Intolerance versus Reactivity

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Member Since
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 8:02am PST 
I wonder if I'm splitting hairs by asking this question, but do you all feel that there is a difference between the two?

The reason I'm asking is that my dog would be content to never meet another dog on walks. Don't get me wrong, she'll play with the right playmate, but for the most part it feels like she just lacks tolerance for other dogs. Also, I can't help wondering of part of the intolerance may be fear in some cases...

The large and more boisterous the dog, the less tolerant she is. Examples would be that there's a big lab in our agility class who insists on being facinated with her. She HATES him. His owner rather lets him wonder about as he's "Friendly" but my dog absolutely does not tolerate him getting in her face or trying to play with her.

He's very pushy and has trouble taking "I'm not interested" for an answer, and so she escalates her behavior and now our teacher thinks she's reactive. She's a herding dog, so reactivity is soemthing I expect, but she doesn't ever react to him unless he pushes her buttons.

So, from you who are more experienced in doggy body language and behavior, what do you feel is the difference, if there is one, between reactivity and intolerance?

She plays just fine with dogs her size or smaller, but again, she'd rather ignore other dogs then interact with them.

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 8:40am PST 
I think the line that defines the two comes from the source of conflict- Is your dog acting out on another dog, or is another dog acting on YOUR dog and coaxing a reaction.

I think a dog with a low tolerance threshold can certainly be a reactive dog. But I also think what you're describing isn't exactly "reactivity" as it is generally defined here. Its your dog being annoyed with pushy dogs who get in her face and don't take "no" for an answer.

I wouldn't worry so much about your dog's reaction in such a scenario, and rather try and get the point across to the owner of the other dog that their animal's rude behavior isn't appreciated and needs to stop.

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 9:09am PST 
I agree with Mulder.

If another dog does not push her, get in her face, act rude, does she still react?

Member Since
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 9:20am PST 
No, she honestly could care less about other dogs. When I take her on off leash walks and we encounter another dog, I call her to me and tell her to sit.

She has excellent recall. I'm hesitant to say that she has 100% recall, because there may be circumstances that we've yet to encounter, but up to this point her recall is 100%. She makes direct eye contact with me and we wait for the other dog to pass, and then we go on about our business.

It's like the other dogs aren't even there. She is totally focused on me and just happily waits, tail thumping, for me to release her. I've never trained her to be that way. It just is a part of her personality.

If she meets another dog, she never approaches them on her own. She lets them come to her, and then there is probably some sniffing. Most of the time, she can play very well with other dogs. There's only an issue if a dog has bad social manners.

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 9:39am PST 
That is not reactivity, just a dog who does not care about other dogs.

14- Years- Young!
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 12:40pm PST 
Agree with the above.

Personally I'd be having a serious chat with the instructor of this class. While I wouldn't expect everyone there (especially if it's a beginner type class) to be etiquette savvy, the instructor shouldn't be allowing dogs to 'wander' around and harass others- it's a training class, not a dog park. It's ridiculous that your dog is being labeled 'reactive' (ie. the 'problem' dog) in this scenario.

The cheese ninja
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 1:05pm PST 
I agree too. It's probably fine to let her speak up for herself, but if she's sent a clear signal and the other dog isn't getting it, it's probably stressing her out and time for intervention. It wouldn't be good if she dials up her display because lower level communication isn't working and then transfers that to other situations. Maybe just step in front of her and interact with the lab so she doesn't have to.

Black dogs rock!
Barked: Tue Oct 2, '12 2:25pm PST 
I actually have 2 dogs who who may be examples of both, respectively. Princesse (Chi) does not like dogs in her face. She will air snap if they do not back off. She will approach dogs who are shy, though. Bunny is reactive and it takes very little to set him off. He is not aggressive, but makes a huge show of barking and lunging.

ETA Bunny does enjoy interacting with dogs that meet his critera, which seems to be small dogs of either gender or big females. Princesse does not seem to care about playing with other dogs that much.

Edited by author Tue Oct 2, '12 2:27pm PST


Barked: Wed Oct 3, '12 2:57am PST 
I have an intolerant reactive dog. What you describe just sounds like a dog who doesn't care about other dogs much, but is really not fond of rude dogs. None of my dogs like rude dogs, but their tolerance levels vary a lot.
The Shiba is the reactive intolerant one. He doesn't like other dogs (unless given a LOT of time to adjust to them, on his terms only) and will react to a lot of different things, and has very little tolerance for dogs getting up in his space no matter who they are.
Czarka, CGC- UJJ

Why walk when- you can run?
Barked: Wed Oct 3, '12 8:09am PST 
Ah, agility laugh out loud

Well, you can't handle/train someone else's dog... so you have to approach this from handling and protecting your own dog. If you treat the other dog as something you can benefit from training around, your blood pressure will go down thinking

Relative to intolerance vs reactivity... ultimately it doesn't matter. Your dog may indeed move to actively reactive toward the provocateur without generalizing toward all dogs. So, grab a copy of Control Unleashed and work on your babe... while getting distance as much as possible from the other dog. Watch the body language and don't let your pup stare even if the over dog is burning holes in your direction.

[Charks is a pretty easy-going GSD... until another dog laser locks her... my job is to watch what is going on and, if I'm attentive, get into the way of the stare before Charka sees it. Else, I'm watching her focus and body language to 'see' what she is paying attention to. Sooo, one eye on instructor, one eye on your dog, third eye constantly roving to see what other dogs are doing. Click/treat ('Look-at-that'] to bring attention back to you.]

While performing, you're working so there ain't nothin' in the world for you and your dog but each other and the course. That's what you want/need, right? Fault in your case does not matter and it DOES present a training opportunity.

Go for it!
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