Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Overcome a Socially-Challenged Dog

He lunges. He barks. He's just unruly when faced with ... well anything. There are a number of reasons why it happens but knowing the reasons doesn't make it any easier for you to take him out in the public. These kinds of dogs get left at home because their behaviour is unpredictable. Especially if they are large dogs because their unpredictability becomes a liability.

Dogs that lunge and bark on leash are "reactive" in nature. Some of these dogs are pretty well-behaved off-leash but they are seldom off-leash because their on-leash reactions cause everyone to be scared of them. Reactive dogs can react inappropriately to anything.

Causes of Inappropriate Reactions

Dogs can exhibit inappropriate reactions for a variety of reasons. For example, when he sees another dog, his reaction can be triggered by:

  • Fear - he's afraid of the other dog
  • Excitement - he's thrilled to see another dog (unfortunately, the excitement usually looks like aggression)

Whether the reaction is fear or excitement, it's probably due to a combination of breed, temperament, and past experience.

Taming the Reactive Dog: Basic Obedience

Our ideal dog is non-reactive: one who watches dogs (for this blog we are talking specifically about dogs but the training applies to other distractions) go by and doesn't care. Training "no reaction" (alternate behaviour) is always a challenge. I see correction commonly used with these dogs.  Correcting a frightened dog puts him further into a state of fear. Correcting an excited dog just gets him more excited. Let’s start with some basics:

Step 1: Basic Obedience. Your dog needs to respond to three basic commands: sit, come, and walk on-leash.

Step 2: Introduce Controllable Distractions. Does your dog respond to commands when you don’t have his full attention? He needs to be able to disengage from the environment and respond to your command immediately.

If you’re finding step 2 difficult, you’re not alone. Shake-a-Paw’s new Confidence & Composure” class is designed to teach you how to enable your dog’s journey to becoming a non-reactive dog.

What makes your dog go nuts? Share your story below!