A combination of online learning, one on one sessions, and group classes that is adjusted appropriately for each dog's needs and progress.
Starting with one on one sessions, you and your dog can learn skills to help with focus, relationship building, and helping them handle situations in which exciting interactions may occur. With this, you will get online help as well as full access to the trainer for any questions or additional help when not at the training center. As your dog progresses with these skills, they are able to move into a group setting to practice in more real life situations where triggers are more likely to occur.
An assessment is required in order to allow the trainer to meet the dog and discuss further with you in order to set up the best training plan options for the dog.
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Dogs are a lot like us. Every dog is unique and handles themselves differently in the multitude of situations and interactions they find themselves in regularly. There are times where we may feel that our dog’s reaction to a situation is not appropriate. This does not make the dog a bad dog, it makes the dog a normal dog using the form of canine communication they feel that they should be using in the situation. It is our duty as the owner of the dog to change our mindset in these situations and how we manage the behavior of our dog.
Reactivity is commonly confused with aggression in dogs the occurs in response to a trigger. Many times, the dog is not intending to harm when triggered but they are using the behavior as a form of communication. Dogs cannot come out and tell us when they are scared, nervous, frustrated, angry, overly excited or over their threshold. They communicate this to us through their reactions and behavior. Common forms are barking, lunging, growling, and/or snapping but each dog’s behavior can look different. We should never punish our dogs for this behavior as they are only trying to communicate. Instead it is our job to acknowledge the behavior and work on adjusting how we handle the situation with our dog to help them respond differently.
For us to achieve this, we can help our dog develop a new response to the triggers. There are multiple ways that this can be done, and we will touch on these in the MEIA program. The most important part of the MEIA program though is making sure there is trust between you and your dog, creating a strong relationship. You can help your dog learn to trust that you have all situations under control, and they do not need to feel the anxiety, fear, frustration, over excitement, etc. when in the situation. This will help them remain focused on the alternative response you ask of them. Instead of focusing only on the situation, they will begin to look to you for guidance in how to act in the situation.
The MEIA program has been designed to help build this strong relationship as well as in gaining your dog’s trust while teaching them alternative response behaviors to perform during these types of exciting interactions. Every dog is a good dog. We set expectations for our dogs, so it is our job to make sure we communicate these to them in a way that they understand and is positive so that they begin to feel more comfortable. Not every dog will end up being extremely sociable and ready to make friends with every dog/person they meet. However, the end goal is that the owner and dog learn how to MANAGE and become more comfortable in the EXCITING INTERACTIONS they find themselves in, leading to alternative and more APPROPRIATE responses.
Meia was an American Staffordshire Terrier who changed my life. She is the main reason that I went into training. When I adopted her in 2013, I did not know that Meia was selective about her canine friends until she had a negative experience with one. It was then that we tried multiple training methods to work with reducing her reactivity to other dogs. While old school methods did not work, I learned about positive reinforcement and did that for years with her and she became one of the best dogs, even if she still didn’t have a lot of friends, she could at least tolerate them. By the time she passed on Halloween of 2019 she was able to be around other dogs, even in exciting situations, but instead of reacting she looked to me for guidance. These training classes are in her memory and to make sure her legacy lives on. This is the reason the program for reactive dogs is called the MEIA Program.