I understand what you mean

#16562
KaylasMom
Participant

I understand what you mean about how she reacts when you are out walking!  My dog used to do the same thing!  Most of the time she is ok, but there are also some times when it appears that she is “flipping out”.  Believe it or not, what it sounds like you are experiencing is what we call “leash reactivity”. 

Leash reactivity has become VERY common in our pet dogs, and it can be controlled.  It may never be “cured”, but you can control it.  There are a number of reasons why dogs develop this problem. Some fear or dislike other dogs because of a bad experience with another dog in the past while they were on a leash or tied up in a yard.  To a social animal, being on a leash is a barrier to them.  It could be because she wasn’t all that well socialized on a leash when she was a pup.  For dogs like ours, barking, growling, and lunging on-leash serves a purpose—it keeps approaching dogs away. Other leash-reactive dogs like members of their own species a great deal. In fact, they enjoy playing and greeting so much that they become intensely frustrated when they’re restrained, which makes the reaction look like she is being aggressive.  My dog does great off leash with other dogs, but we still struggle on leash from time to time.

Watching how dogs greet each other when off-leash could help you understand why it’s so much harder for them to interact on-leash. Unrestrained, sociable dogs usually approach each another in the shape of a “C” or like the ying-yang symbol.  They do this to sniff the important information parts of a dog–the butt and the genitals.  They can show friendly displays also when they greet this way (gentle wagging, soft eyes, etc.). They then circle and sniff each other’s faces and then hindquarters before deciding whether to move on or play together. 

The scenario of dogs meeting or coming at each other on a walk is vastly different. These dogs are forced to approach head-on, so they’re more likely to make direct eye contact with each other.   Prolonged eye contact, or staring, is actually a threatening gestures in dog body language.  Both dogs are probably pulling hard toward one another, with leashes tight. The strangling sensation of tightening collars adds to the dogs’ tension–it is adding the barrier that I mentioned earlier. As the people walking the dogs become more apprehensive, they may start jerking the leashes and muttering things like “Be NICE!” This likely confirms to the dogs that the approaching dog is actually a threat! 

I always carry along TONS of high value treats (chicken, liver, hot dog, kielbasa, etc) that my dog doesn’t normally get.  When I see a dog ahead, I start to feed her the treats BEFORE she starts to react to the dog.  I usually have her sit, and then feed her the treats until the dog passes.  Once the dog has passed, I quit with the treats, and we walk on.  I usually do not allow her to pass the dog on the same sidewalk.  Even if she has never reacted, I still would go further away from the other dog as most dogs do NOT like face to face greetings!  After awhile, your dog will look to you for treats when she sees another dog.  The key is to distract her before she sees the other dog, and to associate the other dog with something positive.  We want to yank on the leash and yell at our dog for the way that she is acting, but that is the last thing that you want to do.  I will be honest, it could be a long process, depending on how bad the leash reactivity is.  It took us about 3-4 months that now we can walk and not have such crazy outbursts.  But it is SO worth it now!

As for what goes on in the house, many dogs do not like strange dogs coming onto their territory.  They are defending “their” home from others!  It is similar to how we defend our home against intruders.  To a dog, another dog is an intruder.  You could always try to introduce them in a neutral environment over a period of time, so that they get used to each other, and then try to see if it would work in your home.  Neutral territory is always the best place to introduce two new dogs.  It is great that your two dogs get along together!  That is awesome.  But for playdates, you may want to stick to outside of the home and in a place that is different than their own homes.  Try setting up small doggie playdates at someone’s home who doesn’t have a reactive dog to strange dogs, or even at a baseball field.  I don’t have as much to say about what is happening in your home, as my dog goes to doggie daycare to play a few times a week, or at a neutral location with other dogs.

Best of luck to ya!!!!