Help Working with Different Leash Reactive Behaviors

Does your dog react when he’s on a leash and sees another dog? The first thing to do is admit you have a problem.

Dog Pierson Sitting

Hi. My name is Pierson and if you’re a dog, I’m probably not going to like you. (Well, unless you’re Maya. I love Maya.) It’s nothing personal. If you’re a big dog, I go into protect-mode. If you’re a little dog, my prey-drive kicks in.

Dog Maya on the Chair

Hi. My name is Maya and I love other dogs. Well, except Pierson. Okay, I like him most of the time, except when he’s being a pest. Then I just tolerate him. But anyway, when I see another dog, I just get so happy that I start barking and lunging.

Pierson not liking dogs and Maya loving them both cause a leash reactive behavior. But because the causes are different, they require a different approach. To be honest, I have had more success dealing with Pierson’s aggressive behavior than with Maya’s excitement behavior. Just how do you deal with a crazy Labrador with GLS, anyway? (BTW, GLS stands for Goofy Lab Syndrome.)

If I see another dog while walking either Maya or Pierson, the first thing I do is cross the street. Because it has been more difficult for me to get their attention with the look command while still walking, I also make them sit. I give the look command and reward. I do this a few times until the other dog is passed.

This method works very well with Pierson unless the other dog reacts. He has made a lot of progress. However, this method is not working as well for Maya. When Maya gets excited about something, it is very difficult to distract her. She is so intent on what she sees (the other dog), that I couldn’t tempt her with a big juicy steak.

With Maya, I need to add another element to her training. If I see that she is going to start reacting, I need to turn her around and go the other way. So far, this is working, but it is not always possible for us to turn around. And I’m curious to know how doing this will eventually help her learn not to react. Any ideas on what training methods I can use for Maya? Keep in mind that when Maya gets excited, nothing, and I mean nothing can distract her. Not treats, not collars, not commands, nothing.

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17 Responses to “Help Working with Different Leash Reactive Behaviors”

  1. The Golden Life Says:

    I hear you, loud and clear with Pierson as far as other dogs go. Callie is the same way but maybe not as intense. What I mean is if we’re on a walk at the park and actually moving, I can normally prevent any reaction just by putting myself between her and the other dog(s) and/or just putting extra space between us and them. If we stop for a rest, though, I have to find a bench away from the path because she gets protective/territorial if we’re too close to the path when another dog walks by. And, of course, whatever big sister does, Shadow has to copy. I really believe she would be fine with other dogs walking past us if it were just the two of us. I just feel bad not taking them together because they’re so “attached” to each other. Yes, it’s a handful for me; but as long as I know their thresholds and respect them, I don’t have a problem.

    Ducky’s problem is other humans, not their dogs. So I just have to be aware of her stress levels. There are times when I can just say to her “No snarkiness. Be a good girl for Mommy.” And she’s fine. And then there are days when no amount of distraction will get her to relax. Maybe, once she spends more time at home than at daycare and I can work with her a bit more, she will start to relax a bit more.

    As for Maya’s GLS, I wish I had a suggestion for you other than to continue to work on her excitement thresholds. Maybe go back to your ABC course material and review it to see if you can find some new — or old — ideas that you haven’t tried in a while?

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      Ducky is something else πŸ˜‰ I love that word, snarkiness. I think I’ll use it with Pierson. Using funny words in a stressful situation helps relieve some of the tension. Good idea to look through the ABC material again. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  2. Jodi Says:

    Sampson has GLS. He loves people more than dogs. He wants to meet the other dog, but quickly loses interest and moves on to the person. I don’t typically work too hard on this with him but wanted to share this. He’s been going to the Vet regularly for his cold laser treatments and he loves all the folks at my vet and cannot wait to greet them. Well a couple weeks ago I loaded up my treat bag and I put some Pure Bites Cheese in there.

    This was the best thing in his eyes, when the tech came out to get us, he totally ignored her and was super intent on me. This is the first time that has ever happened. I’m not sure if it would work the same with Maya or not.

    I would suggest maybe having someone you know bring their dog out and set it up to practice with Maya. Sometimes if I can get Sampson to sit, I can redirect him. Sometimes!

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      Those treats look pretty good! I imagine something with a strong odor might get her attention. As with getting someone I know to bring their dog out… It didn’t work at first. But then she got used to seeing that dog and she was fine. But if she saw a NEW dog, she was back to her old ways. I ran out of friends and dogs so the only thing I have to practice on is strange dogs. Must be a Lab thing. πŸ™‚

  3. mollieandalfie Says:

    I love others dogs, it’s people I don’t like, I don’t like strangers, poor Mommy is pulling her furs out with me πŸ™‚ I am one mad Collie BOL xxoxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  4. ScottieMom Says:

    I used to think Mr. K was just antisocial all together because of the way he reacted to dogs while on a leash. That is, until I saw him off-leash with dogs and realized what a fun-loving guy he was! The longer he has been with us, though, the better he has gotten. We still tend to go to the other side of the road like you when we encounter new pups as these two are usually on a mission to sniff and mark every bush in the neighborhood before the sun goes down! Hehe. Much love, The Scottie Mom.

  5. Susan C. Willett Says:

    My Lilah used to be a scaredy dog. Tucker barks and lunges at everyone. And Jasper wants to be everyone’s best friend. In order for us to walk anywhere, I take along HVT (high-value treats, usually small bits of Jarlsberg cheese. Why Jarlsberg? It’s hard enough to cut into tiny bits and soft enough not to crumble.) I also taught all my dogs to Touch It–to touch my fist. It’s an easy, easy command, so it makes it a much easier for them to focus on Touching It than to look at whatever the Big Distraction is. So when someone comes walking down the street with a dog (or without a dog), I play Touch It, so the dogs aren’t facing the person. Usually it works. It’s still a work in progress though. Good luck!

    –Woofs (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      I will have to try out this touch command thing. Donna’s mom with We Live in a Flat is using this command and it sounds useful. Jarlsberg cheese does too, although I may be tempted to give myself a few of those treats too. πŸ˜‰

  6. Lindsay Says:

    The best example of a dog with Goofy Lab Syndrome was this Labradoodle named Ranger who I would run with. He was the sweetest guy, and he loved other dogs so much he would lunge and bark and look pretty ferocious – only he would never hurt them. Like with you and Maya, I could never really find anything to get his focus other than keeping enough distance. Even if I got him to sit, he would whine and wag his tail until the other dog got within a few feet – then he would lunge.

    I wonder if Maya would eventually get better if you practiced with different friends’ dogs and had them a distance away. You could walk forward towards them whenever Maya is calm and then turn around whenever she is too excited. That way the other dog is the reward. The problem is finding enough people to do this often enough!

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      That is definitely the problem. It is difficult getting together with friends because everyone is so busy. To try to do so on a regular basis would be near impossible! It sounds like something that could work, however. She’s learned to control herself when people come over, for the most part… well, 65% of the time anyway. πŸ˜‰

  7. snoopys@snoopysdogblog Says:

    Luckily I love to meet all dogs (though Mum always checks they’re friendly before we get close!) – If the dog isn’t too friendly I just ignore them…..

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy πŸ™‚

  8. Jan K Says:

    Maya sounds like our golden retriever Sheba. She gets so excited about seeing anyone, dog or person, and there is pretty much no distracting her from that excitement. Once she is wound up there is no unwinding…even at home (she is better about not jumping on people though). I honestly haven’t worked with her on it …I’ve been more worried about the leash reactive beagle like Pierson. Sorry to not be any help, other than commiserating!

  9. 2browndawgs Says:

    My suggestion is group obedience classes with a good trainer. That is what we did with our dogs. A good trainer with a lot of experience can watch how your dog is reacting to the other dogs and give tips. I suggest an AKC club if there is one nearby. I also always require my dogs to walk at heel when we are out. No sniffing because I want them to understand that this is the correct behavior/position for them no matter what and I need to be consistent.

  10. Cute Pets Says:

    I used to have the same problem with my dog too. It has been a long time since I took him out for a walk but my dad does everyday. When I took him out just recently his reaction was a lot better than before. He used to run after dogs that pass by and he is almost impossible to control with a leash whenever he’s excited. His reaction is not entirely eliminated but toned down to a minimal level. One afternoon, I saw my dad and Hachiko (our pet) out for a walk, his usual reaction whenever he sees someone he knows is to jump at them and get all giggly but he just sniffed me and wiggled his tail and went forth walking. I was incredibly surprised! I don’t know exactly what my father did but I think dogs with hyperactive behavior like mine just needs time to adjust and get used to interacting with others. I think that’s what happened with mine. If Maya is really hard to control while on leash then practice with other dogs.

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