How do we help dogs with reactivity, fear & aggression?
Why does my dog bark, lunge or growl at strangers, dogs or other triggers?
The reasons behind your dog's reactive or fearful behaviour are individual to your dog and a behaviour consultation is required to review all of the details for your particular situation. Generally speaking, dogs behave aggressively, reactively or fearfully as a result of:
Fear or discomfort about the person, animal or object (trigger) they are reacting toward. This causes them to either flee the scene, freeze in place or, if prevented from doing so, make a big, loud display to create the distance they need to feel safe again
Frustration that they can't access the trigger. Most commonly seen when a dog desires to greet another dog and is prevented from doing so by a leash or gate. This is also common when a dog is experiencing a predatory instinct to chase an object but is prevented from doing so.
Conflict about the trigger; a mix of fear and curiosity that erupts into a loud display or an odd mix of approaching and fleeing.
Aggression toward the object; wanting to attack for the fun of it. This is rare and more common in working dogs who have been purpose bred to attack people or animals.
Why don't we punish aggressive and reactive behaviours?
Aggressive, fearful and reactive behaviours are symptoms of an underlying emotional response. When we correct this behaviour, we may see short-term improvement, however this is because we are suppressing the symptoms without treating the underlying cause. Punishing these behaviours does not address your dog's underlying emotional response to the trigger and has been shown to make the behaviour worse in the long term.
Barking, growling, snarling, lunging, hiding and other aggressive/fearful behaviours are your dog's only way of communicating with us. If we suppress their means of communicating, they will be more likely to resort to biting to get their point across. Dr. Ian Dunbar calls this "taking the ticker out of the time bomb".
How do we help dogs with fear, reactivity and aggression?
There is no one-size-fits-all dog training plan for these issues, as each reactive or fearful dog has individual considerations to incorporate into a training plan. However, all treatment plans will have a combination of the following:
Teaching your dog to feel better about the things that trigger them
Teaching you and your dog what to do instead in the presence of triggers
Providing you with the tools to navigate life and walks with your dog
Managing your dog's environment to prevent bad experiences and reactions
Addressing the behaviour with a veterinarian if necessary
Strengthening your bond and learning to enjoy your dog again!
How long will this take?
Similar to how humans can't break bad habits overnight, training dogs with fear, aggression and reactivity takes time. Factors that will impact the pace at which you will see improvement include how long your dog has been "practicing" the reactive behaviours, the amount of stress, pain or discomfort in their daily lives, opportunities for decompression away from triggers and frequency of training. These issues do not tend to be "fixed" all at once. Instead, we will know progress is being made when we see a decrease in the frequency and/or intensity of reactions. We will always work at your dog's pace and are careful to not push them faster than they are ready for.
Ready to get started training your reactive or aggressive dog?
We are proud to offer in home dog training in London, Ontario and online.
I understand that conflicts may arise that result in you needing to cancel or reschedule your session. To provide us with time to fill your spot, we ask that you please cancel/reschedule no later than 48 hours prior to your session for a full refund. Unfortunately we are unable to offer refunds for sessions cancelled within 48 hours of your appointment time.