Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Fearful Reactive Dog

So we all know that most reactive dogs (those that bark non-stop at your guests when they come in, never really warm up to them, bark at other dogs/people on walks) are truly fearful dogs.  These are the dogs that need our guidance on how to behave correctly.  Reactive dogs often get all the wrong training because folks are only responding when the dog is doing something wrong and not respondin, or giving guidance when they don't.  This goes with our style of training at AllBreed as well...don't tell the dog what he's doing wrong, but always tell him when he's doing it right!  With a reactive dog this is really important.  Being protactive vs. reactive as a trainer will help out your fearful dog in heaps and bounds! 

So consider this scenario from the dog's point of view.  You are a fearful dog, your confidence level isn't very high.  Someone comes to the door.  First they ring or knock, which you then begin to bark.  Your owner makes some noises which sounds like they are chiming in with with you, but you don't stop.  Then this person comes into the house.  Your owner is again making some noises, but they are not directed at you.  You continue to bark because now you are really afraid.  To you it feels like you'll be taking this situation on by yourself as your person isn't telling you what you can do.  You have no choice but to continue to protect yourself and be very leary of this person in your house.

The scenario can go on and on of course.  But, when you aren't helping a dog through a situation where you know they will be reactive, you are in essence abandoning your dog to his own wiles.  Without you telling him what he can safely do, he is making the choices, and they're never good.  When I hear that a dog is acting up at the door I always ask, what you ARE doing?  Usually the answer is "well, I'm telling him to be quiet, or I'm telling him it's ok".  Neither of these will work.  Always remember that your obedience will help pave the way to a calmer dog.  A note on the door letting your company know that you are training the dog and please don't ring the doorbell, and also be patient, you will let them in will go a long way in getting yourself and your dog ready for this.  A leash by the door along with treats is a must.  From there, with your dog on a leash, you will be able to keep him next to you.  Have him sit next to you while your company comes in, all the while giving him treats, telling him good sit/stay and if he tries to get up, fixing it.  Yep, you can still talk to your guests (multi-tasking is awesome!).  This sets the tone.  I do not let a dog go up to someone on his own, I always go with until I know he's comfortable with who's in the house, etc.  Then the leash can come off, but again ONLY if you are sure he's settled.  For some dogs, in the early stages of this training, the leash stays on the entire time and he's following where you go, laying down at your feet in a down/stay when you're relaxing and chatting.  Letting him know you have control will allow your fearful dog to relax.  And a relaxed dog is a happy dog!

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