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Thread: Leash Anxiiety, or something...?

  1. #1

    Default Leash Anxiiety, or something...?

    We got a rescue dog a few months ago and adore him. Vet thinks he is about 1 year, cavalier x maltese x shitzu - but who knows. He would've been on his own for a while, as he had really long hair when he got to the shelter. He's generally a good dog, until he's on the lead and sees another dog.

    From the day we got him he would lung for anything - person, bike, dog... but only when he is on a lead. At the dog park, he loves playing with the other dogs and is very friendly/comfortable.

    I've been able to stop him from lunging and barking at people and bikes by identifying it first, asking him to sit, and then rewarding (giving him a treat) for continuing to sit (treat after treat after treat until it is out of site or he focuses on something else). If I'm not able to identify it first and he begins to get excited/alert, I use his squeak toy, which typically works in getting his attention. This has also started to work in distracting him from barking dogs that are out of site.

    However, god help us should he see another dog. Even after he's been to the dog park (so running and socialising), he's still lungs and bark, running from side to side if he sees another dog. Squeak toy - unnoticed. Asking him to sit - not a chance.

    According to the vet, it is learned behaviour, and I know we need to get a grasp on it or it will get worse, but I have no idea how... He responds really well to the positive reinforcement training - picks up on things quite quickly. Any other ideas on how to control him? He gets into his 'state' and just goes crazy... Would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
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    Sounds like you've been doing really well with curbing the behaviour with the other distractions. But it's hard when they just cannot snap out of their fixation. I think they call that behaviour when they 'go into a state' "over threshold" in training terms. So you got to get him under that threshold again somehow before you can do anything. In your case that would probably mean walking away from the other dog. But of course, then the dog may disappear from sight altogether and you can't do any training.

    What happens when you put him on the lead at the dog park? Might that be a good place to practice this maybe?

  3. #3

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    Yes, "over threshold" is what they have been calling it at training - and when he gets to that point, there is no potential for training/learning. He has gotten better at our group trainings, giving him chew treats or toys to keep her occupied/distracted has helped. Over the past few weeks at class we'll also 'pay' him for looking at a dog and not responding. How do we get him back under this threshold though?

    Will definitely try to put him on a lead in the actual dog park - see what happens. I do understand you need to ease him into things - accepting bikes didn't happen at once. Thanks for your response

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    Quote Originally Posted by MiaLo View Post
    How do we get him back under this threshold though?
    I think usually by increasing the distance between him and whatever makes him go nuts. But someone else with more experience might come up with another suggestion. I'm no expert and only have to deal with a dog who gets overexcited as in "way too friendly".

  5. #5
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    what Beloz said.

    The best way is to get far enough away from a dog distraction that your dog can still respond to your commands. And then you can reward doing the right thing. If you can't get far enough away - you can also try blocking the dog's vision of whatever it is. Ie you stand between them or you move you and the dog behind an obstacle so he can't see the other dog any more.

    It's a good thing to practice in a fairly controlled environment like dog classes - though you might be in the car park - out of sight of the other dogs to start with. Gradually move closer until he starts to lose it and then back off a bit more and work the look at that/me drill some more. And be patient. Do a bit of this before each class and eventually he will get it.

    Putting him in a situation where he's over the top because there are lots of other dogs, but phsyically preventing him from reacting - eg lead too short to lunge or in a crate with most of it covered over - is called "flooding" but it's pretty traumatic for the dog. It can take them longer to work out they're ok despite all the other dogs - than if you start in the car park and work with rewards there.

  6. #6
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    do you have a friend with a dog that can help you?
    do you have a large fence, behind which is a constantly barking dog you can think of on your walk?
    do you have someone with a motor bike who can rev it near your dog?
    think of all the things your dog reacts to. List them 1, 2, 3 etc. with whatever he goes nuts for, as no. 1. start with no 10, and work up list, desensitising your dog, teaching the correct behaviour, and reducing his threshold for reaction as you go.

    then do that looking for threshold, goes nuts point. And stay just inside it. And train him exactly the same way you have done for the bikes and people lunging, which sounds excellent stuff. Only, when he acts up, turn and walk in opposite direction, rather than squeeky toy routine. then come back and approach stimulus again. Each time, edging closer and closer to the stimulus.
    It is learnt behaviour. So your job is to coach the new correct behaviour, calm, walking dog.

    Train one stimulus at a time. Keep sessions short, say 10 mins of training. And if he's good. Get a JACKPOT ready, ie. highest valued reward given when dog is in correct position. so be fast.

    I had my old dog, dropping beside the fence, the otherside of which, was a barking dog. This was his No 3 on his list of i want to kill it list.

    Judging by how you did with lunging at bikes etc, i have a lot of confidence you'll crack this too. Good luck

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Putting him in a situation where he's over the top because there are lots of other dogs, but phsyically preventing him from reacting - eg lead too short to lunge or in a crate with most of it covered over - is called "flooding" but it's pretty traumatic for the dog.
    Isn't that what Cesar Milan is said to do with lots of the reactive dogs in his shows?

  8. #8

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    You are doing a great job but as the others have said you need to get him down off his high before you can move forward.
    Try and get hold of this book - controlunleashed.net - we have had great success with reactive dogs using these methods.

    In the short term, the quickest and easiest way is just to pick him up, turn around and walk away a few paces. Calm him down and then turn back and try again. Value of rewards when you get him calmed is the key.
    Nev Allen
    Border River Pet Resort

  9. #9
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    It does sound like you are on the right path

    I always recommend the BAT system link: Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) | Official site for BAT: dog-friendly training for reactivity (aggression, fear, frustration) by Grisha Stewart, MA


    It simplifies everything and puts it in order. They have a great book and also many videos.........As does Dr Sophia Yin link: Dog Behavior and Training Issues | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

    Again lot of videos.

    If the dog does go over the threshold, just turn around and walk away...do not pick the dog away, just walk away. Say something like "enough"/"rubbish" and just leave........Even if it means pulling the little one, make the distance. As soon as the lead softens, get the dog to focus on you and reward.

    You might already know, but never pick your little dog up, always leave him on the ground.

    There are often different reasons for lead aggression......
    1. can be that the dog is worried, because we have taken the "flight" response away. The dog cannot run if it chooses
    2. the dog has no confidence in you as the leader and goes into a protective mode
    3. learned behaviour with previous owners.

    The second one sometimes needs some management in the home. Where you make the dog more comfortable with your Leadership, this is why I like to see the dog in its home environment too, not just at Obedience.
    Pets are forever

  10. #10

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    There are often different reasons for lead aggression......
    2. the dog has no confidence in you as the leader and goes into a protective mode

    The second one sometimes needs some management in the home. Where you make the dog more comfortable with your Leadership, this is why I like to see the dog in its home environment too, not just at Obedience.
    Thanks for all the help! What would signs of no confidence in you as a leader be?
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 06-17-2012 at 04:34 PM. Reason: fix up the quote bit

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