I always try to emphasize the importance of finding times to practice in your daily life. It’s important for so many reasons, especially because if you save practicing for “when you have time,” you probably won’t practice (maybe at all, certainly as much as you want to). In addition, everyday life is when you want your dog to be able to perform whatever behaviors you are practicing, isn’t it?
That being said, there are always moments when we are not as on top of what is going on as we want to be. In those moments, we are left reacting to what happens, and figuring out what happens next.
We had such an incident when a delivery person came to our door and I was unable to respond either to the door or to redirect the dog. (I was home on sick leave with limited mobility.) For once in my life, I was even without a cheesestick!
A few minutes after that issue had resolved, I was able to bounce back and be much better prepared for another potential incident. Trash pickup and mail delivery happened at the same moment. As if the sound of trash collectors talking at the street was not enough, the neighbor’s dog started barking at the mail carrier, and then the neighbor came out for a chat! Sirius and I persevered through it all, concentrating on not reacting to things going on outside.
Please note that this is an exercise that we have worked on many times before. The rate of reinforcement (read: amount and frequency of cheese) and the distance from the distractions (not far) reflect significant previous work in this area. For a dog that is new to this exercise, greater distance, more reinforcement, or other alterations might be in order.
I hope this is both a demonstration of a way to work on reducing reactivity, but also a reminder that, no matter how prepared you think you are, things will happen. When they do, we have to react in the moment and then put things back together again to be better prepared next time.