How To Help A Reactive Dog

cute contemplative dog on fallen tree trunk in sunlight

If your dog is acting noticeably anxious or jumpy and reacts stressed to small stimuli, it’s possible you have a reactive dog.

What Is A Reactive Dog?

A reactive dog is a dog with a low stimulus threshold. Often such dogs react very intensively to movements, strange things, bicycles, cars, noises and also people. It depends on the individual dog what the reaction is. It is often confused with aggression. But with reactive dogs the reason is rather insecurity.

How to Reduce Reactive Dog Behavior

If you want to help your reactive dog, you must first understand him. What exactly triggers the behavior? What is tolerable and where is the limit?

The triggers and how to find them

Bevor you start the training, you need to observe and fully understand all the triggers for your dog. It could help to write it down, but most importantly, you need to change your mind first.

There is nothing like “this can’t be the trigger”. Even if a situation or circumstance seems to be “normal”, like a smell, a specific type of color, a specific sound etc., it can be a trigger. Be open to everything and observe. If you rule out triggers before the observation, you might miss out on important information.

Some examples:

  • People on bikes: fine. People on a skateboard (even far away): danger
  • Normal bikes: fine. E scooters: danger
  • Cars and busses with high speed: fine. A person getting out of a car: danger
  • Smell of meat in the kitchen: more than fine! Smell of coal at a BBQ: danger

You see: Be aware and open for everything.

How to help a reactive dog

Reactive dogs need emotional support. It is important to show them that their fear is unneccessary. It will never help to force them through situations, because their hormone levels are way too high to support a learning process.

That means it is always a longer process for a reactive dog to get used to a trigger and changing the perspective from fear to neutral or even positive feelings. To do that, use treats as a reward.

How To Manage Your Day With A Reactive Dog

You must be the person in control. Your dog needs to get used to you making sure nothing dangerous can happen. This means:

  • Be cautious of the world around you
  • Scan the environment and make sure to create distance from triggers
  • Don’t force your dog into scary situations if not absolutely necessary

How Fast Will You See Results

Don’t expect changes within few weeks. This is a longer journey, but it can get better. Most importantly, take your time and don’t set too high expectations.

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