Leash Gremlins Need Love Too: Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

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  • Leash Gremlins Need Love Too: Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

    Expanding the definition of adopt www.dogsoutloud.orgCopyright 2014. Published by Dogs Out Loud, Inc. PO Box 152350 Austin TX 78715. www.dogsoutloud.org

    We discuss and work with dog reactivity so often that it was hard to settle on a concise theme for this post. Rather than define what it is, we wanted to focus on its consequences and solutions this time. There are two very big points wed like to make about so-called reactive dogs:

    1. They are good, adoptable dogs who dont deserve to be defined by a label.2. Reactivity is a treatable problem.

    Cupcake is serving as the reactivity spokesdog, not because it defines who she is, but because it doesnt. Cupcake is a crazy smart, loving, wiggly, adorable, loyal, focused, energetic girl who loves fetch, learning, napping, cuddling, and adventures. Reactivity is just something this wonderful (exceptional, really) dog has struggled with. In Cupcakes case, her reactivity is tied both to her history and to digestive issues only recently identified.

    Other dogs struggle with reactivity to different things for different reasons. But just like Cupcake, it does not define them and we need to be careful that we dont let it. They are good dogs with their own individual personalities, favorite toys and activities, and delicious noms that they daydream about. There are undoubtably activities at which they can and do excel. Rather than holding that this single issue means a dog has to spend life in a safety bubble, we need to identify and take advantage of what these dogs love and do well, while helping to de-escalate their reactivity to, at minimum, a manageable level.

    https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/dog-dog-reactivity-treatment-summaryhttp://www.dogsoutloud.org/2012/10/cupcake-is-doing-it-2/

  • Leash Gremlins Need Love Too: Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

    Expanding the definition of adopt www.dogsoutloud.orgCopyright 2014. Published by Dogs Out Loud, Inc. PO Box 152350 Austin TX 78715. www.dogsoutloud.org

    While Cupcake cant write this post herself, we know shed have a very strong opinion on the notion that leash gremlins need love too. She is, after all, one of the most lovable leash gremlins weve ever had the privilege of knowing

    Helping Reactive Dogs

    1. Respect.At a wonderful seminar by Suzanne Clothier that we recently attended, she made a point about reactive dogs that stood out very clearly, Respect what the reactive dog is seeing. S/he is not wrong. This point holds true on several fronts. First, some reactivity is normal dog reaction misclassified as problem behavior. Suzanne illustrates this crucial point in her article, He Just Wants to Say Hi! The dog who is responding appropriately to another dogs rudeness is not a dog who is in the wrong.

    Second, even if the dogs response is out of proportion for the stimulus, that doesnt mean that it isnt a valid experience for that dog. Cupcake is a perfect example of this. Her reactions occur only if she sees the other dog as a threat. It is her lack of social skills that means she sometimes misreads other dogs or responds too quickly without sufficient avoidance behaviors (though, through training, she has developed a much better skill set). However, dismissing what the dog is seeing does nothing to help the dog. We must respect what they perceive if we are to identify triggers and give them the skills they need to better handle themselves.

    http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

  • Leash Gremlins Need Love Too: Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

    Expanding the definition of adopt www.dogsoutloud.orgCopyright 2014. Published by Dogs Out Loud, Inc. PO Box 152350 Austin TX 78715. www.dogsoutloud.org

    Finally, the notion of respect extends to the community at-large and the way we treat, handle, and manage the domesticated dog. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not appropriate or safe dog behavior to sprint up to a fellow dog or to give a greeting sniff right in the face. Dogs have a very defined etiquette all their own and both humans, and dogs whove had this breach of etiquette reinforced by humans, violate it at potential serious consequence to all involved.

    The same goes for humans who pet without asking or lean over the heads of dogs they dont know. It may sound alarmist or harsh, but these scenarios are common set-ups for dog fights, human bite incidents, and lasting set-backs for the dogs who were walking along with their person, minding their own business when they were accosted on the sidewalk or at the park. Dogs in Need of Space has a great set of handouts explaining what appropriate etiquette looks like and why its so important.

    2. Training.Working on reactivity is a very meaningful way to deepen your relationship with your dog and it just so happens there are a TON of great training approaches to help your dog learn to replace disproportionately reactive behavior with socially appropriate behavior. The best and safest training techniques help you take the drama out of the situation for your dog. You learn to read their signals and give them the skillset they need to feel safe and make good choices when confronted with the stimulus. And if you and your dog have differing levels of enthusiasm for chasing small mammals and fast-moving objects, the training you do can help you avoid being dragged into the street or having your arm yanked.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/6577001349/http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/6577001349/http://boogiebt.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/how-not-to-greet-a-dog/http://dogsinneedofspace.com/handouts/

  • Leash Gremlins Need Love Too: Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

    Expanding the definition of adopt www.dogsoutloud.orgCopyright 2014. Published by Dogs Out Loud, Inc. PO Box 152350 Austin TX 78715. www.dogsoutloud.org

    To effectively work on reactivity with your dog, you need a solid understanding of three things:

    -Threshold. This magical little word is used a lot but not always accurately understood. The best explanation weve seen comes from this post by Suzanne Clothier on understanding the stimulus gradient and keeping your dog in the think and learn zone. For those who like a visual illustration, Doggie Drawings created a good one.

    -Dog Body Language. You cant effectively use threshold if you dont understand how your dog is feeling. Understanding and accurately reading dog body language is a critical missing component from a lot of training. Turid Rugaas book On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals is a good place to start, as is Brenda Aloffs Canine Body Language A Photographic Guide. As for many things dog, Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings offers some adorable illustrated cheat sheets, including one specifically on calming signals.

    -Motivation. What is your dog reacting to and why? If you have not specifically and thoughtfully identified this, you are not ready to begin in earnest. Is your dog scared or threatened by another dog, person, or object? Is it a very specific subset or behavior from other dogs, people, or objects? Or is your dog friendly but frustrated at his inability to rush up and investigate? Is it a prey driven reaction? Does it only occur in a certain context? What role is the handler playing in the reaction and how is that impacting the dog? What is going to be rewarding for your dog in this training scenario and what skills can you offer him so that he can navigate the situation safely

    http://suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/understanding-threshholds-its-more-under-or-overhttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4558860601960&utm_source=buffer&buffer_share=b8da1http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=dtb527http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=dtb527http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB856http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB856http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/5652847156/http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/3623518112/http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/3623518112/https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/dog-dog-reactivity-ii-the-basics

  • Leash Gremlins Need Love Too: Helping Your Leash Reactive Dog

    Expanding the definition of adopt www.dogsoutloud.orgCopyright 2014. Published by Dogs Out Loud, Inc. PO Box 152350 Austin TX 78715. www.dogsoutloud.org

    and successfully? The right trainer or behavior professional can help you answer these questions and put them in perspective regarding your dog.

    Now for our favorite techniques, all Cupcake endorsed, for working on dog reactivity. Fun fact? There is no reason that you need to choose just one!

    -BAT. Behavior Adjustment Training. This is particularly effective for anxious or fearful dogs and is one of the things that has helped Cupcake the most. Dogs learn socially appropriate behavior to replace the reaction. We love that it relies on the dog making choices and genuinely learning replacement behaviors and social skills, rather than being heavily managed by the handler. A dogs confidence can sky-rocket when he works at his own pace and discovers he has the power to keep himself safe by offering socially appropriate behaviors. The bond between you and your dog is strengthened because he knows you will listen to, understand, and respect his needs.

    -Parallel Work. This is simply engaging in activities that the dog enjoys at a safe distance from the stimulus and, just like with BAT, working to decrease that threshold while allowing the dog to choose appropriate behaviors and build social skills. It can be literally anything from training games, scent work, TTouch or other relaxation activities, a formal group class, or even just a group walk or hike. In fact, we incorporate group hikes and walks with our reactive dogs regularly because they