How do you know you have a sensitive dog? While the criteria can be subjective, in general, when I talk about sensitive dogs, I'm thinking of dogs who...
- are fearful or reactive to multiple different triggers - are easily spooked - have a hard time recovering from stressful events (e.g. take days or weeks to recover) - seem to have out of proportion reactions to minor incidents - seem hyper-aware of their environment and surroundings
I have two of these! Here are some of the things I do to help them out, day-to-day:
1. Try to be as predictable as possible. If your dog can predict what happens when, they have that predictability to fall back on when the world becomes unpredictable.\
2. Be mindful of trigger stacking. Sensitive dogs tend to trigger stack easily. If one stressful thing has happened in their day, try not to put them in additional stressful situations in the same time period.
3. Keep making deposits in your dog’s trust account. If your dog has a long history of you keeping them safe, removing them from scary situations and providing choice, one situation where the scary thing is not prevented or out of your control will have less of an impact. Keep that bank account full so that withdrawals are easier to recover from.
Having a sensitive dog is hard and can take its too emotionally. You may find yourself resenting your dog for being so touchy or wishing they could just get over it. Those feelings are valid, as are your dogs. Remember to give yourself grace and take breaks when you need them.
Tess Morgan is a multicertified dog trainer and behaviour consultant in London, Ontario. She sees clients for in-home dog training in London, as well as internationally online.