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Old June 14th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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Hatchman Hatchman is offline
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My dog is hard to control when greeted/approached

Hi everyone

On walks, when someone approaches us to talk or say hello (and even in the house sometimes when someone comes home), my dog Max is very difficult to control. He basically starts wagging all over, from his tail to his head. Or he starts howling at the person with his tail wagging. When I try to get him to sit and stay, he almost always ignores me and just keeps lunging. He only quiets down when the person bends down and pets him. He's much better in the house, easier to calm down, listens better. But outside he just gets in a zone, a state of hyper-focus. I find in general that he is much less responsive to me when we're outside.

Any suggestions? Should we practice obedience in our backyard as a kind of intermediate step between in the house and out on walks? Toys and treats, especially chicken, usually keep his focus over and above any distractions. Maybe this can help?

Thanks
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Old June 15th, 2011, 11:37 AM
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Hatchman Hatchman is offline
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Anyone??

We practiced sit/lie down and stay today when Max spotted a dog friend of his. A lot of repetition of the command, as well as some "shhhh", seemed to help a bit.

I'm just wondering if there's more that can be done.
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Old June 15th, 2011, 11:56 AM
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mikischo mikischo is offline
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I'm sorry, I have no ideas but I'm sure some of our more dog savvy people will be on later with some suggestions for you.
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Old June 15th, 2011, 12:42 PM
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marko marko is offline
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Quote:
Hi everyone

On walks, when someone approaches us to talk or say hello (and even in the house sometimes when someone comes home), my dog Max is very difficult to control. He basically starts wagging all over, from his tail to his head. Or he starts howling at the person with his tail wagging. When I try to get him to sit and stay, he almost always ignores me and just keeps lunging. He only quiets down when the person bends down and pets him. He's much better in the house, easier to calm down, listens better. But outside he just gets in a zone, a state of hyper-focus. I find in general that he is much less responsive to me when we're outside.

Any suggestions? Should we practice obedience in our backyard as a kind of intermediate step between in the house and out on walks? Toys and treats, especially chicken, usually keep his focus over and above any distractions. Maybe this can help?
Some key questions. What breed is Max and how old is Max?

The practice can only help that's for sure but most dogs greatly benefit from group obedience training. Plus, there, you get to ask a pro (get a reference from a vet or someone you trust) particular and individual questions.

I'd might suggest that if food is the primary reward, for now, AS the person approaches your dog, make the dog sit and offer a food reward only after a good sit and no howling/jumping.... but this may be 'level jumping' and your dog may need additional training before this can work.

Anyone else?
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  #5  
Old June 15th, 2011, 01:33 PM
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Dog Dancer Dog Dancer is offline
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I agree with Marko. As someone approaches, have your dog sit and focus on you to get a food reward. Once he is quiet have the person greet him. He should not get any greeting from people until he is quietly sitting. Practice this outside and inside to get a solid sit / stay and then move outside to your walks. It will take practice, practice, practice. A good group obedience class is vital to most dogs (and owners). A good practice for dogs is NILF - Nothing in Life is Free. The dog must do something (sit, shake a paw, down - anything you ask) before he gets anything. Don't pet him without making him sit first. Don't feed him without making him sit stay first. Don't walk him without making him down first. It helps to make the dog realize that you are in control of all aspects of his life. When walking him and he wants to greet someone he would hopefully learn that you are in control of this also, no greeting until he sits politely first. Good luck and keep us posted.
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  #6  
Old June 15th, 2011, 01:34 PM
2Greatbulldogs 2Greatbulldogs is offline
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I am a fan (and first hand success story) of the Alpha dog physcology stuff. So I read your post as basically that the dog is in control (between the 2 of you), when in the outside world. In the pack world, one is the leader and everyone else follows; So that explains why you say "he is hyper focussed" (because he is supposed to be, the leader looks around, surveys the landscape and takes care of events; including Greetings with other humans and dogs). If he is fairly secure; but not balanced; he will greet excited, wanting attention etc.. if he is fearful he may be 'agressive' (growling and even lunging with intent to harm). There's lots of different ways, he could behave depending on what his life lessons have taught him and what state of mind he is in at the moment, but bottom line is that he is not looking to you for leadership; therefore he is taking on that role. Correcting this starts before you ever leave home. You have to be the leader at home (making the decisions etc..). You decide when a walk is going to happen. You need to be calm but assertive when correcting undesirable behaviour, which includes ANY excitement as you prepare for you walk. As soon as you pick up the leash, you wait patiently for calm submission (no jumping etc...) before you put it on. You open the door (that doesnt mean he is supposed to go thru it), YOU go outside first (only when he is calm). You proceed with him behind or beside you (slightly behind ; heel) (whoever is in front is who's job it is to greet other humans/dogs etc...). You wait patiently for him to tire when he has a 'fit' and/or correct IN THE SPLIT SECOND BEFORE HE MAKES A MOVE (this requires you to be highly intuned with his body language; recognize when he 'stares', 'tenses' 'clenches his mouth' 'brings his ears forward' 'stiffens his tail' etc.... Corrections should be a 'quick' jerk to the side (not pulling back) then a relaxed leash, or a quick measured 'simulated bite with your hand' to the body to "snap him out of it and disagree with the behavoir'. Try to not have any sustained tension on the leash (this intensifies his bad state of mind). You need him to be looking to you for direction. You cannot be angry or frustrated. So plan for an exercise in patience the next time you go out. Be calm yet assertive and master the walk. This is a very valuable resource : http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/articles/linksbehavior.htm.

I know that not all dog lovers are fans of this approach (which is advocated by Cesar Millan the dog whisperer), but it makes a lot of sense to me and I have 2 very stubborn bull dogs that I have gotten under control using this philosophy.

Good luck
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  #7  
Old June 16th, 2011, 11:46 AM
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millitntanimist millitntanimist is offline
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It sounds like Max is getting waaaay overexcited.
My suggestion would be to teach him to be less exuberant greeting people by only letting him greet for calm behavior. In essence, you will be treating it almost like reactivity (actually, it is reactivity, it's just excitement rather than distancing behavior).
Your instincts are dead on with using rewards and bridging steps (although toys may make him even more excited, so stick to food for now). You can also use greeting itself as a reward. Decide how you want him to greet new people or visitors coming into the house and go from there. A sit may be a good place to start, but whatever works best for you.
Never correct this behavior. You risk making him afraid of strangers (because strangers mean bad things) or causing him to intensify his appeasing gestures to forestall a correction (i.e. "maybe the correction means I just need to try harder to appease them").

Start in your home.
Build up an approximation of a visitor coming to the house, try to break it down into very small steps (i.e. a sound like a door knock, a real knock on the door, opening the door, coming in the doorway, coming down your front hall or foyer, greeting the dog etc. ). Ask him for a sit, then mark and reward (with food or an actual greeting) him for not reacting to a each approximate step (are you familiar with marker training?). If he reacts don't correct him, just say whoops and try again (if he continues to react in multiple trials that means you have gone to fast, go back to an earlier step). Build this up to coming in and out the door and greeting him for sitting nicely for you. Practice coming in and asking for a sit when you get home from work. If he is reacting, stick it out and wait for him to settle before you greet him (at first this may take several minutes, be patient). Once he is sitting, greet him. When his flipping out no longer achieves the desired result (i.e. people greeting him to calm him down) it will extinguish itself. Keep the sessions short and always end on a positive note. Once he is succeeding with you start working with friends.
When guests come over (in the beginning it will be way too much to expect him to calm himself down) you can either put him in another room until they enter the house and let him out to greet them after they have settled in, or have them ignore him for a few moments while they come in and sit down. Again, he only gets attention for good behavior. There's nothing wrong with keeping him on leash at first so you can re-direct him to a point where he can focus on you again (whether that is a few feet away from the guest or in the next room) if he is too over-threshold.

Taking it outside.
On walks, you are rewarding his hyper-active greeting by letting him meet people while reacting. If you can find a willing friend, the best thing to do will be to practice greeting calmly in different environments (starting easy, in front of your house or in the yard). Use distance as your reward. When he is not reacting move closer to the person he wants to greet. When he becomes too excited, simply turn around and guide him away a few feet and give him a chance to calm down, no need for corrections. Practice this with someone he doesn't get too excited about until he can greet them calmly, then work up to greeting willing strangers. If you don't have time to go through the whole song and dance while you are on a business walk (just tuckering him out) that's ok. Just keep him moving past the person and try to get his attention with that chicken. Only let him greet for good behavior.

He sounds like a pretty social guy, once he learns that the way he gets to meet people is through calm sitting or happy (less frenetic) tail wags I'm sure he'll do fine.
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Old June 16th, 2011, 12:31 PM
2Greatbulldogs 2Greatbulldogs is offline
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Thanks for all the info & links.
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  #9  
Old June 17th, 2011, 01:27 PM
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millitntanimist millitntanimist is offline
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You're welcome
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  #10  
Old June 17th, 2011, 01:34 PM
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Stinkycat Stinkycat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by millitntanimist View Post
It sounds like Max is getting waaaay overexcited.
My suggestion would be to teach him to be less exuberant greeting people by only letting him greet for calm behavior. In essence, you will be treating it almost like reactivity (actually, it is reactivity, it's just excitement rather than distancing behavior).
Your instincts are dead on with using rewards and bridging steps (although toys may make him even more excited, so stick to food for now). You can also use greeting itself as a reward. Decide how you want him to greet new people or visitors coming into the house and go from there. A sit may be a good place to start, but whatever works best for you.
Never correct this behavior. You risk making him afraid of strangers (because strangers mean bad things) or causing him to intensify his appeasing gestures to forestall a correction (i.e. "maybe the correction means I just need to try harder to appease them").

Start in your home.
Build up an approximation of a visitor coming to the house, try to break it down into very small steps (i.e. a sound like a door knock, a real knock on the door, opening the door, coming in the doorway, coming down your front hall or foyer, greeting the dog etc. ). Ask him for a sit, then mark and reward (with food or an actual greeting) him for not reacting to a each approximate step (are you familiar with marker training?). If he reacts don't correct him, just say whoops and try again (if he continues to react in multiple trials that means you have gone to fast, go back to an earlier step). Build this up to coming in and out the door and greeting him for sitting nicely for you. Practice coming in and asking for a sit when you get home from work. If he is reacting, stick it out and wait for him to settle before you greet him (at first this may take several minutes, be patient). Once he is sitting, greet him. When his flipping out no longer achieves the desired result (i.e. people greeting him to calm him down) it will extinguish itself. Keep the sessions short and always end on a positive note. Once he is succeeding with you start working with friends.
When guests come over (in the beginning it will be way too much to expect him to calm himself down) you can either put him in another room until they enter the house and let him out to greet them after they have settled in, or have them ignore him for a few moments while they come in and sit down. Again, he only gets attention for good behavior. There's nothing wrong with keeping him on leash at first so you can re-direct him to a point where he can focus on you again (whether that is a few feet away from the guest or in the next room) if he is too over-threshold.

Taking it outside.
On walks, you are rewarding his hyper-active greeting by letting him meet people while reacting. If you can find a willing friend, the best thing to do will be to practice greeting calmly in different environments (starting easy, in front of your house or in the yard). Use distance as your reward. When he is not reacting move closer to the person he wants to greet. When he becomes too excited, simply turn around and guide him away a few feet and give him a chance to calm down, no need for corrections. Practice this with someone he doesn't get too excited about until he can greet them calmly, then work up to greeting willing strangers. If you don't have time to go through the whole song and dance while you are on a business walk (just tuckering him out) that's ok. Just keep him moving past the person and try to get his attention with that chicken. Only let him greet for good behavior.

He sounds like a pretty social guy, once he learns that the way he gets to meet people is through calm sitting or happy (less frenetic) tail wags I'm sure he'll do fine.
Couldn't agree more
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  #11  
Old June 18th, 2011, 06:39 AM
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Hatchman Hatchman is offline
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That is excellent stuff and a lot for me to study/practice/apply... Thanks everyone!

Oh and to answer a question asked above, Max has just turned two years. We are his third family (!) but definitely his forever family. I'm not sure what he learned with his previous owners, or why he goes nuts when he sees (most) strangers and other dogs... Actually, he's at his worst when I say something to the person, like hello or small talk. (These are neighbours of mine whom I see frequently on walks.) My words to the person seem to trigger or intensify Max's hyperness. Anyway, he's smart. He's learned a number commands with us. He's almost stopped "attacking" us (i.e. biting/nipping too hard, seeing us as chew toys when excited. We've been doing the walk away/ignore/try to calm him down and make him sit/lie thing when he gets this way.) He's learned other desirable behaviours through us as well. He just needs learn to be calmer on walks and to greet people properly. He's a small guy but he's freaked out/startled a few people and has scared a few kids... Mind you, some kids love his playfulness. But the last thing I want to do is encourage Max to run up and jump on anyone, big or small, dog or human.

Oh, and to answer the other question, Max is a poodle/lhasa apso.

Edit:

I just remembered another thing, which may also help people respond here: Max has a very strong pull towards other critters as well. When he sees birds on the ground, or a cat 10 or 20 meters away, he goes into his hyper-focus again. It's such a strong pull that while I'm trying to walk him one way, he's going the other way, tracking his "quarry". It becomes a tug of war. I've resorted to picking Max up and carrying him 5 meters in the direction I want to go. This has worked, but I don't know how advisable it is in the long run to be picking him up in these situations. I don't know if it will ultimately correct the behaviour.

Last edited by Hatchman; June 18th, 2011 at 07:11 AM.
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Old June 18th, 2011, 08:13 AM
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Hatchman Hatchman is offline
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Originally Posted by marko View Post
.... but this may be 'level jumping' and your dog may need additional training before this can work.
Hi Marko

What do you mean by "level jumping"?
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