Monday, August 4, 2008

Repeat After Me...

I know I said this early on, but it's definitely worth repeating. A reactive dog is not the same as an "aggressive" dog. I hear lots of people providing labels for Sydney's reactive behavior. She's bossy, she's bitchy, she's aggressive, she hates other dogs. The list goes on and on. It becomes difficult sometimes to smile and try to explain that Sydney is actually afraid and that she's not some monster dog. Given the opportunity, she'd much rather run away than be in whatever situation causes her to be reactive. Sometimes I just want to shout at people to leave us alone, as it gets old fast.

Today I got into the heart of our newest book, Control Unleashed, by Leslie McDevitt. It's mostly geared for agility, but is applicable for any focus work, and reactivity issues. I wanted to quote from the book, something that I might have printed on a T-shirt :

"Reactivity comes from anxiety, which comes from feeling uncertain about something. Reactivity is an information-seeking strategy. A reactive dog will rush toward something or someone that he is uncertain about, barking, lunging, growling, and making a big display. People sometimes perceive reactive behavior as aggression, but a reactive dog is not rushing in to do damage; he is attempting to assess the threat level of a given situation. His assessment strategy is intensified because he is panicking as the adrenaline flows through his body.
...People also sometimes perceive reactive behavior as "dominance" because they view a dog that flies at his triggers as a dog that wants to take charge. This is absoluetly not the case. Reactive dogs are anxious, and their response is intense because they are freaking out."

Thank you Leslie!!! The "public display" as I call it, is just the obvious behavior that gets the attention of everyone in the room. What people don't see is the intense salivating, whining, insecure eyes darting around looking for danger. Seeing Sydney when she's afraid is heartbreaking. I always feel like I've given Syd a reason to be scared, and that I failed to protect her in the past.

Sydney has had great improvement at agility class. When she is on a leash, I am cautious about her personal space. Off-leash, Sydney has decided that Gypsy the Border Collie is lots of fun, and she has had a couple of opportunities to get face to face with Gypsy. Each time, Syd approaches Gypsy with good manners, inquisitive and playful. I firmly believe that Syd feels no threat when she's off-leash. If she needs to run away, she can. On a leash, Syd is afraid that she can not get away from any potentially scary situation.

I hope to have some new agility photos and/or video of our foundation work soon. Syd is doing great with Bounce Jumping, and directional jumping and wrapping. I'm very proud of my girl, and hope that her good work continues.

2 comments:

manymuddypaws said...

It sounds like you are doing a great job with your little miss bossy dog! CU is a fantastic book!

Congratulations on finishing her!

StubbyDog said...

I know this comment is way old, but I found this post interesting! I think many people misinterpret many dogs. Heck, I'm still learning too!