After the weeks of decompression we can slowly start building up our complete adult dog. A balanced body, proper social skills, self-confidence and a curious mind are important sections. Stress reduction and improving the dog-owner relation are also included.
With this program we aim to listen to our dog from the moment he notices the trigger and starts showing calming signals first. This is the moment where we have to respond to our dog and allow him to take the needed distance – leaving the existing and building a new brain path. At the start this can be a significant distance from the trigger, even forcing you to abort/change your route. The other components aim to give your dog the coping skills to manage these situations and reduce the required distance to the trigger
It’s part of life to be exposed to stressors once and a while. Dogs with reactivity issues often don’t have the coping skills to deal with these situations. Having exercises available that can help your dog with lowering his stress level are vital.
The more confident and balanced your dog becomes, the less he will be affected by stressors, even then these exercises remain fun and relaxing.
Although it’s not part of the “complete adult dog”-concept, focus should be put on a strong dog-owner relationship. This should be based on trust. Often we see that the bond between reactive dogs and their owners has been damaged due to the use of aversives and overexposure to stressful situations. If a dog has got the feeling he can’t trust his owner, it will be very difficult for you to guide your dog through the rehabilitation process.
Healthy body – Healthy mind:
Pain and physical discomfort always effects behavior. So if we’re building our complete dog, we also have to focus on his physical health. Think about slow walking, massages and balance exercises
Being confident in life is crucial to be a balanced adult dog. You cannot train a dog to be confident, he needs to become this himself. You achieve this by providing the dog with a wide variety of mental stimulation, together with allowing him to make choices.
Money time for many reactive dogs, often they struggle with the proximity of other dogs or people. Working on this will require you to manage the environment and often you will have to plan and stage certain exercises, especially at the start. Remember that a dog can only learn while he is under threshold. Once he has got the feeling he has to defend himself the thinking-brain is being by-passed. It’s always better to move slowly than to push your dog over his threshold. Start listening to the first signs your dog sends out, once he knows these are respected and effective he won’t feel the need to escalate his responses that often.
"Only choice conquers fear"
Making a Plan
Helping a dog overcome reactivity is a long process. It is not a trick we want to learn our dog, but a behavioral change we’re aiming for. Accomplishing this will take at least 9 months! This is the minimum time the brain needs to renew its brain cells and change neurological pathways. It can be longer if you have set-backs or less active in following the program.
That being said, we’re aiming for a behavioral change so we don’t need to “train” our dog for 9 months. We have to make changes to the daily routine of our dog and implement these exercises gradually, until they become a new way of living together with your dog.
Phase 1, the decompression period, is quiet straight forward to implement. It needs to be planned and more importantly it needs to be managed consequently. Some changes will probably need to be made to the daily routine of the dog and the household. In this phase often “less is more”.
Phase 2 on the other hand is a bit more complex to roll out, it requires more insight in your dog and frequent planning. Probably you’ll need to learn your dog a couple of new games and exercises at the start, scout the surrounding area for suitable walking areas and think about social interactions. How can you do this, list what you did and track your progress. Need help with this? Get in touch!