Train Dog not to Growl at Other Dogs/Strangers – Unresponsive to treats/commands

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Hey all,

I'm sure this has been asked a lot because I've read a lot of posts regarding how to handle this behavior… I don't know if mine is a unique case or if there's pre-work I haven't done…

I adopted my dog about half a year ago, and he's always been very nervous and shy… the only exception is when another dog or certain people (maybe people who smell like their dogs?) come close. He puts all his attention on them and starts growling and barking, if they come close enough and I don't intervene sometimes he'll lunge at them… he's a small dog so he's easy to keep under control, but I can't seem to get him to control himself.

He behaves very well for treats indoors, but outside he's totally uninterested in them – I've tried bringing his favorites out: cheese, rotisserie chicken, bacon – inspecting grass seems to be more interesting than treats.

Bearing this in mind, when we're doing outdoor training I usually let the reward be continuing the walk: I give him a command, and if he doesn't obey I stand still and wait until he gives me his attention and does whatever was asked.

However, this doesn't work for training around other dogs, because the only direction he wants to move is towards them, growling and snarling the whole way. I can get him to sit and 'growl in place' by not letting him budge on the leash, but I can't get his attention on me or get him to be quiet.

The other dog owners here seem very hesitant to let me try to train him – most of them, I imagine, are just trying to go for a potty break and here's this little dog distracting and perhaps promoting bad behaviors in their own. I've tried a variety of methods, sticking to each for a couple of weeks, but none of the below seem to have worked:

Treats: As mentioned, he won't take them outside at all, let alone when there's another dog there. Getting as far away as I can and getting commands: I can't get his attention on me until the other dog is out of sight and out of smell, and even then when we start walking he constantly looks behind him to make sure the other dog is still far away. Comforting: He's a really nervous dog at the best of times, it's pretty rare that I feel like I'm comforting him by petting or cooing to him, but I haven't yet been able to get him to calm down around other dogs. Removing from the situation: I can pick him up and leave, either going back inside or just moving away from the other dog, but again, his eyes are locked on that dog the whole time. Trying to get eye contact: I've tried putting my hand over his eyes, putting my face right in front of his, moving him behind a car before resuming, he's 100% committed to making sure there are no dogs around before he gives me ANY attention.

I've stopped trying to teach him any new tricks and we're working EXCLUSIVELY on 'look at me' right now under constantly changing circumstances, because the only way I can see to get this to stop is to get his attention on me… but he's a TOTALLY different dog when there are other dogs around. He's about 90% compliant when there are no dogs around – even outside – and 0% compliant when there are.

I'm just totally at a loss. Please help. =[

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