Opposition Reflex, Such a Big Term and Why It is Ruining Your Dog Training
Thanks Dog Behavior NI for the perfect photo!
Opposition Reflex, it sounds so high tech and complicated.
The truth is you feel this every time you take your dog out or in on a leash.
Although I knew the implications of “opposition reflex” for years I didn’t know the term.
The truth is; that we all feel it and we all actually have it.
Have you ever been in a line with a crowd full of people around you and then someone pushes you.
Your immediate reaction is to push back into the pusher.
I mean how often do you just let someone push or pull you to wherever they want you to go?
Your immediate response or almost reflex (when you don’t know it is coming) is to resist.
This is “Opposition Reflex” a funny term to describe the reaction to pull or push against someone or something that is pulling or pushing you.
Your dog comes with the same hard wiring as you do when it comes to opposition reflex.
He doesn’t like to be pulled or pushed against his will!
How Does This Affect Your Dog Training?
Every time you pull harder back on your dog’s leash, he pulls back equally hard.
Ever leave your house and your dog starts pulling forward on the leash so you start pulling back, he pulls harder and harder and begins to gag himself?
The truth is he pulls because he is excited, but as soon as you pull back he begins to pull even harder.
Did you know that the “Gentle Leader” TM was designed to put the pressure on the back of your dog’s head when he pulls?
This uses opposition reflex to your advantage by making it uncomfortable to pull forward and it uses his instinct to pull back instead of pulling forward.
Ever tried to push or pull your dog into the shower or bath tub only to have him resist?
Have you ever thought it wasn’t so much about “the bath” as it was the resistance to that feeling of force?
My dogs hop right into the shower because I have trained them to jump right in; but if I were to grab their collars and begin to drag them they too would resist.
No one likes the feeling of being forced to do something.
How Do We Use This Principle to Our Advantage?
Recognize it when you feel it.
When you push your dog and he pushes back
Or when you pull your dog and he pulls back on the leash take a moment and consciously realize it, put some thought into what you are feeling and how you would feel.
It is at that moment you can choose to use this very principle to your advantage.
Stop your pulling or pushing and find another way to communicate.
If your dog is on a leash, just stop and wait.
Or you can head the other direction.
Want to get your dog into the bath tub?
Don’t drag him in, convince him with treats or toys to go in with you.
And if you want to drive him forward
Sounds Funny Right?
When I was training Service Dogs for people with disabilities we would often strap a harness on them to begin training them to pull a wheelchair.
The harder we pulled back against the harness, the harder and faster they pulled.
If we wanted the dog to slow, we stopped pulling back as hard and magically they stopped pulling so hard!
Truth is that it wasn’t magic; it was opposition reflex!
We also use this to our advantage to tease and build drive for more on that click here Is Teasing Really THAT Bad?
And we use it in bite work to drive a dog further into the bite by grabbing his collar and pulling back.
That makes him want to fight harder and grip deeper into the bite or hang onto the sleeve or the object!
Knowledge is Power
Use Your Mind!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.