Barney Fife Had it Right!!

One of the really tough things about living with special needs and reactive dogs, is that they are very emotional and often lack impulse control.  Rugby seems to latch onto a new reactivity with something at home in a nanosecond.  Coffee maker, washing machine, garbage disposer….just to name a few!  We worked through the coffeemaker reactive barking and jumping at the counter to get that evil appliance, and just as quickly as that was put to bed, he decided that the garbage disposer has to go!

*SIGH*

It’s always something with Rugby.

We are always in a state of working through some reactive behavior at my house, and I’ve learned that over the years, Barney Fife really had it right:  “You’ve got to NIP IT IN THE BUD!”

As a dog trainer, in general, I’m all for bud nipping.  Things are much easier to correct when they first start, instead of months or years later when the dog has a firmly established habit with a given naughty behavior.

This is definitely very true for a dog like Rugby James!  All it takes is one time for him to melt down over something, and he’s got it locked away in his tiny little brain that he should over-react every time said noise or stimulus presents itself.

*sigh* but more correctly, *SIGH*  in giant letters too big to fit on my computer screen!

It often takes weeks and even months to work through something if we don’t bud nip with him.  The coffeemaker took three months of clicking and treating every. single. time. he. heard. coffee. brew. the. entire. time. that. it. brewed.

That one was an UGH rather than a *sigh* because we do love some coffee at our house, and so he had multiple barking, reactive explosions on a daily basis!

It’s just hard to imagine that this innocent, adorable face can belong to a leaping barking frenzied dog when the right sight or sound comes along.  Sadly, however, it’s completely true.  I wouldn’t kid you about this.

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I honestly think at moments like that…when he morphs into that crazy reactive dog, this is more like what HE thinks he looks like, because after all, I really think he wants to get the last laugh!

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Just take my word for it:  When your dog is producing any behavior that you don’t like, puhleeze don’t wait to get it fixed!!  Remember the wisdom of Barney Fife, and be a bud nipper!  You’ll be glad you did!!

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Comments

    • Sally says

      BOL!! Well that's what he's banking on, anyway!! Those drippy eyes are a powerful force to be reckoned with....that's for sure!! 😉

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    • Sally says

      I feel your pain!! Rugby is EXACTLY like that!! Only, sometimes, we have NO idea what got him started! It's like he has to create drama in his life, or he doesn't know what to do with himself!! He can't go through life without firing up at something crazy every day!! Anytime I know I'm going to make noise, I have to stop and think where Rugby is, and if I need to have a few treats handy to shove into his mouth at the perfect moment to help him cope!! Argh!!! He's SUCH a challenge to live with!!! Good luck with Mr. N!! I only wish Rugby had been able to figure out so many difficult things the way that Mr. N has!! <3

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    • Sally says

      Nip it! Nip it! Nip it!! Virtually ANY dog trainer will tell you that we're all big on bud nipping!! It IS a good rule to remember!! 😀

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  1. says

    YES! Henry is reactive, too, and I always try to nip things in the bud. It's hard sometimes, especially living in an apartment building and there are other people around. Instead of patiently clicking and treating when someone brings a laundry cart out of the elevator, for example, I feel like I have to scoop him up so no one gets scared. We work on things individually in the apartment sometimes, but it's tricky when it's not the exact scenario.

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    • Sally says

      I totally get that!! I work with dogs living in all kinds of situations, and it can really be challenging to work through things! You can do your best to control your dog, but you can't control your neighbors just popping out at a time when you weren't ready for them! Try asking a neighbor to help you, and actually set up the scenerio. So if Henry has a tough time with a surprise of an elevator door opening and someone there, ask a neighbor to ride up and down on the elevator for a bit, and be ready to click and treat the moment those doors open! I do this a whole lot in training, and it really does help, because you've planned for it! Good luck with him!! 😀

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  2. says

    Fortunately my dog is not reactive in the sense of barking. She does get nervous in certain situations, but she adjusts once she has the chance to get used to her surroundings.

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    • Sally says

      Congratulations!! I'm so happy for you!! A well socialized dog should respond very much like yours does! Unfortunately, Rugby never got any early socialization (from what I can tell) and unfortunately, he can't adjust to his surroundings if they're new. He completely melts down! :'(

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  3. Jil says

    I'm so happy to read about your training style. I watched one very famous dog "trainer" hold a dog on leash while pushing a toaster lever up and down in the dog's face, until the dog stopped reacting...I'm sure it was terrified, but couldn't get away. Grrr.

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    • Sally says

      Oh boy, Jil! The training style you described is a good recipe for a dog bite!! All that does is teach a dog something called "Learned Helplessness." In other words, the dog learns that he's helpless to do anything, so he gives up reacting. But often that blows up in an owner's face down the road, because the behavior really doesn't go away....it goes underground, and it surfaces down the road in another area! I completely get that Rugby has some fears, and my training style is to de-sensitize him or counter-condition him past those fearful things....making a POSITIVE experience for him to hopefully take the place of the previous negative response and association. It just gets dicey with him, because he can just as easily become aggressive if he's completely overwhelmed, so I have to really be careful to help him figure out that he doesn't have to go right into his reactive mode and think through another way to respond. He's been a really tough nut to crack, that's for sure!!

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  4. says

    OK, these pictures are adorable! Yes, about addressing issues right away. Ruby is kind of a strange one. She is only reactive to certain people once in awhile. I have tried to figure out what about certain people set her off and for the life of me, I can't figure out what it is. Because it is only once in awhile, it is easy to let our guard down, leave the clicker at home on walks, etc. We will go about our business peacefully for weeks and then all of a sudden will be out for a walk and see someone that sets her off and she will growl and lunge. We continue to work through it and these incidents are definitely less frequent, but they still do occasionally occur.

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    • Sally says

      I deal with dogs like Ruby ALL the time, and what you describe is SO common, and it can really be a head scratcher to work through! It's part of what makes this type of behavior so difficult to eradicate, because it can appear random at times! I'm glad you've worked through much of it, because that will help! Try NOT to leave that clicker home....or teach with a verbal marker, but ALWAYS have your higher value treats along so that you can capture that teachable moment. You may need to just click and treat on everyone for a good long while just to get a deeper foundation that people are ALL good and to get a stronger habit and positive association. Look for genders, hats, glasses, facial hair, size, excitement, voice level, facial hair, direct approach to your dog, movement from them, etc. It can be very subtle to Ruby and very hard to see from your perspective. Good for you in working on it!! Good luck as you continue!! Keep me posted!! I'll be rooting for your success!! 😀

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  5. says

    Rosa is reactive too. She is so happy go lucky at home, but leave the house and all sorts of things get in the way of her comfort. I really am at a loss as to how to "nip it in the bud"! Any suggestions?

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    • Sally says

      Well, Maureen, welcome to my world! Rugby is mostly comfortable and happy go lucky at home, but change is definitely NOT his friend!! I guess I would need to know more information about Rosa and what is happening to be able to direct you with any kind of success in working through things. Maybe send me an email at [email protected] to let me know more information, and I'll be happy to help you with "Bud Nipping" if I think I can help long distance! 😀

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    • Sally says

      The good news about this is that you don't have to make the same mistakes with your next pooch!! Mistakes aren't awful as long as we can learn something from them, and change up what we're doing for the future!! I'm SO glad you've kept him and love him anyway!! You've made my heart smile! Too many previous owners gave up on Rugby, and gave him up, and he just needed someone to love him and not give up! He's a hot mess, believe me, but I love him anyway, and I'm committed to give him the best quality of life that he can have...even if it means that he's going to have a small world!

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    • Sally says

      Many, many dogs don't get properly socialized, so that they grow up fearful and reactive, and it's so very sad, because many times it is preventable. Keep in mind that there's also a gene pool that affects a dog's behavior as well, so it's rarely any one thing that creates this outcome. You might suggest that they work with a positive reinforcement trainer, because that really can help improve things!! Rugby is MUCH better than he used to be, so suggest that they give it a go, and it might really help them! 😀

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    • Sally says

      So glad you enjoyed it!! I'm trying to improve photography this year, so thanks for enjoying the ones that I chose! 😀

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  6. says

    You are def right...should nip things in the bud right then and there...I know that from my dog and especially with kids too LOL Great advice!

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much!! As a dog trainer, SO much could be avoided if owners were into bud nipping!! It does work well with kids too!! Glad you liked the post! Thanks for reading! 😀

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  7. says

    I admire your dedication and perseverance. Your post is serving to remind me that it DOES need to be 'nipped in the bud.' Now that we have the new guy, we've had a few flare ups with Henry. I need to address these now so the behavior isn't an example for Jack!

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for your kind comments!! I decided that I wasn't going to give up on Rugby, but boy has he required more dedication and perseverance than I ever expected after 8 years of work!! He's one of a kind to be sure!! You are right on the money in knowing that your naughty dog will teach those naughty behaviors to your other dog! They definitely do learn from each other, and the naughty stuff is often picked up easier than the good stuff!!

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