I often use the word "trigger" to explain a reaction to an action or object. Mostly I use it for dogs who have a very high prey or chase drive. Not all dogs are triggered by the same thing and the reaction to their trigger is not always the same. A trigger can be an approach to a bowl, the reaction a growl. Another type of trigger may be a door bell or leash that turns your dog into a whirling maniac.
The trigger that I want to talk about today is a bad one, movement. Dogs who have a quick trigger to movement are very dangerous to themselves. I have one, my Jack Russell she is so quick to trigger by movement that she rarely is allowed off leash. It is not that she is not well trained or well behaved but she has a hair trigger is movement and her reaction is to run.
This was so evident lastnight when she was out on a really enjoyable walk. It was starting to cool off and my husband and I had taken her alone for a long walk to a park along the canyon. As we came over a hill there was a very long lizard laying across the path. It was not moving and I thought it was dead, my husband picked it up and it didn't mind at all. I told Jessie that this was a lizard as she seemed to have no interest in something that otherwise would send her into a sprint.
The word lizard is well known in our house and if you want to see a bunch of dogs attempting to get some traction out the door just say it. Tonight it was like she didn't even see it, we lay it on the path again to check it out and still she had no interest. She was secure on her leash and I had no intention of letting her get to it but it always puts her in a good mood to even see one typically.
We decided it was safer off to the side so that it would not be stepped on and it slowly started to slither away, Jessie became unglued. Jumping and whining and going her typical crazy self when she sees a lizard. She had no interest in the lizard as it lay still but was triggered by a tiny bit of movement.
Jessie's movement trigger has been the biggest challenge to get under control. I have had to train a word that means something better than movement for Jessie. That word is "here" and for Jessie it almost always means food. Jessie loves food so much that even the trigger of a rabbit usually cannot compete.
But, the trick to catching a reaction to a true trigger is to catch it before it happens or, just at the very start of it. Once they are in full reaction it is just way too rewarding for them to stop. This is very much like a greyhound after a moving object and many other terrier type dogs. If Jessie triggers by a rabbit and I yell out and I mean yell "here," she will almost always stop in her tracks and fly back to me.
It takes alot of training but with a commitment of time and patience most triggers can be managed. Most true triggers can be managed by not destroyed. Jessie is so triggered to movement that I have seen her trigger after a blowing bag only to stop herself mid chase as she realizes what it is that she is chasing.