Reactive Dogs

Like any dog loving community, reactive dogs are a part of the dog world we occupy. It’s a generally accepted rule that most dogs who react to things in their environment do so out of fear and anxiety. There are other reasons, too, and often more than one, but fear is a common starting point.

It’s not fun being the guardian of a reactive dog – I’ve owned several and it can be a life and lifestyle altering experience. There are, however, many things you can do to help your dog. Many factors play into those behaviours we wish would simply go away, but there are always ways to make things even a little bit better.
 
Some simple tips for owners of reactive dogs: 

1. If you use a leash and collar, consider a body harness instead. The change in sensation on your dog’s body can make a big difference. At the very least, taking the pressure and discomfort off your dog’s delicate throat area can only help.

2. Teach your dog to look at you when asked, and then use this behaviour to teach your dog not to stare at other dogs. Staring is often perceived as a threat between dogs who don’t know each other. This simple act can make a world of difference on your walks.

3. Train your dog to walk with a loose leash and to engage with you frequently. Tension begets tension – add in staring at dogs and things can escalate quickly.

4. Distance is your friend. Every dog has a distance from which they are most comfortable from things that might concern them; from where they are able to display interest, not concern. Find your dog’s comfort zone and use it to keep you both relaxed.
 
5. Daily reactions raise and keep arousal high. Sniff breaks, enrichment toys and mental games help. Use these tools frequently before, during and after walks to lessen the effects of all that adrenaline.
 
Working with reactivity is challenging. A tag line I like to use is, “Training is something to do with your dog, not to your dog.” Nothing is more important than that when you’re working through a troubling behaviour problem with your dog – you need to work together.
 
Fernie is such a great dog community and such a positive place to be whether you’re a seasoned dog owner, raising a new puppy or adopting your first dog!

I’m really thrilled to be here and to be able to connect and collaborate with local trainers and local dog training enthusiasts. I’m looking forward to bringing you some helpful tips and interesting information about dogs and offering fun new things to do with your dogs.