Is it an excess of impulsiveness, and what you might even call joie de vivre? Just an irrepressible spirit that can't tolerate nutty contraptions like leashes, and the totally preposterous notion that a beast of such vitality could greet calmly and nicely? Does he just love other creatures too much to be calm about his feelings? When we see certain dogs and he shows signs of being excited, but not beside himself, and I allow him to approach and greet, and he does so with a sniff and a wag, I think that must be it.
Is it prey drive? When we come upon one of our many neighborhood cat friends, and Fozzie goes into a mad fit of lunging and barking, straining at the leash until I think I'll literally go flying through the air after him, I think that's his diagnosis.
I think Fozzie actually has a pretty complex personality, and that all these are probably true. I also think that he will learn new ways of being, and that he is already starting to understand that the sight of other creatures is no reason to completely lose his cool.
We saw a neighbor dog on a recent walk, and I didn't have my treats, and there was no car to hide behind.
So we used our "Whoops-backtrack!" technique, and approached the neighbor--who was talking to another neighbor, holding his calm leashed dog--then retreated when Fozzie and Lamar started to react, then approached, and retreated again, until we were able to walk past in relative calm. At least the dogs were calm; I was talking to them in my nutty falsetto ... it's a good thing my neighbors are understanding.
Another time recently, we had the opportunity to walk with our fellow trainer buddy Francine and a couple of the dogs she had that day. He had a few snarlies and lunges at the beginning, then was able to parallel walk with them for a few blocks.
And the other day--this was perhaps the most exciting--my beloved budgies Ingamar and Flower were in their cage with the door open, having just turned in from a day of flying around "their" room. Fozzzie came into the room, and instead of panicking and chasing him out of the room, I asked him to sit and wait. He stopped his progress toward the budgies, looked at me, smiled, and sat!
Which brings me to what I think is the root of my problem with Fozzie. Just like a nervous nellie dog owner who exacerbates all of her anxious dog's issues on the first day of reactive dog class by bringing her OWN issues to the table, I tend to panic and get all excited when Fozzie gets excited. If I could just be more consistent, firm, joyful, calm and clear in my messages to him, then he'd start to reflect those qualities as well.
What do you think? Have you had any luck changing your own emotional responses, in order to better support your dog in sticky situations?