The theme I keep seeing when I am reading and learning about reactivity and rehabilitating your dog is PATIENCE. You cannot push your dog too much.
Recently I read online a woman who was upset she couldn’t pick up her dog she just adopted from a shelter. Someone offered advice that her dog is probably scared & does not yet trust her. We do not know the dog’s history. The person gave her advice to touch the dog and treat, stroke the dog and treat. After days of this continue to lift a little on the side, treat. Continue this process step by step until you can finally pick her up and treat her.
The owner of the dog replied that the dog was still growling and snapping at her. She tried to pick it up and treat it but it didn’t work. The person giving her advice repeated the advice, though I am not sure the woman was listening. BABY STEPS seems to be the best advice for scared dogs.
I’m going to relate this to a child afraid of going on the diving board. You cannot just throw a child off the diving board if they are afriad. You probably would work on getting the child to walk up the ladder, look around, and come back down. This child would work on this for a while, then when comfortable go higher. Eventually, the child would work up the guts to go on the diving board. They may not jump, but go up there with encouragement and seeing a smile from mom. Eventually they may learn to jump off and be okay with it. But we cannot expect a child afraid of heights or the diving board to go do it suddenly. If we drag them up there and throw them in, most likely they will be scared and swallow water and not go on again.
One of the things I’m working on is cleaning my dogs ears. I remember when she was younger she would let me clean it once in a while, but each time she seemed more uncomfortable, especially with the vet cleaner, it was very strong and smelly, probably cold too. I kept cleaning her ears until one day she started trying to bite the tissue. The next time she would try to bite the tissue. The next time she would run away and snap at me. Needless to say I stopped trying to clean them. This is a problem though because she has flappy ears. So next I would put my fingers near her ears and treat her. Then I would get a cotton ball and put it near her face and treat her. Move it closer. The next day or week I would put some water on it. I finally cleaned it with some water! What a success! Unfortuantely, she didn’t enjoy it so much so the next time she didn’t like it. Looks like I have to start over…