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Ok so I have a Male Rhodesian Ridgeback who is 1 year and 3 months old. I started him in puppy classes when he was 11 months old. I have never stopped taking him for training at a school. He knows a lot of commands and is very obedient except for one situation and I honestly am struggling to get past this.

My dog cannot seem to settle when he is around other dogs. He tenses up his body and lunges powerfully towards other dogs or if a tree is nearby he lunges toward the tree. If I take him on a simple walk and we pass trees he has no issues whatsoever. It's only when he sees other dogs that he feels the need to be territorial or so I think. I have tried so many things and am now very frustrated with not succeeding.

I have tried to walk my dog past houses where I know there are other dogs, I keep a variety of treats and just do heel work close to the other dogs gradually getting closer. I give the look command to try and get my dog to focus on me. I try and down my dog and make him stay but nothing is working.

This has been a problem for about 6-8 months now and my efforts are failing. I don't need my dog to play or contact any other dogs. That is not my goal. I just need him to be okay around other dogs and not lunge. Recently I have been wondering if what he has is not really aggression but anxiety. I suspect this because when he sees another dog he completely tenses up and corrections don't even get his focus away from the dog.

I use positive reinforcement methods. I have even gotten him neutered but the behavior still exists.

In a less distracting environment like my house, yard, pavement he literally is a star. He does all the commands exceptionally well and is an absolute pleasure to work with. I mentioned that we go for training every week. the instructors suggestions have not worked with this particular problem, other then that the school is really great. I train my dog everyday(Once in the afternoon, once at night [20 mins each])

Has anyone had this situation, please help me. I am willing to do anything for my dog to realize his potential in obedience competitions. However with this problem I can't proceed.

  • You say you took him to dog classes since he was a puppy. Were all of these "single student" classes where he never had social contact with other dogs or was allowed to socialize with dogs after classes? Or does he behave well with dogs on the training grounds and only misbehaves on walks? – Elmy Aug 20 at 6:31
  • @Elmy He was in a class with 6 other dogs. This is what baffles and frustrates me. I thought the early socializing prevents these kinds of things. I'm not sure if anxiety crept in or it's some sort of genetics. He behaves well without other dogs around. – RRB Aug 20 at 9:05
  • The next question is: how exactly does he "lunge" at other dogs? Is it really aggression or dominating behavior or rather over-excitement that you interpret as aggression? Is the "lunging" posture caused by his collar or harness rather than his concious movement? This is extremely hard to diagnose over the internet. It's probably better to ask a trainer to analyze his behavior on site. – Elmy Aug 20 at 9:29
  • @Elmy I suspect that it is anxiety more than aggression because he actually seems like he does not know how to cope in situations where other dogs are barking or playing, I can see that he tenses his body and looks for a way out of the situation, but yes I will find another trainer specifically for this. – RRB Aug 20 at 9:58
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    It's just a thought, but: Our Jack Russell went to loads of puppy parties, and became "over socialised" - that's not really a real thing, BTW. : ) I mean that she needed some training to get the idea that she doesn't get to play with every single dog and person she sees. Part of this was to walk her in the fields on a lead, and when a dog shows up, make her settle for a couple of seconds, and only then let her off to play. It's good to be cautious, but our Smudge would lunge toward dogs she wanted to say hello to, barking in frustration, but when close enough just bump noses and sniff butts. – Grimm The Opiner Sep 6 at 11:47
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It definitely sounds like it is an anxiety problem, and that your dog is showing extreme signs of being fear-reactive towards other dogs.

You are right, it will only get worse if you ignore it. My recommendation is to find a trainer who specializes in anxious or reactive dogs. You may want to also do your normal training classes, but this trainer will work with you outside of a class setting to find the root of this problem and alleviate it.

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    Thanks a lot for your time to respond. I am going to look around for some help and update this post as I go along. – RRB Aug 20 at 4:03
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    After a couple more months. I have persevered with training and it looks like my dog is maturing out of the lunging phase if I can call it that. Yesterday for the first time in 8 months he was able to touch 2 other dogs. Boy am I so happy. – RRB Oct 13 at 8:46

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