Dog reactivity

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Zhucca, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. Zhucca

    Zhucca Lab Love

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    Hopefully I'll be able to explain what exactly the issue is. His behavior is highly variable some days.

    When Duke was younger he was a typical lab puppy. He wanted to play with every dog he saw and wasn't really polite about it. He was hyper active and rambunctious. He grew up in a dog daycare (14wks - 17mos). He's very much used to other dogs, he's met TONS of other dogs, especially as a puppy. When I got him when he was 7 months old, he got a lot more exercise. He started to play less and less with other dogs, mostly preferring his friends. I assume it came with maturity and that the novelty of daycare wore off. So when I quit working at the daycare, he spends his days with his BFF Boomer, and my friend Dean. I take him to the dog park pretty much every day after work with Boom, and he's becoming... ornery.

    He doesn't often approach the other dogs, and when other dogs approach him he'll either ignore them, or go stiff. If he does freeze, he has his head down low, and 7 times out of 10 he'll raise his hackles slightly; his tail is never raised an high, but just hangs. Sometimes this reaction is warranted, when other dogs body slam into him. Most of the time it won't escalate past him going stiff (even if I don't like that very much) So I just watch closely, most dogs get the hint and leave him be. Sometimes, however, he'll pull his commisures forward and will growl if the dog hasn't left in a "timely" manner in his mind. I will intervene then and call him to me, but he will sometimes snap at other dogs when they follow him. He's never made contact, and doesn't escalate past that. I think it's an overreaction and I really don't like DR. I feel like we're traveling on a downward slope here and I wonder what the solution is to this. At home he's fine with other dogs. He still largely prefers to be left alone to snooze, but he doesn't display the same behaviors. He's a normal, but rather indifferent.

    Do I stop going to dog parks? Our dog parks aren't the same as some of the ones in the US - they're quite large areas and not just a fenced in acre or so. It's not often he's bombarded by other dogs, we come across others intermittently. How do I start to train him out of the DR? It would be really hard to stop going still it's such just offleash exercise for both of the dogs. On leash he's fine. I don't let him meet dogs on leash, but when we pass others he's never shown any leash reactivity.

    Anyways, any advice chazzers could offer would be great. I'd almost prefer him to be rambunctious and over-friendly again than deal with DR. I'm sure this stems from some sort of insecurity. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    I would stop going to the dog park and find somewhere else to bring him. Or go during off hours and make an effort to keep him away from other dogs. Tuckers dog reactivity started at the dog park and later transferred to on leash, in part I think because I waited too long to stop going to the dog park (because a lot of the time he had tons of fun with other dogs) so his view of dogs just continued to sour.

    It just sounds like Duke is mature and isn't interested in playing around like a pup, he wants to be left alone by strangers but is learning that they tend to get in his face so he has to tell them off. Over time he may become more and more offensive in anticipation of being, in his opinion, rudely accosted.
     
  3. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    How long ago did this start? How long between when you first noticed he was starting to get a bit antisocial and when he actually started to growl/stiffen/snap?
     
  4. Zhucca

    Zhucca Lab Love

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    Thanks for your input. I was thinking that stopping going to the dog park would ne the solution, which is really unfortunate for me. I 'pay' for him staying with Dean all day by taking Boomer to the park at the end of the day. I'll have to think of some where else where they can enjoy off leash exercise.

    He stopped playing with strange dogs around 10 months ago. He'll still play with other dogs at the dog park that he knows, ones that we see often. That's still seldom, though. He started upping the ante around 6 months ago, starting with dogs who wanted to mount him. Then he just painted most strange dogs with the same brush. He doesn't do it every time, probably about half his interactions though.
     
  5. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    Hmm, if the dog park is very large, what happens if you call him to you and leash him as another dog approaches or comes into site? Would most of the dogs still come up to him or not?

    My biggest concern would be someone else having an ornery dog or a feisty one that won't take correction well, and having that dog go after Duke once he growls.
     
  6. BostonBanker

    BostonBanker Active Member

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    Honestly, he sounds like a typical, rather well adjusted adult dog to me. Perhaps not what one generally goes seeking when they get a lab, however.

    He doesn't sound ornery to me at all, or even reactive. He sounds like he's not a big fan of physical play with dogs he doesn't know, and he's starting to get a bit defensive because dogs often slam into him and try to play when he's clearly giving "No thanks" signals. The dogs approach him, he ignores them or makes it clear he doesn't want to play (gets stiff). It often ends there, but if the dog persists (follows him when he returns to you at your call or slams into him), he will give a stronger warning (snapping but never makes contact or takes it farther than that). It doesn't sound at all like over-reaction to me; he sounds like a really well-adjusted dog who doesn't enjoy playing with strangers.

    I have a dog who is similar - although not quite as well-adjusted as it sounds Duke is. She'll be a bit more defensive. What was really hard for me to accept (but which made all the difference in the world for us) is that she doesn't need to want to play and it is my job as her owner to make sure she feels comfortable and safe. She doesn't like strange dogs getting in her space, so I make it my job to be on the offense. I don't take her to places where I expect a lot of dogs to be loose and hanging around. She can easily handle hiking around other dogs, because everyone is moving and doing their own thing. We can pass other dogs on the trail, and if they are really pushy, she may growl. And that is okay. The same way that, if I was hiking, and someone started walking right next to me and putting their arm over my shoulder and asking me personal questions, it would be within my rights to tell them to back off. I don't have to accept that behavior, neither does my dog. The more I've been careful about not putting her into situations where she is uncomfortable, the less she feels she needs to be on the look-out all the time for potential issues.

    If you haven't read this article (or haven't read it lately - it took a while for it to really sink in for me), I highly highly recommend it. It really did change the way I felt about and reacted to my dog's reactions to other dogs.
    http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

    After that, go give Duke a cookie :) He sounds like a really good boy to me!
     
  7. Zhucca

    Zhucca Lab Love

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    You have no idea how much better than made me feel. I've read that article many times (and did so again). Of course I understand some dogs just need space. I'm not usually one to freak out over normal dog behavior... in other peoples' dogs. Somehow when it comes to your own dog your opinion and view gets weirdly distorted. Most of it is because he's such a polar opposite as to what he was as a puppy; towards dogs that is. His personality otherwise is the exact same, besides being calmer. What really hits home about that article is expecting that my dog have greater tolerance than you even expect of yourself. I guess I am expecting sainthood and just need to see what he has been telling me with his behavior. I'm glad that he doesn't leak the same into the house, he's very tolerant of strange, rude dogs in the house.

    I think dropping the dog park would be the best idea, and I doubt he would miss it.
     
  8. BostonBanker

    BostonBanker Active Member

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    Don't I know it! It's so hard sometimes to step back and look at your own pet with the same rational eyes you look at everyone else's. I have several friends who I call on for just that - who I trust to know dogs well and be reasonable when I'm looking at my own dogs through rose colored glasses!

    I'm glad it made you feel better, because he truly does sound like a wonderful, sweet dog who shows great restraint when he's feeling uncomfortable. Nothing wrong with that - I'm not nearly so polite when people start pushing my buttons ;)
     
  9. CharlieDog

    CharlieDog Rude and Not Ginger

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    I agree with Boston. Really the only other thing might be if he's uncomfortable or has a painful back maybe? I know when Enzo tweaked her back, she didn't want to play, she held her head down like you described and hunched her back up a little bit and would show tooth at other dogs approaching her.

    It was just a pulled muscle, thankfully, and she didn't need to visit the chiro, but that's also something to think about.

    I think it's been going on long enough though, that that's probably not it, and he's just doesn't feel like socializing with everyone, and like Boston said, that's perfectly fine! Ozzy doesn't like most dogs, so he isn't put anywhere where we might run into an off leash dog.
     
  10. Southpaw

    Southpaw orange iguanas.

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    This was my thought as well.

    In some ways Juno is similar. As a puppy she was OBSESSED with playing with other dogs. Really obnoxious about it. We'd spend hours at the dog park almost every day. Then she became an adult and now she'd rather just be left alone. Actually she just wants adult dogs to leave her alone... the rare times we do go to dog park, it never fails that whenever she finds a dog to play with, it's always less than 12 months old.

    We still on occasion go to the dog park just because she likes the landscape and being able to run off leash. Most times dogs don't even really go up to her. And maybe this makes me a horrible person that shouldn't set foot in the park, but I have no problem with my dog telling off another dog that's being rude or obnoxious.
     
  11. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    I have to agree with Boston. I don't react particularly well to a stranger jumping all over me, either. It's not unheard of for labs to be this way. From the other side, my dog is the sort who thinks everyone else is his BESTEST FRIEND the moment he spots them. But I've taught him to listen if other dogs tell him they don't necessarily want to get married before they shake hands. People frequently don't think to teach their dogs manners when it comes to other dogs.

    Something that may help is to walk him on-lead for a while, maybe even in the doggy park, and if one of *those* dogs comes barreling for him, put him in a stay and just step in front of him. Stand straight, don't smile, and put your weight into your toes. Let the dog barrel into you instead. Your dog will appreciate the gesture, which says that you've heard him loud and clear. It will probably also help his confidence; he's no longer on his own when it comes to interacting with strangers. You're telling him, "It's okay, I'll deal with this because I know it makes you uncomfortable." A well-executed body block should take the steam out of the oncoming dog, although they can be pretty oblivious. Unless they're especially committed, they should decide it's not worth it to have to push you down to get to your dog, and they'll go do other, more entertaining things instead.

    I think the thing to watch for here is that your pooch doesn't decide to be snippy with dogs who are perfectly polite. As long as they're respecting his space, you shouldn't see these reactions. If you do, we've got something else going on.
     
  12. Zhucca

    Zhucca Lab Love

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    Actually that is a good point, since with his on going allergy problems he might be a bit crabby because of that. He's been a little bit off lately and I think



    I'm glad others experience the same thing in their dog. There are corrections I don't really blink at (which might have others whispering to their walking buddy about my 'aggressive dog'). Duke corrects dogs immediately when they hump him, it's one thing he doesn't tolerate. Which is a-okay with me, as long as he doesn't over do it. And he doesn't.


    Thanks so much for the advice. :) I will have to try walking him on leash and be vigilant to body block the dogs getting into his bubble. Thinking about it now, his reactions are much better when he's on leash in the park. I leash him when we pass certain points by the river, since he goes hunting for dead ducks. (and he ALWAYS finds one) So that's a good idea.
     
  13. Donna Hill

    Donna Hill New Member

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    BostonBarker is right on the money! There are many, many dogs that outgrow being social with strange dogs. This is a normal dog behavior.

    Typically, what you see are people that make a real effort to socialize their dogs when young, hang out successfully until the pup is 18 months or so, then stop coming. You'll see very few dogs that keep going to dog parks after about 2.5 years.

    I am personally not a fan of dog parks, especially if they are small fenced area as it is hit and miss who attends them. There are also many dogs who should not be at them but are. This creates trauma for those who have carefully socialized their dogs.

    Quite frankly adult dogs don't need to be social with every dog they meet. All they need to be able politely meet and greet unknown dogs and move on while on or off leash. Or behave politely while the pet parents stop to talk (sit or lay down while waiting-no need to expect continued interaction with the other dog).

    Walking with a group of dogs can also help as if they keep moving, they tend to interact less as they are more focussed on the environment than each other and it is more comfortable for them in both leashed and unleashed situations.

    You will find once you remove the expectation to socialize with unknown dogs, that your dog may relax and be more comfortable to interact briefly.

    It is up to you to intervene to prevent greetings to go on too long for your dog's comfort.You can simply get your dog's attention and turn and move away. Hopefully the other pet parent will take the cue and leave in the other direction.

    There many rude dogs out there.

    Good luck!
     

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