“Reactive” dog? It’s time to turn struggle to strength!

tomA Naughty But Nice (NBN) dog is exactly how it sounds - they are nice, beautiful, loveable dogs underneath but sometimes they make bad choices! These bad choices might be because they are easily overexcited, overaroused, reactive, frustrated, worried, scared or anxious! They might make these bad choices because they find it impossible to be calm, need to be calmer or maybe have a high desire to chase, hunt, sniff or herd!

Naughty but nice dogs are often termed aggressive, reactive, angry, overconfident, EVIL - but - you know your dog isn’t any of those things really, they just need to be taught to make better choices and be happier about the things in their life! In fact, many of the things that NBN dogs do are often motivated by FEAR!

They are labelled this way because, quite often, the behaviours they choose to deal with their anxiety, fear or frustration are deemed not all that appropriate in situations. They might choose to lunge, bark or even bite or they might become unresponsive, lose their recall or run away!

You may feel alone, but you aren’t! We have been through it, we know you can turn this into a strength and, most importantly, we know it can be FUN! In fact, there’s an entire FaceBook support group devoted to the Naughty But Nice revolution with thousands of members.

Over a series of blogs, I’m going to share with you as a vet, trainer and behaviourist, what I have found to be pivotal in turning struggle to strength with my own NBN dogs and my students and patients too. In this blog, I share the first two - and here’s the thing - we aren’t even getting onto the training yet but, even with the best NBN training in the world, without these two things, you aren’t going to succeed.

First of all, it’s all about community. It feels like the world looks at you and shakes its head every time your dog does something “naughty”. We have all been there, right? We have all had the head shakes, the rolling of eyes, the nasty remarks. What’s worse is that quite often these gestures are from fellow dog owners - dog owners who have never had the amazing experience of working with our loved Naughty But Nice dogs. In working with your NBN dog, you have got to surround yourself with the right people. People that are going support you through struggles, celebrate your successes and give 100% criticism- and negativity-free advice. Surround yourself with the right people and truly you are half way there.

The second, fundamental change to make is a habit in you. It’s human nature to see struggles as problems, struggles as something you don’t want, struggles as something to fear. Here’s the thing. All of the NBN owner-dog teams that I have met over the years (and likewise for our own dogs) have encountered struggles. But. Time and time again I’ve seen that with every struggle that is worked through with the right training and the right people around you, that struggle transforms into a strength. For example, that recall disaster in the park last week can and will become a flawless recall. That lunging and barking mess at the end of the lead this morning can and will become a bombproof, joyful optimist. That inability to be calm in the house or that crazy desire to chase sheep or whatever it may be for you, will become your strength! But that will only start to happen as soon as you start to look at struggles as opportunities, opportunities to have yet another awesome strength, build your team further and cement your relationship with your NBN dog.

Right, in the next blog, we are going to be looking at the training aspect of working with NBN dogs, specifically how to build real-life impulse control (not just self-control that works with a few bits of kibble in your living room but doesn’t translate to that squirrel in the field).

In the meantime, start working with your NBN dog with the games in this eBook.

… and don’t forget to head on over to the Naughty But Nice FaceBook support group to share your struggles and make them strengths. 

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Positively Expert: absoluteDogs

Tom is a veterinarian, clinical behaviourist and companion and sports dog trainer, providing a unique perspective on all things dog.


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