What could be triggers for dogs? A trigger is an object or situation that causes your dog to react, e.g. another person, a running animal, a car, thunder, or a lawnmower. Identifying triggers can be the first step in helping your dog overcome their anxiety and fear. Once you know what your dog’s triggers are, it becomes easier to manage their environment and behaviour. One way to identify triggers is to pay attention to your dog’s body language. Signs of fear or anxiety include panting, pacing, trembling, and hiding. If you notice your dog exhibiting these behaviours in response to a particular situation, it may be a trigger.

Triggers for Dogs

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In behavioural training, we want to change your dog’s reaction/behaviour to a trigger (counter conditioning) and your dog’s emotional response to a trigger (desensitization). Counter conditioning involves changing your dog’s emotional response to a trigger by pairing it with something positive. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunder, you could give them treats every time there is a thunderstorm. Over time, your dog will start to associate thunder with something positive and their fear response will decrease.

Desensitisation involves exposing your dog to the trigger in a controlled way, gradually increasing the intensity or duration of the exposure over time. For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs, you could start by exposing them to a calm dog from a distance and gradually move closer as your dog becomes more comfortable. It is important to go at your dog’s pace and not push them too hard. Desensitisation can take time and patience, but it can be an effective way to help your dog overcome their fears.

Before your dog gets tense and reacts to a trigger, redirect your dog’s attention to you or some activity. They will be less likely to get aroused. This technique is called “attention diversion” and can be used to prevent your dog from reacting to a trigger. For example, if your dog is afraid of fireworks, you could play a game of fetch or engage them in some other activity before the fireworks start.

If your dog finds it hard to focus and doesn’t take treats, you are too close to the trigger. Increase the distance.

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