Rovers Return Training Academy

Reactive Behaviours

This link will take you to another post about how events play a part in your dog’s behaviour. Click here

Reactivity is basically any adverse reaction toward stimuli.

The brain is constantly working and in order for it to cope with how much stimulus is around us there is a filter called the reticular activating system. The attached video tells you more about this. 

When events are important to the dog a reaction is made.

The behaviour is dictated by whether the event is seen as ‘good’ meaning something valuable is happening that provides the dog with pleasant emotions. Or bad if the events create negative emotions such as fear.

The level of behaviour is dictated by what works for the dog

ladder of aggression
Kendal Shephard credit

Often dogs have tried to communicate their coping mechanism and we miss the subtle signs, so they have to escalate their behaviour in order to be heard.

The above diagram shows the subtle signs in green and in red the more concerning behaviours. 

These can be seen occur immediately depending on the dog’s perception of the level of threat.

That statement is important as it’s the dog that decides how they feel. It may seem an unnecessary reaction, however, at that time the dog sees it as necessary.

Behaviour does not exist without emotion. And the dogs primal brain is led by their emotions, this is because the shape and chambers of the brain are different to ours. The part of the brain that directs instinctual behaviour is large compared to ours, but the part of the brain that controls problem-solving is smaller, leading to the dog acting on their emotions far more likely than humans.

Using behavioural analysis we can identify the relationship between emotions and behaviour and when this has been identified then we can begin to change the emotion. Which means that there will be no need for the behaviour. 

Changing emotions takes time as it involves training the brain to change what it has learned to cope. In animals, this is essential it is their survival instinct. 

But it can be done through behavioural analysis, promoting calmness, building optimism and understanding your dog’s need and helping them feel safe.

Book your discovery call to discuss any reactivity issues that you have.