Even if you have never heard the term ‘reactive dog’ before, you will have seen at least one. Here at Finchley dog walker, we see them all the time, but some are so hard to handle that their owners find themselves joining the ‘3 am club’, for owners who daren’t walk their dogs at regular times!
What is a Reactive Dog?
In short, this is a dog that excessively reacts to things he sees. This could be other dogs, people, and cyclists, children playing – absolutely anything can set him off. The usual reaction is lunging, growling or barking and occurs most often when the dog is on a lead. A reactive dog is a fairly new term to describe a dog that would previously have been labelled as naughty or aggressive. To my mind, this is a much better way to describe a dog, which is exhibiting perfectly natural behaviour like showing curiosity or wanting to play. More importantly, it is something that you, as a dog owner, can learn to understand and correct.
Which Type is yours?
There are two basic types of reactive dogs; the ‘frustrated greeter’ and the ‘nervous greeter’. If yours is of the first type, you’ll have noticed that he is friendly towards other dogs and people but shows frustration if he can’t get to them because he’s on the lead. The ‘nervous greeter’ type may be a little more unpredictable because he’s nervous around others and can typically show this by freezing or by adopting an aggressive stance.
If your dog is a reactive dog of either type, don’t worry. With training, this kind of behaviour can be corrected before it gets out of hand, and my colleagues at TipTop Dog Training School have plenty of experience in teaching owners of reactive dogs how to enjoy less stressful walks.
Here are a couple of handy tips that you may find useful in training your reactive dog:
- First and foremost, ensure your dog is reliable and consistent in the recall.
- If he gets excited about seeing another dog, or whichever is his personal trigger, put him on lead, turn around and walk the opposite way.
- Try using a head collar, like a Halti. This will give you more control over his movements.
- If he is treat or toy obsessed, always take these with you to distract him.
What if You See a Reactive Dog?
If you see a dog that is barking or pulling furiously on its lead, don’t assume that your dog, friendly though he may be, will calm the situation. A dog is on the lead for a reason, and over-excitement can cause it a great deal of stress, which in turn can spark an unwelcome reaction. In a case like this, the best thing for you to do is to give it space. Don’t approach it, and if necessary, walk in a different direction to avoid any confrontation. You may find that many reactive dogs will wear a yellow ribbon.
A dog may be reactive from puppyhood, or it may learn this behaviour as it grows. But fear not, a good basic training programme can overcome this, and your walks can be enjoyable again!
Finchley Dog Walker can also offer solo dog walks to help you with your reactive dog.
Related post – My dog is friendly.