Dog Reactivity on Leash - Two Types - Solutions?

Hello! I have two dogs with two different sets of reactivity triggers when going on walks. My mini Aussie (9 years old) is textbook dog agressive, has been since 8 weeks old. Growls, lunges, will chase etc. No fear. I did puppy classes, obedience classes, rally classes etc with her for the first couple years of her life and continued to work with her out of classes but the dog reactivity never got better. She can be distracted with a tennis ball but that’s about it and it’s never been THAT good of a distraction, just a bit of one. Other than that, she’s great. Good off leash and great recall as long as there isn’t another dog. Loves to play fetch and do tricks.

My second dog is a hound mix (7 years) and while he is not dog agressive at all, he gets super wound up at smells and sights. When he sees a dog at a distance, he goes nuts; big bay barking and levitates in place. While he is just a big doof, this is also an issue on walks. His currency is food but that goes out the window when he sees or smells something interesting which is about everything.

Between the two of them, they are nearly impossible to handle walking and are extremely unruly and LOUD when another dog is in sight. Currently I live on property with private trails so walking them there is much more manageable however, we will be moving to a neighborhood environment in a few weeks and I’m sure we will run into other dog walkers.

In the house these dogs are both saints. They know their commands, respect their boundaries, and are very well behaved. Every dog sitter I’ve ever had has said they are some of the best dogs they sit for.

I am a proponent for positive reinforcement and just haven’t had an ounce of success over the years other than avoiding the stimulants altogether. Has anyone had success with walking with muzzles to physically minimize the barking? I don’t love the idea but seems to be better than a bark collar or something along those lines. It also my might be a good visual for people not to approach too which I don’t like (with other dogs at least).

My thought is I’d be able to work with them both muzzle on 1:1 and the hope would be to get them used to the quiet walks enough to take them off. I’ve not been able to work 1:1 in the past because the Aussie had ridiculous separation anxiety and I could never leave her home and work with the hound living by myself.

I’m at my wits end when it comes to this type of environment with them and need to find a compromise to get them outside and exercised but not being a nuisance to the neighbors and other walkers. Happy for other suggestions.

I feel for you. This is IMO impossible to fix while working with the 2 dogs together.
Look up “Engagement” as used by trainers for absolutely being one with the human.
more and better obedience can help also- but separate training not together.

My current rescue GSD came to me very dog reactive but with a lot of socialization she’s pretty good with most dogs now. She’s safe to take to dog parks to play and to the open beach where other dogs are. She actually became better once she could romp and play with strange dogs.
But she’s still a bit of a bully with other dogs’ toys and balls.

Have you considered taking your dogs to dog parks to let them meet and greet other dogs?
You do it slowly just like introducing them to anything but it might help.
There’s many books out- one is Feisty Fido- on Amazon- $8.95- teaches a bit about this problem.


Thanks @Marla_100 for the suggestions! Impossible has been my experience and it’s frustrating with not being a stranger to training animals.

I have done dogs parks a couple times before but prefer to introduce to dogs and owners that I know. Those instances have gone ok with the Aussie, she has made friends but also has had some not so good interactions. Not knowing what I’m getting into in a dog park with her is too much of a recipe for potential issues/injuries.

The new neighborhood does have its own small dog park that I was thinking would be ok for my hound though! If no one else was there they could both enjoy. I wouldnt use a muzzle for that so he’s not at any disadvantages playing.

Muzzling sounds like a decent plan, however you should be using a basket muzzle so as to not limit their breathing and therefore may not curb the barking as much as you want. It’s not normal for a dog to be that reactive at 8 weeks old, that and the fact that you have already tried so many things would lead me to recommend that your Aussie needs management only. I would consider finding another exercise outlet then neighborhood walks. My friend Connie Moss has a Youtube channel called Boundless Dogs. She works a lot with her GSD who is dog reactive on things like this. You might find some tips there. I would highly advise against dog parks.


Thanks @Shadowmoon! I really appreciate the help I’m getting here, I had posted once on Reddit years back and that subgroup of people didn’t seem to “get” that time/training/money has already been put into working with her on this.

I blame the fact that she has an “uncle/dad” and was a Merle/Merle cross; friends of my ex husband had an oopsie litter and we adopted her from that at no charge. Don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but not good breeding that I know for sure.

We are used to a degree of management as it is as I’ve only lived on the private trail property for a year and they both do fine. Lots of indoor play and attention, both are at healthy weights, but it would be nice to get them out more. In the last neighborhood I lived in, early/early or late/late walks were what we did as there were less people. May have to do this more at the new place too.

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It could be that your Aussie is what we call in GSD world " Nervy" bad nerves and yes many dogs do have bad nerves from their breeding. I’m sure my rescue is one also but with loads of work she has improved but she’ll never be what my last GSD was. This one is ‘pet breeding’ the last one although a rescue also had much better breeding and a quiet mind. I find that you learn how to manage these types more so than try to change their natural demeanor.
Check out that book I mentioned, it does give some very specific exercises to do. The author is
a nationally known dog behaviorist and the book had good reviews.


Just ordered it!!

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Great. That’s a good start. She recommends going quite slowly when re-conditioning the dog to various things.
Keep us posted on how you’re doing and how your dog is doing.

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I definitely will. Being able to work 1:1 with them both should give me a better way to try at least!

Your second dog sounds like a walking copy of my super cute beagle mix. He’s dog reactive and nose to ground all the time.

If you figure out what works share. I’ve been through two trainers with little to no progress.

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Without any kind of correction or negative consequences for an undesired behavior, it’s almost impossible to stop that.

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I have tried correction/consequences in the past as well and it hasn’t helped either; neither of them care. Given that, I prefer the positive reinforcement and can say it works a tiny bit better in our case. Getting after them gets me nowhere, positive gives me a little bit of their attention.

I think you’ll be impressed with what you can accomplish using the methods mentioned in the booklet I mentioned.
I bought all the gadgets recommended by other trainers online but daily positive re-enforcement and diverting the dog BEFORE they react was most helpful. You’ll understand it better after reading the booklet. I never used a muzzle, considered it but decided against it. I do use a harness and collar because I don’t like the effects on the trachea with too much force or pressure.

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Im familiar with diversion, I’ve just not found anything that is a better diversion to either of them given the stimuli be it rewards or simply turning around and walking back the way we came. I’m anxious to check the book out though!

They both have easy walk harnesses; Aussie goes just ducky in that. Hound as the harness and a gentle leader which is second resort when he ignores the harness which does happen. The gentle leader is much more effective with him when used. They would both choke themselves with collars :woman_facepalming:

We tried a harness with our Welsh Terrier because we were concerned about her trachea but she was even worse in the harness than in a collar. We now use a pinch collar - it is much more effective than a regular collar and distributes the force around the neck so isn’t putting all the pressure on the trachea. Mine is made by Herm Sprenger (yes, the same people who make bits). She still goes a bit nuts at times but the pinch collar gives us much more control.


Have you tried biking instead of walking? For many dogs, the extra speed drastically reduces the reactive behavior.

I’m not familiar with drive building in more mature dogs, but you might explore that. Spending time to increase their drive for reward of choice makes said reward more effective when you encounter distractions. Some basic examples would be reserving the ball for play time, so no dog just has balls all over the house. Working with food rewards by taking half the dog’s daily kibble ration to be fed piece by piece in training.

Ive not tried the biking, but my previous dog I would take running with me. He was a little reactive but nothing like these two now, and the running did help. Issue with that is I’m not suppose to be running now. SO does have a bike so maybe I could try that 1:1 but Im a bit reluctant that we wouldn’t crash and burn at the sight of another dog. Maybe I will try walk/run intervals, that I could probably manage.

So the tennis ball for the Aussie is only brought out at fetch time outside, I can’t leave them around the house or the hound will destroy/eat them. I have used the tennis ball as diversions on walks and it is hit or miss with her but has been more successful 1:1; however managing them both with that distraction for her and trying to wrangle the hound I don’t have enough hands for.

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Biking does take a certain amount of confidence and ability and it’s not for everyone. Safety first and all that.

Definitely two dogs and a ball sounds like too much to juggle.

I had quite a bit of success by taking my dog to play fetch in areas where other dogs were present to basically train her to focus in that environment. I’m gonna detail what I did in case there’s anything there that you can customize for your situation.

Local to me there is a dog beach. It requires that dogs be leashed. I used a flexible leash and played fetch by throwing a bumper into the Gulf of Mexico and then wading out with my dog as she swam to retrieve. I started by going at the least busy times of day on the least busy days and stuck to the edges of the park. As she, my dog, learned to anticipate that arriving at the beach meant mega fun play time she paid less and less attention to the other beach goers. We worked up to busier times and days. I don’t allow my dog to dig at home, but I do allow her to dig at the beach. She likes to dig at the waves as they roll on shore. We got to the point where she would point blank ignore other dogs walking right past us as she would be focused on playing fetch, digging, or catching her breath. Once we got to this point, I found walking her in the neighborhood was a lot more pleasant. Recently tested her at a busy rest area on a road trip and she was very well mannered. Though I still prefer biking as walking isn’t much exercise for my dog.

I’m still working on her reactivity to overly loud motorized vehicles. She gets mad at them still lol.

Beach dog pic for fun


I’m not sure why the sheep in the chicken coop uploaded…. Bonus pic I guess


:rofl: 'Ill take the bonus!!

Thanks for detailing that out! I’ve not thought of using the retractable leash for fetch outside; that could be something that might help us a lot. When we did all the training classes, I could get her focus on the task at hand with other dogs around BUT that was in such a controlled environment where everyone was on leases and kept distance. I only use the retractable when letting them out to potty but thats a really good thought and would definitely keep her contained to the fetching.

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