Updated: Apr 1
Being aware of the Ladder of Aggression and dog communication is vital for every dog owner, but it’s even more crucial if you live with a dog who struggles to cope with stress or displays reactive behaviours. Whether your dog struggles with frustration-based reactivity or fear-based behaviours, identifying the signals is the first step of behavioural modification.
It’s impossible to change how your dog feels if you’re not able to identify those early warning signs and step in when your dog needs help. Reactive behaviours will not resolve themselves, and usually a reactive dog will only get worse unless careful management is put in place, ideally alongside a good training plan. It's also important to be aware that many reactive dogs will rarely get to the stage where they become a 'social butterfly' and many require lifelong management.
Where to Begin
Time and space are essential.
When it comes to reactivity, there is no quick-fix so prepare for a lengthy process of training and management. TIME is also crucial when you’re working with your dog. Keep your training sessions short and limit the time based on how your dog is coping … if stress is increasing, get out of the situation. TIME also covers your responses … if you are slow to react or notice what your dog is communicating then your dog is left experiencing stress for a longer duration so don’t take your eye off what is going on. Your TIMING could be the difference between keeping your dog in the green zone and him exploding up to RED.
SPACE is what every fearful dog is ultimately looking for. If your dog is worried by other dogs or people, his signals will be asking for SPACE. At any point on the ladder, the first reaction from you should be to create SPACE, when you have done this, you can then decide whether to work through the situation or get out of there!