Dog Goes Berserk When Seeing Other Dogs


Q: Ordinarily when we walk my daughter’s Cavalier King Charles he’s calm and easy to walk, until we encounter another dog. Then he goes berserk, jumping and barking. We’ve tried spraying him water and vinegar and have used a shock collar. But he continues this behavior. Do you have any advice?  J. A., Eau Claire, WI

A: “Obviously this dog is reactive to other dogs,” says certified dog behavior consultant dog trainer Sarah Hodgson. “Right now the cortisol level  (hormonal response to stress) increases when your dog sees another dog. Add to that being sprayed or worse, shocked, and the level (of cortisol) goes up even more. In other words, you’re best intent is making matters worse.”

Hodgson, Westchester, NY-based author of “Puppies for Dummies” (Wiley Publishing Inc., New York, NY, 2006; $19.99) suggests that you require hands-on help from a veterinary behaviorist or certified dog behavior consultant who can demonstrate how to desensitize and counter-condition your pup, using food or a toy. Over time, this system will decrease cortisol levels. “It (positive reinforcement) can work like a charm,” she adds.

You’ll stay (the best you can) just beyond the point where your dog gets upset around other dogs, maybe a block away or perhaps a half a block. And simultaneously distract your dog with whatever your dog prefers, enticing treats or the best toy ever. Gradually, you’ll disease the distance from other dogs. Also, this process teaches your dog to pay more attention to you than to other dogs, and will associate the treat or toy with seeing other dogs. A professional can offer advice about how to actually accomplish this.

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