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Discussion Starter #1
When walking Bobby he’s very, very alert and quite interested in people and dogs but definitely not reactive 99% of the time. Other than more interested than I would like, which we are working on as I want him to pass people and dogs in a relaxed manner, he’s usually quite happy go lucky, doing his thing and relatively relaxed. He loves to observe his world but generally doesn’t overreact to it.

He’s not a big barker at all. He rarely barks except when other dogs or people pass by our house and even then, when we go look and thank him, he stops. He’s very good that way.

Anyway, once in a blue moon he will bark at a person when I stop to talk to them during our walks, no dogs involved. We talk to many people so it’s nothing new to him. When he has barked, it generally makes sense when I try to think like a dog and it’s not over the top. He seems concerned, spooked and a bit worried during these barking, sometimes growling episodes. However, I don’t like it when he barks or growls at people. I wouldn’t be too concerned actually as it’s so infrequent and just moving on would totally solve it but since I’m hoping for him to be a therapy dog, I’d like him to not bark or growl at people when we stop to talk and definitely to stop when asked. Is this realistic or should I just accept it as normal sometimes with the idea in mind that he would stop when asked.

Today, I was talking to a neighbor, all was good. We were talking about the possibility of a snowstorm coming and I loudly said, “No!” in response to her snow statement. That totally spooked Bobby and he started barking at her. I acted like I always do, some distraction, giving a calming signal, talking to him happily and acting like it is no big deal. Gave him some fun treats when he was quiet. He kind of stopped but I felt that approach didn’t really work. He continued to be a bit worried and barky. Wondering if I should do the same approach outside as I do inside. We step in front of him, tell him thank you and put a flat, downward palm facing him. This works beautifully when he barks at people/dogs outside the window. Any other ideas? Should I just try and ignore it and really make it no big deal? I want him to equate people with happiness and good things that’s why I take the light, happy approach. That’s how we dealt with all things scary since he was a pup and it has worked quite well. He’s a pretty confident boy most of the time. It’s really not a huge problem as it is so infrequent and I’m quite grateful that he’s not a big barker but I certainly wouldn’t want it to escalate and he does need to stop when I ask. It’s never a problem when we pass people. I will say that I smiled to myself because I felt like he was protecting me and appropriately doing what he thought was his job. It was a pretty scary sounding “NO” when I think about it. 😉
Thanks for any input!😊
 

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I love your approach to training. That light, positive energy is so perfect for a poodle, and it sounds like you've raised such a happy boy.

I can see why your "NO!" had the effect it did. (Good boy, Bobby.) But it sounds like he's not bouncing back as quickly as you'd like after spooky situations.

We were at a playdate last week, and our trainer exclaimed and gestured wildly while telling a story. Peggy appeared out of nowhere and shot straight up in the air. It wasn't aggressive, and she didn't seem scared. She was just reacting excitedly to the big shift in energy.

She used to do this in class, too—probably because our trainer is usually so calm and low key, so her momentary energy shifts really make an impact on sensitive Peggy. I think it's cool. :)

But our trainer knows how to immediately dial her back down, and so do we, while most people we encounter on walks don't have a clue. They will do everything imaginable to rile her up—talk in a high-pitched voice, bend over her, excitedly reach for the top of her head—and that's when Peggy's sensitivity to energy can be a challenge.

My husband handles it really well, actually by doing exactly as you've described: He steps between Peggy and the person and that defuses the situation because he's showing her everything is fine and he's in control. Peggy immediately plops into a sit and all is well.

I, on the other hand, am a lot like Peggy. I respond very physically to others' energy, so I get heightened, too, mirroring them, and that escalates Peggy more, and....it's not great. Lol.

Since you're good at seeing these situations through Bobby's eyes, aside from the perfectly understandable "No!" trigger, what tends to provoke the barking and/or growling? Peggy will do this from a distance sometimes (still haven't figured out the common denominator) but never up close. So I'm having a hard time picturing the scenarios you're describing.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thank you, PTP. 😊
I can think of 4 situations over the past 6 months. Today’s scenario which I totally understood. Another time is when a couple I know was walking and we stopped to chat. They were at quite a distance and it was fine but then they started walking over he got spooked at the guy. He was tall, hunched over, wore big sunglasses, walked slow and he had a large white hat. Hats and helmets usually don’t bother Bobby but I think this one did. I think the guy was just a bit too scary to Bobby. This happened twice with this couple. I came home the second time and put on big sunglasses hats.😂

The other time I can think of was when we were talking to another couple across the street and it was all good but then the guy started moving toward us, Bobby barked. Can’t figure that one out other than it was a scary deal to be talking quietly then have him start coming forward towards us? Who knows!? Maybe the sun made him look weird or something as it was early evening. Bobby and I were walking the other day and stopped to talk to the same guy and all was fine. So I can’t completely get in Bobby’s head.😉
99 percent of the time he’s totally cool with people. So obviously there must be a trigger.

Bobby is mostly a pretty confident boy but he can startle easily sometimes but he quickly bounces back. So I think you are right... I don’t think it’s the fact that he barks once in awhile that bothers me as much as it’s the not bouncing back as quickly as I would like in these barking situations. I think rather than trying to make it a happy event I think I will just do the calmly stepping in between the person and Bobby approach. I just want him to like every human he sees 😉but that is probably quite unrealistic. In these situations perhaps I should just accept Bobby’s uncertainty or whatever but calmly step in so he will stop barking rather than try to make it a happy, happy event.

He is highly sensitive and intuitive as poodles are so maybe even though I play all happy, happy he knows I’m hiding my concern and maybe that isn’t helpful. You can’t lie to a poodle, right?😉
 

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I'm currently reading a book recommended by another member (Feisty Fido: Help For The Leash Reactive Dog by the great Patricia McConnell) and one part in particular made me think of this thread.

It's about pressure on the neck and how, over time, your dog will learn to be wary of situations that trigger it. So, for example, if you tend to tighten or tug on the leash when tall men approach, because Bobby was once spooked by one, he starts thinking "Um, I don't like that feeling and I only feel it when people like you get close. Please stay away. Can't you tell I don't want you to come any closer?? Grrrrr."

Any aversive techniques will exacerbate this effect, even unconscious ones.

I'm struggling to communicate this to my husband right now. He's found a beautiful place to walk with Peggy, but all the dogs there are off-leash...except Peggy. And the path is too narrow to avoid them. So the entire walk is a repeated cycle of her seeing a dog approaching —> frustration building as she feels tension on the leash —> explosive barkbarkbark or jumpjumpjump! Over time, any dogs approaching, in any environment, may start preemptively triggering that reactivity.

I think you mentioned in another thread that you use a prong collar on Bobby. If so, it could be intensifying these sorts of interactions, by amplifying whatever you're communicating down the leash.

My husband feels he needs to keep "exposing" Peggy to things. I feel no exposure is better than frustrated exposure.

In your case, meeting people off-leash or not at all might be helpful for a while? Maybe?
 

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One of the strategies I've used with Annie (who tends to be an overexcited greeter) is to teach her a "Settle!" cue (lie down and relax). I started with relax on a mat, and have since generalized it. She now knows she's expected to politely lie down and relax when I chat with neighbours, etc, and having an action to do has definitely helped her not bark for attention. Annie went through a "some people are scary" stage as at 10 months ish, and I made sure to walk with a pockeful of treats for a while.

I also use a prong sometimes, but always switch my leash from the prong to the flat collar every time Annie greets dogs or people on leash to avoid the possibility of a bad association.

WHEN does he usually start barking/growling ? Is it mid conversation, or after you have been chatting for a while? That might help you figure out what triggers it and how to desensitize and avoid the trigger. Could you try standing with more space between you and the other person? Is it with people who he has gotten to greet (sniff) before?
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I'm currently reading a book recommended by another member (Feisty Fido: Help For The Leash Reactive Dog by the great Patricia McConnell) and one part in particular made me think of this thread.

It's about pressure on the neck and how, over time, your dog will learn to be wary of situations that trigger it. So, for example, if you tend to tighten or tug on the leash when tall men approach, because Bobby was once spooked by one, he starts thinking "Um, I don't like that feeling and I only feel it when people like you get close. Please stay away. Can't you tell I don't want you to come any closer?? Grrrrr."

Any aversive techniques will exacerbate this effect, even unconscious ones.

I'm struggling to communicate this to my husband right now. He's found a beautiful place to walk with Peggy, but all the dogs there are off-leash...except Peggy. And the path is too narrow to avoid them. So the entire walk is a repeated cycle of her seeing a dog approaching —> frustration building as she feels tension on the leash —> explosive barkbarkbark or jumpjumpjump! Over time, any dogs approaching, in any environment, may start preemptively triggering that reactivity.

I think you mentioned in another thread that you use a prong collar on Bobby. If so, it could be intensifying these sorts of interactions, by amplifying whatever you're communicating down the leash.

My husband feels he needs to keep "exposing" Peggy to things. I feel no exposure is better than frustrated exposure.

In your case, meeting people off-leash or not at all might be helpful for a while? Maybe?
Thank you PTP for your thoughts. I will check out that book. I definitely hear you. I do not take using the prong collar lightly and work super hard at keeping things loose and relaxed. With that being said, I do know we cannot control that 100% of the time and that dogs pick up so much through their leash and collar. The first time this happened he was on a regular flat collar but I definitely know I still could have transmitted tension the next time with the prong. That is why I had been trying a light happy approach but thinking Bobby saw through that.

We haven’t had any issues since and he has done well when I talk to folks. It’s so inconsistent. Last night, since the snow and ice had melted off the streets and sidewalks, I walked him with just his leather collar. He did fabulously! We walked by a house with growling barking dogs, a neighbor who was having a bonfire and a golden retriever party, another dog across another street who was seriously aggressive sounding and the handler was frustrated and angry, and then a raccoon came right towards us before it went into the gutter just a few feet a way and all of this in the dark, with weird Halloween decor all over the neighborhood. The raccoon was a new one for us so it spooked me but Bobby handled things beautifully and I remained calm and we just kept going our merry way. So Bobby, for the most part is an amazing walker. We were an excellent team last night. I do want to get him off the prong but sometimes, we just aren’t quite there yet but I think we are on the way. I just think, for whatever reason, he periodically gets spooked and I am going to try the calm, “ I’ve got this,” approach if and when it happens again.

I can’t remember which thread, but you, I think it was you anyway, shared an article about dogs and masks and I was quite struck by two pictures...one the handler with a mask and a hood., the other with a mask and no hood. The article basically said that many dogs would be concerned about the mask and hood. The guy who spooked Bobby twice would have been impossible for Bobby to read. Like people, we/dogs just get spooked I guess. Just gotta figure out the best way to handle it so it doesn’t escalate.

I’m in total agreement that off leash interactions would be helpful. He’s never had a problem when meeting people off leash but unfortunately it’s quite difficult to do in our neighborhood. There are dog parks but I’m so leery of those. We used to take him there but had a few bad experiences due to clueless owners. Maybe we can go again when it’s colder, less dogs and people. We’ll see. We will just keep working on this. Always appreciate your insights, PTP! 😊
 

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Discussion Starter #7
One of the strategies I've used with Annie (who tends to be an overexcited greeter) is to teach her a "Settle!" cue (lie down and relax). I started with relax on a mat, and have since generalized it. She now knows she's expected to politely lie down and relax when I chat with neighbours, etc, and having an action to do has definitely helped her not bark for attention. Annie went through a "some people are scary" stage as at 10 months ish, and I made sure to walk with a pockeful of treats for a while.

I also use a prong sometimes, but always switch my leash from the prong to the flat collar every time Annie greets dogs or people on leash to avoid the possibility of a bad association.

WHEN does he usually start barking/growling ? Is it mid conversation, or after you have been chatting for a while? That might help you figure out what triggers it and how to desensitize and avoid the trigger. Could you try standing with more space between you and the other person? Is it with people who he has gotten to greet (sniff) before?
Thank you for your response. There are times when I do have Bobby lie down in the grass as I’ve talked with people or watching neighborhood sporting events and it was all good. I think I will start working harder and being more consistent with this/settle during our outings. I think this will help. This definitely sounds like a good plan, at least for the warmer months. Not sure about winter but there is definitely less visiting with others during the cold months.
I still walk with treats. We still use them but less often and one always needs treats for the unexpected. 😉

He never does this behavior just passing people. It happens rarely and it is mid conversation. With the exception of one instance it seems makes sense as to why he would get spooked. I’m going to also work harder at positioning, with him behind me when he can’t be put in a “settle.” I think that might help too.
Thank you!
 
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