If you think dogs can be reactive, please note that they have nothing on us humans. We might be the most reactive species there is. Some of us more than others.
And it doesn’t bode well for our relationship with our dog most of the time.
Handlers that tend to be reactionary to their dogs behavior are ‘band-aid’ Handlers. They react to something their dog did by trying to put a quick fix on the symptom, never really stopping to look at or investigate the cause. Sit on that for just a moment.
The dog barks so the dog gets a blast of lemon juice in the face with a squirt bottle.
The dog growls at the neighbor so the dog now wears a muzzle.
The dog chews the rug edges so the dog is gated and cannot come into the family room.
The dog pulls on the leash so now the dog wears a pinch/prong/bite collar.
The dog jumps on the sofa so now there are set mouse traps on the sofa to scare or pinch the dog.
The agility dog pops out on the 10th weave pole so the Handler kicks dirt in the dogs face to push him back in.
The performance obedience dog that doesn’t want to pick up the metal article, so the Handler twists his ear while pinching his cheek and tightening his collar to make him yelp so the metal article can be placed in his mouth.
The dog that is crated for extended periods of time at home or at dog sport event, that starts whining or barking, so the Handler picks up or rocks the crate sideways and then drops it.
… and on and on and on …
None of the above examples are training, they are human reactions with a band-aid fix.
No skills learned, or how to be a better Handler, and they have taught the dog nothing other than you as a person cannot be trusted, because you simply didn’t listen, and you don’t get it.
Treating behavioral symptoms is not effective. Observing what your dog is doing, something you like or maybe don’t want, and then looking for the cause, gives you a powerful amount of information to work with. If you look for the ‘when, how, and where’, you most often times will find the ‘why’ and that is the starting point. You can then be an effective Teacher, and have a willing Student, or visa versa.
To be proactive and not reactionary, ALWAYS recognize behaviors you want to keep, do not ignore what your dog does that you like, which is often times the case.
Pay attention to what your dog does, and why. If you ignore your dog most of the time, and then find yourself reacting to something your dog is doing you don’t want, than you haven’t been present. Having a dog is parenting, it is teaching, it is a lot of things, but it is not being checked out.
And as we always say in class, for both Handlers and Dogs, CALM will get you everything, PUSHY gets you nothing. And nothing truly means nothing, no reaction. If you can nail this little exercise, and it becomes instinctual to you, you can ditch the band-aids, and then go forward with some super cool stuff!