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  1. A common greeting we may receive from our dogs is one of high excitement and in particular, jumping up.

    But why do they jump? What do they actually get out of it?

    Most of our dogs will leap off the ground in order to get attention. This excitable response is often seen as quite appealing by owners whilst their dog is young and small. Owners often think that this behaviour will disappear over time. However, the more we give our dog’s attention for showing this behaviour, the more they are going to show it again in the future. Jumping up quickly becomes undesirable and unwanted in almost all scenarios.

    We need to teach our dogs that jumping up will not gain them anything. Alternatively, if they stay nice and calm, that will provide them with everything they could ever want. If your dog jumps up at you, try your best to not respond to them. Avoid responding with a push down, 'no', or 'get down' command. Even these responses can be very rewarding. Your dog is much more likely to learn that jumping actually gets them a response and therefore the attention they crave when you are responding in this way. Turning your back, walking away from them, and completely ignoring the behaviour is the best approach.

    We want to reinforce that having all four paws on the floor will get them something, i.e., attention, toys or treats. When they make a nice choice and remain on the ground, make sure we are praising and letting them know that this is exactly what we want to see. This is especially true in situations where they normally jump up a lot but have chosen to stay grounded.

    Remember to be consistent, making sure everyone is on the same page with this training is crucial. If you are consistent, your dog will learn what works and what doesn’t. Without consistency, our dog’s get easily confused and will struggle to understand which behaviours we want to see. There is no good ignoring them 5 days out of the week when they jump but then fussing them for doing so at the weekend. In the same sense, if one person is rewarding the jumping behaviour but another person is ignoring them, they will be receiving mixed messages.

    Another approach to tackling the jumping behaviour is to teach our dog’s an alternative such as sit. Once your dog understands to keep all four paws on the floor, start asking your dog to sit. Once this behaviour has been shown, rewarding the calm behaviour. If you keep asking for this behaviour and keep practising, your dog will start to sit everytime they greet someone, as this has become the new rule to get attention.

    Charlotte - Behaviour Counsellor



  2. Reactivity on walks is something that I come into contact with every day as a dog trainer. It is something that many, many owners will deal with at some point throughout their dog’s life, and is something that has many different ways of manifesting in our dog’s behaviour.

    But… let’s start at the beginning. What is reactivity? Reactivity is a dog’s response to an extreme level of emotion when encountering a trigger. The emotion is most commonly fear, but can be excitement and/or frustration too. The trigger is the thing that results in the extreme emotional response from the dog. This could be other dogs, people, traffic, sounds, being handled to name just a few.

    How does reactivity develop? Again, there are many elements that could result in a dog becoming reactive, and it may be that many of these factors have built up to result in the reactive behaviour occurring. The most common reason I come across is that the dog has had a negative experience with the trigger – this could mean that a dog which has become dog reactive has been attacked by another dog. It could also mean that a dog has felt overwhelmed when meeting a new person and has shied away or shown body language signals that have not been understood or ignored – this may not seem like a terribly negative experience to us but the important and relevant opinion is the dogs, especially if the dog experiences this scary feeling repeatedly.

    Socialisation – if a dogs social experience during it’s critical socialisation period has been lacking or negative they may not have developed an understanding and positive connection with the triggers in the world around them. On the other end of the spectrum, if a dog has had too much unstructured social interaction whilst young, they may not have developed the coping mechanisms to understand that they cannot meet every dog that they see in the street, for example.

    Genetics – a predisposition can be passed from one or both of the dogs’ parents to be less tolerant or scared of various triggers.

    Adolescence – this is a period when your dog’s brain is developing and changing along with their hormonal changes. It is a very confusing time for any dog, and is also a time in their life when they experience a secondary fear period making them more sensitive to triggers.

    Pain – there are many studies which explain links between underlying pain from a medical condition resulting in increased reactivity, or that can even cause changes in the dog’s behaviour.

    What should we do when our dogs start to show reactive behaviour on walks? The first thing I have to mention here is to have a behaviour assessment with a local, force-free dog trainer. Seeking professional help means that you have support through your rehabilitation journey and a good trainer will help you to understand your dog better so that you can prevent reactive behaviour from reoccurring in the future.

    Do NOT keep exposing your dog to the trigger that they are reacting to – a dog that is continuously put into a scenario where it has reacted previously will simply keep feeling scared, frustrated or over excited. This will add to the overall negative experiences for the dog. They will also not be able to learn whilst in such a heightened state of stress. For example – if your dog is fearful of traffic and is continuously walked on busy roads, it will be feeling so overwhelmed by the number of cars whizzing past that they will not be able to relax enough to see the situation as anything but stressful.

    Find a way of setting your dog up to succeed – I have had many conversations with dog owners where they have commented that the training set ups that we provide whilst working on reactive behaviours are “too easy” or “not real life”. This is because the only way for a dog to overcome a trigger that it is struggling with is to set up the situation so the trigger is only experienced at a level the dog can cope with and then we work on changing their emotional response and building the dogs confidence. Set up scenarios also mean that we can control the environment to ensure that the dog has a positive experience with something that has caused them difficulty in the past.

    There are many other factors I could discuss about this topic as dog behaviour is not a simple, black and white subject, however, I hope that this has given you some insight and points to think about if you see reactivity in your own dog or indeed someone else with a reactive dog – please be kind, patient and give them space!


    Kerry - Behaviour Counsellor

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