Reactive Dog Training Tips

If you have a dog who barks at other dogs while on the leash, there is a good chance they are dog reactive. Here are some reactive dog training tips to help your dog overcome their reactivity.

Heel Matters: One of the most important pieces to solving the dog reactivity puzzle is to make sure your dog walks in a proper heel. A lot of people struggle with the concept of controlling their dog’s walk because they think of it as taking the fun away. If you are one of those people, let’s think about how much fun it is to walk a dog who is uncontrollable, especially if they see another dog. The main reason dogs are reactive is because they don’t trust their handler to guide them through an uncertain situation. Having your dog walk in a heel is similar to holding a child’s hand when they are afraid The use of training tools that will empower you, are effective and make it as easy as possible for the dog are important. There’s a multitude of tools out there to choose from, so find what really works for your dog and use it! The walk begins before you even leave the house so make sure your dog is calm when leashed, and is waiting patiently at doorway thresholds. If you are being pulled out the door, then that needs to be addressed first.

Small Moments: “It happened out of nowhere” is often said when dogs display where the small moments were missed. A stiffening body, prolonged staring, or perked ears are some of the more obvious signs that your dog is loading up to become reactive. Addressing these signals your dog is providing will give you a better shot at avoiding a reactive moment. If your dog is already reacting that means you missed that particular opportunity.

Corrections DO Help: A lot of you have probably heard that a dog should never be corrected for reactivity because it will become worse, or the dog will become afraid of whatever they are being reactive to. First, let’s point out that many dogs are reactive out of fear, to begin with. The common recommendation is to use food to distract your dog from the stimulus. Many dogs won’t take food when they are highly stressed, and even if they do take the food, there still isn’t a consequence to let them know their behavior is unacceptable. Food can be an asset to help dogs form positive associations with their triggers, but correcting wrong choices is also an asset, and will get you out of the stuck cycle. Space Is Important Too: If you are unsure about how much control another dog owner has over their dog or maybe you aren’t sure how your own dog will react, GIVE SPACE. There is shame in it and you aren’t a failure for doing so. If you see someone else struggling with their dog, do them a favor and give more space! A reactive dog isn’t purposefully trying to make life hard for you. They are trying to figure out how to navigate through life when it’s hard for them!

Alex Harris
Reliable K9 Training