Below are what we believe to be the most important rules to follow if you have a reactive dog.
Let us know what you think, and if you have any other rules you follow?
1. Biological Fulfilment
First and foremost, your dog needs to be living a healthy, balanced and fulfilling lifestyle designed to meet their needs as a canine.
Your dog needs to be on a good diet, have a consistent and regular exercise routine and receive some sort of mental stimulation in the form of a challenge, task or training session each day.
2. Be The Leader
Dogs need a leader. This doesn’t mean they need an overly dominant alpha that’s going to force them to submit and rule with an iron fist. It means they need someone who will take control, be assertive, make good decisions and can be counted on.
Think of the best leader you’ve seen in your life. Mimic them. They weren’t a dominant ‘alpha male’ were they? Being the leader of your dog means in you’re in a position to influence their behaviour. If your dog isn’t used to taking any sort of direction from you, chances are they’re going to completely ignore you when trying to give them direction.
Imagine someone below you at work trying to give you an order. You’d laugh at them and continue with what you were doing. Control needs to be established.
When your dog sees you as in control this can have a calming effect on them. For them it means the stresses of decision making and handling difficult situations is gone and they have someone they can count on to handle things for them.
3. Remain Calm, ALWAYS!
If we are asking our dog to be calm, we too must be calm. There’s two ends to the lead and as much as his behaviour can stress us out, our nervousness, tension or stress can feed into them also.
Engagement is key. Do what you can to keep your dog engaged with you. If your dog chooses to focus on you over the dog they’re stressing about you’re halfway there already.
5. Operant Conditioning
You need a solid, reliable and worthwhile system that reinforces your dogs good behaviour as well as punishes and discourages the behaviour we don’t want to see. Consistency here is key. If your dog doesn’t expect you to reward/punish them every single time for a certain behaviour, they’ll still gamble and take their chances. Both reward and punishment must be meaningful. A $1 speeding ticket will never discourage anybody from speeding, nor will a $1 bonus encourage hard work.
6. Know Your Dog
You need to know your dogs limitations, triggers and most importantly thresholds in relation to their exposure to the stimulus that triggers their reaction.
You need to ensure not to over expose your dog and make the problem worse in the process.
The best training sessions dealing with reactivity won’t entail any reactions at all. Why? Because the handlers KNOW where their dog’s line is, and always stay just short of it. We don’t want to reinforce that fear, we want to build confidence and solve the root of the issue.
I hope that helps, let me know your own top tips for dealing with dog reactivity!