Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What is Dog Reactivity Part 1

Reactivity in dogs is a very complicated subject. This will be the first in a series to explain what I have learned and what Maizey and I are doing to help each other learn how to calm reactivity, ironically in both of of us!

Reactivity is really just the manifestation of stress in a dog. It involves stress hormones, such as adrenaline, in much the same way those hormones affect humans. It involves learning how to deal with new and scary, or perceived scary, situations.

A reactive dog is one who reacts strongly, in human terms we may call it overreacts, to certain stimuli in the environment. Dogs can be reactive on many levels and to many things. A Labradoodle we met yesterday was reactive to men with canes, hats, beards, or any combination there of.

An interesting case, that one, because the man to whom Luke the Labradoodle reacted to was someone he knew, but when seen with his hat and cane the man became unfamiliar and "threatening" thus Luke's eruption of barking.

Reactivity can be shown in any number of ways from vocalizing, body posturing, and even completely shutting down. A dog showing these signs of reactivity is really showing you dog signs of stress. And needs your help as the 2legged member of the team to learn how to calm down and feel confident again. Learning to identify these signs is the first step in learning to help your 4legged friend to calm their stress.

There is a valuable 4legged lesson here and it is that stress in life, no matter how many legs you have, is inevitable. But living over threshold and stressed out is unhealthy and miserable regardless of what species you are so learning these calming skills can only benefit us all.

For more information on what Maizey's reactive journey looks like come back for: What is Dog Reactivity Part 2-Maizey's Reactivity Defined

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Lessons From and For 4 Legs has moved to a new address: Where we will continue to learn life's lessons from my little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's, Maizey and Magnus. Don't miss Meeka's lessons too, by checking the archives of my big girl rescue Rottie. They all teach me so much!