A Reactive Success Story: Harley’s Story
Harley was attacked by a large dog at a dog show, May 2015. The dog attacked her crate throwing it around until it could be pulled off. I was at the ring, and the person who was watching Harley was so upset they didn’t tell me because they were afraid I would be angry at them.
No one did any redirection or comforting for 3 hours. This left Harley extremely reactive to everyone, dogs and people. She had a 30 yard threshold. She growled if people tried to touch her. She wouldn’t eat in public.
It was hard because she loved trials and working but I couldn’t take her out anymore.
The first thing I did was take Harley out into public. We went to the beach and did – nothing. Harley sat in the car and watched the world go by. She showed no interest at first.
At home we did redirection exercises. I started teaching her leave it. When she left it we played.
We went to the dog park at 5am when no other dogs were there and she played with a ball for 2 hours.
I increased her exercise to give her ample opportunity to ‘shake it off.’
We went to areas where there was triggers, but stayed a long way away and played. It was fairly easy because Harley has a very high ball drive and she wants to work.
We didn’t do set ups. We didn’t force her to confront her fears. We just played.
Harley started to notice the ‘far off’ triggers. She started to take her ball and offer it to the distant dogs. She started to make play overtures. I started to take her back around trial practice, etc and let her learn to relax in the show venue.
Of course this is a simplistic view of our program, but we combined reactive dog therapy and play therapy. In 5 months Harley can be in a reactive dog class as the demo dog. She no longer fears.
Is this because the play ‘counter conditioned’ her response to fear? I guess this is a question that only researchers will be able to answer. All I know is that this gave me my wonderful dog back. I do want to thank Emily Clinansmith and Sarah Hughs for their help.
At the time of writing this, Harley has started Agility training. She is almost ready to return to the Rally Ring, and she has 2 legs of 3 for her first scent dog level.