Lounging Around

Walking the dog is a special treat on some days. In the summer I am lucky to have off and can enjoy the warm summer breeze before it’s too hot. There are those occasional days when all is right in the world and no dogs are barking or running around. This is Oreo’s favorite time-no time to worry! We went on a nice walk and this is what Oreo looks like when we get home:

 

Just Loungin' Around

Just Loungin’ Around

If you live somewhere where temperatures can get extreme please remember dogs can get sunburn, dehydrated and overheated too! Please don’t leave your pup outside long in the heat. If you are loungin’ outside make sure to provide water & shade! Enjoy the weather 🙂

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Do you remember thinking THAT? Reactive Dogs Need MORE LOVE!

Do you remember that moment when seeing a dog lunging, barking, and baring teeth thinking, “Oh my gosh, that is a horrible dog! Why doesn’t the owner yell at it or train it better? What a bad dog!” Do you remember thinking THAT? Okay, well the thoughts might not have been exactly that, but I remember hurrying my dog away while giving sidelong glances at the owner of a reactive dog passing by. At the time I didn’t know what “reactive” meant or that “reactive” was even a term to describe dogs.

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What is a reactive dog? Well a reactive dog isn’t a dog who barks a lot, or a jumping kangaroo dog. Reactivity is seen when a dog overreacts to something. When a dog is scared they hide, bark, lunge, snarl, etc. If you’ve heard of flight or fight, this is where it takes place. A reactive dog will TAKE ACTION. It won’t stay frozen. You may see it freeze for a few seconds, but it will quickly decide whether to run & hide or try to scare away whatever it is truly scared of.

Before Oreo I had a childhood dog that lived 18 long years with me. I loved Snowy, the white-highland terrier. She was was stubborn as all heck and loved playing a good game of chase when we were 10 years old around the neighborhood for hours. She was your average behaved terrier, one with little behavioral problems who you could trust around many people. Did she bark? Sure. Did she overreact and seem to “lose it”? No.

When my husband and I decided to get a puppy, we didn’t think we’d have a lifetime of training ahead of us. We, like the average dog owner, thought we would take her to a few classes and she would be well-behaved. Do you remember thinking THAT? Well, how wrong we were indeed. As a puppy I tried to give Oreo many experiences with other dogs, training, and people. As a teacher and person, I am someone who “follows the rules” to the best of my ability. Being a good dog owner, I pleaded with my husband to take a walk with Oreo before we went shopping at the mall when she was 9 months old. That walk changed everything. A few weeks after that walk Oreo started showing signs of being reactive. See on that same walk, the walk I thought I had to take her on, she got attacked by another dog.

Oreo when we first got her

Oreo when we first got her

A week or so after the attack we took Oreo back to the vet to get checked out again. I remember sitting in the waiting room with her & instead of her cowering on my lap or on the floor next to me, she was now wildly lunging, barking, & snapping at a passing dog. When we got into the area where the vet examines Oreo, she snarled and hid under the chair, not wanting to be touched. This was very unlike her, a shy, but easygoing, sweet tempered dog. At puppy training she was recommended as a therapy dog.

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Things definitely changed.

Those were the first signs and as they progressed to an event I call the “culminating one” (I’ll save that for another post), I knew I needed to do something. We called in a local trainer, who came into our home and Oreo was very calm & great. However, outside in the neighborhood she cowered, then barked and lunged at dogs in other apartments. He told us a few tricks and went home.

He didn’t seem concerned, but I WAS. I now have at least 20 or more publications & books on reactive dogs and training. I can’t thank Ali Brown enough & her training & book (Scaredy Dog!) which turned my life & saved Oreo’s life. I remember thinking dogs like Oreo were bad. Those dogs couldn’t be lovable, they must be like that all the time, unlovable. How wrong was I? I believe reactive dogs need MORE LOVE because they are afraid, because they do need self-confidence. Does this mean hugging them? HECK NO!!  What I mean is attention, training, doing things fun for them, building confidence, and spending time with them helping them learn ways to cope with the scary world around them.

It’s been a long rode, from thinking dogs were bad, misbehaved, to really seeing what is going on inside a dog & its’ emotions. As humans and dog owners we must ask ourselves WHY a dog does certain things & how we can help them. We must give our reactive dogs MORE LOVE because boy do they need it!!

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Management vs. Training

Can any amount of training or management be stressful?

Yes!

Managing your dog means not allowing your dog to be in stressful situations. For example, if your dog is stressed out by parents, don’t bring your dog to the party. Management is thinking through what you will allow your dog to see/do/etc and where they will be…basically controlling the situation. When are times I manage my dog? I manage my dog every single day in many different ways without even thinking about it anymore, it comes naturally & part of the routine.

  • Avoiding crowded parks & areas
  • Avoiding big parties
  • Turning away from an oncoming dog
  • Getting more distance between us and a dog while on a walk
  • Bringing the dog to another room or out back when someone is at the door
  • Leaving her alone when she is sleeping

Can some management be too much? Yes, of course. There is a balance between training & management. Some people choose to manage more, other train. I like to have a nice blend of both. Everyone should do what works best for their dog & themselves.

If someone over manages this can lead to stress of the part of the owner and sometimes the dog. For example, if your dog is scared of other dogs that doesn’t mean you should lock your dog in the house and never let them go out or see another dog. You will need to use training in conjunction with management to allow your dog to move forward. With too much management, a dog cannot grow.

Can you over train your dog? I don’t think dogs can get tired of training if you do it correctly. If you use positive training & make it fun, your dog will love it! However, if you push for long periods of time and use negative punishment your dog may only get worse. Training should be in short periods, especially training which pushes them mentally or physically. If you see your dog getting stressed, stop and try another time-training is supposed to be fun!

For example, if you are training your dog with parallel walking with another dog 10 feet away, do a few walks back and forth. Observe how the dogs are reacting and if they are both paying attention to the owner and looking relaxed, move a few steps closer. Do a few walks back and forth (maybe 20 feet or so). After this probably only around 10 minutes have gone by. However, if your training your reactive dog, you know they may not be physically tired, but they are definitely mentally tired. Take a break of at least 15 minutes, but only do this a few times a day. Some exercises are particularly stressful for dogs, you need to gauge your dog’s stress levels.

Training & management=success. Too much of either could lead to disaster. You want to make sure you use management so you don’t put your dog in a stressful situation that may make them regress. Additionally, you want to train so management is easier and less. Both work hand in hand.

DSCN4337Oreo is relaxing here while her grandpa & dad are building a garden. In this situation she is managed because she is on-leash, but she is also getting training since her mom is standing nearby with treats when she sees a dog. Oreo doesn’t love strangers, but with time she learns to be relaxed and enjoy their company.

 

As reactive dog parents, we need to ask ourselves questions constantly that many other people don’t even take a second to think about.

  • Should I take my dog to the party?
  • How can I avoid that dog/person/bike/etc as I’m walking so that my dog doesn’t get over threshold?
  • How can I bring my dog to the vet without causing too much stress?
  • What will I do with my dog when I have people over?
  • Should I consider anxiety medicine for my canine?
  • Do I need window film so my dog doesn’t bark out the window all day?
  • What do I have to cover the car windows so my dog doesn’t lose it?
  • Did I remember dog treats on my walk?

The questions could go on forever and we are always asking them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as any dog owner will ask and remind themselves of various things from time to time. However, we are often on high alert for things that stress out our dog, especially when there is change or they are outside their normal environment. I wanted to take a minute to thank all of the pet parents out there dealing with reactive dogs. It definitely isn’t easy and we are very stressed at times, but remember you are saving a dog’s life, your dog. You are taking the time to train your dog or manage the surroundings so your dog can have a happy life, even if your dog doesn’t get to go with you everywhere.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate all of the work we do until someone points it out. Recently I was at the vet and got an amazing compliment. My vet told me how amazing of a job we (my husband and I) have done with Oreo. She said it’s made such a difference and Oreo doesn’t need to be muzzled or anything during her vet exam. Furthermore, she told me without us, she knows Oreo would’ve been dead in another family and we have saved her life.

Life is crazy and there’s always things to worry & stress about, but little reminders of why we do what we do (help reactive dogs) make it all worth it. Okay, the dog kisses, happy wagging tails, and smiles also help! 10371611_10202676837374547_1549858418175138866_n