Jack Looks to WOOF for Support

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Both Jack and Maggie came to us after years of neglect and mistreatment. In other words, they both had some baggage. Jack was over-anxious and reactive. Maggie was extremely fearful. I’ve written about Maggie’s trials with her fears here and here, but I don’t write about Jack’s reactivity very often.


The reason is two-fold, first I don’t like to admit that he has a mean bone in his body and secondly, it’s not consistent or persistent. One day he completely ignores the thing that the day before he reacted to.


Jack is pretty fearless, but he is anxious – they don’t seem to go together do they? Jack is anxious about people, but only certain people in certain situations. Jack is also occasionally reactive to other dogs, but much less than his concerns over people. Other dogs he usually ignores unless they approach him or give him that certain look…then he’s not aggressive with them, he gives a low growl and looks away – he really doesn’t want to engage.


He’s the same with people – would rather avoid then engage – but if forced, he can overreact. We don’t get very many people coming to our home, so when we do, it’s a novelty. I’ve learned that Jack needs to be introducded properly to people for him to accept them in his home. The rules around the introduction are this:

  1. Jack is put into his safe zone, either my office or on his bed and told to stay.
  2. The visitor enters and ignores Jack.
  3. We converse with the visitor, also ignoring Jack.
  4. Maggie, who greets visitors politely is allowed to come and greet the visitor – in view of Jack.
  5. Once Jack shows the proper signs of relaxation, he is allowed to greet the visitor.
  6. The visitor continues to ignore Jack…no touch, no talk, no eye contact (to quote the Dog Whisperer)
  7. Once Jack has sniffed them and approved, he normally will go grab a toy and return to his bed.
  8. If he stays and asks for interaction then and only then can the visitor pet and talk to Jack.

How does he ask for interaction? Once you become practiced in reading your dog, his interest will be apparent. He will sit by their side, he may sniff or nuzzle their hand, he gives an open invitation to interaction. If he is not doing that, then he’s not interested.

Jack is very good at removing himself from situations of stress although sometimes he is conflicted because he wants to stay near me (a comfort zone) but I’m near the thing that stresses him. It has been those exact situations where he has growled at a human, a clear warning that he is uncomfortable in the situation.

Knowing your dog’s stressors is probably the most critical thing and then you can avoid and/or work to mitigate those issues.

We are joining the new WOOF Support Blog Hop today, sponsored by, Oz the Terrier, Roxy The Traveling Dog and Wag ‘n Woof Pets blogs. HOping we all learn lost from each other about living & working with reactive pets.



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  1. Aw, Jack…it sounds more like you are anxious or nervous than really reactive. I think any dog would “react” when an introduction is made without “etiquette” or in the proper fashion. Gosh, we all have our ways of dealing with our issues, don’t we. I sure hope we can all help each other learn and move forward. Thank you for joining my hop (I know you are a busy bee)!
    Oz the Terrier recently posted…#WOOFSupport: What It’s Like to Walk in My PawsMy Profile

    • Wouldn’t miss it Oz. We don’t meet other dogs on our walks very often – mom avoids them by going early in the am…but that’s where I’m weird sometimes – sometimes I’ll ignore the other dogs and sometimes I will want to do more than ignore them, if you know what I mean…and I think you do!
      mkob recently posted…Jack Looks to WOOF for SupportMy Profile

  2. Can we say Jack is “cautious” or “super careful” about the people and sometimes animals he meets? And if not given the amount of time and/or space he believes he needs could then bring on the other behaviors? He’s such a sweetie….
    Cathy recently posted…BE OUR VALENTINE | WORDLESS WEDNESDAYMy Profile

  3. Sometimes it’s more difficult when they’re inconsistent. Cricket can also be difficult with strangers coming to the house (or even certain people she already knows). She doesn’t growl, but she barks at them. The thing is that it’s not all people. Some strangers can come and she’ll love them and go right up to them. Others she’ll bark and bark at – even people she knows (one brother-in-law) who are dog loving people! It sounds like you have a good plan of action in place for Jack to deal with it. Like you said, watching them and knowing what to look for is an important first step. Thank you for joining our hop!
    Jan K recently posted…Meet Cricket, A Reactive Beagle #WOOFSupportMy Profile

  4. Excellent point! Knowing the triggers – and being able to anticipate your dog’s reaction – is so critical. It took a long time for me to learn Lucas’ triggers, which was a huge battle in trying to work with him! Once we identified the big issues, we could make progress. Of course, there are some that will never fully “heal” but that’s why it’s so important to truly know your dog. Thank you for making that excellent point!
    Maggie recently posted…What It’s Like to Walk in My Shoes: WOOF Support Blog HopMy Profile

  5. Sounds like you’ve got the introductions down! That’s where I felt like we made the most progress with Isis. Being able to have her sit and wait on a bed was way better than having her bark and lunge at the visitor, because holding her back only made it worse!
    Kari recently posted…WOOF! Working Out Our FearsMy Profile

  6. We deal with this sort of thing, as foster parents. Our last two foster have had fear and anxiety issues. Dyna, our current one, triggers with little boys or smaller men. We have slowly gotten her to the point that she is OK, unless they are running or startle her. She is a big baby once she gets to know the person. A 60lb rotweiler lap dog =)
    Liz recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Oh Deer!My Profile

  7. I absolutely understand how frustrating it is to not be able to identify triggers; I don’t think Buster has any set triggers either. It sounds like you are making great strides in making Jack more comfortable to overcome his anxiety. I’m sure you and Jack will continue to learn together, and you will be able to help him even more.
    Alix recently posted…Buster’s Reactivity #WOOFSupportMy Profile

  8. Sounds like you do a great job at managing Jack’s stress and spotting when he relaxes.

    Thunder/Freighter’s breeder does a neat thing with her dogs. Remember I have said that Chessies can be very protective of their people, places, and things? When a someone comes over to her house she will go up to the person and put her hand on the person’s arm and say something like, so-and-so is a friend. She makes sure the dog is watching and does not remove her hand until the dog relaxes, (which is usually pretty quick). The dogs are not growling, just tense. I thought it was an interesting technique and not completely different from what you are doing.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…A Beautiful Valentine’s DayMy Profile

    • Our trainer has had us do similar – just show the dog that this person is ‘okay’ with you and then they tend to relax. I make to hug friends when they come over.
      mkob recently posted…Plyometric Drills with your Dog Update: Ball SlamsMy Profile

  9. Knowing your dog’s stressors is probably the most critical thing and then you can avoid and/or work to mitigate those issues. – this is the key point that so many people don’t know or do. you shouldn’t set your dogs up for failure, you need to be aware and not put them in those situations and work on hopefully fixing the problem.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…The Queen Of Hearts Dance~ Stanzie Is Gman’s QueenMy Profile

  10. I love the way you handle introductions with Jack. I think it’s good that he growls. It’s his way of communicating his discomfort, isn’t it. The very rare (I can think of two in the last 7 years) times I’ve been bitten at work have involved dogs that didn’t growl or give any warning via their body language (that I detected anyway) that they were feeling threatened. I think sometimes these dogs have actually been punished for growling and that’s why they skip straight to the aggression.
    Joanna recently posted…My Reactive RoverMy Profile

  11. My golden, when a visitor comes, will lie on the floor and whine until the visitor rubs her belly! Then she’ll prance off somewhere and lie down. Go figure! But Jack sound like a really great dog. Not all dogs are sociable for various reasons, but you certainly know his personality for sure. Thanks for the very interesting post, I enjoyed reading it.
    The Funster recently posted…Are Board Games Becoming More Popular?My Profile

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