Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Socialization of the Reactive Rover

(Originally posted on Aug 24, 2010)

One of the worst thing you can do for a reactive dog is keep them away from other dogs. In addition, one of the worst things you can do for a reactive dogs is get them around other dogs.

And that, my friends, is how aneurysms are made.

Think about guacamole (how's that for random?  ). I love guacamole; it's an extra special treat that I get about once every four months. As much as I love it, though, if it was force fed to me every meal, I'd learn to hate it. Let me compare guacamole to reactive dogs. A reactive dog that sees other dogs every once in a blue moon is going to be pretty intense about them - strange dogs are new and exciting and exotic. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a dog that sits in its yard to bark and scream while and endless parade of strange dogs walks by is just going to get more and more practice at being a nut job. Each time a dog goes over threshold - that is, every time it hits that point where all it can focus on is that other dog - it's body dumps a flood of stress hormones. In a dog that freaks out on a regular basis, these hormones build up and can affect the dog's behavior even when there are no triggers around. These dogs turn into nervous wrecks, always looking for other dogs, freaking out anytime they think there might be another dog around, until they're walking around shaking and projectile vomiting green avocado. The point is, the reactive dog that never sees another dog and the reactive dog that sees too much of other dogs will both get worse.

I like the class setting for reactive dogs because it's a controlled environment. Sure, there are idiots every where you go, but the chance of having a stray dog run up to you in class with no owner in sight? Probably not going to happen. One of the advantages of working with a group as large as TCOTC (that's Twin Cities Obedience Training Club, in case I haven't mentioned that before) is that there's a huge variety to the classes. Interested in obedience or rally? We've got that. Agility? Yup. Conformation? Flyball? Tracking? You betcha. And of course, problem classes for problem dogs. So I have a few options for B and me. We could do regular level one classes; I'm sure we both would survive. I'm also sure its wouldn't be fun. Level one classes tend to be large, and it's also where about 80% of the behavior department's reactive dog referral come from. People think, hey, my dog is psychotic, maybe we should go to dog training school without thinking hey, is this really the class we should be in? It's not a good learning environment for a dog I already know has problems. Rubi is an ideal candidate for the Reactive Rovers class at TCOTC. The class is set up just for dogs like her, and it rocks, if I do say so myself.  The only reason I haven't signed B up for RR is that I teach it. I got this; I want to learn something new. So with these things in mind, I've signed us up for Changing Attitudes (CA). The class is based on the book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, and it's the step below RR. It's geared toward highly distractable dogs with impulse control issues. Sound familiar? Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure what to expect. And I'm looking forward to it.  

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog, thanks for sharing the information. I will come to look for update. Keep up the good work.
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