I have a 4 year old Border Terrier who has issues around other dogs. He is generally a bit hyperactive (barks loudly when people come to door or walk past house, jumps up at people etc) but loves people and is a very gentle and affectionate dog when in the house. He is good with children and has generally good manners in the house - he knows basic commands sit, stay, wait, lie down etc and leanred these easily from a young age. Basically, when at home he is the perfect dog but when we go out for a walk he turns into a bit of a horror.
If we see another dog when walking on the lead, he will strain until he gets to a certain distance, then bark and lunge. If a dog comes too close to him, he will continue to bark and sometimes bare his teeth. Occasionally, he also barks at people (though doesn't bare teeth at people) particularly if we are walking in the dark and they come too close. We used to let him off the lead in the park when he was younger and his recall was good but he will only come back if there isn't something more interesting around. As he got older, this got worse and worse. If we let him off the lead now and he sees another dog, he will charge at it whilst barking. He can clear the full distance of the park very quickly whilst doing this and we have no control over him as he is soon miles away. This is obviously quite scary for other people he is running at, even though he is only a small dog. We now only let him off the lead when there is nobody else around because we are too afraid to let him off around other dogs. To be honest I'm not even sure what he would do if he caught up to the other dogs, but on the few instances he has in the past, he has barked aggressively and attempted to bite them. This is only exacerbated the problem because now he isnt used to being around other dogs so when he sees them he's worse.
We have now decided that our own stress is quite possibly making this worse. When I see other dogs I tense up and cross the road to avoid them and I think he's picking up on this and is now trying to protect me - does this sound plausible? Our new regime involves giving him half his food in the evening and half throughout the day as reward. When walking him, I ocasionally call his name, wait for him to look at me, then reward. We also stop and sit to cross the road for a reward and if he is quiet when passing someone close by he is rewarded too. I think this is already making a difference and I even managed to walk past a dog yesterday without fuss. This morning though, he went crazy barking at the sight of another dog and I hadn't even noticed it myself until he did.
Does anyone have any practical tips that may help me? Has anyone had a similar problem? And do you think we are making it worse by keeping him on the lead? He does get two good walks a day. It really upsets me when he gets like this because other prople look at him like he's a savage and he's really such a friendly dog the rest of the time! If anyone can help us that would be great. Thanks!