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You’re out for a nice leisurely walk with your dog when in the distance, you spot another dog, jogger, person on a bike. You tense up, staring hard at the approaching danger hoping that they will just simply disappear. Your faithful, loving companion, that ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ dog who shares your life and loves everyone he meets in your home, suddenly erupts into something akin to a Tasmanian Devil, lunging, growling, barking. You feel your arms being yanked out of their sockets as you try to control the testosterone fuelled bundle of teeth by your side. The object of your dog’s wrath just gets closer and closer leaving you holding on for dear life whilst shouting ‘no’ at the dog in the hope that he will stop and revert back to the dog you both know and love. This kind of experience is not only not enjoyable, it’s also embarrassing for you and potentially raises concerns for the safety of those we encounter.
Well we can either try and find somewhere to walk our pooch where there is absolutely no chance of meeting anyone else, walk the dog in the middle of the night or not walk the dog at all. Not exactly fair on the dog or you for that matter. But once we understand why our dog is hyper-excitable, barks, whines, lunges, paces, pants or is hyper vigilant, we can do something about it before reactivity turns to aggression.
Well for a start off, there are a number of different categories of dog aggression and causes, it’s a huge subject in itself and one where there often appears no sense or reason to us.
You see, it doesn’t matter how assertive your dog may seem to you or how loving, at the centre of the aggression typically lies stress, anxiety or fear. Genetics, poor socialisation, hormones, neurophysiological makeup as well as experience can all be contributing factors leading to such emotions. Friendly little puppies for instance can evolve into aggressive adolescents. Other times, older well-behaved dogs can develop aggression when circumstances join together to create the ‘perfect storm’. In every situation, whether we understand it or not, somehow, the dog has developed the perception that the object of their aggression is a potential threat. In many cases, the aggression is also related to being on the lead. If let loose, many reactive dogs would not display such energetic outbursts so we have to be careful when labelling a dog aggressive. Sometimes however, the reactivity can develop into real aggression with intent to harm what is perceived as a threat creating another level of discomfort for both you and the dog.
Our environment for dog reactivity training and dog pullingsafe
At Living With Wolves, we can explain why your dog is reactive and then show you how to best correct this unwanted behaviour. We do this in a controlled environment where there are no surprises and in a controlled manner using proven and scientific desensitisation techniques. We also test your dog against our dogs to monitor progress.
Your dog isn’t going to change overnight but with patience and practise, it will give you the confidence and the knowledge to reclaim your walks.