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My dog has leash reactivity issues. What’s that mean? Well, she does not like, trust, and is often afraid of strange dogs when she is on her lead. What does she do? Well, her response is normally considerably less than a year ago, but she may bark, lunge, and jump towards the strange dog.
Why are her reactions less than a year ago? Well, I have been working through Behaviour Adjustment Training (or BAT*) with her. What’s that? It’s a force-free training approach I have taught her that means that it is, in fact, OK to look at the scary strange dog — and when she does this without barking, lunging or jumping she gets a “click” and a very special piece of home-made jerky or a yummy meatball. Plus, we normally move away from the scary/threatening stranger creating a safe distance, and a nice comfort level for both of us.
My job when we are outside, is to watch for strange dogs and increase our distance so Luna is comfortable, so that she can effectively respond with socially acceptable behaviours (not reacting).
Most of the time, I’m very good at my job (even my kids help with a “Mom, there’s a D- O-G”). But sometimes I fail her, and walk around a corner into the path of an oncoming strange dog — if I’m not quick, this can put Luna over her “threshold” (and she’ll bark, lunge, etc.). Bad for everyone.
But one thing that frustrates me is owners of strange dogs who, despite my request “Can you give us some space, please?” walk towards us asking “Is your dog not friendly?” — all the while Luna has gone over her threshold and is barking and lunging at them. Holy smokes, would you walk up to a strange person yelling on the street? I doubt it.
My goal is to be able to walk on the sidewalk, past a strange dog, with my dog not reacting or getting stress out. I’m optimistic this is in our future, as Luna has developed the ability not to react to strange dogs in the dog park (she still gets stressed, but this passes quickly and she gets to play with new dogs). But until this happens, can you please — just give us some space. Thanks.
(*I use BAT training techniques from U.S. trainer Grisha Stewart www.functionalrewards.com.)
At Smart Paws, we use positive reinforcement training techniques to teach you and your dog the skills needed for a happy, co-operative life together.