On lead reactivity. Young Romanian rescue

Published by Theo Stewart on

Betty is a mixed breed looking very like a larger Border Terrier, seven months old.

She has only been in the country for six weeks. Before that she had will no doubt have been living with a number of other dogs after being picked up.

It is possible that at some stage the pup may have been bullied by older dogs. Who knows. She will have had to look out for herself, that’s for sure.

Betty has been in her new forever home for four weeks now.

Betty had never been on lead.

The rescue that brought her over from Romania introduced her to walking on a leash, which she’s quite happy with so long as no other dogs are in sight.

When she sees another dog, even from a distance, she panics.

A sense of self-preservation in many dogs gives them little option, when trapped on lead, but to do all they can to keep the other dog at a ‘safe’ distance.

They use all their most threatening and noisy language in order to do so, just as Betty does as soon as she sees a dog. Even if it’s a good way away.

The person holding the leash

This gives a big responsibility to the person holding the lead who, in effect, is a captor, leading the dog towards perceived danger.

We discussed ways they can build her trust and confidence when out on walks. Even the road outside their front door is a new world and saps her confidence, so they will work on that too.

To summarise the process

The ‘other dog when she’s on lead’ issue will come right if they take it slowly and systematically thus:

They won’t avoid other dogs entirely as that would get them nowhere.

They will avoid getting closer than is comfortable for Betty

They will make distant dogs ‘good news’ – triggering food or fun

They will work on a fun escape procedure should a dog suddenly appear.

The next morning

“We………tried various things on the walk, including the ‘let’s go’ and run and also using treats a bit more liberally.

Already she was taking treats and never seemed to cross a threshold during the walk. This included when we saw a couple of dogs not that far away (across the road) at which point we dropped treats for her which she ate.

This already felt like a massive improvement, as previously she would have ignored the treats, or we would have either have tried to carry on walking or picked her up and avoided the situation all together!”

A week later

“….all been going well. We’ve had a few good walks and couple more challenging…..Generally though she’s been great, much more engaged with us on walks……..Definitely big improvements across the board and direction on what we need to do”.

and 2 weeks after our online meeting

“Betty is doing great. We’re continuing to see improvements. We had a bit of a situation this morning where a dog came around the corner right in front of us. She calmly turned and walked away, unfortunately there was also a dog coming up behind us on the other side of the road and she had a bit of a scare (barking and pulling). However, she recovered quickly and we were able to continue with the walk.

We saw a few more dogs and she was fine.

The consultation with Theo was incredibly helpful. She took the time to understand everything about Betty, our home and the challenges we have with other dogs on leads. She clearly explained how thing we never thought about could contribute to and help resolve this issue. There was lots of really helpful information and having a recording of the meeting has meant we can watch it back multiple times.”

This is proof, if needed, that it’s not always necessary for me to go out on a walk with a reactive dog. It can be done in an online consultation.

They must now continue to take things slowly.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help

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