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Help With Dog Aggression

Guest GreyhoundNovice

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Guest GreyhoundNovice

I am first-time dog-owner, and my husband and I adopted a 4-year-old greyhound about 5 months ago. Over the past 5 months he has developed aggression (lunging and barking) towards dogs while out walking, and I am wondering if anyone else has experience with this. Looking back, I see how it might have developed and would appreciate any advice. My goal is for him to be relaxed and comfortable seeing dogs while out walking. I wonder if this is possible?

We live in in an apartment in a heavily populated area with lots of dogs. We probably see at least 5 dogs on a single walk in our neighborhood.
When we first brought him home, he did not react to other dogs. However, within the first couple of weeks we had several encounters passing dogs who barked and lunged at him. At that point, he was not reacting. But he did make soft growls on occasion (like once he was pooping in the common area and some dogs entered the area. He stopped pooping and growled). He also did this when a man jingling keys walked by and when two other men who seemed to be afraid of him walked by.
Three weeks after we adopted him, I hired a positive reinforcement trainer to work with us. It was recommended to not walk in areas with lots of dogs (this is hard to do where I live). I started avoiding dogs on the walk. I’d pull off to the side while dogs passed and gave him treats to distract him. This worked to some extent, but he still got tense and focused on other dogs.
We met a person in our neighborhood who also has a greyhound and wanted to walk them together. Out of the 6 or 7 encounters with the other greyhound, ours has growled at her every time except twice upon meeting (both were on leash). After the initial meeting they walk happily together. He even acts relaxed and sits in the grass near her.
The problem has gotten worse over the months. Now he is barking and lunging when he sees dogs, even from across the street. We basically try to avoid seeing dogs: we cross the street, change direction, divert his attention. I have tried the treat method of getting him to look at me and give him a treat, but honestly this method is hard to do when trying to keep walking, hold the leash with one hand, and treat with the other. Also, he is pretty anxious in these moment, so it seems like the treats are rewarding him when he is reacting.
I have not encountered much information about this with regard to greyhounds on the internet and would appreciate advice. Has anyone else experienced this, and if so, were you able to overcome it?
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It's called "leash reactivity" and it's fairly common. Most greyhounds don't know about other dog breeds when they first are adopted. They are raised around people and other greyhounds exclusively. They may not even recognize other breeds as "dogs" like themselves. Other dogs don't speak their language, and are often rude and too boisterous. Greyhounds become anxious when they see these other dogs, and that anxiety expresses itself as barking and lunging. If not addressed this can escalate, as you've seen.


The advice your trainer gave you is good - you need to distract him *before* he sees the other dog, and give him treats so he associates seeing them with getting a really good thing. As in really really yummy. So you need to up the value of your treat considerably when you practice this behavior. Smelly cheese, rotisserie chicken, baked real liver - whatever it is that he can not ignore. Take him out in multiple *short* practice sessions - 5 minutes or less, which may only be a couple of repetitions. Limit other outdoor walking time as much as you can and at off times to minimize contact with other dogs.


This book should give you some tips and advice.

Feisty Fido: Help For The Leash Reactive Dog, by Patricia McConnell


Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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It is also very impolite for a dog to approach another face to face and he can feel your insecurity. Try turning around when you see another dog to avoid them staring at each other or keep yourself between your boy and the other dog. This staring contest is the first step. Whrn you intercept it it will be easier for you to walk past other dogs.

You can just wait until they walk past you while you are blocking your boy's view with your body.

Sorry for butchering the english language. I try to keep the mistakes to a minimum.


Nadine with Paddy (Zippy Mullane), Saoirse (Lizzie Be Nice), Abu (Cillowen Abu) and bridge angels Colin (Dessies Hero) and Andy (Riot Officer).

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This is not specifically a greyhound issue. Don't look for information on greyhounds dealing with this, but with DOGS. He is, after all, a dog.


Neither of my hounds has cared for non-greyhounds.


I deal with this by grasping his collar in my hand (for ultimate control) and passing them several feet away, but not making any sort of issue about it. If people walk towards us, I just smile and say, "Sorry, not friendly." We run into dogs all the time, and honestly, it's not a big deal.


You were on the right track with the treats. And greysmom gives you good advice. My first greyhound was outright nasty to other dogs; the current one is less assertive about his disdain of the non-hound, so it's a bit easier now.


Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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Have a rat terrier that started off with the lunging/barking at other dogs thing. In her case it's both defensive (towards larger dogs) and frustrated greeting (with smaller dogs). And I want you to know, it can get better. In my case, it took learning that there was a fraction of a second where my dog looked back at me for guidance before deciding the best defense was a good offense. If I could catch her attention at that time, give her a treat, and keep doing that while we passed, then she was fine. And eventually, she's gotten to a point where she simply ignore most dogs... I'd say around 95% of them. And for the remaining 5%, I can tell that she is going to need some help, and I can hold a piece of kibble, get her focussed on that, and walk her past them without her going crazy, or with only a minimal bark or two. People now compliment me on how well-behaved she is, especially for a small dog, and say things like "my dog would never be so calm." To which I always reply "she didn't start off like this!"


So... just to say, it can be done, and it can get better. And if your dog is struggling with the treats and looking at the other dog, you are either too close, or you need higher-value treats, or both. You are trying to change your dog's emotional state, not teach a behavior, so you need whatever you are using for a reward to be very valuable.


My blog about helping Katie learn to be a more normal dog: http://katies-journey-philospher77.blogspot.com/

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Guest GreyhoundNovice

Thank you for all your comments and encouragement. These are all great tips. I am glad to know it can get better! I have been keeping his exposure to other dogs to a minimum this week by walking at off times and avoiding the main roads. I’ll keep on with the treat method and start with some short training sessions. I’ll post back after some time to let you know how things are going.

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