Having read and shared Suzanne Clothiers wise post on Facebook yesterday it got me thinking about reactive dogs.
“Yet, over and over I hear this same heart-breaking refrain from handlers, "How can I make this dog less fearful/more confident/braver so we can [fill in goal of choice]?
I wish more handlers would ask, "How do I find the right sized world for this dog so that she does not experience anxiety, fear, alarm, worry, distress?" Suzanne Clothier 2017
So, what is a reactive dog?
Reactive is the term used to describe over the top reactions to certain stimuli. It might be the sight of other dogs, people, kids, cars, loud noises etc. Typically, the dog will bark and/or lunge at the scary thing.
Reactivity may be part of his genetic make-up or it could be from a lack of social experiences or even a particularly scary experience. He may also be experiencing pain.
Reactive experiences produce increased levels of Cortisol, which lingers in the brain, causing him to react much quicker to his triggers. It can take up to several weeks for cortisol to dissipate.
How often do we apologise for our reactive dog when out walking and wish we could take them to the next Fun Dog Show/beach/pub garden/busy park etc?
Not all dogs enjoy these things, particularly if they are worried about various triggers. Please leave them at home!
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to improve things through training but in the meantime, we should embrace and celebrate the dog we have, right now, as he is, flaws and all. Find him a safe place to walk, away from these triggers – where he can relax, sniff, take treats and enjoy exploring etc. Enjoy him for who he is and the unconditional love he brings into our lives.