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Your "softness" is not why your reactive dog keeps reacting!

We hear this a lot, "you need to have confident energy or your dog will pick up on it and that's why they are reacting!"

This common saying shifts the blame on the "energy" of the owners. Since energy is so abstract, many owners then become very discouraged and just resign to "it's because of the way l am that my dog acts like this. But since l can't change it, l will just have to live with it."

Their lack of confidence - or "softness" as some like to call it - is not the reason why their dogs keep reacting. But they don't know that.

They think they need to appear confident in front of their dogs but they can't because deep down they know their dogs could react suddenly, they have seen how scary it looks, and they have no idea how to stop it. They keep trying and keep getting discouraged and this vicious cycle continues.

They have been told to focus on the wrong problem, so they cannot find the right solution.

Asking a lay person to stop feeling anxious in that situation is like telling a drowning person who can't swim to "just act confident and you won't drown!"

The real solution is not about how to pretend to be confident when it's very normal to feel anxious; it is about knowing how to have control of the situation both in preventing your dog from reacting and in stopping the reaction if and when it does happen so you can stop the reaction in real. Having that control will then give you and your dog the confidence required.

If you don't know how to drive a car, no matter how confident and calm you pretend to be, you will crash your car. Confidence alone will not keep you from crashing. On the other hand, you can be a very "soft" person - but given proper driving instructions - drive a car safely for decades without any accident.

Your so called "energy" is important in the sense that you still need to be able to stay focused even when things look chaotic. If you just freeze, then of course you will fail. If you forget everything because you are too nervous, then it won't work.

But even if you are feeling nervous inside (which is really normal by the way), as long as you can still do what you are supposed to, you will have control and your dog will follow.

You can feel nervous in the middle of a pool but as long as you remember how to swim and keep doing it, you can get to the other side without drowning. Feeling confident alone won't get you there if you can't swim; but as long as you know how to swim - and don't give up trying - you will get there even if you may not appear very confident while doing it. And it's okay!

Confidence will come as you keep having repeated success. And those successful experiences will help you to become more fluent and proficient in communicating with your dog in those stressful moments - hence helping your dog to feel more safe and relaxed around you so both of you will feel more confident and in control as time goes by.

Stop blaming yourself. Stop thinking it's something you cannot control that's making your dog react. Stop thinking you need to change your entire personality in order to help your dog. It's not true. It's the other way around.

This "energy" will come naturally with practice. Don't think about it too much until then. And certainly don't get down on yourself over this. It's normal to feel nervous when you are learning something new. Just keep learning and keep practising and you will get there!

Hope this makes sense.

Walking a very aggressive GSD hands free.

1 commentaire

14 avr.

Thank you so much for this post. I have had a number of people and one trainer who have told me my dog is reactive because of my "anxious" or "soft" energy. My dog is a Sharpei/Staffordshire mix who was friendly with all dogs and people until she reached around 18 months. Then everything changed. She became "aggressive" at the dog park (never biting, just a lot of sound and fury) to the point where I stopped taking her there. So many dog owners were upset with me due to her behaviour. Since then, she is always on-leash and reactive to most dogs we pass by. I have hired a trainer who told me it's my anxious energy that's causing…

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