My Reactive Dog Doesn’t Like Horses
You know what the worst part about dog training is for me? It never ends. Just when I think I’ve got Laika under control she reverts back to previous bad behaviors. What’s even worse is that it’s my fault for slacking off on training after things go well.
I forget that she isn’t perfect, and neither am I.
Lesson learned. If you have a reactive dog don’t assume things are all going to be perfectly well; just because your dog hasn’t exhibited the behavior recently doesn’t mean that they’re cured. I’ve come along way with Laika. Most walks nowadays are uneventful; which for a reactive dog owner makes you quite proud.
Today I forgot that I had a reactive dog. Well I didn’t completely forget, but I overestimated how far we’ve come and what possibilities are out there for us. For some reason in my mind I decided today would be the day that Laika and I would meet some horses.
My neighbor has two beautiful horses. We’ve often admired them from afar, sometimes getting within 6 feet. Just casually walking by with my reactive dog, proud of the fact that she seems so nonchalant about just being near some horses. If you are the owner of a reactive dog I know you understand.
While I was out walking Laika today I decided I really wanted to go say hi to those horses, perhaps even pet them. I tested out Laika by walking closer and closer to their fence, gauging her reaction; what us reactive dog owners politely call our dogs personal “threshold.” She was doing fine, showing a little interest but showing way more interest to amazing smells on the ground.
I managed to get within arms reach of the horses behind the electric fence. Both of which had approached us with great interest by now. To my surprise Laika kept her nose to the ground investigating whatever gross stuff she could find. I walked back and forth a few times to make sure she really wasn’t interested in the horses. She wasn’t.
I was amazed. I thought it would be a great opportunity to test her even more.
She was on a loose leash but considering we were very close to an electric fence I didn’t want to take any risks so I reined her in to heel next to me. She looked up at me waiting for the next cue, which I took as a sign that she was still doing pretty well.
We inched up closer and closer to the pair of horse faces waiting to greet us. I reached out and gave one of them a nice pat on the face. Laika didn’t mind, she just sat obediently by my side. I pet the second horse. Dog still sitting and waiting, looking for her next cue.
Suddenly Laika wasn’t reactive anymore; in my eyes she was miraculously cured. All the years of training, behavior specialists, and classes had finally paid off. I thought I’d give my now suddenly non reactive dog a little more room to wander.
As soon as I gave her a few inches she lunged ahead, snapping and growling. I think she managed to get within 6 inches of the horses face. Luckily the horse backed away and I was able to pull her back in towards me.
Training my reactive dog begins again tomorrow. I’ll treat every walk as I have been doing for years; with planning, treats, and caution.
Never assume your reactive dog is cured.