I’m at K9 Nose Work Camp in Cleveland, GA. It’s in the foothills of the mountains, a beautiful place, really. But along with the beauty comes wildlife. I’m not a city-girl (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so I’m used to critters. Heck, I pick up bumblebees, save spiders, and move toads out of the dogs’ reach. I’m pro-wildlife.
Just as I’d moved everything into my cabin, this big old snake comes slithering by. I’m ok with snakes and other slithering creatures as long as they stay outside, especially if I’m inside.
After my snake encounter, I found myself jumping at slightest noise in the leaves. I investigated every room I entered, checking for a snake or lizard or salamander.
I now have a small idea of what reactive dogs go through. I know my reactivity isn’t logical. I know snakes don’t want to get close to me. However: I’m now hyper-vigilant whenever I hear something move in the leaves. I jump at the slightest movement or sound. It could be a bird hopping among the leaves, it doesn’t matter. I’m getting the heck away from there — and quick!
This morning, on my way to breakfast, yet again, something moved in the leaves. It’s been two days since my snake run-in (with no other snake spottings), but I yelped and jumped. Run first, investigate later.
My heart was racing and I felt almost angry. When further inspection revealed the creature that made the noise — a toad, for goodness sake! — I was rattled. A toad? I pick these things up all the time. I am definitely not afraid of a toad. But that one experience — and it wasn’t a terrible one, nothing awful happened to me (except I was scared) — has now molded my entire camp experience. If I had to live the rest of my life like this, I would be a very unhappy person. Thankfully, I know this reactivity will naturally fade.
If I were a dog, I think I would probably have bitten the closest thing to me. Just out of frustration, adrenaline, and anxiety. And if my owner hired a trainer who would correct me for my reaction to the noises in the leaves, I know I would bite! My reaction is reflexive – I’m not thinking before I yelp and jump. And lastly, being reactive is exhausting; it’s frustrating!
If you have a reactive dog, know that they aren’t being reactive just to annoy you. They aren’t reactive because they want to be. They’re reactive because they can’t help it.
Great post L, I think a lot of people will now be able to relate and understand more of what a reactive dog could be going through. 🙂
What a great post! Our Rex, age 4 1/2 golden retriever is leash/barrier reactive to other dogs. We work tirelessly (well, somewhat tiredly) on it, and he slowly gets better. But this helps me walk in his paws for a little while, and understand why it is so hard for him to give up this behavior. Rex says thank you for helping his Momma learn!
Pup Fan says
Really good point – helps put being reactive in perspective!
Jan Reid says
Well said Laurie! Jan
Well said. As I’m working to help Honey feel comfortable with surfaces moving under her feet, I’m remembering how I feel standing close to a window in a very high building.
It’s not rational. And my whole body feels fear.
It gives me a lot of appreciation for how hard Honey works on her fears as part of our training.