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A New Twist on the Tantrums

Danny’s special issue, as a rescue dog, is the leash-biting tantrum. When we pass a house where dogs are barking at him through the windows or dogs are barking at him from behind fences, Danny jumps, barks, and turns to gnaw on his leash. We’ve improved this reaction a million fold in the past year, but he still plays the tantrum card ever couple of weeks.

Luckily, Danny’s sit command is spot-on. I get him to sit and focus on me while I speak to him calmly. Then I give him a treat, and we walk a little farther. If he recommences with the tantrum, we repeat the sit. If he doesn’t throw a tantrum, he gets treats for being good-ish. It’s a process.

I’ve always wondered why Danny throws these tantrums, what he’s trying to tell me, and what the other dogs are saying to him. A few keys:

  • There are some dogs who bark at their chain-link fence, and Danny doesn’t mind in the slightest. I can think of three neighborhood dogs for whom this is true.
  • There are some dogs who never make a sound (that I can hear) but Danny flips out anyway. One in particular.
  • Last week, a barking dog across the street caused Danny to throw a tantrum, which was not unusual. While I was doing the “sit” thing to focus Danny, the other dog jumped his fence and stood near us. No growling or dangerously threatening behavior on his part, but a very strong, defensive posture. Danny stopped his tantrum, whimpered, and we continued on without further canine interaction.

Does anyone out there have a clue how all this adds up in Danny’s mind? I feel like if I could figure out what he’s hearing from these dogs, I could better help him to not flip out. That last key seems like it should be particularly enlightening, but I don’t know enough about dog language to use it.


One response »

  1. Curious. I don’t know. I’ve never seen a dog react differently depending on which dog it was. Shiva just reacted to them all indiscriminantly. It must be something to do with the other dog’s body language. Some dogs who just bark without emotion or challenge just for the sake of barking and others who bark or stand with some sort of agression. I don’t know. But I’m fascinated. Is it even possible for humans to tell the difference?


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