Everyone who has a reactive dog wants to help them. I have met very few people who do not want to put the effort in to give their dog a better life. Even if your motives are to prevent a lawsuit your efforts will improve your lifestyle and your dog’s.
There are some good programs in the London and Toronto areas. There are some good behaviorists and trainers, but there are also some bad. Even if you want to help some London Ontario trainers are too expensive for the average family. So what can you do?
#1 Stop Forcing Engagement
Many people start with a program like TACT or BAT and immediately start trying to force their dog to engage with other dogs or people. The dog is afraid. BAT and TACT isn’t about forcing your dog to encounter things it is not able to cope with. Both those programs are designed to help your dog learn coping skills. These coping skills will help your dog learn how to make better decisions and learn appropriate responses.
#2 Start Interacting
I find that many people with reactive dogs do not pet them often. I agree with Trish King. Dogs need to be petted and massaged often, especially if they are reactive. I have found something social and emotional that dogs need. I have had clients this year who saw dramatic changes in their dog by adding a daily massage.
#3 Before Calling a Behaviorist Eliminate the Possibility of Pain
33% of all aggressive issues are caused by pain. Voyce collars allow you to monitor your dog’s vital signs 24 hours. It tracks sleep patterns, heart rate, etc. This can give you an indication whether your dog is in pain. If you feel that your dog might be in pain my first suggestion is to visit a chiropractor. Mine is Robert S. Warnock D.C, Aylmer Ontario. He takes the time to explain why a single ‘out of line’ disk in your dog’s back can cause a life time of pain.
You might also visit someone who can measure your dog’s gait. This can show if the dog is compensating for a bad limb. A Canine Massage can alleviate muscle tension and strain. It can also help find knotted muscles and old injuries that might be causing problems.
If the Chiropractor or Canine Massage Therapist cannot help then contact your vet.
#4 Too Much Stress Can Cause Frustration and Aggression
We use Adaptil in the training center. It is just one of the relaxation tools that we use. Our main goal is to help dogs relax and enjoy themselves when learning new coping skills. Some dogs need supplements to help them relax. They may not need them for the rest of their lives, but just until they learn how to handle stress.
Lifestyles can cause stress. Some dogs cannot handle the activity and noise of children. Some households have too many pets. Some households are too active, or leave dogs crated for too short a time.
Stress is a complicated thing. It can send mixed signals. For example, if a dog hears its name and then it is punished, it will its name will start to mean ‘You are about to be hurt.’ Sometimes associations can be accidental. A dog sees another dog walking down the street. The handler doesn’t want the dogs to engage so they yank hard on the leash. The dog soon learns that every time they see another dog (child, car etc) that it will cause pain. Therfore – other dogs are bad.
#5 Behavior is Associated with Diet
The truth is, no one really knows how much folic acid a dog needs, or what the perfect level of protein is. But we are learning that certain chemicals build up in a dog’s (or person’s) system and plays havoc with their immune system and their chemical balance. In short, additives and fillers in dog food or treats can cause a surge of fear/flight chemicals in your dog.
How to Help an Aggressive Dog
Here are 5 exercises I give my students.
#1 Take your dog to the beach, or a park. Stop the car, and just sit there. Your dog wills soon learn that leaving home doesn’t mean something stressful is going to happen. Give your dog treats. Read a book. Then go home.
#2 Go to places where there are things your dog reacts to. This may be around other dogs, kids, or cars driving by. Stay a long way from the ‘trigger’ and play with your dog. Again, sit down and give it treats, read a book, and relax.
#3 Play with your dog every day. This needs to be engaging play. Throw a ball. Play tug. Chase a stick. Dogs need to interact with us. If your dog is reactive then you need to teach it to trust you.
#4 Put your dog first. Your dog’s well being is your #1 concern. You can reduce stress by staying away from people who want to pet your dog, or dogs on the street. You may want to go for a walk but if your dog doesn’t want to go for a walk then let it stay home. Go walk alone. Then when you come home have a good game of catch with your dog.
#5 Teach your dog skills. The more you teach your dog the more it can learn. Start with simple brain games at home. Teach touch, look at me, leave it, and other useful commands. Try some scent work. Try some tracking. Maybe your dog would like to play ‘find it’ in your house. If you search online you can find hundreds of things you can teach your dog. This will build your dog’s relationship with you and help your dog learn to deal with stress.
Bonus – only feed natural, additive free, food and treats. Make sure your dog has plenty of water, and can go outside at least once every 8 hours.
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