I've mentioned before that Rita has a lot of fears ("Have you seen this man?" - may need to re-run that post some day. It was funny, IMHO, and I think 4 people read it.) and, when on-leash, is reactive to dogs (and motorcycles, and crows, and sudden surprises, etc.). Back when we used to go to the off-leash park, she was fine with most dogs, but on-leash, it's a crap shoot.
If you also have a fearful/reactive dog, well, lucky you! And you may want to read all the posts in the hop, because we're sharing: "Successes, Frustrations and Everything in Between"
So, here's one of each from me, but I'm going to start with frustrations, cuz I like to get the bad news out of the way.
Frustration: ~18 months of beating my head against the wall before realizing that what helps/works for most others wasn't working for us.
I tried for ages to get Rita to be calmer on-leash, following what seems to work for a lot of folks, which is basically (1) get your dog to pay attention to you (via various methods) in a potentially reactive 'sitch, and (2) reward him/her with treats. I tried and tried and tried. Once in a while it would work, but mostly it would be me trying to stuff treats in her face while she tried to see around me and trash-talk the other dogs.
Finally, I hired a trainer who, after getting to know Rita, opined that while most dogs' hierarchy of rewards goes: Treats, then physical praise, then verbal praise, Rita is so bonded to me, that for her the hierarchy goes: verbal praise, physical praise, treats. I think he was absolutely right, and I should have realized it sooner, since we always knew she was not terribly food-motivated. (A huge lover of treats - but not motivated by them. There's a difference, which I didn't realize before.)
This brings me to a success!
Success: Realizing my voice was a trigger AND could be a reward.
The trainer helped me see that I'd trained Rita to SEEK OUT the ugly situation that was about to unfold because I'd "warn" her ahead of time to "relax." He told me I was talking to her too much, and my trying to teach her the "relax" command had actually taught her that "SOME S*&T IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN SO PAY ATTENTION."
Uh, not the message I wanted to send.
He told me to only talk to her as a reward. Since then, I've found I get the best results when I watch her very closely and the second she turns her head away from an approaching dicey situation, I say, "Good job!" I keep this up each time she looks away and doesn't escalate the usual Intense Stare. This often works quite well. And if we get cleanly through a really ugly situation (like, if the other dog is lunging/barking at her), I'll double up on the rewards by giving her some pats and loving after the other dog has gone on.
I almost never give her treats on walks anymore. (But I still carry them - for throwing at approaching off-leash dogs!) I do still talk to her sometimes. (Don't tell my trainer.) But not as much as I used to. (And I probably seem slightly less crazy for it, which is good.)
Everything in between for me means realizing we'll never be done working on this.
Some days we'll have a 100% perfectly fine walk. Not because we didn't see any other dogs, but because she was calm and did a "good job!" walking past them. Then the very next day we'll go out and she'll be making me nuts, reacting to everything! Le Sigh.
If you've also been beating your head against a wall, I hope this helps. Maybe the usual advice doesn't work for your dog either.
In Other News...
March 13 is Popcorn Lovers' Day, so I share again what I have shared before - one of my fave videos of Abby, toooo tired from a sleep over at her auntie's to get up and eat popcorn.
And... in other, other news... Check out A Tail of Two Cardis for a fun easy-enter giveaway which includes my book, Rescue Me, Maybe - plus "doggy crack"! (Now you've got to go see, right?)
Thanks so much to the WOOF blog hop co-hosts: Oz the Terrier, Roxy the Traveling Dog and Wag N' Woof Pets.