Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. Rumi (1207 - 1273)
I brought Sophie home when she was about three months old in 2006. She had been abandoned under a tree by the side of the road in Bellingham, Washington and was picked up by a rescue organization there. I went to Bellingham to meet her and loved her from the first moment I laid eyes on her. Sophie has always loved people, and as a puppy and young dog she loved other dogs too. I tried to give her many opportunities to meet and play with them. Something went wrong though. Although Sophie had friends she was happy to be with, she developed reactivity and aggression towards dogs she didn't know and that we would meet on walks or in other circumstances. On leash, she would bark and lunge if another dog walked by or she got close to another dog. Off leash, she could be unpredictable and would, on occasion, behave badly with another dog. I joined that club of people with reactive dogs who dive into bushes, scurry up driveways, and tumble into ditches with our dogs in order to avoid the dog coming towards us. One day I decided we had had enough. I didn't want to live that way anymore, and I didn't want my dog to feel so afraid every time she saw another dog that she felt she had to bark and growl and lunge to make them go away.
We started to work on changing Sophie's responses through managed exposure to other dogs. By keeping Sophie feeling safe, and letting her know she could make the choice to move away from other dogs any time she chose, Sophie began to be more comfortable with other dogs. Over time, she became and less and less reactive and we could walk by other dogs, or meet them on the trails, without incident. I still help Sophie manage her interactions with other dogs and I am careful not to put her in situations that I know make her uncomfortable. But we no longer both tense up with fear when we see another dog and we are free to live our lives without worrying what is coming around every corner or every bend in the trail.
My experience with Sophie led me to develop skills and knowledge in working with dogs who experience fear, reactivity and aggression. I know the suffering - canine and human - this behaviour can cause and it is my mission to help prevent and resolve it so that both dogs and people can lead happier lives.
We started to work on changing Sophie's responses through managed exposure to other dogs. By keeping Sophie feeling safe and letting her know she could make the choice to move away from other dogs any time she chose, Sophie began to be more comfortable with other dogs.
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