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Recently reactive and scared of our street.


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Background: We adopted our lad Benny in December, he's 4 years old and had his last race in July following a toe dislocation/amputation. There was a house before us but they sent him back due to stealing food, which was clearly because they'd not been feeding him properly as he came to us really underweight. There he lived with a Jack Russel and they didn't report any problems. He's had all the standard settling in problems but was making quick progress, we were told he was good on lead and uninterested in other dogs which turned out to be false as he wanted to greet every other dog we saw (nothing aggressive, play bows and the odd bark) and wasn't great on the lead. He was getting way better though, last month we decided he could have a go out without his muzzle and had no problems. Only dogs he'd been reactive to were small fluffy dogs which we just made sure he was away from, any other dog small or large was fine, sometimes he wouldn't give them more than a look. He's our first greyhound.

So onto the point, it's all gone downhill fast. Over the past two weeks he's started barking and occasionally lunging at other dogs, especially off lead dogs. This came to a head yesterday when he grabbed a small fluffy dog and picked it up. I was walking down the woods where ive been taking him because there's rarely other dogs, around a corner came the small dog off lead. Owner a bit behind, Benny saw it and stopped, same way he's been doing before having a go at other dogs before so I held his harness in short as possible, stood between him and them. They went on past and Benny just lunged and grabbed it, It was all so quick but me and the other owner got his dog out of Bennys mouth and thankfully it was shaken but fine. Benny is obviously back on muzzle from now onwards. I was cautious before of him and other dogs knowing their instincts and training but extra cautious now.

As well as this over the past two weeks he's been freezing more often and for longer on walks then refusing to go certain directions that he was fine with before. Sometimes we'll be stuck for 15-20mins. He's also seemingly become terrified of our street, he won't walk down it apart from to leave although even that isnt always without freezing up, sometimes he whines, he'll refuse to cross the road. Myself or my partner have to come down to help convince him to walk up the street (depending on who took him for a walk) or we have to throw bits of kibble up the street to lure him. Thats been a last resort we go to after 10+ mins of being stuck 100m or less from our door. His heart rates right up and his tails between his legs. He's gone from happy as anything on walks long or short to cautiously plodding along with the odd happy burst then back to tail down and nervous at every sound.

Only thing we can point to is two weeks ago was when an off lead german sheppard ran over to him when he was on a walk in the park with my partner. The dog was barking in his face and apparantly it was pretty terrifying. Benny didn't bark back or anything, he just froze and whimpered and the other owner was naturally nowhere to be seen. Its since then he's been reacting badly to other dogs and become nervous out of the flat, although trying not to dwell on that as the issue because I feel there's gotta be something else.

Really not sure what to do and how we can help him to feel more comfortable on walks and be less reactive to other dogs. We can't really walk him somewhere without dogs because they're just everywhere, with all the freezing and other dogs a 30min walk quickly turns into 2hrs. 

Any suggestions?

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Hi there. Please permit me to be frank. I personally think it would help immeasurably if you had a change of mindset. Rather than thinking what's wrong with my dog, do think "How can I help my dog to feel more safe and relaxed in *this* situation".  

If your local park has dogs everywhere, find a different park or place (drive if necessary) with no dogs, or walk at a different (quiet) time of day. 

The longest process - Progress to training your dog with Positive Reinforcement techniques  for this issue when the dog is calm and receptive enough (mentally) to accept training.

Hope this helps. Cheers. 

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50 minutes ago, mansbestfriend said:

Hi there. Please permit me to be frank. I personally think it would help immeasurably if you had a change of mindset. Rather than thinking what's wrong with my dog, do think "How can I help my dog to feel more safe and relaxed in *this* situation".  

If your local park has dogs everywhere, find a different park or place (drive if necessary) with no dogs, or walk at a different (quiet) time of day. 

The longest process - Progress to training your dog with Positive Reinforcement techniques  for this issue when the dog is calm and receptive enough (mentally) to accept training.

Hope this helps. Cheers. 

I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that I'm not concerned about my dog being relaxed in this situation. Especially since I said I want to work out how to make him more comfortable on walks. That is my only concern and why I'm trying to work out what is causing this.

I walk him at the quietest times, but there aren't just dogs in the park, there are dogs in the streets and down by the woods/canal where we go to avoid the park and the nervousness isn't only around dogs.

We don't have a car so walks out of our area are not an option.

 

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First off the freezing is normal settling in behavior.  Some times it happens from the start, sometimes it pops up when you think wow we have a good thing going.  Think of it as the dog’s reaction to believing the world is going to jump out at him at any minute.  Before when he was walking fine he was to nervous to pay attention to his environment.  As he blindly was following his lead and who was holding it.  As they get more comfortable they start to see and hear the world around them.  Think blinders on a horse.  The view opens up a little bit at a time.  When to much comes into focus they freeze they do not know how to process take in the new sights and sounds.

Sorry he got rushed by a bigger dog.  You both will over come this it just takes time and patience.  
 

You may want to spend some time just outside your house for him to take in the sights and sounds of his new world.  If you have a yard/garden, driveway/sidewalk or a tree if the weather is nice bring a chair for you and a drink for both of you.  Talk to him tell him anything, what it was like growing up, favorite place to travel,  funny story.  This will help calm both of you.  No loud sudden part to story just calm conversation.  Just gives him a chance to get used to things.  Then start by a driveway walk round and round, make up patterns figure eight, serpentine, you name it.  Practice different speeds, stop and start.  Teach the “leave it” “watch me”  when he starts to focus on something tell him to leave it and focus him back on you.

When this is going good venture out into a little longer outing double the space add in a house length or two.  Soon the newness will fade into the background.

Leave it is great for the dogs that he sees on his walks too.  At the first sign that he has spotted something tell him to leave it and then keep on moving or whatever you were doing praise and a treat if you have it.   Just a taste he should not have to stop to chew it. 
 

Best of luck with Benny,  it is a scary new world for them to take in.

 

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1 hour ago, 1Moregrey said:

First off the freezing is normal settling in behavior.  Some times it happens from the start, sometimes it pops up when you think wow we have a good thing going.  Think of it as the dog’s reaction to believing the world is going to jump out at him at any minute.  Before when he was walking fine he was to nervous to pay attention to his environment.  As he blindly was following his lead and who was holding it.  As they get more comfortable they start to see and hear the world around them.  Think blinders on a horse.  The view opens up a little bit at a time.  When to much comes into focus they freeze they do not know how to process take in the new sights and sounds.

Sorry he got rushed by a bigger dog.  You both will over come this it just takes time and patience.  
 

You may want to spend some time just outside your house for him to take in the sights and sounds of his new world.  If you have a yard/garden, driveway/sidewalk or a tree if the weather is nice bring a chair for you and a drink for both of you.  Talk to him tell him anything, what it was like growing up, favorite place to travel,  funny story.  This will help calm both of you.  No loud sudden part to story just calm conversation.  Just gives him a chance to get used to things.  Then start by a driveway walk round and round, make up patterns figure eight, serpentine, you name it.  Practice different speeds, stop and start.  Teach the “leave it” “watch me”  when he starts to focus on something tell him to leave it and focus him back on you.

When this is going good venture out into a little longer outing double the space add in a house length or two.  Soon the newness will fade into the background.

Leave it is great for the dogs that he sees on his walks too.  At the first sign that he has spotted something tell him to leave it and then keep on moving or whatever you were doing praise and a treat if you have it.   Just a taste he should not have to stop to chew it. 
 

Best of luck with Benny,  it is a scary new world for them to take in.

 

Thanks 1Moregrey, 

Unfortunately we're in a row of tenement flats so we only have a communal garden to the back but I'll try taking him for a bit longer out there so he can hear the sounds and work up to the pavement out front. 

I had started trying the treats on walks when he leaves something for added praise but it's a bit fiddley now that he's muzzled again. 

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Kind words and ear, shoulder rubs are good to.  So no worries if treats are just not feasible at this time.  
You can also record/download or even open a window if weather permits to expose him to the sounds.  
My last gh came from a quiet rural setting to an urban area by a military base.  She would take flight at noise so we spent a lot of time in the yard with her running laps as the shooting range, and machinery noises could be heard.  It lessened over time but she preferred to be inside instead of hang out in the yard,  and we did not walk on maneuver weekends and that was ok.  We figured it out and so will you.

Give Benny an ear massage/shoulder massage from me and relax he will get it.
 

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Poor Benny! And poor you! It's not easy to see them anxious or struggling.

We found our dog was very meek and shut down when outdoors initially, so no problem with small dogs or other fluffies. It was only once he started feeling more relaxed and confident that his prey drive kicked in. We live in a VERY busy area with small 'handbag' dogs running around off lead all over the place so luckily we had kept him muzzled on all walks anyway. We still do, a year later, but that's also because he's a food monster and people around here leave takeaway food detritus all over the place :wacko:

"Leave it" training has helped hugely with this, and also if we encounter squirrels, cats, foxes...etc. It's not perfect, he will still get excited, but he will walk on and doesn't lunge or howl like a banshee now. 

As 1Moregrey has said - freezing is very common with greys initially. You may find some days he's ok, others he will be fearful and statue. And sometimes something scary can set them back a little. I spent a long time in the first few months standing still waiting for my grey to move. It's frustrating at times, but is what it is. We've all been there. Our grey was a lot better at walking and then, around bonfire night, some little Herbert's chucked a firework in the street near us. Scared all of us, and took a few weeks before our boy was comfortable outdoors again. Even now he can panic and freeze if he hears something loud and unusual (and we've had him a year!)

A lot of time, patience and gentle encouragement are all I can suggest. If it helps, it IS possible to get treats through a muzzle but takes a fair bit of practice to get it them in first time ;-)

Good luck and let us know how you get on!

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I completely understand why you’ve gone back to the muzzle, but I felt that it was detrimental to training our reactive dog to be sociable around other dogs. It was as if he knew he had no way to defend himself if an approaching dog decided to attack him, so he went into defensive mode and would lunge at them first to warn them away. So we lost the muzzle and he was much better around other dogs. This was combined with the ‘watch me’ command where he knew he would get a treat, which we extended to him getting a treat when he was sociable. It took a while, and lots of us explaining to people that our dog was a grumpy old man who might snap if their dog was overfamiliar with him. He still snaps today but we (his owners) shrug it off better than we did when we first got him. He’s not being aggressive, he’s telling the other dog that he likes his personal space.

So the next step is finding a way to regain your trust in him, because this is probably what has suffered the most damage. We have also had to extract a small dog from our dog’s jaws, but we knew what had triggered him to go for the other dog - we had him off lead and he had been chasing rabbits - the next thing he saw was small and fluffy and looked like one of his stuffed toys. He has never before or since shown any inclination to ‘play’ with another dog like he plays with his toys. If you think back, was there anything that happened prior to Benny catching the other dog that got him excited, and into greyhound mode? If you can identify it you can avoid it or head it off before it escalates to an incident

I think if you want to take a little longer with the muzzle on while you learn to read his body language around smaller dogs, you might just have to avoid bigger dogs if you can. You can get bright bandanas and other assorted flags to hang off your dog that lets other owners know to keep their dogs away while he is wearing a muzzle.

Long thin treats work best with a muzzle. Having told you that we lost the muzzle, like FeeFee147 we have had to go back to it (this week, actually) because ours is a scavenger and getting him to wear it is better than him having an upset tummy every few weeks because he has eaten something bad.

I’ve not been very successful in training mine to do anything (my fault, not the dog) but there are plenty of people on here with much more experience than me, and you’ve already got some good advice in the previous posts. Good luck!

Living with Buddy Molly b. 5 November 2010. Welcomed home 16/6/2018 ❤️

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He's had a fright and his confidence has been dented so he'll look to you for support and clues on how to behave. If you change how you are walking and tighten the lead when you see another dog it'll put him on his guard and he'll either be ready to defend you by attacking the other dog or be frightened because his owner is. Walk confidently and keep a slack lead and as soon as he takes an interest in the other dog a quick tug on the lead and immediately slacken it again telling him to "leave" but keep walking. As soon as he's walked past the other dog or ignored it don't forget to praise him.

 

Grace (Ardera Coleen) born 18 June 2014
Raced at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton UK - 68 Races, 9 wins, 5 second places
Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the various bits of advice everyone, been quite busy so heres a late update. 

I intended to take on some of the advice but Benny started to just settle again with us carrying on as before and if it's suddenly working I thought why fix it. He did have one backwards few days where he was scared of the park entrance after some neds screamed in his face (like literally got down in his face and screamed to intentionally scare him) but other than that fine overall. Still some issues but nothing that isnt manageable and getting better. He's now made friends with a 10month old german shepherd we see on morning walks which is lovely to see considering when this started he hadn't been relaxed around other dogs since that last time he met a german shepherd and it freaked him out, he's confident enough to have some interaction then put the young lad back in his place if he gets too heavy on the jumping which is great. Muzzle is back off as a result of him getting his confidence back.

 

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Are off leash allowed where you live?  With your boy on leash, and if charged by a loose dog, it would not be you or your boy's fault if he lunged and bit. Unless a muzzle is required in your country, muzzles can be viewed by others as meaning the dog has aggression issues, even if they don't.

Having got him in December many things are totally new to him. Lots of stimulus for him to sort out. It often takes at least 3 months for a new greyhound to adjust to their new life. Sometimes they cause more mischief, sometimes they settle down.

Your update sounds good and I hope he continues to do well.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/21/2021 at 6:28 PM, macoduck said:

Are off leash allowed where you live?  With your boy on leash, and if charged by a loose dog, it would not be you or your boy's fault if he lunged and bit. Unless a muzzle is required in your country, muzzles can be viewed by others as meaning the dog has aggression issues, even if they don't.

Offlead is allowed here but in the prior situation with the small dog I wouldn't have called it charging by a loose dog. Although he has been charged by loose dogs several times they're seperate incidents. This was really a perfect nightmare of a single track with someone walking an offleash dog.

Muzzles aren't a requirement here. Ive defenately noticed people keep their distance if he has a muzzle though, which is a shame when he has it on because he's very much a people dog and likes meeting strangers, especially young children. 

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