Finding Peace with a Reactive Pup

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Let’s be HONEST here, it’s NOT easy living with a reactive dog, especially when you are first starting out. Now that Oreo and I have been on this journey around 4 years recognizing her reactivity, training, and managing it, we find peace more often than years ago. Although this picture might not look PEACEFUL, it in fact is one of sheer joy for Oreo. Today it snowed more than 10 inches on top of 15 already, creating a winter wonderful for furry fidos. While some dogs don’t like the snow, Oreo LOVES it! What makes this time even better is she & I have no worries-NO DOGS OUT, STRANGERS, SQUIRRELS, OR ANYTHING FOR HER TO REACT TO!

Finding peace can be difficult if you are just starting out or in the midst of training. Peace won’t come to you, YOU HAVE TO FIND IT.  Sometimes, you even need to CREATE IT.

Here are some ways that I found peace in the past or present with a reactive dog, I hope these may help you:

Walking-if you love it, find somewhere your dog will not come in contact with many triggers. I’m not saying avoid triggers forever because as you know in training your dog may need to see a trigger (example : another dog) from a distance and accept treats. However, your dog also needs peace and definitely needs days to calm down after a stressful event.

Where can I go walking, I live in a busy neighborhood/apartment/condo/city?

  • Find an empty parking lot. I’ve walked Oreo around school yards on off seasons, company parking lots, and even parking lots of grocery stores that are out of business.
  • Find a large, open space park. Some of my favorite parks were located near my condo where we used to live. After Oreo got attacked I couldn’t/wouldn’t walk her through our neighborhood. She froze up out of fear and quite frankly so did I walking around our neighborhood unaware when the next loose dog would attack. We found 2 favorite parks. Both parks weren’t super busy, and if one was busy, we went to the other. Both had lots of open fields, sports fields, and many exits. They both had various walking paths but also grassy areas we could cut through to avoid dogs or other triggers.
  • Tennis courts. I’m not saying go into a tennis court that has a sign NO DOGS, but I am saying if you are lucky enough to have a neighborhood tennis court like we did, they are a great place to have your dog off leash if no one is around. Oreo loved her time running free, chasing tennis balls. We also practiced recall, my husband and I on separate sides of the court, calling her and rewarding her.

Inside Your House-Depending on your dog’s reactivity, you may be able to find peace in the home.

  • Close the shades, put up window film, whatever works. If your dog is reactive when looking outside, don’t let them. If you aren’t working on training-don’t let your pup learn to bark at triggers (they will think they made the mailman/squirrel/dog go away).
  • Turn on the tv, radio, a white noise machine or fan. We always leave a fan running at night because our neighbor’s dog that barks. If the fan is off, Oreo will bark. If the fan is on, we sleep through the night.
  • Make a safe place for your dog, especially if you have kids. It could be a crate, a dog bed, or a gated area or room where your dog can go to feel safe and relax. This is also a good place for you to find peace if someone arrives or you feel your dog can’t handle a stressful situation, have them go to the peaceful place.

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My personal favorite time to find peace with my pup is walking in the neighborhood while snow is falling with no one is around. This is a time Oreo and I can do something we loved without fear of dog attacks, while everyone else is bundled up inside we are being adventurous in the snow 🙂

No matter how much stress you or your pup is in, it’s always important to cool down and FIND PEACE or MAKE IT. Reactive dog parents go through a lot of stress, take some time for you and your pup to relax!

Loyal Lunatics

Whoever said dogs don’t have feelings is a lunatic.

Today on the news I heard about a loyal labrador  named Grace who stayed by its companion’s side after the other dog was hit by a car. The dog stood in the middle of the multi-lane road even though cars swerved and drove past. As Grace stood by her now dead companion, a good samaritan put cones up to block traffic. Eventually, animal control came and they are looking for the owner of Grace and the other dog, otherwise she will need to be adopted. I found the article here http://www.sgvtribune.com/news/ci_20400328/loyal-labrador-stays-by-companions-side-after-la

This is a heart warming and heart breaking story, to think Grace’s best friend was hit and she wanted to stand by and not leave him. This is not uncommon. Dogs are very loyal to their companions, whether human or canine. If you search on youtube for dogs stay by companion or any other search terms similar, you will find endless videos and reports on dogs not leaving their owner or companions side when they are injured.

One of the most heart-breaking and famous stories is of a dog named Hawkeye who refused to leave a fallen Navy Seals side. He was killed in a helicopter crash and at the funeral Hawkeye walked up to the casket and with a heaving sigh laid down next to his cakset. The picture at the top of this entry shows the picture taken by the Navy Seal’s cousin. We can’t always speak the same language as our dogs, but they understand much more than people give them credit for, and their bonds with us go much deeper than we think.

Another dog, Sadie, stayed for 3 days near her owner when he got thrown from a boat and into a tree. The dog actually removed tree branches from on top of him, and licked his face, trying to revive him.  Other dogs have stayed by their owner’s graves for days, or a dead soldier’s side. Dogs give unconditional love, protection, and emotional support. Yes, sometimes it’s not the greatest time when you have to take your dog to the vet, or when you are walking your dog in sleet or rain, but it is worth it. Many times we do not recognize how amazing dogs are until dogs like Sadie and Grace show us. For those people who think dogs don’t have feeling or bonds with people are loyal lunatics. They are loyal meaning they don’t change their mind about animals or dogs even when the facts are in front of them. Dogs do have feelings, they are loyal, and do as much for us as we do for them.