Let’s talk about Proactive vs Reactive!!
So often, when we are coaching folks and their pups with behavior issues, the question is asked “But what do I do when they are in the middle of……*insert problem behavior*”
And truthfully, that is a very hard question to answer. So many behavior problems are self rewarding, and the dog is getting environmental cookies by engaging in the behavior. A common training phrase is “behavior tolerated is behavior trained.” The problem with this mentality is that it implies that behavior we don’t like should just be punished, and we know that isn’t always appropriate either.
Let’s look at reactivity. If your dog sees a human or another dog and barks at them, what do we do? We could remove them from the situation (or remove the other person or dog), but often that dragging away builds frustration, and your dog may learn that reactions cause you to remove the distraction. Thus they learn that their reaction makes the stress go away.
You *could* attempt to correct your dog for the negative behavior. However, often these behaviors are brought on by defensive feelings, which are stemmed in fear. Quickly
they make the correlation that when other people or dogs come around, their owner hurts them, therefore making your pup want those things around them less and less. At the moment corrections occur, your dog isn’t thinking about their own behavior, so they blame the discomfort that comes from you on the thing they didn’t like to begin with. And that isn’t helpful.
key is to be as proactive as possible. How can we help your dog avoid the behavior we are trying to minimize while we teach them alternate behaviors and coping skills in these situations. Maybe a leash when guests come over will be helpful in creating controlled greetings that are rewardable. Use of high value rewards, motivational obedience, and some redirection can help with minor reactivity. Surely some basic obedience skill sets will be helpful in navigating situations where your pup might be disruptive.
Forward thinking, and setting your dog up to have successful interactions and training sessions is ALWAYS most productive. Preventing problems is so much easier then fixing them. Feel free to reach out for a fresh set of eyes, and some hard earned tips and tricks, to help you navigate your tricky situations. You and your dog will be so grateful to be communicating in a way that moves you forward, helping you have a dog you LOVE to LIVE with.