From Reactive to Relaxed: Taming My Dog’s Greeting Behavior

Nugget loves other dogs. He loves them so much that he wants to run up to every dog and give them a big sniff and play bow the second he sees them. The problem is he is tethered to me via his collar and leash, and this is frustrating for him. What happens when Nugget is frustrated? He barks and squeals and lunges and pulls.

Nugget found a puppy!

I have been working so hard to train Nugget the difference between appropriate play time with dogs and inappropriate behavior on the leash. If we are at day care or the dog park Nugget is free to run, jump, and tumble with other dogs. Walking on a leash through Petco, he is not. He is slowly starting to understand the connection, but it has not been easy. In the beginning, I dreaded taking Nugget anywhere. It was so embarrassing to have an out-of-control dog barking and pulling me down the street. People glared at me or quickly pulled their dogs in the other direction. “I’m sorry!”, I would yell at them from afar. “He is a puppy in training!”

Nugget stares at the dreaded leash

I would sneak out of my apartment during the wee hours of the morning to let Nugget use the bathroom before the swarm of dogs came out around 7:30 AM. If I saw a dog coming toward us in the distance, I would quickly change our route and run down another street or pathway. This worked in the short-term, but I realized if I didn’t really work on this problem, Nugget would never be able to stroll through the park with me in the middle of the day. He would never be able to lie by my feet while I had brunch outside at a restaurant with friends. He would never be able to go anywhere with me. I love Nugget, and I want to share as much of my life with him as I can.

Nugget is now able to sit at a restaurant with me!

The first thing I did was buy the book, Feisty Fido. It is a great place to start. After reading the book, I incorporated the training tips by sucking it up and taking Nugget to places where he would encounter dogs. We would go to a crowded park, and I would be armed with a bag full of chicken or cheese. I worked hard on his training. He is now able to walk by most dogs or sniff them and keep going. However, there are certain dogs that still trigger his excitability. I knew that this would be his biggest obstacle when it comes to Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog testing. I had to step up my training. When I found a class called “Reactive Rover” at the MDSPCA, I knew I had to sign him up. It consists of six 90 minute sessions working with a small class of reactive dogs. We had our first class this week, and Nugget did great. He did not react at all, and was able to get fairly close to the trainer dog. However, from my experience Nugget seems to only react to other excitable dogs. I am excited to see how our training goes as he interacts with other reactive dogs in our class. The trainer gave us very positive feedback and stated Nugget should be able to easily walk side by side with dogs at the end of training with no reaction. I sure hope so! We are now only six weeks away from our CGC test, and it is starting to become real!

If you have a reactive dog, I would definitely suggest reading some helpful books and investing in a trainer that specializes in reactivity. It is SO worth it!

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