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The Ripple effect and a dog owners plea.

Every action we make are like ripples in a pond! It is your choice as to whether they are positive or negative.

This is a topic I often discuss with people with multiple dogs in particular when they raise the question of using water sprays, spray collars or those awful pet corrector sprays, but a friend has kindly allowed me to share her story this morning to demonstrate how things like this don't just affect the dog they are directed at but those around them. This post isn't about your choice of whether or not you use aversives, it is not about whether or not they hurt or not, it is about the effects they have on those of us who choose not to use them and how your decisions affect everyone!

Today I had a rather panicked message from a friend who has worked exceptionally hard on her first dogs reactivity over the last few years despite many challenges. 2 years ago she took on a scared little rescue from a puppy farm and has worked exceptionally hard from day one to build up Dotty’s confidence in public environments. Many of us have watched her story via social media, I am privileged to have seen it from a personal level. Kim discovered early on the sound of the children on the school run and school playground scared her and has slowly worked on making this time of day a more pleasant experience, getting to a place where little Dot is quite comfortable at this time. It has been a joy to watch Dotty’s gorgeous little face change from frown and worry to a big sausage smile.

Today, she was a bit later leaving for her morning walk with Dotty, which wasn’t an issue as Dotty enjoys the route now. On the way back kids were arriving at school so it was a bit busier today. Having a reactive dog always means we are very aware of the behaviour of other dogs around us, you can't help it, even if you are walking a calm, passive dog, its habit! Kim spotted a young dog coming towards her on her walk which froze and zoned in on Dotty and gave warning cues it was possibly going to react, before it had a chance the owner then proceeded to take out a pet corrector spray and sprayed it in the dogs face for an extended period of time! IN IT’S FACE!! (In close proximity to Dotty!)

That on its own is bad enough, but I am not going to get into the whole topic of using aversive’s to train dogs, especially in this manner! I'm sure your initial response to that there was the same as mine and if not, there is enough on social media, enough research and enough available for you to make your own educated decision about how to work with your dog! BUT, and here's the bigger problem - that woman’s actions terrified little Dotty, not the children shouting, not parents talking and laughing, not cars passing, not the dogs reactive response to her - the spray - TERRIFIED Dotty! The extended noise, very near to her caused her to panic and if not for a securely fitted collar, and a quick response by her mum, Dotty would have backed out of her collar and run into the road, and the events after that, well, we don’t want to consider! (But do think how many others might have been affected if that collar wasn't fitted correctly!) Also consider the effect of that sharp long sound on sound sensitive children, those with sensory issues, neurodivergent children waiting to go into school. The knock on effect on teachers, fellow children and the parents picking up the pieces. Ripples in a pond!

All because one woman didn’t consider the consequence of her actions on others. A story we all know to well. Kim got Dotty out of there rather than making things worse by losing her cool, but now all her hard work could have potentially been undone by the thoughtless actions of another.

I am sure the lady with this dog 100% didn't mean to upset Dotty, and really didn't consider the response of others around her. I really hope this has caused her to consider her future actions. Like any of us with a reactive dog she was probably just trying to teach her dog not to react using the information she had available to her, she was probably desperate to be able to enjoy taking her reactive dog on school run and has probably been told this is the right way to do it - but clearly, it isn't working! Ask for help from a qualified and ethical professional.

If you are going to use aversive tools, which I would beg you don't, please consider the effects they have on a) your own dogs especially if you have multiples – if you spray one dog, are the others getting punished even when they are being 'good?' What on earth will that teach them? But, more importantly, if you choose to do that, please consider whether your choice is going to punish anything else nearby and cause someone else the same problem you are trying to stop in your own dog. Just take a minute, stop and think, PLEASE!

We have put a quick emergency plan together to help Dotty overcome this and to ensure she doesn’t revisit her fear of the school run. When we own dogs, we really need to consider those around us. Whether it’s your dogs interaction with other dogs, or whether it is your interactions with your own dog. We share this world, so please please consider how your actions affect others be them human, child, or canine.

Below was written by Kim after the event and am sharing it with her permission:

"I don't really want to start a huge debate of positive vs aversive dog training but I'm really cross this morning. I'm a reactive dog owner and also own a very nervous timid rescue dog. I've worked hard for a number of years with both our dogs with the help and support of a brilliant behaviourist. I'm not perfect by any means but why on earth is someone taking pet corrector on the school run for. Your dog isn't coping.... it went to growl at mine which is fair enough it communicated it needed more space or direction and said woman proceeds to spray pet corrector in it's face!!!! Not only did you terrify the dog into submission the poor things tail shot up it's backside quicker than a missile.. but you absolutely terrified the sh*t out of my dog who I've worked really hard in positive ways to build the confidence of being a rescue, particularly on that busy stretch of road! Do some research please into the long term effects of these methods and please god refrain from sprays like that around other people's dogs who are that close it's simply not fair."

I think we can all learn from this, kindness and compassion towards your own animal and those around you goes a long long way. Please just take a minute to think of the consequences of anything you do, and for goodness sake please make sure your harnesses and collars are secure. Dogs aren't robots, and even the most confident of dogs can have an unexpected panic.

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