Silas’s reactions to other dogs are becoming . . . strained. As of yet, there is not a consistent pattern of bad reactions. He loves some dogs. Others he will give a polite bottom sniff, and then we go on about our business. Sometimes he’ll react quite badly, but almost always to dogs who “started it first.” As far as I can tell, he mostly works by mirroring whatever the other dog is doing, be that friendly or not.
I worry about the bad reactions becoming a pattern, because the last thing on earth I need is to add dog reactivity to our list of behavioral problems. I also am not wild about the fact that he will practically pull me off my feet to go see another dog. More importantly, I think he’s anxious about these meetings, and the best way to diffuse dog anxiety is with a job.
My question to you, oh bloggy hive mind, is how on earth do I teach this new behavior, and what should it look like? Our obedience classes didn’t make it to dog greeting behavior, and my own research has been mostly in a different direction.
The goal, presumably, is for Silas to check in with me and then walk toward (or not) the other dog in a rational way. This is a long behavior chain, though, and we have none of the links in place. I still consider “walking in a rational way” to be a pretty great accomplishment in and of itself.
Problems: I don’t know anyone with dogs well enough to manufacture a scenario (parallel walking, etc). Our local parks are either deserted (weekdays) or packed. The one place that I can count on well-behaved dogs (perhaps tellingly, this is the human running trail, NOT the dog park) any time of any day terrifies Silas because of the car traffic. So, any plan needs to be something that I can at least try to implement in the moment, whenever that arises. Silas is not big on eating outdoors, although he’s finally started to do it once in a while. He will play or tug outside, although I haven’t tested it in a high stress location.
Does your dog contain him/herself when you meet another dog? How did you teach that behavior?