React Less, Relax more - Help With Dog Reactivity
Updated: Nov 19
Do you have a 'reactive' dog? Or a dog that runs and hides at the sight of other dogs/people/'insert scary word here'? Maybe your dog barks and lunges out of excitement? Looking for a dog training blog that works?
It can be very tough for both us and our dogs, especially if you live in more urban areas - there seem to be dogs/people everywhere! You try your best to avoid them and then whoops! Someone pops around a corner with a furry companion!
But, help is here! There are a few things you can do to make those walks more pleasant for both of you!
Pain? Discomfort? It matters!
The very first thing we should check for with fear/overaroudal based behaviour is pain. Pain is one of the most common causes of these kinds of behaviours! It can be anything from ear/skin infection, gut pain, or muscular/skeletal pain.
There are numerous scientific studies that show pain and discomfort are closely linked to the behaviours our dogs show. Think about it, if you're in pain or unwell, you tend to be more withdrawn, more snappy, and even more cautious around others just in case they knock the area that hurts! Our dogs are no different...Come to think of it, most animals are like this!
If the reactive behaviour seems like a sudden change, it's even more crucial to get a vet check!
From Fear to Flourish!
If you've seen my article on body language, you'll know that when our dogs are barking, snarling, and lunging on lead, running away, or hiding, it's because they are struggling emotionally. The best way to help our dogs, is to help them change their perception of the triggers!
Use very high value rewards!
Start far enough away that your dog isn't reacting to the trigger!
Wait for your dog to look at the trigger.
As soon as they look, pair it with something they love.
Slowly close the distance over time.
The above is useful in the right setting, but what if you're in a tricky spot? Well, distraction is your friend. If you can't turn around and head in the opposite direction, try giving one of these a go:
'Find it' - Toss some treats down to keep your dog distracted while the scary thing walks past.
'123/ABC Game' - This is a great pattern game your dog can learn, which will help you walk by triggers with minimal issue.
'Let's go!' - Teach your dog change direction on cue so you can get away smoothly.
'Play time!!' - Get your dog's favourite toy out and distract with fun! We find Tug-E-Nuff toys are fab for this!
Patience is key! Yes its frustrating and it's hard having a reactive dog, but if it's a fear, fear takes time to overcome.
Set yourself up for success the moment you leave the house - what route will you take? Got treats? Got your exit plan? These make a difference!
Ditch the busy walks! These kinds of walks tend to make things harder, consider some quiet decompression walks instead.
Consider muzzle training your dog - I have found it helps the handler feel more relaxed when out and about and this helps your dog feel more relaxed too!
Get in contact today to help with your dog's reactivity!