Reactivity General Chat

Discussion in 'Newfoundland' started by Jackie W, Apr 9, 2024.

  1. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Reactivity

    Hello, I have a 4yr old spayed female Newfie. I have had her from being 8 weeks old, trained her on an ongoing basis, she's well socialised etc... and up until last year, no reactivity. However, there are a couple of dogs locally, who have attacked her out of fear or resource guarding. Up until recently, she's been pretty ambivalent about dogs 'telling her to give them space', but now, if another dog shows aggression, she will attack back. I always come off looking worse, as my dog is generally bigger than the other dog, who inevitably started it. She has never, ever, been the first to attack, with one exception.

    The exception was this; a rescue traumatised Border Collie who lives round the corner, (and whose owner I know has worked really hard with the dog who is fear aggressive) came past our house (leashed) about a year ago, said BC started to attack/snarl and became ridiculously aggressive at her through the railings whilst she was (safely gated) in my front garden. Owner had control and led BC away. Then, about a year later (ie not that long ago), the same dog came past again, in the dark, I didn't see it and dog and owner didn't see us, and I was bringing bags in at the end of a weekend away. Again, she was gated and in our front garden, only this time, as I came through the gate, she pushed past me, chased the BC up the street and jumped on/bit it. I was blindsided. She's since reacted to an Akita, that again, had been aggressive towards her when it was a younger dog, again, we hadn't 't seen it for around a year, and when we passed it (both on leads and again I didn't see it coming), she was ready to pull me and pounce on it. Has anyone had similar experiences?

    I just wanted to add I'm very au fait with dog aggression and have worked/been in a voluntary capacity with a rescue charity, fostering more than one dog with aggression issues (prior to having my Newfie). Studying canine behaviour is my hobby, and I've done a couple of reactivity courses, but any input from an experienced trainer or behaviourist about this, specifically, would be appreciated.
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  3. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    First, you should always rule out a medical issue. Since it's something that has started recently, it may have a physical reason. So, if you haven't, get her checked out by the vet to make sure she's healthy.

    Does she hang out in the fenced yard without you watching? It's possible she has had dogs attacking her through the fence for a while and she is just getting fed up with it. Or she's not being told to knock it off so has become used to fighting back through the fence.

    Knowing whether she is protecting her territory or fearful will help you determine how to work on it.

    If she is being territorial, then it might be best to create a second barrier between where people walk and her space. Fences are very narrow and easy to fight through, but if you put in some hedges or shrubs to deepen that "borderland". At 3-4 years is about the time you start seeing dogs become more territorial, especially if not fixed. Unfortunately, the more other dogs come by and fence fight at her, the more territorial she will be. So deepening the space between passing dogs and her space is really the ideal.

    If it's fear based, then you can look at the kikopup videos on reactivity for ideas: https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a

    At this point, she should always be on a leash or confined if you open the gate - because as you've discovered, you can't always know there's not a dog on the other side and she has shown that she will go at them if she knows they are there.

    If you don't see progress and it is fear based, do consider medication. It can help reduce the high stress so you can start to get through to her in a positive way. My shepherd has severe dog fear (she had been attacked and injured) and would try to crawl under vehicles as soon as we walked outside. Her fear was so extreme that just the thought that a dog could be out there was enough to have her trembling in fear. Three years ago, we put her on prozac. She still has dog fear, but she is more confident in everything else and that reduces her stress levels when we go out. She will respond to me now instead of being hyper focused.

    In fact, today we had an unusual test. There is a chain link and a wood fence between my neighbor's and our backyard. We pulled down a section of wood fence to replace so it is just a chain link fence. Cat-dog was out back with my other dog (the only dog she isn't afraid of) when the neighbor let her three dogs outside to pee. The five dogs immediately started barking ferociously at each other through the chain link. Four years ago, Cat-dog would have been barreling through the other fencing to get away in fear. Two years ago, she would have been trying to kill them before they could kill her. Today, she barked and raised her hackles, then walked away when I called her, then went back to bark some more, until I told her to get her butt inside. It was a much less intense reaction and she responded to my voice - when before, she never couldn't hear me through her fear.

    I would also suggest talking to your neighbors about maintaining a wider distance to your yard while you work with her on this issue. Preventing passing dogs from reacting to her will help ease her stress as well as theirs. Broach it in a "help me help her" way not in an aggressive "keep your dog away". Most dog people are happy to help.

    She's got a gorgeous face (I'm assuming that's her in your avatar).
  4. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Toedtoes likes this.
    Thanks for the reply - yes that is her in my avatar! I presume by backyard you mean the back garden?! (I'm in the UK). To be honest she's rarely outside alone, she's always with me in the house, and the incident mentioned above, happened in the front garden, which is safely enclosed by metal railings, (I do let her out there on an odd occasion when the weather is fine), but you have a point, that in this garden, it goes straight onto the pavement (sidewalk?) so people do pass with their dogs, frequently, many whom she knows, but I actually had to ask someone to move on the other day as his Shitzu was stood on it's lead just barking and growling at her though the railings and she was not happy. It was certainly not a friendly sniff through the gate, which she enjoys if the other dog is friendly. I wouldn't class her as a nervous dog, if anything, she's over confident. I'd say her biggest problem has been to listen to other dogs telling her to 'get out of their space' when running off leash. She's a little ignorant with that. The issues we've had seem to have come from a dog starting off being friendly, so I've allowed her to go near that dog, but it's then turned out it's hiding a ball, which it then guards, snaps at her, so we have these odd incidents. In the UK it's different to USA in that we can let our dogs off lead in many public areas and I"m right on a beach, which is incredibly popular with dog walkers, so it's like a dog park, but with no boundaries. She has her (many) friends down there, and we are well known. I think most people would say she's well trained and obedient. What I've taken from this is that I think I need to keep her away/leashed from any dog that we don't know.
    Re the medical issues, she sees a vet regularly for any problems, and at that point she was fit, albeit she does have a slight limp now (elbow issues), so again, another thing for me to watch out for.
  5. Chris B

    Chris B Member

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    She could well be protecting her elbow.

    Think about when we have pain and someone comes near. We very quickly tell them not to touch in any way the affected area
  6. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    Yes, backyard = back garden.

    Unfortunately, each negative experience with a dog reinforces her belief that she needs to react. So I would definitely say to let her enjoy the dogs she knows and stay away from those she doesn't.

    The elbow issue could definitely be part of the recent problems. As @Chris B says, she may be saying "stay away, I hurt". She also may just be really cranky because she's in pain and so she lashes out at a nearby dog.
  7. Lifew/dogs

    Lifew/dogs New Member

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    Jackie W likes this.
    Almost all aggression is fear based. If you avoid instances to help the dog get over the fear you are being trained by the dog to avoid the situations making him uncomfortable. I had a fear aggressive shepherd. When walking with my other dog he had a small measure of comfort with her but they were too powerful together so I stopped walking my other dog and the fears of the shepherd intensified. Was quoted by trainers over 5k and most articles aren't worthy of being called help.
    https://www.zmescience.com/feature-...hing-as-alpha-males-or-females-in-wolf-packs/
    There is no alpha, no dominance, no pack behaviors in a home situation with dogs. Fears can be switched from what you cured to something else. Removing obstacles is being dog-controlled. Like 'Mommy I'm scared of lightning' --"get used to it." The most useful tool is desensitization.
    https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/t...ith-desensitization-and-counter-conditioning/
    Good luck and find as many desensitization articles you can.
  8. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Thank you all so much for your replies.
    I agree, however she's not been showing any signs of pain on every occasion. However, you are highlighting something that I must pay attention to on a daily basis. I know how stoic dogs can be with hiding pain.
  9. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Thanks for the input and the links - I shall look at them with interest. I agree that densitization is key, and I'd be happy to work with my neighbour's dog, however since I wrote my first post, we have had another incident, ie we didn't see one another on the local beach, and she just ran up to him and started on him again. I think I shall have to keep her on the lead at all times now-it's embarrassing and sad, even though his dog was the cause in the first place. He looked really angry at me a few days ago after this; he shouted that he hadn't seen me. (I hadn't seen him either and ironically I'd actually checked the beach before he appeared from nowhere. His dog was leashed, so technically I guess I was in the wrong). In a nutshell, I don't think he'll work with me as my dog is younger, bigger and his dog is 11 yrs old.
  10. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    Jackie W and CaroleC like this.
    When it becomes an issue between neighbors, the best thing is to be honest, non-threatening, non-accusatory, and in it for the dogs.

    You said your neighbor has worked very hard with his dog's reactivity. That shows that he cares. His dog was on a leash at the beach. That shows he was taking precautions to keep his dog safe. He's doing the right things.

    So why not invite him for coffee and ask him what he has been doing with his dog to reduce the reactivity? Make the issue a shared issue - his dog is reactive and your dog is reactive.

    This will do three things:

    1. You become a team rather than adversaries. The well being of both your dogs becomes the goal not "trying to deal with a problem neighbor" or blaming one another;

    2. You create sympathy and understanding towards your dog's issues. The neighbor no longer sees your dog as a very large threat to his small dog, but as a dog who is scared and fearful and who needs positive help;

    3. You may learn some techniques to try with your dog. In addition, your neighbor might be willing to work with you and your dog. And that may simply mean not walking past your yard with his dog OR doing a "pack walk" where you walk together with your dogs at a distance and slowly decrease the space between you (desensitizing).

    In the meantime, keep your dog on a leash - period. You know you cannot trust her if another dog appears, so don't put her in a position of failure. Keep her on a leash so you can keep her at a safe distance from other dogs. I know we all have these visions of our dogs running loose on the beach, trail, forest, etc, but in reality, there are a lot of dangers in letting your dog run loose like that, and not just danger due to other dogs. Do what is right for your dog not what you expect out of your dog.

    If you want o give her a bit more freedom when alone, get a longer lead. The standard is about 6ft. Get a 30ft lead for those times. Knot the lead at 2 ft, 6 ft and 10ft with a loop at each point. This gives you about 15-20 ft of lead with handy grips if you need to pull your dog back to you.

    Desensitization may work. But it doesn't work in all cases. And it takes time and knowledge. You have to start well beyond your dog's trigger point. So if your dog is fine until another dog is within 20ft of her, then you have to start beyond that 20ft line and slowly decrease the space.

    In some cases, like with my Cat-dog, there is no trigger point. As soon as she steps outside, the fear of a dog attacking her becomes a reality - she KNOWS she will be attacked, she just doesn't know when or where. So every moment outside is pure horror. For her, medication has helped to lower her anxiety to some extent. She can go out in the backyard and relax. She can run from the house to the car without shaking. But walking through a parking lot, or around buildings, or among people, her anxiety is in full force force. All those things mean there IS a dog somewhere and that causes her anxiety. And if I take her someplace secluded and unpopulated and a dog does show up, she will remember that and fear it in the future. So I always have to be on alert and move her away before she sees a dog. And that means she is always on a leash so I can protect her.
  11. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    Toedtoes and CaroleC like this.
    Thanks for your input - it's much appreciated and I feel so sorry for Cat-Dog - she must be exhausted being so scared and on full alert all the time. I love German Shepherds and was tempted to have one but I know I'm not the right type of owner for a GS, hence the Newfie!

    I have spoken with a behaviourist and am keeping her on a lead or long line and your suggestion of putting knots in it is an excellent one, as with her being so big, (well she's small for a Newfie but 46kg), if she gets any length of lead she has even more strength (as anyone with a large dog knows ) so if its in shorter sections, that would enable me to get a grip more quickly without it slipping out of my hands.

    I'm extremely interested in reactivity and am possibly going to study it or do a behaviourist qualification at some point if I get the time. I worked (voluntarily) in welfare for a large UK breed charity for a few years and I had quite a few reactive little fosters over the time I was in the role. I did a couple of courses back then, but you forget over the years and also, I always think that you never really stop learning, as each dog and its reactions/personality are different. I agree nearly all aggression is fear based (if it's territorial, I'm not sure how I would differentiate from fear; she kind of reacts the same way when out in the front garden and she sees a cat, that she does if she can smell the aggressive Collie - ie running up and down, whining, barking incessantly but not for a prolonged period. I don't think she has any fear of cats though? I've studies the different types of bark, and need to go back to re-learn those as I can't remember which one she is exhibiting.
  12. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    Dogdecoder.com is a great little app that can help you with body language. The creator also has some great blogs about positive training methods.

    I think working with a behaviorist and getting some of that education under your belt is a great idea. Not only can you always learn something, but our understanding of dogs has grown over the years and things we did in the past are now known to be the wrong way of doing things.

    For example, in the past, the answer was to obedience train the reaction out of your dog, forcing her to ignore the trigger and shut down emotionally. We now know that this can easily result in a dog who goes straight to attack with no warning signals. We WANT our dogs to give warning and tell us "I'm scared/nervous/upset/stressed/etc. By getting that warning, we can change the situation and prevent an attack.

    Her response to the cat may likely be more prey drive than fear. There could be some territorial response in there too. Tornado-dog will chase the stray cats out of the yard, but is fine when our cat comes outside.

    We need to remember that our dogs have a full range of emotions and that there may be multiple things going on at any given time. And they may react to the same thing differently depending on the circumstances or participants.

    Cat-dog has had a rough time. She was the lucky recipient of negative training techniques that made her afraid of making a mistake and being punished for it. Add in her extreme fear of dogs and she was a shadow. It's been four years of hard work, medication, and my realizing that she will never overcome the fear so I need to minimize her exposure to the triggers, for her to be a dog again. She plays with her brother, she demands attention, she gets in the way, etc. Her dog fear has had a huge impact on us all, but we have found ways to work around it.
  13. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    I'll also add that if you watch er reactions, you might find out of the box solutions.

    I took in a rescue corgi mix. The dog had been abused by her owners, then moved to three homes in quick succession before ending up with me. In each of those homes, she was "sent on to the next" because she had "aggressive behaviors".

    When she was brought to me, she was in the back of a pickup with a canopy. She had a collar and leash on and I was told to " be careful" when I took hold of the leash. Well as soon as I did, she attacked from the back of the truck bed. I finally got her inside.

    I noticed that every time I tried to put the leash on her, she attacked. But, she was attacking the leash not me. So, I started holding the leash out and LETTING her attack it as long as she wanted. I would drop the leash in front of her and she would sniff it. Then I could pick up the leash and attach it to her collar.

    Then I noticed that she would attack whenever the leash became taut. As I observed, I noticed that it was the collar pressure to her neck that she was reacting to. So, I started using a halti so any pressure was felt on her muzzle not her neck.

    Those two things turned her around completely. I could easily take her for walks and lead her around and she never got reactive. Over time, I was able to go back to using a collar.

    None of what I did with her was "in the books". It was simply putting myself in her paws. She saw the leash as a threat. I suspect she had been dragged around by the leash and collar at minimum. By letting her "kill" the leash, I gave her control. When it came at her, she attacked and killed it and it fell into a heap at her feet. She could then check and make sure it was dead. Then I eliminated the physical pressure of the leash/collar so she no longer made that connection to being dragged about.

    So, watch carefully what your newfie does. Does she start off towards the dog wanting to play? If so at what point does her attitude change? Does something specific happen right before that change?

    It's very possible that she starts out running towards the dog wanting to play and it's only when the other dog shows anxiety/negativity at her approach that she becomes aggressive. In that case, you might need to teach her to read dog body language. With her on a leash, slowly move towards another dog. If the dog shows unease, simply say "oh, he doesn't want to play" and move away, then have a quick play session. If the dog is fine, then carefully let them approach one another to interact.

    To do that, I suggest working with dogs and owners you both know and using a muzzle on your dog to prevent injury.
  14. CaroleC

    CaroleC Member

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    Malka and Toedtoes like this.
    My reactive dog story.

    My first Beagle was puppy farm bred. He had a scar on his tum which suggests that he had a hernia operation before being shipped from Ireland to a 'Dog Supermarket' in the North of England. He was sold at 12 weeks old to a genuine loving home, but just 1 week later there was a human health crisis. One of his owners was admitted to long stay hospital, the other partner was sitting at the bedside. Puppy moved into the garage with care given by a neighbour and the next weekend he was taken to a rescue kennel, which is where I found him, sitting alone in a huge isolation kennel as he was only partly vaccinated. He was shut down, only interest was his bag of food.
    He hated eye contact - dog or human. He hated the dog next door, (it was mutual but I controlled him - she was allowed to get away with it). Though he would sit calmly in his own safe space while other dogs passed, he couldn't take any 'dog in your face contact'. He was calmer in a Halti/collar combination and a double clip training lead.
    Now Beagle folk are sociable types who all share the same problems, so Beagle meets have sprung up all over the country. A group hires a securely fenced field and we turn our Beagles free to run and socialise. (We share the cost and a portion goes to Beagle Welfare). Imagine my surprise when at his first meet, my reactive boy led the charge into the field with about 8 youngsters in tow. He loved socialising, and never had a reactive incident whilst with his own kind!
    I'm not sure what this proves. Probably that negative things happened during vulnerable periods in his development, and nobody was speaking in a language that he understood. Whatever, he always had a fearful streak, we just had to learn to manage it. He loved to please us, so a combination of trick and formal training was his way forward. He turned out to be quite a clever boy with several letters after his name.

    DE EdGwyn.jpg
    Telling his beloved trainer how clever he has been :038:
    Miss you Ed. xx
  15. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    Jackie W and CaroleC like this.
    Kennels can be very difficult for some dogs. Shepherds don't do well in kennels at all - they shut down completely. I suspect with them, it has to do with shepherds being "a one person dog" - they devote themselves to that one person. This makes them great as K-9 officers since they bond so deeply with their partners. But if left in a kennel, they can't build that bond with one person and they sort of wither away. Labs and goldens on the other hand do well in kennels because they love everybody. "Mom's not here, that's OK, there's 5 workers to play with".
  16. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    Lovely photo - the meets sound fantastic. He was a lucky puppy to have landed on his paws with you I'm sure! Every story is interesting; every dog has its own tale to tell and his or her unique feelings and reactions.
  17. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    "So, watch carefully what your newfie does. Does she start off towards the dog wanting to play? If so at what point does her attitude change? Does something specific happen right before that change?"

    I'll tell you exactly what she does; she gets one sniff of his scent, and she immediately starts getting agitated. The last time he appeared from nowhere, she was off lead and belted over to him and attacked. I now have her on a training lead with knots in and have ordered a muzzle. I've had 4 years of being able to let her run free, not bothering any dog and being sociable with any dog who showed interest in her. Now she's having to be muzzled, because of ONE dog. It's peed my off and spoilt my walks. She had loads of friends she loved playing with on the beach. Now I can't take the risk in case he appears. Our beach is heavily populated with dogs. I'm so sad about it all.
  18. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    If it is just this one dog, then maybe that conversation needs to happen. No accusations, no anger - just a conversation between two dog owners with reactive dogs. Maybe you can find out when he goes to the beach and schedule your walks for a different time to reduce contact. Or maybe there is another answer that the two of you can work out.

    My Bat-dog had people fear and when someone appeared out of nowhere and surprised her, she would charge them. One friend, Aunt C, was notorious for appearing and disappearing without any warning, especially when we went camping. Poor Bat-dog was always agitated and never really liked Aunt C. And Aunt C was frustrated because Bat-dog barked at her constantly.

    So, we trained Aunt C. We taught her to always call out hello to Bat-dog before she came onto our campsite. And she always told the dogs "I'll be right back" or "goodbye" before she walked away (Moose-dog obsessively worried about her when she'd disappear, so this helped him too). It took a couple years of training, but Aunt C finally got the hang of it. Amazingly, Bat-dog started to change her opinion of Aunt C. She stopped getting so worked up over her. She even let Aunt C scratch her tummy.

    So, again, thinking outside of the box might find a solution.

    Also, at 4 years, your dog has reached that point where her personality becomes set. So while the issue was triggered by one dog, it wasn't necessarily because of THAT dog being a problem, but because of your dog's development of territorialness right at that point in time. So, try to let go of the anger and frustration - it won't make things change. Just say "my dog doesn't like that dog so I need to work out a solution that we can all live with".
  19. Jackie W

    Jackie W New Member

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    I hear you. I've actually managed to have a conversation with the owner when we bumped into each other (without the dogs and after the first incident) - I may have mentioned that earlier - and he was reasonable about the whole thing. He definitely walks at different times to me and it's generally the odd occasion I sway from my routine that I have seen him. He didn't look so understanding his second time, and I do agree it's nothing personal between us - it's simply managing the situation and I feel my knowledge of canine behaviour is good enough to deal with this without it becoming personal. Interesting that at 4yrs their personality is set. Is that in all breeds? Im aware some breeds stay 'younger' longer than others.
  20. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    It's a pretty general standard. They are fully grown physically and mentally by that point. They are no longer facing fluctuating hormones. And their lives have settled into a basic routine.

    If the dog hasn't shown a specific personality trait by the time they are 4 years old, they are unlikely to suddenly develop that trait without a major causal event (like my Cat-dog and her being attacked by a dog(s) at 6 years old). Likewise, if they have been showing a specific trait all through their first 4 years, they are very unlikely to stop showing that trait. And any hormonal effects on their personality will have already occurred by then (but they may not have shown up by 2 years old) - being territorial is a big example of this. After the big blast of hormones between 6-9 months and 2 years, the hormones level out (or are eliminated with neutering). As that happens, the dog settles in to their adult personality. By 4 years, that settling in has become established.
  21. CaroleC

    CaroleC Member

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    Toedtoes likes this.
    I think that I made a big mistake in having Eddie neutered at 18 months. At the time I thought that it would help him, but now think that he could have been more confident if I had let him hang on to his hormones.

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