Book: Phase one - Why Reactivity?

Why reactivity?

Why am I doing this book? Why is the topic reactivity in dogs? Why am I a canine behaviourist and trainer? Why do I want to help reactive dog owners?

Many questions, but the answer to which falls back to pretty much the same thing. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE. There has always been a calling for me, and I have always been drawn to dogs which are "special". I have all ways naturally had a deep appreciation and understanding of dogs, which are not comfortable with social interactions.

It was self-evident from a young age that I was going to work in the animal care sector, and my choice of career changed along the way slightly, but always on the topic of animal care. Initially wanting to be a zookeeper, then wanting to work abroad with orangutans, then wanting to go into vet nursing, finally choosing canine behaviour.

When I started to write the preface for my upcoming book, I began to delve deep into my past experiences with dogs, and it brought up very early memories of my grandparent's farm dog, Jack. He was a rescue and was very nervous. He was not used to children, so I had to take my time and not force myself upon him; he needed time to get used to me. You can read about how me and jack became friends in the book. I also recalled a lovely dog called sally; this was my great uncles' dog; just like Jack, she was not used to children, and I had to be extremely patient with her before becoming best buds. Sally was special because I got to see her several times a week. At that time I was being bullied ALOT at school. When I felt particularly low and sad I would cuddle her in the spare bedroom where she had her own single bed, and I would cry and talk to her, she was a great listener.

Fast forward several years and I have moved out of my parents and started my life with my husband. We rescued a dog Rocky from the vets I worked at. He had a few issues, scared of men initially, not house trained, not socialised, and no obedience what so ever. After having him with us for a few months, he started to display reactivity towards other dogs. We struggled with his reactive behaviour for years before implementing techniques to stop him from reacting. It was still an era of quick fix devices and tv shows with trainers showing how to dominate your unruly dog! Jesus, I have so much guilt for some of the equipment and techniques I used with rocky. But as I tell my clients, you can only do what you can with the knowledge you have at hand. If I knew what I know now, then rocky would have been very different, and it would have been accomplished using purely force-free techniques and more so helping him become more emotionally balanced and confident.

Anyway, as you will read in the book, my journey with rocky and his reactive behaviour gave me such an insight into what it is to live with a reactive dog. How guilty and lonely you can feel as an owner, helpless, exhausted, dreading taking them for a walk or having people to visit. You start to resent your dog, it causes arguments in your relationship, and you have long heartbreaking conversations about rehoming or for some put to sleep!

Over the last few years, I have realised that my passion for behaviour and training is helping to support both reactive dogs and their owners and i have ploughed hundreds of hours and spend hundreds of pounds investing my knowledge in dog reactivity through CPD training. During March 2021, when the country was hit by a worldwide pandemic and our country along with many others were forced into a lockdown, I had to very quickly adapt so my business could still continue. This led me to offer online services and virtual training sessions. I developed a five-day reactive dog challenge whereby I went live on Facebook every day to give owners essential knowledge and tips on understanding their dog's reactive episodes. This led to the development of an eight-week program which owners could sign up to. It is an eight-week program which covers everything from mindset, foundation skills, focus work, lead skills, equipment, education on thresholds, body language, trigger stacking, so the owner can understand their dog. It also covers emergency strategies, planning for walks or house visits, recovery protocols and much more. I had completed this course with a few clients, and at the end of it, I realised it would be helpful for them to have a go-to guide to refer back to with the key points and elements clearly highlighted to help keep them on track.

Then I thought, their needs to be a book for this. Yes, ok I am aware there are plenty of reactive dog books out there already, some of which I encourage my clients to buy. These books are fantastic in their own right. Yet, I feel there is a need for a book that not only gives a bit of education and understanding, after all that is the foundation and starting point of your dog's recovery, is to understand why you are implementing what you are. But there needs to be a step by step guide for owners so that they can cope every day with their reactive dog. Easy exercises and tasks they can do to help reduce their dogs daily reactive behaviour. An instant relief program if you will.

And so, here we are, the writing has very much begun, and I am going to be sharing my journey with you as I go. Look out every two weeks for my blog posts on how my book is coming along. Share with your friends, family colleagues. I want to help as many of you as possible, and I only wish that such a book was around when I had my boy rocky. Oh, how different things would have been.

I look forward to sharing more with you, although not to much on the book's text, as you will have to buy it to find out more! :)



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Gemma's Dog Training & Behaviour aim to help you help your dog. Whether its basic obedience or a complex behavioural problem Gemma can help.

Fully qualified and insured with over 10 years experience in the animal care sector.

 Copyright 2016 Gemma's Dog Training & Behaviour