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Reactive Dog


phantomreptiles
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Hi, first time poster, been an observer for three years.

I own an 11month old, female de sexed, pitbull, had her for five months. She lives with a 11yr old staffy x and two cats. She is with me pretty much 24/7, both dogs come to work with me.

I'm at my wits end...She is VERY leash reactive, which unfortunately is escalating daily. I've tried varying the route, ignoring the behaviour, positive reinforcement, waiting until she is calm, refocusing etc today was the worst - hence my post, it was all I could do to hang onto her, absolutely could not refocus, or get through to her today. I'm talking salivating, shaking, high pitched barks an absolute prey drive response.

Trialled a halti, check chain, martingale and currently using a prong collar.

I'm aware of my body language and ensure its not an issue.

In general as she is getting older she is becoming more reactive, I no longer get junk mail as she will leap at the fence trying to bite. She has nipped my lawn mower man once, I keep her in the house when he is due now. She can also be cage aggressive when at work, this can be a problem as it's an environment with a lot animals coming and going, though some days she will be ok at work. We do plenty of mental stimulation which she enjoys and does well. Walked daily, has a large yard and plenty of rotated toys.

Perhaps it's my fault as I don't correct her barking or growling when strangers come near the house, I'm just concerned that her behaviour is getting worse each day, despite boundaries and routine. She is ok with familiar dogs as long as she is off leash, so I get its the fight/flight response.

My fear is, if she gets off leash whilst in that frame of mind, what will happen...

Sorry for the long, fragmented post but am writing things as they come to me.

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Totally agree, you need someone there in person to help you with this. It's sounding pretty serious and given that you've tried a few different things and the problem is gettig worse not better I think you'd really benefit from getting someone in before you try anything else.

I'd also suggest keeping to dog at home safely away from people or animals she may do damage to until you can get some help. If she bites someone you could be in real trouble :(

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I think you need face to face professional help. She sounds a physical risk to others and a big liability risk for you. You called it a prey drive response but I wouldn't from your description. Your profile says Qld but I think that is the default, so if you are in NSW try K9pro, or post what state and someone will provide a recommendation.

Being a breed that is not allowed in many states, depending on where you are if she does get reported for an aggressive incident she may not get a second chance. Until you get help don't put her in situations where she can get trouble.

Edited by Diva
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Diva, what would you call it? I wasn't sure how else to describe it?

I am located in Brisbane, I contacted Justin Jordan and never got a response. I have contacted a couple others tonight so hopefully get some responses tomorrow:). The thing is she can be so sweet, and is currently lying on my bed with a cat licking her face!

I'm being very careful with her and appreciate the ramifications if she did bite someone. I also understand the illegalities of having this breed. She wasn't sort after for her breed, but rather an adoption through a private facility that could not put her through the normal adoption channels due to her breed. She was signed over as she escaped all the time.

I work in the veterinary industry and have done so for 16 years, so not a complete fool, but obviously dog behaviour is a very complex subject that many of us, myself included, don't have a thorough understanding of, beyond the basics..

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I think Diva may be suggesting it's actually aggression rather than prey drive. Pit bulls are often very prey driven towards smaller animals but aggression towards humans is a different issue.

I'd suggest Craig Murray in Brisbane (dogschool.com.au) I haven't worked with them personally but have seen some demos and information about what they do and I think they would be helpful in your situation. Craig himself is very experienced in all sorts of training.

I live on the Gold Coast now but having worked as a trainer in a shelter in the ACT I've known a number of Pit Bulls, they are great dogs, I really like them, but especially if they haven't had the greatest breeding temperament wise and start to life training and socialization wise they can be very challenging to live with! A good trainer's help, even just as an outside perspective, will be worth its weight in gold!

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Diva, what would you call it? I wasn't sure how else to describe it?

I am located in Brisbane, I contacted Justin Jordan and never got a response. I have contacted a couple others tonight so hopefully get some responses tomorrow:). The thing is she can be so sweet, and is currently lying on my bed with a cat licking her face!

I'm being very careful with her and appreciate the ramifications if she did bite someone. I also understand the illegalities of having this breed. She wasn't sort after for her breed, but rather an adoption through a private facility that could not put her through the normal adoption channels due to her breed. She was signed over as she escaped all the time.

I work in the veterinary industry and have done so for 16 years, so not a complete fool, but obviously dog behaviour is a very complex subject that many of us, myself included, don't have a thorough understanding of, beyond the basics..

K9Pro - contact by phone/email

and yes, Jane Harper is a name I've seen recommended a lot here :)

You really do need a professional behaviour expert . Check out their sites ..

best of luck with your girl .

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Welcome over to the reactive dogs thread in obedience and training. We all have reactive dogs of varying degrees. My boy is a bulldog cross and will never be dog friendly, he has no prey drive and can tolerate ducks, chickens and a feral cockatiel running around but never any dogs. Although he is clearly a bulldog I do get flamed when out in public about my "dangerous pitbull" so be ready for that. Also if you're out maybe a leash and harness, my harness is strapped to a waist belt so he can't get free. Possibly a muzzle, at the very least it will warn people away. Definitely a behaviourist, I work weekly with mine because that's the help I need. Don't go to just any trainer, you need someone with aggression experience who isn't negative about working with a pit bull. Good luck, it's not an easy road.

Edited by hankdog
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Hi Phantomreptiles

I second what everyone else has said about getting some help - ideally one to one and face to face.

I no longer get junk mail as she will leap at the fence trying to bite. She has nipped my lawn mower man once, I keep her in the house when he is due now. She can also be cage aggressive when at work, this can be a problem as it's an environment with a lot animals coming and going, though some days she will be ok at work. We do plenty of mental stimulation which she enjoys and does well. Walked daily, has a large yard and plenty of rotated toys.

My dog has to stay inside when my lawnmower man comes. She just thinks he is the most exciting thing ever and he winds her up so there's no way I can retrain that one. The problem is - when she's that excited - she tries to heel him in the heeler way. Doesn't break the skin but does hurt. There's no way I want her repeating that behaviour.

When yours goes fence running - what are you doing to stop that? I don't mean yelling and scolding your dog - because most dogs read that as you're helping chase the bad guys (junk mail deliverers) away. So they will do it more because you clearly approve - you join in.

What I do when my dog bounces off the fences (out the back) is I put her on lead. The initial warning is - I just say - in a neutral tone "enough". If she doesn't stop (too excited), I walk up to her and put her collar on, hold it and wait for her to get her brain back. Then I let her go to see what her choice is. If it's more fence running - I take her inside with me and shut the door. I don't yell or scold, I do it all quietly with minimal talking. You don't want your dog to be afraid of you, or think you are something to fight. And the quieter and calmer that you can be, the better.

I tried using treats for calm behaviour but evil hound just joined the dots - act massively naughty then act calm = treat. So she only gets long calming stroke pats now. Which aren't worth putting on a naughty performance to get.

With the cage aggression - can you cover up the cage? Some dogs feel much calmer if they can't see out. They can still hear and smell what is going on but any dog staring at them is no longer threatening.

Any trainer behaviourist help you get now - it would help them if you pay attention to what her triggers are, and how far away they are when she notices them (before she reacts), what she does between noticing and reacting. Also keep a list of things she loves - favourite food and toys. Also note what you do when there is a reactive event from when you notice she's noticed the thing, or if you see the dog/trigger approaching before she does - what do you do? Do you keep approaching, or cross the road, or turn away, or yell at the approaching person to stay away? Keep notes on all this stuff for your behaviourist.

A trainer - will help with training and your timing with dealing with your dog.

A vet behaviourist - can diagnose your dog - and prescribe calming drugs that will allow you to train your dog in the face of triggers - with the help of a trainer - who may be the vet or a separate person who is skilled at dog and people training (you both need training).

A couple of games to try with your dog now - are

collar grab - eg inside, low distractions, say your dog's name (or not), grab your dog's collar (start really gently), and give a treat that your dog loves. Let your dog go, do something else, and then repeat... you might also need to start this game on lead so your dog can't nick off. If you're getting it right - after a few sessions - you reach out to grab your dog's collar - and they will put their neck in your hand and that's when you treat...

This is really handy when you want to remove your excited dog from the front fence. Ideally she will see being grabbed as a good thing that feels like getting a treat. Don't give a treat if she's just been doing something you don't like. Just pats for letting you grab collar.

Its yer choice game (from Susan Garrett)...

You put some food your dog likes in one hand, tiny pieces - I use kibble - but my dog loves all food, you let your dog know there's some treats in your hand, if she tries to steal the treats, you close your hand, if she backs off - you open your hand. If she dives back in to steal - you close your hand (you have to be fast with some dogs), if she stays calm and backed off, try picking a treat up with the other hand - and as long as she stays backed off, give her the treat. If she starts to dive in or snatch - put the treat back and close your hand. I'd do this for five treats or 3 minutes...

If she barks or bites, take your hand with the treats away. But you will probably get a lot of nuzzling and licking and mouthing to start with. It's the dog's choice - so you just stay quiet until she does something you like - in which case you can say "good"... and see if you can get the next stage of delivering the treat. The idea of this game is to teach calm self control. Again you start easy in a low distraction place, and as she gets good at it, you make it a bit harder - eg put treats on the floor or coffee table and cover up with one hand if she tries to steal...

When you say you rotate toys - how much time do you spend actually trying to train her or play with her yourself - cos that can help her pay attention to you when you ask.

Trainers (I don't think they're vet behaviourists but they might be able to recommend one) I've seen recommended in QLD / Brisbane area are

Jane Harper

http://www.dogsontrack.com.au/

Craig Murray

http://www.dogschool.com.au/

And this is an article about how to choose a good trainer. You have to be comfortable with what they're telling you or you're not going to do it, and your dog won't change. So if you don't like the technique they recommend - tell them, tell them why, ask them if there is another way or to explain why they are using that technique. Trainers are not mind readers tho it can sometimes seem like it.

http://www.k9protraining.com.au/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

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Thanks Hankdog, can you tell I've been learning from Susan Garrett and friends - paired with my dog teaching me lots. I had to find someone like Susan - because evil hound just went to pieces if I tried any other method.

We've had some problems with reactivity - which has really made me pay attention to her triggers. Got a really good look at her in action at the beach the other day with an extremely rude poodle x (her most common trigger dog - from history of bad experiences with them).

Rude poodle x (RPX) made a direct line for one of Evil hounds friends - who also dislikes RPX, and it went for that dog's butt, and there was a lot of scolding so evil hound went to help her friend.

She never touched the RPX, but she scolded it robustly and herded it away from her friend (Turid Rugaas calls that "splitting"?), and the RPX - instead of apologising in the doggy way - yelled back. All noise no contact and evil hound was quite easy to be split away and caught by me and RPX owner apologised and put her dog on lead for a bit. And then let it off again - where it got into trouble again with some different dogs.

So I couldn't be mad at my dog for scary looking scolding. Was extremely pleased she never put tooth on dog, which suggests to me - she just doesn't do that unless the other dog bites her first. And that's only happened once.

But the main thing for me - is never ever join in the scolding. And I've managed to avoid a scolding match a few times by catching my dog before any RPX arrives, and telling her over and over what a good dog she is for staying calm while RPX does its thing, gets bored, and leaves. Sometimes if RPX or other rude dog is looking to pick a fight, they get unravelled by my happy good dog talk, thinking I mean them so they go from aggressive stance to friendly stance and leave when there's nothing in it for them to stay.

So far haven't been in any major dog fights, managed to see a few coming and leave before they started. You can see it coming sometimes - and there's not a lot I can do except leave as fast as possible. For other dog fights, if mine is off lead - she will sometimes run between the agresssors (scare the shit out of me), act as cheer squad, or a team of them will gang up and herd some poor dog off the park. None of that is ok with me.

There's been a couple of times where she's spotted some RPX before me and ripped the lead out of my hand - including breaking my finger one time. That's not fun but she's never hurt one. I'd be mortified if she did and I'd rather she didn't feel the need to put them in their place. The kinds of owners these dogs have - generally don't understand the why of it at all. Neither do their dogs or it would not have happened.

Edited by Mrs Rusty Bucket
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Thirding. I think most people who have a dog newly reactive or just gained a reactive dog are probably going to go straight to the general forum rather than down in the obedience/training section. It would be useful to have a thread with those methods of advice and what to look out for then a list of state-specific trainers.

Edited by Thistle the dog
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