I know the word “reactive” is frowned on by many in dog training circles.
Of course dogs are reacting to something all of the time, so are we all, but many use this term to loosely give an idea that a “reactive dog” (dog street language) is sensitive in some way.
That could be visual, another dog, man in wide brimmed hat, rubbish bins on the street.
Auditory fireworks, gun shots, voices, hide or run for your life.
Frustration triggered up the first step by one of the first two, but restrained in some way by fence or lead.
Scent of another dog that has already left the scene (I have experience of this one)
I see the term reactive as a big label on the front of a pallet, once unloaded by a fork lift, its full of boxes each with their own labels describing the content and appropriate warnings where necessary.
These labels can range from the most delicate, like glass that could shatter in the hand, to explosive that could blast off as the box is opened.
There will always be some dog street language, not everybody has swallowed the latest book of behavioural terminology, many people out there have been hands on all their animal related lives, most of those can read the labels from the distance.
It only takes a few questions to get to the bottom of the box.
Triggered dogs/Reactive dogs and CV 19
So has distancing helped or hindered your dogs progress.
We don’t come out of the same moulds and neither do our dogs. Their individuals that all have different needs to balance out their world.
How different are we.
There are people who always seem to be the life and soul of the party, yet often there’s another soul behind that mask, only ever seen by their closest friends.
Scientists that are doing much valued work, that may never consider giving a live presentation of that work themselves, public speaking way off the agenda, no matter how sort after they may be. Happy for some one else to deal with that side or maybe pre record presentations.
The point being, no part of any of us come out of exactly the same mould, not our brains, nervous systems, throw personal history in the mix……
All living beings are unique.
Trigger happy/reactive dogs are individuals, just like us. The one that shouts the loudest is often the most scared, feels the most threatened, hiding behind that mask, but often not the party mask, more the feeling of being in an alleyway with a gang of hoodies closing in.
Lumping them together with set approaches and training recipes, not treating them as individuals, is like being in a concert hall full of “music lovers” some that will take their leave when the orchestra and the opera singers are ready to perform, others the Jazz and how many will still be there for the heavy metal band.
Dogs so pick up on the difference in energy, from when your in the company of people you know, to when in the company of strangers. That can be from the vibes/energy coming from either or both sides. You needn’t be chatting all the time for them to feel the difference of the company their in with you.
This has a knock on when it comes to dogs that get triggered by other dogs/people/environments. It shows up in situations you can’t avoid like having to move off a path, to give your acrobatic yodelling dog space, so people and dogs can pass.
From experience of meeting with some great people, that have given as wide a birth as possible while out walking, then stood at a distance to talk, you see the dogs start to relax, as we get into friendly conversation. These conversation can become the thread that links you, dampens the threat, allows time for taking in scent, discovering there was no malice intended, time to process and come down a step or two, as mind and body settle.
I‘ve found in the past and with my current trigger happy four pawed girl, that having a regular dip into the real world but around dog savvy people, has been such a help in building her confidence.
The shows/training shows may be at different venues, but the familiarity that comes and builds with the scents of pretty much the same people and dogs, has helped to create familiar linking threads.
My trigger happy girl Eck travelled and camped up at different venues for many months before she ever entered a building, with eyes in the back of my head, distance kept from others as much as possible around exercising areas.
The build up to entering a building was extremely gradual. Every step in and out of buildings with a friends help to make sure the way was clear for her.
Her first experience of entering a venue was a training show in Yorkshire, we had camped up overnight and walked all the outside areas before anyone arrived in the morning.
I entered the building without her to view the area which was a very large sports hall, only half of the hall was being used, fantastic clear space one end for Eck’s first in venue experience. A friend saw us in to the hall making sure the way was clear, knowing Eck can trigger up the ladder at speed.
You can never predict exactly how real life might play out however well you plan.
No issues entering the hall, dogs to the right we turned in left to the empty end. Eck could not move more than three strides in because of the different coloured lines and curves painted on the sports hall floor, I never expected that reaction. I honestly never considered the floor would be an issue to her.
The first 20 minutes was spent dropping cheese on the floor over the lines, luckily Eck is a real food fiend, the focus had not gone straight to the dogs at the other end of the hall.
If your the guardian of a dog that can get triggered to react for what ever reason, you needs to be very aware, top priority is keeping your dog below thresh hold and feeling safe, but also to make sure other dogs and their people are not worried or affected.
Its just as draining to be the guardian of a nervous dog that shrinks every time another dog barks.
Eck has been a dog that could, in certain circumstances, perform acrobatics while yodelling, I’ve been in on the act and performed a few acrobatics myself, but did leave out the yodelling. I know its behind the mask stuff, and over time, given the right circumstances and company she can drop the act, and leave the stage, and play in the wings with the rest of the cast.
Never the less in that triggered moment, how she feels is real and genuine for her.
While many dogs quite probably need a break from training and competing in their guardians chosen sport, I’ve seen that little bit more awareness from Eck, since missing out on that regular dip into real life around dog savvy people and their dogs.
I wonder how others are doing.
We are lucky there is a dog savvy group not too far away we have walked with in the past, and she has recently been able to join them again in these strange times (following the rules of the time of course)
We live very rural, but as some areas are looking at further restrictions, who knows how long these walks will continue.