We often get dogs in for training that exhibit various degrees of human or dog reactivity. This big guy here is Zeus. Zeus has a spent much of his time around humans in a muzzle barking and lunging at anyone he meets. The key for dogs like this is not to get angry, not to attempt to ‘dominate’ the situation but more so to calmly redirect. See Zeus does what he does because he has yet to truly understand what else to do. Dogs (especially shepherds) don’t typically do well with ‘chaos’. Chaos can come in the form of changes to their day to day, new dogs met on walks or, in Zeus’s case, new people. In these moments of uncertainty it is important for the handler to provide order (or what we like to call operational clarity). Without the presence of order presented by the handler the dog creates his own order. In this case - person = bark and lunge.
Humans, interestingly enough, are not much different. Case in point: a global pandemic created chaos. In an effort to create some semblance of control and order many panic bought . As I write this I laugh because I definitely had my things I did that maybe were not super rational- but felt good to do because in all the chaos of covid, feeling some sense of control and order was comforting.
Recognizing dogs and humans share a common desire to have order in chaos - working to rehabilitate a dog like Zeus is just a matter of creating a more constructive order. One that doesn’t require him feeling the burden of dealing with new people alone. Here you see him holding a climb command. Now I am training him with a bite suit on for these first few days out of abundance of caution but he is QUICKLY settling in as he learns a new way to navigate being around myself and Kat. He’s been here for 3 days, the muzzle is off, I even managed a tail wag and some enthusiasm out of Zeus today as we worked in the sunshine.
I am excited to see his confidence grow as he continues to channel his sense of order into productive tasks in the presence of what would have made him otherwise stressed or uncertain.
Been a chaotic year for both humans and k9s...make working your dog a productive order to enjoy:)