Have you ever heard of "The Jolly Routine?" This neat trick was brought to us by canine behaviorist, William Campbell. Sadly, it came way before it's time and was subsequently buried under hundreds of other methods for curing or preventing fear or reactivity in dogs, but none of those methods are as quick or as fun! There is one small drawback or at least what some might consider a drawback...I happen to think it's the best part! You have to be comfortable, I mean REALLY comfortable, looking and acting like a silly nut job...in public.
You see dogs take their emotional cues from us. If you get tense on a walk so will your dog, they're looking to you for direction after all, right? Not getting tense is good, just good. Being neutral is better than being tense but it doesn't give fearful Fido much feedback to go off of either. There's also the fact that dogs tend to read "still" behavior as potential danger. So what if you get jolly?
Let's pretend you have a dog that is fearful of other dogs and they get uncomfortable when they see another dog out on the street. So being still and "calm" is "good" at best, but we'll need something even better for your dog to really understand that you want them to relax.
Fixing or preventing fear and reactivity with "The Jolly Routine" is the most simple thing you'll ever do. All you need is a bit of confidence and enough love for your dog that you're willing to look like a fool out in the street! So, how much do you love your dog?
Here's what you gotta do:
When faced with a negative stimulus while out on your walk, or really in any setting such as pet store, groomer, vet, etc. It's your job to reassure your dog that everything is well by making it super obvious that you, the confident leader in the relationship are happy as can be! So you get jolly, you smile, laugh, and dance with your dog. Use baby talk and a high pitched voice. Your dog will likely turn away from the "scary thing" and look at you as if to say, "...Are you OK right now, Fred?" That's when you get even more jolly! Offer treats if you have them and praise, praise, praise! Ask your dog to sit, if they do it, you're in business! He's forgotten the "scary thing" and is having a party with you instead. What has your dog learned?
"Wow, my owner gets really happy, praises me, and gives me treats whenever we bump into other dogs/go to the vet/ go to the groomer, etc. I love other dogs, vets, and groomers because my owner is so much fun when they are around!" - Your dog probably, if we could read their mind.
That's it! It's really that simple. Use "The Jolly Routine" in addition to your regular obedience training and general puppy rearing and you'll have a reliable, happy dog in no time!