Editor’s note: One of the most common, yet also most challenging, behavior problems that dog trainers are asked to address is reactivity.
Schooner and the cat thief
A story from my kitchen…
My dog Schooner eats his food, spilling little kibbles out onto the floor. His maw, expansive as it is, has droopy sides, and a few of those little kibbles find their way to the floor. The cat notices the spillage and takes a few steps toward the bowl and the smattering of slobber-softened kibbles. Tentatively, she tastes one, deems it delicious, and continues to move forward kibble by mushy kibble.
My two dogs and I were out for a walk one morning, enjoying the fresh air and the exercise. Mokie and Monte walked next to me with their tails wagging happily. They were probably laughing at me as I hummed along with my iPod.
About three blocks away, a dog rounded the corner and began walking toward us. Despite Monte's full-body hackling, despite his rigid and tense body posture, and a deep, low, rumbling growl, I quietly told him what a good boy he was. I began shoving meatballs, liverwurst, and smoked Gouda into his large jaws at a rapid pace, creating as much distance as possible between the approaching dog and the three of us. I continued to feed Monte until the dog was out of sight, at which time the tasty treats disappeared back into the abyss of my faithful treat bag.
Wouldn't it be great if your dog came with a big dial on his or her back that told you exactly how anxious, frightened, or excitable he or she was? Wouldn't it be awesome if you could turn this dial and calm your dog?
Aggression in dogs is one of the most common and most serious concerns for dog owners, and it is the primary reason dogs are euthanized.