Updated: Sep 8
I have been with Skittles (my female American Labrador Retriever) since she was a baby. I spent a LOT of time training her and she is a lovely mannered dog. However, when I brought home Bentley (English Labrador Retriever) , he was a perfect dog except for 1 thing. He was reactive to other dogs and cats.
Because he was attacked by a small dog AND a cat when he was small and his owners obviously didn't spend time trying to get him over his fears (from the information they provided, they kept him crated for long periods and sounded like they only used him for breeding, horrible right?).
(look at that sweet face!)
I tried training with different trainers in the area and while we received some improvement, I could never quite get him over it and no one could REALLY give me a step by step plan to get over it either. THEN I decided to educate myself and take a Professional Pet Dog Training certification and start figuring this out for myself.
What I have learned thus far has been invaluable. You can't cure reactivity (since it's a behavioural problem and not a disease)! You CAN manage and lessen it! Accepting this has sparked a new interest in helping him manage it.
Firstly, you need a lot of patience and compassion (your dog is probably fearful/experiencing anxiety and that's a horrible state for any dog or person). Secondly, you need to learn/test what your dog's threshold is (you can think of it as personal space) for being near another dog. This is the most valuable information you can have in your pocket because you can accurately predict and prepare if your dog will react.
Then you need a plan to SLOWLY, decrease the threshold.
We have now, successfully been able to decrease Bentley's threshold. His reactivity started from across the street and now he is able to walk past another dog as long as they are 8ft away and we make sure we celebrate EVERY time he does it!
It's been an amazing journey to see his confidence grow!
Being a Pawrent requires life long training for continued growth of a confident dog, just like a human. You don't teach a child to walk and talk then say good luck. You continue to teach them every step of the way even during adulthood.
Do you have a reactive dog? Comment below and follow along on my journey and I'll post more details on how we decreased his threshold in a future post!
*Disclaimer: This is my journey with Bentley and my story is to encourage you to understand your dog, be mindful and remember you are not alone. Every dog's journey is different and may require different techniques and/or veterinary intervention. Please speak with your vet to ensure you dog is in good health as there could be an underlying health condition causing behavioural issues.