Living with a reactive dog is by no means easy, even if you have a small dog like a Maltese. Baxter’s owners contacted us to get some help with his behaviour that they described as ‘extremely reactive to everything that moves’.
His owners had worked with another train previously however hadn’t really received any constructive help with his reactivity. He’s also been placed on a second different anti-anxiety medication which they haven’t seen any change with whatsoever.
As trainers who specialise in extreme behavioural cases we hear these things time and time again. Whether it’s inexperienced trainers giving totally inapplicable advice, or ‘behaviourists’ advising the dog is neurologically damaged and needs medication for PTSD. There are certainly dogs out there that do have PTSD, or some type of neurological disorder, but it’s rare in comparison to the typical causes affecting 99% of dogs with behavioural issues.
In Baxter’s case he finds himself easily overwhelmed by the environment and the chaos of busy life, and the excitement and frustration of seeing another dog just pushes him over the edge. He begins to lunge, pull, bark, and scream. Ultimately leaving him immensely stressed and making walks chaotic. He’d also begin to redirect on his owners legs, or arms if they tried to pick him up.
Due to his level of response his owners haven’t felt confident in how to handle him and help him to navigate the world. Walking a reactive dog can be immensely difficult for owners and without the knowledge of the what, why and how, it’s easy to feel lost and hopeless.
Throughout the session we covered handling techniques, markers and rewards, reading body language, counter-conditioning, and correct socialisation. Once Baxter was able to exist within the environment without being able to practise his reactivity, he was able to coincide with our own dogs in a much calmer and less reactive state. (Video in comments)
Due to the level of Baxter’s response it will take time to consistently improve his behaviour, but his owners have put so much work in to help Baxter already and we know they’ll do an amazing job moving forwards.