Living with a reactive or aggressive dog can often feel like you’re on the edge of a catastrophe each time you walk out your door. One moment its calm skies and smooth sailing, the next you’re in the middle of a storm with your mast broken into a heap of match sticks, wishing you had a life raft. This is the reality that many people face with their dogs and although we may have the tools to deal with it, are we really prepared to use them?
Just like we do with that new camp stove we bought at REI, we need to be fluent in using our tools before we get into a situation where we need them. You may have a fantastic U-Turn in your living room, but will it stand up to a tornado of a dog running up to you? If you’ve not done “disaster drills”, the answer is likely no.
What goes into a disaster drill? First you need to know what your emergency routine is (like the U-turn and walk away), then you need to know when you’re likely to use it (like when Tornado Dog or Hurricane Human approaches). Finally, you need to practice. Practice it in the house, in the yard, in the middle of a walk, practice it in every situation you can. When you see a mailbox, disaster drill, when a bird flies by, disaster drill, a black 1968 Ford Mustang, disaster drill (then stare in awe of how awesome Mustangs are!). The goal is that no matter what, you and your dog have practiced your disaster drill enough times that when Tornado Dog or Hurricane Human show up, you know exactly what to do.
After you’ve used your disaster training to combat Hurricane Human, take a few minutes to think about what worked, what didn’t, and reframe your disaster drill as needed to make it work better. The key to being prepared is, well, being prepared and sometimes you need to change and tweak your plan a little. Don’t be afraid to try different things until you find the right combination. Although your dog may have cracked like the San Andreas Fault, you’ve survived what could have potentially become the dogpocalypse.
Just like preparing your home and family for “The Big One”, preparing your dog for canine natural disasters requires a little bit of planning and practicing in order for things to go smoothly during an actual event. Take the time to do disaster drills and when you need to use those skills for real, you’ll find that it has gone much smoother than you may have thought possible.