Understanding More about “Triggers” in Dog Training
I use the word “trigger” A LOT lately.
And, through extensive communication, I realize that not every knows what it means when it comes to dog training.
So, what does “trigger” mean when it comes to dog training?
What do you think about when someone says trigger?
Most often, most of us probably picture a gun when we are thinking of the basics of the word.
And, if you Google it, here is what you’ll find:
- a small device that releases a spring or catch and so sets off a mechanism, especially in order to fire a gun.
“he pulled the trigger of the shotgun”
- cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.
“an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork”
While “trigger” doesn’t always have to signify a negative thing in normal human conversation, (for instance, “That song always triggers childhood memories”), usually it does in dog training.
We rarely talk about “triggers” than cause happy things when referring to training a dog.
To “trigger” usually means to do something fast. To set off, spark provoke, or stir up quickly.
It usually denotes a lack of clear thinking and simply a reaction to something, which is usually not a great thing when we are talking about dog training.
For instance: antonyms or the opposite, of “trigger” are to defuse, to block, to check. The antonyms reflect thinking.
When I Talk About Triggers and Dog Training
In all honesty, we aren’t worried about things that “trigger” good emotions like happiness or excitement because these emotions don’t really evoke negative behaviors.
But, even then, we don’t want a dog that just “reacts” we want to teach our dogs control and thoughtfulness.
If Your Dog Has a Major Negative Trigger
It is essential to do your best to avoid that trigger while you begin to teach your dog control and thoughtfulness.
For instance, if my dog is dog aggressive, his trigger is seeing other dogs.
So while I am working on teaching my dog control, and counter conditioning (or changing) his response I would want to avoid other dogs at all costs.
Remember that aggression is self rewarding at some point. Even if I am teaching him other coping mechanisms and how to act and NOT react around other dogs in a calm and controlled environment, if I allow him to continually work himself up around his trigger (other dogs), his reactivity and negative triggered behavior is outweighing all the hard work we are doing the rest of the time.
This is why I recommend people STOP walking their dogs if they are trying to control a serious reactive behavior.
You may begin to add your dog’s trigger in a slow and controlled environment.
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.