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Canine Behavior/scared to progress


Greetings, we rescued a 5-year old Golden Retriever mix dog recently who is reactive to dogs and saw a behavior consultant. With his help, we went from having our dog barking/lunging at other dogs even within 25 feet, to caring less at even less than 5 feet. She still has a bit of problems with dogs who are a bit more hyper when on leash. Anyhow, we are really happy with the progress made as we now can walk her with other calm dogs near, but never ever has she shown the interest in meeting the other dogs when we walk. She'll heel next to me and walk politely on the leash. Even if the other dogs can be easily sniffed and greeted, she never showed any interest in doing so. My fear is that if I encourage her to meet another dog, something frightening may happen and we may lose all the progress made. I know the trainer has a great dog who is calm and very sound, but still I don't have the courage to ask this trainer if we can move forward and let my dog "mingle" more than just walk side-by-side.

So my questions are 2:

1)Do you think it is necessary to continue progressing and having her off leash with others dogs to sniff, greet and possibly play with? She has a bite history (requiring stitches and over $2,000 in vet bills) but mostly from resource guarding food and toys. Or do you think we should just be happy with the results we got so far?

2) Do 'Reactive Rover' classes work on letting your dog mingle with other dogs? or do they cover just being able to walk closer to other dogs without reacting? I wanted to enroll in one to have her get up and closer to other dogs, but not sure if it just covers whatever I already accomplished with my dog.

Many thanks for your time!

I have NO idea what "reactive rover" classes are and I would seriously steer clear of them.  A "growl class" is conducted by an experienced behaviorist such as seen here:

Your dog appears to have made remarkable progress in day to day walking with other dogs passing.  I would NOT insist that she "greet" another dog or in any way put her in a position (on or off leash) to do so.  I think off leash with other dogs, given the work you've done so far, is probably (educated guess) a definite NO.

Dogs need to be socialized from a very young age (less than 14 weeks old) to other dogs, continuously, or they have a fear response.  Since your dog is able to come within reasonable distance of another dog walking toward you, and she shows no anxiety, I would leave it at that.  Dogs do NOT necessarily "need" other dogs.  "Play" is not, among dogs, what it is among human children.  Social interaction between/among dogs can be extremely harmful if a dog is fearful.  I'd just go with what you are doing and check in with your behaviorist if anything changes for the worse.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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