Last week I posted a video on Facebook of my awesome students and their reformed reactive dogs on a pack walk on the Eastern Prom. Some wearing muzzles, all calmly passing dogs, bikes, and people. Triggers that used to make a field trip like this impossible for these teams.
Owners were relaxed, laughing, chatting, and connecting with each other… something that people who don’t have reactive dogs take advantage of. No one was hyper-aware, blocking their dogs from view or running off the trail with cookies begging for attention. Other path walkers cheered at the “parade” of dogs and it was a beautiful and successful event. I am proud as hell of these people who worked and continue to work their butts off to enrich their dogs’ lives.
But one person who saw that video didn’t see relaxed dogs and owners. She saw an owner or two carrying a e-collar receiver. That’s all she saw.
The ugly words she left as a comment were clearly written from someone who has never lived or dealt with a highly reactive dog. Who has never been on edge every time a leash was clipped on the collar, thinking, “maybe he will be different this time”. Has never walked their dog with muscles tense, holding their breath when another dog comes over the horizon. Ready for the explosion with treat in hand to distract. Scanning the area, looking for cover.
To me, her comment was the cruelest thing you could say to someone who has gone to multiple trainers and has been working on the challenge for years. Someone who finally found a system and a tool that finally broke barriers and gave them a healthy and balanced relationship with their dog.
Anyone who thinks of using an e-collar to “fast track” reactivity using a series of corrections is an idiot. Building a solid foundation and then using an e-collar to help with directions and manufacture calming signals that have previously been ignored, working emotional thresholds, practicing many repetitions with neutral dogs and teaching the owner HOW to advocate for their dog takes time and commitment. A lot of it. No one comes into my reactive dog program because they haven’t tried patience. Most come in with tears, frustration and a love for a dog that is so evident, my own chest hurts for them.
I have been where they are. I was patient. I think of all the things I did; the harnesses, the new brand of treats, the books, the videos. But I learned that ALL those things I did gave me the education I needed to help people. All that great foundation work I did with my dog, Brees, DID help. He just needed more clarity for it all to come together in his head. And when he was 6 years old, I learned that it wasn’t about me and my good feels. It was about helping him navigate his place in the world, and now his world is so much bigger than I ever thought possible. He is a happier and more relaxed dog. Still sassy with his big personality intact. I will continue educating myself on how to help dogs with reactivity and create better relationships between dogs and people, and will not allow the bullies of the world to dictate the direction of that path.
I deleted the comment and blocked the person who said it from the MDTC Facebook page. There is no room in my world for that ugliness. I will delete and block anyone who posts anything ugly, because as long as my students advocate for their dogs, I will ALWAYS advocate for my students – my kick ass tribe.