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Reactivity advice and MY fear.

Posted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:26 pm
by Zofiava
It's been quite some time since I posted. 2 years ago on July 31st, I brought home a pit bull puppy that had been dumped in the woods and brought into my shop by a kind person who found him. I took him home and quickly failed at fostering him.

I posted here and got some great advice, and that helped make my decision to keep him. I am looking for some advice again and hope you can help.

Firstly, THANK YOU all who talked with me about my pup, now named Milo. I love him with my whole heart and soul, which I think is making the rest of this so hard for me.

Now on to the problem. Milo had always been great with dogs, although I only let him interact with dogs I knew, I was trying to each him to ignore random dogs, so that he could be a good companion at work every day. I would ask people who came in the shop with their dogs if I could bring Milo out, and have him follow some cues in front of the other dog, so that he would learn to look to me, even when other dogs were present. This was going great, until one day, I asked the wrong person. He said yes, but instead of doing what I asked (keeping his dog with him while I kept Milo with me) he let his dog rush right up to Milo. Luckily, I was able to get Milo back before they connected, but the nose to nose seconds were very tense and both dogs launched into "attack mode" as soon as I pulled Milo back (I realize my pulling him back may have been what triggered it, but I had no doubt something worse was going to happen if I didn't).

After that, Milo seemed to become much more reactive when he sees other dogs. Particularly if they are barking. Now, part of it, I think is pure excitement, he barks and lunges with excitement when he sees things he really wants, like rolling soccer balls, or my spade when I am digging a hole. This isn't aggressive behavior, just very very excited. He barks the same way when he sees dogs, particularly noisy or rambunctious dogs.

But where Milo CAN be "aggressive", is when he feels a threat. For instance, a pug that was staring him down.

We have worked with a behaviorist, and I do feel like he has made progress. We only do force free training with him. He is now on a low dose of Prozac, because he would break into uncontrollable shaking at times, and this has greatly reduced his random fear based attacks on my other dogs. (I have two VERY laid back mastiffs, that Milo has went after on occasion, usually if he fears being stepped on or some other random potential hurt. Other than that, they get along great, and Milo usually gives an apology lick when he realizes he snapped at them for no real reason).

So, this brings me to my real question. How do I get over the fear of taking him out into the world?

I have a really good go to person who has 4 pit bulls (all rescues that get along wonderfully with all dogs) who will walk him for me, to get him more exposure. I have a huge yard at home, so I can easily get him enough exercise without walking, and my area doesn't have side walks, (so I would have to actually put him in the car and drive him somewhere to walk).

But here is what I think is making it so hard for me. A friend of mine had a pit bull, who while on a walk, on leash, somehow managed to grab hold of another dog, also on leash, and severely injure it. This was not the first time for this girl, and she was put to sleep.

I would die if a walk with Milo ended with his life on the line. I am terrified of taking him somewhere and an off leash dog approaching us. The park nearby would be ok, but all it takes is one off leash dog and I don't know what would happen. I want him to live a full and wonderful life, and I DO think he could make good progress, if I walked him all the time, but my fear is really holding me back.

I am taking him to my trusted friend with the 4 dog friendly pitties today so she can hang with him behind baby gates near her dogs but not with him, and I feel like things like this help, but my heart is racing just thinking of handing the leash to her and walking away. I know that my fear is not good for him, and I am pretty good at burying it before attempting anything, but still.

Does anyone have some advice for me?

PS. He is super smart. Smartest dog I have ever known!

Re: Reactivity advice and MY fear.

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:15 pm
by Graham
I am struggling with the same situation only I have the feeling that my dog is much worse.

We tried Prozac as well but it had no effect after 2 months. At that point the medication was discontinued.

I live in a condo complex and there are dogs everywhere. We try our best to stay on the down-low. Our dog is so reactive. We got a letter from our HOA stating that someone in the community was scared of her demeanor and was afraid for their safety. I try to keep her profile low so that there are no more complaints. I don't know what I would do if they told me I had to get rid of my dog.

In order to walk my dog I have been trying to "drive out" of the community in order to walk her. I can't even get out of the community without seeing a dog (if not several dogs).

We have sought the help of 3 dog trainers and an animal behaviorist. We continue to struggle everyday. We have to be very careful and check to see if the "coast is clear." It is very stressful.

Do you think Milo is being protective of you because he is sensing a nervousness from you when the other dog is approaching?

Hang in there! :run: You are not alone! :hug: