Owners of reactive dogs have it ruff. People often glare at you if you try to bring them anywhere. You stress, so your dog is even more stressed. You feel like people believe your dog shouldn’t be allowed in public. Sometimes, it may even feel like they don’t think he should be alive.
I can relate – I have two reactive dogs. One is fearful and is easier to deal with, because she just cowers. But the other, used to growl and lunge and bark – terrified another dog would come up in his space.
He is getting better – thanks to some great training, part of which as been done at Synergy Behavior Solutions.
But where does that leave you for summer travel? Does your dog get stuck at home with a dog sitter or maybe he is so bad you can’t even do that, which means no trip for you either.
How about a summer camp just for reactive dogs and their owners? Sound too good to be true?
I have been taking my dog to a training facility that offers just that.
Dr. Caroline Sparks, owner of City Dog Country Dog, has nearly 30 years of experience helping people solve problems, meet learning goals, and achieve positive change. With too many acoloades to list, she is a certified professional dog trainer as well as a certified Dognition evaluator, along with a PhD in psychology and a degree in advanced canine behavioral science.
She owns forty acres in Yachats, Oregon that she and her partners at Synergy Behavior Solutions, has turned into a Mecca for those of us with troubled dogs.
The 3-day Call of the Wild Reactive Dog Camp held in September is set up to allow your reactive dog to experience all the fun of nature, in an environment that is free of too much stress. For example, you won’t have to worry if another dog will suddenly appear out of nowhere – because it won’t happen.
“We wanted to create a place where owners of reactive dogs could come and really relax because everyone is in the same place, no one is judging and everyone is super supportive of each other,” explains Scott Raymond, MS, CPDT-KA, trainer at Synergy Behavior Solutions.
With a dog owner/dog trainer ratio of practically 1:1, there are plenty of people to help you should you need and to make sure everyone is safe during all the activities. Space is structured depending on your dog’s comfort. For example if your dog needs other dogs to be at least 40 feet away, then that’s the bubble you will be given.
In addition to fun games such as forest agility, barn hunt (nose work), river games and even a treasure hunt, there is also structured reactive dog training, like what you would see in a training class.
You will practice classical conditioning and work on walking by other dogs or having them walk by your dog, while remaining relaxed.
Then, when it’s time for the dog’s to rest, owners can learn how to make toys, participate in discussions regarding training and dog behavior. Past topics have included learning how to read dog body language or how TTouch can help your dog relax.
Why This Is Needed
You may be thinking, why does my dog need to go here? Because real life is not predictable. You can’t go out into the park and hope that all the other dog owners will keep their dog away, or not have one off-leash.
“It’s a Catch-22,” explains Dr. Sparks. “Owners need situations like these, but they either don’t know how to do it correctly (safely) or they don’t have a way to set it up. Our Reactive Dog Camp gives them a safe way to practice real life skills.”
One of the best activities is a hike they take everyone on. Unlike at the park, there will be a professional between each dog/owner team and the spacing will be set-up to accommodate your dog’s comfort level.
What To Expect
So, what should you expect to get out of it?
Most dogs show improvement during the three days, Dr. Sparks and Raymond both agree. And so do the owners.
“They learn to celebrate the little wins,” says Dr. Sparks. “It’s great because the other owners will notice changes in each other’s dogs and will point them out and celebrate together.”
They have had people come from all over to the camp, from as far away as Texas, and
- No prior reactive dog training needed
- The only training allowed is using positive methods.
- The camp is set-up for dogs that are dog reactive. They should be friendly towards people (shy is okay).
- The goal is not to get your dog to the point where he is actually greeting dogs, but able to be in a space with them without become stressed and/or reactive.
- There are no accommodations at the camp, you will stay off-site at hotel each night.
- There is early bird pricing for this year’s camp now thru May 31.
In addition to this camp, they also have a camp for non-reactive dogs and an advanced reactive dog camp for dogs who have already attended reactive dog camp. To sign up, go to either City Dog Country Dog or Synergy Behavior Solutions.