Why it’s Happening:
Reactivity is either due to frustration from not getting to engage or the dog is perceiving a threat from the thing it’s reacting to and attempting to ward it off with a big display.
The protocol to address the behavior, regardless of the motivation for it, is the same. That said, the dog is likely to be more persistent in the behavior should it be based on a perceived threat. You’ll also notice some similarities to The Walk which you should be implementing with all reactive dogs as well.
If the dog is beginning to place his focus (ie. hard staring, tall or creeping posture, closed mouth, prowling gate) on a known temptation or perceived threat, immediately provide feedback without stopping your walk to do so. The idea is that we communicate that bratty or hostile mindsets themselves should be avoided, and as an added benefit we will cut off most, if not all, of the misbehavior that is born from those attitudes.
The form of feedback that works best for your dog will have been discovered and discussed during your session (leash pop, finger snap, foot touch, air-tool spray, e-collar stim, etc.). The goal is for the feedback to be at a sufficient level to interrupt the misbehavior in the moment, allowing you to redirect your dog’s behavior appropriately. Should you fail to interrupt the misbehavior in real-time (see the Interruptive-Feedback Fails example below). The more determined the dog is to commit the misbehavior, the stronger the feedback will need to be to break through that determination. Your go to move when feedback fails interrupt those more challenging situations is to get the dog to simply walk away, increasing the space between your dog and the temptation (aka perceived threat), while using additional feedback for trying to turn or look back.
Note: If you find that your dog is failing cease the reactivity more than twice in a row please run through the checklist below.
If no visible response to feedback, check that both the remote and receiver are powered on and charged up. Also, check the fit of the eCollar itself, it might be a notch too loose.
If you are getting a visible response, you might be working too close to the temptations. Try a few passes at a further distance, before working closer again.
If you’re still having issues be sure to contact your trainer.
Advanced Redirection Guidance: As your dog improves and can manage his behavior in closer proximity and longer duration without flare-ups, or feedback failures, you’ll want to provide more sophisticated redirection guidance. Instead of simply walking away from the temptation/perceived threat, you can invite your dog to remain in place or near the temptation while maintaining composed behavior. You might even move closer to the temptation–assuming it’s safe and won’t be harmed by your dog–to show him that his behavior was the issue rather than the temptation itself. If the misbehavior rears its head during these attempts, interrupt with feedback and guide the dog away again. When attempting again, work further away or with a lower temptation.
Tip: You need to be aware of your environment so you can anticipate potential temptations and misbehavior so you’ll be ready to provide interruptive feedback and redirection guidance.
Refusing to Move (aka Anchoring) – If your dog is refusing to move, lying in wait instead of lunging and barking, we can address this too. We want to show the dog that this stubborn refusal to move is no fun, and they’d be better off letting us guide the walk. As your dog goes to lie down to resist walking, often avoiding moving further from something he wants, provide immediate feedback. Then invite the dog to come along in a friendly manner by saying “let’s go” and putting gentle tension on the leash in the direction you want the dog to go. Don’t yank the dog up or drag them, this must be your dog’s choice for him to learn. With clear valuable feedback on the table, the choice will be evident. As soon as your dog starts to move with you, immediately praise him.
If his is persistently refusing it can help to crouch down like you’re calling a puppy to you. Being down on the same level as the dog tends to function as a natural invitation. Stay friendly, but provide a quick, light leash tug in your direction. If the dog is still anchoring, try a little e-collar tap. If still refusing to move, try the next step below.
It can also help to start from your dogs side, oriented in the direction you want to walk. Begin walking forward, if the dog is still anchoring by the time the leash is taught, use some e-collar feedback–this almost always does the trick.
Lunging, Barking, Snapping – Should your dog start to escalate because the earlier feedback timing was missed or wasn’t valuable enough (potentially tipping the scales in the direction of the misbehavior), then we forget about correcting the mindset alone and we actually correct the behavior (and the mindset). At this point, the dog is acting out on the frustration or perceived threat. His determination is much stronger in the act than it is while the act is merely being conceived, therefore it will require a stronger interruption to snap them out of their current state.
If using the air-tool, squeeze the trigger a little more than usual, and direct the airflow towards the dog’s haunch closest to you. The sensation will often get them to instinctually reorient to see what it was. If using an E-Collar, quickly dial up or use your boost or
rising button, holding it down until you see your dog both feel it, stop, and mentally release. The chance of a flinch or a vocalization in these moments is higher, but that’s because your dog is pushing itself through the lower levels of discomfort. A yelp when the dog has stopped the behavior is a mix of the dog signaling their discomfort and, often but not always, their intent to yield. Yelps do not ruin your dog, or your relationship with them, but we also do our best to minimize their occurrence to necessary learning moments. Should you successfully interrupt your dog and they are willing to take direction, (i.e. walk away without starting up again) you should reward them with praise and/or a treat.
Interruptive-Feedback Fails – Dogs may sometimes do their best to push through the feedback you are providing to get their way. This is where we may see a messy moment. This is when the dog attempts to push through the feedback with a surge of intensity to overcome the feedback and achieve his initial, inappropriate goal. Should you experience this situation where your feedback fails, you have two simultaneous goals. The first goal is to prevent a dangerous situation. So, hold on to your leash and, if necessary, pull your dog away. The second goal, if feasible under the circumstances, is to provide feedback. The aim of this second goal is two fold: interrupt the current misbehavior, albeit late, and impose a cost on the misbehavior itself to discourage such actions going forward.
If using an air tool, squeeze the trigger a little more than usual and direct the airflow towards the dog’s haunch closest to you. The sensation will often get them to instinctually reorient to see what it was. If the air-tool fails to produce a result, you’re likely in need of an e-Collar.
If using an E-collar, quickly dial up or use your boost or
rising button, holding it down until you see your dog both feel it, stop, and mentally release. If successful you’re all done. Take a one to two-minute temptation break, then try again from a slightly further distance.If your dog vocalizes, but does not yield, then he didn’t find the feedback valuable enough in that moment to stop. This is what we call a messy moment as it is a challenging to witness and work through. Such vocalizations are often a cry of determination and discomfort. Despite the failure to cease in the moment, your dog may actually have a proper take away, and show less inclination to behave the same way in the future.
Again, after a failure to interrupt–especially a double or triple failure with your boost or rising stim button–be sure to reduce the temptation level in play (i.e. more space and calmer dogs) until your dog is less inclined to push through feedback. You should also anticipate the use of stronger corrections, that is leveling up your e-Collar significantly as you approach high levels of temptation.
If you are regularly having uninterruptible reactions, despite following the above protocols, then we likely need to assess tools. Air tool users may need to consider an E-Collar, and E-Collar users may need to unlock upper levels, increase their boost or ramping speed, or upgrade their system to one with more
Leash Aggression – See our aggression protocols