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Discussion Starter #1
Ok PF peeps, I need help. I'm so frustrated! Today at training class another dog came up behind Raffi and sniffed at him, and Raffi freaked out barking, jumping, and air snapping. He looked like a piranha (very embarrassing).
He has been reactive to other dogs in class since probably the third or fourth week- mostly jumping and barking. He reacts when another dog moves quickly toward him while looking at him, and particularly if another dog near him is misbehaving or acting hyper. It feels like he is getting worse, not better.
It's difficult for me to figure out how to desensitize him, because we live out in the country with barely any dogs around. He doesn't see other dogs unless I take him to town, and even then it's hit or miss since my schedule means that I mostly take him out during the day.
I have an other dog who is pretty chill and not reactive at all, but I don't think I know any other dogs like that I can introduce him too. He is fine with my friends little yappy snappy yorkipoo though.
Thoughts, suggestions, sympathy all appreciated!
 

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Annie went through a reactive phase at 10-13 months ish. She's gotten a lot better but not perfect with copious "Look at me - treats!" and also "Look at me - BALL!!!". We did a lot of dog park socialization, which luckily means she's more play-frustration reactive than anything. It's no where near as bad as her squirrel issues, and has been a much easier issue to fix. I've also never managed to get her to walk nicely while there are other dogs/people with us (but also really hard to work on without opportunities).

But yes, super embarrassing, super annoying. Really hard to desensitize to, also, because most of the dogs we encounter are either behind glass or behind a fence losing their minds. I do take her to the dog park because it's the only place she can burn energy offleash and can now call her off other dogs 85% of the time, but it's been a hard slog.

Good wishes, not much advice other than persistance and patience.

Don't suppose you are close to Niagara and feel like doing remedial dog focus training and a playdate?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Is he wanting to play and frustrated? Or is he scared?

Either way, super stressful for you and I'm sorry. :confused:

Has your trainer assessed the situation and offered some guidance?
I think he is more nervous, it seems like a "give me space!" thing. One of the assistant trainers mentioned to me that she felt it was due to some anxiety/ nervousness about the other dogs as well.
The first two or three weeks, he barely paid attention to the other dogs, he was very focused, but did give them some side-eye if they were acting up. Then he had a bad (vocal) week, I assumed due to the fact that my other dog at home was in heat, and Raffi's brain was a little fried. I wonder if the reacting became a new learned behaviour added to his mild distrust of some of the other dogs?
The head trainer has her hands full with our group: Raffi is one of the few that is having no issues with the actual commands. A lab is in the class for the second time and is good natured but crazy, a Shepherd is a reactive barker (although he is much improved), another lab is really spazzy and the owner has little control, a large mix is really reactive and doesn't follow commands well...
She did tell me to work on his 'leave it' and 'focus' commands (which I need to find some moderate distractions for).
I had thought I was getting it under control until this week so I hadn't asked her about it, but I think I will email her.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Also - how's he with offleash dogs? I find a lot of dogs have issues on leash that they don't have off.
This is a good point. While he hasn't been around very many dogs while off-leash (no dog parks nearby), now that I think about it he has been generally fine at those times. I dare say he likes to know he can get away if he wants to. At least that makes me more comfortable about seeking out other dogs for him to meet!

And ohh, wouldn't it be just perfect to have a walking partner to work on focused walks, while actually controlling the decrease of distance between the dogs! And then a playdate to burn off steam after! I'm not terribly close- Cayuga/Caledonia area- but maybe we could figure out a meeting some time. Not in this weather though ? my kids are hoping for a snow day tomorrow.
 

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I wonder if the energy in there is just a little much for him. When he was focusing on you those first few classes, it could have been avoidance behaviour, which is less embarrassing than loud reactivity, but still in need of some attention.

Is it possible to get more distance from the other dogs?

When we've got dogs in our class that require a little breathing room, our trainer puts up some expandable gates and we are instructed not to circle too close when we're working. Usually, after a few classes, they start to relax.

Or...to be completely honest...sometimes they stop coming, which always makes me sad. It's such a delicate balance—not pushing our pups too hard, but also sticking with it. I so empathize!
 

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This is a good point. While he hasn't been around very many dogs while off-leash (no dog parks nearby), now that I think about it he has been generally fine at those times. I dare say he likes to know he can get away if he wants to. At least that makes me more comfortable about seeking out other dogs for him to meet!

And ohh, wouldn't it be just perfect to have a walking partner to work on focused walks, while actually controlling the decrease of distance between the dogs! And then a playdate to burn off steam after! I'm not terribly close- Cayuga/Caledonia area- but maybe we could figure out a meeting some time. Not in this weather though ? my kids are hoping for a snow day tomorrow.
I really do think being on leash changes body language, and I also find my dog picks up on other dog's reactivity and it sounds like there are some other challenging dogs where you are going.

It looks like you are about 1-1.5 hrs away - yes, when the weather's nicer, I'd be happy to drive there. I used to drive that far (except with silly GTA traffic) to visit my sister for puppy socialization a lot. Focused walk training and working at calm at a distance would be wonderful.
 

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I would suggest stepping out of the actual space (ring) the class is in and working on regaining your focused attention in a more neutral space and with a bit more distance. Once you have beautiful focused attention the reactivity should stop on its own. Even if you don't do most of the class exercises (sounds like he is good there) then you will find that you go back in with those other dogs. As he is better able to stay calm and focused I would expect the other dogs to settle down too.
 
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