RECOVERING FROM TRAUMA
I am not a psychotherapist, a counselor or a psychiatrist, and would never presume to offer advice to anyone who is recovering from trauma. What I can do is share some of the resources that helped me, in hopes that they might help you too.
HELP for reactive dogs
“Reactive dogs,” or dogs who bark, growl or look aggressive to approaching people or other dogs, are usually motivated by fear or frustration.
Fearful Dogs are on defense, and are basically trying to communicate the equivalent of “Don't come any closer!”. Many have learned that barking or growling keeps others away, and so they continue that behavior as a way to protect them selves. If they are corrected for barking at an approaching stranger, they may get even worse, having learned that the closer a person or dog gets, the likelier it is that something bad will happen to them. In other words, punishment is never a good option for fearful dogs, and can make them worse.
Frustrated Dogs may have initially wanted to run to greet a person or approaching dog, but found that they were restrained by a leash or fence. As anyone hassling with a misbehaving computer while working on a deadline well knows, frustration and emotional arousal can lead to aggression. Dogs may not have to restrain themselves from throwing their computer out the window, but they can easily learn to associate the approach of a stranger with negative emotions, and become aggressive out of sheer emotional overload.
If you have a “Reactive Dog,” take heart. Willie was once so afraid of unfamiliar dogs that he became almost hysterical if he saw one from three blocks away. Now he loves meeting new dogs. With a few exceptions, reactive dogs can learn to greet other dogs politely, and make going on walks fun again, for both you and your dog. The following books and DVDs are a good place to start. Ideally, owners of reactive dogs should work with a behaviorist or trainer who offers humane, effective and science-based solutions to the behavior, rather than someone who wants you to impose “dominance” on your dog. Great sources for professional help are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists and progressive trainers, many of whom can be found through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.