Dogs with big feelings!
Observe your dog's body language and learn what upsets (triggers) them. Then avoid it and/or create as much as distance as possible until you are able to work with a dog professional who can coach you and your dog to help your dog feel safe. Each dog is an individual and training plans are customized based on you and your dog's needs. It's teamwork.
Did you know that most reactivity is fear-based? Please be kind and avoid "corrections", punishment, and verbal intimidation. Imagine being so afraid and having a loved one punish you to stop being so afraid? It might temporarily suppress your reaction or cause you to escalate your feelings. For sensitive people, our relationship and trust with our loved one would be damaged. Pause and reflect on your dog's emotional well-being.
Please do not "flood" your dog by placing them in a position where there is no escape except to "face their fear". For example, my guardian or loved one puts me inside a cage in the ocean with sharks swimming around me to help me get over my fear of sharks. Do you think that would be helpful? Kindly advocate for your dog, the way you would want your loved one to advocate for you.
Each dog determines what is scary for them (as silly as it might seem to us). Their fear is real. They are not trying to give you a hard time, they are having a hard time. Imagine being in fear for your life. What do you do?
Run away, hide, freeze from fear, yell, and if you are too close you may choose to fight for your life.
We highly recommend using force-free methods to build a healthy relationship with our dog(s). We want to give them agency and offer dogs freedom to make choices and setting up or managing the environment to prevent unwanted behavior.
Please do not use treats to get a dog closer to a scary object. For example, if a dog is afraid of people, we do not give a stranger a super delicious treat to entice the dog to get closer. The dog may run up to the stranger and take the treat then look up and realize that he is too close to the stranger! This is a good way to get bit.
Let's focus on helping our dog feel safe. First, avoid whatever your dog is afraid of in order to prevent him/her from reacting to the scary object. This may mean limiting walks and avoiding new places. You can always engage your dog's nose by doing an Easter Egg Hunt by hiding treats and/or toys in the house, backyard, or in a safe area. Sniffing is an excellent way to mentally stimulate your dog's brain and help them relax.
Next, find ways to enhance their world (see Enrichment). This includes mental stimulation (sniffing, chewing, and licking). Dogs see the world through their nose (equivalent to what social media or reading is to us) and many Malamutes enjoy foraging and scavenging for food in a safe and fun manner. Perhaps, killing the squeaker in a stuffed animal that you hide for them to find. You can get replaceable squeakers online.
You know your dog best. Here are several educational resources to provide insight and ideas on how to help your dog feel safe. Learning the emergency U-turn is a fun way to engage with your dog on walks and then use it in case of an emergency. Build muscle memory together while playing fun games at home. Please be patient and go slow versus being pushy and then your dog explodes with scary behavior because they are over their threshold and no longer in control of their feelings. It is difficult to work backwards after a traumatic event like a dog bite or a dog fight.
Michael Shikashio, CDBC
FREE Webinars understanding reactive dogs with Michael Shikashio
FREE Online Training Course
the Dog Enrichment course
the Leash Reactive Dog course
Get A Calm, "Reactivity & Aggression."
The Reactive Dog with Dr. Leslie Sinn CPDT-KA, DVM, DACVB
"Control Unleashed” – help for your distracted, anxious, reactive, or easily aroused dog
How to Build Your Dog's Confidence --- critical for fearful and reactive dogs
Dr. Sophia Yin
Jones Animal Behavior
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Resource Guarding in Dogs: A Fear Free Approach: https://youtu.be/LnSUerpBt1U