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Dog Training/Dog Obedience - Approaching Other Dogs

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QUESTION: Hello

I have recently adopted a 4 year old Lab/Golden Retriever cross. She was bred to be a guide dog but was unable to complete her training as she had a mild illness and that has now cleared up. For the previous 3 years, she lived with another family who had to give her back to the Guide Dogs Association as they could no longer afford to  keep her. She is well trained and I have reinforced her training and developed a very strong bond with her. I have successfully controlled her urge to swim by teaching her to heel and only go into the water on command.

However, she will continually break her heel to approach other dogs and I don't know of a way to stop her from doing this. She takes great pleasure in 'winding up' aggressive dogs who are being walked on  the lead. The ensuing barking causes quite a scene. She also enjoys bullying small yappy dogs and barks back at them. She is a very good natured dog and is not being aggressive. It just seems to amuse her.

Please could you advise me as to how to stem this behaviour.

Many thanks in advance.

ANSWER: Thanks for your email, Phil.  There's a technique called Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) that might work for you an your dog.  The website at www.functionalrewards.com has in-depth explanations, articles and videos for reference.  Basically, it teaches the dog that there are better alternatives than to bark and lunge on leash at other dogs.  Without seeing your dog in action, I have no idea whether she really wants to greet or there might be some component of "get out of my space".

I would also probably recommend a head halter, like the Holt head harness, for better control on leash.  When necessary, you can turn her away from potential barking situations.  

You can also try a technique called "Look at That" where you mark and reward the dog for noticing a trigger BEFORE she decides to react.  Here's a great video for reference:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdraNF2hcgA

Please look over this information and let me know if you have follow up questions.  I'll be glad to help if I can.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Many thanks for your reply.

One thing that I forgot to mention is that the situation only occurs when my dog is off the lead and she sees another dog who is being walked on the lead. It also occurs when she is off the lead and small, yappy dogs bark at her. The problem never arises if the did that she approaches is being walked off the lead and is happy and confident to play or be greeted.

Here in the UK, the only dogs that are kept on a lead tend to be aggressive or nervous dogs, hence the problem with my dog approaching them and enjoying creating hysteria!

Thanks again.

Answer
Sorry for the delay in following up.  Since your dog DOES have issues with other dogs, you should keep her on leash as well.  She shouldn't be allowed to terrorize dogs that are leashed.  When she is trained to look at another dog, then look back at you instead of rushing toward the dog, you can give her more freedom.

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

Expertise

I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, www.DistinctiveDogTraining.com/resources offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.

Experience

I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Organizations
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Victoria Stilwell Positively! Licensed Trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Truly Dog Friendly Coalition

Education/Credentials
BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Training Program
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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