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How to Use BDA Even if Your Dog is Reactive

Choosing the Right Adventure

Odie is a great dog! When he’s relaxed and in his element, he’s so well behaved. I dream of going on adventures, dog play groups, and restaurant patio lunches. Then we step out along the main road for a short walk during peak evening rush hour, a switch flips. Odie’s gaze is locked. He’s pulling on his leash and barking like he’s defending us from the largest monster you’ve ever seen. It’s no monster though. It’s a just a runner, and then another one, and a bus. Oh, and one more runner.

Like many dogs, Odie has his triggers. It makes joining in some of the dog activities difficult, but that doesn’t stop us from adventuring. I keep an eye on events and meetups posted in BDA and other dog groups. When there’s a good fit for where Odie is in his training, we go! We both enjoy meeting new dogs and their owners. In our outings so far, the owners have all been understanding and supportive of our training process. Most of them are working on their own issues too. It can be challenging to engage with the other owners at first because I need to be 100% focused on training Odie. He usually settles into the activity after a bit, which then allows me to chat with the other owners. I also take mental notes on how they are handling their dogs and how I can do better with Odie.

In addition to meeting new dogs and people, it’s nice to break up our routine with an adventure. We’ve been to meetups at the Fells, pack walks, and even a pizza party. The pizza party was by far the biggest challenge: a small patio with all the pizza smells a dog could dream of and so many dog friends to meet. With constant feedback and direction (and some strategic positioning), Odie did a fantastic job! I was impressed with how well he followed my instruction. The outing wasn’t physically taxing for him, but boy did he nap afterwards! He was wiped out from two hours of not jumping, not barking, and not eating pizza. Well, until the very end, when he and his bestie shared a special pup friendly slice.

Through these adventures, I’ve learned that Odie behaves a bit differently when we’re in group settings and in new places. He tends be distracted by the smells and also takes cues from the other dogs. It’s not a drastic behavior change, but it’s enough for a training opportunity. He still dislikes runners and let’s everyone know about it. But, he’ll pause, ever so briefly first. That split second before he reacts is a golden training opportunity. There’s hope that I can redirect his attention. The more times it happens, the better we both get. Occasionally, he completely ignores a runner! (Usually when he’s nose deep in the best smell ever.) During those rare moments, I reward his excellent behavior, and he makes progress in learning runners aren’t all that bad. We’re still working on the runner thing, and these adventures give us an excellent training opportunity. It’s just a matter of picking the adventures he can handle.

-Natasha A, BDA member

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