need help

Posted by djhawkins4320
Apr 6, 2010
Hi there,
I have written a couple of times about our resuced dogs, and I have another issue.
I have one 4-5 year old female retriever and a 3 year old female Havanese. We also have a 4-5 year old female terrier mix, and the brother to the female Havanese.
My issues mainly are with the retriever and the female Havanese. They are both pretty reactive when someone or another dog pass us or if they are coming towards us on a walk. The other two dogs are pretty good, unless the two start to really bark and pull towards whatever is coming, then all four of them go nuts. I know that I should turn the other way, but, I want to be able to keep going. Our retriever is somewhat nervous of new people, and like I said, I don't know what happened to her the first year of her life to make her scared.
Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can convey to the dogs that they are not going to be hurt, and it is okay to keep walking and just leave the other things alone?
Thank you for any help
I have gotten so much help from these forums you all have been life savers.
All I want are happy well mannered dogs.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Apr 8, 2010
Hi there,

As it is often impossible to know the full history of rescued dogs, it is more than likely that they have not had much to do with other dogs in the past, and so don't know how to behave with them. There is a time during puppyhood where socialization is very important for dogs to learn how to act in the midst of other dogs, and if this window of opportunity is missed if is very difficult for your dogs to fully grasp the concepts of canine interaction.

It would be a good idea to train your dogs with the alpha dog principles if you aren't already doing so. Because you have a number of dogs, the pack hierarchy will be even more important and so it is vital that they all know and accept you as the leader. There are a few things that you can incorporate into your daily routine to re-establish yourself as the alpha dog. These include insisting that you walk ahead of them through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding them after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore them if they come up to you for attention, as they have to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever they want it. Before you pat or play with them, give them a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that they will see that your attention as a reward for good behavior. This will act as an incentive for the future. If you are playing a game with them, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that they realize that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to them, which will help them realize their places in the hierarchy below you. They will organize amongst themselves where they all fit in in the pack. All these things can be incorporated relatively easily into your normal daily routine, although it will require some patience and perseverance from you. They should become more relaxed dogs as you have taken over the role of protector of the pack and will deal with situations should they arise, so they do not feel as though they have to be on the defensive the whole time.

If they start barking or trying to lunge at approaching dogs, it is probably the best idea to turn around and go home. It is quite normal for one or two nervous dogs to cause the rest of the pack to become agitated, because the whole pack acts as a unit and will all react to protect and defend each other. This is why it is so important that you reinforce your status as the alpha dog and so they will all look to see how you are reacting to what they perceive as possibly threatening situations, and if you are calm, confident and don't appear worried at all, they too will reciprocate that behavior and not feel the need to become defensive. Although this will be frustrating and seem like a waste of time initially, by allowing them to continue on their walk will be sending them a message that it is alright to behave like that. Instead, by taking them straight home, you will be telling them that you as the leader don't condone that behavior and it will result in their walk being shortened significantly. It will not take them long to get the message and you should see a change in their behavior very soon. It will also help if you provide some sort of distraction for them when the other dogs are approaching. You can do this by giving them a command such as 'sit-stay' or 'watch', and them rewarding them lavishly when they are obedient and keep their eye on you instead of the other dogs.

If possible, it would be really beneficial to set aside some time each day for a bit of general obedience training, which will not only improve their obedience levels but also the relationship between you. You may find it easier to train one dog at a time, so that you can give them your full concentration and they will be completely focused on you. By varying the sorts of environment that you train them in, you will teach them to listen and wait for your commands, regardless of the distractions around. This will be especially good for your retriever, who will become desensitized to novel surroundings and so become less fearful of new situations. In addition, you should try and get her to meet as many new people as possible, so that she will be able to overcome her fear and become more confident. The important thing you have to remember when dealing with her is that you must never reinforce her fears, and so must not pat or console her when she is exhibiting inappropriate fearful behavior. Instead, only praise her when she is being confident. You will need to be especially self-assured when out with her, so that she can feel secure that you are in charge and will handle any situations that come along.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!