Scaredy Dog: Understanding and Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog – Ali Brown
I got this book a few months back when I finally accepted that Phoebe was truly a reactive dog and that the fear aggression wasn’t just going to magically disappear on its own – I would have to put in some serious work with her.
While scouring amazon this book caught my eye and I thought it looked like a good place to start.
The Blurb: When dogs growl at other dogs, lunge at people and bark at everything it’s often mislabeled as “aggression.” But behavior that looks like aggression is often fear-based and should be treated as such. The appropriate term for this constellation of behaviors is “reactivity.” This book helps dog owners and trainers to understand the reactive dog and help him change for the better. The process is easy to grasp, and once the changes begin to take shape, owners become so encouraged that improving their dog’s behavior suddenly becomes fun and exciting!
If your dog can’t pay attention to you in public places, doesn’t behave like a good member of the family when guests visit, and loses control when other dogs are nearby, this book has a lot to offer. All training methods and classroom techniques are non-force and based on developing a ‘working relationship’ with your dog. Easy to read and understand, 148 pages, with 68 photographs and graphics to help you improve behavior and solve problems.
What I Thought: I’m happy I started here because this book is written in a way that is simple and easy to understand. The problems experienced by owners of reactive dogs are clearly spelt out and Brown covers all aspects that may affect your dog and your training decisions. She covers nutrition, environment, how positive reinforcement works, and the steps of training at a constant, but comfortable rate. There are also handy pictures to help you better understand the training method she’s explaining.
The training methods are all based on positivity and learning positive behaviours and responses, and explains why the “dominance” or “fear based” training methods that many (*ahem, I’m lookin’ at you Mr Milan*) espouse are actually harmful for dogs who are already in emotional turmoil.
Though I had heard a lot of the tips before, reading them helped it all to finally sink in and allow me to become more relaxed when walking with Phoebe. I had to learn that sometimes I need to calmly turn away from anything ahead that would potentially upset Phoebe, and get her used to the stimuli of another dog at a slow pace and in an environment that I felt I had as much control over as possible. Phoebe had to learn that I would always only make decisions that would keep her safe and happy, and that would mean not only having control over the situation, but also only ever setting her up for success.
A note on the title: this book is not for owners of dogs who experience general fear and anxiety, but specifically targets reactive behaviour. So if your dog is hyper reactive to dogs or people, lunges, barks and gets upset, then this is the book for you!
Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:
Issue Addressed: Dog Reactivity
Tool(s) Used: Book Resource
Ease of Implementation: Easy to Moderate. The training tips and suggestions are easy to implement, but you will need to be consistent and dedicate enough time to training.
Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 4/5
Have you read any good books or articles on Reactivity? Do you think they add value, or do you prefer “hands-on” learning?