What you’re about to read in this article is a true story about our journey with Layla, a former reactive Australian Shepherd, who we successfully rehabilitated with a Micro Educator E-Collar from E-Collar Technologies.
Rewind a handful of years ago, we started experiencing behaviors with Layla that we couldn’t explain. It first started off as little huffs and low growls at a passing dog or person. We chalked it up as puppy behavior and admittedly let it slide for longer than we should have. As the months progressed, the huffs and growls turned into full blown meltdowns at the mere sound of a person or dog approaching. It became so bad that the second she would step outside of our apartment into the hallway, she’d already start ramping up to prepare for one of her reactive episodes.
One day in particular, I remember sneaking Layla outside to go potty, only to turn the corner and run smack dab into a large black dog. Her reaction was so intense that I just stood there afterwards feeling completely defeated. We were running out of options and people in our community were avoiding us like the plague.
It was at this point we knew we needed the help of a professional dog trainer. Having grown up with dogs all of our lives, a behavior issue such as the one we were experiencing with Layla was completely foreign to us. We did our research (or thought we had) and decided that we’d give positive-only training a go. After all, Layla was very food motivated, so we figured why not?
Fast forward six months of following all of the protocols handed to us by this particular trainer to the point where we barely set aside time for ourselves, we had made marginal progress. In fact, it almost seemed like the issue kept getting worse. Food alone wasn’t doing it. If anything, she was learning new behaviors but the old, less acceptable versions, still very much remained.
We sat down one night and started discussing our options. None of the questions we were asking were ones we had ever thought we would need to ask ourselves. Giving her back to the breeder or having her stay with someone else weren’t avenues we wanted to go down but they were on the table. She just couldn’t stay with us in her current state and we didn’t know enough at the time to help her.
One option in particular seemed less drastic than the others. And that was the use of an e-collar to help rehabilitate her reactivity. Layla ended up spending a full month in a Board and Train program being taught this brand new language and came home in a much better mindstate. That’s not to say the work was over. Layla needed to also believe that we could use this tool effectively and appropriately during the times it mattered most. She was home now, and she was most certainly testing her boundaries.
What were the three things we focused most on?
Rewarding for eye contact in the presence of a trigger
Using the e-collar for reminders to cut through the fixation or intense staring at other dogs/people
Honing in on Layla’s body language around the triggers that made her feel uncertain and providing the space at that moment she was asking for which built immense trust in our relationship
After a full year of using a Micro Educator and following all of the proper balanced training techniques, including food to reward those pivotal moments of clarity, we can walk Layla past a dog or person on the same side of the street with zero issues. It took a lot of patience, consistency and confidence building on our part but boy was it worth it.
If you’re in a similar situation and you’ve lost all hope in what you can do to help your reactive dog, we highly recommend investing in an e-collar from E-Collar Technologies. We don’t know where Layla would have ended up otherwise!
About the author of this post:
Nicolas Angione is the founder and head dog trainer at Hope Gables Canine based in Fairfield County, CT. He was so inspired by Layla’s transformation that he spent years shadowing balanced trainers to gain the hands-on expertise needed to branch out on his own. Since then, he’s trained hundreds of dogs across the tri-state area and has successfully guided their owners to a more peaceful way of living with them.