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Barking/lunging

Discussion in 'Behavior' started by Pam, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. Pam

    Pam Forums Enthusiast

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    Ok, so I posted a question about this (getting correct harness, etc) in the Hello thread but I actually have more questions. My almost 12 month old sheltie is a barker/lunger at squirrels, birds, rabbits, cars, and occasionally airplanes (I think when they look like birds LOL). He does not chase anything people ride (skateboards, bikes, does not chase joggers, etc)--it seems to be only high prey drive. So far he is training well to turn attention to me outside for birds--if he stays calm, sits, and looks at me I click and treat. That has been great to keep him calm about 90% of the time in my yard with birds. Unfortunately, I cannot get his attention to generalize this behavior for the other stimuli. He is very good in large spaces, such as walks in the park, as long as those furry little monsters are at a good distance. So we practice attention on me there and he does well. But once fast moving targets get closer, he is very, very difficult to calm down, and become quite reactive. I haven't been able to move to where he can clearly see the stimuli. He is less biddable than my previous sheltie and requires constant training to maintain currently learned behaviors (I think he tries to see how far he can push). Otherwise, he is great. He loves all people, all dogs, and has never marked/had an accident, etc. But the lunging works my nerves.
     
  2. ghggp

    ghggp Premium Member

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    I wonder if you could setup a simulation with a fake bunny/squirrel attached to a motorized toy car! Then you could work on training at far distances to closer. Treating and giving positive reinforcement each time he focus on you rather than the furry moving target! Move closer and closer each day. Just a thought! If you have a friend with a bunny you might want to rub the stuffed animal with the bunnys sent to make it seem more authentic to the dog. Might be over kill... but, might help?
     
  3. Caro

    Caro Moderator

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    I'll get back with some more information later. But for now you should do a search on 'lunging' and you'll find this is a common question and there's lots of information to get you started.
     
  4. Pam

    Pam Forums Enthusiast

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    Thanks. I have been reading some stuff in the threads--and just downloaded the suggested "ReactivityEbook2.pdf" Thing is I am not completely sure what is going on. He seems to be sound/sight reactive to birds (I own 2 and he has been a barker/lunger at them since he arrived--I have been working diligently on trying to desensitize toward them, and it has to some extent worked), and that carries into the backyard and occasionally walks--but he has gotten better at that. Squirrels and rabbits drive him crazy--I think he wants to chase; cars I am not sure about. Yesterday, for the first time ever! he barked/lunged at joggers in the park. This might have been due to not having been walked for a while or that he wanted to greet and the leash was restrictive.
    But another really difficult issue is his submissive lying down as ANY dog approaches. He lies down and will not budge at all and waits, then stands up quietly and will enter into play if allowed. If I ask the dog walker to just pass because I do not want to encourage this behavior, he goes beserk and will lunge and bark--again I think leash restriction is tipping it. Then everyone thinks he is dog aggressive.

    With all the training things (other than birds) have seemed to get worse not better. :(
     
  5. Caro

    Caro Moderator

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    Here's a few ideas.

    It sounds like there's a bit of silliness rolled into the reactivity, particularly given his age. That said, without being nipped in the bud it can become a lifelong habit.

    First of all, stop using treats to bribe him to stop reacting. There's always a risk when you use rewards to prevent a behaviour that you actually end up rewarding the behaviour. For example, he's probably now excited and looking for birds because he gets a treat when he sees a bird, so if you don't have a treat he channels the excitement into being silly. My general rule of thumb is if something doesn't work half to a dozen times, then try something else. What tends to happen is you are rewarding the excited state, rather than the calmness. Keep the treats for getting his attention when you really need it.

    Instead try redirecting his attention. If he's high drive then a ball is a great subsititute. Does he chase a ball - if not then it's time to teach him fetch and to catch a ball. Then when you leave the house take a squeaky ball with you. When you see something that he'll usually react to, squeak the ball, when you've got his attention throw the ball to him, or even just wave it around and get him to chase it in your hand. The idea is to break his attention on whatever he would react to and focus it on the ball.

    You probably need to change how you take walks. He's young and excitable, and he needs the play - you need to be the most exciting thing on the walk. Play with him, skip around, talk to him, walk fast, change up your pace, have a little jog occasionally. Energetic young dogs aren't interested in taking a linear walk and thinking to themselves, which is what humans do. The sniff, they play, they meander around. There's plenty of time when he's old to do the linear walks, now focus not on distance, but on play.

    Another thing, when you leave for your walks check his state of mind. Make sure you have his focus before you leave your home. Often dogs are really excited about going on a walk, so they're all over the place and of course he'll play up. So many people stop walking their dogs because as soon as they leave home their dog goes crazy (and of course that just makes them even more excited when they do get out), it's really common and easily solved by ensuring the dog is calm before leaving home. Before you start on your walk do some obedience commands, sit drop, shake hands. Maybe even practice some new tricks. You want him to think and to focus on you, to use his brain and use up some mental energy. That way you start your walk with focus and calm.

    With the issue about greeting dogs - it's one of the primary issues people end up enrolling in obedience classes. Young dogs in particular are very interested in meeting other dogs. But you'll need to show him what behaviour you want. This is called 'controlled greeting'. When you see a dog, get him to sit and wait. He doesn't get to go near the other dog until you give him a release word. This is best practiced with someone you know, or someone's who's willing to wait it out. Just tell them you're training him - people will understand. If he's rolling over you may need to get the sit/wait at a distance, before he tries to roll over (work out at what distance he does the roll and get him into a sit before you reach that distance). Initially he may try to jump around, if he's not too bad you can wait out the sit and calmness, but if he has no focus turn around and walk away, get his focus and then walk back again. A few tries at this and they start getting the message. Never ever let him greet another dog in an excited state, if he's too silly walk off, don't let him meet other dogs like this. If people think you're rude, well too bad, but you can always call out to them that you're training him. And he really does not need to meet every single dog he sees.

    Which brings me to the final point atm - the walk away. Absolutely fantastic, and under-utilised, training tool for dealing with a reactive dog. If you don't like his behaviour turn around and walk in the other direction. when he's showing some calm and will focus on you (get a 'sit/look at me' to check) you can turn back around. If he goes silly again turn around again, never let him get what he wants or near the object of focus when he's being silly. You need to take charge. If that means your walk involves 10 back tracks over 10 metres, so be it. It's much better doing these 'training' walks now than having a lifetime with a reactive dog.

    You may also want to enrol in an obedience class. It's a great way to teach a dog to focus in a high stimulus environment. A good class should also teach you controlled greetings, commands like 'look at me' and wait, and walking nicely on a loose lead.
     
    Cleo2014 and corbinam like this.
  6. Pam

    Pam Forums Enthusiast

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    Caro,
    Thanks for the great advice. I think you misunderstand the "other dog" issue though. He goes into a full down (does not roll, just down), and waits until the dog gets near--he absolutely refuses to get up and I can't coax or pull him up. He then greets the other dog well. He does this the second he spots another dog in the park--no matter how far away. But I don't always want to stop for other dogs OR have him greet them. Getting him into a sit is near impossible, or impossible. When I have them ignore him and walk by--that is when he acts out--lunging and barking.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
  7. Julianna

    Julianna Forums Novice

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    I can definitely sympathize with the troubles of having a leash reactive dog! My sheltie Joy has the same problem! It took a lot of trial and error for me to learn but, the good news is that I can confidently say that I have made significant progress in correcting this problem. So please allow me to share my experience with you so that both my mistakes and my achievements might help you progress in your training!

    So what is leash reactivity anyways? Or rather why do dogs get leash reactive at all? I have done some reading here and there and the suggestion was that dogs behave that way out of frustration! This has been supported by my own observations . I watched Joy and tried to imagine what her thought process was. Here is an example scenario that I whipped up from my imagination:
    ------------------
    On a fair weather day Joy, the sable and white sheltie, trots happily beside her handler, Julianna. There is no tension on the leash. An interesting smell catches her attention. Being the well behaved and responsible girl that she is, she looks at Julianna as if asking permission to explore that scent. As a reward for Joy's good behavior, Julianna moves closer to Joy so that she can comfortably explore the environment without any nagging tension on the leash. Julianna understands that there are intriguing smells that are simply beyond the level of human comprehension.

    Joy's cute nose twitches as she smells the grass. She contemplates, for a moment, leaving her own pee-mail before she becomes distracted. A boy rolls down the street on a skateboard .In the span of one second Joy goes from content to agitated. Joy's eyes become locked on her target. The leash starts to become tense. She growls as if to say 'How dare you ride a skateboard! I don't like skateboards! I'll punish you for that!'. Her tail is raised and wagging and she hops around growing increasingly frustrated by tension on the leash.

    Julianna tries to get Joy's attention with a treat or a tug or anything but it all proves futile. The skateboard has passed too close for Joy's comfort and she explodes, barking furiously. The collar on her neck begins to cause her great discomfort as it presses against her throat. It only adds to her frustration. Finally the incident has passed. And Joy coughs as the tension on her neck is relieved. Julianna looks at her dog exasperated and asks her "Joy why do you do that? I don't like to see you hurt yourself like that. Why haven't you made the connection yet?"
    -----------------------------------

    The reason why Joy wasn't getting it was that I was being a bad communicator. It turns out that maybe at some point I had inadvertently conditioned Joy's aggressive response. The tension on the leash was what was frustrating Joy. And through experience she has come to associate skateboards with that unpleasant experience.

    So what was I to do about that? I can't just let her off leash, that would be irresponsible.
    After much research and observation eventually I realized needed to improve my timing and get Joy's attention before she gets agitated. If I'm fast enough to get Joy's attention before her eyes become 'locked on target' then I had a higher chance of success.

    So I have doubled down my efforts in getting into the habit of making sure I bring treats on every walk so that I could catch Joy's attention before she became aggressive. However I have found that my timing isn't very good. The chance that I get to catch her attention is at times really feels like less than a second. And then I would have to immediately treat her again because her attention was so fleeting! It wasn't very practical and I didn't feel like I was getting any results. It was discouraging.

    Joy would cause great discomfort to herself by lunging and it hurt me to watch my best friend do that. In the past I have decided to try easy-walk harnesses but Joy wasn't really a fan and neither was I. It really made no difference.

    So I thought to myself. How can I minimize the discomfort Joy feels if I make a mistake? How can I protect her from hurting her throat or in the case of her harness her underarms? After watching skilled trainers and looking for inspiration I found my answer. The most humane, accessible, convenient, gentle and safest of all the training collars I have used, the prong collar.

    Really? The prong collar? Humane? Gentle? The one that is used to train with 'fear' and 'pain'? Does using one make me a punishment trainer? Am I going to hurt my best friend?

    It is a pretty formidable looking collar to say the least. After all the scary things I have read on the internet about prong collars I was almost reluctant to use it. But I do like to give the benefit of the doubt. After all the prong collar was supposedly designed by a veterinarian. Think about it for a moment. Would a person devoted to caring for animals really design a cruel and unsafe device?

    I decided to give it a shot. I trusted that Joy would forgive me if I ever made an error in my judgement. She very loving and trusting and would always give me the benefit of the doubt if I do make a mistake. I have faith in that.

    After my experiences with Joy, I have come to truly appreciate what a misunderstood device the prong collar. I started using the starmark pro training collar, A close cousin of your usual prong but functionally the same. The collar has worked as a prevention measure against choking. Now even if we make an error. Joy doesn't risk injury because of it and can actually be redirected to a preferred behavior even if I do have to catch her in full lunge aggressive mode. My communication has become more clear and I have had more opportunities to reward her because of it! Of course I still use a lot of positive reinforcement too! Treats and praise are fantastic tools that fit in any training program! Ideally I get her attention before I have to correct but it is not the end of the world if we do make a mistake.

    She is not quite perfect yet but we have finally broken through the rut that we were in and we are finally making real progress! We have definitely grown closer and I can't wait to find out what more we are capable of!


    Well I hope this helps a little bit! You'll have to make a commitment to learning how to use the tools I use properly so please ask me if you are interested. Let me know of any questions you have.

    Edit: tl:dr I cut a portion of my post
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
  8. Caro

    Caro Moderator

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    Hi Pam. I would not go with a prong collar for a sheltie (or any other dog). There is potential for causing aggression by causing pain when a dog reacts, it's better to teach your dog an alternative to reacting. If you are looking for something to redirect him I'd suggest a halti/gentle leader type head collar, or a gentle leader harness. This allows you to redirect the dog in the direction you want to go. I fit lots of dogs with these devices, the harness being the most popular.

    You can still use the sit with your Sheltie - but you are going to have to 'sit' him from quite a distance away. Is there somewhere with a fair amount of dog traffic where you can just let him sit and watch and not interact? So he gets used to the idea he doesn't need to meet every single dog he sees. Part of the dropping is polite or timid behaviour (I'm a nice dog, I'm no threat) but he's probably worked out you can't budge him when he does it. That's why an obedience class would be really good - he'd have to learn to focus because he won't be allowed to interact during class. Also, one of the great things about Shelties are their size. Don't be afraid to just pick him up and carry him away. This idea that you shouldn't pick up small dogs is not correct, there are some circumstances where you wouldn't, but that doesn't apply to times when it's the safest or best way to remove him from a situation. So if he's being recalcitrant, and if you can't move him any other way, pick him up, pop him under your arm and carry him away. Sort of like you'd do with a child that's throwing a tantrum or being a pain.

    Another option is the body block - but it does depend on how close the other dog is and the other dog's demeanour (if it's a bouncing Goldie you don't want to be knocked over). Stand in front of your Sheltie and block him from seeing or reaching the other dog. And stand your ground. You may also want to try standing directly over him, step into his personal space, small dogs will often move back because they don't want to be stepped on.
     
    Pam, Cleo2014 and Ann like this.
  9. Pam

    Pam Forums Enthusiast

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    Caro,
    Thanks. Yes, I am looking into obedience classes, I wanted them anyhow. He has already gone to 2 levels at PetSmart but they are not only allowed but encouraged to play there. So I am looking for something a bit more serious. Unfortunately with Beau it is difficult to "just pick him up" he is the oversize sheltie par excellence--19" and 44 lbs. so it is tough just picking him up, although I can do it. I think I will try the body block and see if he will retain enough of his head for it to work. It worked really well training him to wait at the door--he is a champ at that one 100% of the time. He is very stubborn and very smart, so I am sure he has figured out the drop and wait has paid off for him. Time to use another approach. Re: leash reactivity, I am going to only walk him at night for awhile. No birds, squirrels or bunnies to chase. And I will walk in the same direction as cars --let's see if that along with reinforcing attention on me works. I tried the Easy Walker harness and that seemed to set him off more--I think when it tightens, it is aversive. The Lupine No-Pull has less body point contact and he seems to do better with it. I am going to look into the Kurgo Tru-Fit as well which is also a front hitch harness. I am a bit worried about trying a Gentle Leader and making things worse.
     
  10. Julianna

    Julianna Forums Novice

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    Caro,

    How do you use gentle leaders? Don't they take a long time for dogs to get used to them? I'm genuinely curious. If it is not too much trouble for you, an explanation would be much appreciated. I'm eager to learn. As of right now I'm not convinced that Joy would like to wear one but if you can convince me it is worth it I might just give it a try!

    I respect your concern for animal welfare. The prong collar does have the potential for "fallout", an increased aggression response, if misused. I too had reservations about using a prong collar at first. After all there are many respected trainers, veterinarians, and other experienced dog people who condemn their usage.

    Even the people who use prong collars almost seem to apologize for it at times! As if it were a 'last resort' or that they 'need' it to control their dog! And then we we have the traditional compulsive trainers who seem to go on a rant anytime they are challenged a bit on their choices. "Positive training is a cult!", "They are all a bunch of a 'tid bit tossers' who can't appreciate a disciplined dog", "Death before discomfort", etc... The same tired spiel. I do believe that they are as fired up as they are because of a genuine love for dogs but if they could just relax a little bit they would understand that a self-righteous 'Knight templar' ish kind of attitude will lead them nowhere!

    And I guess the last point is that the prong collar is not very friendly looking to say the least! Take the Starmark collar I use on Joy for example, It has inward pointing blue spikes! Prong collar supporters claim that the collar is 'gentle' but the wiser bunch of us know that marketers can be liars. One could easily make the guess that the collar works by causing pain to Joy, giving her no choice but to meekly submit to my will.

    So If I appear to understand all of this, Why would I select a prong collar over another training tool?

    Well, appearances can be deceiving. If I were to look at the the gentle leader with an untrained eye I could easily mistake it for a muzzle! To experienced dog people this can be silly but think of how many times people call our shelties Lassie or mini collies! I've had Joy mistaken for a border collie! The gentle leader also has an 'aversive' look to it but I know that there are experienced trainers who use these devices regularly with no harmful side effects so I can reasonably conclude that if responsibly used it can be a great training device. I have no personal experience to provide as evidence to condemn their proper use. The verdict is 'not guilty'.

    So If the gentle leader should be considered and given a chance then why not extend the same courtesy to the pronged collar? It is only fair. My intention with training Joy is not to force her submit to my will, If I were to approach her training with that entitled attitude I will never win her respect or increase her confidence like I desire.

    I want to understand how Joy feels so I have tried the starmark collar on my own neck, with the proper snug fit. Wearing it is not all that bad at all! The only discomfort I feel is from the snugness of it! Which would also apply for a properly fitted flat collar, harness, gentle leader, etc.. Considering that this is really just a training collar and I intend on graduating joy to a comfortable martingale this is not bad to put up with at all. I feel that it is my responsibility to report the traits of the collar with accuracy. I am so filled with that conviction that I am actually wearing the collar on my neck right now as I type this so that I can illustrate my thoughts in the best manner possible. Of course you have no such proof but my own word. If you should like to challenge me by doing the same I should like to hear about what you think it feels like.

    Now what about a correction what does that feel like? The answer is pressure. No choke, no pain. Just pressure. A little tug and release? Literally just pressure. There is a sensation so tiny that it might register as a little pinch but that is only if I really pull on the collar really hard and for over a second. I imagine that jerking the collar would also cause a similar sensation but I'm not so keen to try that considering that isn't the proper usage. You would not jerk a gentle leader either? Is that correct?

    Now the one thing I would consider a con about the Starmark collar in particular is that wearing it for a long time can be uncomfortable. Prong collars are to be considered as a temporary training solution (think of them as training wheels on a bike) and to only be worn during walks and training sessions. Those horror pictures that are spread around by animal rights types and well intentioned but ignorant dog lovers? Embedded collars that occur as a consequence of neglect and irresponsibility...

    So with the evidence gathered and supported by my own personal experiences, I have come to the conclusion that bad communication and irresponsible ownership are the real enemy here. Not any particular tool.

    I can't say I like choke chains for example, I think they are far to risky for the average person and have a larger than acceptable chance of causing injury if used incorrectly. But given that I don't have any experience in using them I wouldn't go as far to condemn experienced trainers who use them in a fair manner and with respect to the dogs they serve.

    Alright now that you have heard (or read) me out hopefully. I'd like to ask you some questions about gentle leaders!

    How do gentle leaders work?
    What are the advantages of using one?
    What are the disadvantages?
    I have come to the conclusion , that given the ease of use, safety and effectiveness of the prong collar, that they should be the most preferred training tool to suit both novices and masters alike! Do you agree or disagree with this statement? If you disagree why?
    Should I consider a gentle leader over a prong collar?

    I'll be most interested in hearing your case! I'll have you assured that there is no hostile intent. If you have made up your mind I have no intention of forcing you to change it. But I think having an earnest discussion will be to both of our benefits. I just want to keep on learning so I can do what is best for Joy!
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017

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