I’m just back from the first phase of book tour, and so much of what came up on the dog-lover side related to “reactive” dogs. As I talk about in The Education of Will, dogs can be psychologically traumatized too, and one of the symptoms of that is “hyper-reactivity.” Just as a veteran soldier with PTSD can react to a loud noise by throwing herself to the ground, dogs with their alarm systems fixed on HIGH are usually quick to startle to an abrupt noise, or panic when an unfamiliar dogs appear.
However, dogs can be “reactive” when out walking for a variety of reasons, including a conditioned response to feeling frustrated at not being able to greet another dog if on leash, or simple fear of a dog they’ve never met. “Traditional” responses have been to correct dogs for lunging, snarling or barking at dogs they see on the streets, but those methods can disguise the symptoms but make the internal response even more extreme. As importantly, they don’t help the dog learn a new response. I wrote extensively about this issue in 2010, and it seems like a good time to revisit those posts now. Here’s a summary of the two articles I wrote on dogs who are “reactive” (meaning aggressive barking, growling, etc), as was Willie, when they see unfamiliar dogs. (From September 14 2010 and September 17 2010.) First, in general:
1. I’m not a fan of insisting on any one method for all dogs, except to say what to avoid: Punishment is never a good idea. Dogs are “reactive” for a variety of reasons, including being afraid of other dogs, wanting to greet other dogs and being overwhelmed with excitement or frustration about it. In addition, some dogs seem to be helped by being first taught an appropriate behavior on cue, others do better if allowed to initiate it on their own.
2. The methods that seem to work best for most people involve teaching a dog to turn and look away from another dog, BEFORE the dog begins the problematic behavior.
3. If the dog is afraid of other dogs, letting him look away and then move away from the other dog is the best reinforcement for most dogs. You can start this by teaching an Autowatch, or by waiting for him to look away himself, and reinforce it with food, play and/or an increase in distance between the dogs. I like to ‘mark’ the desired behavior with a clicker or just by saying “click,” then reinforce with a primary reinforcer –‘marking’ is a more precise way of letting the dog know what behavior resulted in the reinforcement. However, years ago I didn’t use a marker and had a lot of success, so there’s a lot of variability in how you do this. I very much like the addition of having the subject dog move away from the other one after it has looked away and broken eye contact. If the dog truly is afraid of another, surely that is tremendously reinforcing. Interestingly, I found that as the years went on I began moving backward three or four steps when a dog did an Autowatch . . . but didn’t consciously add it to the program until recently.
4. If the dog wants to get to other dogs to interact, (and is barking because she is frustrated) then increasing the distance between her and another dog is a punishment, not a reinforcement. For these dogs, you can teach some form of polite behavior, like stopping and looking back at the owner, again long before she has reached threshold, and give her food, play or access to the other dog as a reinforcement. Needless to say, interactions should be done carefully and only with dogs who are totally trustable.
5. UNDER THRESHOLD is a key here. I’ve long believed it and your comments support that most people have been more successful if they set up a dog so that it can see another dog, but is far enough away that the subject dog hasn’t yet begun barking and lunging and carrying on.
6. [That is why] SET UPS are tremendously helpful. Treating reactivity goes much faster if you can arrange for someone with a non-reactive dog to help you out. But if you can’t, you can take advantage of situations in which you know that you can control the distance between the dogs: Perhaps there is a dog behind a fence who is not too reactive that you can use as a stimulus? Try driving to the parking lot of a dog training center, where you know the dogs will be on leash and will be moving from Point A to Point B. How about your local vet clinic? Pet Store? Just be sure to pick places where you know the other dogs will be on leash and you can be the one to control the distance between your dogs.
7. EMERGENCY U TURN: Life tends to happen to us when we didn’t expect it, so everyone needs a conditioned response to a dog showing up too close or by surprise. You can use the Emergency U Turn before your dog responds to prevent trouble (and give your dog lots of reinforcement once you’ve turned and moved away) or you can use it to get out of a bad situation in which your dog is already reacting (just turn and move away, no reinforcement this time, but stop when you think your dog can listen and ask for an appropriate behavior.) The key is to have practiced a fast pivot and cheerful retreat, so that both you and your dog are conditioned to do it fast in an up-beat, happy way instead of being in a panic.
8. REINFORCEMENT? Remember it is defined by the receiver, so knowing what works best for your dog is crucial. If you’re going to mark an appropriate behavior and reinforce it, you need to be sure you know what works best for your dog.
Here’s a video illustrating Willie being given food rewards and then tug games as reinforcements for Watch, AutoWatch and Where’s the Dog? He’s looking at an adolescent Dogo Argentino, who he has played with once as a puppy and parallel walked with outside the office. (He’s still nervous about her when they are in the office.)
Normally, if he is truly nervous about another dog he’ll take food but he snatches it with his ears pinned, while he’ll relax much more if he gets reinforced by playing tug. In this particular video he is very interested in greeting Lily, and the difference in his response to food versus play is VERY subtle here . . . can you see it? You’ll see a combination of on cue “Watch” and “Where’s the Dog”, and Autowatches in which Willie looks at me by himself… I wasn’t paying much attention to who initiated what, (note how I totally ignore an Autowatch, whoops!). I was attending to getting a good recording of his different responses to food versus play. That turned out to be more subtle than usual in this case, but discernible. (Note that when I say “Stop” I’m talking to the videographer, not to Willie!)
The last half of the video shows you the result of our work. In between taped segments, we let them sniff at the fence (camera was off, darn), and then released them into the play pen together. (Lily the Dogo was taken to the middle of the pen so that they wouldn’t meet at the gate, always a tension-filled place for dogs to greet.)
Here is a list of specific treatment methods from my post on Sept 14th, 2010 that is useful when changing your dog’s response from “OH NO!” to “OH BOY!”:
1. Classical Counter Conditioning: Easiest by far for a novice owner, because it requires linking the appearance of another dog with food. Dog looks at other dog, food falls from the sky (or falls on the ground, or a toy is presented. I use this sometimes to get dogs started, especially if they are super reactive. The problem with it can be that you need to be sure the dog is linking feeling good with the another dog, not a dog paired with a person, or a person with a yellow jacket, etc.
2. Operant Conditioning, Positive Reinforcement, On Cue: In this category, a dog is taught that the stimulus of another dog approaching is a g0od thing, and it becomes a stimulus that causes the dog to feel relaxed rather than tense, and usually (at first) to turn away and look at its owner for a food treat or play session. This includes “AutoWatches” and “Where’s the Dog” as described in Feisty Fido or “Look at That” in Leslie McDermitt’s Control Unleashed. [I’d update that to include Pat Miller’s excellent book, Beware of the Dog.] “Autowatches” (turn away from the dog and look at your owner) and “Where’s the Dog/Look at That” seem to be polar opposites, but in my experience, they lead to the same response, which is that the dog becomes comfortable with the approach of another dog, and instead of barking and lunging, tends to turn away from it and look toward its owner for reinforcement. This inherently avoids the direct face-to-face confrontation that is forced by 2 dogs approaching on a leash, and has the advantage of making nervous dogs classically conditioned, such that they associate other dogs with feelings of comfort. It also teaches rude dogs (who either are frustrated that they can’t get to another dog or would love to start a stare fight) to engage in an incompatible behavior and get reinforced for it.
3. Operant Conditioning, Positive Reinforcement, No Cue, Dog Initiates Behavior: In this category, which includes what is called CAT and BAT, rather than the owner teaching the dog an incompatible behavior, the dog is exposed to the trigger stimulus and then is reinforced as soon as it performs a behavior voluntarily that is more acceptable. For example, if a dog is barking and lunging, it might be brought to a distance just close enough to elicit a reaction (I would advocate just looking at the other dog, NOT barking and lunging already). The owner/handler stops, and waits for the dog to offer a different behavior, like looking down, or turning its head to the side. As soon as that behavior is offered, either the other dog is taken away (CAT) or the subject dog is taken away (BAT).
Both methods are derivations of John Fisher’s early work, and their greatest strength is that sometimes it is preferable to let the dog choose the behavior, and also to be less focused on the handler or the food/toy and more focused on the other dog. When CAT first started a few years ago, it appeared that the dog was often allowed to go past threshold into a full blown response. The owner/trainer would wait it out, with no one moving (thus no reinforcement from the other dog leaving) until the problem behavior extinguished. From what I have seen, it being a work in progress, its advocates have begun working harder to keep the dog at lower levels of arousal. I think that’s a plus, I never like to see a dog allowed to ‘practice’ a problematic behavior, and it’s tough to wait out some dogs, given that barking can be extremely self reinforcing.
4. Operant Conditioning, Punishment: The only example of Punishment that I ever use in these cases is Trish King’s “Abandonment Training.” In this scenario, a dog is both on a leash and a long line, with the owner holding the leash as usual and a trainer holding the long line as a safety net. As they approach another dog, if the subject dog barks and lunges, the owner throws the leash onto the dog’s back (tactile cue) and runs like heck the other way. Basically, the dog is ‘deserted’ by the owner, and if it is bothered by that, it stops the behavior very, very quickly. I’ve seen it work beautifully on some dogs, but as Trish advises, this is only for clingy dogs who care deeply about being with their owner. [Negative Punishment if you see the withdrawal of the owner as a way to decrease barking/lunging; Positive Punishment if you categorize “leash on back & owner running away” as the addition of something. That’s why I’m not a fan of the “positive” and “negative” quandrants. . . you?]
I’m a big advocate of having lots of tools in your tool box (thank you Terry Ryan for that phrase!), and personally I believe that being able to use all the methods described above, or some variation on them, is important for anyone who wants to do consults. For private owners, one needs to think about which method fits best with them and their dog. BAT and CAT require, I believe, a sophisticated ability to read a dog. AutoWatches and Where’s the Dog require an owner who likes to train, and can learn the timing required. All methods require setting up wins, in which the dog can be gradually exposed to an increasing level of intensity (dog far away, dog closer; dog standing still, dog moving forward, etc.) and an ability to respond at the right time.
Whew. That’s a lot. If you’re still with me, check out the original posts on September 14th, 2010 and September 17th, 2010 and read the comments–lots of wisdom and experience there.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: I really am back on the farm! More wonderful to be home than I can say. However, predictably, after being trapped in metal tubes surrounded by coughing, hacking people, I finally succumbed to the cold virus that seems to be all over the country. No fun to finally be home and not be able to walk the dogs, work sheep, garden, etc. But, still, lots to be thankful for.
Here are some fun photos from the book tour, which come with my undying gratitude for how supportive people have been of both the book, some fantastic humane societies and great bookstores:
This post has wonderful timing and is a fantastic resource for humanely and effectively tackling reactivity. Thank you.
We had a terrible pilot dog training and behaviour programme piloted on Channel 4 on the UK this weekend called ‘Dogs Behaving Badly’. The ‘Dogfather’ uses punitive methodology albeit seductively. Plenty of ‘telling dogs off’ for growling: collar jerks for reactive dogs (even brachy dogs) and flooding for anxious dogs to ‘stop them barking.’ No attempts to understand the underlying cause of the behaviour just quick fixes to suppress the unwanted behaviour. It’s like Channel 4 have sourced a Home Counties version of the Dog Whisperer. Hideous to watch and I thought we were actually making steps with a fantastic series on this channel called ‘Dogs: Their Secret Lives’. However, this probably wasn’t dramatic enough as de sensitising and counter conditioning doesn’t make for entertaining car crash TV does it? Humane, scientific and extremely compassionate though. Also hosted by professionals and educated canine scientists. Sigh. I’m absolutely gutted….
Anyway, what was good was the out pouring of concern and flat out rejection of this pilot by a lot of the general public for this to be commissioned as a show so it does seem that our message is getting through to people. Really encouraging for people to express concern and say things like ‘this goes against everything I was taught at puppy class.’
However, due to recent worldwide events I am starting to think that even people’s concerns like this won’t matter in the decision to commission a programme like this. It seems some people just believe what they want to believe despite evidence to the contrary.
Lovely pics Trisha and get well soon.
I have an incredibly food-motivated dog-reactive dog (out of fear, but he’s also very much a boss dog who’s able to make very few friends) and we’d seen a lot of success with “Click to Calm” for agility and therapy dog contexts, and some success on sidewalks, where he is the worst, and our lack of success was 100% my fault for not practicing it enough on the street (also severe Raynaud’s makes it difficult for many months of the year), but we were getting by ok, until a particularly tumultuous year and a half where his routine was flipped upside down. He worsened on the sidewalks substantially, and a bit at agility, though it’s easier to control (and gave up therapy visits until I feel he’s back to his best baseline). But he worsened to the point of redirecting on me and my other dog (and walking them together, especially without muzzles, quickly stopped). He’s not much of a toy-motivated dog. I can sometimes get him to tug when we first arrive at agility, but rarely afterwards, though I can usually get him to play at home inside. If I ever get the courage to walk him without a muzzle again, do you think he would benefit more from having a toy on walks instead of food – something to put his mouth on? I guess I’m afraid to try without input since he’s clearly not in a playing space when it happens, though prior to this year, if he did redirect, it was often onto his leash (and on to the buckle attached to his head collar, which obviously elicited panic in me that he would let himself go).
Kelly M. Keeney says
Patricia I am so grateful for your writing always but this particular topic is near and dear to me. my dog Tara adopted at five and a half from her original family.
I have never seen a dog who came from “family home” with such high stress levels. It has been just under three years her Sound Sensitivity has reduced, her dog reactivity is barely noticeable and her overall stress level and physical health is so much better. I’m so lucky to have experienced living working and loving her.. we truly can make a difference.
What an excellent summary!
One thing I’d like to suggest is that it’s important to be careful with abandonment training because – in my layman’s opinion and experience – it can initiate or exacerbate separation anxiety. I still support its appropriate use, but my own insecure dog had a big setback as a result of a scary abandonment. I’d abandoned him on the front porch for erupting, and later than morning he refused to leave my side at his daycare. It took weeks for him to get over it.
Thanks Andy, I’m glad you added your experience with “abandonment training.” It’s certainly a bit tricky–given that it only works if the dog is extremely attached to his or her human. Which means that you can get the result you encountered. I’ve only used it a very few times, and still ended up doing CC and OC too.
Rebecca Owens says
I have a dichotomous problem. One dog is reactive in the I’m afraid let’s move away, while another (on the same walk) is WAIT! I want to greet the other dog!! The reaction of the fear dog is greater than the greeter, so if I’m walking all three (other dog non-reactive to the extreme, thank God) I usually err to the fear reactive dog. She’s already conditioned to look at me when she sees another dog and we do fairly well with sit and watch if we can move away far enough. Sometimes we begin a retreat to put distance long before the dog gets close, then the sit and watch. My boy starts whining and straining to MEET the other dog (he is really great with other dogs; I’m just not confident of the OTHER dog sometimes). We have found several neighborhood dogs that have become his buds, so my husband takes the other two and I set off with the boy to look for his friends on occasion.
Christy Paxton says
Nice to have this consolidated into one piece, thanks! Saved to iBooks.
What do you do when you’ve tried all of the above & still no results? In 30 years of training dogs, I’ve never had one like this. She barks, spins & lunges at everything she sees, hears or smells. Yes, even smell will set her off. There is no distance that’s far enough away to not send her over-threshold, if she can see it, she’ll bark at it even if it’s clear across the park. She’s been like this since she came home with me at 13 weeks of age. She doesn’t act like this at training class. I’ve also taken her to stores & she’s fine there. I’ve walked her with calm, non-reactive dogs. I’ve used treats, toys, praise, the u-turns, attention exercises, tried different collars & harnesses, everything that I think of & she hasn’t gotten any better. I don’t see not walking her as an option. At home, the barking literally starts as soon as her eyes pop open in the morning. She barks & spins at almost everything. If we move, if the dogs move, if they stop moving, the cats, dinnertime, if we talk, in the crate, etc. Barking & spinning it’s what she does & it’s driving me crazy. Yes, she gets plenty of exercise & gets training but it doesn’t help. She’s now 14 months old. I don’t know what to do. The trainers I’ve asked for help have no idea, some have just said that she’s just noisy & accept it.
What do you do if your rescue dog is so stressed and reactive that they wont take food ……almost as though they are in a red mist
Holly Tjaden says
My challenge the last three years has been a mini aussie reactive from 8 weeks. She’s highly reactive, mostly because her threshold isn’t really a place so much as a random suggestion.
Keeping her below threshold is a joke. It bounces around completely randomly. Sometimes it’ll be a dog at 10′, and then 5 minutes later a leaf on a tree will blow around in the “wrong” way and she’s over threshold. The dog next door can be no big deal for 3-4 hours, and then a dog 100 more yards away, through woodlands, can trigger her. It’s a lot like dealing with a human with random panic attacks, actually. I’ve looked for common threads, and all I can find is very unbalanced brain chemistry.
I’ve managed this by teaching her how to “tell” us something is upsetting her and giving her “calming exercises” she can do herself. I reinforced long downs heavily (up to 2 hours) with treats, T-touch, and EFT. She’s gotten to the point where she lays down and “requests” EFT by offering her pressure points when she’s stressed.
I don’t like punishment. However, she does require corrections to remind her to exhibit the appropriate behavior, and to help her get out of that horrible mindset. When reactive, she will redirect to her handler, and poses a risk. I’ve been using an ecollar as a cue tool. I keep it mostly on vibrate, only occasionally going to settings I’ve tried on myself and did not find painful, only attention-getting. I associated the buzzing not with a punishment, but with long, calming downs. Having something vibrate on her neck, paired with MANY hours/years of her BAT-heavy reactivity program helps her realize she needs to step away and calm.
If a dog barks 15 houses down and it bothers her, she has three options I’ve taught her if she can’t ignore it. She can redirect her energy to a toy to task focus, lay down for calming exercises, or run inside to take a break. If she doesn’t initiate one of those, she gets a verbal and then a buzz reminder. Reward happens if she puts herself into one of her recovery positions to give her incentive to pick whatever she feels she needs at the moment. If she is so overwhelmed that she can’t do this herself (now, after I’ve taught her the options) I quietly walk her inside and she gets 10 quiet minutes in her crate before coming back out to work on calming.
She’s an extremely intense dog with a very likely chemical issue in her brain and needed to almost be forced to accept different ways of coping with stimuli. I tried so many methods I’ve lost track, but she typically found a way “around” them, usually based on that bouncing threshold she has. Anything that was going to work with that dog needed to, at concept, accept that she would go over threshold on a regular basis and there was absolutely nothing we could really do about it.
However, it has worked. As long as it’s ensured the environment isn’t too crowded and has escape routes if necessary, she’s been able to go to parks and restaurants almost like a normal dog. (Sorry, I get teary-eyed and a little gushy about this. Seeing the special needs baby get to be something like normal always makes me cry after this much work.) Going over threshold WILL happen for her, and I’ve accepted it. But I’ve also had her calmly laying under a table at a restaurant, hit threshold, and after a small correction immediately turn to beg me for EFT and calming/focus exercises. I’ve heavily reinforced calming massage, touches, and other small focus exercises, so she can immediately jump to them when she’s at threshold and it’s worked.
I’ll make sure I’m clear, because I also know how this sounds. The corrections she receives aren’t punishments, rather reminders. I go for something sharp and attention-getting, but nothing that will cause her further fear, anxiety, or distrust. As a result, I heaped a lot of positive in with teaching these corrections, and they’ve become a wonderful communication tool between us because she can do something about her episodes rather than just bark and lunge.
Jann Becker says
It looks to me like since the new book came out, in the pictures you look freer, happier and more open toward the human. You share some very personal experiences in the book and getting them out in public looks like a weight off your shoulders!
I’ve raised golden retrievers for the past 25 years. Now in my 60’s I acquired a female . She is now 9 years old, and I’ve had her for 7 years. She’s definitely not a purebred because she has no desire to play fetch. My huge problem is walking her and she spotting another dog. No toy or treat in the world will get her eyes off an approaching dog. Lunging, barking, growling and got forbid I take her to a dog park !! We have grown fat together because I’ve tried a pinch collar, gentle leader, etc. of which my pantry is full of. Can these bad habits be helped?
This post is just what I needed this week! My 5 year old Lab Lucy is really a good girl, I take her off leash to the park every day and 95% of the time she plays with her friends, follows me around or chews on a stick. However, occasionally (and seemingly randomly), she will charge other dogs on leash and bark at them in a really aggressive way. The owners hate it and I also hate it because I feel bad, get embarrassed, have to yell at her and also worry that if she does that to an aggressive dog she could get hurt really badly. She is a little reactive to other on leash dogs when I walk her on the leash and I try to work on that all the time, with treats and look, leave it, heal, etc. But when she’s off leash and spots a “target” I absolutely cannot get her attention back on me. She’s in another world. Do you have any advice?
Rebecca Rice says
@frustrated: Your dog sounds like she has OCD (the spinning can be a sign of it in dogs), and, if that’s the case, you really need to be working with a behaviorist to get the best results. And if she’s been like this since a pup, I’d start considering the possibility that she has a chemical imbalance in her brain, and may need medicinal support for that.
Which is a lovely segue to my next comment: @Trisha: have you ever thought of doing a blog on when people should look into pharmaceutical help for their dogs? I have my spook of a girl on an SSRI, and it has made a world of difference for her. I was very resistant at first, but now my regret is that I waited so long to try it. On the other hand, there are many cases out there that can be treated without them, so I don’t think that it should be the first thing people try (except possibly in really extreme cases). It would be lovely to get your thoughts on their use.
We have a reactive rescue dog. Have been on a course and she has improved slightly. Street walking more often and set ups with a friend near our home is the next stage. She has calmed down a lot since giving her Serene UM tablets for those of you say stressed /anxious /barking etc. Worth a try ! – on our second lot of 120 results looking good.
Kris Adrian says
It would be good to see responses to the commentors here and on FB who haven’t found this method helps them. What do they do then? Scaring people away from ever correcting their dog can result in defeated owners and dogs condemned to a very limited existence locked away in their back yards, or worse. My dog’s confidence has only grown with appropriate corrections, combined with food rewards at appropriate times, to help her understand what is and isn’t the desired behaviour.
I would encourage people to research this for themselves and look for video case studies showing success with the type of dog they have before they commit to any method.
Definitely off-topic, but my puppy and I went into a Seattle bookstore to pick up a copy of the new book and he got asked to pose with it for their instagram! I had a bunch of texts by the end of the day–“hey, did you know Reckless is famous on the internet now?!” https://instagram.com/p/BRreSDJFBkJ/
Tegan: I love the photo! Say hi to Reckless for me.
To Kris: I’m not sure which one method you are talking about, since I describe a great many of them. But I’m guessing from what you wrote that you are talking about using corrections as a way to change behavior. For the record, I am not one who advocates that all dogs can be trained using 100% positive reinforcement. But I am one who argues that corrections should be last on the list, and only as intense as required. After all, a quiet “uh uh” is a “correction,” but to me a perfectly acceptable way to communicate with one of my BCs that they need to stop what they are doing. But note: What I wouldn’t do is say “uh uh,” and then escalate to something else, and another something else, if it didn’t work. I’d spend my time teaching what I do want. I just see so many people using punishment in ways that do little but harm…
To @frustrated: I agree completely with Rebecca that this dog sounds as though she has some kind of significant physiological issue going on. CD is certainly one good possibility. I’d contact a veterinary behavoirist (AVSAB) asap and have a consult with them. Or talk to an alternative medicine vet, because something is going on with this dog that is way way beyond the usual. Keep us posted, and good luck.
Advice to Tori: Sorry so have to say, but if you can’t get her to shift her focus once she targets another dog, I’d skip letting her off leash until you can. I hope you can bring in a progressive trainer to help you out: Even if you are a trainer yourself, I’m a big fan of having a coach when things are tricky.
To Rebecca, re pharmaceuticals. Ah well, I’m afraid that doom would fall on my head if I addressed that issue. PhD Certified Applied Beh’ists like me have been told in no uncertain terms that we are not to discuss medications because we are not veterinarians. Most vets I know are fine with non-vets having conversations about pharmaceuticals–ironically I used to get called all the time by vets asking me what to prescribe. They felt that as long as any non-vet is respectful of the fact that only vets can prescribe, it’s fine. However, some relatively powerful players in the vet world don’t agree with that. Enough said.
To Holly: It is clear that you love your dog very very much, and I’m so happy that she is doing so well! Thanks for chiming in.
To Rebecca O: Argh, 2 very different dogs with opposite problems? Life is not fair. My quick answer is to take a breath (sorry) and walk them separately until you have made enough progress to walk them together. Sorry!
Chris from Boise says
Trisha – Thanks for summarizing this in one place. We have used most of the tools you discuss, and more. As long-time readers know, Habi, my husband and I have been on this journey for nine years, so I’m going to pipe up about medications. Habi was over-the-top reactive to everything when we adopted her at three years old. Life with her was hell, and everything we thought we knew to try was making it worse. Fortunately, our wonderful trainer, who boarded Habi for a week, started us down the right road. When we collected her, the trainer said “Habi’s beyond the bell curve for a border collie. Here’s the phone number of a behavioral vet. She’s expecting your call.”
We called. The behavioral vet was not cheap, but she was invaluable. Habi was put on fluoxetine (Prozac), and was simultaneously put on a “no stimulus” regime for two months (! – a border collie!) – only outdoors, on-leash, to potty, then immediately back indoors, windows kept curtained, no visitors, no training, no chance to ‘practice’ having outbursts. The purpose of the “house arrest” was to let her cortisol levels dissipate so that the fluoxetine could re-balance her out-of-whack brain chemicals. Only then did we start behavioral modification.
And it worked. After the two months of confinement, she was able to think – a little. After the first year, things were going so well that we weaned her off the meds (against the advice of our vet). Then she plateaued, so a year later we started meds again, and we started making progress again. After three years she was able to handle a reactive dog class. After seven years we had so many tools in our toolkit that we tried weaning her off meds again – and this time she could handle it. We now go hiking off-leash in the Boise foothills and on-leash almost anywhere, and if you didn’t know our history you’d think she was a normal happy dog. (She’s not; we still manage situations very closely to make sure she succeeds, but it’s now a dance rather than a battle).
I can also testify that turning Habi’s behavior around was perhaps the hardest thing we have ever done, but it was so incredibly worth it. For her, and for us. We have learned so much, we have become more empathetic, and we have just become better people. And we now have the best dog in the world.
I echo what Rebecca Rice pointed out above. Most reactive dogs don’t need meds; the techniques Trisha discussed above can help most situations. But meds are invaluable for some dogs who are unable to access their ‘thinking brains’ because they’re stuck in their ’emotional brains’. I was very anti-meds until the vet explained that, just as a diabetic needs insulin because his/her pancreas can’t produce it, Habi needed pharmacological help to stabilize her brain chemicals. The vet also predicted that (unlike some dogs, for which it can be a short-term – months, not years – solution) she’d probably need it for the rest of her life. We were pleased to eventually stop the meds, but had her behavior deteriorated again we would have immediately put her back on them.
Sue: it sounds like your dog is over threshold and literally can’t think. Eileen Anderson has a terrific explanation of thresholds: http://eileenanddogs.com/?s=threshold
Angelina – yes. These ‘bad habits’ can be fixed in most dogs. Although the concepts that Trisha lists above are simple, they aren’t easy. It really helps to work with a professional. If you can’t find a local trainer that uses behavioral modification techniques, the Denise Fenzi Dog Sports Academy (https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/dog-behavior-courses) offers online classes including “Dealing With The Bogeyman – Helping Fearful Reactive and Stressed Dogs” and “Management for Reactive Dogs”.
(Trisha, I hope it’s OK to include links to other reactive dog resources). The good news is that there’s a lot of good information online about treating reactivity – as well as some perfectly awful advice.
Sebastian's Mom says
I hope this isn’t too off-topic, and I promise to try to keep it short:
At our house, it is just me and two dogs – Sebastian, a neutered, 5 y/o, 110 lb. Saint Bernard/Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix, whom I adopted at the age of three months, and Chester, a neutered, 3 y/o, 60 lb. All-American. Both dogs are dog reactive. Sebastian will bark and lunge as soon as he sees a dog he doesn’t like, whereas Chester will usually not react until he becomes uncomfortable during a greeting. To complicate things even further, Chester has severe Separation Anxiety, which is currently being treated both by a Veterinary Behaviorist and a CAAB. Chester is now to the point where he can cope with me leaving once a day, but no more than that. The slightest variation in routine can cause him to suffer a setback, from which it sometimes takes weeks to recover. Thus, our Reactivity Treatment Plan is on hold until a time that I can work with each boy individually without causing Chester to panic.
We have a fenced-in yard that backs up to a greenbelt where neighbors walk their dogs. As part of Chester’s SA treatment plan, the dogs go outside to potty and play without me. While they are outside, I am always in a room where I can see them through the window, and call them in when Sebastian starts barking. Having the temperament of a Livestock Guardian Dog, Sebastian barks often, and I don’t want him to disturb the neighbors.
Most of the time, I can get the dogs inside quickly, just by opening the door, asking them to come inside, and giving them a cookie once they are in. Sometimes, I have to count to three to get Sebastian to respond, but I rarely have to go outside to get him.
Last night, I had to take things a step further. A neighbor was walking her dog in the greenbelt, and allowing the dog to walk close enough to the outside of our fence that it looked as if he could have been touching it (It’s a 6-ft-tall, wooden fence, but the dog had a light-up collar that I could see blinking between the boards). In the few seconds that it took me to get outside, Sebastian and the other dog were already at the fence gate, engaging in a full-on fence fight. I had a bottle of water with me, and splashed Sebastian three times to get his attention so that I could get him to move away from the gate and go inside.
Between moving away from the fence and getting inside, Sebastian shot me a look that I can only describe as being one of hurt and betrayal. Once he was in, I gave him a cookie, dried him off, and then gave him one of his favorite special treats.
I’m wondering if using the water bottle to get his attention was a mistake, and if so, if anyone knew of a less aversive way to get the attention of a dog that was far enough over threshold so as to be actively engaged with another dog? While I certainly don’t want him hurting himself or breaking down the fence and hurting another dog, I also don’t want to lose his trust.
Jan Dawson says
I have a four yr. old shepherdX. He came to us extremely fearful of people and very reactive to even the tiniest sound. We’ve had him for 3 yrs. He is a bit more settled but still terrified when I take him out for on leash walks. I do take him for off-leash walks where he really only sees people and dogs he knows. I always leash him up if a stranger does come by as he can be reactive.
Today I was walking with my friend and her two goldens. My dog Jaxi, has walked with these dogs many many times. Although I’ve noticed that he often stays by my side when we walk together rather than walking and exploring with them.
Today, we all sat down on a a bluff in the woods. The female was sitting close to me and Jaxi bit her nose…After a while the male golden came up and Jaxi was once again reactive. I didn’t let him get closer. Jaxi has snapped at the male when he sat too close to me last summer but we haven’t had a problem since then.
Other than keeping my distance from the goldens when we sit down, I’m not sure how I should be working with Jaxi. Do you have any ideas?
Marianne Johnson says
Nothing to do with reactive dos, but there is border collies herding…
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Here is the best explanation I’ve ever read about how modern anti-anxiety medications literally rework the nervous system’s “highway,” in dogs and cats by Dr. James C. Ha, PhD, CAAB. It’s an oldie but goodie.
Chris from Boise, I have tracked your progress with Habi, and it’s inspiringly impressive.
Trisha, I have your book sitting on my table waiting for me to pick it up, and I haven’t had a good block of time to do that yet, so I’ve been trying not to read too much about it or reader’s responses. I hope to sit still long enough soon to give it the attention I’m sure it deserves (and me the emotional space to dig into your story). I’m full of anticipation!
Kris Adrian says
Hi Patricia, thanks for the response. I was unclear – by “method”, I meant the methods you describe in your post. You say “punishment is never a good idea” and didn’t mention anything about using even verbal corrections, so I think it would be easy for readers to get the idea you are advocating 100% positive reinforcement (except for the abandonment option). A discussion of when you do use corrections would be an interesting topic for a future post!
I think the dog world would be well served by behaviorists and trainers who use only the methods you describe in this post showing plenty of video case studies of the starting point, the process and the results, and an indication of the time that was involved, so owners have a realistic idea of what is likely to be achieved before they decide what training route to go down.
Cherri White says
Who knew that there was another dog in the world like my 6 month old BC puppy Sprinter. He is Will and the two BC puppies rolled into one. I had never seen a 7 week old puppy behave the way he did/does. Our stories are similar, I lost my heart BC, Atticus five years earlier and while I still had other dogs(shelties) I was looking for just the right BC. It took 5 years and I was not ready for a Will wantabe. If only you had written the book and released it prior! I would have been brave!
Every day we pray we make it thru to the next day and soon, hopefully one day we will. I guess the main difference between Will and Sprinter is that he is not comfortable in his own pack (shelties) so there is no peace even for him (or anyone else) at home.
I loved the honesty and the bravery of The Education of Will, its a great journey book.
Michelle Gasson says
Have been doing loooooooooots of work with BAT but keen to try CAT as want to see if my border terrier with the overactive imagination will respond better to knowing that barking at dogs doesn’t make them go away. That sitting quietly and being unnoticeable might just do it. You do have to have a knowledgeable person with the CAT dog is the thing, so not as easy to set up. In the meantime we practise with the poster of a big dog in the window of the local vets. It has the advantage of being non reactive LOL.
I am at a loss as to what to do. I have a fenced in backyard but it faces a public street- I have street on three sides of my house. I let my dog out there but I’m not always with her. The problem is she goes over threshold without me knowing anyone/other dogs are walking by.
I can control her if we are on leash and we come across a passing dog, but what can I do to control her with the occasional passersby?
Donna Johnston says
I wasn’t but just a little ways in to your book (the intense sniffing on the ground) when I was like “oh my..”. So many similarities between Will and my BC, Spec. Our situation was not quite as challenging as yours (no resource guarding or startling to noises) but a challenge nonetheless. She is eight now, but it was a tough and unfamiliar road for me, especially during those first three years. I always have to be aware of her surroundings but we manage and have had a good life together. Every now and then someone will ask on Facebook for everyone to describe each of their dogs using a single word. My word for her is teacher. She has taught me so much. Thank you for writing the book.
Dr Catherine Angell says
I have enjoyed reading (pretty much consuming…) your books and the content of these pages…thank you! We have a slightly complicated situation…
We have three rescue lurchers. Our 3 year old boy Fairfax is a quite a large ‘Saluki plus something’ mix. He has been with us for a year. He was kept outside with no shelter (in Ireland in the winter) and little food before being rescued, along with five other dogs…not all of whom survived. For unknown reasons he is completely blind. Despite all this he is very loving, gentle and friendly with all people and with familiar dogs – he has easy and affectionate relationships with our slightly grumpy 12 year old female and lively 9 month old female. He doesn’t react badly to loud noises, visitors, vet visits, etc.. His understanding of spoken information and instructions is excellent, and despite never having lived in a home he has quickly adapted…we forget he is blind half the time!
Fairfax’s only ‘problem’ is with unfamiliar dogs. I use the word ‘problem’ advisedly because I fully understand why it causes an issue for him. On walks we always advise him when a dog is in close proximity to him (in a cheery voice!) and stay close to his head so he doesn’t feel alone if the dog comes up to his face. However, if this happens he frequently reacts by moving forward and barking loudly in the other dog’s face. I feel he is not enjoying the interaction, and is on the offensive, but I struggle to ‘read’ him in those few seconds. As a result we try to avoid these situations if we possibly can (although a lot of owners let their dogs rush up to him even if we ask to give him space).
I worry about whether we are making the situation better or worse by preventing normal interactions…but of course for a dog who can’t read other dogs visually I’m not sure what is or is not normal! Because he is a gentle, sociable sort of boy I think he would really enjoy other dog interactions if he was able to suss them out without reacting first.
It’s really difficult to find anyone with enough experience of blind dogs to offer any advice!
My dog is 9yrs old, he always had fear anxiety.
He was like 2 dogs. Loving and vicious.
He is starting to attack me, whom he loves.
I am going to have to put him down.
I have tried every possible thing there is.
Several behavioralist, boot camp, meds.
I am so sad. But my family and I will be in danger.
My beautiful dog, Sophie, developed dreadful reactivity which started over balls at the dog park – fear that other dogs would steal it – and that generalized to fear of other dogs, as near as we could tell. So she would react with lunging to the end of the leash, barking ferociously, generally raising Cain and scaring the bejeebers out of my neighbors. She’s a 70-pound probable-Catahoula so it scared the tar out of me too. I finally found a wonderful trainer and, although it took a couple of years, we are getting to a good place.
If we see another dog, I start in with “Look at that!” in a very excited happy tone. I continue, “It’s a puppy! Yay, puppies!” and she has finally connected “Yay!” to food, and thank God this dog is totally food-motivated. So now, and I will have to remember to start trying this, I can maybe just say, “Yay!” and we’ll see what happens.
I do exactly the same thing if she seems nervous about people: “Look at that! It’s a people! Yay, people!” I’m fairly sure all the neighbors think I’m nuts but that’s fine with me if it keeps my dog calm.
I do make it a point to try to keep dogs at a distance by ducking up someone’s driveway or otherwise dodging, and if a dog just gets too darned close and she reacts, she gets a firm, low-pitched “Leave it.” And she knows that command very well as I taught it to her using the very bestest food on the planet which is apparently Cheddar cheese.
Dr. McConnell, I have a question. At what point (or do you) have to be concerned with your dog working up more “frustration” toward the other dog or stimulus with diverting their attention with tug-a-war? I think in some cases that might escalate their state of mind rather than divert it per say?
Thank you for all of your blogs and books I am a true fan!
Miss Cellany says
What about reactivity to strangers (human)?
My dog loves dogs, cats, and seems fine with most other furry animals (she wants to chase and catch birds though), but is scared of and aggressive to strangers? Especially children (they scream and run unpredictably and sometimes do stupid things to tease her like barking at her or throwing things at her).
Will these methods work if used with humans as the aggression target? She has nipped at people when they tried to touch her before and she chased a guy down my street to his house (he was walking slowly ignoring her but she followed him the whole way barking).
I adopted a male sheltie (sheltie mix) from a shelter at 15 month’s. Someone bought him at 15 month’s and dumped him at a shelter after a couple of days because he growled at her (he does but has stopped) herded his kids (that is what sheltie’s do) and also nipped when herding (he does) I have had him for nearly a year. At first he seemed to be overly sensitive to the noisy environment that I live in-the city) but that has gotten much better and I try to walk him in a quiet state park as much as I can. He loves people. He has been continuously in classes obedience beginner, advanced, utility and now agility. He is very reactive to dogs on walking so much so that I do not know how much longer I can do this. I have tried walking him 3 times a day 2 miles each time along with playtime but this does not seem to help (to tire him out). I have tried treats, bringing along his toy etc. Is it me?
Pat Emmerson says
I’ve read your books and they have been so helpful over the years. I do have a dog that, after 9 years of classes and training and Behaviorists and psychiatrists and treats and you-name-it has recently gotten more reactive. He’s leash reactive with both dogs and people, but fine with dogs off leash. People, not so much. He has 7 notches in his “bite” belt and has been under house arrest once. With people he knows, he is 100% reliable (wake him up, roll on him, play with his food, play with his feet—he loves it all if he knows you). He recently started lunging for no reason when people pass him on the street. I use a gentle leader to control his face, but he caught me off guard recently nearly bit an older woman. I’m at a loss. He lives with another dog, and they have never tangled for any reason over anything. He loves agility (he’s very fast and responsive), and in that context is reliable with the people. I feel that his reactivity is increasing with age. He has no arthritis, no vision problem, no hearing problem, and acts many years younger than his chronological age. He is a (very) mixed breed rescue of about 45 lbs. Not sure where to turn next, but any suggestion is welcome.
Paly Covarrubias says
I have 2 dogs (60 pounds and 40 pounds each) which react to cats and dogs. I can’t walk them separately, because they are too close to each other and if I walk one of them the other start crying and trying to go after us. My 2 dogs stare other dogs when they appear and they have bitten other dogs in 3 or 4 occasions when they are on leash.
How can I teach them together not to react to other dogs? Any suggestion is welcome. Right now I’m re-reading “Feisty Fido” and reading for the first time “Feeling outnumbered” (I have read most of your books)
I like what you are doing with the dog, but if my dog was as calm as that in front of another dog I’d be very happy. He goes berserk and behaves like a demented ballerina. I have to pull him away. I have achieved some success by letting him see dogs out of his threshold, but dogs that close – no! I watch a lot of videos on dog reactivity and all the dogs look very calm to me, I’d like to see someone work with a dog like mine from start to finish.
My story is no different than that of the other folks here. I’m writing today because I just feel sad and have been in tears for the past hour. Our reactive girl, an 11-month old shepherd mix we rescued from abuse in the Middle East, just had 2 over-threshold, extinction burst barking “incidents” in a row just now. And now she’s trigger stacked. We’ve slowly but successfully been training with counter-conditioning for 4 months and BAT for 3 weeks. She hasn’t done this sort of over-threshold, extinction burst barking in weeks and today it happened twice under my leadership. I feel it was completely my fault. I just didn’t think. I wish there was a hotline folks like us could call. In times like these, I just want to talk to someone who understands the emotional hardships folks with reactive dogs deal with on a daily basis. While my friends and family are sympathetic, they don’t get it.
Mikko: Wait wait wait! It’s okay! It. Happens. To. Everyone. Every journey has some set backs, honestly honestly honestly. All you do is go back to step one, but the great news is that you progress through each step faster. Much faster. Much much faster. Please please, throw any guilt away, have some chocolate (or pasta or pizza or gin, your choice), get a massage, write yourself a thank you note for being such an amazing person to work with a messed up dog with such commitment and compassion, get some sleep and continue all your wonderful work. We get it, and we’re on your side, cheering you on.
Dr. McConnell, Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging reply. It helped put some air back into my lungs again 🙂
And thank you for the reminder that with progress comes setbacks. Most days I feel like I’m doing everything wrong. I’m not a trainer. I’m not an animal expert. I’m just a person with a reactive dog. All I can do is wake up the next day and try again.
Wendy Zamudio says
My story is different. I deal with a very reactive dog whines and barks like crazy(sometimes). I know she isn’t aggressive towards dogs. She just want to go meet them and play with them. There is some times that she’ll do just fine and other times terrible. If on a walk we see another dog walking too she’ll go nuts once we get closer or stay put. She gets out of control, no treats, toys or words can get her attention. So I am not sure what to do. When she does get to play with dogs she does great. She loves playing with them but most of the time the dogs don’t get along with her because of her energy. Not sure what tip or method I should use. Please help!
Stacy Glandon says
Are these techniques you suggest to try safe for a dog with Addison’s and possibly OCD? My girl is reactive to pretty much every dog she sees and I am hesitant to start working on this until I know what technique is the least stressful for her. She didn’t used to do this but now she is even barking at other dogs and even horses out the car window! Well, being out the window feeling the wind is her favorite thing! I feel like the reactivity is escalating. Let me know if an A dog should be treated differently. Thank you.
Stacy, every case is different, and there’s no magic treatment for any dog, but in general the methods described are designed to reduce stress. However, I do highly recommend working with a professional who knows how to use operant and classical conditioning. You wouldn’t just start messing with your plumbing or electrical system without help, so given the severity of what you describe, I would bring in assistance as soon as I can. Good luck!
Collette Swift says
Hi, we took on a 3 month old puppy Angus (a staffy) who grew up for 8 months with an older dog. We had him out with us one day at a country show and someone’s larger dog nipped him as he was having a sniff. Since then he has become aggressive towards other dogs. We have tried walking him with my mum’s dog but he has to be muzzled and still trust to go for her. Eventually this dog we can see we will have to take her on too as my mum’s health isn’t too good. We tried a dog behaviour person locally and she said there was nothing she could do but suggested we change his food. We changed his food and he is still aggressive with other dogs. In 32 years of owning dogs we have never had a problem before. What do you suggest. I don’t want to give up on him.
barbara kuhnel says
I have a 12-month old Dobie (my 12th) who is reactive to dogs, but his big problem is that he goes crazy at the sight of anything on wheels. He loves people; if a jogger ran right by him he would be fine, but if someone came by very slowly on a bike he would lose his mind. He has been on prozac for half of his life. I am learning on the job, and I know in the past I put him in situations, even behavior classes, that probably made things worse. Now I work on keeping him below threshold, do LAT, redirecting, distance, calming. I have found doggie pushups are effective to re-direct his mind to something to think about. and if he starts to go off on something, having him ‘down’ is very effective. Down is his default calm position. If I can’t avoid the trigger, stuffing him with treats before he has a chance to erupt and until the trigger has passed works. We are making progress; he often looks at me for a treat when he sees a dog or a motorcycle.
My question is: what is it with wheels? A trainer I respect a lot says it is prey drive, and she is not someone you can argue with, but I don’t buy that. He is fine with squirrels and deer on the trail, although strange cats do send him over the edge. I think it is anxiety-based, and OCD (he is a spinner), probably a chemical imbalance. I think eventually we will beat it, he is a wonderful, friendly, eager-to-please boy, but does knowing the root cause make a difference, or do we just treat the behavior? And isn’t it possible to have prey drive and still have that NOT be the cause of his reactivity?
obviously, his is a wonderful dog you have — Willie.
is Willie a border collie?
his markings are beautiful — but the most important thing is the wonderful spirit he exudes.
thank you for sharing Willie with us and you thoughts.
Kirsti Howell says
I have seven dogs and have trained them all myself, however I am really struggling with my schnauzer cross (Tillie) who is scared of her own shadow. I have had her from 13 weeks old, she is now 18 months. She is super reactive, she will bark at anything and everything, to the point she can be happily sleeping and jump up baking at I don’t know what! (Which will set the others off) I don’t know how the help her 😢. Any help/advice you can give me will be gratefully received.
I adopted a reactive dog two months ago, I believe she is a mix of a beagle and some blue eyed dog, she is sweet and loving at home, but she now triggers easily with dogs that walk in her direction and some people (she already did before, but is now more intense).
I am confused as I have read/ viewed videos that suggest corrections such as saying NO. But the trainer and some other material I have read mention even saying NO can reassure her attitude.
Can you please help? Should I just wait until she is done barking to call her and give her a treat, or should I be firm and say no?
Melissa McCue-McGrath says
Hi Patricia! I know it’s really hard to know what is reputable information/advice (or not!) but I think the tone here would matter. I say “No” to my dog often, but it’s in a Jolly Tone (Nope! C’mon buddy, let’s go!) and it’s really more for me than the dog. No, in general, doesn’t necessarily mean anything specific to the dog. If I were to say it in a more angry tone and the dog is fearful, all I’m doing is convincing the dog he/she was correct: “I see that scary thing, I bark, and now my mom is low growling at it, too! Whew, I was justified in my fear! I’m going to do this again!” And, we aren’t exactly teaching what we’d prefer: Dog sees something scary, turns, and walks with me AWAY from the perceived scary thing. Quietly and below a threshold of explosing, barking stress.
We say NO when we don’t want the dog to do something, but that’s so very human. No, don’t do this. No, don’t jump. No, don’t eat poop. It’s better to tell them what to do *instead* and teach them those skills. It’s easier to teach a skill instead of the the absence of a skill. (Sit instead of Don’t Jump, for example).
What I would advise is find someone to help you in person (either IAABC.org, CAAB.org, karenpryoracademy.com, CCPDT.org, Pet Professional Guild are some reputable places to look for help and start soliciting professionals who might be better off explaining specifically which professional you might need. Depending on the severity, a trainer or consultant might be better suited – if there are other issues, perhaps a CAAB would be the right direction. Call around, describe your circumstances and see what they say.
An in-home session with someone can help you assess what’s going on and give you tools to help your pup while explaining the “why’s” of what’s happening, and better yet – how to help you and your dog.
I hope this is helpful!
This article is very useful. I own a rescue border collie mix. Ever since she was a puppy, she has been very reactive and anxious. She’s 3 years old now, and while we were able to curb some of her reactivity and bad habits, she still has very very high reactivity to dogs, even from a distance – and it’s getting worse. I have tried everything, and am still trying. But she gets so worked up that she won’t respond to anything
Sandra Connan says
I have a rescue dog who is becoming more reactive by the day. Previously 1 owner had him chained up in the garden. His other previous 2 owners didn’t really care for him, permanently fungus infected and left to wander. His fear of the leash meant he would be a little aggressive to dogs on-leash. He has been mine for about 15 months. We built up trust and he is fine on leash now. About 10 months ago my neighbours’ 3 big dogs tried to kill him. (They are famous in this area for attacking people and dogs, often out walking unattended and uncontrolled). I was away at the time and my other neighbours were taking care of him, he adores them. He was vey badly hurt. I understand he is afraid of being attacked again, he’s small but not tiny, and has short legs so can’t get away from dogs easily as he runs slowly. He has since been attacked out of the blue on a couple of occasions. With the pandemic lockdown I have been unable to walk him on the beach. I was always watching for dogs and would leash him if there were other dogs around. But his anxiety and mine (which I know does not help) is getting worse. We have been walking on leash on the road these past 2-3 months and it is becoming impossible to take him out. Where I live they are a lot of dogs off-leash. Some with owners, some without, some who are stray dogs. His reactivity is creating enemies in the area and I just don’t know what to do with him. He is great with people and with a few dogs who were friends before the attack. He even loves cats and doesn’t chase wildlife. I don’t want for him to not socialise but between us both, it’s getting harder. Any dog, even in the distance, will set him off. Staring, barking and lunging. Dogs off leash are likely to approach him when he does this as he is antagonising them. I am left trying to chase the approaching dog away and keeping him behind me so he can’t escalate the situation. He can’t fight and so can’t defend himself. The behaviour is escalating and I don’t know how to check it. Help!