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.
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.