Enlightened by Dogs Podcast

EBD301 Shrinking Worlds, Growing Reactivity: Why Avoiding Triggers Backfires

Recently, I’ve had the joy of exploring the often challenging terrain of reactivity in dogs, peeling back the layers to understand the underlying causes that sweep us and our canine companions into this whirlwind. It’s been an enlightening journey, especially during my “Growing Together from Reactive to Remarkable” workshop, where we shared breakthroughs as dedicated dog moms.

In our latest episode, we’ve ventured into a topic that’s both pivotal and potentially mind-bending: the counterintuitive truth about avoiding triggers. Yes, you’ve heard me champion the cause of green zone experiences, crafting a world of safety, calm, and happiness for our dogs. Yet, there’s a pervasive misunderstanding that I’ve been eager to clear up.

We dived into why avoiding triggers isn’t the panacea we might think it is. Here’s the essence of what we uncovered:

  • Responsibility and Safety: The bedrock of our partnership with our dogs lies in creating a safe haven, a bubble where our dogs feel secure and unbothered by external stressors. This involves being proactive rather than reactive, focusing on the things within our control — our thoughts, our intentions, and our connection with our dog.
  • Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern: Imagine two circles; one gold, symbolizing our sphere of influence (where connection, trust, and safety lie), and one blue, representing external factors (potential triggers) beyond our control. The key is to expand the gold circle, empowering ourselves and our dogs to navigate the world with confidence and calm.
  • Reactivity and Protection Mode: Reactivity isn’t just about our dogs responding to external stimuli; it’s a signal that we’ve ventured beyond our current capacity for connection and calm. Recognizing this allows us to recalibrate and strengthen our partnership muscles, ensuring we’re both equipped to handle life’s surprises.
  • Avoiding Triggers – A Misstep: Here’s where the plot thickens. Steering clear of potential triggers might seem like a sensible strategy, but it’s a misguided one. Avoidance can actually shrink our world, limiting the rich experiences and joys of life with our dogs. Instead, we’re invited to focus on making it easy to have connected adventures often!


Become a calm and confident Dog Mom with a cooperative, happy dog … without obedience training, relying on treats or arousing games, or corrections of any type.

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