Bees who have dogs – looking for tips/advice for socialization

posted 1 year ago in Pets
Post # 2
1330 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2005 - A Castle

You basically described my dog. We got him at 9 weeks and had another dog too, so I didn’t think socializing him would be a problem, but he is very reactive to other dogs. He had worms when we first got him and went through two rounds of deworming, so by the time he was cleared for group classes, he was about 15 weeks old and well, it was a mess. He couldn’t redirect at all, to the point we had to leave. Instead of refunding our money, the owner of the obedience school offered us 2 private lessons which we gladly took. She told us that we “missed the socialization window” which is about 4 weeks to 14 weeks (or something like that) and now that he was out of that window we’d REALLY have to work with him to be less reactive around others. He is also a spazz around the vacuum and the broom and I mean he tries to attack and bite the vacuum. 

We were advised to very slowly desensitize him to the things he reacted to. For instance, take him and his favorite yummy treats to an area where there are other dogs, but at a distance. When he starts to react, give him the treat. If he’s not interested in the treat you’re either too close to the other dog or the treat is not yummy enough for him to redirect. Distance is a reactive dog’s best friend. It’s a process and I’m still not comfortable taking him to a dog park in fear of what he’d do (for reference, he’s a very large German Shepherd and looks very intimidating, but is only 9 months old), but we have a decent sized yard we run him in every day. He even sees the neighbor dogs from behind his invisible fence and barks really loud, but never tries to break through. 

I feel your pain, lol. Good luck!

Post # 3
304 posts
Helper bee

From your description it sounds like you have a reactive dog, which is common, especially on leash. I think the idea of finding a trainer that has worked with this before would help you a lot. They can help you understand what his body language is saying. It sounds like he does not like greeting other dogs on leash and I would avoid that until you have time to work with him. Give him plenty of space and if he shows signs of being nervous give him more distance.

Be sure to only work with a positive reinforcement trainer- no punishment (choke/prong collars, E collars, sprays etc). If he is already anxious/fearful it will make it worse, not better.


Post # 4
3199 posts
Sugar bee

So, I had a reactive dog in the past and one-on-one training was super important. She’d also bring her dog as ‘props’ to get our dog acclimated, as hers were non-reactive and very well trained. I have a few priceless things we learned below, sorry it’s long!

First, you should get the book ‘On Talking Terms with Dogs’ by Turid Rugaas. It’s short and packs a powerful punch because everything she talks about is also in picture form to show you the different nuances of canine communication which should help you spot your dog’s individual limits and allow you to tailor your training to his needs more effectively. Second, consider one-on-one training for dog-reactivity with a positive reinforcement trainer with lots of experience. It may be expensive, but the trainer is invaluable in pointing out not only what your dog is doing, but what you are doing that is contributing to the situation. 

You’re basically putting your dog in a 0-60 situation and he doesn’t currently have the skills to cope effectively with the changing environmental stimulus, so you need to dial it back. He’s trained indoors, with zero distractions and lots of motivation (both on his and your part). The next step is taking him to the backyard and getting him sound there with focus and responsiveness. I like the ‘Find Me’ game and the ‘Focus’ game.

Basically, for the Focus Game you have your pup on a short leash and reward when your dog makes strong, focused eye contact with you. This is contrary to their nature (staring at a dominant pack member), so at first you need to reward fleeting, but focused, eye contact and build up their confidence in holding eye contact. If your dog really lacks confidence, start inside and off leash sitting on the couch or somewhere they’re most comfortable and relaxed. My dog will make eye contact for a long period of time sometimes, but she’ll be sniffing the air and you can tell her mind is elsewhere and she’s just feigning focus on me- DON’T reward that type of behavior. Both body and mind should be on the trainer (yours should be on your dog at all times, don’t allow yourself to get distracted). You can do this in 2-3 min sessions a day and he’ll get the point that part of his job is to remain focused on you and he’ll get the necessary practice to re-focus on you when distractions arise. 

Then, after your pup understands Focus, you can work on the ‘Find Me’ game. Make sure your dog can only move 2 or so feet from your feet, so they can’t keep themselves entertained for too long. With your dog on a leash and in a slightly more distracting location, you give the command for your pup to sit at heal. Your dog should respond and promptly make eye contact with you for further guidance. If your dog does not respond and is getting its kicks out of sniffing the ground and air and looking around- do not respond and do not try to get your dog’s attention in any way (shuffling, coughing, repeating the command, etc.). You want your dog to voluntarily buy into listening to your command authority and following your lead, you don’t want to have to force them through authoritarian direction or repeating the command (teaches them to ignore the first iteration until you’re ‘serious’ or they feel like it.

The idea is that at some point, your dog will want to keep moving and exploring. The only way to get that positive input (movement and new environment) is to pay attention to its trainer. Once your dog refocuses, reward and move a bit. Then, when your dog is getting a little distracted again (but before they get overwhelmed), stop moving and give another heal-sit command. The trick is to never put a time limit on this exercise and don’t undertake it if you only have 5-10 minutes and you’re going to rush through. You have to have unending patience and attention on your dog so you don’t miss rewarding their focus and attention on you. The world is an exciting place! You can’t expect to compete with that if you miss the proper behaviors your dog offers. If your dog gets way overexcited and can’t reign it in, you change the distraction level by moving the training location, not by changing the rules of the game. Once your dog is succeeding at refocusing himself and rejecting distractions quickly and confidently, then you move on to a more distracting location and get your dog succeeding there. 

Finally, with regard to dog-reactivity (notice that there’s a ton of precursor work you need to do before you even get to working with another dog in the picture). You’re not showing leadership to your dog and setting appropriate boundaries. The exercises that I discussed above are rebuilding his confidence in you to manage the external world and keep him safe/secure in it, without those foundations, he’ll be very unlikely to handle dog interaction situations in any other way than he currently is. There are a lot of steps between your dog seeing another dog and getting all the way to greetings! You need to address his behavior in between those steps so that he learns the boundaries. That book recommendation will walk you through what ‘calming signals’ polite, well-adjusted, confident dogs give off to other dogs when they are communicating. The trick is to teach your dog to read these calming signals and respond in kind. If you get too close in proximity, your dog will start exhibiting stress signals, which means you need to back up and give your dog the space it (or the other dog) is requesting. Instead, you’re pushing your dog into a social situation in which it lacks the confidence to handle calmly (and you’re probably feeding the cycle with your body language and behaviors too, which the trainer should help you to identify). Over time and with deliberate work on reading your dog and other dogs’ behavior, and knowing how your behavior is helping or hurting the success of the interaction, your dog’s ‘bubble’ should shrink to allow him to get closer and closer while acting and reading the situation appropriately. It takes a LOT of patience and an even-keel on your part as well. Good luck, hope this helps!

Post # 6
9172 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2013

my dog, a 12 year old beagle, had leash aggression too.  in the dog park or off leash, he could care less about other dogs, just wants to sniff.  but for some reason on leash, he goes crazy.

my husband got him as a rescue when he was 5.  they did agility training but not regular obediance classes.  i have no advice.  we just hold the harness tight when other dogs pass by.

i tried training him with the gentle leader when i was newly pregnant with my 1st, about 3 years ago.  but i didn’t have the patience and my husband wasn’t interested in helping me when he walked him.

Post # 7
1330 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2005 - A Castle

ajillity81 :  Ohhh the gentle leader, lol. I was advised to try that too. It took WEEKS of positive reinforcement and training to even get it on him. I finally did and on our first walk, he tried so hard to get it off by scraping his face on the ground that he took a nice chunk out of his nose. He never let me put it on him again. 

Leave a comment

Find Amazing Vendors