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Hello Everyone!

I was wondering if some of you could share your experiences with me about barking. So my 10 month old golden pup seems to be growling more and more aggressive. Leo has always barked when people walk by our apartment since we are on the ground floor. It has never been aggressive. He has always kind of growled when he sees an unknown person from far away but up close he has always been very polite and just sits and waits to be pet. He loves the attention.

But yesterday I took Leo for a play date with one of his friends at the dog park in our complex. They play GREAT together super polite with eachother and he has several dog friends he gets along great with. It is usually empty so we either play just me and him or him and a trusted dog(s). An unknown pitbull mix was walking by and the dogs (Leo and his friend) were already tired so we decided to go home (I no longer take him to dog parks with unknown dogs). The pittie was in the "entrance" area of the park. and we were inside the park leashing up our dogs. Leo started growling VERY aggresively and was pulling so hard to go after the pittie. I have never seen him act like this. Today we were on a hike and some horseback riders and Leo was also barking aggressive (I'm thinking the large horses scared him). Another dog also came to say hello off leash but we were leaving and on his leash so I just took Leo away since I did not want any trouble and again with the barking and pulling (could that have been because he was on a leash? Should I have let him say hello to the other dog without being restrained?) He hasnt been neutered yet and I know that neutering is NOT the answer to behavioral problems but it has crossed my mind since he has increasingly started peeing literally 20 times anywhere we go as if marking territory. He also humps anything with stuffing he can get his paws on.

My vet and I discussed neutering at 18 months unless he had issues with other dogs. In your experiences are these signs of hormones?? If so, I'm thinking about neutering when he is a year. I have signed him up for Level 2 training classes for this summer. He has completed basic obedience but had to take a break for financial reasons. We are finally ready to complete his training for him to be a good canine citizen, but until then how can I make the barking better but not fully suppress it? I have read that suppressing barking can sometimes lead to aggression because we lose the signs that a dog is in discomfort.

This is my first dog and I am just trying to understand and learn more about his body language and what type of dog he is and how to read other dogs. Im just scared Leo will get triggered or will trigger another dog with his barking. Thanks ahead for all of the advice!!
 

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Lloyd's mom
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I could be due to the stage tour pup is in as I understand they through a secondary fear period. However, I would not hesitate to get him evaluated by a behaviorist. My dog and I know many others had similar experiences and we learned our dogs were actually dog reactive due to be being anxious and lacking confidence. If that is the case, always best to identify early so that reaction doesn’t become a habit! My pup started reacting to only boxers and it eventually became his reaction to most large dogs. I had no idea he had anxiety or confidence issues.... I hope I’m not scaring you at all, but I wish I would have addressed his initial reactions verses assuming it was a stage. Please keep us posted!
 

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I will definitely look into that! Thank you for your response. In the case of your pups what did you do for their anxiety? I find this very strange with my dog just because he has been socialized very well and its very odd to me he started this out of nowhere.
 

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As I stated in my post, the dog park is private and only for the members of our community. I do not take him if there is a dog I dont know there and usually it is just me and him at the park or one of the dogs I know he gets along well with. If another dog comes in we just go home. All of our neighbors are super polite and always ask if they can come in before entering. I do not like dog parks as well but we dont have a fenced yard to let him play in and our dog park is a great place to play fetch in. And as I said before he is going to training next month but just wanted to know others' experience :)
 

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I had done everything by the book to socialize my pup, so I was very surprised to learn he was not confident and had anxiety. I think it was just who he was going to be no matter how much I did right! I ended up seeing a veterinary behaviorist who was equipped to diagnose him and prescribed Prozac which helped a ton with the anxiety. I also took him to behavior adjustment training (BAT) where the trainers teach a protocol and practice decreasing the dog’s reactivity threshold. In my dog’s case, I also learned he was hypothyroid after much trial and error. It’s very rare for young dog’s to be diagnosed with this, and most vets and labs do not accurately diagnose. I was lucky to find a a vet who had seen similar cases previously and really spent time to help me ensure my pup was diagnosed appropriately. I hope your pup doesn’t have any of these issues, but wanted to share just in case as I went down a 2 year journey to figure it all out. My dog is now 4 1/2 and he’s everything to me! We can now go on walks and he is calm and doesn’t react to dogs. I do not ever allow other dogs to approach us and ensure my dog has at least 10 feet of space from other dogs as he doesn’t like getting any closer. He had his dog friends and that’s all he needs!

I hope this helps and didn’t scare you. Every dog is different but it’s certainly worth finding a good behaviorist to help you determine what is happening. I thought my dog was aggressive and was shocked to learn he was just anxious and had confidence issues! But it helped me figure out how to help him!
 

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I will definitely look into that! Thank you for your response. In the case of your pups what did you do for their anxiety? I find this very strange with my dog just because he has been socialized very well and its very odd to me he started this out of nowhere.

Thank you for expressing an interest in my reply. First off your puppy may be reactive. Letting him practice this is not good, he must be removed from triggers and brought to a comfortable location. Secondly, many dogs are rude and their inappropriate behavior can result in a fight. I hope you know how to break up a dog fight. A pitbull was present? I hope that you carry a break stick.Thirdly, a dog park is a great place for your dog to pick up a disease.

I recommended to all my puppy people to avoid dog parks. The one time I went to one at my puppy owner's insistence (only time I have gone) I saw aggressive behavior that no one else recognized. I took my dogs right out of there.
There are several resources out there to help you deal with your puppy's reactivity. Some books that come to mind:
CLICK TO CALM
FIRED UP FRANTIC AND FREAKED OUT
Also: TACT DVD SET


I am currently dealing with two reactive dogs. A commitment to training is needed. I have the time.


Generally speaking, you need to train foundation behaviors, basic obedience. Next you need to identify the anxiety/reactivity triggers. And finally you need to train in baby steps in order to address this.
 

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Here's my two cents. My dog started barking and lunging at other dogs on walks at about 7 months. She was socialized very well and only did this on walks in my neighborhood. She would also get overly excited upon greeting dogs at about 5 months. I wouldn't let her greet the dog then if she didn't calm down. I live by a walking path so she would bark at everyone coming by and she would bark going out into our yard if she heard the neighbor dogs out in their yard. I knew it wasn't "aggressive" and personally don't like that label being put so easily on a dog.

I was not going to put up with this behavior as I am out and about a lot with my dogs. First off it's going to take consistent work but you WILL see a change.

1. When your dog barks at people walking by your apt. you need to stop that. Go right up to your dog and say uh-ahh, no or quiet. The first bark is what a dog does alerting you to a stranger, but allowing to continue is what you want to stop. If your dog is really into the bark and continuing on stand in front of your dog to block his view, tell him no or whatever word you use. Keep doing this. Believe me if you allow this to continue it will get worse. I can now leave my front door open and my dog will not bark when people walk by.

2. On walks. If you see a dog approaching cross the street don't walk on the same side. Have treats and say to your dog watch me when he is watching you feed the treats. Keep feeding the treats until the person passes or as you are walking. I used small training treats that I kept in my pocket. I also used a gentle leader at first. She hated it but I had control of where she looked with her head instead of her freely being able to turn her head and get all flared up over a dog coming. I can now just use a harness on walks and if a certain dog does hype her up more I can say watch me and she will. It's embarrassing having a barking lunging dog and that embarrassment made me get control of my dog. I would not be held captive to a dog keeping me inside. I got my dog to get exercise and to be out and about places. I knew she barked really because she was excited and basically wanted to play but if I would have let it go it would have gotten worse.

It was constant work and she still can tend to be a barker but I can tell the change. She turned 1 in April and as she gets older she is getting much better. Don't be so freaked out and thinking your dog is aggressive. It's your job to train your dog and teach him it's not ok. to do those things. We all want the super cute Golden who gets along with everyone and that will come as they get older and settle down. Hang in there and try those tips I can tell they have made a huge difference with my dog.

Here is a picture of her casually watching the pathway. Considering what she did before this is a miracle. She just lays and watches and if she does growl I tell her uh-ah and she stops.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Wow thanks so much for that very helpful reply!! I definitely am willing to put in the work. Leo is basically my child it is just me and my husband and him so all of my attention is basically for him :) I will definitely start with your suggestions and see how it goes. I will update on our progress!
 

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Lubbin mi prends!
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I agree with all what's been said.

It reminded me of our journey. Lilly is also our first dog (she is 10 now) and it started right around the same age that she started acting submissive aggressive. And yes that was after puppy kindergarten class starting at 8 weeks, basic training class, CGC class and a couple more classes, so I thought she had been socializing really well.
We got her evaluated by a behaviorist and did tons of training (management and behavioral changes) - well, and I still say every outing is a training opportunity and I am prepared.... At first I was disappointed, since I always thought Golden Retrievers are friendly family dogs. But to be honest, I learned so much with Lilly and I am now happy that our first dog is not an easy/perfect dog - it just got us closer...
After the evaluation, I worked first very often with a dog trainer - for a period of time the trainer came 3 times a week to get things right. And then we continued once a week with dog-reactive classes for a couple more years...
No more dog parks in the regular sense. No more big doggy day care - we still do smaller adventurous trips where Lilly got to meet those other dogs beforehand carefully and then she is fine.
We started nose work, which helped A LOT over time, since nose work is a sport where dog to dog interaction is prohibited. I believe she learned there that dogs on leash are okay, as long as there is a distance. And she/we has/have a lot of fun with the sport, it is good confidentiality building and you learn to read your dog nicely. Highly recommended...

Now, at the age of 10 everything leveled out for sure. Yes, she still doesn't like other dogs too much, but it rarely happens that she will act aggressively. All of my dog friends do say, that they can't believe that she is reactive.

I wish you all the best with Leo. Start early/take it seriously, don't assume it goes away on its own. And still - a lots of fun training is ahead of you.

All the best,

Heike

Below are Lilly and I at our first nose work elite trial - having just fun....
 

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Lubbin mi prends!
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Lubbin mi prends!
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I found our all reactivity training sheets. One is very basic, but the other ones are plans for reactive dogs/made for me and Lilly....

Please take a look if interested
 

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I think some dogs are just more prone to reactivity when they're born. My puppy seemed pretty anxious when I first got him, but he warmed up after a few weeks so I figured it was a fear period (his breeder also mentioned they go through a fear period at 8 weeks). His confidence actually seemed to improve from 3-7 months, but then seemingly out of nowhere it went downhill again and some mild reactivity and fear began at 8 months while he was in group obedience classes. His breeder has a fantastic reputation, he is from a GCH x CH breeding, was socialized quite a bit as a puppy, but he still ended up with some mild reactivity. I guess it just happens even when you seem to do everything "right." I'm sure environmental factors contributed, but we can't wrap our dogs in bubble wrap, so I try to remember not to dwell on what I might have done wrong. My previous golden before this one had more of a confident and "bullet proof" temperament and nothing seemed to bother him so I had no idea how to handle this. But I learned as much as I could about dog body language so I can recognize when he is feeling uncomfortable. Here is what I learned: For confidence issues, it is best to work with a trainer so that his focus is on YOU instead of other dogs, sounds, smells, etc in the environment. As long as his focus is on you, he spends less time worrying about other things around him. Working on obedience and giving him a lot of structure and leadership will take a lot of the anxiety off of him. Greetings with other dogs need to be controlled - don't let random dogs run up to him or make him feel cornered.
 

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Hello Everyone!

Thank you all for your replies! So I have been working on this constantly with Leo and I know it is too early to tell or think it is fixed but I am noticing improvement! I have recently been taking treats with me on our walks and he is not growling or barking at dogs or people from far away. If I see that he is looking or fixated on another person or dog from far away I just call his name and tell him its okay to relax and usually he just keeps walking and I treat him. If we are at home and he barks at someone walking by I usually do the same thing and he will immediately stop. I am excited to see more progress and now I want to work on the fact that if someone walks past us he just cant resist going up for pets and of course who wouldnt pet such a handsome pup! Any tips? (I have also scheduled a trainer to consult us later in the month)
 

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Nice - awesome - that sounds great!!!

As of your other question - I found an old sheet we had been working on back then - well to be honest, not 100% successful. Not easy also - since you need a helper, but can be fun - a good reason to invite your best friends :)

See below.

Good luck.
 

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