Recently, I was working with two of my clients who have come so far with their reactive dogs (in these cases, dogs who show dog to dog aggression or toward other stimuli such as cars). The first dog, is a Border Terrier who would go from being calm and sweet in an instant to wanting to lunge, bark and bite at other dogs and passing cars who were at quite a distance from him. He is now able to attend dog seminars and be in the midst of 30+ dogs without being reactive, take loose leash walks with other dogs, and look to his owner when a car passes by instead of trying to apprehend the speeding vehicle. His training consisted of a board and train program as well as in home training sessions.
The second dog is an All American Shepherd mix, who enrolled in a Feisty Fido dog training class which is for dogs who are considered “yellow lights” and show aggression or reactivity toward other dogs. At the start of the class series, their dog had to be worked at the most remote corner of the training room to lessen his stress level and consequently his desire to bark non stop. A few weeks later, their dog was able to walk toward other dogs and be worked in close proximity to other dogs; while focusing on his owners rather than barking at the other dogs. He will soon be ready to participate in other group classes which will build his confidence and desire to work with his owners such as a new K9 Scent Detection Game class.
The owners of both dogs recognize the progress their dogs have made. However, they still had an old picture of their dog in their mind as to how their dog use to behave when challenging triggers presented themselves. For example, when a car passes the first dog, he now looks to his owner in a calm manner instead of reacting toward the passing car. However, the owner is still operating in the past with an old picture of her dog in her mind. The dog is no longer reactive toward the oncoming car but the owner still is. Her muscles stiffened, she forgot to breathe, and she yanked her dog to the side of the road instead of calmly walking with her dog, creating more distance between her dog and the car.
To bring the owner into the current moment, she used neuro-linguistic programing and visualized that old photo of her dog’s behavior and threw it in the virtual trash. She then looked at a digital camera and visualized taking a current picture of her dog’s calm behavior in above situation. The car was coming toward them and instead of voicing, “oh my gosh”, the new inner voice said, “oh good here comes a training opportunity”; snap goes the picture. So now when a car approaches, she will instantly look to that new photo in her mind’s eye of her dog’s calm behavior. Thus, she will remain calm and be able to take charge instead of panic in new situations. And, her dog will continue to make progress by leaps and bounds. So the question is, do you have an old or current behavior photo of your dog in your mind’s eye?