Dog Reactivity on Leash - Two Types - Solutions?

Why do you think a muzzle is better than a bark collar?

I don’t really think a muzzle will stop barking; certainly a basket-style muzzle will not. And not sure I’d really want to walk a dog in a muzzle that kept their mouths closed. They need to be able to pant, even if it doesn’t feel warm.

Positive reinforcement isn’t the only way to teach things; a leash is negative reinforcement, for example. I don’t know that a bark collar is what I would use in these situations, but I wouldn’t be against a human-controlled e-collar used correctly, especially in situations where positive reinforcement doesn’t work.

That being said - I think the hound sounds like a relatively easy fix. Training, time and exercise will likely improve his leash manners.

The Aussie is another story; I am not sure that I would attempt to “fix” dog aggressive behaviors while out on a walk, and certainly not while handling another dog. Unfortunately, I think that would require more intensive training - the nothing in life is free type training.

What are your options for exercising the dogs off leash? I definitely think regular, hard exercise can solve a lot of issues. Tired dogs are easier to work with than those with boundless energy.


Yes the controlled situation part is a bit harder to come by. Our dog beach has fairly strict leash rules so it was a good spot to work in. Bonus is that by and large the majority of dogs don’t care to try swimming in the Gulf (I think the waves are off putting) so very little chances of dogs interfering in our game.

I’ve heard of people doing similar outside of dog parks. So the dog park fence separates the training dog from the mass of dogs running amok in the dog park.

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@S1969 My thought now with the muzzle (the mesh kind) would be to carry with and use if/when barking starts and take it off and keep it off provided everyone is being cool.

My hound is super sensitive; I do have e-collar’s although I have never used the shock setting. I used one for the hound because he wouldn’t stop getting on furniture. That did the trick with him with the the setting where it beeps at him! I did try that on walks and used the vibrate option but that didn’t get so much as an acknowledgement while he was outside and stimulated. I image shocking him would work, but honestly I feel bad using that for him or the Aussie. The Aussie doesn’t care if it beeps or vibrates, I tried it on her when I got them and she was like “huh? what was that?” and then just carried on about her business. Im not completely opposed to it, my family dogs growing up all were invisible fence trained, and they learned pretty quick that going past the training flags meant bad news.

I agree the hound will be the easier of the two, Ive just not been able to get 1:1 time with him since the Aussie goes bonkers by herself.

Off leash exercise, new neighborhood has a dog park but I don’t know the norms there yet. There is also a larger dog park that is at the local shelter which is very nearby too that is an option. I think @lenapesadie is onto something for us with working outside the dog park when other dogs are in it for the Aussie at least. The hound cannot be off leash in a non fenced area, he has NO recall whatsoever. That nose takes over and shuts his brain off completely however, in the dog park, he would be fine and have a blast.

As far as e-collars, they are not all made equal. I’ve used Dogtra, and E-collar Technologies, they have about 100 some levels. I have never gotten above a level 12. Some of the cheaper collars have just 3-10 levels and even the lowest level is much more uncomfortable than say a level 10 on one of the better collars. You don’t just throw it on a zap a dog either… because if you use it incorrectly you could increase aggression. I hate hearing “shock” collar, because really it’s more like a stim sensation. It can be uncomfortable at high levels, but I wouldn’t call it painful. I’ve worked an English Mastiff on a level 5-6… I don’t even feel it on my wrist until about a level 9. It is an amazing off-leash tool for recall as I can reach out to a dog that’s 1/2 mile away from me. I don’t use it for anything else, and it has to be trained correctly so that the dog knows exactly what it is and how to respond. The dogs I’ve used it with get excited when they see the collar because they know it means an off leash hike.


@lenapesadie reminded me this is what my son did w/ my GSD- took her to several dog parks for several weeks and just walked around the outside watching all the dogs playing inside.
Once she was relaxed about it it, he took her inside and watched her like a hawk.
She didn’t know how to do dog play or any doggy body language but she learned real fast.
She got trounced a couple times and pinned down by a bossy dog but she deserved it.
Once she learned some doggy social cues, she became OK and was invited to come back to one park. I was so proud that she came this far.
Dog parks are hit or miss, depending on the dogs there and the owner’s watchfulness.


An e-collar can definitely be painful, but the goal is never to fry your dog. That wouldn’t serve any purpose.

But otherwise I agree – My dogs LOVE their e-collars because that means it’s time for a run.

They can be used for lots of different types of training if you use them correctly - I know people who have taught their dogs to heel with an e-collar. Just like riding a horse - when the dog is doing what you want (e.g. walking by your side), they receive no stim. When they get out of the target area, you give gentle taps (e.g. like leg pressure to push them back over). If they understand that the “tap” essentially means “no, that’s not what I want” - they offer a different (and hopefully correct) behavior.

So, definitely not something to avoid using, or feel bad using. They are no more inhumane than a leash and collar. It’s definitely possible to hurt your dog with those, too.


Might not be a popular answer ( haven’t read the other answers yet) but you have 2 fairly high energy dogs to begin with. One is a livestock dog, the other a hunting dog and they both are happiest expending a ton of energy doing what they were bred to do.

Walking on leash is just not near enough exercise. Dog parks are not something any Aussie we have had would do well in. They need room to run.

Not uncommon for dog owners to have problems when they have a dog living in a situation they are not bred for. Punishing them with a muzzle is not fair to them.

You’re answer was more of a non-answer and more pointing out a situation I’m well aware of and trying to make the best out of for all involved. This is why I was asking for advice as this is challenging situation that has been one since about day 1. The ideal life you describe just isn’t something that a lot of dog owners have access to either.

The muzzle would be intended as a training tool if I decide to go that route, same as an ecollar which I’m researching more based on the comments so far. It’s something of that nature or just letting them stay inside again more than I’d like :woman_shrugging:t2:.

I’ve had both dogs nearly all their lives and we’ve done our best to make the best of a less than ideal situation. These dogs were both products of my ex husband and not breeds/mixes that I would have chosen on my own (don’t tell them that though). He wasn’t in a position to take them both when we divorced and I wasn’t willing to split them up so here we all are. I’d honestly prefer to not have dogs at all at this point as I prefer more flexibility, but am not willing to just drop them at a shelter in hopes someone will give them their dream lives which will never happen. Sometimes you have to do the best with what you have.

My experience with these two has actually changed my mind on the adopt don’t shop mantra. If I were to get a dog again in the future, I would consider one from a breeder that is best suited for whatever my lifestyle would be at that point, but I will prob be dogless after these two cross the bridge.


If it was me, which obviously it isn’t, I’d likely dedicate my time to alternative management strategies instead of retraining these dogs.

Here’s why.

Your dogs are mature pushing old. They’ve been leash reactive basically their whole lives. The general set up of leash reactivity is dog sees other dog, dog reacts, handler holds dog back until other dog is far enough away and then walk continues. That’s basically the same thing as putting a dog on a back tie and taunting him to train a more serious bite or to increase aggressive drive. In other words, the nature of leash reactivity is self reinforcing. So 8 years of training now needs to be undone. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying I would choose alternative management strategies bc in your situation I would need to exercise my dog long before retraining was complete and every time the dog practices his reactive behavior the re training starts over.

I use a prong collar. I use an e collar. I use positive reinforcement. You can mix n match. You can put a bandana over the collars if you prefer to avoid judgy looks from strangers.


Happy pup!! What are his/her little leg wraps?

I tend to agree with you, we have managed up to this point well enough without neighborhood type walks. I do however, think the dog park may be a better option than I initially thought given our circumstances. The neighborhood one is pretty small, but the dog shelter one is huge and is only about a 10 minute drive. If SO plays with the hound in the park, hound will definitely enjoy the running and sniffing all the smells. That will give me two hands and full focus to work with the Aussie outside the park with the tennis ball and get her a little more exercise too, though she has started slowing down with that in the last year or so. If the park is quiet, she could go in then too.

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They’re called skid boots sometimes. When she plays fetch she skids to grab the ball and repetitively it rips her metacarpal pad (I think that’s the name, the pad up higher on the back). She had her dew claws removed, but folks use them for that too as the dew claws can get caught and ripped on things in rough play.

Two close dog parks is a good thing. In my area the dog parks only seem busy during the weekends so you might be able to find times where there aren’t tons of dogs there to get started with. Have you tried playing two ball fetch with the Aussie? I used it to teach mine to spit the first ball out, but I’ve heard some use it to increase the dog’s focus on the handler.

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In my early 20s I had an ACD that was really a whole lot of dog packed into 40 pounds. For years she was an hysterical mess when we saw another dog - snarling, leaping about, would fight anything. Since she was an ACD of course she needed tons of physical exercise.

Here’s what I did when she was about six or seven: prong collar for walks…and walks turned into fairly fast paced marches. No sniffy time for her - we were walking, dammit. I ignored other dogs and we simply marched past them. I’d redirect her with a tap of my foot on her hip, or a sharp “uh-uh” or a leash correction, or some combo as necessary. Over time, lo and behold, this worked.

She got to where I could walk with a loose lead past a phalanx of chi-weenies and she paid them zero attention. Someone else’s maniac shepherd mutt going nuts at her at the end of his lead - she didn’t care. She was like this the rest of her life.

I’m no master trainer, but that’s what worked for my difficult girl.


I’m on dog numbers 4 and 5 in my adult life. All the same breed, all treated exactly the same in terms of training, home life, etc.

My two current dogs are both reactive to other dogs. They actually almost always are quickly okay when off lease if they can run together, but that doesn’t fix our problem when we’re out walking on leash on the local trails.

We’ve tried all of the usual prescriptions and have been similarly frustrated. Our current MO is when we see another dog approaching, we shorten leashes but still leave them loose and start happy dog positive reinforcement noises, and speed up to walk as quickly as possible by the other dog. If there is any kind of reaction beyond what we deem acceptable, we give a quick tug on the leash (attached to a no-pull harness) and a sharp No!

It is less than what we’d like to see, but it does continue to get slooowwwllyy better.

But I feel your pain. As someone who is not inexperienced with dog training, not having success with this is confusing and frustrating. And the dirty looks other people give you do not help.

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I have a leash reactive dog who has responds well to redirection -before she gets amped up- and cheese. An American Bulldog on our street is her nemesis. I can see if the dog is outside before we get to the house. If she is, I slip on my dog’s gentle leader (she is 155lbs and if she pulls hard, my back is toast for a week), pull out the cheese, and get her attention. She is to the point now, where I can pass quiet dogs with no problem, but she still gets somewhat amped up if the other dog/s start barking, although has a pretty good CER (conditioned emotional response), to look at me when she starts getting excited now.

A couple of stories. My mentor bought a mini aussie for her daughter, years ago, when the breed was new. Her pup was aggressive as a puppy through the day he died. She put a lot of work into him and was able to manage him. The other 5 pups in the litter were returned to the breeder very young, and euthanized due to aggression.

One of my obedience instructors bred and showed aussies. She would do some form of puppy aptitude testing on them, at X# of weeks, and would euthanize any pups whose responses were outside the normal. In doing so, the puppies she placed and/or bred, were of stable temperament.


Wow, that’s pretty extreme. I’ve never heard of a breeder actually culling their puppies. They may place them in different types of homes based on puppy aptitude tests, but they don’t typically kill them.

Or, at least, I’ve never known a breeder to produce anything so extremely atypical that it couldn’t be placed into a pet home (versus a show home, or agility/field/performance home, etc.) If there is any doubt about breeding, you can give them limited registrations, although I suppose there are people out there who breed unregistered dogs. But still, I’d risk that versus killing a puppy.

That said, dogs who are bred should have exemplary attributes, including (and especially) temperament. Temperament is heritable, so if you’re breeding fractious dogs, you are likely to get difficult puppies. I think any breeder that has to cull for temperament should reconsider their breeding stock versus the offspring.


I have a Mastiff x Cane Corso. He is like your second dog- excited about everything in life. He thinks every other dog on earth is his best good friend and that every human wants to do nothing more than have him lean on them and look adoring at them while they pet him. Problem? Well he’s huge and he his enthusiasm scares the bejebus out of people and dogs who don’t know him. He’s had tons of obedience training and socialization- he’s gone to work with my husband and I everyday for 3 years, since he was 8 weeks old. At the suggestion of a good friend (who is a vet tech and works a lot in dog rescue), I tried a head halter and… it’s like night and day. Head halter on= perfect public behavior. Leash attached to collar or harness= over enthusiastic nutter. IDK why but maybe worth a shot?

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I’ve heard of it, though confined to hard core working bred dogs and mostly out of Europe.

Yeah the other people aspect is super frustrating! Most people don’t seem to get that active training is going on and can quickly make a situation worse. I’m glad I shared here and asked for advice, this subgroup of people seems to get it a lot better than the general public.

We’re just getting moved into our new place this week so once the dogs are there and get settled, I will be seeing if we can get anywhere!

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I’ve never heard of anyone culling for temperament; or really “culling” at all anymore. You can’t even do a temperament test on a puppy until nearly 8 weeks. How can anyone euthanize 8 week old puppies that were deliberately bred. If the temperament is that bad, they clearly have something wrong in the breeding pair.

I’ve heard of one breeder that had a case of severe idiopathic epilepsy that required them to euthanize several puppies before 8 weeks. Maybe they euthanized them all. And then altered both the sire and dam. And they were emotionally devastated; it was horrible and sadly - impossible to have predicted. I’m pretty sure they stopped breeding altogether after that. Anyone that routinely culls puppies in today’s day and age has a problem.


This was circa 1998. I don’t know if she still feels the need to do this today. I do know a few people now, who have dogs she bred, and they have very stable temperaments. Her breeding partner kept a puppy that was boarder line on that test. He had a bit of a screw loose. I could understand not wanting to place dogs that would be worse than him in pet homes. As to why breed something with such poor temperaments, I have no idea, and I don’t know if she has solved that issues and no longer feels the need to cull. All I know is that the few dogs I have met from her kennel in the last few years, are all wonderful pets.