Our expert says:
Dog Behaviour Expert
Hi Jo, so pleased info been given is helpful and you are making progress - well done!
What you need to realize is that your little one is acting out of fear. Personally, i very seldom walk my dog in a street with other dogs, its just not worth it. although my boy will walk happily past dogs barking, growling, prancing from side to side and take no notice, i can see the slight stiffness in his body, his gait changes and i know he is not happy, but he is mature and confident enough not to acknowledge the other dogs. At the end of the day these dogs are threatening not just him, but you and heavens forbid the gate opens by mistake! Having a sociable dog is one of the most important aspects of dog ownership and i would suggest that you rather drive to the park/shopping centre etc to walk him. the other dogs he meets there are more likely to be socialable.
One of the things you can do is to teach him the 'watch' command and the turning away and i have pasted notes below for you to do this. This takes a lot of practice, in a lot of different locations but is very effective. When two strange dogs meet, they never stare at one another as this signals aggression. They will approach one another in various different ways - walk towards in an arc, turn their head/shoulders away, flick their eyes in opposite direction etc. These are calming signals and indicate to the other dog that there is no threat present. Do try the watch exercise and practice as much as possible and you will find that this is very helpful. Good luck and do let me know how it goes, thanks and notes follow, Scotty
Watch & moving away from other dogs.
This exercise can be used in any situation to get your dogs attention on you. It is especially good in tense situations such as a visit to the vet, crossing busy roads or even to get your dogs attention away from anything that may set him off, such as bicycles or postmen and also helps with barking with a dog out for a walk.
In the case where a dog is reactive to other dogs this exercise is invaluable. When the dog looks at you instead of the other dog, this is interpreted as a calming signal by both dogs and will result in a lessening of aggression and give you the time to get your dog out of the situation.
As your dog looks at you, say “watch’ and reward. As your dog becomes proficient at this, you can start to extend the period of time of the watch and then start to build in different distractions and practice in different locations as well. A ‘watch’ in the home environment is very easy to achieve, but not as easy when out for a walk and another dog is approaching, so the way to do it is to practice, practice, practice! This needs to be reinforced constantly, in different situations with different levels of difficulty and distraction throughout your dog’s life.
Moving Away when a dog turns its head away from another dog, this is interpreted as a Calming Signal by both the dog turning the head and the dog that observes this behaviour. Additionally by getting your dog to focus on you, you are giving a clear message that you are in charge and that it has nothing to fear – thereby increasing your bond, your position in the human/canine pack and making your dog feel more secure.
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