Dublin thinks he owns the neighborhood, which definitely gets us a lot of attention on walks. Apparently this isn’t uncommon with Australian Shepherds, who were bred to keep an eye on their flock and their people. They have a good guardian instinct, which can be problematic when they decide the neighborhood belongs to them. Dublin is leash-reactive, but 99% of the time it’s only in our neighborhood. He’s been socialized extensively and still is on an almost daily basis.
But when we walk around the neighborhood and he sees another dog, he pulls at the leash and barks. “Get out of my neighborhood!” he seems to be saying. For this reason, I rarely walk the Aussies together in the neighborhood. As a result, we have walked every trail in a 50 mile radius. I love this, and so do they, but sometimes it’s nice to walk in our own neighborhood for some quick exercise.
Dublin’s leash reactivity definitely increased when we brought Bailey home last summer. He barks and lunges, she bites his butt because her herding instinct tells her to do so, and inevitably people move away from us. Granted, that’s what I want them to do, but it would be nice if they weren’t backing away because it looks or sounds like my dogs are turning into Cujo.
So this summer I made it my mission to work on Dublin’s leash reactivity. I purchased the highly-recommended Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog and read it cover-to-cover. I highly recommend it if you are dealing with a leash-reactive dog! I developed a program to use with Dublin, which rewards him for looking at the dogs/bikes/cars that he might bark at. It’s been a few weeks and I am actually seeing slow, but steady, progress!
Today, we had our best walk around the neighborhood that I can remember! I am so proud of Dublin and thrilled that my training is working. We ran into 5 dogs, the landscapers, a stroller, a running toddler, a bike, and numerous walkers. The only thing that pushed him over his threshold was a pair of dogs that live caddy-corner to us. For some reason, he hates them and is terrified. But even with them, he looked at me while he barked and he turned and walked away with me! For everyone else, he just looked at me and continued walking after getting his reward! It was amazing!
There’s never a dull moment when you have Australian Shepherds. They all have their quirks and I am so happy that we are working through Dublin’s “guard the neighborhood!” quirk.
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