Do you have an anxiety prone dog? Does your normally well behaved dog turn into an aggressive, barking dog at the sight of his or her triggers? Read below to learn about one of our running dog’s triggers, and what we do to correct it.
I’m a pro at multitasking, and that is exactly what I do when I run dogs. I am constantly coaching, loving, supporting and motivating each and every dog. At the same time, I am always thinking. Most of my best ideas happen while running dogs. Earlier this week, I was running a total sweetheart of a dog who loves people and dogs. However, whenever she sees a Poodle, Standard or Mini, her anxiety goes through the roof. Four years ago, she was attacked by a Miniature Poodle, which weighed about 40 pounds less than she. Because of this, despite her success, she is still afraid of every Poodle.
One of our human clients recently called me a “Calm Alpha”. My job is to be this relaxed and confident leader in my pack of two. It is imperative I always remain in this state, especially with high anxiety dogs. If I am calm, the nervous dog I am running senses and feeds off of my confidence. When talking to the owner of the Poodle fearing dog about WHY her dog has this occasional aggressive demeanor, we know the source and what to look out for. Now that we have the easy part taken care of, I help her face her trigger in a positive manner. This week’s mid-run thought, best describes how I handle a situation which could heighten nerves.
Human anxiety is at an all-time high worldwide, and rightly so. I was talking with one of my friends who is a multi-practice San Diego Veterinarian. She coaches her staff in how to remain calm, and not allow any situation to escalate when someone gets upset about current office practices. By remaining calm, this usually allows them to keep the upper hand on what otherwise could be a potential unnerving situation. Obviously, this is on a much different scale, but the same theory can be applied with an aggressive, anxiety-riddled dog.
Back to the Poodle at hand, while it is easy to turn the other way and redirect, I have had success with not running away from the trigger – no pun intended. Instead, I calmly have the dog sit at a distance and speak in a reassuring and confident calm way. This doesn’t work for every dog, and you know your dog’s capabilities best. For me though, as someone who works with many high anxiety dogs, remaining calm and constantly praising works. If I were to tug, turn the other direction from the trigger or “yell and yank” if they bark, the dog will have a difficult time relaxing.
While speaking in a soft tone and praising your four-legged family member for sitting, eventually your dog will not bark. Depending on your dog’s anxiety level, this may take a few outings, but your consistency will eventually work. The first step towards success is the lack of barking, and then a lack of growling. My heart was so full the first time my anti-Poodle running client actually sat calmly and watched another barking Poodle across the street. There may be days where it seems as if your dog is regressing, but by remaining calm and being that voice of positivity, it will get better. Your Calm Alpha self will undoubtedly be one of the key components to your dog’s optimal mental health.
Does your dog have a trigger that you want to work on? Tell us about it below, and through positive reinforcement, we are hopeful you will succeed just as we have!