So, my newest scheme to help Dolce overcome his issues with meeting strange dogs goes something like this:
Dolce sees another dog.
I toss a treat in front of his face (he generally walks nicely on a loose leash slightly ahead of me).
Dolce happily sniffs out and eats the treat.
Repeat until the strange dog is ancient history.
Reward with mini jackpot if there are no outbursts at all.
It's funny. Sometimes, at the end of a session like that, Dolce will have held it in until the dog is out of sight, and then he has to let one little half-hearted bark out for good measure.
This has been in place off & on for maybe a week. I say off & on because we sometimes don't encounter other dogs on our routes anymore. I already see improvement in that he's not looking at me for treats, but focusing more calmly on the other dog. His threshold is getting smaller (meaning his distance required for comfort is shrinking), and he's less vocal in general. He's not cured by any means, he'll still fly off his handle given a catastrophic circumstance. I think this is really helping to bridge the gap, though.
I hardly ever have to use a Butt Blaster anymore. Can't remember the last time I did. Dolce almost never goes bonkers these days. I started using the bean bag instead, and I don't need that, either. Sue has her students use a small bean bag as a "force of God." The dog can't see you throw it to the ground, it just has to be an interruption from the environment. We have to take care to step on it, though, or else the dog will think, "Yay, SNACK!" and go right for it. :)
I took Dolce to Pet Supply and PetsMart with me the other day. He was brilliant at Pet Supply. Hammed up all the ladies working there, and even took a treat from a big burly guy. He shied away from a customer who was a man and just up and reached down to pat Dolce on the top of the head. It happened so fast, I didn't have a chance to ask the man to please let Dolce approach him. Dolce slinked and backed up only a couple steps, gave a couple good, "Woof, WOOF!" barks, and then decided the guy wasn't so bad. He took some treats and off we went to PetsMart. That was much more of a challenge, and I have decided such stores are just too much for a dog who isn't already a ROCK. Even JoJo didn't really like to be in all that mayhem when I took her a while back. I need to remind myself of this when I'm socializing my future border collie puppy. (Mental note to self.)