I went to a seminar with Trish King today and she was very clear. E-collars should never be used with fear. First, the "explosions" we see are reflex, like the way you automatically squint when a bright light is shone in your eyes. You can't control that. For dogs, these reflexes are just as automatic. The vast majority of dogs are peaceful. They don't want to fight. So fear means flight usually. But if they're on a leash, they can't flee. So they reflexively offer behaviors that create distance: barking, lunging, growling, etc. Usually these work because either the thing that made them afraid (the other dog) leaves or we, the owner, are embarrassed and scoot out of there fast.
Punishing fear actually may squelch the behaviors for a while, but it won't undo the fear. Plus, fearful behaviors are often warnings to us. If we squash those behaviors, we can lose the warnings, and then just have dogs that erupt on us. Those are dogs that people say "we never saw it coming." Well, the dog TRIED to warn us. But we told him that warnings aren't allowed by punishing barking, lunging and growling. If he still can't flee and now he can't create distance -- he no longer has "flight" as an option -- plus owners are more inclined to assume that a quiet dog is "ok", so they don't automatically scoot out of there like they used to- then he often will "fight." He's still afraid. We just took away all of his tools, except the most powerful, most damaging one.
I've personally read or watched almost all of these books and DVDs. Buy one or better yet, several and get a good idea of what options are available. Browse Dogwise.com
I especially like Aloff, Sdao and Donaldson. Click to Calm
is a good book, and although I haven't read it yet, someone I trust says that Nicole Wilde's book Help For Your Fearful Dog Welcome to Dogwise.com
is excellent. Check it out. Chill Out Fido
is a phenomenal book I recommend to almost everyone with a young or even slightly high-strung dog. It just has lots and lots of small easy-to-do tips and exercises.
Of all of them, I like this approach best: Grisha Stewart's BAT DVD Welcome to Dogwise.com
. And, best of all, I've seen that it WORKS!!!!!
If I had a dog with significant reactivity issues, I'd make sure I had a trainer with significant experience dealing with behavioral issues, especially aggression. Training obedience skills is NOT the same as dealing with behavior issues. If the PetSmart trainer says they do, then they should be able give you references -- clients who have had aggressive dogs and have improved.
Here are some places to look for experienced credentialed trainers:
When you call around, ask about experience, tell the trainer exactly what you have and generally what you're looking for. Since you've read a book and watched a DVD or a few, you'll have a better idea of what you want to do. Of course, you should be open-minded to what the professional suggests, but it helps if you start with a shared vision.
So, I think it might be very helpful to load up on some books.These will have some ideas of what you can do at home right away. Learn about fear vs. aggression. THEN decide how you want to deal with training. When dealing with behavioral issues, we're investing in our dogs for the rest of their lives. So it makes sense to take the time, do some homework, and do what really makes sense. If she's been fearful for years, it's going to take an investment of time to rehab her. I won't lie to you. But a good trainer should be able to help you.
And finally -- and this is just my opinion -- but a good PROFESSIONAL trainer would never EVER guarantee you 100% turn-around in training a living breathing creature. Nothing is certain in dog training. Nothing. Should you be able to expect success? Probably. Or the trainer should be very honest about that upfront with you (and review with you your options at that point). But 100%? I'd run away from that trainer and never look back....
(BTW, the Dogwise links above work. They're just not labeled right.)