Like us, dogs have Coping Strategies. And like us, they either cope by doing something about it or by avoiding it.
What about your dog?
When your dog is upset, does he jump, lunge, bark, run, pace, spin, or even walk away? Maybe he tears at the grass or sniffs his privates. If you answered yes, your dog is an Active Coper. While the behavior he chooses may annoy you, it works for him, and the good news is change is often easy for him even if it doesn’t seem like it now. But that’s not the focus of this blogpost.
Does your dog tend to shut down around things that bother her? Maybe she hides at the first rumble of a storm, or slinks off when guests arrive. Maybe she lies down and stares off into space, or trembles with her head down, looking at nothing much of the time. She’s a Passive Coper. She’s quiet, nearly invisible, but it’s not a healthy coping strategy.
Passive Copers aren’t processing the stress hormones in their blood. She’s swimming in stress. Shutting down doesn’t make her feel better. She’s stuck, but don’t’ lose hope. She just needs your help to change.
Here’s the important part. We won’t ask her to do anything when she’s off hiding in her corner. We can’t reach her in that state, but we can help prepare her for the next time, and there will be a next time. That’s just life. This is a key difference between RosyDogs and other trainers.
We train for the situation, not in the situation.
At first, all we do is ask her to do is Something. Anything. Even tiny Movement Counts at this point. Just as importantly, she earns zero reward for doing nothing. We have the bigger brain and we know that she needs to Move!
Movement for dogs who shut down at the slightest indication of stress or change may not look like much to us, but for these dogs any movement is monumental. It might be as simple as chomping down on a Kong away from her corner or following you across the room. The trick is to actively help these dogs when they are feeling ok. RosyDogs has lots of Games designed to get her Moving. With the right GamePlan, real life solutions take root in 3 weeks.
For most dogs, it looks something like this.
I have a confession to make. I love helping these dogs, the ones who hide in the corner trembling. There’s something about their energy that blends perfectly with mine. If you have a shut-down dog trembling under the bed, please reach out. I can help you both find peace.
One of the most common struggles our dogs face is over-reacting to other dogs. Especially on walks. Sometimes every walk. Sometimes days go by without reaction, then BOOM. He's going crazy the instant he sees a poodle a block away. It’s confusing, embarrassing and frightening all at the same time.
Solution seems impossible. Nothing you try works, and it only gets worse. If you’re like many dog owners you start with more exercise. You take extra long walks, or even multiple walks per day yet it’s not getting any better. So you head to the dog park for a run. After all, you reason, he’s good with other dogs when he’s not on the leash. He runs around, and you think, this is it. He’s over it. But he’s not. He nearly jerks you off your feet when the next dog appears.
So you sign up for doggie daycare. Most of those dogs are pretty good with other dogs so you think he’ll learn to get along. But he doesn’t. He’s now snapping and lunging at everything that moves.
You realize you’re in over your head so you hire a trainer specializing in counter-conditioning, BAT or desensitization. If he would only understand that those other dogs are nice, he’ll stop. But he doesn’t, and maybe he’s worse. Maybe he’s so frantic you’re afraid to leave the house.
With all due respect, STOP.
Your dog doesn’t need more exercise, and he doesn’t need more time around other dogs, playful or not. Your dog is stressed. Super Stressed. So stressed he can’t think straight.
Look, those other methods worked for some dogs, but they also left a lot of dogs struggling with even worse problems than when they started. It’s a lonely place to be left behind, wondering if your dog is dangerous. Please don’t give up.
The answer you've been searching for is exactly opposite of what you’ve tried.
Your dog is both super stressed and maybe in a state of fear the instant he senses another dog within a half mile. He can’t possibly learn anything while in a full blown panic. Put yourself in his paws.
Let’s say you’re deathly afraid of spiders, and I hand you a box. I look you in the eye and say, “Stick your hand in there. There may or may not be a spider inside. But don’t worry. I’m pretty sure the deadly black widow isn’t in there.” Could you do it? Over and over? That's pretty much what other trainers will ask your dog to do.
RosyDogs teaches you to reshape the brain away from other dogs -in a safe place- where learning can sink in. We train for that dog when fear is not in the picture. This is brain shaping at it's finest.
Look, every dog is different, but in most cases, dogs with dog dog reactivity need to first lower their stress level. While he de-stresses, we play games that help him stay calm around other dogs, then engage with the other dog nicely, and finally, disengage smoothly. He becomes an Optimist who sees other dogs appearing as non-events. It’s a relaxed and effective way to help your dog find real peace.
Isn’t that what you want for him?
Know there is help for every dog struggling with dog to dog problems whether on leash or off.
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.