One of the best ways to prevent an ugly situation from ever occurring with your dog is by addressing any shift in behavior at its lowest level of interest, (ears perked forward, closed mouth, crinkled forehead, a glance away from you), before it has chance to escalate into something that cannot be reversed. Timing is of utmost importance. A split second can either cap the behavior from escalating even further, or make it worse. Seeing theses signs that lead up to a moment of aggression, growling, guarding, or taking off after the cat, before they actually happen, and giving a firm enough correction at just the right intensity is clutch. A split second too late, and you may find yourself chasing the bad behavior in frustration, making matters worse, and even better yet, risking the chance of your dog redirecting onto you. Seeing these signs in your dog just takes practice.
Ruebyn used to charge the TV whenever he saw something he felt was threatening on screen. It ranged from another dog, to a horse, to sheep, any animal for that matter, but also certain human beings, or helicopters, motorcycles, to airplanes. Okay, just about everything! It was adorable when he was 6lbs. Aww look, he’s smart, he recognizes animals and people on TV! Hah! When he grew up and is attention to detail blossomed into a full blown attack towards the mounted electric fireplace, the behavior obviously needed to be addressed. Through careful observation of even the slightest adjustment in interest from him, I was able to cap his state of mind in the split second before his interest exploded. Done. Explosion diffused before it had the chance to ignite.
Study every minute, subtle difference in your dog’s focus from you, to what is diverting his attention away. This is where a “tap on the shoulder” is necessary to regain your dog’s focus back to you before it escalates. Focus on those subtle changes in behavior that consistently show up every single time he has an incident. If we can learn to address the small transgressions at just the right time and intensity, chances are they will never turn into nasty ones!