I want to bring up a topic that some pet dog owners and rescues are not aware of and that topic is loading. Loading is the buildup of stimulation, in other words amping. Dogs load in many fashions, for example, I have a client that has an aggressive dog and she starts to wag her stiff tail, paces and barks. This is what builds up her anxiety and she will start biting ankles. In order to stop her from loading you have to stop the behavior. I put her in a leash with very little slack and she calmed. After she calms I will only then pet her because if you pet an anxious behavior you are telling the dog that you want that behavior. (Just remember: what you pet is what you get.) Another example is when it is assumed that the dog is aggressive so it is put on Trazadone and forced in a run where it is being exposed to unpredictable dogs. Do not expose your dog to unstable dogs when your dog is unstable. I want to explain why this is so import an When a dog loads itself up, they need to put that energy somewhere, so they find an outlet and you will see the “fun police”, chasing, biting, starting a dog fight and so on. Unfortunately, I see this happen a lot in rescues even from simple crate placement that had reactive dogs with their kennels were all facing each other. That is a disaster waiting to happen. You can’t just put a dog in a crate around “nice” dogs and expect them to be cured. They will build up and the first chance they get, they will take it. Then the owner or foster doesn’t understand why their dog attacked because in that moment the human wasn’t noticing any concerning behavior while the dog saw opportunity.
A lot of these dogs have self esteem issues, they can’t quiet their mind, they have been attacked so now they are the attacker, they are bored and the list goes on. The first thing you start with is their confidence and respect. All dogs are different, so they will need different approaches and a different game plan. Secondly, they need to desperately have their mind worked when it comes to commands. Thirdly, you have to be very black and white when it comes to what you are asking for and what you expect. There is no room for grey. This is extremely important because this step teaches them to make better decisions. Each dog has a different way that they are processing the information you present to them
I got a call a few weeks ago about a dog that gets so worked up when he sees another dog walking, but the family inquired about adopting a dog in order to make their dog calm. This is a terrible idea! Rescues, if someone mentions wanting to adopt another animal to calm their dog, please don’t set them up to fail. By the time they figure out that it isn’t working, the new dog has already picked up the bad habits.
Please remember that if there is loading happening and you can control it, do it. What if the dog is in the crate loading? That’s when you have them come out of the crate in a calm fashion, do a few sits and downs and put them back into the crate, this will change their mindset.
If you are struggling with your dog, please seek help no matter what. It is not fair to your dog to have to live that way nor is it fair for you to have to live with that either.
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Owner of Total K9 Focus