Blog

Reactive Road Trip: Day 4 Update in Portland

Today was a no-travel day and we wanted to spend the day venturing around Portland. We headed into the city at around 10 am ready to do some walking. We parked in the Downtown and headed towards the water. I stopped to grab a coffee at a nearby Starbucks and left Odin outside with my husband. While waiting for my coffee, I notice out of the window that another dog is approaching Odin. As the owner made a point of bringing over his dog to say “Hi”, my husband told Odin to “go say Hi” and all went well. Odin and the other dog interacted without issue. This was a great way to start off our day. Odin saw that he might be able to meet some of the dogs he sees and this will sometimes reduce the frustration he experiences when he sees other dogs. Most of the time, Odin becomes reactive because he is frustrated that he cannot play with or meet the other dogs he sees. Another theory I have in regards to his reactivity is that he does not know if the approaching dog is a friend or foe and assumes everyone is a foe until he is told otherwise. By using the “go say Hi” cue, we are informing him that the dog is a friend and he can go meet them. Regardless of what causes his reactivity, we are learning that the “go say Hi” cue is a good tool to have when we know that the other owner is okay with the dogs meeting.

From Starbucks with a skinny mocha in hand, we head towards to water. Once we get there, we notice that there are a lot of dogs, bikes, and geese on the waterfront path. We decided that it will be best to avoid the pathway and instead walk along the city street that runs parallel to the water. From there we are able to observe other dogs across the street and Odin does fine. He plays the engage-disengage game with me and does not seemed bothered by the dogs across the way. We continue walking following the water until we reach Oak street and turn back towards the city in search for VooDoo Doughnuts. VooDoo ended up have waaayyy too long of a line so we noped out of there and headed to our next destination, Patagonia.

img_3244Patagonia provided a great training opportunity for Odin. Dogs are allowed inside and Odin came in with me and we practiced heeling and focusing on me rather than the clothing and other people in the store. We practice tricks and greeting people who wanted to say “Hi”. One of the workers in the store came over with treats in hand and asked Odin to perform a handful of commands (which he did perfectly). Overall, I was very impressed with him and his composure inside of Patagonia. I even overhead a couple of customers commenting on how well behaved and trained he was. This always makes me feel very happy as a lot of times I feel that people only get to see the reactive side of Odin in public rather than the well behaved, focused boy that I know and see every day. It makes me feel very proud that he is my dog.

img_3249

From there we headed off towards a location that we knew had a handful of food trucks. On the way, we passed by multiple dogs (all were on the other side of the street or intersections) and Odin did great. No reactivity or signs of stress. He was doing great and feeling very confident. We found the trucks and a great place to call home-base while my husband and I took turns grabbing food. Odin was very happy with this spot because he got spoiled with food. One of the vendors brought him some lamb to try which he enjoyed after earning it by performing a handful of tricks.

The food trucks were only a handful of blocks away from Pioneer Square so we were going to make that our last stop in the city. Once there, we took a handful of pictures and that was when I should have realized Odin’s change in demeanor. He was tired and not focusing as well. We stayed a couple of minutes too long taking pictures and that was when another dog came into the picture. The other dog was halfway across the square, but that meant nothing to Odin. He was tired, cranky, and went straight to being reactive upon seeing the other dog. We rushed him out of the square, however the owner and the dog were going in the same direction. We finally found somewhere to hide and get the dog out of Odin’s view. It took a while to calm him down enough to try to leave the square. This was my fault. We were out for too long and he was too tired. We had spent 2.5 hours in the city and I did not consider that he could be mentally tired. It usually takes so much to tire him out that I did not realize how mentally tiring this excursion had been for him.

img_3252

Although the day ended on a sour note, he still did wonderfully for 99% of the day. I was impressed with his behavior and we had a really great day. We explored a lot and got to see and smell so many new things. I learned a valuable lesson today and in the future, I am going to make sure that I do not extend his outings for too long and consider his mental stamina.

Since he had such an eventful day, he passed out asleep in his crate when we got home. My husband and I took this opportunity to venture out on our own. We ended up going to the Oregon Zoo (highly recommend) while Odin was safe in his crate, dreaming about the wonderful adventure he had.

Reactive Road Trip: Day 3 Update and 3 Strategies For Eating Out

Today was a short driving day (only 2.5 hours total from Eugene to Portland) so we had plenty of time to stop and explore both Silver Falls State Park and the Oregon Gardens in Silverton Oregon.

Silver Falls State Park would be a great place to visit without a dog. The park has 8.7 miles of trails that pass by and through 10 waterfalls. When planning the trip, I misunderstood the dog rules and didn’t realize how limited the dog friendly areas were. However, since we were there we made the best of it (and it gave us more time to spend at the Oregon Garden later). There were 2 waterfall viewpoints that were dog friendly and one dog friendly trail that led to a waterfall. We stopped at both viewpoints and although there were a couple of dogs, we were able to successfully avoid them. We made our way to the trailhead of the only dog friendly waterfall trail and watched the trailhead for a couple of minutes to ensure that no dogs were going in a head of us as the trail was an up-and-back trail (we planned on turning back if we encountered any other dogs). We made it to the waterfall without seeing any other dogs and stopped to take pictures. When we turned to leave, we saw another border collie heading towards us. The path was very narrow and there was not going to be enough room for us to successfully pass or avoid the oncoming dog. I sent my husband up ahead to talk with the other dog owner. Sometimes we are able to avoid Odin’s reactivity if he thinks he is going to play with the other dog. My husband got the okay from the other dog owner for them to meet and gave the signal that we could head over. I looked at Odin and put on my most excited facial expressions and said “let’s go say hi!” “Go say Hi” is a cue I use with him at the dog park which means to go interact with the other dog. Sometimes he is too ball/Frisbee focused, he forgets that he is there to play with the other dogs and needs to be reminded. This idea worked like a charm. Odin got very excited and relaxed and pulled towards the other dog. The nicely met and sniffed each other; Odin even tried to initiate play. Once we were ready, we continued on our way back to the trailhead. After a couple of minutes, I noticed two off leash dogs up ahead and the owner did not make any attempt to leash them. I looked down at Odin, fingers crossed that this would work a second time. “Go say Hi!” I tell him and he pulled towards the oncoming dogs and greeted them nicely. Both of these experiences were the best we have ever had with him and other dogs on trails. I do not recommend trying this with your dog unless you know they will not attack the other dogs. I always have a backup plan of picking up Odin (it reduces his reactivity) if he showed any minor signs of becoming reactive.

Oregon Gardens would be a great place to hit up any time of the year, however, I personally think going during the winter months is best for reactive dogs. Yes, not all the flowers are in bloom, however the scenery overall was absolutely gorgeous. The Oregon Garden is an 80-acre botanical garden in Silverton (a small city outside of Salem). There were multiple different garden areas that were extremely fun to explore. There was a conifer garden, a sensory garden, rose garden, etc… and a pet-friendly garden which educated people on pet safe and toxic plants. Going during the winter we were expecting there to be less visitors than during the summer months. What we didn’t expect was to be the only people there with a dog! Overall, we only ran into about 3 different groups of people, so this was the perfect place to leisurely explore. We went into their children’s garden which has fun play equipment and tunnels that Odin enjoyed going in. He posed on a butterfly styled bench. He sniffed and smelled every plant he wanted to for however long he wanted. We spent 2 hours wandering around the massive park. Once we were back in the car, Odin instantly passed out showing us that the trip was a success! Tiring out a border collie is no small feat.

We had a 1 hour drive from the gardens to our Airbnb rental in Portland. We decided on an Airbnb as we know there may be more dogs out in the city and it would be nice to have a place we could take and leave Odin. If there are too many dogs in Portland, we can bring Odin back to the Airbnb while we can head back out to explore the city. We settled on an Airbnb with a large backyard so we can play frisbee with Odin to ensure he gets the necessary physical activity on these days. The house was great and the backyard provided us ample room to play frisbee. Since it has been colder in Oregon than we expected, we decided on leaving Odin crated at the Airbnb so we could grab a quick bite to eat and not have to eat outside.

Eating has been a major challenge for us this trip and I am happy to say it is not because of Odin’s reactivity. It has been rather cold in Oregon (around 40 degrees) and sitting outside is not ideal for us. For the first two nights, we ordered in and enjoyed our food in the hotel. Tonight, we decided on leaving him behind (he is fully crate trained) so we could enjoy the ambiance of eating in a restaurant in Portland.

Below are 3 strategies I have developed from first-hand experience eating out with a reactive dog.

1. Eat during off hours

Avoiding prime eating times will greatly reduce your chances of running into other dogs at restaurants. Most people eat lunch between 11 am – 2 pm and dinner between 5 pm -7 pm. Opt for a meal outside of these times to avoid the crowds.

2. Do not choose a restaurant that has a dog menu

A surefire way to determine that a restaurant gets a lot of dog traffic is if they have a dog menu. This means that they are very pet friendly and have a high amount of four legged customers. Try to choose restaurants that allow dogs but are not focused around dogs.

3. Skip the hassle and order in

Overall, this is my favorite option and it gives me an excuse to choose nice hotels with great views and a balcony. Sometimes, it is just not worth the hassle to bring out dog out to dinner. Order a pizza or from a local restaurant that you want to try. Most places will deliver to a hotel. Also, this way you get to enjoy a nice meal with you best four legged friend. So far this trip, we have ordered in twice and we are planning on doing it for the rest of the trip. We pack our own lunches, which reduces the hassle and cost of eating out, and enjoy our dinners on our hotel balconies.

Another option is to leave your dog crated wherever you are staying, however, I know for most fur-parents is the least desirable option. I choose to do this only on very few occasions and ensure that we are staying in a safe area and will not be gone for too long.

As the parent of a reactive dog, it can sometimes be hard to move away from doing things that normal dog owners get to do. However, doing things a little different can be fun. Going to a restaurant during the off hours means you avoid the lunch/dinner rush and can linger longer without the pressure of crowds. Eating in your hotel means that you can utilize the views that you are paying for. Look for the positives that come out of challenging situations. Sometimes we get too focused on the negatives and forget that being a little different than the rest of the crowd can create new and fun adventures.

 

 

 

Reactive Road Trip: Day 2 Update and Following My Own Advice

After checking out of the awesome Railroad Park Resort (each cabin is a caboose. it’s awesome), we headed towards Mount Shasta.

img_3080-e1548480094279.jpg

We were hoping that by heading out early (7:am) on a Friday morning (when most people would be working), that we would not run into too many people on the mountain. We stopped at the Sand Flat Winter Trail and prepared Odin for the snow. The trailhead we stopped at had a small turnout and we were happy to find that there were no other cars or people around. This meant that our chances of running into another dog were slim to none. Odin, attached to a 20’ leash, frolicked happily through the snow. Sniffing every discoloration and eating any loose snow. He had a blast at the spot and we hiked out about a quarter of a mile. It was nice having the trail to ourselves and not having to worry too much about other people. In this instance Tip # 2 (Avoid the Crowds) from yesterday’s post proved to work well for us! We left early on a weekday and avoided the crowds.

Next we were onto Eugene where Tip #3 and #4 would come in handy. After 3.5 hours in the car, we were ready to stretch our legs as we approached Mount Pisgah outside of Eugene. We had planned to hike to the summit of the mountain using Trail #1 to avoid the crowds as AllTrails.com said the trail was lightly trafficked. After waiting 10 minutes in the parking lot, we quickly learned that that this was not the case. The trail was highly trafficked and we saw 6 dogs enter the trail during our ten-minute wait in the parking lot. This was not the trail for Odin and it would not be a successful hike for him. We scratched that idea and decided to venture into the Arboretum next door which was less traveled and trafficked. This proved to be a great idea as there were very few dogs and lots of space to move to if there was an upcoming dog. There were multiple paths and loops to explore. Each loop had different plants and trees that were native to the area. Odin even saw and tried to chase a small snake that was on the path in front of us! As we spent significantly less time Arboretum than we had planned for the summit hike, we had extra time to do another hike on our list! From there we headed off towards Spencer’s Butte.

Sometimes it can be disappointing to not be able to do something you had planned due to unforeseen circumstances. Yes, I would have liked to hiked to the summit of Mount Pisgah, but, the Arboretum was a surprisingly fun alternative and it was something we otherwise would not have done. Being flexible with your itinerary is very valuable when it comes to traveling with a reactive dog. Spending time with Odin and my husband are the most important part of the trip, so changing the itinerary does not bother me very much. The best memories you will remember are built upon laughter and spending time with loved ones, not on the sites and views your see.

Spencer Butte was an interesting place. After having trouble finding the entrance to the park, we noticed there were more dogs than we had anticipated. We decided to risk it and if there were too many dogs or if the trail was not well suited for a reactive dog then we would turn around and go back the car (Tip #3). We when came up on the loop trailhead we saw that each direction heading to the Butte’s summit were labeled. To enter the loop from the left, it was labeled as difficult. If you entered from the right, it was labeled as easy. We decided to take the difficult route to the summit because I thought we would encounter less dogs on the “difficult” trail and “how difficult could it really be?” VERY, VERY DIFFICULT is the answer. Yes, there were no other dogs on the trail, but that was because you were ascending the summit at a very steep climb and some climbing up rocks was necessary. Lucky for us, Odin is part mountain goat and climbed gracefully and easily over any rocky obstacle.

img_3143

Once at the top, we needed to be careful. There was already one dog up there and there were two more on their way up. We hid behind rocks and ledges to keep the other dogs at of Odin’s view and once we knew we had a clear shot to the easy trail to finish the loop, we took it. Going down was fairly easy and Odin was very well behaved while passing other hikers. We encountered one other dog on the trail who was coming head on. We were able to move up the hillside to try and put distance between Odin and the upcoming dog, however, it was an unsuccessful pass. Odin become reactive while the other dog passed and I needed to pick him up in order to calm him down. The hikers commented on how cute Odin was in my arms and called him a “poor baby” as they passed by. They were very understanding about the reactivity and did not show any negativity towards Odin and his behavior. The rest of the hike was uneventful and Odin was completely pooped when we got back to the car. He even slept for part of the drive to the hotel.

Tonight, we are staying at a dog friendly Travelodge in Eugene and are relaxing and reminiscing over what a good day we had while scarfing down pizza and kibbles. Hopefully tomorrow is another great day.

img_3153.jpg

Reactive Road Trip: Day 1 Update & 4 Tips For Planning Hikes

Road tripping with a reactive dog? Am I crazy? Maybe a little, but I couldn’t imagine leaving Odin at home while I was off hiking and having a good time. However, bringing a reactive dog complicates traveling and it takes a lot of pre-planning and flexibility. But it can be done!

This trip, we are heading to Oregon and stopping at Shasta, Eugene, Portland, Astoria, and Newport. Today we traveled from Livermore, CA (Home) to Dunsmuir, CA. Along the way we stopped at Shasta-Trinity National Forest and hiked the Bailey Cove Loop.  Pulling into the parking lot, we noticed another dog getting out of a car. We waited for the dog and his owners to head out on their hike and gave them an ample head start. Since we knew this was a loop, we thought it would be best to go the same direction so we wouldn’t pass them on the hike. While out on the loop we notice the top of someones head around the corner coming towards us, and we stop to wait and see if they have a dog with them. They do. We start to back track on the trail before Odin has a chance to notice the oncoming dog. We found a nice place to pull him off the trail and prepare to get him focused on us rather than the dog. We play our reactivity games while waiting for the other dog to pass (“Engage-Disengage” game and “Find it” game). Odin does eventually notice the other dog and he does get reactive, Not as bad as his usual reactivity, but still not exactly the behavior we want. The owner that passed by was understanding and smiled and waved at us as she passed by with her happy-go-lucky pitbull. Once the other dog had passed, we play a little with him and have him hop onto a tree stump, which helps reset him from the stress of reactivity. The rest of the hike was great and uneventful.

Next we were headed to Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir is nestled at the base of Mount Shasta. A cute, quaint little town with a historic downtown and lots of hiking. We settled on the Hedge Creek Falls Trail which was a short out and back hike to a scenic waterfall. We made it about halfway to the waterfall, when I see a great pyrenees heading towards us. I quickly turn Odin around and we head back up the trail to the trailhead where we knew there was ample room for the dog to pass without triggering Odin over his threshold. Although this doubled the time we spent hiking, it was well worth it to avoid Odin from going over his threshold. This type of flexibility with unforeseen circumstances is important for the success of a reactive dog. We completely avoided a reactivity incident by inconveniencing ourselves for a couple of minutes. We didn’t even notice or mind re-walking the beginning half of the trail because we were so proud of Odin’s success and avoiding a reactivity incident. We made it to the waterfall and had a great, reactivity free time!

During this trip we plan on doing a lot of hiking and that requires us to be prepared. Odin is moderately reactive towards other dogs, so preplanning into trail selection and scheduling is very important. Below are 4 tips for planning hikes with a reactive dog:

1. Try to select less traveled/less popular parks

Trying to select a hiking spot that is dog friendly yet secluded can prove to be difficult. While planning a trip, I try to stick to National Forests as they are less popular and tend to have less dogs overall. Most are dog friendly and there are plenty of hiking paths to choose from.

Both of the hikes we did today were listed as “lightly trafficked” on Alltrails.com. We try to avoid places that are listed as heavily trafficked.

2. Avoid the crowds

Hike when other people are less likely to. Hike at odd hours. Try an evening or early morning hike when less people are less likely to be out. Or go out in less than perfect weather; a light drizzle keeps most people off of hiking trails. While others would rather be inside, hit the trails. In addition, try to avoid traveling during the weekends. During the weekdays, people are more likely to be at work or in school, leaving the parks and trails empty.

During our trip, we plan on spending Saturday and Sunday in Portland. Since we know there may be more dogs out and about, we got an Airbnb with a backyard and that allows for dogs to be left crated while unsupervised. If there are too many dogs in Portland, we can bring Odin back to the Airbnb while we can head back out to explore the city.  The Airbnb has a backyard so we can play frisbee with Odin to ensure he gets the necessary physical activity on these days.

Also, this was one of the reasons why we were okay with doing the trip during the rainy/snowy season in Oregon. We knew there were going to be reduced crowds due to the less than desirable weather. 

3. Don’t be afraid to turn around

While out on the trail, you might run into another dog (or another trigger) and sometimes you just need to turn around and go back. Yes, it might mean that either you don’t get to see everything on your hike or during your travels or that the adventure might take twice as long, but this flexibility will help keep you and your dog relaxed (instead of going over threshold).

We needed to do this today while hiking the Hedge Creek Falls Trail in Dunsmuir. Flexibility is important in your dog’s success. Sometimes there will be things and other dogs you cannot plan for and sometimes you will need to turn around and retrace your steps. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that bad.

4. Rank your top hikes

Rank your hikes so you know which are worth it for you spend more time at. If there is a trail that you want to hike and that way if unforeseen circumstances make you spend extra time on the hike, you can easily eliminate a hike you now do not have the time for off of your list for the day.   

This happened to us today on the Hedge Creek Falls Trail. Since we needed to turn around and head back to the start of the trail due to an oncoming dog, we ended up spending more time than we planned at this location. Because of this, we needed to eliminate a hike we had planned at Mount Shasta due to time constraints. It was an easy choice to make because we had already planned for this in advance.

Also, sometimes reactivity happens and there is nothing you can do about it. Try not to let it ruin your trip if it does happen. Remember that most of these people you will never see again. Reactivity is hard and challenging, and although you may not be having the vacation you planned, just remember that you are having fun with your family and your dog and that is what’s important.  

5 Tips for a Happy Howl-O-Ween

Howl-O-Ween is the most spooktacular night of the year! To ensure your night is filled with treats (rather than tricks) here are a few tips to ensure both you and your pup’s have a Happy Howl-O-Ween.

1. Stash the candy!

#1 (1)Halloween means lots and lots of sweet treats, however the results will not be sweet if your dog (or cat) gets into them. Chocolate is very dangerous for both dogs and cats. In addition, xylitol, which is used in most sugar-free candies, can cause serious problems with your pets.

Ensure that you stash all of your families Halloween treats out of reach of your pets. If you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, you can call the ASPCA Poison Control Center for assistance at (888)426-4435.

2. Be aware of scary decoration displays around your neighborhood!

#1 (8).jpg

Halloween means spooky decorations and dogs can be just as scared of skeletons, clowns, and scarecrows as we are! If there is a decoration display that your dog is not particularly fond of in someone’s front yard, avoid that house on yourwalks for the month of October.

 

3. Pick safe pet costumes!

#1 (4).jpgAlthough most can agree there is nothing cuter than a dachshund in a hot-dog costume, it is not unusual for costumes to cause dogs stress. Ensure that your dog is completely comfortable in their costume and is not causing them additional stress on this crazy night. If you want them to wear a costume, try a themed bandana or a simple vest. This can allow your dog to be festive without adding any additional stress.

If your dog is a diva and can wear their costume with confidence, check the costume to ensure there are not any easily digestible parts. Things to be weary of are buttons, plastic pieces, or anything that the dog can swallow. Your night should be full of treats and not a surprise trip to the vet.

4. Keep your dog in a safe, contained area inside your house on Halloween Night

#1 (2).jpg

To humans, trick-or-treaters are viewed as cute children, whereas for dogs, they can appear to be mutant elves wearing weird clothing that are coming to attack your house! Since there will be a lot of people out walking and strangers coming to the door, keep your dog inside and contained. Keep them calm in a either a room without access to the front door or safely away in their crate (especially during peak Trick-or-Treating Hours).

5. Ensure they are wearing proper identification

#1 (6)

Ensure they are wearing proper identification just in case they do dart outside. A collar with an ID tag and/or a microchip can be a life saver if your dog does escape.

The Benefits of Dog Group Walking and Structured Socialization

About two months ago, Odin and I were walking downtown to go to a local outdoor store that also sells dog products (harnesses, leashes, toys, etc.). While we were there, the store associate who was helping us told us about a dog walking group that she organizes. At first I told her my concerns about bringing him to a dog walking group (his reactivity) and she assured me that the group would accommodate any needs that Odin and I required. I was very nervous bringing him to the first walk. My treat bag was loaded with various high value treats ranging from hot dogs to blue cheese. He did great that first walk. He was calm and relaxed when being introduced to the groups dogs and the members gave us the space and structure we needed to ensure that the group socialization was a success. We now a avid members of the group and attend every walking event.

GH010944-6.jpg

Odin, as most reactive dogs, needs extra space while walking and this dogs walking group provided us with the  structured socialization opportunity needed for success. We were able to enjoy the company of other dogs and reap the benefits of group socialization. While with the group, Odin is learning to stay calm and is able to stay under his threshold while he is on these walks.

8.jpg

Practice, practice, practice is the key to successfully managing reactivity and by exposing Odin to other dogs and socialization while walking side by side during the on leash walks has increased his confidence around other dogs. I have even observed a decrease reactivity while we are on our own daily walks for a handful of days after the group walks.

Group walks can be a great opportunity to expose and socialize your dog with other dogs in a controlled environment. You can control the introductions between dogs and work on managing your dogs reactivity in a controlled environment. Also, joining a group walk creates accountability and motivation for owners, so it is a win-win situation for both you and your dog.

GH010930-3

Whenever Odin and I get home from a group walk, he is completely pooped for the next handful of hours (even if the walk was shorter than his daily ones). The socialization and engagement he gets from being around other dogs fulfills his mental needs much better than his daily walks. The group walks break up the normal walking routine and provide dogs with a new and exciting experience.

The following are 3 tips I encourage dog owners to consider prior to joining a group:

Learn the groups rules and the temperaments of the other dogs

Ask whether or not it is an on leash walk as off leash may not be the best for shy dogs, or those that need extra space. Also, ask about the temperaments about the other dogs. For example, having two reactive dogs in a group may cause issues/distractions/stress while walking.

Know your dogs limitations

Do not force a group walk if your dog is not ready. Also, you may need to leave the group during the walk due to trigger stacking or if your dog is not up for the task for the day (and it is OKAY!). During our last walk, Odin and I had to bail out early as there was a person on a scooter behind us that was catching up to our group. I needed to run ahead with Odin and remove the scooter from his sight line. In addition, you may need to scout out the walking path prior to the group walk. I know Odin would not do well walking near a skate park or a place where off leash dogs play.

Inform the group of your dogs needs to see if they can be accommodated

Some groups may not feel comfortable or may want to ensure all members are okay with a reactive dog joining the group. In addition this will ensure that everyone in the group will understand if slow introductions are needed and if your dog becomes reactive while on the walk/in presence of another dog.

If there is not a group in your area, consider starting your own! Put up fliers at your local dog parks and create a Facebook group/page organize events. Chances are there are multiple people in your neighborhood that would enjoy an opportunity for socialization for both the owners and the dogs!

41452133_10155773398526680_7271740469510406144_n

4 Great Visuals for Understanding and Managing Reactivity

While researching reactivity and BAT training online, I came across a great set of visuals created by Lili Chen. She has created visuals for multiple dog training books that focus around reactivity and dog training. Below are four visuals created by Lili Chen that I found to be a helpful way to learn more about my dogs own threshold/reactivity and how I could learn how to manage it.

Doggie Language

First let’s start with a great visual, Doggie Language. It is very important as an owner of a reactive dog to know how your dog is feeling which they show through their body language. You need to be able to tell when your dog is relaxed, stressed, anxious, alert or angry in order to determine the next course of action with your dogs reactivity. Dogs have a complex vocabulary that they communicate through their body language. The more you know about their language the less frustrated they will be and the easier it will be to handle uncertain situations. Do you know what your dog looks like when they are happy? Sad? Stressed?

5652847156_61faac0853_b (1)

Space Etiquette

The next visual shows the importance of space etiquette and how it can affect reactive dogs. As an owner of a reactive dog, these types of situations stress me out the most. 9/10 my dog will be fine with the approaching dog, however, I do not want to test my dogs patience. It is also hard to explain to the approaching owners how their actions affect my dog. I try to have a few of these DIY Booklets to handout to people for them to use a resource. I feel it is a better way to educate others without creating a stressful situation.

Reactive dogs need space because they are more sensitive to situations. If you are approaching someone who is not conforming to your space etiquette needs, the best option is to turn around before your dog hits their threshold and remove yourself from the situation. If you cannot escape the approaching dog, the next best course of action is to try to distract the upcoming dog. This can be done by throwing treats on the ground towards to oncoming dog. Hopefully they will be distracted by the treats, allowing you and your dog to have time/space to make your escape. If the treats don’t work, you can attempt a body block by stepping in between your dog and the oncoming dog to hopefully redirect the oncoming dogs attention onto and tell it a forceful “no” to try and stop their movement or by creating a barrier for the other dog to get through.

6577001349_b2c7541033_b

Being proactive about the areas you are walking your dog in can help you decrease the chance of running into these types of situations. There is a park near my house which although requires dogs to be leashed, many owners disregard this rule. Since I know this, I avoid this park like the plague. In addition, I also look at any and all park maps prior to hiking to find out where there are off leash dog areas so I can avoid them. Being proactive and scoping out areas prior to taking your dog can be time consuming, however, you are increasing your dogs chances for success.

Considering Your Own Actions

When managing a reactive dog, you also need to consider your own actions and how they affect your dog. You need to consider and understand your dog’s feelings when approaching other dogs. The visual below shows an example of how your actions affect your dog. While you might be thinking that your dog wants to interact with other dogs, your dog may be trying to communicate that they are nervous of the situation. Your negative reaction to their reactivity can accidentally reinforce their reactive behaviors.

8861886033_68826ff196_b

The Engage-Disengage Game

The next and final visual is my favorite. It shows the engage-disengage game (or Look at That) that I play with Odin when we are approaching a trigger. When managing reactivity, it is best/ideal to keep them in the BAT Zone in the presence of a trigger. In the BAT Zone, your dog is comfortable and confident, displaying low levels of stress. When you are in the BAT zone, your dog will be comfortable enough to practice managing their reactivity. For a refresher, BAT is simply allowing your dog to make choices when they are near their trigger. By allowing them to make their own choices, you are building their confidence around their trigger. When your dog is under their threshold in the presence of their trigger (and they are aware of that their trigger is near) and they are being acting like a normal dog, they are in the BAT Zone and you should be rewarding this calm behavior.

Untitled

This game is great as it allows for your dog to make their own choices and you are reinforcing their behaviors with treats. By using positive reinforcement around a trigger you are decreasing your dogs anxiety and teaching them something else to do instead (focus on you). When Odin is fully comfortable in the presence of his trigger, he knows to play this game. Once he sees the approaching dog, he will look at me for his treat. He is associating seeing another dog with receiving a treat. This moves his focus away from his trigger and onto me/the game. If I am not paying attention and he sees the dog first (and in the BAT zone) he will remind me that he needs his treat by booping my leg with his nose. Once your dog starts to show signs of reaching their threshold, be ready to change directions to move your dog away from your trigger. Odin loves playing games and learning the rules to games so this game has worked well for him and managing his reactivity (especially when paired with a high value treat such as cooked chicken, blue cheese, or blueberries).  

I hope these visuals provide you with some value in regards to managing and understanding your dog’s reactivity. If you would like more information, visuals, and training material in regards to BAT training and reactivity I highly recommend Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) 2.0 by Grisha Stewart. This book has been the best guide for navigating my dogs reactivity. Plus artwork by Lili Chen is used in the book which give great visual explanations to accompany the training materials.

(I am not in anyway shape of form receiving anything from Grisha Stewart for promoting her book or from Lili Chen for promoting her artwork. Both were resources I found to be very helpful in understanding and managing my dogs reactivity.)

Photo Sources:

Lili Chen, https://www.doggiedrawings.net/

Alice Tong, www.cpdogtraining.com  (art work created by Lili Chen)