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DEALING WITH REACTIVE BEHAVIORS

  • Tuesday, November 22 2022 @ 04:40 pm EST
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DEALING WITH AGGRESIVE BEHAVIORS
REACTIVE DOG TO SOCIAL DOG HOW TO TRANSITION A REACTIVE DOG TO A SOCIAL DOG

It’s is extremely important to understand that not every animal can be a social butterfly. Some sheps that we get have gotten in come out of extremely isolated conditions and are reactive in settings where other dogs pass or approach. Given that not all of them can be rehabilitated, this article deals with those who are on the cusp, meaning that their reactivity is based in fear of the unknown rather than a predisposition to aggressive behavior. It is also essential to know that not every dog will tolerate another dog in the home, yet can be fine with meeting other dogs on the street or in neutral conditions.
When I get dogs into rescue I check them for sociability with people and dogs. There are times when I can easily see the ‘good’ in a reactive dog and accept him or her into the system knowing that with a bit of work they can be turned around. The main criteria for this rehabilitation effort is the work put in by the new owner to insure the dog gets the understanding of his situation and can adapt to change.
This understanding comes when the dog accepts the leadership (alpha) from his new family, regardless of who handles him. He needs to understand that he does not call the shots, has no need to protect the alpha and knows his place in the pack. This is done through the continuous practice of meeting new dogs, walking by dogs, being emersed in normal everyday life with the owner (alpha) holding the lead and correcting unwanted (or unnecessary behaviors). These behaviors like barking, lunging, posturing etc are easily visible. Understanding just when they are about to occur is the trick to a proper and timely and effective correction. The perception by the owner that his dog may react allows him to choose a means by which that reactivity can be redirected or corrected. You can make the dog sit and wait for the other dogs to pass, provide a meaningful correction so the pup knows you are not happy with their behavior or you can go the other way and avoid contact (until the dog learns how to pass by another dog properly). In cases where there are extreme issues, the use of an E-collar makes sense, but only after you (the owner) are trained in its use and timing for corrections. Typical corrections on a suitable well fitted pinch or prong collar, are the best ways to insure the dogs understanding that he is being corrected. Communication own the lead to the dog helps the dog understand the nature of the communication. Refrain from touching the dog in these situations, simply provide a timely correction, combined with a verbal command (marker) such that the dog understand what he is expected for.
Over the years I have found that a slow emersion, in taking these dogs into situations where they can see other dogs but not interact, allows the eventual desensitization of the reactivity. When the dogs knows you are not in fear, he is not in jeopardy of an attack and that all is well, he can then start to change. Given this takes a while, I can assure you that practice (under the supervision of a qualified trainer) can turn the dog around.

Timing and obedience training is necessary way before you start this type of socialization training. This is true essentially because you need control, respect and focus to implement corrective behaviors. If the dog is so emersed in going nuts, you will sacrifice control, focus and the ability to correct the behavior, because the dog is not listening and corrections just exacerbates the problem. Once the dog has a degree of focus, accepts the correction (given the correct timing of that correction) and the dog is kept under control, you can start to see acceptance in a relatively short time.
Not all dog barking indicates antisocial behavior. Dogs bark to warn, to greet, to start play and to just react to different things. That is not by any means an ‘out of control’ behavior. Lunging, baring teeth, ears back, moon eyes, rigidity, getting low, tail tuck and simultaneous barking is out of control behavior. Normally I will not accept a dog with these traits and therefore I do not have issue with these aggressive behaviors.