When Lauren met Tim back in 2010, Moses was a 3-year old, 100-pound German Shepherd Dog who had developed explosive issues with barking and lunging at every dog he saw while on leash. Tim and Lauren’s dedication to improving his behavior (and everyone’s quality of life) was the event that catapulted them into the world of dog behavior modification and training.
Moses’ behavior had reached the point where situations with other dogs were completely avoided – he was taken for walks at odd hours and often just in the yard, was missing out on the trips to the woods that he loves, and had no dog friends.
Our goals were several:
- Reduce stress and ensure safety – for Moses, for us, and for anyone we encountered.
- Manage unwanted behaviors and teach Moses new ways to approach social situations.
- Live a calmer more experience-rich life; be able to take Moses with us on walks and outings.
- Maybe, just maybe, make some dog friends for Moses!
Putting her head together with her then dog training mentor, Karen Perusek of Courteous Canine, Lauren realized Moses fit the definition of a “reactive dog.” This is training terminology that describes a dog that over-reacts to changes in their environment, typically by making behavioral choices that we at the other end of the leash find to be problematic. A plan was implemented to improve Moses’ behavior, which included the following:
- Trained Moses to wear a muzzle and a head collar. This reduced our anxiety over the liability concerns associated with owning a large, powerful dog who had trouble controlling himself. It also broadened Moses’ world, because it allowed us to take him out into public places again with the confidence that even if he did have an outburst, we could safely control him.
- Enrolled in a 6-week long “Feisty Fido”* group class for reactive dogs. This gave us a supportive environment to learn how to manage and modify Moses’ behavior with other owners facing similar challenges.
- Worked him through Dr. Karen Overall’s “Relaxation Protocol”. This training procedure taught him to focus and remain calm despite chaos occurring around him.
- Engaged in behavior modification. Through a variety of exercises and approaches, we helped Moses build positive associations with seeing other dogs, and develop new habits for how to behave around them. This included turning and looking at us when seeing another dog and how to do a U-turn on cue while on leash.
- Engaged in dog-to-dog social therapy. With the help of other willing dog owning clients, we helped Moses develop better dog social skills and body language by socializing with other dogs.
Today, Moses is a much happier dog with better skills for coping in social situations. He has improved to the point where we don’t hesitate to take him to events and group classes to give training demonstrations. We go for stress-free walks around Buttonwood Park, on adventures to the woods and the beach, and no longer feel limited or embarrassed by his behavior. Moses now has more dog friends than we can count and has a new dog sibling that he adores. Under the perfect storm of conditions, Moses will every once in a blue moon revert to his old reactive ways – but we now have the tools to help him recover quickly, calm down, and move on. Overall, his behavior is the difference between night and day; we accomplished all of our goals and then some through a dedicated, humane training protocol! No choke, prong, or electric collars, no yelling or jerking required. Our relationship with him is the best it’s ever been, without the need for fear or intimidation.
It was through Lauren and Tim’s experiences with Moses that they became well versed in techniques for successfully and humanely addressing dog-to-dog issues. Have your own “reactive rover” at home? Don’t hesitate to contact them for group and private training options to improve your dog’s behavior!