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Old 11-02-2008, 01:26 AM
Kathy29 Kathy29 is offline
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Default Excitement and Barking when meeting other dogs

I realized today that there's a serious problem I need to fix. It's getting way too embarrassing, not to mention the fact that it's totally a bad habit, period.

I have a 6 year old Chihuahua who is quite independent. She is people-oriented and hardly ever shows any interest in other dogs, unless they're pulling on their owner's leash, trying to run to her. It gets her all riled up and she'll start pulling on her leash, all the way barking. If she gets to the dog, she's just interested in sniffing, nothing more.

But I'm afraid that other owners and dogs will mistaken it for aggression. I want her to be able to "meet" other dogs in a calm and relaxed manner. I know for a fact that when she tries to run to other dogs while barking, she's not trying to be mean, but she's overly excited, yet I'm afraid of actually allowing her to go up to the dog because they won't know that she ISN'T being aggressive and it might just turn out chaotic more than anything. I know if some dog was seemingly "lunging" at my own dog like that, I wouldn't want that dog to come up close to mine, so I understand and respect that... and stay our distance.

Because of that, I haven't done anything about it and usually just distract her and pull her away. She's also like this when she sees other dogs outside on our walks. Basically, dog in sight = highly excited = pulling on leash, barking, etc.

Does anyone have any tips on how to curb this behavior?
I know it's going to take a while since it's been going on for a while now and two weeks ago, two small white dogs, tied together, ran up to her while she was being calm, circled her, and managed to strangle her with their leash, making her even more wary of other dogs now. It infuriated me because the owner watched all this and did nothing, even when my dog yelped out of pain.

Any tips greatly appreciated, thanks!
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Old 11-02-2008, 09:05 AM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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Sounds a lot like my chihuahua three years ago.

Have you done any clicker training with her?
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Old 11-02-2008, 10:10 AM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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Get the book, Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons. It would be most helpful to set up situations with known dogs...get some friends or some willing person you meet to help you rather than trying to train this as you see random dogs that you have no control over their movements or where they go. It's always better to plan and set up the environment so the dog has a better chance of success and lots of opportunity for reinforcement than to just fly by the seat of your pants when you happen to come across a random dog here and there. You need practice just about every day, if not every day.

A somewhat varied and less complete version to some of the methods in the book: keep your dog at a distance whereby she is just below threshold....before she is apt to "go nutso" and click/treat. Or if you don't use a clicker, just treat. As long as she's non reactive or even less reactive, keep the treats coming, one after the next and praise. So she sees the other dog, but hasn't gotten to that point where she's highly alert. She needs to be able to still focus at least a little bit on you and her reinforcement for "behaving." If she "goes off," turn and go away. In other words, she wants to go see the other dog. Calmer behavior gets her closer to her reward...the other dog. (plus treats) Wild behavior makes her have to go away from the other dog. Then try again. Be immediate with the consequence AND consistent. Don't use punishing reactions in the presence of other dogs. Keep the leash as loose as you can. If you feel you must tighten the leash, do exercises at home where you associate the tight leash with tasty treats. (very tasty treats) Get it so that isn't so punishing or adrenalin producing. Try to remain as calm as possible around other dogs. Don't talk too much other than, "goooooood." (to let her know she's doing well) Don't anticipate her reactivity or she'll feel that tension from you.

I think the best thing to help with the leash reactivity is just plain old playtimes with lots of dogs that you know...that you know are freindly and tolerant. Play dates...get togethers. As much and as often as you can. She needs more socializing to get to the point where it's not that big of a deal to see another dog when on a leash.

One thing that really frustrates dogs and makes them worse is being kept from visiting and playing with other members of their own species, and not just the same old, same old dogs every day. They NEED to be able to meet and greet lots of dogs so they can learn "polite" doggie language, play together and need this socialization early on and lots of it, continuing forever. Good luck.
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