S.A.F.E Skills Program

This program was created to help reactive/aggressive dogs become more comfortable while on leash, in a perceived conflict, or feeling threatened.

The S.A.F.E. Program for Dogs uses a variety of training and counterconditioning techniques to help the dog feel better. It also helps the owner learn to read their dog and make good decisions to keep the dog from feeling the need to react.

While we cannot guarantee that a dog won’t react we can help them feel better and lessen the stress that the dog feels every day. We can also create a better relationship, based on mutual trust and respect.

What is reactivity?

Reactivity is a term used to describe dogs that have an abnormal response to often benign stimuli or situations. This can include growling, barking, lunging, and pulling towards other dogs, people, or vehicles while on leash, or barking at people inside or outside the home.

Reactivity can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Frustration

  • Fear

  • Inherited trait (genetic influence)

What is aggression?

Aggression is a broad term used to describe a wide range of behaviors in dogs. Most people tend to think of aggression as snapping or biting, but growling, barking, lunging,  snapping, and certainly biting are all components to aggressive behavior. 

Aggressive behavior has many root causes. Understanding WHY a dog is choosing aggression is the first key to changing the behavior. The most common forms of aggression are:

  • Fear Based Defensive Aggression

  • Conflict Aggression

  • Resource Guarding

Is reactivity and aggression the same thing? Reactivity and Aggression are both caused by physiological changes that a dog cannot turn on and off voluntarily. A dog’s reactive or aggressive response is essentially a response to stress, controlled by the Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System or SANS. This system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response in dogs, humans, and other species.

How do I know if my dog is stressed? Learning to recognize the early signs that your dog is feeling stressed is an important step in helping reduce reactivity or aggression. The most common signs of stress include:

  • Lip licking

  • Yawning

  • Shake off

  • Panting (inconsistent with temperature or exercise)

  • Wide eyes (sclera showing)

  • Ears back/tail tucked

  • Avoidance (turning away/moving away)

What steps should I take to help my reactive/aggressive dog?

There are no quick fixes to reducing reactivity and aggression. An initial assessment will offer a behavior diagnosis, prognosis, management plan, training plan, and behavior modification plan.

The initial assessment is done via video conference at a cost of $300.00

Follow up sessions are available at our training center, via video (virtual session) or private home visit, at a cost of $100.00 per hour.

Are there classes for my reactive/aggressive dog?

Our S.A.F.E. Skills classes are by invitation only and require an initial assessment and fluency of our foundation skills before being approved to attend classes.

Here is a short list of “DO’s” when working with a reactive/aggressive dog:

  • DO establish basic skills, such as loose leash walking, recall (come) and sit/stay.

  • DO teach your dog to pay attention to you by reinforcing his response to his name or gazing/looking at you.

  • DO provide adequate exercise and mental stimulation through puzzle toys, nose work games, and play.

  • DO manage the dog’s environment to prevent rehearsal of the behavior.

  • DO take steps to keep everyone safe!

Here is a short list of “DON’TS” when working with a reactive/aggressive dog:

  • DON’T punish your dog for his reaction.

  • DON’T use prong, shock, or electronic collars (shock/vibration) to “fix” your dog’s behavior.

  • DON’T go for walks if your dog is reactive on leash.

  • DON’T allow your dog to be part of the greeting process if he is reactive to people entering the home.

For more comprehensive information on aggression in dogs visit: 

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/aggression