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I have a rescue dog (Luna) who's a wonderful and affectionate dog inside the house but very reactive to other dogs when we're out on walks

If she catches wind of another dog (even at some distance) she becomes alert, fixated, and incredibly tense.

When this happens if I try to pull her away, or if the dog comes any closer that triggers her into a fit of barking and lunging. Once we're away from the dog she takes some time to calm down and will generally make a lot of anxious whining noises and remain anxious for a while

I find it hard to tell whether she is anxious because she's afraid of what the dog might do, or if she's over excited and wants to meet the dog, however when she's gotten up close to dogs (without her kicking off) then she will snap at their faces and be generally aggressive towards them

The strange thing to me however is that if she meets another dog indoors, (or even in one instance, one jumping into the car next to her!) then she doesn't become reactive in the same way and is able to form a relationship with that dog, allowing her to become comfortable with them

Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions on how we could get her to behave in the same way on walks that she does in a building? Part of me feels like she's agoraphobic but that's probably me just humanising her!

  • Is it at your home, the other dogs' home, or a neutral location that your dog is meeting other dogs indoors? – Kai Apr 4 '19 at 14:00
  • What happens if you leash both her and a friend dog while in the house and then walk them outside together? Does her behaviour start while the leash is on regardless of enivronment? Does she lunge for the dog that was just fine inside with her? – SimplyRedAppaloosa Feb 13 at 11:39
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This sounds like leash aggression, whereby if a dog is on a leash and encounters another dogs they lunge toward the other dog, bark, snap and otherwise behave aggressively due to being restrained and unable to naturally control their movements towards the other dog. As your dog doesn't behave the same way in a situation where they're not restrained by a leash, in a building etc, it does suggest leash aggression.

This is an excerpt from a dog training website which describes this behaviour:

"Leash lunging, leash reactivity and leash aggression are all behaviours that are caused by a dog feeling restrained, frustrated and uncomfortable in a social situation while attached to a leash. In normal circumstances, an unleashed dog would be able to put sufficient distance between himself and a fear source. But if the same dog is leashed and unable to increase that distance, he will react or behave defensively in the hope that the fear source will go away"

The link to the website is here: https://positively.com/dog-behavior/aggression/leash-aggression/

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  • Unfortunately the times we've had her off-leash out in the wild she's immediately made a bee-line for any nearby dog and attempted to dominate it by snapping / barking / fighting the poor unsuspecting dog (three times). I've tried her out with a muzzle on a few times and she's attempted this behaviour, discovered quickly that she can't bark or snap at the other dog and has immediately calmed down, though we couldn't carry on with the muzzle due to the discomfort it caused her – Harold Jun 12 '19 at 9:56
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I added a comment but I'll add an answer as a possible soultion too. I'm going to be honest with you, leash agression is usually due to being poorly socialised on walks or outside from a young age. You have personified her slightly as dogs don't think like us humans and thus can't be agoraphobic. She is unsure and is therefore scared.

Snapping and lunging is never out of excitement and is definitely a huge hazard she can kill other people's dogs which unfortunately is much more important than her discomfort!

To try and ease the severity of her reactions you can try these steps:

Step 1 - Adding leash and dog friend within a building

To start just attach the lead to her when she's inside with a new dog friend. Allow them to play, relax and just generally enjoy with each other for an hour or so every few days. Take note of any toys your dog seems to prefer, you'll need this in future steps.

Step 2 - Progressing to both dogs in yard on leash together

Once both dogs are calm and relaxed with each other inside the building progress to a yard or garden with them and do the same thing, ensure they have toys they can play with and/or treats. This helps with taking the attention off the dog. Only give the toys if the dogs are relaxed or you may accidentally reinforce bad behaviour.

Step 3 - Walking down the road with both dogs

Now for the big one, once both dogs seem settled pick a time where you believe there will be no other dog walkers around and take them for a brisk walk up the road. Ensure you have your dog's favourite toy to reward any preferred behaviour from them.

Step 4 - Meeting the friendly dog outside

Have the friendly dog come and meet your dog outside your house. They should be familiar with scents by now and therefore shouldn't show any negative behaviour. For any desired behaviour ensure you reward with a toy or treat.

Step 5 - Interacting with other dogs with friendly dog interacting first

From your comment that she's already fought/snapped and barked at previous dogs I would put the muzzle on for everyone's safety and peace of mind when starting this step. I would also take the friendly dog on the walk so that your dog can see (and learn) an appropriate way to interact.

Step 6 - Progress to walking by herself

Regardless of how well the previous step worked I would once again put the muzzle on her until I am 100% confident that she is showing no aggressive behaviour towards other dogs. As the last thing you want to happen is being the cause of a fatality. Using a similar method as before simply walk your dog as normal. If they display any aggressive behaviour give them a firm "NO" and continue walking. Do not fuss, do not pull back, don't walk towards the dog just continue in the same direction you were going to begin with. Once she stops being aggressive and is no longer focusing on the dog, reward with a toy or treat.

If you move onto the next step and it doesn't work revert back to the previous one. It may take some time and lots of patience but don't let this discourage you. It takes time to work anxiety out of dogs.

Side note: It's also important that the dog friend you use is not aggressive toward other dogs at all otherwise it may worsen both of their behaviours.

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