Yesterday I was at Yogurtland enjoying some frozen yogurt. At the table beside us there was a family which appeared to be a Grandmother and 4 young children plus a dog. The dog looked like a Papillon mix. He was very cute and behaving quite nicely..............that is until another dog passed by. Instantly he transformed from a cutie to a monster. One of the children who looked to be about maybe 10 grabbed his leash and yanked up. She held it taut until he gave in and sat; not something I like to see a child do but she had obviously seen Grandma do it. She let up a tiny bit but kept the pressure on his neck through the entirety of the ordeal.
The instigator to this situation was also being strung up. Neither dog was being held up off their feet but both were most definitely feeling a lot of pressure from their collars. The large dog who had appeared on the scene had his choke chain up around the back of the ears where it is the most sensitive. The woman looked stressed; she seemed to want to be there for the whole "socializing" aspect of the situation but had no idea how to properly deal with it let alone help her dog through it. The large dog sat between his owners legs that were no doubt relaying stress signals galore while the collar gave the rest of the messages.
So............................everything each person did in this situation was completely and utterly wrong. Dogs learn through example and if every time they see another dog their owner becomes stressed; they have their neck yanked on and are scolded, what lesson are they learning? They are learning that other dogs anywhere near them is a very bad situation. The problem intensifies until the dog is no longer welcome on the family outings. The message that you want to relay is a great one. Wow, look what great things happen when other dogs are around. That and the always essential chill; "we don't care about that" message.
Most importantly is practice; you cannot just throw your dog into the fire and hope that it all works out. Most people know how their dog will behave in a situation like this but do it anyway without any assistance to their dog to get through it without going crazy. Of course if this is the very first time your dog has been in this situation then you are being given some great information to work with. When a dog acts up by barking, lunging or jumping around like a crazy dog in public; we typically shudder and try to stop it. "Just stop," is what we tell our dogs. But have we given them an alternative? "Just stop," is what choke collar, conventional trainers want. Jump, lunge and bark and you will be yanked on and choked. There is no "don't do this, do that" scenario.
To properly start a positive education you need distance first and foremost when you are given this type of information from your dog. They are not comfortable in close proximity to other dogs and are showing you this through their behavior. Now there is also crazy behavior but not aggressive, like Elsa. She tends to bark at other dogs because she wants to go to them, this is also annoying and the solution is the same, work and practice. She must learn to control herself which she is doing well but she still has outbursts now and again. Typically it is the first dog that she sees and then she acclimates to the situation.
Positive, positive, positive is what you need to portray. That can be through voice, treats, toys and body language. You need to take on a 'nothing fazes me' attitude; enough to convince your dog of it. You work with baby steps, tiny bits of success and reward them. To start off with I would simply walk by a situation like this; continually pumping treats into your dog. What you are doing by this simple action is two fold. One, you are creating a positive association to walking past other dogs; and two, you are rewarding the dog for walking past. Start at a distance that you can achieve success; don't get so close as to trigger a crazy barking frenzy. Work at your dogs pace; slow and steady wins the race.
Chill out, this is THE single most important thing that I can give people. The way you behave in a situation is what you are teaching your dog. If you come unglued, upset, stressed, tense and physical in a situation like this then you are telling your dog that they are correct in their behavior as well. You are giving off a message of anxiety, tension and stress which your dog will fuel from. When we are out on a walk and pass a dog that is 'going off' on us, I very quickly slip into my 'chill' mode. I soften my posture, do not change my pace unless to slow it and chirp happily if we need to move over. "Let's go guys, we don't care about this at all," is what I say verbally and physically.
Just think before you act. Imagine if you were walking with a child; their hand in yours as you suddenly grab a hold of them, pulling them away from a person and holding them tightly. Your child would immediately be afraid, correct?