What is a complicated dog? A dog who may overly react (lunge, growl, bark excessively) to other dogs and humans. Even those dogs we love, that have bitten another being. It is their behavior, in certain contexts, that is complicated but for this purpose I call them complicated. I have one and am in love with my bud and heart, Chai.
Let’s celebrate Beans and his human Grace. This team has worked hard to help Beans navigate the scary world and offer outlets for his big feelings. He may stare, growl, bark and lunge at people or dogs. Grace has created a bubble or safe space for Beans along with some nose work fun to enrich his world and mind. It all began with an email on my contact form:
Today, Beans still has big feelings and is not ready to greet everyone he meets and that is fine. The goal is not to make Beans into another dog or version of himself. The goal is to prevent him from going over threshold and offer a variety of alternative behaviors to gain space from scary things in this world. Beans is a smart pup and Grace is devoted to him and to enhancing his life while keeping him and others safe.
Here is what Grace has to say about her journey with Beans:
Beans was adopted at ~11 months old from Dog Gone Seattle. Beans had been picked up as a stray somewhere along I-5, and was identified as reactive to other dogs on leash. Reactivity to people was not identified as an issue, and initially, Beans was fine with guests at the house even had a couple of our friends and family members he was comfortable playing and snuggling with. However, as time went on, his reactivity to dogs on leash got worse (lunging, barking, growling and spinning literally the moment he spotted a dog, even if it was football field away), and he became more reactive to strangers on leash. He also became less and less tolerant of guests at the house (staring, growling, muzzle punching, snapping), including friends/family he’d previously been comfortable around. I was working with a couple of balanced trainers during this time, but negative reinforcement seemed to be contributing to Beans’ worsening reactivity.
When I stumbled across Ann’s blog post about Chai’s bubble, I immediately reached out, and Beans has been making strides ever since! We’ve created our own bubble to limit Beans’ exposure to triggers as much as possible while working diligently on teaching him how to offer alternative behaviors and building his confidence with nose work games, all the while sorting out dosage of anti-anxiety medication with our vet. About a year later, Beans can remain calm in another room when guests are over, and now when Beans sees strangers from the living room window, more often than not he comes to me for treats and direction. Our outside bubble has expanded to the top of our long driveway. In this outside bubble, Beans can easily stay focused on me and our training even with neighbor kids running around; he can straight up ignore the neighbor dogs when they come to our fence (before he was growling and snapping if I wasn’t able to intercept in time); and he can somewhat ignore the dog across the street at the top of the driveway (another reactive dog that barks and growls at everything going by) – now Beans will whine and lunge once, but then correct himself and turn back to focus on me and what we’re doing. We’re working to expand his outdoor bubble, with a few quiet spots for decompression walks and one park that offers enough distance where he can watch strangers and other dogs should they appear without going over threshold (and Beans can be closer than a football field away now!). We’re especially excited to continue our nose work sessions with Ann as these are really helping to build his confidence, and maybe soon he’ll feel confident enough that Ann won’t have to sit behind a doggy gate while we’re at the studio!