Morning Tips and Real Life StoryAnxious/Reactive Dogs and Slowing Down !!
Buckle up, this might be a long one.
Let me start by saying this advice won’t only apply to anxious reactive dogs but it will apply to many dogs that are anxious in general.So what is anxiety in dogs ???
Anxiety in dogs is very similar to anxiety in humans, it makes use stressed, restless and often reduces our ability to concentrate and can lead to bad choices or hold us back, this is the same for dogs.Yesterday I had a dog come to be, extremely dog aggressive, I say dog aggressive because it’s not bluffing, it has bit a dog and will easily kill a dog given half the chance.It was with me yesterday to try and make a dent in this, but full disclosure, I couldn’t, it was pointless, to even begin to address this issue at this time.
Now cases like this are so few and far between so don’t worry. Most people who think their dog is aggressive, it’s just actually more bark then bite and you can completely turn them around very quickly, but this was serious DA.Now this doesn’t mean the session was a bust, not at all, the session was needed, but we had to really strip this back and help the dog relax, you see it’s anxiety is off the charts.Out side the house, it can’t even do a proper sit. This is very common.The amount of people who tell me their dog has the basics down and when I test them, they don’t.Having the action of sit is not a proper sit. A proper sit is when you ask the dog to sit and it will stay in that sit, until released or given further instructions.I do this test when people come to me, I’ll ask them to put their anxious dog in a sit, 99% of people can do this, then I open my back door or another door in the house, almost instantly 99% of the dogs break their sit in a bid to run out that open door.Now sometimes a lot of people will be able to simply place their dog back into a sit, but sometimes with the anxious dogs, they’ve gone, it’s a fight to get them to go back into a sit or they simply can’t hold a sit for longer then a minute.This is how anxious minds work and a lot is revealed in this moment.So here is a test for you guys, go somewhere new with your dog, somewhere you’ve never been, ask your dog to sit, go somewhere busy ask your dog to sit, can it stay there without issue, without breaking its position or is it a struggle ??
If you struggle and you have reactivity issues and you are struggling to make a dent there, this is why.If your dog can’t do a simple sit means sit, when there is a basic distraction, in the dogs case yesterday a open door in a new environment, how the hell am I expected to stop, deep routed, Dog Aggression in that moment??
So here is what is essential with Anxious dogs….Anxious dogs minds move at 100mph, the slightest distraction and they break position, the struggle to hold basic positions, they struggle with the AODN.If it moves they must investigate, if it opens they must investigate, you can literally see the brain going into overdrive.So you need to slow the dog down. You need to strip it right back, you need to break it down step by step and you need to be the decision maker. You need to do this without rushing, without getting frustrated, without getting anxious yourself, slowly and methodically.Anxiety is the hardest thing in the dog industry to fix, because humans are so easily consumed by it, feel sorry for it, rush it or simply don’t take their tome to do what’s needed.With this dog I took the lead and I shortened it up, brought the dog to my side and I said nothing !! I didn’t even ask it to sit.Why ???
Because it was pointless, I would end up battling this dog, I don’t need to do that, I simply relaxed, restricted the movement and had a conversation with the owner, the dog a few seconds later when into a sit. It was relaxing.This is because without words, without commands, just being one with the dog, by restricting the movement and not letting the dog be here there and everywhere, the dog had no choice but to slow down mentally and relax. This is the AODN at its finest.A few minutes later it laid down. More relaxation.Next step was to open my kitchen door, to progress to the living room where my Roxy was in the crate.Now the dog was in a better state of mind, again without words, just being one with the dog, it was time to move forward towards the kitchen door.True to nature of the anxious mind, opening the kitchen door, he tried to go straight out of it, so I just brought him back to my side.
Short but relaxed lead and I repeated this. We are about 30 minutes into this session at this point, we haven’t even got out my kitchen.This is what I mean by slowing things down, taking your time, being one with the dog, breathing calmly, staying patient and not rushing, thus reinforcing that anxious mind.Now at this point the kitchen door is wide open and the dog is sitting, but his ears are up, his head is forward, his body stiff, he is not moving from that spot, but he is anything but relaxed. If we moved then, we teach the dog that fixating, being anxious, is what gets you going forward, we reinforce that mindset, so again, it’s a waiting game, one where I say nothing, I want him to calm down and figure it out.A minute or so later, he looks at me, his body posture relaxes, this is the moment we progress to the front room but there is another threshold here so the same rules apply.We repeat the same protocol as above.
Short lead, by my side, no words, just calm energy and taking my time, if I rush I fail, remember anxious minds are always in a rush, we need to reverse this.So when we achieved focus and relaxed posture just like in the kitchen we were able to go into the living room. Straight over to the sofa I went but of course he has now seen Roxy and the beast is revealed.No doubt in my mind, he would kill her given half the chance. No vocalising, just a death stare, with pure anxious toxicity travelling down the lead.Lead pops even harsh lead pops, didn’t even break the surface, but we are here now, removing the dog will do nothing, positive for this dog.Roxy is in the crate in a down, she won’t even look at this dog, she knows this dog means business.He makes his move, I legit pull up on that lead, straight tension, for what seems like a life time, until he puts all 4 paws back on the ground.
This goes on for a good 20 minutes. Doesn’t take his eyes of Roxy.I’m with the dog, sitting on the sofa dog on the floor. At this point we are simply working on AODN, if he reacts direct pressure is applied, I’m just waiting for the slightest bit of relaxation from the dog so we can exit this situation.20 minutes later, he breaks focus and we leave the room.Back into the kitchen, after the dog discovers my bin, that opens on a sensor he actually lays down and relaxes by himself.MASSIVE BREAK THROUGH.
For the first time ever, outside of his house, he has actually gone and laid down and relaxed in a strange environment.This meant we had made a huge difference to the state of mind of this dog.I’m seeing this dog again next week, but the homework for this dog is simple, it’s to get out, but focus on doing next to nothing.Making sure the dog slows down, making sure the dog respects every threshold, making sure the dog if it gets worked up, calms down by you doing nothing other then shortening up that lead, breathing and relaxing.This wasn’t about come, down, sit, stay, this was pure, unfiltered, dog psychology at its finest.This was about becoming one with the dog, tapping into that mind set, how the dog feels and how to slow the dog down.Not every trainer in the world will be able to deal with a dog like this, we have a plan going forward that I’m certain will completely transform this dog, but the hard work has to be done first.
The dog needs to be as a whole in a much better state of mind, before we tackle this Dog Aggression.Remember at the start of this story the dog couldn’t even sit, with a door open.If you are struggling with reactivity, ask yourself, are you trying to address this and this alone, without actually addressing where it’s coming from.Some dogs need a pop on the lead, a firm hand and some structure and leadership and they completely transform on the spot,some dogs however are so broken and anxious, that you can’t correct it out of them, you have to dig deep, you have to alter that state of mind completely, you have to be there for them in a way you never thought, but you have to be able to be confident, patient, slow and you can’t rush it.Anxiety can be a pain, that dog will fight you, that dog will push you, but you have to be willing to take the hits and keep going and it can’t break you or you fail, not only yourself but the dog.