Canine Behavior/Fearful/aggressive behaviour on walks
Please could you provide us with some advice on how to address our dog's behaviour when we're out on walks?
He is an 18 month JRT we got from a rescue centre a few weeks ago. Good as gold in the house and progressing well with his training (he didn't even have basics like sit) but he goes bananas on walks when he sees other dogs, bikes, motorbikes and joggers. He does high pitched fearful sounding barking which gets worse when they get close-much worse with dogs than anything else. We have tried to socialise him with my dad's calm dog and he just wanted to attack and wouldn't calm down.
When he goes we cannot get his attention again, we tried talking calmly, treats, water squirter etc and it is impossible once he has escalated to this level. He goes from 0-10 at the first sight of a dog.
We want him to have a nice life full of walks but we can't take him to any nice exciting places to walk because he doesn't know how to behave around other dogs. He is booked in for castration next week, is it a good idea to try and socialise him with my dad's dog while he's recovering or will this freak him out more?
Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!
You cannot socialize this dog, it's too late (socialization occurs from neonate period through approximately 14 to 16 weeks). What you're looking at is rehabilitation.
This dog has most likely never seen other dogs in a crucial time in his life where he learned to interact with them. Or, perhaps his body language (subdominance, even submission) was offered to the "wrong" dog who then went after him: we simply do not know.
High pitched vocalization is juvenile and a signal of extreme anxiety and fear, not necessarily a signal of intent to harm. Throw out THE WATER SQUIRTER, he is losing trust in you. When and where he is neutered is very important: the veterinarian must be sophisticated, this dog must never be exposed to other dogs when he is coming out of anesthesia or at any time thereafter (you will most likely pick him up the same day). General anesthesia reduces cognition; awakening from such a state (now we're discussing the domestic dog, no other species) in the presence of what the dog fears can have one of two results: extinction of the fear (this dog is not a candidate for that) or extreme exacerbation. He must be transported home and for two weeks as he recovers from the discomfort of the procedure (and there must be pain medication dispensed for this), kept away from other dogs: no "walks", just backyard when needed.
Your father's dog cannot help this dog; in fact, this dog's reaction will be so out of the other dog's ability to comprehend that it might create a fear response in THAT dog: fear is contagious. A dog under severe stress will not accept a food treat (no matter how high in value) unless he has been starved and, in such a case, the food is rewarding his fear. A dog under severe stress on leash has only two options: freeze; fight. His cognition is not engaged (put yourself on the newest most horrible roller coaster in the world and report back to me that you were able to recite anything you memorized in school while on that ride: impossible). SO: we need to 'DO SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT'.
This will take time: how long, I do not know nor can I predict because I can't see anything from here.
First: put aside your fear. This is not a Rottweiler; this is a small dog; put a HARNESS ON HIM (not a choker collar, and do not lead him by any collar); when you spy another dog coming (you must begin in areas where there are most likely not going to be too many other dogs), start CIRCLING. Plot out in your mind a large (but not giant) circle: left, right, left, right. Observe the dog's body language. Ignore his vocalizations; watch his ear set, his hackles, his tail set (probably tail is docked, harder to read). Keep circling while all the time, in a very upbeat voice (but not too loud) saying, "come along oh look what a great dog is coming here, come on now, come along, relax) do this until the other dog has passed (probably will be required for the first ten to thirty sessions, maybe less) then STOP. Dog will lose fight/flight (circling changes brain waves patterns not just in the dog but in YOU) and dog may then just stand there, confused, look around, then look at you. As soon as he does that, PRAISE, ask for "sit", tell him 'WHAT A GOOD BOY YOU ARE SUCH A GOOD BOY' sing a little song and walk on. Keep doing this until in the isolated places your dog has lost his immediate response and LOOKS AT YOU as you circle. Now: move to a more populated place; if the dog fails, reverts to full hysteria, and you cannot get him out of fight/flight mode even with circling, go back to "kindergarten", the place where he succeeded, and start over.
Take mints with you (tic tacs) which you can pop into your mouth to mask the adrenaline rushing through your body (yes, he can smell it). Remain calm; he's on a body harness; he won't harm anyone. Circle, speak softly and encouragingly "come along, oh look at that dog isn't he cute, just come along", then when dog is clearly no longer responding to fight/flight "sit", praise; eventually, as his fight/flight diminishes, add high value food treat to your praise (BUT BE SURE HE IS NO LONGER RESPONDING TO FEAR). In that relaxed place, where he has learned there is no threat, He WILL accept the food reward. Then go on as usual with a casual "come along".
My rescue Toy Poodle has issues with larger dogs and we have totally corrected the response by this method. I have also used her to address a rescue Min Pin's fear of other dogs to the point where he now seeks to interact with her while I merrily and happily say WHAT A GREAT DAY WHAT A BEAUTIFUL BOY YOU ARE......If I had the ability to meet this dog three times a week, he would be totally desensitized TO MY DOG, not necessarily to any other dogs. The inability to generalize is called response perseverance.
Your dog can be perfectly happy with his bond to you and your family. He does not require the companionship of other dogs. His walks must NOT "flood" him with other dogs until he has demonstrated the ability to THINK, not REACT, as described above. Even then, he will most likely never lose the fear reaction to *some* dogs (and those dogs' body language will be the cue for him, something you won't instantly recognize.)
He doesn't need to go to "exciting places"; he's had sufficient excitement in his young life. He will NEVER BE A DOG PARK DOG. The most you can hope to do is COUNTER CONDITION and desensitize him.