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Thread: Desensitization to Certain Things

  1. #1
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    Default Desensitization to Certain Things

    Hi Guys,

    Sorry i havent been here for ages, my computer crapped itself once again... time to get a new computer i think.

    Anyway, im in this section to ask some advice. As some of you know about 2 months ago we adopted and 18month old Great dane - he was entire at the time (not so anymore - *evil laugh*)

    When he came to us he had a mouthing issue, that thankfully seems to have resolved with plenty of pretending to be realllly boring as soon as he did use his teeth on any human skin - it does still arise whenever he is stressed out - i guess it is his way of coping.

    Arrow has a problem with dogs while on the lead - while off the lead hes fine but he has absolutely no recall skills so the only time hes off the lead is when he is at work with me (vet clinic)

    An explanation of what happens while walking on the lead:

    Arrow is 50metres away from another dog - no reaction but plenty of staring going on.

    Arrow is approx 40metres from another dog - this is where the barking and whining starts along with play bows and tail wagging.

    Approx 30 metres - lunging, still play barking and whining and bowing but pulling like a steam train.

    20 metres is when it all goes downhill (even more that the 40metre mark) this is where he reaches his "stress threshold" and turns into demon dog.. it goes from playful barking and whining to hackles up - full on growling and lunging - massive distance increasing signals.

    It doesnt normally get to the point of the 20 metre mark because we sit back at about the 50metre mark where we just get the staring if we can help it - however the problem arises when people havent got their dogs on the lead in specified on lead parks and when people kind of sneak up on us to get a look at the giant dog and then go "oh look" he just wants to play and bring their dogs closer (which results in me telling them to GO AWAY!!!) yes i know that might seem rude but if you see a huge dog looking like he wants to eat your dog it would be the logical thing to do.

    We had one instance where a guys 3 dogs were off lead harrassing arrow (little turds were biting his chest and legs) and he was freaking out During this we are trying to leave and the owner of these three dogs comes and shoves his face in arrows face (not so great with a dog thats freaking out over little dogs biting him and hes fear aggressive when approached by big intimidating men!) My partner shoved the guy away and told him to back off and we pretty much carried arrow out of the situation.

    We are walking my boy at 4.30 am and 8pm to try and avoid heavy dog traffic as we have been advised by our trainer to walk him and let him see other dogs but never let him get to the point of reacting - they have told us that over time with practice we should be able to get closer and closer to other dogs without him reacting at all (i hope!!!!!!)

    Anyway im posting in hope of someone who may have had a similar problem with their own dogs or someone who could offer any other advice.

    Sorry for the long post!!

  2. #2
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    when you say that he has no reaction but lots of staring. that to me is the reaction. you need to stop it escalating from that point not when he gets into the whining and lunging because once he is there the adrenalin is pumping and you will have no hope.

    what are you walking him on? in these situations it could be really helpful to have a head collar / halti on. I like the black dog ones that you can get over the internet and some training places but any would do. anyway these will just give you more power over him, especially with such a big dog, if you control the head you control the body much easier.

    does he know the 'leave it' command?? if so use that as a cue for when he starts staring a dog down you can tell him to leave it (however many times it takes to get him to look away then REWARD) you will probably need to say it quite forcefully as well and maybe even distract him with a high priority treat such as cheese, kabana, some peanut butter (whatever he is really soft on)

    and what you can do is go somewhere near dogs (but across the street or something so the dogs can't come near you) and begin at the distance that he is staring, then get him good and looking away when you say leave it then move a little closer and repeat.
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." - Edward Hoagland

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meegz View Post
    When he came to us he had a mouthing issue, that thankfully seems to have resolved with plenty of pretending to be realllly boring as soon as he did use his teeth on any human skin - it does still arise whenever he is stressed out - i guess it is his way of coping.
    What do you mean by "stressed out"? Are you sure it's not playin?

    Arrow is 50metres away from another dog - no reaction but plenty of staring going on.
    Start getting his attention with food (something yummy, such as cheese or meat) or toy that he likes best (squeekies, rope...) It's best if you have help here from someone with a dog who will pretend he's approaching. Let him see the dog slowly approach (few steps at the time while you have him concentrating on you) and ask him to look at you (practice at home on cue "look at me", and when he looks you in the eyes or face give him a treat. And say "Yes" or use clicker.) Then say "Let's go see doggy and slowly approach another dog, let them sniff and greet with encouraging him (good boy!). Then call him after a while and leave. When he start following you praise him and treat. This way he will learn to trust you won't take him away from his interest - another dog, and eventually he will stop lounging. Beware that his behaviour will probably get more intense before it's extinguished, so don't give up after only few tries. It requires patience.

    Arrow is approx 40metres from another dog - this is where the barking and whining starts along with play bows and tail wagging.

    Approx 30 metres - lunging, still play barking and whining and bowing but pulling like a steam train.

    20 metres is when it all goes downhill (even more that the 40metre mark) this is where he reaches his "stress threshold" and turns into demon dog.. it goes from playful barking and whining to hackles up - full on growling and lunging - massive distance increasing signals.


    We had one instance where a guys 3 dogs were off lead harrassing arrow (little turds were biting his chest and legs) and he was freaking out
    Sometimes you just have to leave dogs to be dogs and play the way they play. It may seem like harrassement to you but it's just play.

    During this we are trying to leave and the owner of these three dogs comes
    We are walking my boy at 4.30 am and 8pm to try and avoid heavy dog traffic as we have been advised by our trainer to walk him and let him see other dogs but never let him get to the point of reacting - they have told us that over time with practice we should be able to get closer and closer to other dogs without him reacting at all (i hope!!!!!!)
    It's OK to avoid heavy dog traffic in the beggining, but don't avoid dogs at all. It will not help to solv the issue, but rather make it worse.
    Respect and you shall be respected. Animal is always right.

  4. #4
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    Hey Guys,

    its definantly not playing, and my main issue is that he is so much bigger than other dogs around him - or i would just leave them to sort it out. Its not only the fact that he is like this to other dogs - but its the owners on the other end of the lead of the dog hes doing it to unfortunatley we dont have the most understanding people around here.

    He usually wears a headcollar when walking but hes had surgery on his eyelid so thats not an option at the moment as when wearing it he rubs his head along the ground all the time so at the moment we are using an easywalk front attach harness which offers plenty of control. When he is staring we can say leave it and he will and we happily walk off together.

    As for the food rewards - it doesnt matter if i dont feed him at all he wont take them when off his home turf which only extends to the front lawn - our beahvioural trainer has advised that this is also because he is anxious. hell do anything for cheese or fillet steak at home but while out and about forget about it - even if i physically put it in his mouth he will spit it out.

    While walking early and late we do come across other dogs - usually with runners and generally they are pretty good because they dont follow us around or rush up trying to pat the dog

    Kaz we do do the across the street thing and go closer and then away again when we can see hes about the react, back and forth again and again until we get minimal reaction - thats generally where we leave it, the problem arises when people have dogs off the lead in heaily signed on lead areas and the dogs run over or when the owners try to follow us (and trust me it happens alot) The trainers explained to us about using things like calming curves and food cues to try and distract him a little from the dog ahead - the food unfortunatley doesnt work

    we understand the behaviour will get worse before it gets better - just like his mouthing and attention seeking barking - they got far far worse and now they are almost gone. Unfortunatley we dont have any friends with dogs who are willing to or have the patience to help us out with getting him used to other dogs and as much as id love to pay $180 everyday to have the trainers dog over here its not really practical.

    we are confident in our trainers advice - her methods are slow to work but its all positive reinforcement and once the dogs gets it they usually keep with the good behaviour- its all pretty much based on the NILIF training.

    Fedra the only problem i have with dogs playing the way i do in my area is that most of the owners around here have puny pooches and if my dog even looks like he might want to play with them they bundle them up and run off if they can catch the dog before it runs over to us - so if arrow was to ever hurt one accidently or even look at it the wrong way well be reported to the council - and in my area the council workers are male, theyll come to inspect the property and meet the dog and arrow has a really bad fear agression issue with men he doesnt know which will just result in him being deemed as a dangerous dog when he isnt really.

  5. #5
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    I feel your concern, it is shining through this message.
    i also hear:
    "which will just result in him being deemed as a dangerous dog when he isnt really."
    Are you 100% sure, you have 100% control over your environment?
    As you are unable to predict who will be walking what, on or off lead, how can you be sure.
    I think the training methods you mention are spot on. And it takes 100's of reps to retrain a allready conditioned response.
    Im sure your on the right track, and how fantastic, that he has such a responsible owner.
    I have owned large breeds. It is a fact, that a nasty bite from yours, is going to inflict more damage than a utility breed would. You must adjust your training methods accordingly, and you have.
    I wish you all the best
    bernie

  6. #6
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    its great to hear that your doing all the right things ... as for the dogs off-lead unfortunately there is not much you can do about it apart from

    1. muzzling your dog so it warns other owners away (even though he may not bite people see a muzzle and automatically keep away) or

    2. get something to scare away the dogs like some rocks in a tin can, something your dog is used to but the others arent. you make a loud noise or something the dog runs away, your dog sees you are in control and perhaps the anxiety will come down. maybe speak to your trainer about ways to get dogs to keep their distance from you and your pooch
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." - Edward Hoagland

  7. #7
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    OP I feel for you....my dog is exactly like that on lead.

    If we bring a new dog round ot our house, he is fine and goes all stupid an dpuppyish. On lead however its a different story. He starts off by whinging and pulling and the more excited he gets it starts changing to aggression to the point if we walked past the dog, he would try and "get it". We can't even get within 50 meters, a dog can be at the other end of the beach and if he sees it will on lead (even as a tiny speck) he goes nuts It's not fun is it!!!

    I can't help with any advice, but after years of dealing with it and trying different things (i.e. "leave it....works for every thing but not that. He is also food obsessed, but not in that situation) we are getting a behaviourist in in the new year to help us sort it out. We love him to pieces but cant stand walking him as its just stressful for everyone and sometimes the hatred of the walk wins out an dhe doesnt get one.

    (Although, we bike ride them now and if he sees another dog while biking, he doesnt react at all because we just pedal faster LMAO)

    Good luck!

  8. #8
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    @ Bernie: tried to quote but iPhone having none of it. OMG I hear you!!!!! (My vent re off lead dogs on another thread)

    On topic though: the only way to achieve proper desensitization is under controlled conditions. You'll need your trainer, and a few others with dogs... But only others who can follow instructions to the letter. It may be that public exercise needs to be off the menu for the time being because every single uncontrolled experience us going to set you back and cause havoc with the desensitization program. I could type for hours, but PM me with an email addy and I can show you a scheduled desensitization program and explain the why's and wherefor's if you'd like.....

    Dumbarse owners in public places without leads- GRRRRRRRR

  9. #9
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    Just saw your comment re: lack of friends with dogs to help.... How about ask your trainer is there a good obedience club in your area. I have a lady attend my entry level class every week to do her desensitization with her dog. My class members just go about the class as normal and she is able to move forward/ back as her schedule dictates in a controlled environment and with our behaviorist on hand. We're in Melbourne.....

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