholeheartedly! One neighbour isn't really correcting it while the other is sort of on the same page as me. I'll be telling him about the advice you've given me so we can try to teach the puppies together & use each others' dogs as practice stimuli.

September 3rd, 2010, 03:49 PM
My trainer just got back to me & suggested a halti collar since his previous 'intervention' (sit stay) didn't work. Any thoughts? I can see how this could work & like the idea of correction coming from the leash / environment & not from my hand (as seen in cesar's 'bite' / 'poke')