This week I started working with a new client who has a reactive dog. After seeing their struggles and their accomplishments I’ve decided to write a short post on what a reactive dog is (and isn’t) and how you can start to help your reactive dog.
What is a Reactive Dog?
The term “reactive” was coined to describe a dog who overreacts to stimuli that other dogs might not find scary or offensive. They are often labeled as aggressive because they engage in many distance creating behaviors such as barking, growling, lunging and/or charging people or dogs, to name a few. What’s important to understand is that when a reactive encounters a thing that scares them, much like people, they are to make that thing go away.
A good comparison of this would be when you see a spider or snake you might throw something at it, or clap and yell to make it go away. Your reactive dog is doing the same thing. When they see a “scary” thing they try to make it go away by barking growling or lunging. And when the person or dog does back off or leave, your dog is rewarded for their reactive behavior.
Though many reactive dogs never reach the point, or have the opportunity to, bite a person or dog, they are capable of doing so. If your dog has prolonged exposure to the thing they fear with no relief then they are as likely as any other dog to lash out and cause an injury. This is why it is important to consult your veterinarian and a qualified trainer if you noticed this type of behavior from your dog.
How to Help Your Reactive Dog
Your veterinarian can explore whether there are underlying medical problems that have caused your dogs reactivity and whether any pharmacological intervention is necessary. A qualified trainer can help you come up with a plan to improve your dog’s associations with the things it fears and help you manage your daily like activities like walks,vet visits, grooming or having friends visit.
We love helping reactive dogs here at Educanine so feel free to contact us for helping creating a behavior modification plan for your dog. Hope to hear from you soon!