What's Fetch's biggest challenge right now? Our foster parents are too good. They're awesome at introducing dogs slowly. They're really cautious with dogs and kids, and ensure safety for all involved. They're consistent and successful at potty training dogs, and many never have an accident. They're excited about training dogs, and work them through separation anxiety, door charging, leash reactivity, and stranger danger. They're adamant about getting their dogs the exercise they need. Overall, they're just phenomenal advocates for their foster dogs, and aren't afraid to stand up for them. Seriously, these foster parents kick butt! Sounds like a pretty great problem to have, right?
The problem comes into play when these Fetch dogs then go home with their new adoptive families. Everyone is flush with joy and love. There's cuddling and playtime and the treats overfloweth! It's tough to be the bad guy, but I'm here to tell you - you're not doing anyone any favors. While we work hard to keep our dogs placed in their adoptive homes (that's why they're called furever families, after all) through training and advice, it's often what happens when the trainer isn't around that makes or breaks you. So, here's some advice for you. Follow our steps -- listen to us! We really do know how these dogs work best.
Recently, an adopter who returned their small dog said to us, "We decided that if he ever bit someone, he would have to go back." This boggled the mind of many fosters. Not because we're blasé about dog bites, but because we don't let it get to that point in the first place.Waiting for a bite to happen is contrary to how we work with dogs with anxiety or behavioral issues.
The most critical part of training a dog out of her fear, anxiety, or just "snobby" aggressiveness is keeping her below "threshold" (aka. the point at which your dog starts showing any signs of stress, fear, aggression) at all times, and gradually exposing her to more "triggers" (aka. what she fears and what causes her to react) while she remains calm. To train a dog out of aggressiveness or fear, you need to set up an experiment where you gradually increase the level of triggers, as long as that dog is remaining below threshold. If you have a dog that is showing aggressive behavior, you need to work with a professional trainer that can help you with that experiment. Fetch actually has a training reimbursement program for our adopters, because we're so eager to get adopters and dogs into the classroom! However, before you begin working with the trainer, you need to focus on just managing your dog's stress level.
Let's take an example. If your dog is nervous around kids and shows warning signals, don't continue letting her around kids. You need to manage her interactions. So when your grandkids come to visit and the energy in the room is high and you see that your dog is chasing, nipping, growling, or cowering in the corner, just put her in a crate. Don't ask her to behave right now. You know that she's fearful, you know that she's a risk. Make the decision for her - put her in a position where she doesn't need to choose between pleasing you, and protecting herself. You can try to work on this another day, with a professional trainer.
So, if your dog is barking out the window, close the blinds. If your dog charges the door when someone comes over, put them on a leash. If your dog slips out of their collar while walking, getting a martingale collar. If your dog doesn't like strange dogs in their house, don't bring strange dogs over. You can work on fixing the issue, but first - let them feel safe.