Check Out This Weeks Featured Post! :

Flashy Friday Week 2!

Flashy Friday! Week 2 -  "Spin" Whew! A whole week between posts, sorry guys! Like I've mentioned before we're pr...

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Reactive Dog

Fear Agression/Dog Reactivity Issues

When we first met Ziva we knew she had some anxiety issues but we made the conscious decision to adopt her anyways and work through these issues.

We've never regretted our decision, she's been the perfect dog for us. She immediately bonded with Dante, learned to live peacefully with our kitties, and looks up to us for guidance when she's insecure.

Ziva came from a local rescue group that fosters and works with their dog to get them used to living in a home environment before adopting them out, it also gives them a chance to get to know the different personalities and match them to the best possible family. Ziva lived at this rescue group with 4-6 other dogs, being a more submissive "follower" type of personality, she of course bonded to their lumbering giant Dogo Argentino they were such a cute pair! When we adopted her she then bonded herself to Dante (much quicker than she bonded to us).
Ziva's Adoption Story HERE.

Ziva wuvs her brother!
It has taken a lot of time to build up her trust in us, and we have learned that you can't train Dante and Ziva the same way.

Dante is our bull-headed silly boy who does what he pleases at times, positive reinforcements and his tug toy are the best way to train him. Sometimes though a sterner vocal tone must be taken to get his attention (yes mommy threatens him when he even thinks about dashing across the street after the neighbor kitty!).
Ziva also works well with positive reinforcements, treats, and her tennis ball of course. Redirection of her attention is something we end up doing more often with her as she tends to become obsessively focused on things.

One thing that we have struggled with regarding Ziva is her opinion of other dogs. She's not "dog aggressive", she is not "leash reactive" like we originally thought, but she doesn't like ALL DOGS.

Some dogs she is cool with, others not so much. We've finally been able to put together a list of things that set her off and we think it's a "fear aggression" issue:

Yappy dogs, dogs that bark and lunge at us, dogs that strain to reach us on their leash, dogs that rush straight into her face for a greeting, dogs that run towards us if they are off-leash, dogs that try to dominate (hump her), and overly submissive dogs/puppies that throw themselves at her and show their belly.

Basically she has a problem with any dog that is not balanced and under the control of their person.

She seems to prefer dogs that greet politely, and remain calm. Typically these are older, well balanced, and more confident dogs.

She has no breed, size, or gender preference that we can tell. And her behavior is consistent both on and off-leash.

Well we've been working hard on this, shortly after adopting her she went through a emotional growth where she became very snarly and aggressive towards all dogs. Being a breed that unfortunately has a bad reputation we knew that we had to get her past her doggy issues immediately so we doubled down and took her regularly to a busy park where we could walk with her and attempt to desensitize her. We did pretty good!

We even brought her into the local dog park when it wasn't busy a couple times and she did great, the first time we were their she made friends with a border collie pup and they played chase! The second time was not as good of an experience, she did fine but we had a near clash with a mastiff mutt that decided to try and take a bite out of Ziva which of course set off her brother. She didn't start it and thankfully no one was bitten, we left on a good note at the park but decided to not go back.

Ziva's friend Cassie.
All of my research since then has pointed towards not taking bullies to dog parks - they are simply too sensitive about other dogs bad behaviors, they play too rough, they can learn bad doggy habits/manners, and will pretty much always be blamed for any altercation. Dog parks set bullies up for failure.

So we began trying to set up doggy play dates, with proper dog introductions she does just fine!

Ziva's buddy Kekoa - tired after playing.

She's just a sensitive gal when it comes to other dogs.

Ziva's friend Tex-Anna

One thing that i've really been wanting to do is get her into Flyball or Dog Agility, she's really fast and tennis ball oriented.

You could even go so far as to call the tennis ball her "Achilles Heel". It's our secret weapon for training. During training times the hubby and I will hide the tennis ball somewhere on our body so that she doesn't know we have it. We use the treats and only bring it out when absolutely necessary to regain her attention. 
It is considered to be a high value treat and we want to keep it that way!
This technique has worked pretty good for our walks and has helped to train her around distractions.
If she sees a cat, squirrel, etc. and we cannot break her focus then out comes the bouncing ball and we have her full attention (most of the time).
If we want to do any sort of doggy Agility or Flyball class Ziva needs to be more trustworthy around other dogs, and have a higher tolerance.
I also realize that we need help with her reactivity, if we pass a low energy level dog all is fine. But any misbehaving dog sets Ziva off and I find it frankly embarrassing. We work so hard with both our dogs that I don't want my dog to ever be, "that dog". I want people to look at us and see two calm, collected, and under-control bullies that don't care that their dog is being a complete jerk.

In order to reach our goal of having a well-balance dog, Ziva and I are starting a Obedience Level 1 class that begins today! 
We finally reached out, she is informed about Ziva and willing to work with us.
This particular trainer came well recommended, and has a dog company that does doggy Agility and are looking at adding a Flyball team hopefully soon!

Ziva may never be a dogs' dog, but she needs to learn to ignore/tolerate other dogs. I also want to gain more of her trust and build her self-confidence levels.

1. Solo doggy work, training, agility, competitions - helps build a dogs self confidence.

2. Creates a powerful bond of trust between you and your dog.

3. Creates a more well-balanced/trained and trustworthy canine overall. This means that in high stress or emergency situations your dog is more likely to respond to you and behave in a predictable manner.

Wish us luck please! I'm a bit nervous about being surrounded by a bunch of other dogs, but it'll be a great challenge in a controlled environment and hopefully she can make some new doggy friends. Dante on the other hand will be hanging out with our puppy friend Bella across the street for play time while Ziva and I are at class!

Doggy play date with Cable.


  1. Thanks for sharing Ziva's story!! She sounds a lot like Phoenix. Phoenix is the same way about rude dogs. She also is afraid of big dogs, specifically labs and she can be really snarky towards them. We are still working on it but she has gotten a lot better since we first got her. :)

    1. Funny in reading your page I thought the same thing about Phoenix! Good luck! I know we can push through this.

  2. Ho! Can I relate to this or what? Yes Delilah is exactly live Ziva. She reacts to certain dogs (most of which you described) not the submissive belly ones, but snarky dogs, lunging dogs, and dogs that sneak up on her and stick their nose in her butt. Of course if another dog snarks at her first, she gives it right back. I can mostly redirect and manage her with treats when it is only her, but add Sampson to the mix and well you know...I've got a problem. She also seems to react more when on leash, which is why I will drop the leash when confronted by an off-leash dog.

    Knowing what she reacts to though, that has been a big help. I've taken her in training classes and done very well with the look command, it's just constant vigilance on my part. :-)

    1. The work never stops. :-) Sometimes I wish it were as simple as teaching her to ignore other dogs and then that'd be the end, but I can totally relate to the constant vigilance.
      If I get lazy then she gets lazy and the problem sparks right back up.
      That's why i'm hoping to get Ziva into agility and taking these classes in the mean time - hopefully it'll help keep us sharp and develop a higher tolerance in her.
      Good luck with your furbabies!!


Barks & Howls are always welcome!!

Share Me