Has the dog reacted? Here’s what you can do about it.


This article originally appeared on External.

When CC Carson moved to Missoula, Montana after finishing her master’s degree in 2017, she finally had the time and money to adopt a dog. So she started searching. Carson was interested in Moose. This black and brown mixed breed dog weighs 30 pounds, has short corgi-like legs. When she noticed Moose hadn’t barked at her from his stall. when she took him outside He charmed her by wiggling around in the grass. Officials say he gets along with other dogs who are likely to be unacceptable, but Carson doesn’t think this is a sign of a bigger problem.

A month after adopting a moose, Carson took him on a popular local trail that winds through the valley. when other dogs Approaching a moose on a narrow path It became tense and began to howl and scream. Carson ended his climb in tears. She tried to take him on the hike a few more times, but the moose’s behavior did not improve. In an outdoor town surrounded by dog-friendly trails She couldn’t take her new friend outside if he wasn’t deteriorating.

Carson faces challenging realities. She has a dog that responds. And she’s not alone in having dreams of an adventurous companion who is thwarted by her explosive behavior. reaction especially in walking It can startle, embarrass and frighten the owner. And here are some common reasons to seek professional help. Fortunately, most dogs can learn calmer temperaments and live at peace with humans.

Although there is no universal scientific definition But dog behavior experts describe reflexes as a form of emotionally intense response to something in the environment. This is often other dogs or people, bicycles, cars or loud noises. In short, puppies overreact to things. in everyday life It usually has a tensed body with barking, lunging, and growling.

What is a reaction dog?

dogBehavior experts started using the term “reactive” about 15 years ago, in part because “aggressive” seemed too narrow to describe many of the behaviors they observed, Grisha Stewart, dog trainer and founder of Ahimsa Dog Training. in Seattle, Washington, it said. It’s also understandable that owners don’t want to brand their pets as aggressive. Especially if they don’t have a history of biting.

Even if the reaction looks like aggression But experts believe that only a small percentage of reactive dogs are motivated by a desire to fight, says Christina Spalding, an applied animal behaviorist and training consultant in New York.

Why does the dog’s reaction occur?

Many reactive dogs are showing signs of fear, adds Michele Wan, an applied animal behaviorist in Connecticut. Their explosions attempt to fend off dogs, humans, or objects that startle them, primarily by shouting “Get away!”

The reaction can also be frustration, Spaulding explains. These dogs usually just want to say hello. but instead became annoyed with the leash, causing him to irritate An irritable dog is struggling to control his temper and may have other impulse control issues, such as not being able to rest at home. It is also possible that reactive dogs experience mixed emotions, for example they may be scared and excited at the same time, for example.

As for why some puppies have this problem and some don’t. Dog Behavior Experts Say Usually it’s a combination of genetics and life experience. Some breeds are more playful or excited. Poor breeding practices, lack of health checks, and temperamental issues can also be problematic. Even the stress of the mother can make a good impression on the puppy before it is born.

Socialization is the key.

At a young age, it’s important for puppies to have positive experiences in a variety of environments. This type of contact will make the dog more confident, friendly and adaptable for the rest of his life. In fact, many shelter dogs are not nervous about abuse. but because of the lack of early socialization Playing safe and supervised as dogs enter adolescence can help them learn canine social skills, Spaulding adds. same species in the same species – especially important during adolescence.”

The rise of reactive dogs

Some trainers report increased reactions after adopting large numbers of pets during the pandemic, says Aaron Texiera, an applied animal behaviorist in California. write in the email “I believe that reflex problems as well as other behavioral problems of dogs has become more prevalent in recent times.” Not only do dog owners increase, but But puppies with plague in the home may miss out on important exposure to the outside world. Stewart and Spaulding say they have noticed an increase in the number of cases over the past 20 years, but add that there is no way to know for sure. Of course, for example, it’s likely that more people are willing to hire professionals to help their dogs than ever before.

The dog’s reaction depends on the environment.

Our higher expectations of dogs can result in behavioral challenges. At our feet at coffee shops, offices and breweries, dog ownership is on the rise as well. Creates a more chaotic and barking environment Being tied to a 6-foot leash all the time can also create tension. A timid dog has no choice but to create a distance. For example, when panicked, he may “fight” instead of “flee.”


In other words, the reaction is subjective. A dog walking happily on a rural ranch can become a mess when a tight leash is in town. Although suburban dogs may get along well in everyday life, they are not. But sitting in a crowded restaurant might be asking too much. It’s hard to be a dog in a world dominated by humans.

No matter how moody the dog and its owner are. Reactions are stressful for both dogs and their owners. And it can hardly be fixed without any intervention. Fear-induced reactions are often self-reinforcing. If a dog barks at another dog across the street and that dog walks away. Barking dogs feel their behavior is working because it creates distance. Reactions are also dangerous for the handler: A dog that lunges at them can injure fingers, wrists and shoulders at the end of the leash. A strong dog can cause its owner to fall to the ground.

For dogs with regular explosions Experts say the first step is to cut back on practicing those behaviors. At least initially, it can help make walking to less crowded times and spaces. Find a place to exercise where your dog can be far enough away from stress that they don’t de-stress. narrow hiking trail With dogs on leash and hidden corners, it’s not a good idea to go because it’s unpredictable, Wan said.

Additionally, teaching dogs skills such as emergency turn-around can prevent them from being overwhelmed in tight spaces. “Avoid interacting with anything that upsets your dog. whether it’s another dog or a person. whatever Except when you’re working hard to change your behavior,” says Wan. It is enough for some dogs and their owners to live a peaceful life.

Reaction Dog Training Tips

to reduce reflexes Dogs need to be trained carefully. Here is a basic outline of how it looks.

Consult a professional dog trainer.

Although the basic training process is straightforward, But there are many small, but consequential details involved in the training plan. Working with an expert such as a certified behavioral consultant or animal behaviorist. can accelerate the development of dogs

A typical session consists of a setup where dogs can observe what they are overreacting at a distance. Far enough that the dog won’t startle. This helps them gradually become more relaxed. Trainers often use treats and toys to foster calm behavior and create a positive relationship with stress. In Stewart’s Behavior Modification Training Method Reactive dogs explore the area on a long leash. Anything that stimulates the dog to see (such as another dog) so the reactive dog can observe. Then continue to smell and move freely. “It’s really like mindfulness,” says Stewart. And mindfulness is the medicine for all reflexes in dogs or people,” says Stewart.

Use Rewards, Not Punishments

What doesn’t work for reaction is punishment. Says Camille Ward, an applied animal behaviorist in Michigan. Many clients come to her after unsuccessful uses of prongs or shock collars to try to change their dog’s behavior. Often on the advice of a trainer (anyone can call themselves a dog trainer in unregulated industry), although these tools can calm dogs. But these tools did not improve their sense of situation. Several studies have linked the use of punishment to increased aggression in dogs. it will be confirmed Because my owners attacked me,” Ward said. “We may have fueled the underlying aggression.”

Practice in an open, quiet area.

Ward helps her own Jimmy Doberman recover from fear-induced aggression. She started working on it in the open field. 50 yards from other dogs and people, with a ball squeaking and his favorite steak. in the summer Without any reaction, she could take him for a walk in the neighborhood. She had never seen a case where owners who committed to following a training program failed to help their dogs get better.

make expectations come true

However, improvements are not the same as do-it-all dogs. Although Jimmy now welcomes visitors to the house by carefully introducing himself. But Ward said he would never be a therapy dog. She emphasizes that training is all about helping dogs be their best version of themselves.

Moose at peace in the backcountry (Image: courtesy C.C. Carson)

Bottom Line: Most reactive dogs can be improved.

To help Moose, Carson becomes a self-explanatory map nerd to find places where Moose can enjoy nature without suffering. Sometimes that includes logging areas. Not the prettiest place But at least the moose can walk peacefully. She claims that these long hikes are an important opportunity for the moose to relieve their pressure. Separately, she gradually trained Moose to react more calmly to the dog’s sight. Using positive reinforcement techniques such as pattern games, sometimes when a dog walks by she counts “one, two, three,” tosses Mousse a treat every “three,” a guessing stroke that helps him relax. Drug – fluoxetine or Prozac – also reduces the tendency to panic. Over time, Moose was able to take the dog on a city bike path without reacting. He even found a canine friend.

Carson said she was grateful for her time with Moose, who had cancer and died last year. Their time together taught her to be patient with both Moose and herself. and the ability to read a dog’s emotions a skill she may have never learned before. While the process is challenging “Your dogs don’t give you a hard time,” she says. “They’re having a hard time.” Starting from a compassionate point of view, she helps Moose become the best version of the anxious dog.

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