How was your Bank Holiday Monday? Did you enjoy the rest and break from routine?
I hope you did. If you live with a reactive dog there may be one routine which is seldom fully relaxing no matter what day of the year it is. The Walk. I bet you've got a system worked out to try and ensure you have the least chance of meeting your dogs Triggers, whatever they are.
You have times of day, specific locations, equipment and so on. You may have to drive out to your preferred spots rather than walk out your gate and straight into your neighbourhood.
You may be able to build relaxing, enriching activities into your walk too. I know you do your absolute best to ensure your dog remains under their threshold.
BUT ........ us reactive dog walkers do know this, we can't always, control every event, encounter and environment as much as we'd like to. So then what?
If you've had one of those walks where the dreaded has happened it can be hard to get over it, to forgive yourself and to move on.
Perhaps you've been making progress and now fear your dog's gone back a step?
Maybe you feel you should have been more aware or vigilant?
Did you feel the need to get back to the car, cut the walk short and escape home?
Did you get cross, was this a moment when your knowledge went out the window and you wondered if they will ever JUST GET OVER IT?
Stressful isn't it? It can take you a while to come down from an 'event' it may take your dog even longer.
We can all get a bit obsessive about the Walk, we can get hung up on getting that energy out of our dog, sometimes more especially when we have a Reactive dog, but guess what? If your dog has encountered a Trigger or even more than one on a walk it could take them some time for that experience to leave their system.
Just a couple of side affects could be:-
Less deep and recuperative sleep
More knock-on reactions to usually small less significant triggers
Possible quicker more pronounced reactions on the next walk
We absolutely know how important physical exercise is for all dogs. But, if their emotional state during the walk is compromised, then a rest day or days, could in the short term, be the better option.
Yikes! Are you worried your dog will now be crawling the walls? Here's what to do, break up their rest day with short training intervals, 5-10 mins a couple of times a day. Teach something new like a trick.
PLAY...... with toys, with Hide & Seek, with You.
ENRICH - meal times by feeding with a KONG, a Licki Mat, with foraging exercises.
NOVELTY - Introduce something new, it could be a new toy, a new blanket, or just a random box of (safe) leaves, twigs, grasses, herbs for them to unpack and explore.
SLEEP - let them just chill and sleep, remember the quality of their sleep can be adversely affected by a Trigger reaction, it may take a few days for their anxiety levels to reduce and a truly restorative sleep to occur.
BONUS - Rest days are good for you too! You also need recovery time so enjoy, reset, reboot, recover.
PS. This really should have gone out yesterday's Bank Holiday. But me and Milo were having a day off. Sorry (not sorry!)
Jo Boyce. BCCS.Dip.Behav.Prac