There just HAS to be a better way, I thought, as I’m running to the roof of my truck.
“Oh, I just wanted to show you what he does!”, my first reactive dog client loudly shouted this after they whipped open their front door.
I was armed with a dog treat pouch, a clicker, kevlar pants, an empty suitcase, an air horn, and a large, bizarre subset of observations telling me I was in an unsafe scenario.
The dog I arrived to see had drawn blood on 4 people: mostly passersby walking by the owner’s home, and one unfortunate incident with the owner’s husband petting him the wrong way, too abruptly. Some mismanagement, and some management fails– and a little bit of ignorance in the truest sense of the word. Dogs often get adopted from the animal shelter to people without a dog training background, or understanding of dog training. Maybe they’re an ER doctor, or a janitor– it doesn’t really matter, but they certainly don’t understand how dangerous of a scenario we are in, and how these bites are really affecting their dog.
For me, “what not to do” was learned by lunging dogs in a veterinary medical practice, where I had to restrain, draw blood, and other duties for the dogs who were in our care. What I could do in the moment often resulted in a large majority of the time almost getting bit— although, I probably didn’t realize it back then. I did develop a strong intuitive understanding of body language.
I look down from the roof of my Toyota 4Runner. I stare at the distressed, lunging dog below while the owner is getting the dog leashed up and back inside. Obviously, both of us were absolutely terrified, and I stared back at the owner trying to figure out my next steps.
Were they looking at me like an incompetent dog trainer?
As I thought out the next steps of my plan, I considered a few angles. “Teeth on skin”, if I get down, is sure to happen… another bite for this dog. I imagine stepping down off of the car, and what would happen. Given that this dog has bitten badly before, he probably will again, possibly even more severely. But, it only happens once every few years for this dog. What are the chances I can’t get down? I decided against getting down… thankfully, experience has taught me that there was probably a 90% chance I ordered a bite with that particular dog.
I consider the “other side.”
[I’m a reactive dog client, and my dog is reactive.]
This dog owner must be thinking… I called the person, the expert reactive dog trainer, just to help. This person jumps up on the roof of their truck, panicked with fear. They’re terrified… but they’re supposed to fix my dog? What good is that?
The business owner brain of mine runs through the process: did they not get my automated messages 24 hours and then 60 minutes before the in-home session asking them to contain their dog before I got there in order to avoid this?
The dog- agh! The dog is now terrified of me. I’m enemy #1, fear #1, and I just showed up on the doorstep, crashed in the front door… and now I’m trying to be friends, to make meaningful progress, long term. I’m trying to figure out the way out, gain trust with the client, and the dog.
The truth is, the dog’s fear response to me is going to be just like the fear response the dog is having to any stranger. I know, celebrity, reality TV dog trainers aren’t always truthful of the real process. There’s no such thing as an action you can take, an energy you give, or a full on dog whispering move to stop a reactive dog. Some tangible solutions, maybe. Can you imagine — you decide to hop into a therapist’s office to work on some of your biggest fears, and there sitting in the chair… your biggest fear manifested…?
That sounds absolutely terrible, for all involved, right?
For me, that would be a tarantula sitting there helping me to treat a fear of spiders.
That’s me, for and with dogs. All day. Everyday. The biggest trigger, treating them.
And the truth is- yes, I’m afraid to get hurt. I’m afraid to have my skin punctured by a dog’s teeth as any human would be. But, I also want training plans to be effective. I want them to help the dog long term.
Reactive dog (specifically, human reactive dog) training doesn’t have to contain the fear of people and a trigger provoked reaction to the trigger in question. We can complete this utilizing the owner’s relationship with their dog.
How? Well, let me show you.
You are the trusted human being to your dog.
And, there’s no one who wouldn’t help your dog more than you.
Absolutely no one.
Board and trains, in person trainers, etc… All of those are nice until you are a companion to a reactive dog… the dog who bites children, other dogs, other people, tall men with beards, etc.
I know it’s a tough realization… you’re the only person qualified to help your dog in this scenario. And I’m here to be a guide.
Instead of being a trigger sitting in your driveway, trying to get off the roof of my Toyota 4Runner– I decided to get working on something to address this.
Pet owners can be armed with truths and knowledge that they need to work with their reactive dog, and put it into place, far before they ever have a “trigger” visit their house.
It starts with you.
And this is how the Canine Academy Behavior Online course was created. An effective way to keep dogs & owners safe, and the dogs below threshold throughout the entire training process. The owner, working with their dog, from the comfort of their own living room, in a self-paced manner.
Even with a dog who has a fear response that isn’t as dramatic as the dog above, the fear is still there. If your dog runs away, hides, or is just uncomfortable in specific scenarios involving humans or other dogs, the key is to work on nervous system regulation when there is no trigger present. This involves the pet owner working with their dog, and putting in about 30 minutes per day for 6 months or so, and results in entering trigger-related scenarios with peace and ease.
We train in the areas of Boston, MA to Portsmouth, NH, to Portland, ME. Our trainers are based out of our facility in Berwick, Maine,but, we can help dogs anywhere, because we’re virtually teaching their owners to meet their dog’s needs and prepare them for the world and each of their triggers. We’re teaching the owners to make decisions that result in renewed peace and ease for the entire family.