Fear, Reactivity & Aggression
Debbie Jacobs has been living with and training her fearful dog, Sunny, since she discovered him in a hurricane rescue camp in 2005. In this book, Debbie shares what she's learned, in order to help the owners of other scared/fearful/shy dogs.
"A Guide to Living With & Training a Fearful Dog" covers the basics of everything you need to know to help your fearful dog learn to cope better with the world around him.
Debbie writes about how Sunny came into her life, and what living with an extremely fearful dog is like. (Sunny came from an animal hoarding situation, where he missed out on crucial socialization with people as a puppy, and was further traumatized by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.) This sets the stage for the rest of the book, where she walks readers through what they'll need to know to help their own dogs
The advice Debbie gives can help any dog with fearful tendencies, whether they're "just a little shy" or cowering in a corner. Using a combination of training, counterconditioning (pairing good things with the dog's triggers to change how the dog feels about those scary things), and desensitization (keeping the dog "sub-threshold" rather than overwhelming him in fearful situations), Debbie has brought Sunny a long way since she first met him. She outlines these techniques in clearly understandable language.
Topics include "Training Jargon and Techniques," "Treats and Rewards," "Triggers and Thresholds: The Basics," and "Equipment and Supplies." Other chapters address specific situations and how to help your dog through them, such as "My Dog is Scared of Me" and "Getting a Dog to Play." (Play can be liberating and relaxing, but some fearful dogs never learned how to play.)
Each chapter in this book is short and to the point. Although packed with useful information, the book is a quick read. The book ends with a section on "Recommended Books" for those who want to learn more, from the authors Debbie turned to in her own journey with Sunny. (You'll find several of the same books reviewed here on this website: they're generally recognized as the "best of class" by dog-friendly trainers.)
If you have a fearful dog, or know someone who does, this book will get you started on the right path.
In Part I, Nicole Wilde explains the difference between fear and aggression (many "aggressive" dogs are actually reacting out of fear) and how to recognize each. She discusses various causes of fear, and some tips for prevention. There's a chapter on "the face of fear" (how to recognize the specific body language and vocalizations that indicate a fearful dog) and another chapter on human body language and how to use your own body language to help your fearful dog.
Part II sets the "Foundation for a Calm Dog." This section presents Nicole's "Firm Foundation System" which focuses on management, physical well-being, leadership, and training to help your fearful dog. This information is completely compatible with similar foundation-building chapters in "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons. ("Click to Calm" is a must-have book if your dog is also reactive -- barking and lunging etc. -- in fearful situations.) "Help for Your Fearful Dog" also explains the roles of nutrition, excercise, and mental stimulation in reducing stress and anxiety.
Part III has step-by-step instructions for teaching "Skills" that will help you and your dog cope with scary situations. These include exercises in relaxation, attention, and targeting (teaching your dog to touch things on cue). There's also helpful advice on skills you can use to help teach your dog the skills he'll need.
Part IV provides a complete behavior modification program that builds on all the previous chapters. Topics covered include equipment, handling skills (how to control and direct your dog's behavior without adding to his fears), techniques (including classical conditioning, counterconditioning, desensitization, operant conditioning, and other scientifically based approaches to modifying behavior), all clearly explained. The vital topics of troubleshooting and measuring progress are also discussed here.
Part V covers specific fears and how best to help dogs learn appropriate behavior in these situations. The list of specific fears she covers is extensive, and includes fear and reactivity towards guests in the home, fear of family members, veterinary visits, fear of the car, crate, or stairs, thunderstorm phobia and sensitivity to sound, touch, and motion, and many more.
In Part VI, Nicole discusses complementary therapies. These include massage, TTouch, acupuncture and acupressure, homeopathy, flower essences, drug therapy, and aides such as body wraps calming caps, and DAP (Dog Appeasement Pheremones).
In sum, this is a comprehensive, well-written, well-founded in science and experience, and vital resource for anyone dealing with a fearful dog.
This behavior can lead to serious aggression issues, and should be addressed immediately. But punishment doesn’t work -- you’re likely to punish the growl out of the dog and thereby lose your “early warning system!” A dog who’s been taught not to growl (but still feels the same about “his stuff”) is likely to bite “without warning.” Mine! by Jeanne Donaldson presents a detailed program for teaching your dog to give things up willingly and to not just tolerate but actually like having people approach him even when he has “stuff.” A must-have for any owner of a resource-guarding dog.
Click to Calm by Emma Parsons, provides an excellent program of desensitization and counterconditioning to help aggressive and reactive dogs maintain themselves in their “thinking brain” rather than their “reacting brain.” The exercises in this book, when applied consistently and at the dog’s own pace, will gradually alter the dog’s perceptions and emotions, reducing fear and reactivity. “Recipes” for teaching specific skills are easy to follow and make a big difference in the handler’s ability to “read” the dog and keep the dog’s attention even in the face of distraction as well as the dog’s impulse control and ability to concentrate on the handler. Highly recommended for anyone with a “reactive” dog (who barks, snaps, lunges, or otherwise reacts in unwanted ways to other dogs or scary objects or even people).
This booklet offers practical training advice for improving the behavior of “feisty” dogs who growl, lunge, or bark at other dogs when on leash. Authors Patricia McConnell and Karen London explain how to teach essential skills, including “Watch” (”a little exercise with big results”), “U-Turn” (”to leave trouble behind”), and the “Emergency Sit/Stay (”and other useful panic buttons”).
Also included: “training tips worth remembering” and a section on prevention and management. The “Special Cases” chapter provides some solutions for dogs who are so afraid of other dogs they won’t even look at them (until they get too close, which can cause an explosion) and information on “Abandonment Training” which can be helpful with dogs who are a bit clingy and insecure and with dogs who may be possessive of their owners.
The Second Edition has been udpated with new information on equipment and updated information on teaching "Watch" and playing "Where's the Dog?" to help your dog maintain self control in the presence of other dogs.