Dog Walking Types
Yeah? Well let me tell you about MY day
When people are describing their Reactive dog to me they sometimes say things like …….‘It’s really strange, some days are great and Fido doesn’t have any meltdowns, but other times he goes mad at a dog for no reason’ or ‘I don’t understand why he only kicks off at that particular point on our walk, and only on some days’ or even ‘it’s like he’s constantly thinking of new things to add to his list!’
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to predict a pattern for your dogs reactive behaviour or why just when you think you’re making progress you have a set back?
It could be Trigger Stacking. Let me translate this to a human scenario, you wake up 10 minutes after the alarm should’ve gone off – no worries you always allow yourself enough time in the mornings, off you go to work…… whoops you’d forgotten the fuel light had come on last night, no time to stop now, fingers crossed there’s enough petrol left to get you to work.....
Oh No! there’s been an accident and you’re in a queue – you’re going to be late for work that’s if you make it to work of course because you haven’t got any petrol left remember you’re now running on fumes only. Phew! you’ve made it to the office, but all the car park spaces are gone so you’re going to have to circle round the street. So you’re now officially late AGHHHHHH you HATE being late it makes you so stressed.
You see what I mean? Just one thing going wrong isn’t that big a deal but when nothing seems to be going right…..
Back to the dogs, if your dog is reactive, chances are he has more than one Trigger, perhaps even a couple you’re not aware of as the Triggers will also have a scale of influence on your dog.
So a possible list in order of severity could be:
Number one - other dogs the sight of another dog will guarantee a reaction obviously you’re doing your best to regulate this exposure and you’ve got him so he’s OK as long as he can pass on the other side of the road.
Number two might be loud noises like big motorbikes or heavy lorries again this will upset your dog though not as badly as Number one.
Number three may be skateboards – Fido may be OK with these a little way off, but doesn’t like them too near especially behind him.
Number four might be busier spots, it’s not the end of the world for him but if you have to navigate the bus queue he does speed up to weave around all those legs and get away
Numbers five, six and seven might not be things you’re even aware of, and/or only have an influence at certain times. For example, feeling a bit off colour or having some pain. The weather, some dogs think they’re going to melt in the rain so a pouring day wont do anything to improve their mood. Feelings of confinement – this could be an underpass where sounds are also amplified, or types of gateway for example.
So a possible set up for a reaction you weren’t expecting or one that is more severe than you’ve experienced for a while; Your Dog barks and lunges towards a dog that’s a good way away on the other side of the field, you struggle to hold on to him and he takes ages to ‘come down’.
He’s usually able to handle/ignore other dogs nearer than this what’s wrong with him? Well maybe he encountered a few of his other Triggers on the way to the fields. You went through that kissing gate that he seems at bit afraid of, you did see your friend soon after you set off and she would NOT shut up so he was standing around for about 10 mins when he was raring to go. Oh yeah and she did have to stop you in the middle of the High Street and the kids had just got out of school and were all milling around outside the shop and it didn’t help that those three girls all wanted to stroke him, and, and, and, and.
You can’t control the whole world to make it suit your Reactive dog. But you can try to be aware of all the likely things that contribute to his anxiety. You can also learn the particular signals that he might be giving to show you just how uncomfortable he’s feeling before it all kicks off, we’ll be looking at these in my post ‘Tells! - or Why Dogs are Pants at Poker’.
Fed up of being a midnight dog walker? Want to enjoy spending time out and about with your dog? Ready to learn how to gain coping skills for you and your reactive dog? Then get some help from a positive, force free trainer or behaviourist.
Jo Boyce. BCCS.Dip.Behav.Prac