Top 10 preventing reactivity tips
With the release of my latest courses available on https://www.perfectlypolitedachshunds.com/book-here I was thinking about what the 10 most frequent things I say to new owners of dachshunds are.
With so much conflicting advice online its hard to know what the right thing to do is. These tips are some of the things I find lead to success and peaceful lives.
I’m sure some will disagree, but I
can confidently say from a lifetime of living with dachshunds, many many dachshunds, from having maybe 30 foster dachshunds over the last few years and various other breeds and advising thousands of owners these are the things that have worked for me and for my clients dachshunds.
I hope they help you too.
1. Don’t accept that phrase that makes me cringe "they’re dachshunds and they bark!" All dogs bark, but this acceptance that it is a breed trait allows things to escalate and for you and your dachshunds to be miserable. Don't accept it, change it! They are barking to communicate something, excitement, fear, frustration, attention. What are they telling you? Work out why they are barking, pay attention to the warning signs and ask for a more desirable behaviour.
2. Stop setting them up for failure. By letting them go wrong they get practice in. Set them up for success and praise the behaviour you want. We all respond better to being told “well done” than “you’re wrong.” If it goes "wrong" its simply a gap in their learning and an area for you both to work on.
3. Remember to acknowledge those moments that they hear something and maybe they look but don’t bark, maybe they see something and they don’t bark, praise that. How on earth do they know what they’re doing right if we don’t tell them? We’re quick enough to criticise when they get it wrong. Same goes for you too, how do you know when you're getting something right if no one tells you "yes, thats it, well done!"
4. Make time for them and for yourselves, they're part of your family. Not just sitting and snuggling but interacting with them, teaching them new skills. They are so incredibly clever, they are not stubborn, they are hounds. Bred to be independent, bred to indicate to the hunter that they've found their prey and they should follow. Do things.....Scentwork, tricks, fun agility, anything that involves you and them actively working together to learn new skills. Get everyone involved in doing things you all enjoy. Teach them that working with you is better than flying solo.
5. Stop letting everyone say hello to them. Large breeds grow out of their cuteness, daxies do not. Start telling people “not today it’s a training day, but just standing here having a chat will really help us.” They'll soon realise a pair of hands is not going to appear out of the sky and scoop them up!
6. Stop forcing them to interact with every single dog. This is not socialisation, it can be intimidating especially when they are so small. I know people will say "oh but its socialising," oversocialisation is just as bad as undersocialisation. I know, its lovely to see them with other dogs, but think about the future, being sociable is about being able to interact appropriately in various situations. What's appropriate for your dog and you?
7. Stop always letting them go and play with everything, later this can create frustration when they cannot get to what they want. Learning to walk on by; learning to wait for things and earn their rewards (freedom is a reward, treats are a reward, cuddles are a reward....depending on the dog that is) is just as important as learning how to interact appropriately with anything.
8. Don’t be scared to say "No, you cannot touch my dog!" (even if they are friendly). We often don’t listen to our instincts in the interests of being polite. Or there's “that” person who knows your dog better than you do – “oh but I’m great with nervous dogs,” “oh dogs love me, here….sniff my hand, take a treat” and then there's the person who doesn't ask and just scoops them up! Advocate for your daxie, but also, expect people to respect you know your dogs best!
9. Don't give up, keep up your training, modify things to make it easier for you and for your daxies to learn and to have great experiences. Slow and systematic exposure with positive experiences will help them gain confidence. Repeated exposure to scary things will only compound that fear. We all have fears we need to face, none of us cope so well when chucked in the deep end, take it slow, teach them to swim.
10. Enjoy them! Yeah, they have their quirks but daxies are very trainable and very very lovable. You can have that wonderful cuddle monster who is well behaved, but you do have to put the work in and especially in those first 2 years repeatedly take EVERYTHING back to basics whilst they learn how to navigate our world. Ask for help, a good behaviourist is worth their weight in gold. Don't wait for the behaviour that bothers you to become a BIG problem, get help when its just a niggle so it is easier to address.
I really hope these tips help motivate you in helping your daxies. You can absolutely do this! I will always try to give the best advice I can, I am always learning and always seeking to learn more. We all need to do the same. The world is evolving quickly, its hard to keep up, its hard to make time. We all should make sure we make that time for ourselves and our families (of which our daxies are a huge part).
Keep positive everyone and keep on going. They're worth it!