Dog Training & Behaviour Blog

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    But My Dog Loves All Dogs! Really?

    doglead On lead reactivity

    I come across way too many dog owners with hyper-aroused or overly anxious dogs out walking their dog and allowing it to socialise with other dogs (or people), then get mad and punish the dog when contact with the other dog goes bad!

    Emotion is a good predictor of behaviour, not unlike humans. Your emotional state will determine how you will react to any given situation, and how the other person will perceive and therefore respond to your actions. You know yourself, when and what situations to avoid dependent on your current emotional state. Sometimes though we choose to ignore our emotional state, and that's when things can get out of control. Dogs do not have the luxury of understanding their emotional state, they just react according to the state of mind they find themself in.

    You may see your dog as being friendly and just wanting to say hello. The other dog will view this situation differently. Your dogs body language and energy whilst pulling on the leash in frustration, is NOT conducive to natural friendly social interaction. In fact it can be perceived as threatening behaviour! It may not be your dog that will react defensively during this tense interaction with the other dog. Then when things do go bad because the other dog didn't behave socially to the approach of the overly anxious dog, the dog owner of the hyper-aroused anxious dog gets mad at the other dog owner for not having a friendly dog!

    How would you feel if you were walking calmly down the street, and I (a stranger) spotted you from 50 mtrs away, and then I immediately made direct eye contact with you, stiffened up, and then assertively picked up my pace and ran directly towards you? And then when I arrived I invaded your personal space, and stared at you with intense eye contact? I am sure you wouldn't say with a smile on your face, "would you like to go for a coffee?"

    But what if my dog knows the other dog, and when they approach all excited, they get on well?

    It doesn't matter, you are reinforcing and rewarding unnatural social interaction. You are teaching your dog that this is the way to socialise with every dog. It will only be a matter of time before your dog approaches the wrong dog. And it can even be the dog that for the previous 4 meetings the dogs 'appeared' to get on well.

    So what do I do, I want my dog to socialise and be friendly to other dogs?

    Do you approach strangers in the street and socialise with them, to show that you are friendly? Or do you just calmly walk past them, and either totally ignore them, or maybe acknowledge them with a smile? Do you condition young children to rush up to strangers in the street demanding their undivided attention, no matter how friendly your childs intentions are? Then why your dog?

    So I can never socialise my dog with other dogs?

    I never said that. We still socialise with people even though we ignore 99.999% of people we walk past in the street. We also allow our children to socialise appropriately, but with select people. You need to teach your dog the correct way to socialise, and which dogs to avoid socialising with. You also need to teach your dog when it is appropriate to socialise and when it isn't, when to ignore other dogs, and when its OK not too, no different to teaching children.

    Stop seeing your dog as just excited and friendly to socialise, when it is triggered into a hyper-aroused and anxious state. This should be warning sign for you to avoid social interaction. Condition calm friendly behaviour. Even if your dog is calm around other dogs when out walking, do not allow it to socialise with other dogs that display this antisocial behaviour. Be an advocate for your dog.


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