megan_

Exercising Reactive Dogs Thread

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I've been meaning to start this thread for ages.

I often read posts about people exercising their DA/reactive dogs in off leash areas to give them exercise. I wanted to start a thread that would list alternatives and give those of us with reactive dogs ideas on how we can keep our dogs mentally and physically sound.

Of course this doesn't replace seeing a behaviourist to help deal with the issue, but often this takes time to resolve and, even with the best help, you may land up having to manage the issue for the dog's lifetime.

I'll start off with a few ideas, but please feel free to add any. A few ground rules though:

* Safety of the community and other dogs is the # 1 priority, so all suggestions need to keep that in mind

* Ideas need to be in keeping with the law

IDEA 1: A muzzle is your friend

For a long time I was very resistant to use one. People would assume my dog was aggressive etc. It would be a pain to put on before a walk. She'd look like something from a horror film. I bit the bullet a few months ago and now I love her muzzle. Does it do much for her? I don't know, but is helps ME relax. When I'm relaxed, she is more relaxed. It also means I can work her in areas that I used to avoid because I was afraid of the risk of her lashing out.

She is ALWAYS on lead when off my propery though. Please don't put a muzzle on your dog and then take them off leash. Dog fights start well before the first bite and your dog can send all sorts of messages to other dogs (I'm going to get you!) even with the muzzle on. Chances are the other dogs won't realise that your dog can't bite them and they will (very understandably) often fight back. So treat your dog just like you would if they weren't using a muzzle (give them space, on lead etc).

I use a plastic Jafco muzzle so she can still breath and I cut a tiny hole in it so that she can recieve treats as it is very important to reward good behaviour.

I got my muzzle from k9pro, along with a free muzzle desensitisation explanation.

IDEA#2: Exercising the mind with the clicker/marker word and free shapping

I'm not going to do a whole post on this, rather take a look at Shirley Chong's stuff. There is so much you can teach your dog with a clicker or marker word, a box and an emply toilet roll. Total cost: a few dollars.

IDEA#3: Targetting

This is really a subset of idea 2, but it provides my dogs with a lot of fun. There are many different types of targetting that you can teach (nose to object, pawy to object, bottom to object) but one of our favourites is nose to a standing target. I got mine from cleanrun but anything that you can stick in the ground will suffice.

The game: I put them in their crates, hide the target in the house (now I can get complicated by hiding it behind doors etc) and then release them one-at-a-time to "find it". They race out and search each room to find it, touch it with their nose and get a click then treat. This is a great game to play ona rainy day and it only takes a few minutes (each gets two goes).

How I taught it:

i) I taught them to target the object (they already understood the clicker.

ii) I put them in their crates and pu the target directly in front of them. I opened the create door, said "find it", they ran to it (it was right there), nose touch, click treat.

iii) Repeated step ii) making it more further away each time, then hid it simply from view etc.

I'll try to find a video of them playing this too.

IDEA#4: Bubble machine.

Speaks for itself. Great for dogs with a decent prey drive. Mine cost me about $20.

Edited by megan_

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Posted by Megan I often read posts about people exercising their DA/reactive dogs in off leash areas to give them exercise. I wanted to start a thread that would list alternatives and give those of us with reactive dogs ideas on how we can keep our dogs mentally and physically sound.

I will get into trouble for saying this, but why not take it to an experienced trainer who has experience in rehabilitating DA reactive dogs. A sound and structured obedience program would surely overcome these kinds of problems in many dogs? That way you get both the mental and physical exercise as well as solving your problem.

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I will get into trouble for saying this, but why not take it to an experienced trainer who has experience in rehabilitating DA reactive dogs. A sound and structured obedience program would surely overcome these kinds of problems in many dogs? That way you get both the mental and physical exercise as well as solving your problem.

This is what I will be doing with Harley as soon as I have some spare cash!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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As my post said, these are ideas to help exercise your dog while it is being rehabilitated. Dogs with issues still need mental and physical stimulation. Some (a lot) of dogs with issues will NEVER be able to go to an offleas park and run with other (often uncontrolled) dogs.

I started this thread to help share ideas for exercising dogs in a safe manner, as there have been a fair few posts over recent months where peoPle feel they must give their dogs off leash exercise.

FWIW, I have consulted more than one behaviourist and continue to do so. My dog gets regular obedience and agility training. She will never be safe to run off leash with strange fogs and people in an uncontrolled environment. Years of constant abuse means that she can go from being happy and relaxed into full-on attack mode in the blink of an eye.

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Posted by Megan I often read posts about people exercising their DA/reactive dogs in off leash areas to give them exercise. I wanted to start a thread that would list alternatives and give those of us with reactive dogs ideas on how we can keep our dogs mentally and physically sound.

I will get into trouble for saying this, but why not take it to an experienced trainer who has experience in rehabilitating DA reactive dogs. A sound and structured obedience program would surely overcome these kinds of problems in many dogs? That way you get both the mental and physical exercise as well as solving your problem.

Megan never said her ideas were instead of getting professional assistance. The idea I believe is to supplement that.

In my personal case I have seen a professional and have a pretty structured obedience program in place, however my dog will still never be allowed off-leash around other dogs.

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I'm lucky in a way I guess, Kenzie is generally reactive when on-leash. Off-leash we have very few problems, but I'm still very cautious and generally don't let her off-leash unless I'm really sure of the situation. So some of our strategies...

She has a great group of friends she plays really well with. So we try to have play dates so she can have that interaction in a safe way.

I take her to private fenced areas (Kepala) that I can hire for my own use.

Trick training!!!! I have to say this has worked to my advantage in many ways. She loves learning. She loves doing tricks! And if a situation becomes stressful for her so long as we are below threshold she calms down very quickly by breaking into a tricks routine. Depending on the level of distraction it may just be simple obedience tasks with a few hi-5's, etc thrown in. But it has helped her decrease the distance that she can cope with between her and other dogs and has also immensely increased her confidence in new situations - she loves tricks she knows she can do them and then she figures out she can do them in certain situations and it calms her (ok a bit of anthropomorphising, but if it were me that would be my feelings!! And it is what I see in her body language!!).

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Posted by Megan As my post said, these are ideas to help exercise your dog while it is being rehabilitated. Dogs with issues still need mental and physical stimulation.

I am sorry Megan, I don't mean to be difficult. I guess I am confused about the idea of rehabilitation and the idea of mental and physical exercise being two seperate things. To my way of thinking a structured obedience program provides both the mental and physical needs of the dog whilst at the same time solving the problem. I mean if the behavorist is only treating the DA problem itself and not the whole dog (meaning the mental and physical needs of the dog) at the same time, then I would have reason to doubt their value.

But that's just me.

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I'm seeing someone who is considered to be one of the best behaviorists in Australia, so I have no doubt as to the value they add ;). In addition to obedience exercises inlike to give my dogs fun, mentally stimulating things to do.

In addition to this, many people have to save up to see a behaviorist. What are they meant to do in the meantime.

Personally I am confused as to how someone could find "offense" (for want of a better term) a thread about ideas on how to give reactive dogs a bit of save exercise?

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Posted by Megan Personally I am confused as to how someone could find "offense" (for want of a better term) a thread about ideas on how to give reactive dogs a bit of save exercise?

Megan I am not finding offense and I apologize if my comments come across that way. I don't want to highjack this thread so I will leave it there. Again, I apologize and wish you and your dog's the best. I know having such a dog would be difficult.

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Oh, thanks for those ideas Megan. My dogs love targetting but I have never really known how to go beyond the touch nose or paw to object. We did get to post it notes on walls but since then I haven't known what to do.

I think they are good ideas whatever you use them for. We do have to face facts that not everyone will go and see a behaviourist so anything that will help them is great.

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Lots and lots of tricks :)

This is what I do with my reactive girl:

shaping any number of tricks

Retrieve (and if you have enough space you can do fetch in the yard)

rear end awareness and agility foundation

tug

attention exercises

running on lead (good exercise foe me too)

recall

control position work - sit/drop including at a distance/on the move

This is one of her more complicated tricks

Edited by Kavik

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I am on another list where a couple of the respondants have advocated a Thundershirt for reactive dogs. Obviously you have to get the dog used to wearing it first, but in some individuals it certainly seems to reduce the stress levels; barking, lunging & the tendency to bite.

Just wondering if anyone here has used the Thundershirt for this purpose?

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I take my boys (security dogs) to a local doggy swimming pool. They are fully fenced and I start by swimming him on-leash until we take the edge off the energy levels then we play with his ball in and out of the water.

Also we do have a nice size fenced off- leash park with is only used on the afternoons by the local crowd ... the rest of the time it is usually one at a time. So we do some obedience and play - one ball thrower and two balls = one very tired dog.

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A flirt pole can be a good way to wear out some dogs :)

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It is worth checking out every off leash place near you. I found an oval right near my house that is very quiet. Think I've seen another dog there once.

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Check out the local sporting areas, parks and ovals without your dog. You can find out how well used they are at particular times of the day and if they are quiet you can use these for physical exercise. They usually give you plenty of room to move away from other dogs too if you encounter any (hopefully on leash). Bush walking can be good however can be tricky if you encounter another dog on the path. Industrial areas can be good after hours as they are usually not residential so you don't get many other dogs being walked.

However you need to have contingencies in place so you know what to do when encountering other dogs. This is where advice from your behaviourist is invaluable.

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My dogs love targetting but I have never really known how to go beyond the touch nose or paw to object. We did get to post it notes on walls but since then I haven't known what to do.

Targeting gets them thinking about the task, rather than reacting, and it's simple so it's worth getting creative with it.

One exercise I use in my reactive and aggressive dogs classes is to have two dogs target cones spaced some distance apart. We can bring them in closer over time. For safety, leash length can be set appropriately.

You have to keep them busy with this, no idle time. Take them out of the car, do the exercise (however many reps you have decided the dogs will do before they get bored), then back in the car.

I've also used a wire mesh fence for protected contact. Have the dogs target the fence post on opposite sides of the fence. Use only where appropriate (for e.g dog is advanced in behaviour mod, but has a bite history). Don't do the "he's really good today, so I'll push it too far" thing!

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IDEA 1: A muzzle is your friend

For a long time I was very resistant to use one. People would assume my dog was aggressive etc. It would be a pain to put on before a walk. She'd look like something from a horror film. I bit the bullet a few months ago and now I love her muzzle. Does it do much for her? I don't know, but is helps ME relax. When I'm relaxed, she is more relaxed. It also means I can work her in areas that I used to avoid because I was afraid of the risk of her lashing out.

Why muzzle a leashed dog reactive or not, I don't get that idea :confused: Muzzled or not, the dog is still going to arc up when their reactive threshold is broken, wouldn't it be more productive to work the dog outside of it's reactivity threshold where it doesn't lash out and teach the dog the right behaviour when stress levels are managable?

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Because we often run into offleash dogs in onleash areas. The muzzle helps reduce my stress, which reduces her stress. I always keep her under the threshold.

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Because we often run into offleash dogs in onleash areas. The muzzle helps reduce my stress, which reduces her stress. I always keep her under the threshold.

I understand your reasoning, but off leash dogs in on leash areas don't matter legally, however if you get a DA off leash dog attack yours who can't fight back being muzzled, protecting off leash dogs against yours could cause your dog severe injury or worse?. As much as I would hate to think of my dog injuring an off leash dog, I could live with that as the off leash dog is legally in the wrong, but I couldn't live with my dog getting torn to bits because I took her defence mechanism away from her if a situation like that arose?

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