Reactive Rovers

Over the past couple of months I’ve been coming to terms with being the owner of a reactive dog. Vulpe’s behaviour has, in this respect, worsened lately. She’s been through a tremendous amount of change, and has always been a rather sensitive soul, so now at 1 year, 8 months and 2 weeks (ish) old, she is very much a reactive rover…. (I saw this term on line somewhere and being a huge fan of alliteration, had to include it….)

Vulpe attended positive training classes as a pup; a puppy class and an adolescent class. I started up a puppy socialisation group in my local area so she could meet lots of new people and dogs. She goes out 3 days a week for a big ol’ romp with her lovely doggy walker and whichever other dogs are out that day.

One of Vulpe's poochy pals.

One of Vulpe’s poochy pals.

Currently Vulpe’s trainer and I are working through her reactivity while out on walks to both people and dogs. Every. Single. Walk is a training session, and boy do we get though lots of smoked cheese…..

However, without giving up on trying as hard as I can to slowly change her behaviour over time (and reduce her anxiety on walks and meeting new people) I am finally beginning to accept her as she is.

The day she came home.

The day she came home.

When my ex-partner and I went to collect Vulpe from a cold and windy service station after she’d been transported over from Romania, a little shivering bundle of fox cub-like terror was handed over to me, and it felt like I was being handed my first born. I love Vulpe more than anything, more or less. I have almost endless patience for her (which is saying a lot for me) and I do my best to make her life as happy as possible, but my constant worrying about what a bad job I’m doing of being her caregiver can’t be good for either of us…..not to mention the shock and horror of strangers when Vulpe barks and lunges and them and/or their dog(s)…..

Photo 28-12-2013 16 35 10

How could I not adore this bundle of madness?

What helped to crystallise all this for me recently was this lovely post on My Imperfect Dog, which seemed to put a lot of my recent thoughts into the right words.

So I think I might need to take a new direction….. Vulpe’s young, and I hope more than anything that her reactivity will lessen over time, but I must accept that it might not. She and I will be together for at least another 10-15 years I hope, and so now I need to start working with her as she is, slap on a Yellow Dog vest and work around her significant emotional baggage!

This new direction has led me to seeking out some sympathetic fellow reactive dog owners….. I was directed towards this group on Facebook, and I hope to find many more resources. When the only people you encounter are those who’ve only experienced sociable and friendly dogs, you can feel very inadequate and judged.

I’m hoping that coming to terms with the dog that I have rather than the dog I feel I should have will help me to relax and concentrate on making life as stress-free as possible for both Vulpe and me.

Do any of you have reactive dogs? Do you have any hints or tips on keeping sane, or any virtual support groups you would recommend?

My Perfect Imperfect Pooch <3

My Perfect Imperfect Pooch <3

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4 thoughts on “Reactive Rovers

  1. Jenny I am also the owner of a reactive dog called Henry. I have had him since he was 8 months old and I adore him. From what I know of his early life he wasn’t socialised as a pup and left alone a lot. He was fearful of me when we first met but as soon as we left the house he was like a different dog. I was in two minds about whether to take him on but in the end decided he couldn’t be left where he was. I feel your pain about other dog owners and their reaction to your dog. Henry doesn’t bark and growl but he stares, starts pulling, lunging and jumping. If the other dog gets too close he will lunge, air snap and nuzzle punch. He has been on group walks with dog walkers and he’s been to doggy day care so I know he can behave around other dogs. I have been working on his behaviour whilst out on walks using conter conditioning and behavioural adjustment therapy and its quite exhausting. He will also react to people as well tends to be more men, cyclists, screaming children etc. Dogs off lead especially those intent on interfering with my dog are the biggest bain of my life. Only last week we had an altercation with a dog that refused to leave us alone even though we were trying to walk off in the other direction.

  2. Pingback: Northern Vegan Fair 2017 (and a hell-hound) - Jenny Marie

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