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Discussion Starter #1
Now that Tomo has aged out of the puppy forums, here is a new thread to keep me honest about our training, note good experiences, and of course post photos.

He's a year and 4 months today! :D

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Completed training:
  • Sirius puppy kindergarden, puppy 1, puppy 2, and now we're on our third round of puppy 3
  • puppy socialization and training at a few places in SF, including SF SPCA when they offered puppy courses.
  • A couple of personal training at home for specific issues (puppy biting and then counter surfing).
Was at puppy daycare 5 days a week from 8 to 11 months, then switched daycares to be with more adult dogs as he got annoyed with some puppy play and started not getting along with some adolescent males. Then due to covid and leash reactivity (interested/frustrated when seeing dogs), stopped daycare at 13 months.

We've been working on leash skills (no pulling, hurrying past certain houses if they don't like dogs, no eating trash, etc) and lowering reactivity thresholds for the past 3 months. He's real great at home! Settles down for most of the 9-5 work hours. No counter surfing, unless there's freshly baked bread or waffles lol.

Our trainer described him as having "big feelings". He's a happy, confident dog almost all the time. For dog reactivity we've been doing leash walks and long line walks, basically following along Patricia McConnell's Feisty Fido book about Watch.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
He did so well during our park walk today, I’m so proud! 🥺

He was a little distracted during our noon walk (in the neighborhood) so I thought on our afternoon walk (on a long line in Golden Gate Park) we would work on Watch (and auto watch), avoiding dogs at a good distance, and practice quick turns/run away joyfully. GGP makes this easy as it’s really dense with places of interest, little paths connecting everything, and plenty of hills, trees, and shrubs/greenery to cover the line of sight if I pay attention to our surroundings and look out for dogs coming. (In neighborhoods I would use parked cars for cover or cross the street.)

I saw about 20 dogs, and Tomo saw about half them since I would change our path or run ahead. Most were in the easy category, being more than 20 yards away. A few times they were within 10 yards and I was armed with a Belgian waffle as our high value treat 😂 I would shove a piece of waffle next to his nose and he would do a Watch or we ran off together.

Super pleased with today’s training! These past couple of weeks have been so much better — we’ve been working on reactivity for 3-4 months and some days are so bad I just want to sit and cry... Not sure if it’s just finally enough training hours, I’m getting better at anticipating situations, or if he grew up enough — perhaps a combo of all 3.

I made more sourdough waffle batter for tmw 😛
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I've been very bad about updating Tomo's training diary, but we are still training every day and doing once weekly Zoom group sessions with our trainer. He is going to turn 2 years old this month!

He has really settled down and matured this year during shelter-in-place. He's so good in the house, sleeping most of the day while we're working, and only whining occasionally when he thinks it's time for a walking break! The weekly classes are mostly for me to keep up with training and to get feedback about how I'm handling training. I could see him doing a lot more if I can dedicate more time to do it -- I think it'll be really fun to have him do object retrievals like slippers, but I haven't dedicated any serious time to do it.

Right now my main thing is his attention outside. He's so good when he pays attention to me, but most of the time he's off in his doggy world of smells, dirt, and other dogs. I don't mind the sniffing, marking, and other interactions, since the walk/hike is his time. But his level of attention and reactivity to other dogs could be really high. He has a lot of confidence projection (leans forward, tail like a flag, stare) and always wants to meet other dogs, probably a consequence of being in daycare for a few months. The problem is that not all dogs like greetings, and half of them do not like how forward he greets them. So I've been trying to get his attention or play U Turns, but he's just so stubborn and so highly aroused that 90% of the time he won't leave with me, or else he'll be frustrated and whine at me when I do pull him away.

I'm not sure if I just need to continue what we're doing (attention games, U turns, calm stays on the towel, and just in general continue desensitization), or what else I can do to help him be more confident and calm. It's impossible to avoid dogs when we live in the city and dogs often will surprise us around a corner, or their owners are preoccupied or not understanding why I'm dragging my dog away... If this is just part of learning and experiencing the world, that's okay. But I want to make sure I'm not perpetuating adverse emotions when we meet dogs, and it's really hard not to be anxious and put on my happy voice when he's dragging me over or barking/pulling because the other dog dared to stare back. He's still intact as I've gotten permission from the breeder, not sure what is the best thing for him.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Photos!!

Pillar Point Bluff (wearing a shoe because he split his paw pad playing fetch)
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Begging for some chicken
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Posing with the stuffie hospital in the back...
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Ready to open his holiday advent
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Discussion Starter #7
Loooves puddles
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Running!
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His place for dinner (after acting like he doesn’t know how to lie down there cuz there’s a ball there)
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He’s much better with females, seniors, and puppies.
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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I had a frustrating walk/outing today and it illustrates how I need to be mentally prepared and be more accountable in our reactivity-specific training.

Our usual routine:

Everyday Tomo gets 2-3 walks a day. My husband does the morning and lunchtime/early afternoon walk, which is around the neighborhood and typically 30 min long. Then in the late afternoon I’ll drive Tomo to Golden Gate Park and we’ll romp around with a long line in the quieter areas, he gets to sniff, dig, we’ll play a bit of fetch. If there’s no one around, we’ll do some recalls or fetch while he drags his leash around, or he gets to swim in the duck pond. We’ll also practice doing down stays and being calm on a hand towel.

About every other weekend we’ll do a hike on a low traffic trail for about 2 miles. And some days we’ll do a neighborhood walk to the “Main Street” area.

Because of covid and Tomo’s dog reactivity, I have stopped taking him to places like the front of the farmer’s market or Trader Joe’s, dog parks or beaches, and pet food stores, where we used to do training and desensitization. We will sometimes do garden centers and Home Depot, or in front of the gym that’s 100 yds from the pet food store.

So today we do our usual in the park, we met a younger female dog and asked to greet, that goes okay. On our way back to the car, we see another younger dog. I ask if we can say hi, but the owner shortens her leash and begins to treat and walk her dog past us. The dog is about 10-15 feet away from us.

I attempt to turn Tomo away, but he’s already doing the “stand forward and stare,” and then he growls and pulls. I know it’s probably out of frustration that he can’t immediately run up and play, but it looks and feels scary, as he’s a 75 lbs dog that I’m desperately holding on to. When I’ve pulled him away and turn my head to see the other dog, the owner has her dog in her arms as they’re quickly walking away.

I know at the heart that Tomo is a young dog and he can’t help being so excited — he just has too much feelings too fast, but I feel like I’m the parent of a bully at the playground ☹ I feel terrible that I read the situation wrong, that I shouldn’t have let us get so close, that he shouldn’t have been so in front of me so it’s hard for me to turn him in time. It’s really hard to keep my cool when I immediately get frustrated and angry.

I’ve never been so dedicated to dog training and spent so much time thinking about my dog. But then I’m also asking him to do so much more than my previous dogs (they were much more homebodies).
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Obviously the anger part I’ll have to talk with my therapist 😂

I emailed our trainer and asked her to do some additional private training. Last group session she said I shouldn’t compare how good Tomo is in the house versus his behavior outside the house, since of course we spent so much time training at home and our house is pretty quiet. She had wanted me to go out to a field or a parking lot, put him on a long line and just stand there, and time him to see how long it takes to calm down. Then train to calm on a mat, rinse and repeat, and have times recorded for analysis.

Tomo is so good when he isn’t preoccupied with alertness in the environment or attuned to other dogs, so I’ll just have to keep practicing what I know we should be spending more time on.
  • Practice being calm on mat - parking lots, back yard, street at night, across from pet food store - at least 2x a week
  • Cont working on being calm in down stay on walks
  • High rewards for seeing dog and turning - bring more meat/cheese only for this
  • More U-turn practice
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Earlier this afternoon we went into the backyard and I gave him a raw beef bone on his mat while I worked on my laptop, and we were out probably an hour.

so his reactivity could be from having worked hard earlier today. I noticed that on our group training days, he tends to have less self control and listen to me less during the walk after training, probably cuz he is mentally tired from training (as am I).

Tonight we did some mat training on our front porch. I treated for being relaxed and seeing a couple of dogs across the street. It was about 20 min and went well.
 

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Today we went to the local garden center half an hour before closing, a few of the staff crowded around him for pets, and then we went for a walk around there after putting the vegetable fertilizer in the car. The Irish center apparently had an outdoor party and we practiced mat stay for a very short time in their driveway.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Had to to pick up more fertilizer from the garden store again on Sunday, it was rainy so another great training opportunity (otherwise the gardening store is PACKED on the weekends). He was quite good on leash following me around (high value treats were sourdough Belgian waffle and raw beef grind that I baked into little patties) and even heeled nicely next to the cart when we were leaving! He's fairly polite at greeting people except when they go into EXCITED PUPPY TALK mode, but I figured those people want him to jump all over them...

One of the employees said that it must be super great to be with a golden sunshine dog all the time and I must be really happy. I was a little too preoccupied with Tomo putting his paws up on the checkout counter to reply much, other than to think that I was anxious and busy the entire time because I wanted him on be on his good behavior lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Today's park outing went really well. We walked around 45 min on the long line, Tomo was under excitement threshold and being fairly attentive to me; he couldn't leave a particularly gross, smelly spot but did come when called when he wanted to take a side branch of the path.

We met 4 dogs on the walk, he waited with a bit of leash pressure but did stay by my side until I asked the owners to meet and gave the okay. He still ran straight to them but they were fine for the most part. The 10 year old chow chow snapped at him a bit and I felt bad that the owner reprimanded her dog, I tried to tell them that Tomo is the one who is rude and need to learn some manners :(

We got home and then I let him chew his frozen bone in the yard for a bit before dinner.

This week I will continue to be outside more, rewarding for calm, continuing playing the Look at That Dog/treating for looking back at me, having chews time with down stays outside on the mat, and keeping him well below the excitement threshold.
 

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Can I ask why he has to say hi to a strange dog on leash? I feel like being allowed to say hi to another dog on leash may be contributing some towards his reactivity to other dogs (it's pretty common). Dogs interacting for the first time on a leash is usually a recipe for disaster.

The hard staring, forward stance, and the growling are pretty common signs of leash frustration (which can lead to leash reactivity and some more serious dog reactivity).
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Can I ask why he has to say hi to a strange dog on leash? I feel like being allowed to say hi to another dog on leash may be contributing some towards his reactivity to other dogs (it's pretty common). Dogs interacting for the first time on a leash is usually a recipe for disaster.

The hard staring, forward stance, and the growling are pretty common signs of leash frustration (which can lead to leash reactivity and some more serious dog reactivity).
Sure, I agree that his excitement and subsequent reactivity (he's acting rudely since he's so excited, and then the other dog will often tell him off for being so rude) is related to his need to go say hi to other dogs. My trainer says it's likely an unintended consequence of being at daycare. I picked daycares that had more supervision, naptimes, and had less dogs, and he was only in daycares for about 6 months, but it did condition him to think that all dogs want to greet and play.

Some days we work on being by my side and not greeting any dogs -- especially if he's high energy and not capable of listening, then I don't want to set him up for failure -- but he's such an outgoing dog that I noticed he was starting to whine out of frustration when I was strict on no dogs (since he wanted to please me but also really wanted to greet the dog and I made him choose). He was affected too at the beginning of covid shelter-in-place when we didn't know the extent of transmissions, all of a sudden no one is giving him any loving and no one was coming over. Also I live in SF and it's impossible to avoid dogs, there are more dogs than children! :LOL:

I recognize that I need to be a better leader and make better choices about my reactions (I'm nervous that it won't go well so I'm hypervigilant and I'm sure he feels my anxiety), so I am currently reading some books recommended in other reactivity training threads.

Thanks for the question, it was good for me to go over my thinking :) If you have any suggestions or feedback, I am all ears!
 

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I have a lot of thoughts and this is all over the place, but basically my suggestion would be to stop on-leash greetings all the time LOL. A lot of the behavior you're seeing, imo, is because he's been allowed to greet dogs on leash in the past and is now not able to (or not allowed immediately when he wants to). He does not know that the reason he can't greet a dog right now is because he's acting out - all he knows is that he wants to go see the dog, but something (the leash) is holding him back.

When Kaizer was young, I did let him do on-leash greetings with dogs (especially the dogs around my neighborhood). Mainly cause I was new to my area and I didn't know anyone with a dog and I felt bad that my puppy didn't have any friends (as an aside, that is totally an idea that we as humans have put on dogs. Pet dogs do not need to have dog friends or need to be friendly with other dogs -- casual acceptance is totally fine). I think around 10 months, he started barking at passing dogs and posturing and wanting to go see them. And a lot of the dogs we said hi to off leash lost their **** on him because he was an intact boy and a lot of dogs have feelings about intact boys. I'm fairly certain all of that led to Kaizer's reactivity issues. He was always kind of worried about other dogs, so none of that certainly helped. I DO call him reactive because he certainly reacted (not aggressive because I truly do not think he would ever attack another dog). If a dog looked at him wrong or barked at him or got "too close" to him, he would bark and lunge and growl. It was all a lot of noise meant to scare them off. I've done a lot of work with him and he no longer really reacts, but it was a long road. And to clarify, he will never be 100% OK with dogs. If we turned a corner and a dog was suddenly in his face, he will bark. I DO have to watch him if we're somewhere a dog could get too close or stare too hard at him - my training was just so that I could interrupt him or redirect his attention back to me and prevent him from reacting.

But he also goes literally everywhere with me. I have not taken a vacation that I could not take him to. He's been to DC, NYC, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Key West, Detroit, and Niagara Falls, among other places. Big cities with lots of dogs and people, and I've never had an issue. My point in saying that is that you can have a dog in a big city with lots of other dogs and never greet a dog on leash, ever (or at least severely limit the happenings).

Obviously I only know what you've posted here, but I think I disagree that with the assessment that daycare is the reason he's reacting. I agree that maybe now he associates dogs with playing, but dogs are perfectly capable of understanding that they CAN play with dogs in this context and they CANNOT play with dogs in another context. They're just not great at learning "sometimes" you can greet strange dogs on leash but other times you can't. Context means a lot to dogs.

Also, in general for any dog, I'm not the biggest fan of on leash dog greetings because a lot of dogs will react negatively when on leash. My understanding of it is that there's no escape (how far can a dog get from another dog if they're on leash?) so if the approaching dog is being rude or being too much, the dog on the receiving end will act out in a more dramatic way that it normally would since the option to flee or de-escalate the situation in another way has been removed. It's just a good way to have a really bad experience. I can tell you for sure that when I let Kaizer have on-leash greetings, more often than not, a dog would lose it on him. I'm sure that also contributed to his reactivity problem (if there is a list of every way you can screw up a dog, I 100% did it with Kaizer lol).
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
I have a lot of thoughts and this is all over the place, but basically my suggestion would be to stop on-leash greetings all the time LOL. A lot of the behavior you're seeing, imo, is because he's been allowed to greet dogs on leash in the past and is now not able to (or not allowed immediately when he wants to). He does not know that the reason he can't greet a dog right now is because he's acting out - all he knows is that he wants to go see the dog, but something (the leash) is holding him back.

When Kaizer was young, I did let him do on-leash greetings with dogs (especially the dogs around my neighborhood). Mainly cause I was new to my area and I didn't know anyone with a dog and I felt bad that my puppy didn't have any friends (as an aside, that is totally an idea that we as humans have put on dogs. Pet dogs do not need to have dog friends or need to be friendly with other dogs -- casual acceptance is totally fine). I think around 10 months, he started barking at passing dogs and posturing and wanting to go see them. And a lot of the dogs we said hi to off leash lost their **** on him because he was an intact boy and a lot of dogs have feelings about intact boys. I'm fairly certain all of that led to Kaizer's reactivity issues. He was always kind of worried about other dogs, so none of that certainly helped. I DO call him reactive because he certainly reacted (not aggressive because I truly do not think he would ever attack another dog). If a dog looked at him wrong or barked at him or got "too close" to him, he would bark and lunge and growl. It was all a lot of noise meant to scare them off. I've done a lot of work with him and he no longer really reacts, but it was a long road. And to clarify, he will never be 100% OK with dogs. If we turned a corner and a dog was suddenly in his face, he will bark. I DO have to watch him if we're somewhere a dog could get too close or stare too hard at him - my training was just so that I could interrupt him or redirect his attention back to me and prevent him from reacting.

But he also goes literally everywhere with me. I have not taken a vacation that I could not take him to. He's been to DC, NYC, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Key West, Detroit, and Niagara Falls, among other places. Big cities with lots of dogs and people, and I've never had an issue. My point in saying that is that you can have a dog in a big city with lots of other dogs and never greet a dog on leash, ever (or at least severely limit the happenings).

Obviously I only know what you've posted here, but I think I disagree that with the assessment that daycare is the reason he's reacting. I agree that maybe now he associates dogs with playing, but dogs are perfectly capable of understanding that they CAN play with dogs in this context and they CANNOT play with dogs in another context. They're just not great at learning "sometimes" you can greet strange dogs on leash but other times you can't. Context means a lot to dogs.

Also, in general for any dog, I'm not the biggest fan of on leash dog greetings because a lot of dogs will react negatively when on leash. My understanding of it is that there's no escape (how far can a dog get from another dog if they're on leash?) so if the approaching dog is being rude or being too much, the dog on the receiving end will act out in a more dramatic way that it normally would since the option to flee or de-escalate the situation in another way has been removed. It's just a good way to have a really bad experience. I can tell you for sure that when I let Kaizer have on-leash greetings, more often than not, a dog would lose it on him. I'm sure that also contributed to his reactivity problem (if there is a list of every way you can screw up a dog, I 100% did it with Kaizer lol).
Thanks for your thoughts! I took some time since I wanted to really think about it. I think there are a few things contributing to the reactivity: conditioning to meet dogs and see if they want to play, leash pressure, wanting to posture and show he's the big man, and reacting to negative reactions from other dogs. He has "big emotions" as my trainer says, and depending on how he's doing that day, he would listen to me really well outside or we need to avoid dogs from a block away.

Yes, Tomo is also intact. We haven't had much trouble on walks or in the parks because of it, though I do find that dog packs will gang up on him because of it, so I avoid places popular with lazy dog walkers or owners who have multiple dogs off-leash but don't have them under voice control.

On neighborhood walks, he's in a walking harness with 2 leashes clipped to front and back. We practice loose leash walking, though he gets to sniff but not allowed to drag me. If I see dogs I'll cross the street or go a different direction, and I'll use parked cars and other obstacles to block line of sight. We don't greet dogs unless we've already been friendly since he was a puppy (and then I'll drop one of the leashes).

When we're in the park or hiking, he's in a Ruffwear harness with a long line clipped to the front. He gets to sniff all he wants, we might run a little, or play fetch (I'll run with him when I toss the ball, unless there's really no dogs or traffic around, and then I'll let him drag the line around). If we're at a pond or beach with no dogs close by, I'll take his line off and let him swim. We will only greet dogs if he's been good at listening to me, I call out to the owner if the dogs can meet, and then I give the okay to Tomo.

He is sooo happy when he gets to meet and play, it's a different level of happiness than playing with me. So I really want to enable that if we can do it safely (physically and emotionally). Also, I want to make sure he learns calmness as we have the most trouble when I am surprised by a dog I can't avoid in time. The dogs are ALWAYS walked by a man who walks extremely fast (or jogging) and is confident he has absolute control over his dog (and these dogs seem obedient but I cannot read any other emotions) -- and the man does not seem to see or understand that I am a small woman trying to move my dog out of their direct path. Tomo will always freeze, stare, and posture at these dogs as they're coming, and then growl and lunge as they're passing by. Sure, the man controlled his dog just fine, but I am using all my strength to restrain my dog who is then huffy and bothered for the next 5-10 minutes.

I was driving myself crazy trying to avoid this situation so I am trying to accept that I cannot protect my dog from the world all the time, and we'll just have to continue learning below Tomo's excitement threshold so he can have the mental and emotional space to learn to be calm and listen, develop more trust in me, and learn a more appropriate automatic response (to sit next to me instead of pull ahead and stare).

I know we all have our dogs' best interest at heart, and I think if he's more stressed from dog greetings I would do what you advise. But he loves to play with dogs, especially puppies. If a senior dog tells him off for being rude, he shakes that off. I think his reactivity is to other male dogs who are also teenagers or in their prime, as he's still a hormone-y teenager who is re-learning the world now that he's much bigger and testing his place in the dog hierarchy. (A lot of people ask me if he's a puppy)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Today for our class we worked on a new trick of peek-a-boo/center, where Tomo would circle around me, come through my legs from the back, and sit as he comes through. And also worked some distractions during stay on the mat (the ball was pretty hard).

After our class, we did our walk around the UCSF main campus for new smells and to work on desensitization. Tomo did great! Some people came up to greet him, we did a bit of down stay in front of the clinic building, went down and up the elevator (he was scared on the first ride and much better about the moving floor when we came back), barked at the bear statues, etc. I fed him treats when the ambulance and fire trucks came by, and also at buses, shuttles, and motorcyles, though those are pretty routine for him now. It is rainy today and we went after the end of clinic hours but before the hospital shift changes, so human, dog, and car traffic were light -- great to have lots of time and space for training.
 

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I get too focused during training to take photos, but here are some photos at home:

Sleeping with his first stuffie when we brought him home
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