In this blog I just want to talk about one specific part of my story with Gibson: how moving to downtown Chicago helped Gibson’s aggression and reactivity.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming it’s likely that you’re familiar with our story, at least a little. So I won’t rehash that whole thing again.

But in case you’re brand new, hello, thank you for reading! My name is Jon Somers and Gibson is my dog and he was very human and dog aggressive for 4 years.

A lot of things failed but it wasn’t until I moved to a high-rise studio apartment in the middle of downtown Chicago that his reactivity finally was fixed.

Now, I’ll first say that it wasn’t downtown that fixed the reactivity.

If I took Gibson downtown without learning everything I had learned at that point about dog training, it would’ve been a disaster.

So if you have a reactive dog, I am in no way saying take them to the most crowded place you can and it’ll be fixed.

But it’s undeniable that living downtown, with people, dogs, and cars everywhere, was extremely helpful in turning Gibson’s reactivity around so fast.

And it’s not like he went into a shell around all those people and dogs either, far from it. He just learned that they weren’t a threat and to basically ignore them.

When we were downtown, we would often find ourselves in an elevator with say, 2 other people and a dog, and Gibson would be an angel.

I actually got many compliments at how well-behaved he was, which was and still is hilarious.

So why did he get so much better so quickly once we moved downtown?

The answer is repetition. We got our “reps” in. Reps of being near people and dogs several times a day, every day.

And because I had worked really hard on preparing him and me both for moving there, when we did, basically every interaction was positive and so after 1 week I was comfortable taking off his muzzle in the apartment building and we never had any issues.

Again, I want to emphasize that it was because of the weeks of training *before* he moved downtown with me that allowed the interactions to be positive.

When we got there, it was a completely new place, around new people. Since I had earned his trust at that point, he really leaned on me and depended on me in that new environment, which is exactly what I wanted.

So since he was following my lead, he wasn’t blowing up at other people or dogs.

And since he wasn’t blowing up, he was realizing that, “hey, these aren’t so bad after all” and one positive experience built on the last and eventually he came to understand that there was nothing to be afraid of.

It got to the point where other dogs who were reactive would be barking and lunging at him, and he would hardly even pay them any attention.

If I had done all that training but still been in the same old neighborhood I was in, we wouldn’t have had 10% of the opportunities to be around people and dogs that we did downtown.

And all that exposure accelerated Gibson’s progress more than I could have ever thought possible.

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