Note I am not a professional dog trainer or behaviourist and don’t claim to be.
Owning a reactivate dog can be an isolating and a stressful experience, however with the right attitude and tools in place, walks can become manageable and over time improve and most importantly become enjoyable for you and your dog.
Here are a few tips I have learnt from working with Rosie.
STOP STRESSING AND WORRYING
When I look back at my training journey with Rosie, I can clearly see it would have been a lot easier if I had gotten into the right frame of mind sooner. Instead of worrying about what other people thought of her barking and lunging I should
have focused on what was making her behave that way in the first place. Any anxiety or stress I was feeling every time we left the house was going straight down the lead making her feel stressed, and in turn setting her up to fail before we had left. Rosie was desperate for some guidance on how to behave on the lead, so if she thought I was worried about another dog, so would she. Now I leave the house feeling positive and celebrate any successful moments no matter how small with Rosie.
I took Rosie to a number of one-to-one training sessions with a professional dog trainer, these were invaluable as I learnt why Rosie was behaving the way she was. Reactivity in dogs is not a clear-cut issue; there are hundreds of reasons and behaviours that fall into the reactivate category. Rosie is reactivate as she missed out on basic puppy socialisation and training, mixed with hyperactivity and natural instincts to chase.
She felt frustrated every time we walked past another dog as she didn’t know how to say hello calmly and saw the lead as a problem. In her mind, the lead was stopping her getting to where she wanted to go and would bark and lunge as a way of dealing with her frustration.
STAY IN CONTROL
One of the best decisions I made was to invest in a head collar. It helped me stay in control over Rosie, boosting my confidence which in turn allowed me to get her focus on me. A collar around the neck was not safe for her, she was going to pull and lunge even if she couldn’t breathe, which would stress us both out. Rosie has a body harness as an extra safety net, I found she could still lunge and because it came from the shoulders she also became very strong. A head collar allows me full control as Rosie naturally goes where ever her head goes and stopped her pulling instantly. To make life easier there are some great training techniques to help get the head collar on.
DO SOMETHING TOGETHER OTHER THAN WALKING
Flyball was the catalyst for the rest of Rosie’s training, we both absolutely love it and now train twice a week. We have been lucky enough to find a fantastic team who have welcomed Rosie. Flyball has given us the opportunity
to work on her behaviour and our bond while keeping us both distracted from her behavioural issues. The skills and tricks Rosie has learnt at training have naturally improved her behaviour out with. I don’t have any expectations for her at Flyball and have trained at her own pace. As Rosie is a naturally fast runner she loves the opportunity to show off her speed and she loves every minute of it.
There is no overnight fix for reactivity, it takes patience and time. Don’t set your dog up to fail, become more interesting than the problem and make a huge deal out of small achievements. Stick with it, and if you are struggling seek advice and talk about it.
Please share your experiences below – Rosie and I would love to hear from you x