Why is my dog reactive to other dogs/people? Good question! Sometimes it depends on the breed of dog you adopted. Dogs that were bred for guarding can be protective of their owners. Sometimes a dog that has a past traumatic experience can form a defensive reaction to other dogs and can be triggered when they are on a leash or behind a gate. Barriers can also cause this kind of reaction.
Regardless, if you are the owner of this type of dog, then you understand that a nice stroll with your pooch brings some challenges.
I have lived with reactive dogs for over 20 years and wanted to share some of my strategies on how to manage this to make your walks a little more pleasant.
- Plan your route – sometimes this takes a bit of trial and error but once you have a route that is relatively dog-free then stick with it.
- Consistent walk times – once your routine is trouble-free then stick with it. Most people are routine-based and will walk the same routes at the same time
- Treat distraction – this worked for 1 of my dogs but not the other. If your dog is food motivated, then the key to making this work is to see trouble before Rover does and to hold the treat in your hand but don’t give it to Rover yet. Let Rover try to get the treat from your hand at the exact time the other dog walks by. Once the coast is clear, then praise Rover, let him have the treat, and continue your walk. If you do this with perfect timing, over and over – then Rover will likely look at you for a treat once he spots another dog.
- Find a group of people with dogs that Rover does get along with for regular socialized outings or park time.
- Watch Rover so you can spot their unease around other dogs. Avoid any negative situations before they happen
- Understand your dog’s likes and dislikes. Do they tend to be reactive with puppies because they are unpredictable? Are they more likely to pick a fight with big dogs or bully a small dog? This will help you avoid unwanted situations.
- Train your dog on leash commands during street walks. I have taught my dogs their sledding commands so if I need them to turn right quickly, I give them the “Gee” command and they know to turn right. I make sure I give them their commands on every walk and say the commands at every turn. This helps me when I need to make a quick exit if I’m caught off guard by another fast approaching dog.
- Be prepared to just go the other way. Your dog doesn’t care if you don’t go the planned route on their walks. The most important thing is they get out, get to sniff, get their exercise in fresh air and sunshine. Don’t get stuck on your path and force your dog to try and pass a dog he won’t like. This will just set them back.
- I always choose areas to walk with wide paths so I can give any dogs that pass lots of room to do so without issues.
- Often I walk down driveways to let someone else pass to give each dog lots of space.
- I have trained myself to enjoy very early walks so I have ravines and other great spots to myself. We love it! We often see great wildlife and it is very peaceful.
- Don’t be afraid to warn or instruct another pet owner. I have had people approach me with their dog on a leash without realizing a potential disaster. The other owner just needs education. I politely just say – I’m sorry my dog is not good greeting other dogs on leash and then avoid the interaction.
- Be prepared to leave problematic situations. This is the best strategy for your dog.
- Join the Club in case you need our Emergency Vet Protect Club help
- Enjoy your stressfree walk!