When discussing reactivity issues in dogs, the last two headings cannot be over estimated enough.
Physical issues are often the case of many behavioural problems.
There are two facets to physical issues that create issues of reactivity in dogs.
The first aspect of ‘physical’ issues, isn’t really an issue but a commitment. This is the question of does your dog have enough physical stimulation and exercise.
This is a subject I feel so passionate about. I feel strongly about exercising my dogs, regardless of the weather, day, amount of time i have…I walk my dogs…
A conservative day, would be just an hour walk. But this would be a rarity. Generally, speaking I would walk my dogs for at least 90mins. And there is walking your dogs, and there is WALKING your dog. I make an effort to make the walk an ‘adventure’. I picked the steepest hill, the most wooded area, beaches to go swimming, or a lake to dive in…. I like to vary the walks I take my dogs on. I LOVE to walk them, as much for my peace of mind as theirs. There is nothing more gratifying then walking up the Sussex downs, after a long day at the ‘office’. I am blessed to live in an area where I can walk in a different setting every day, and not see a single soul. However, this wasn’t always the case and my commitment to walking my dogs was still paramount. Even when I lived in my two bed flat in London with 5 dogs, I walked them religiously. I made the commitment to do so. In London, I didn’t have the ‘luxury’ of not meeting people, if I choose not to. I had to ‘run’ the gauntlet of over friendly labradors, and out of control cockerpoo’s on a daily basis….
My walks aren’t always about physical challenging my dogs, sometimes its about letting them explore, sniff, root around just be dogs. Letting them get the wind under their tail, tear around at top speed…. physical exercise increases endorphins, which in themselves are addictive and give you the feel good factor…. for dogs that have confidence issues, exercise can literally change their demeanour.
Try to vary your walks… variety is the spice of life. Invest in your recall, so that you can allow your dog freedom, when and where appropriate. Pent up physical energy can manifest itself in behavioural issues, ensure that you alleviate that as a probability.
The other aspect of physicality that can affect issues of ‘reactivity’, is physical well being and soundness. If your dog has pain, discomfort or an underlying physical issue, this could trigger an outburst of aggression of defensiveness. Thyroid issues have been shown to create aggression, if you dog suddenly has a out of character reaction, consider pain as a cause or reason. Subtle physical changes in coat, movement, posture and energy may indicate a underlying physical issue, which may manifest itself as reactivity. Imagine how you feel if you have a headache, and someone is full of energy trying to clamber all over you…
Ensuring your dog is physically fit and sound, by regular exercise, and consulting professionals is a wise investment. Prevention is better then cure, when it comes to physical fitness. Chiropractors, Osteopaths, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, laser treatment are all great ways to ensure your dog is in the best of physical health.
Physical well being and mental well being are interlinked…. ensure you work at both.