Tense Moment Reactive Dog Comes Face-to-Face With Lion Toy

Tense Moment Reactive Dog Comes Face-to-Face With Lion Toy

Owners get frustrated easily when they have a dog that is highly reactive to other pets, humans or even sounds, which is why many turn to dog trainers for help.

One trainer’s way of assessing reactivity in a dog has gone viral, but the technique he uses is nothing new. Ian Grant, owner of Vermont Dog Boarding and Behavior, told Newsweek that using a stuffed animal to assess a dog’s reaction has been around for decades. The specific lion toy he used was an idea he borrowed from a friend.

Reactive dogs are often fearful and overstimulated dogs. They tend to have an over-the-top reaction to everyday situations that other dogs take in stride, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says on its website. And while not all reactive dogs are aggressive dogs, their reactivity can lead to aggression.

Reactivity in dogs can be genetic, but it is often caused by a lack of socialization, prior bad experiences or minimal training.

Grant shared how the process works in a September 7 Instagram post. The video has received over 8.1 million views, 345,000 likes and 1,190 comments. Across all his platforms, the video has over 27 million views.

By giving his client Boot, a black Lab mix, the space to see an inanimate object, Grant was able to assess the dog’s reaction. This gives him time to see where a dog is coming from and how it is feeling.

Dog training with stuffed animal
Screenshots from an Instagram video show training for a reactive dog. The dog trainer uses a stuffed animal lion to assess the dog’s reactive level.

Boot instantly let out sounds indicating he was unsure about what was in the room. Instead of the owner interfering, saying it was fine or that it wouldn’t hurt him, Grant had the owner stay still. Then the owner moved toward the lion toy, which showed Boot there was no reason to be scared or nervous.

Grant said owners are often quick to jump in without knowing why a dog is feeling that way. In the video, Boot was given space to examine and investigate the lion on his own, without the owner interacting. The owner’s movement toward the lion was much more powerful than if he were to say it was safe.

From the comments, Grant said, people are wondering how this works in a real-life situation. The lion toy technique is used to understand why a dog might be reacting and for assessment, rather than for training. But if your dog is afraid of inanimate objects, this technique can be used.

“A lot of people will ask what to do when a dog blows up or overreacts,” Grant said. “There is nothing you can do at that moment…. Get out of that situation.”

A dog reacting at the moment is over the threshold and will not be able to comprehend the teachable moment. Space is the number one priority in these situations. Grant also recommends going to a professional for help and making sure rules and boundaries are in place at home.

There could be things going on at home that contribute to a dog’s reactivity. Dogs need structure and clarity. A routine at home can make dogs more comfortable and at ease. Grant advises direction before correction.

As much as owners want their dog’s reactivity to be changed instantly, it is not that easy. Grant said it can take dogs up to 90 days to understand a new routine or behavior.

“With Boot, it was a month before his first and third lesson, and he just started making the change,” Grant said.

As with all dog training, time, patience and consistency are key in helping a reactive dog.

Do you have funny and adorable videos or pictures of your pet you want to share? Send them to [email protected] with some details about your best friend and they could appear in our Pet of the Week lineup.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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