Changing Dog Opinions

Reactive dogs don’t stop being reactive because they’re punished.

Yanking a leash, or yelling “no” at a dog can interrupt barking and lunging, temporarily.

If the punishment is delivered with enough intensity, the barking and lunging can be suppressed, as the dog attempts to end the punishment (appeasement behavior).

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Force Creates Resistance

Permanent, lasting change happens only when a dog learns to perceive a trigger differently.

First, the trigger must be neutralized.

Through desensitization and counter conditioning we can teach dogs to view their triggers differently.

Through calm, compassionate communication, dogs can learn self-confidence, and learn to trust that their people have their back.

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Desensitization Safe Zone

Through exercise and enrichment, we can drain pent-up mental and physical energy, calming the dog overall, and strengthening the bond between dogs and their humans.

Punishment fails to address any of these. Though it tends to feel cathartic for humans, it does nothing for what the dog is experiencing. It gives them no path to internal change.

So the reactivity continues, and the dog suppresses undesirable behaviors to avoid punishment, creating a well of pent-up energy. Eventually that well will explode, either in new, energy-releasing behaviors like digging and chewing, or in more intense versions of the behaviors the punishment initially suppressed.

Rehabilitating reactive dogs, and the trust it requires, takes time. Depending on the age of the dog, and the severity of the reactivity, 6 – 12 months is realistic for lasting change.

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Paying Attention in Public

With an effective program initial results will be seen in a matter of days or weeks, but the modified behaviors won’t be consistent, because the dog needs practice.

Dogs and humans take 6 – 8 weeks, on average, to turn a new behavior into a habit. Lasting change, in which a dog chooses on their own to behave differently in the presence of a known trigger, takes months.

Having realistic expectations is the least we can do for our beloved companions.

Dee Green has been a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant for more than 20 years. She specializes in puppies up to 18 months, and fearful, anxious and reactive dogs of all ages.

©️Dee Green, 2023

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