So, I took Kenzie out for a walk in a neighborhood in the nearest town last week. I was planning on walking her there since there was very very little chance of a dog being free to come into the road (since it is a subdivision they all have fenced in yards, as opposed to the country roads around us, where dogs run free). Unfortunately I underestimated how big a deal it was that in the past 3 months (since I started working 80hrs a week), the only Reactivity training I had done was to do an occasional sound desensitization exercise. So, she was very stressed when I got her out of the car, but she was able to be redirected by the toy. We went with a friend (a mistake, as I was not able to give her 100% of my attention as she needed and deserved), and in the 30 minute walk, we ran across three dogs that were free in their front yards, none of which were aggressive, but one of them did follow us down the street a ways. I did NOT mean to put this much pressure on her and I felt SO bad. By this point we were on our way back, and she was no longer interested in the toy.I did not know just how bad off she was until I put her back in the car, and she just curled up into a tiny ball in the floorboard of the back seat. She only does this when she is REALLY scared. Poor puppy! As if all of that is not enough, as soon as we got home, she was so highly strung from our outing, that she was all of a sudden very scared of things that normally would not bother her. Over the next 24hrs and multiple reactions, she had gotten so tense that even the smallest triggers that had either never been a trigger, or had not bothered her for 5 moths...cow mooing, horse neighing, cat meowing, someone whistling (that was a new one), caused her to react to matter how quiet, even if they were on TV. When she heard one, she would JUMP up barking her head off. She would be inconsolable for the first minute, then calm down enough to stop barking, but she was obviously tense and "waiting" for it to happen again. I could not let her outside off leash, because she would run to the fence and bark at whatever was out there: Birds flying above, or some other animal that I could not see (it looked like nothing).  I was no longer able to redirect her frustration (with a ball, toy, food or treats), which is how we had been dealing with reactions all spring. The more she reacted, the more tense she became. By the morning after out outing, the light bulb had finally gone on, and I knew what had happened and what I needed to do: stop her from reacting for 5 days minimum, by any means humanely possible, and give her lots of exercise, to give her a chance to "work out" the stress hormones, without giving her the opportunity to be flood with more. So we put her on a strict "on leash" policy when outside. I did not take her out of the yard/agility yard for any reason. We did not watch any shows that might have horses cows or dogs in them. We got up early to get extra exercise while it was still cool...which was made more difficult, because we were often kept up nights by her reacting to the cows coming to settle beside the house and of course...Moo moo moo-ing. Every time a cow mooed she jumped up barking frantically. I finally turned on the TV and played a 2hr musical really loud for her. It drowned out the cows enough for her and us to be able to sleep. I then just got up every 2hrs to restart it (I couldn't just put the TV on because commercials too often have sounds of dogs, cows or horses on them). Even though we have yet to have a day or night without reactions, she is making progress in that yesterday she only reacted twice, and last night only twice, and this morning only once, as opposed to 20 times a day in those first few days. Her eyes are still very big, which lets me know that the stress hormones are still very much present. Every night I massage her do calming T-touch. This morning we started a relaxation protocol which we will do once a day, every day, for fourteen days. Max is also on a leash mandate for now, since when he rushes the fence it causes her to react. The radio or TV is also always playing, 24hrs, and very loudly. The only time she gets the "hard" look out of her eyes is when I am doing t-touch on her.

Talk about a high price for one mistake...but it is my poor dog who is really paying the price. We may have lost some sleep and be wound tight from all of the sudden barking, but it is nothing when I think about how emotionally stressed my poor little dog is. I feel horrible, but as I tell my clients: "You can only do your best, and forgive yourself for the rest". There is no point in beating myself up over this: I feel bad, and will do everything in my power not to do it again, but that is as far as I will let myself go. I am not perfect, and never will be.

So, a few lessons learned from this:
Scout your areas out well and in advance
Whatever you do, do not push your dog past his/her threshold, but if you do, stop right then and call it a day, no matter what.
Do not take a friend or any other distractions with you when you are working with a reactive dog.
If you go more than a week without doing reactive training, you need to evaluate your dog, with no agenda in mind.