The exaggerated anxiety towards environmental stimuli
We call them “reactive” although all dogs should respond to stimuli, so the best term applied in this case is that of “over-reactive”.
Dogs can be reactive to other dogs, people, objects, other animals, noises, movements or any combination of the above.
Some are selectively reactive, responding only to certain things (men with hats, umbrellas or uniforms, big black dogs, big motos, roller skaters, kids, cars etc.) while others seem to react to almost everything.
This over-reaction can manifest itself with all the symptoms of an agonistic behaviour.
Hyper-excitability, barking, moaning, whining, chewing, panting, jumping, snapping, biting, lunging, shedding, hyper-vigilance, difficulty in responding to well-known cues, or to stay calm and any combination of the above.
Dealing with the modification of emotional reactions takes time, because we are literally working on creating new neural connections-pathways.
Unfortunately we have to accept that some dogs are genetically predisposed or genetically deficient, thus condemned to remain over-reactive for the rest of their lives.
With the use of strong punishments, physical force, shock collar, alpha roll, intimidations, etc. in just a few repetitions, the dog can go from reactive to prostrate, seeming calm and passive even in the presence of the trigger… all this unnecessary violence to temporarily inhibit a behaviour.
Dog trainers still to this day use the shock collar which is banned by the Human Association of the US, England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany and many parts of Australia.
The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom, the Dog’s Trust, the SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the Pet Professional Guild and many other organizations prohibit and abhor its use.
This type of “education” is unethical, unfair and inhuman.
Do not let an uneducated person tell you that it is normal to electro-shock your dog.
Stay away from aversive training methods
This type of “training” acts like a boomerang and can backfire in the future.
Treating stress and anxiety with coercive methods, can only reinforces the association between the scared dog and the unpleasant experience.
During an inappropriate education, with frequent restrictions, reprimands, mental or physical cruelty, we risk evoking to the dog a “learned aggression” (which can manifest even towards his owner), either a “learned helplessness” or – in the worst case – both at the same time.
Dogs accumulate frustration, stress or fear, that are restricted during training, but for how long?
That may also depend on the breed, for example a Labrador has a higher patience threshold than a German Shepherd or a Jack Russel.
“The punishment is like a nuclear bomb, if the explosion does not get you, the residues will certainly do.”
Steve White – Police Dog Trainer
If someone tells you that the electric collars are necessary training tools, or that they do not hurt or scare the dog, ask them what is their highest official level of education, or their qualification in the science of canine behaviour.
You can be sure that most will answer you “because of my personal experience” … !!!
“To use shock as an effective training method, you will need:
1. A thorough understanding of canine behaviour.
2. A thorough understanding of learning theory.
3. Impeccable timing.
And if you have those three, you do not need an electric collar.”
Dr Ian Dunbar – Veterinary, Behaviourist & Dog Trainer
Allow Your Dog To Rest
Homeostasis is a condition of balance necessary for the optimal functioning of the organism, which consists of relaxation and sleep.
Following a stressful event, the dog needs 24 to 72 hours of emotional rest, hence the stress hormones cease to secrete.
Sometimes longer from 48 hours to 6 days, depending on the intensity
of the reaction.
Because adrenaline may dissipate fast after the stressful event (within 15min) but the cortisol – secreted after the adrenaline – can take from 48 hours to 6 days.
Dog’s that are constantly exposed to stressors, may never return to a normal baseline state.
“For these dogs that have been constantly exposed, it can take 4 to 6 weeks of trigger avoidance, to allow homeostatic balance to be restored.”
Mc Devitt 2007
That said, we must provide him an environment free from threatening triggers, during all this time, something that is not actually achievable. Therefore we need to understand that our dog will never have a 100% of a stress-free life.
For all the reasons mentioned above, it is imperative to offer him as less as possible of frustration, avoiding any kind of negative emotions during his education and to respect him as a vulnerable and emotional being.
• BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION STAGES •
When a dog learns, whatever that is, it eventually becomes a skill or a habit.
In the case of a dog who over-reacts to a scary trigger, here is how we proceed:
stage 1. in this stage the dog will learn from a safe distance, that the trigger is not so scary.
stage 2. the dog sees the trigger from a distance and he immediately looks at his coach.
stage 3. the dog generalizes this new behaviour – the calm reaction – to different triggers in different environments.
The purpose of these three steps is to finalize the modification of his behaviour, so that he can adopt the new reaction as the default one.
For optimal and lasting results, we must help the dog feel safe by avoiding to increase the level of danger to which he is exposed, we have to work with him methodically and patiently.
Consequently he will learn to communicate with us and we will be more proactive for best controlling his environment and putting him in situations where he can cope with.
Stress, anxiety and fear play a harmful role in our animals well-being, as they do to our own lives.
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