Reactivity Defined: I will define another category of Reactive Dogs. In the past, I have written about dogs who are very social and react because they are “Persistent Players” and love to play with dogs. Our canine friends have different reasons for reacting at the sight of another dog. Once you are able to identify “why” your dog is acting this way, then we can put a training plan in place. For this Blog, I am defining “Persistent Sniffers” These dogs primarily investigate their environments using their nose, as seen by their heads to the ground often. They are slow to come when called because what they are sniffing is very important to them. They become activated at the sight of a dog seen by their chaotic foot movements and exaggerated joint flexion. They are environmentally confident and have no hesitation navigating new places. They may be vocal when they are unable get to what they want. They are persistent in nature, seen by their continued attempts to get to what interests them. When off leash, these dogs may have a history of greeting unfamiliar dogs with a thorough head to tail scent intake, yet are quick to disconnect and move along. Some will initiate play, but only after they have fulfilled their olfactory needs. If I just described your dogs preferences, then it is likely your dog has already been labeled reactive. Now you can see that he is indeed frustrated, and better understand that his temperament is partly responsible for driving his behavior. For dogs who are food or toy motivated you can often reward an alternative behavior. For dogs who are less food motivated management is often recommended as some dogs are so persistent nothing will override their preference. This was the case recently with a handsome Golden Retriever mix who was lunging on the leash at the sight of any dog. As he entered my office, I noticed he immediately put his nose to the ground and sniffed the rug, toy box, dog bed, shelf and furniture. At one point, he briefly made eye contact with me as he entered my space, I reached out to him but his awareness went to sniffing my pants and shoes. He was unable to be off leash as he would not come when called, he always had his own agenda when outside. While he ate the treat I offered, he was more interested in using his nose once again along the dog bed. When outside, he did as his owners predicted. He began to jump around with chaotic foot patterns, barking rapidly, and pulling on his leash to get to my dog, Pablo who was sitting calmly ignoring the bouncing Golden. I let the Golden walk past Pablo a few times so the Golden would clearly see that Pablo was not engaging him in any way. Pablo went so far as to give a few low growls, but there was no change in the Goldens behavior. I then let them take their boy far away for several minutes so he could recover from his highly aroused state. At this distance, he was rewarded for reorienting to his handler. We repeated this approach and retreat many times as described in Behavior Adjustment Technique (BAT). Each time we were about 30 feet...read more
I continually see the need for more education in cases of dog aggression towards humans. For some reason, when a dog growls at a human, the human’s response is to yell, hold them down or force it into confinement. Many clients admit this scolding has caused an increase in stress when the dog is near unfamiliar people.read more
Modern trainers use clickers to train their dogs because it aids in the animals understanding of what is rewardable. The animal quickly learns that when it offers the behavior again, it will be rewarded. This positive reinforcement approach will often cause an immediate “wow” moment for both handler and animal.
The clicker is a small hand-held gadget that emits a sound when you press it. The sound the clicker makes is a signal to your dog that the behavior it just offered is rewardable. This “click” is always followed by a food reward. Think: Click and Treat! Note, the clicker is NOT for getting attention.read more
Good dogs resolve conflict — all by themselves!
Below, I outline an incident that occurred at a local park in detail and include what each dog’s body language indicated. There are good lessons here on how dogs resolve conflict and set the rules for the playground!
Will your dog likely develop Anxiety when home alone?
If you suspect your dog is suffering from a form of Separation Anxiety, contact your vet, as many of the symptoms can also be medical in nature. Your vet may include a complete blood cell count, biochemistry, thyroid test, and urinalysis to gather more information on what may be causing some of your dogs behavior changes.
So, what are the signs you should look for?
Is your dog slightly environmentally insecure or worried in new places? Does your dog hesitate when walking down some streets or new parks? Do her eyes become enlarged as she scans the area often? Maybe her body looks compressed, or she moves slower then normal with stiff leg movement. Maybe she sits and refuses to move forward, yet if you turn around, she quickly moves in the direction of home.
“Why” your dog may not be able to change her behavior like other dogs…
Have you attended a dog training class, maybe a Leash Lunger or Reactive Dog Class? You see other dogs in class improving, but your dog continues to scan the environment instead of looking at you.
As a dog trainer, I often work with dogs who have bitten people, yet I am able to hand feed and often begin body handling them without getting bitten myself. Since dog bite prevention is a critical focus of my reward-based dog training, I will share some simple techniques to reduce your chances of being bit by a dog.
Learn to read dog body language:
If the dog is facing you, look for signs he is calm and relaxed. These would include a loose body (free of tension), open mouth, relaxed ears, soft blinking eyes, relaxed neutral tail and ears. These are communications signs from the dog that he is feeling okay about you near him. This handsome boy is offering me friendly relaxed body language as he stands at an angle showing he is feeling comfortable about my presence.read more
To avoid being bitten, always ask a dog to come into your space before you reach your hand out. This way you will know if the dog is interested in engaging with you. If he looks or turns his head away, or growls, he is telling you no thanks.read more
Territorial dogs need a good pack leader, who will use management and dog training to help their dog be less reactive.read more
The only way to control car aggression 100% is to never take your dog in the car. For many, that is unthinkable as we enjoy having our dogs with us. So if your dog reacts in the car, first, teach your dog to relax in your home and other environments including your car with no distractions. Again, this is hugely helpful for the dog with poor impulse control.read more